The Fire Within Acupuncture & Wellness

           Sky above me, Earth below me, Fire within me

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From natural remedies, to treatment revelations; Life of Dr Tanya, to Traditional Chinese medicine, and Shamanism. This blog is meant to inspire and make you laugh. Have Oprah (Ah-Ha) moments, or get you teary-eyed because you connect.

Always feel free to comment. This is my life's passion and I am honored to share it with you.

~ Namaste

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Dragon Eyes - Now at your local supermarket!

Posted by Tanya on June 9, 2013 at 3:20 PM Comments comments (16)



Eyes of the Dragon

Longan is a tropical tree fruit and belongs to the family, lychee. It is native to Southeast Asia, including southern China, Malaysia, Indonesia, and Vietnam. and is highly used in Chinese medicine herbology. 


Commonly known in Chinese as Long Yan Rou, it literally translates as "dragon eyes." The Longan berry has an syrupy sweet, and slight peppery taste. When fully ripened, the freshly harvested outer shell is rough and bark-like and is easily cracked allowing one to squeeze out the inner, opalescent fruit which is similar to an iris with the hard lacquered black dark pit faintly showing in the center.


As a botanical, Longan berries are sold pitted and dried and they have a golden brown iridescent color. In order to more easily extract the seed from the rough outer skin and the pit from the fruit, they are lightly heated and smoked.



The Medicinal Properties of Longan

Longan berries are one of the three or more "super fruits" used as tonics in Chinese medicine. Two others would be Jujube Date (Hong Zao) and Goji Berries (Gou Qi Zi). A wonderful snack I've recommended to Clients with diabetes and chronic constipation is kind of Chinese trail mix with Longan berries, lycii berries (goji berries), fennel seeds, almonds, and hemp seeds.


Longan works as a blood tonic and as a tonic for the Spleen and Heart, for low energy and with special benefit for the mind and improving the memory.


It is indeed a powerful brain-nourishing food. It is high in glucose, and the brain relies on a steady supply of glucose for thought energy. The skull and brain usually contain about a third of the blood of the entire body. So it is easy to understand how glucose-rich Longan berries are used to counteract brain fatigue, anxiety, insomnia and poor memory. It is an essential herb to give to anyone but especially the aged who are prone to memory lapses, dementia and possibly Alzheimer's as well. In this regard it is useful for anyone who thinks a lot and may experience occasional brain fog. Despite their high sugar content I have prescribed both Longan berries and lycii berries to diabetics who found that they both actually helped regulate blood sugar.


However it is not only the glucose of Longan berries that make them a superior blood tonic. They are high in blood-enriching iron content, reportedly 20 times that of grapes and 15 times that of spinach! Iron is an important blood nutrient which carries oxygen from the lungs to the cells of the body. This is obviously important for maintaining youthfulness and vitality (both being therapeutic claims for Longan berries). However they have a special benefit for women in that they add luster and beauty to the skin and their iron-rich "red-blooded" properties enhance female attractiveness and serve as a special tonic for sexual vitality. Those individuals who have iron sensitivity need not worry because the iron is organically present and the body will be better able to regulate its usage.

 

Longan berries have a generally calming effect, which apart from relieving symptoms of anxiety and sleeplessness, contributes to an overall feeling of calm.


Finally, Longan berries are very beneficial for the skin, hair and eyes.

 

Longan berries are a longevity power food and one needn't wait until developing symptoms of anemia, fatigue, anxiety, insomnia and memory problems before having them prescribed by a medical herbalist.


You can purchase them dried, in bulk (they are reasonably priced) and keep them on hand as occasion demands. You can purchase them fresh from Chinese markets, and right now your Local supermarket! Or, you can discuss with your traditional Chinese medicine doctor about the perfect formula for your inner landscape.



Contraindications

The one contraindication from eating too many of them, described as a "damp Spleen" which in Chinese diagnostics means a swollen and bloated fruit belly. As with any food, moderation is key!


 

Chinese Trail Mix

Although this isn’t available commercially, it’s easy to make, delicious to eat, and is oh so good for you.


Mix equal parts (more or less) of the following:

  • jujube dates
  • longan berries
  • lycii berries (goji berries)
  • walnuts

 

Jujube dates: The delicious large red jujube dates tonify both Qi and Blood, treating poor digestion, weakness, low energy, nervous exhaustion, insomnia, diarrhea from Coldness and poor appetite, digestion and memory. Nourishing to the Spirit, they calm and stabilize emotions when feeling irritable, sad or crying for no reason. They are added like licorice to sweeten and harmonize other herbs in a formula. After cooking the dates in a tea or soup, eat them for their full medicinal value (remove pits first). They help weight gain and help malnourished children thrive.


Longan berries: These delicious berries quickly tonify Heart Blood (like no other herb I know), alleviating palpitations, anxiety, forgetfulness and insomnia, particularly due to overwork or from excessive thinking, studying, reading or talking (all of which use a lot of Heart Blood and blood sugar in the brain – these berries are high in glucose and sucrose, which quickly replenish blood sugar).


Lycii berries (Gou Qi or goji berries): This small, red, sweet-tasting berry tonifies Blood and Yin of the Liver and Kidneys, treating anemia, dizziness, poor eyesight, night blindness, blurred vision, sore back, knees and legs, impotence, seminal and nocturnal emission, tuberculosis and peri/menopausal complaints. Very high in beta-carotine, it promotes regeneration of liver cells, inhibits fat deposits in liver cells, lowers cholesterol, prevents artherosclerosis and enhances immunity. I always toss them in my hot cereals, soups or oatmeal cookies (instead of raisins), and frequently give them to patients as a snack. It is one of the best herbs to include in Kidney tonic formulas.


Walnuts: The Chinese use walnuts to tonify Yang, strengthening the Kidneys and alleviating low back and knee pain and frequent urination. They also warm the Lungs and help the Kidneys to “pull down” Lung Qi, treating chronic cough or wheezing due to Deficient Lungs and Kidneys (this type of cough or wheezing is determined when it’s harder to inhale than exhale, there’s dribbling of urine upon sneezing, or there are accompanying symptoms of low back ache, frequent urination and/or night time urination).

 

Walnuts also act as a mild laxative, particularly in the elderly, anemic or those with Kidney Yang Deficiency. Constipation that doesn’t respond to normal herbal laxatives in people who are tired, anemic, cold, have clear, frequent urination, low back pain, low sex drive, lowered metabolism and/or edema of the legs usually respond to walnuts since they lubricate the intestines and provide enough heat and energy to move the stools. Walnuts also increase body weight and dissolve stones in the urinary tract. In paste form and applied externally, they treat dermatitis and eczema.

Reflection and Thank you

Posted by Tanya on May 21, 2013 at 4:45 PM Comments comments (4)


"If you work just for money, you'll never make it, but if you love what you're doing and always put the customer first, success will be yours."  ~Ray Kroc

Other than Christmas, June is The Fire Within's favorite time of year: Customer Appreciation Month; A time to stop, reflect and say "Thank you" for the loyalty and continued support!

The journey of a client's healing process is twofold; the physical reaction to treatment as their body heals, and their spiritual awareness (faith) to heal that which isn't tangible.
It's profound how connected client's become during a course of treatment. There are moments where I can feel the warmth spread within my heart, and I realize this is what I'm meant to do, my ah-ha moment:

"Tanya makes you feel at home from the first treatment. I feel very comfortable with her - she is more like a friend than a practitioner."

"I love your relaxed environment! I look forward to my treatments. Like "Chicken Soup" for the soul!"

It is the clients whom I thank, for without them I would not be able to facilitate and witness such depth of healing...
We are partners on their journey. They are the facilitators of their own healing. I cannot take them where they don't want to go.

98 percent of clients come for pain and/or physical malady; more than 80 percent of them come to realize their ailments are there for a reason. Your body speaks to you, and through healing awareness you'll listen:

"Tanya listens and understands what's really being said, even before I know what's going on with me."

"You are so relatable ~ you are easy to talk to, non-judgmental, and also include your own stories and history into the conversation. You also give opinions and advice, which is amazing."

"You can seemlessly transition from being a friend to talk to for support and guidance at the start of treatment, to this amazing shamanic healer who completely relaxes you on the table, pokes you full of needles, reads shamanic prayers and bangs drums."

I am blessed to have been invited by families to share in humanities commonality: two rites of passage - birth and death - life's transitions and comfort of the Soul.

"You are a unique individual with a beautiful soul. So grateful for your practice."

"Tanya is deeply involved and loves her work. Her dedication in helping people is never ending."

"Tanya, you have made such a large impact in my life it's hard to really describe. I can't thank you enough for everything you have helped me through."

I want to look back, and replay life's story in my mind's eye. I want to say life was amazing, I took the world into my arms and made my dreams something particular and real. As Mary Oliver said it best, I don't want to end up simply having visited this world..

It's beyond meaningful for The Fire Within to give back and show our client's we are more than happy to go the extra mile for their patronage. We want to build lasting relationships with them! They are the fan to our flames.

In 10 days, The Fire Within Acupuncture & Wellness with launch a month FULL of unique customer appreciation ideas, and new promotions such as memberships, and client of the month!

Bless you all. I sincerely thank you for your gratitude and continued support.


Healing the Conception Vessel - Male Infertility Factor: blog series part 8 of 8

Posted by Tanya on May 6, 2013 at 12:35 PM Comments comments (10)


Unless a man asks, "Will this help? Will that help?" I know not how to help him.~ Confucius

Like women who feel a loss of identity and a sense of being less feminine when they cannot get pregnant, men can feel less virile and even ashamed if they can't father a child. Men are much better at hiding their feelings, but based on the joy you see in their eyes when fertility factors resolve and their partners become pregnant, leads one to believe that fertility is important to a man's self-worth.

In Canada, 15 percent of the population falls into the category of being unable to conceive. In these couples, male and female factors are equally accountable for that problem, and one in four couples has multiple factors contributing to their failure to conceive.

In men, infertility is defined as the inability to fertilize the ovum, whereas sterility is defined as the lack of sperm production.

Male fertility depends upon three things:
  1. adequate production of spermatozoa by the testes,
  2. unobstructed transit of sperm through the seminal tract, and
  3. satisfactory delivery to the ovum.
Diagnosing male infertility issues begins with a thorough medical history to see if there are any factors in the patient's past; followed by a physical exam, which the doctor looks for possible structural and/or congenital abnormalities that may cause obstruction of the seminal tract. After examing the genital area, the doctor usually conducts a general evaluation of secondary sex characteristics - breast size, amount of location of body hair, etc. Any results of the doctor's exam are usually confirmed with further tests, including a semen analysis, blood hormone levels, or radiographic exams to determine if there are any conditions that could prevent the sperm from being ejaculated.

Analysis of semen requires a sample of the ejaculate to be sent to a laboratory and analyzed for the following factors:
  • deficient sperm count 
  • insufficient sperm motility 
  • poor sperm morphology 
In 40 percent of cases of male infertility, sperm abnormalities are either a factor or the factor. In the last thirty-five years, sperm counts have dropped 50 percent. Environment influences such as radiation and other environmental toxins, undescended testis, trauma-induced or infectious testicular atrophy, drug effects, prolonged fever, and endocrine disorders affecting the hypothalamic-pituitary-gonadal axis. Low sperm counts can be aggrivated, if not caused, by factors such as tight-fitting underwear or hot baths, urogenital infections, poor diet, and prescription drugs (particular antihypertensives and anti-inflammatories). Even antihistamines, stress, lack of sleep, and overuse of nicotine, alcohol, and marijuana decrease sperm production. 

In Western methods, male infertility factors are easier to diagnose than female infertility, but often harder to treat. In cases of mechanical obstruction, the only potential remedy is surgery. Microsurgical techniques have made it possible to repair obstructions and other issues within the narrow spaces of the vas deferens and the epididymis. Unfortunately, surgeries can worsen sperm counts because with every surgery there is a risk of scarring and adhesion formation.

In cases of poor sperm production or quality, some dietary and lifestyle changes can help. However, when it comes to hormonal abnormalities, Western medicine has little to offer, as supplementation with testosterone, FSH, LH, or other hormones rarely improves sperm production significantly. If a man has healthy sperm present, the doctor may recommend that he and his partner try either IUI or IVF.

The TCM View of Male Infertility
Some men are skeptical about treating their fertility with Chinese medicine.

From a Chinese perspective, the main causes of male infertility fall under two broad categories:
  1. deficiency of the Kidneys (Kidney Yin or Yang deficiency) or Spleen (Spleen Qi deficiency), or
  2. excess such as Qi stagnation, Blood stasis, or damp heat in the pelvic organs - usually superimposed upon or caused by Kidney deficiency.
Almost all aspects of male infertility can benefit from TCM treatment. Certainly, sperm production and quality can be increased, some mechanical blockages can be dissolved or reduced, and even hormonal factors can be resolved by restoring balance in the entire body.

Here are some general recommendations:
  • To improve overall health: Take the antioxidant L-arginine and L-carnitine (see below)
  • To improve morphology and decrese high levels of oxidants in the seminal fluid: Take antioxidants and superantioxidants like pycnogenol (125mg daily of either pine bark extract, red wine extract, grape seed extract, and bilberry extract).
  • To increase sperm counts: Take Blood and Qi tonics and seeds like Lycium (Gou Qi Zi) and Cuscuta (Tu Si Zi).
  • To improve testosterone levels: Take Qi tonics like ginseng (Ren Shen).
  • To improve sperm motility: Tonify Qi and Yang. Take Cornus (Shan Zhu Yu).
  • To improve liquefaction: Supplement Kidney Yin with asparagus root (Tian Men Dong), Ophiopogon (Mai Men Dong), or the formula Six Flavor Pill with Rehmannia (Liu Wei Di Huang Wan).
  • To resolve varicoceles: Apply a cold pack to the scrotum twice per day and take a Blood-moving herbal formula like Cinnamon Twig and Poria Pill (Gui Zhi Fu Ling Wan).
Diet and Lifestyle Changes
  • In many subfertile men, the seminal fluid may not contain protective elements such as fructose (which feeds the sperm), fibrinogen (which holds the fluid together), and prostaglandins (which help the sperm penetrate the cervix). Men with suboptimum sperm should include dietary sources of antioxidants like wheat and barley grass, sprouts, and dark-green vegetables.
  • Adding unsaturated fatty acids like those found in sesame, almonds, flaxseed, hazelnuts, pecans, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, pine nuts, walnuts, olives, avocados, soybeans, and quinoa as well as omega-3 fatty acids found in fish oil can improve sperm integrity.
  • Eat only hormone-free meat, poultry, eggs, and dairy products, and drinking only purified water is suggested to eliminate excess synthetic estrogen, and produce healthy sperm.
  • Men should consume organic fruits and vegetables whenever possible.
  • Avoid saturated fats, hydrogenated oils, coconut, palm, and especially cottonseed oil (contains gossypol, a chemical inhibiting sperm formation). Include polyunsaturated vegetable oils and essential fatty acids like fish oil, flaxseed oil, and pumpkin-seed oil, as these contribute to healthy sperm and their production.
  • Stay away from high-doses of soy concentrates, however, as too much estrogen from any source can be counterproductive. Soy, other legumes, nuts, and seeds also contain phytosterols that pomote testosterone production.
  • Vitamin C: 2,000mg per day (divide dose)
  • Vitamin E: 800 IU per day
  • Beta-carotene: 100,000 IU per day
  • Selenium 200 micrograms per day
  • Zinc: 60 milligrams per day (for sperm and testosterone metabolism)
  • Vitamin B12: 1,000mg per day (involved in replication of cells)
  • L-arginine: 2 - 4 grams per day (promotes cellular replication)
  • L-carnitine: 1,000 - 1,200mg per day (assists sperm motility) 
  • Keep scrotal temperatures between 94 and 96 degrees Fahrenheit by wearing loose underwear, avoiding hot baths, and applying daily cool packs (ice water in a plastic bag, wrapped in a thin towel, applied for ten to twenty minutes).
Acupuncture
Acupuncture has been shown to help balance the hormonal system and restore higher levels of virility in men. A study conducted by the College of Acupuncture and Moxibustion at the Shanghai University of Traditional Chinese Medicine in China reported on thirty-five cases of infertility caused by sperm abnormalities and treated only with low frequency electroacupuncture. The men showed improvement in their symptoms of low back aching, frequent urination, and emission. Activity and quantity of sperm and semen quality also improved, as did spermatogenic environment. Equally, sex hormones (FSH, LH, estrogen, testosterone) normalized.

Chinese Herbal Treatment
As stated above, most cases of male infertility involve some element of Kidney deficiency (Kidney Yin or Yang), which can be treated effectively with Chinese herbs. A study at the Institute of Acupuncture and Meridians, Anhui College of TCM, Hefei, China, reported that eighty-seven cases of male infertility with semen abnormalities were treated with the herbal formula Kidney Qi Pill from Formulas to Aid the Living (Ji Sheng Shen Qi Qan). Semen analysis after treatment showed sperm parameters improved in eighty-three of the eighty-seven cases, or over 95 percent of the time. By the end of the study, forty-nine of the men's wives were pregnant.

When TCM is Not the Cure
Congenital absence of sperm, a condition known as azoospermia, has no known cure, and TCM treatments are not effective in resolving this condition. However, a lack of sperm production caused by extreme stress does respond to the TCM principles of pattern identification and treatment with lifestyle changes, acupuncture, and herbs.

Perhaps the greatest lesson from our struggle to bear children is to find peace inside ourselves no matter what. I do know that finding a place of peace is the best gift we can receive. Those we love come, and yes, they go. Some don't come at all. But no matter what, we are whole and at peace. May you find that place of peace within yourself. May you find happiness. And may that happiness be unconditional.  

Healing the Conception Vessel - Mechanical Infertility: blog series part 7 of 8

Posted by Tanya on April 20, 2013 at 1:45 AM Comments comments (8)


"I thank God for my brokenness; only then may I heal."  

~ Anonymous


Sometims, a woman can't get pregnant because the path from her ovaries to the uterus is compromised. For instance, the ovary could be covered with adhesions blocking the mature egg from entering the pelvic cavity; the fallopian tube could be narrow or even completely obstucted; or perhaps the uterus is bound with scar tissue, keeping it from holding the fertilized egg successfully.


Some cases of blockage can be resolved through surgery. In other cases, however, surgery results in a small improvement in fertility, if any. In that case IVF is usually a woman's only choice. We'll discuss mechanical infertility and how TCM can provide support in healing your reproductive system.


Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID)                                               Pelvic inflammatory disease is a heartbreaking cause of mechanical infertility, because it can detroy a woman's fertility without warning, long before she considers getting pregnant. PID is usually the result of a bacterial infection within the ovaries, fallopian tubes, uterus, and cervix. More than one million women are diagnosed as teenagers or in their early twenties - the cause is usually sexually transmitted diseases, especially chlamydia and gonorrhea, but PID can also result from IUD (intrauterine device). 


Treating PID with Chinese Medicine

It is rare to see a patient with active PID - usually patients will connect with a practitioner long after the damage has been done. However, there are ways to use TCM to treat both the symptoms and infection of active PID. In addition to treating the manifestation of the problem, we must address the underlying imbalance: 

  • The practitioner will use TCM diagnosis by looking at the accompanying symptoms the inflammation causes since most cases of PID involve abnormal discharge. Most conditions are damp and cool in nature, or classified as damp heat. Regardless of diagnosis, any treatment would need to resolve dampness, and balance the conditions created by the body's response to infection. It is important to note, however, that our inflammatory response to the infection may remain for some length of time after symptoms have been resolved. In the same way a course of Western antibiotics usually must be continued for several days after symptoms of the underlying infection disappear, it is equally essential that TCM treatment continue until the inflammatory response has quieted and the body's balance has been fully restored.
  • A primary treatment is through the Extraordinary meridians known as the Girdle vessel (Dai Mai). The Nei Jing describes the Extraordinary meridians as a system of "drainage ditches" that tap into the main meridians and allow excesses - such excess discharge - to run off and clear out.
  • If pelvic pain is predominant, TCM diagnoses its underlying pattern by assessing the nature of the pain. Sharp or stabbing pain involves Blood stasis, and we would apply principles of invigorating the Blood by using herbs such as: red peony (Chi Shao), peach kernel (Tao Ren), frankincense (Ru Xiang), and myrrh (Mo Yao). Strangulating and distending pain involves the obstruction of Qi, and we treat by resolving Qi stagnation. by using herbs such as: citrus peel (Chen Pi), green tangerine peel (Qing Pi), Cyperus (Xiang Fu), Lindera (Wu Yao) and Melia (Chuan Lian Zi).

Fallopian Tube Obstruction
One of the more common results of PID is fallopian tube obstruction. The fallopian tube is the "golden path" the egg must travel to get from the ovary to the uterus. It is also the most common location for egg and sperm to meet for fertilization. Unfortunately, the fallopian tubes are often the first location attacked by opportunistic bacteria coming from the uterus; because they are so narrow in their structure, can often become blocked quite quickly. The tubes may develop adhesions and thickened walls, and close off completely.

Since most fallopian tube obstructions produce no overt symptoms other than infertility, most women discover the state of their fallopian tubes as a result of laparoscopy, laparotomy, or a hysterosalpingogram. Treatment for tubal blockage is always some kind of surgery. Advances in micro- and laser surgery are making success rates higher for tubal blockage treatment. 
If a woman still cannot get pregnant, the final treatment recommendation is IVF, in which a fertilized egg is implanted directly into the uterus, bypassing the blocked tube and allowing pregnancy to occur.

Treating Fallopian Tube Obstruction with TCM
Chinese medicine employs a number of techniques to help remedy fallopian tube inflammation and obstruction. Herbs to invigorate Blood are typically given orally to help diminish active inflammation. To eliminate tubal blockages in China, herbal concoctions are sometimes injected directly into the uterus, as in a hysterosalpingogram procedure. The herbs then flow to and through the fallopian tubes, bringing the healing effect of the herbs directly ot the site of obstruction. Unfortunately in Canada, our medical/legal system will not allow any procedure involving this kind of internal delivery of herbs. Therfore we must use alternatives to treat the imbalance using less direct but still effective means.
  • Chinese herbal therapy must be powerful and capable of reaching the closed-off environment  of the fallopian tubes. TCM calls this "resolving stasis in the network vessels" (which are quite difficult to reach). To treat Blood stasis in network vessels, we use resins such as myrrh and frankincense, which are known for reaching the deepest meridians and their offshoots.
  • In cases where the condition lies within the uterus or fallopian tubes, women can ingest herbs that will find their way through the digestive system and to the fallopian tubes, use herbal enemas (decoctions taken rectally), or suppositories (herbal concentrates in a glycerin or cocoa-butter base).
Diet and lifestyle changes include tubal massage using a deep, kneading technique on the lower abdomen. The Fallopian Tube Massage is done in circular, clockwise motions with your fingertips. While massaging, apply deeper pressure to any areas of tension and congestion, holding at the tighter regions. Finish with a pumping motion with the heel of the hand.


Pelvic Adhesions
Most mechanical infertility is caused by adhesions and/or scar tissue found inside or outside the organs of the reproductive tract. Adhesions form naturally within the body as a healing response to tissue trauma. Some are from injury (such as a fall, or sexual abuse), inflammation or infection (such as endometriosis, yeast or bladder infection, or PID), or surgery (such as D&C, abortion, cesarean section, or appendectomy). 

Where adhesions are present, you can feel the restriction in the deeper tissues through manual palpation. Western medical treatment is inevitably surgical and may or may not restore fertility. In some cases, however, the adhesions are so extensive that they make pregnancy impossible.

Using TCM to Treat Mechanical Obstruction
To decrease adhesions of the female reproductive tract, Chinese medicine prescribes manual massage of the pelvic organs. Applying deep pressure to knead and stretch the abdominal area can help break up scar tissue and slowly and gently pull adhesions apart. As the adhesions decrease, function increases.

In addition to the fallopian tube massage described above, the following massage techniques will release adhesions in the uterus and ovaries:
  • Uterine Massage: just above the pubic bone, along the midline is your uterus. Place your fingers on either side of the midline and apply a deep, kneading type of massage, pressing and lifting while massaging any tight spots. Finish with a pumping motion with the heel of the hand.
  • Ovarian Massage: about three inches out from the midline and four inches below the navel. Massage in a circular motion, and if you find any areas of tension or congestion, knead deeply applying increased pressure and lift with the fingertips. Finish with a pumping motion with the heel of the hand to resolve congestion and improve circulation. 


Please join me next week as we discuss the final section of this series: Male-Factor Infertility: It Still takes Two to Make a Baby

http://www.fireacupuncture.com/apps/blog/show/26184265-healing-the-conception-vessel-male-infertility-factor-blog-series-part-8-of-8

Healing the Conception Vessel - PCOS and POF: blog series part 6 of 8

Posted by Tanya on April 7, 2013 at 4:15 PM Comments comments (6)


"The little seed cracks, and the spirit of heaven emerges."  

~ Scandinavian Proverb


The ripening of eggs within the follicles of our ovaries is a miracle. From birth women are filled with all the eggs they will ever have - one to two million, and for most of us, the eggs we possess at birth, and the 400,000 or so we still have when we begin menstruating, are more than enough to ensure the possibility of pregnancy before we enter menopause.


If our hormones are out of whack, the ovaries can become afflicted with disease or fail altogether. There can be many causes for the hormonal interference that saps vitality from our ovaries; polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) and premature ovarian failure (POF) are common manifestations of this hormonal imbalance.


Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome                                                             Also known as Stein-Leventhal syndrome, a disorder of ovulation which can affect the skin, hair, body weight, reproductive system, and endocrine system - including the pancreas, hypothalamus, pituitary gland, and adrenal glands.

  • The most common indication of PCOS is irregular or absent periods, often dating back to menarche. Other symptoms include excess weight, acne, excess facial hair and increased body hair, or thinning of the hair on the head. 
  • In polycystic ovarian syndrome, multiple small cysts or tiny follicles, develop inside the ovaries. These cysts are not the same as active follicles but instead have been arrested in their development, never growing to full size or releasing healthy eggs. The cysts and the connective tissue surrounding them produce male hormones called androgens. Androgens block follicular development and cause the follicles to degenerate, preventing the release of mature eggs. In addition, the amount of estrogen circulating in the bloodstream increases in relation to other hormones like progesterone, causing an increase in LH and testosterone. Because of this hormonal cascade, ovulation is prevented.
  • Western medical doctors and scientists have been unable to pinpoint the actual cause of PCOS and thus have been unable to treat it effectively. One of the contributing factors appears to be abnormal insulin and glucose (sugar) interaction. Excess insulin circulating in the bloodstream stimulates enzymes that help manufacture androgens in the ovaries. High insulin levels may also overstimulate leading to follicular atresia ("starving" the follicles of the correct hormonal food for the developing eggs)
  • Women who are diagnosed are often prescribed a series of drugs such as clomiphene, hCG, and gonadotropin. If these drugs fail, IVF and other ART are recommended. However, most women with PCOS don't respond well to any hormonal manipulation. Follicular development is a process that takes many months. Eggs are meant to develop in an estrogen- and progestrone-rich environment, not in an androgenic setting. Therefore if a woman's body is forced to ovulate with ovulation-stimulating drugs, the quality of her eggs may be poor

The Eastern View                                                                      Traditional Chinese medicine seeks to redress the entire hormonal millieu that produces these changes in a woman's ovaries. The most common manifestation of PCOS is dampness or phlegm (fat cells storing estrogen), and treatment is based upon different patterns as well as the different ways these patterns show up as symptoms.


TCM insulin-managing diet:

  • Cut out all forms of refined sugar.
  • Cut out all forms of refined carbohydrates, as the body immediately turns them into sugar. Refined carbohydrates include white bread, pasta, white rice, most breakfast cereals, rice cakes or any starchy, low-fiber food.
  • Do not follow fertility diets advocating massive yam consumption. The high starch and sugar content in yams exacerbates the impaired glucose metabolism and can actually delay or prevent ovulation.
  • Avoid soda, fruit juice, and any drink that rapidly raises the blood sugar level.
  • Consume adequate amounts of protein, either in vegetarian form or in the form of lean meat that has not been treated hormonally.
  • Eat as many fresh vegetables as you wish.
  • Eat only complex, whole grains like oatmeal, brown rice, and whole wheat.
  • Eat fruits like berries, which are not too sweet.
  • Avoid milk and dairy products, which tend to exacerbate the condition of internal dampness.
  • Eliminate alcohol and caffeine.
  • Increase your dietary fiber intake.
  • Get adequate amounts of exercise.
  • Addition of chlorophyll - Spirulina & broccogen.
  • Chromium, B vitamins, magnesium, ALA, CLA will improve insulin resistance.
  • NAC (N-acetylcysteine) decreases testosterone. In TCM, NAC would be categorized as a liver cleanser.

Premature Ovarian Failure
POF is essentially very early menopause, occurring before a woman reaches the age of forty. By the time we hit full-blown menopause, our supply of eggs has dwindled. This gradual loss of eggs during our fertile years is normal, but in POF, for some reason, either the loss of eggs is accelerated or the follicles themselves become less responsive to hormonal stimulation. One in every thousand women between the ages thirty and thirty-nine is diagnosed with POF. Women with POF will have stopped menstruating altogether, or will have short cycles. Sometimes periods do not occur at all.
  • As ovulation occurs increasingly early in women with POF, the cycle is often accompanied by elevations in FSH, indicating the ovaries are not responding to clues from the brain. The lack of communication causes hormonal "confusion." Estrogen production is reduced, the uterine lining is often too thin for implantation, and the follicles have not had time for their residing egg to fully mature, leaving no chance for conception.
  • Premature ovarian failure is an extremely frustrating diagnosis, as Western medicine cannot pinpoint its cause with any degree of accuracy. Some theories include chromosomal defects; damage from pelvic surgery, chemotherapy, or radiation therapy; or pelvic inflammatory disease (PID). Often a woman diagnosed with with POF will have a concurrent diagnosis of conditions like autoimmune thyroiditis, Grave's disease, or Addison's disease (involving the adrenal glands).
  • The treatment options are are usually estrogen replacement therapy. However, this is not an option for women who are attempting to conceive because the estrogen tells the hypothalamus that it doesn't need to prompt the pituitary to stimulate the ovaries to produce estrogen. The whole hormonal system then goes to sleep. Usually POF diagnosis is left with one option: IVF with donor eggs.
The Chinese Medical View
Although the treatment of POF is challenging for practitioners, it is also rewarding because Chinese medicine offers one of the most effective ways to address POF. Traditional Chinese medicine views most cases of POF as a combination of excess and deficiency patterns cuasing the Penetrating and Conception meridians to become "empty," or a deficiency in Blood.

A typical treatment will consist of the following recommendations:
  • Avoid wheat, refined carbohydrates, sugars, dairy, and most animal products.
  • It's also wise to avoid hot, spicy foods. We want to calm the body down to make it less reactive.
  • Take herbs like Astragalus (Huang Qi) to fortify the Spleen; herbs to nourish the Yin and Blood like Six Flavor Pill with Rehmannia (Liu Wei Di Huang Wan), and herbs to resolve the Blood stasis and obstruction, such as peach kernel (Tao Ren), moutan (Mu Dan Pi), and red peony (Chi Shao).
  • Stimulate the acupressure points (shown by your acupuncturist) to regulate the Penetrating and Conception meridians and to supplement Yin and Blood.

With all treatments, however, it's important to remember the hundred-day time line for the production of a healthy egg. Please allow three cycles before you start trying to get pregnant and give your body (and your future child) the chance for the healthiest conception and pregnancy possible. 


Please join me next week as we discuss part 7 of this series:

Mechanical Infertility: Clearing the Path to Conception

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Healing the Conception Vessel - Endometriosis and Fibroids: blog series part 5 of 8

Posted by Tanya on March 26, 2013 at 11:20 PM Comments comments (6)


"The lotus spring from the mud."  ~ Chinese Proverb

What do endometriosis and fibroids have in common? Both conditions are characterized by inappropriate tissue growth within the reproductive system, causing damage to the reproductive organs and preventing conception. There is no Western cure for either. In Eastern medicine, however, they are both considered processes of inhibited, stagnated uterine Blood. 
Luckily both conditions respond quite well to Chinese medicine. Given time and proper treatment, the blood flow will improve, the sediment will clear, and the body will overcome its immunologic protective mechanisms. Our psychoneuroendocrine system will settle down, and our body can relax so conception can take place.

Endometriosis
Affecting millions of women, and most commonly diagnosed in women between the ages of thirty and forty years old; it can also begin as early as the teenage years. 
In endometriosis, the endometrial cells somehow migrate and implant in areas outside the uterus including cervix, vaginal-rectal space, ovaries, fallopian tubes, colon, and bladder wall. Endometrial cells have also been found in the abdominal wall muscles, the lungs, the nose, even the brain. These misplaced endometrial cells respond to the hormonal stimuli of estrogen and prgesterone and bleed during menstruation. But there is no way of the blood to leave the body, so it stagnates and scars the surrounding tissue.

Western science is at a loss when it comes to understanding why women with endometriosis have fertility problems. Certainly, the scarring and adhesions associated with severe endometriosis can obstruct the path of the egg to the uterus, but women with milder cases can suffer impaired fertility as well. 
Its probable that endometriosis is yet another autoimmune disease. Some women who are diagnosed with endometriosis have high levels of autoantibodies, which are associated with recurrent miscarriage. Endometriosis creates an inflammatory response to the endometrial tissue growing outside its intended site. In attempt to "clean up" this tissue, the immune system is reprogrammed to react to all endometrial cells as if they were not part of the body.

Hormonal treatments like birth control pills, testosterone-enhancing or menopause-inducing drugs are sometimes prescribed to halt menstruation altogether, the theory being that when menses ceases the misplaced endometrial tissue will "starve" to death. Of course, ovulation is also halted in the process. In addition, the masculinizing side effects of increased testosterone are difficult for women to endure. 

TCM View and Treatment for Endometriosis
Endometriosis is not a disease category in TCM, however Eastern healers have recognized this disease for far longer than Western medicine. In TCM, endometriosis is known by its symptoms and is referred to as "menstrual movement pain." In the Jin Gui Yao Lue (Essentials from the Golden Cabinet), describes this condition as follows:  "The menstrual blood is inhibited and there is (resulting) lower abdominal fullness and pain."
Chinese medicine categorizes endometrial lesions as static Blood, or Blood that is not flowing as it should. (This is not so different from our Western understanding of endometriosis). However, since the compromised Blood is located in an area where normal flow is often absent or minimal, the body has a tougher time resolving it. The Chinese say the static Blood has entered the network vessels (offshoots of the major meridians, like energetic capillaries), which are more difficult to reach. When an enduring disease enters the network vessels, its wise to employ the use of resins like frankincense and myrrh with treatment. The Chinese say these resinous herbs infiltrate into the deeper meridians, just as sap penetrates a tree.
It is clear that Chinese herbal medicines can play an important part in balancing the complex interrelated factors contributing to both the treatment of endometriosis and the promotion of a healthy reproductive cycle. 


Uterine Fibroids
Fibroids, or myomas, are the most common neoplasm (abnormal growth) of the female reproductive organs. They are benign tumors found in approximately 20 percent of women over thirty-five years of age. They can occur on the inner and outer wall of the uterus, or anywhere else in the pelvic cavity. They range in size from small (size of a pea) to large (the size of a cantaloupe). 
Fibroids can increase in size during pregnancy because of the increased hormone levels, causing pressure in the uterus and, in some cases, premature labor. 
Western medical treatment occasionally uses drugs like Lupron to create the condition of pseudomenopause. In many cases, drug therapy is accompained by surgical removal of the fibroid. Another technique is arterial embolization, when the blood vessels feeding the fibroid are cauterized. However, as this cuts off blood flow to the uterine lining as well, it is not recommended for women who wish to have children. The last line of treatment is a hysterectomy - removal of the uterus - with her uterus gone, a woman's only remaining means for parenthood are gestational surrogate or adoption. 

Shrinking Fibroids the Eastern Way
TCM provides a far gentler and more effective remedy for fibroids. Like the tissues formed by endometriosis, fibroids are considered lumpy nodulations within the body caused by a hardening static Blood. This condition can be treated with means similar to those used for endometriosis, with equally dramatic results.
One Chinese study used traditional Chinese medicinals to treat 223 cases of uterine fibroids. All patients had measurable symptoms, and all were given a basic herbal formula to resolve Blood stasis. Additional herbs were added based on the different patterns diagnosed as contributing to the formation of fibroids. Following treatment most of the accompained symptoms, like heavy bleeding, and backache, improved or were eliminated. The fibroids themselves were either diminished or disappeared in 72 percent of patients.


Other Natural Remedies for Endometriosis and Uterine Fibroids
Here is a list of recommendations for using TCM to treat your endometriosis or uterine fibroids:
  • Rest and wear loose, comfortable clothing.
  • Perform deep-breathing exercises and meditative practices.
  • Take warm baths (with aromatherapy if you like).
  • Use essential oils such as frankincense, myrrh, clary sage, peppermint, lavender, rosemary, juniper, and thyme.
  • Use a heating pad or hot water bottle on your abdomen during and after menstruation.
  • Apply warm castor-oil packs on your abdomen to invigorate the Blood, assist the lymphatic system, and balance hormone levels. Apply warm castor oil to the lower abdomen and cover with plastic wrap two to three times per day during the premenstrual and menstrual period. (If you are trying to conceive, use only during the menstrual period.)
  • Regular, moderate daily exercise helps improve circulation and ease symptoms. Meditation, Qi Gong, and yoga are also helpful. (You should not perform inversion techniques during menstruation, especially if you have endometriosis. The energetic flow must always be descending.)
  • Avoid all foods that have been treated hormonally.
  • Consume soy and soy products like tofu.
  • Eat only organic fruits and vegetables.
  • Avoid refined and hydrogenated oils.
  • Use only unprocessed plant sources of essential fatty acids.
  • Use oils rich in both linoleic and alpha-linolenic fatty acids such as flaxseed, pumpkin-seed, and chia-seed oils, but only if they are recently cold-pressed and refined.
  • Include dietary spirulina, evening primrose oil, and oil from black currant and borage seeds.
  • Avoid sources of arachidonic acid, which comes from animal meats, dairy products, eggs, and peanuts.
  • Avoid all animal products, except fish. If you do consume meat, make sure it is organic and not hormonally treated.
  • Eat walnuts, dark greens, saffron, and cold-climate root vegetables like squash.
  • Foods that are especially good for resolving Blood stasis include kelp, lemons, limes, onions, Irish moss, and bladder wrack.
  • Supplement your diet with B vitamins and antioxidants like vitamins C, E, beta-carotene, selenium, and zinc. Include OPC superantioxidants (grape seed extract, pine bark extract, red wine extract, bilberry extract), which contain procyanidins and caffeic and ferulic acid. These substances have demonstrated anti-inflammatory and antispastic effects.
  • Both endometriosis and fibroids benefit from the use of of omega-3 fatty acids in the diet. Fish oil and linseed oil are good sources of these omega-3 fatty acids. Fish oil prevents abnormal blood clotting. If your menstrual blood contains clotty tissue, supplement with fish oil, (which also contains gamma-linolenic acid, known as omega-6).

For conception to occur, all the energies of the body must be free-flowing and moving like water in the river bringing life to the land through which it passes. Fibroids and endometrial growths  are like rocks in that river, preventing the embryo from mooring safely within the walls of your womb. By eliminating Blood stasis, balancing the body's other energies, and softening the concretions within your reproductive organs, you can restore the flow of the "river of life" through you and provide a clean, clear harbor for your unborn child.


Please join me next week as we discuss part 6 of this series:    

PCOS and POF: You can Heal your Ovaries

Healing the Conception Vessel - Immunologic Reaction and Recurrent Miscarriage: blog series part 4 of 8

Posted by Tanya on March 21, 2013 at 11:20 AM Comments comments (6)



"The wrong done oneself is born of oneself, is produced in oneself."  
~ The Dhammapada

The immune system functions to define or recognize "self" and to destroy "nonself." If this complex system loses its ability to recognize and regulate which is which, it will begin to destroy certain "self" components. Autoimmune disorders are abnormal reactions to part of our own bodies. In such disorders, the immune system loses its ability to discriminate between what is "safe" and what is "harmful."

For some women pregnancy creates conditions in which immunologic reactions can be triggered, by definition when a woman becomes pregnant her body is being invaded by something foreign. In some cases women will actually produce antisperm cells, which attack the sperm as it enters the vagina in the same way T cells attack germs in the bloodstream. All too often overriding this suppression of T-helper immune response can cause the embryo to abort. 

In other cases, when a woman's egg becomes fertilized, certain immune components cause clotting at the placental attachment site, starving the embryo and causing it to abort. Markers of potential immunological fertility factors include anti-nuclear antibodies, premature elevation of FSH, natural killer (NK) cells, lupus anticoagulant, and other clotting factors. Some represent a reaction to the man's "nonself" tissue interacting with the woman's "self" tissue, thereby causing an overly sensitive immune response. A woman may even have antibodies to her own hormones and neurotransmitters. In other cases, a woman's cells produce a kind of cytokine protein that literally will kill the developing embryo.

Other hormonal distrubances can create immune reactions leading to conditions like premature ovarian failure (POF). According to RESOLVE, approximately 23 to 35 percent of woman with recurrent miscarriage have antithyroid antibodies, compared with 10 to 17 percent of women who carry children to term. Antithyroid antibodies can be indicative of hypothyroidism, which may contribute to a woman's tendency to miscarry.

The usual treatment for autoimmune fertility disorders is to suppress or override the immune system so implantation may occur. A woman who is suspected of having a blood-clotting component to her infertility or habitual miscarriage is given daily doses of aspirin to "thin the blood" and inhibit the clotting pathway. If this is not effective, heparin (a stronger blood thinner) is given. Blood products that bind immune cells through intravenous infusions to prepare a patient for transplants are used by some physicians to address severe autoimmune conditions, and steroids like prednisone are also used to supress overactive immune systems. 
These procedures are not only severe, but can also be unpleasant, with long-term side effects. Perhaps there is a better way - one that doesn't involve suppressing the immune system but retraining it?


The Eastern View
While Western reproductive endocrinology has recognized the impact of immunologic factors for only a decade or so, TCM has been treating autoimmune infertility for thousands of years. According to the Eastern medical paradigm, it is not so important what the autoantibody is, be it ANA, ACA, APA, or lupus anticoagulant. It doesn't matter if T cells are low or if NK cells are high. What matters is the process initially causing the immune system to go awry. When we treat the root problem, the immunologic markers correct themselves. Many women with previously diagnosed "unexplained infertility" or autoimmune fertility factors have been effectively treated with TCM's prescriptions of diet, herbal therapy, and acupuncture.


Yeast
An under-addressed factor and negative consequence of overuse of antibiotics, glucocorticoids, and birth control pills brings us to the topic of yeast. Candida albicans is a yeast that occupies the large intestine; its function is to clean up cellular debris. When the yeast proliferates beyond its role of cleaning up dead cells, it can wreak internal havoc. And if, because of the yeast's unchecked multiplication, the intestinal wall becomes permeable to its infiltration, then yeast can enter the blood-stream and cause all kinds of endocrine and immunologic problems.

Traditional Chinese medicine states that whenever there is excess yeast in the system, the Spleen (pancreas) is always involved. Luckily, and anticandidal diet can help individuals whith yeast overgrowth return to a normal state of health:
  • Consume plenty of organic vegetables.
  • Eat brown rice as your staple grain.
  • Tofu and tempeh are good sources of protein.
  • Consume only organic, hormone-free meats.
  • Do not eat dairy products.
  • Avoid yeast breads and all forms of alcohol, vinegar, and fermented beverages.
  • Yeast thrives on sugar, so avoid sweets. Also avoid refined carbohydrates, which almost immediately turn into glucose within the body.
  • Do not consume sugary fruits that mold easily, like grapes, oranges, and strawberries. Don't eat bananas. Apples and pears are permissible. Do not drink fruit juices.
  • Acidophilus supplementation helps to repopulate the bacterial flora and control the yeast. Active-culture yogurt contains acidophilus as well, but the dairy in yogurt usually promotes a condition of dampness, which can damage the Spleen.

Recurrent Miscarriage
There are few more devastating events than the loss of a pregnancy at any stage, especially after a woman has suffered from fertility impairment. Women who experience this loss go through the stages of grief just as if they have lost a loved one - and they have. It is a continuum: the most overwhelming loss a woman can experience is the loss of a child she has given birth to, but next is the loss of a child she has carried within her womb. 

Numerous pregnancy losses are the result of the same immunologic factors and hormonal imbalances preventing pregnancy from occurring in the first place. Unfortunately, women with these problems all too often receive dismal results from their Western medical caregivers. 

One of the most common reasons for early pregnancy loss is inadequate progesterone production. Chinese herbs to improve progesterone production and prevent miscarriage vary according to the pattern underlying the deficiency. Some TCM fomulas for miscarriage prevention can be obtained from an acupuncture/herbal clinic. These prescriptions have helped many maintain their pregnancy. 

The key to treating recurrent miscarriage is twofold: first, prepare the body before conception; second, provide whatever assistance is neccessary to encourage the body to retain the child until it is ready to be born.

With autoimmune disorders and recurrent miscarriage, our bodies are fighting against our intense desire for motherhood. But if we wish our wombs to nuture the children we want so much, we need to provide the same kind of gentle care to every aspect of our bodies. Once we have restored balance and health, our immune systems can do only what they are meant to do - keep us healthy - even as they welcome the new energy of a child to take up residence within us. 


Please join me next week as we discuss part 5 of this series:

Endometriosis and Fibroids: Cleansing your Uterus so a Child can Grow


Healing the Conception Vessel - Unexplained Infertility: blog series part 3 of 8

Posted by Tanya on March 11, 2013 at 7:30 PM Comments comments (18)

"Let (her) who seeks, not cease seeking until (s)he finds." ~ The Gospel accoding to Saint Thomas

Unexplained infertility affects one of every four couples, who will both end up undergoing an extensive array of tests. "We don't know why you aren't getting pregnant," some of the most frustrating words a woman can hear from her doctor. According to RESOLVE, a national infertility network, up to 30 percent of all cases of infertility in women and 25 percent in men are the result of idiopathic (unknown) causes. 

"Unexplained infertility" means there is no medical reason within the realm of modern science to explain why conception is not occurring. All to common women with abnormal menstrual cycles are sent to the lab for a series of hormone blood tests that result within the "normal" range. Couples with this diagnosis are told to go home and keep trying. Often these couples are pointed towards ART procedures, the theory being that putting sperm directly into the uterus (IUI), or fertilizing her eggs outside the body and then providing a chemically enhanced environment for their implantation, might bypass their mysterious fertility problems. 

Western medicine is very good at measuring differences when they reach critical levels; but what of subclinical - i.e., too small to be measured - problems that may still be significant enough to keep a woman from getting pregnant?

Luckily, TCM is particularly effective in treating women (and men) with this frustrating diagnosis. In Eastern medicine, "unexplained infertility" translates simply to "impaired reproductive functioning," and reproductive functioning can be healed and supported by bringing the entire body back into balance. 

The first step is to address the manifestation of the problem and determine the underlying pattern. Imbalances such as cold or hot, lethargy or nervousness, menstrual cycle symptoms and so on, can idicate where the problem lies. In TCM all subjective and objective symptoms are taken into account: tongue and pulse examinations will unveil the true pattern, and when the imbalances are addressed the reproductive system can begin to function normally.

The Western approach is like trying to return a lake to purity once it's been contaminated by toxic waste. You could try to treat the lake by finding the contaminants, then use different chemicals to neutralize their effects - but all you'd end up with is water with even more chemicals in it. The Eastern way to purify the water isn't to add more chemicals but to put more clean water into the lake. You can do this by making sure the streams feeding the lake are clean, healthy, and flowing as freely as possible, and that the old, toxic water can flow out as new water flows in. Once the ecological balance is restored, the lake will return to health, and all life will thrive. That's what TCM does for a woman's body: it allows clean, pure, healthy energy to flow in while allowing old, toxic energy to be eliminated. With balanced energy, the body will restore to its natural condition. 

Menstrual flow is one of the first places we can look to diagnose a woman with unexplained infertility: If the Blood is unusual in amount, color, and consistency, this usually indicates a problem within the uterine lining.
1.  If the Blood flow is scanty you can eat red raspberries for they will help the body produce Blood. Once the Blood flow increases, the endometrial lining will thicken.
2.  If the mentrual Blood is scant, black or very dark, and accompanied by stabbing pain this would indicate a Blood stagnation. You should supplement your diet with seaweed, evening primrose oil, and safflower. Application of warm castor oil packs may also resolve the toxic residue. The allows the uterine lining to respond with fresh, healthy endometrial tissue.
3.  If the failure of the uterine lining to respond appropriately to the warming hormone (progesterone), this this known as cold Uterus, or cold Womb. Symptoms related to this diagnosis are lower back pain, cramps that respond to heating pads, and clotty menstrual blood. You should supplement with fish oil, and pycnogenol, as well as peach kernel (Tao Ren). Warming the lower abdomen with heat packs or a warm water bottle before ovulation will invigorate the Blood.

One of the most underdiagnosed contributing factors to unexplained infertility is stress. The body knows we should not be pregnant when we are under tremendous stress: after all, the body's first priority is keeping us out of danger, and taking care of a fetus when we are experiencing tense situations is an overwhelming strain. Indeed, our hormonal response to stress is actually antagonistic to our fertility. Adrenaline is released during conditions of stress. Although adrenaline helps us to escape from danger, it may also inhibit our ability to utilize progesterone, thus impeding our fertility.

If certain people are causing you stress you may want to avoid them for a while. If you're one of those women who do too much and are stressed about it, figure out ways to cut back on the number of demands being placed on you. Then turn your attention to yourself. The following are simple suggestions for reducing the amount of stress in your life:
  • Exercise.
  • Meditate.
  • Employ meditative breathing techniques whenever possible.
  • Sit down whenever you eat.
  • Eat frequent, small meals to keep the blood sugar levels more stable and to inhibit the release of adrenaline.
  • Chew your food sufficiently, mixing enough saliva with the food to make digestion easier.
  • Drink a lot of water, but not during a meal.
  • Do not drink alcohol or caffeine, or smoke cigarettes.
  • Use herbs that move Qi, like peppermint, rosemary, spearmint, turmeric, and thyme.
  • Supplement with herbs that resolve Liver Qi Stagnation (see your local acupuncturist).
  • If your prolactin levels are high, take malt barley sprout (Mai Ya).
Stress is not the only factor causing unexplained infertility. Many are subtle endocrine and hormonal factors also affecting our ability to conceive. But finding and treating the underlying pattern will resolve the hormonal imbalance, no matter how slight. Subclinical infertility often responds to small changes in the body's overall functioning. Of course, nothing is certain, but with a greater level of health it's likely you will stand a great chance of conceiving. The hope in TCM is to provide an elegant and simple solution, giving you healthy, happy children.

Please join me next week as we discuss part 4 of this series:

Immunologic Reaction and Recurrent Miscarriage: Bring your Body into Harmony with Itself

Healing the Conception Vessel - Advanced Maternal Age: blog series part 2 of 8

Posted by Tanya on March 7, 2013 at 10:50 AM Comments comments (8)


"I remember sitting in the clinic waiting room.. and a woman - she was in her mid-forties and had tried everything to get pregnant - told me that one of the doctors had glanced at her chart and said, "What are you doing here? you are wasting your time." It was so cruel. She was holding out for that one last glimpse of hope. How horrible was it to shoot that hope down?"  ~ Nancy Gibbs, "Making time for a Baby," Time, April 15, 2002

The Chinese believe longevity is deeply connected with one's inner harmony, allowing us to live full, healthy lives. When harmony is disturbed in any way, the result is imbalance, disease and quite possibly a shorter life span.

The same would pertain to our fertility and reproductive life span, which is of course shorter than our chronological one. Our reproductive system as women, is marked by two significant passages: our first and last menstrual period. The years in between mark many changes, the cycle waxes and wanes - in constant change. Like the ocean, in which each wave is different, its shape determine by many factors. A women's cycle is influenced by many physiological, emotional, mental, and spiritual factors. Conventional Western medicine treats the body, but doesn't address much to do with overall balance. This is where Chinese medicine provides far more well-being, especially as a woman moves closer to menopause.

In Western medicine the reproductive community will tell you that the only factor determining ovarian health is age. Medical studies conclude that our ovaries start to produce fewer and fewer healthy eggs when we reach our thirties. By age forty, we have a scant chance of producing undamaged, healthy eggs that can be fertilized. But believing these assertations about age-related fertility decline is like believing the only thing influencing the creation of a wave is the amount of water it contains. Of course the natural process of aging in every human brings with it a decrease in fertility. But there are many factors that can help us maintain our fertility regardless of our age. The ocean of our fertility doesn't dry up; it just becomes still. And with help, it can flow once more. 

Women's eggs do not have an expiration date! Contrary to what Western medicine would have us believe, they respond to our surroundings just as the rest of our body systems do - our ovaries and eggs respond negatively to poor diet, drugs, toxins, and stress, but they also respond positively to a healthy diet and pure lifestyle. Ultimately, what makes our eggs less responsive is not age but hormonal fluctuations. 

A woman in her forties will often be turned away from any chance at Western medicine's ART because of her age and "poor" state of her ovaries. She may indeed fail to respond favorably as her younger counterpart to the hormones ARTs provide because her eggs are less receptive to hormonal stimulation. Women over forty are generally encouraged to seek alternate ways of becoming a mother - donor eggs, from a younger woman. But even with donor eggs, older women are less likely to conceive. The problem with ART isn't just the quality of eggs an older woman produces: the real problem is that the only portion of the hormonal process ART addresses is the last few weeks of an egg's journey from follicle to released egg. 
  • As a woman ages, the many-month process of follicular development becomes susceptible to breakdown. However this has three specific causes. First, if we don't take care of bodies in general, no reproductive therapy will make up for our lack of health. If women wish to become pregnant, they had better be eating well, exercising, and reducing the stress levels in their life.
  • Second, as our bodies age, the blood flow to the ovaries declines. Around menopause, the ovarian blood flow is five times less than when we were in our prime. The follicular fluid contains endothelial growth factor, the same chemical found in a damaged heart. It signals the body that the follicular tissue is being starved of blood flow. Better circulation to any organ improves its function and blood flow - acupuncture is the only known method to improve this flow.
  • Third, hormane levels fluctuate as a woman ages. The lack of communication between the brain, pituitary gland, and the ovaries makes her follicles resistant, and they quit paying attention to FSH - not surprising since the ovaries are undernourished by lack of blood flow. Fortunately, the steps involved in turning back the clock are all natural. Unfortunately, rejuvenating the reproductive system takes time.

Through TCM, we can help direct the body's attention to the midbrain, pituitary, ovaries, and uterus, as well as create the spiritual, mental, and emotional health required to produce healthy eggs, provide appropriate conditions for fertilization, and foster a welcoming environment in the uterus so the egg may be implanted, grow into a fetus, and be carried to term.

To improve your chances of getting pregnant after age forty, we first need to make sure our bodies are maintained at peak efficiency and overall supported health. Exercise regularly. Get enough sleep. Maintain a positive attitude. Connect with your inner source. Feel yourself in tune with a beneficent nature. Your are doing everything you can to allow conception to happen naturally. Let nature take its course while you restore your body's natural state of health and fertility.

Diet
  • Avoid junk food, caffeine, tobacco, pop, sweetners, and refined carbohydrates.
  • Whenever possible, avoid dairy products, raw vegetables, and cold foods.
  • Do not eat any meat or animal products treated with growth hormones. This includes most of the meat, eggs, milk products, any cheese found at the supermarket. You can find hormone-free dairy and meat products at many health-food stores, local farms, or farmer's markets.
  • Supplement your diet with royal jelly, blue-green algae (Spirulina), wheatgrass, and chlorella.
Supplements
  • Coenzyme Q-10 (co Q-10) - this is a supplement commonly used for cardiovascular disorders. Co Q-10 helps support and improve mitochondrial function, which is the powerhouse of the cell. One of the hallmarks of aging is damage to mitochondrial DNA caused by oxygen metabolism and the presence of free radicals in the system. This has been shown to contribute to age-related decline in egg quality.
  • DHEA - some studies have shown DHEA can be used as a hormone building block. A study published in 2000 on Human Reproduction reported that taking 80 mg per day of DHEA for two months improved response to ovarian stimulation. ** Please note: women who have elevated levels of male hormones should not supplement with DHEA.
  • L-arginine - a study published in Human Reproduction in 1999 found increased ovarian response, endometrial receptivity, and pregnancy rates in IVF patients who supplemented daily with large doses (4 grams) of oral L-arginine, an amino acid. Overall L-arginine increases blood flow to the ovaries.
A conundrum for women with age-related infertility: it takes a minimum of three months to maximize the health of the developing follicle and its egg. Yet with each month of natural treatment, we feel we are losing precious time. This process requires an extraordinary level of patience. The good news is that with acupuncture, Chinese herbal therapy, diet and exercise, we can extend our fertility past the age when many Western medical doctors tell us it is impossible for us to get pregnant. 

It is so important to understand that life's other stages are just as important - and rewarding as our childbearing years. The time of childhood before sexual maturity is one of incredible physical, mental, and emotional growth. The time of wisdom, when our fertile years are over, can be equally fulfilling. Our energies move from our reproductive center to the heart. We become nurturers in a different sense. There is much we can do to extend our childbearing years if needed, but we also must learn to celebrate the stages of our lives as they occur and to maintain our health at its highest level no matter what our age! 

Please join me next week as we discuss part 3 of this series:
"Unexplained Infertility": Overcoming the most frustrating diagnosis


Healing the Conception Vessel: blog series part 1 of 8

Posted by Tanya on February 25, 2013 at 9:40 PM Comments comments (12)



"It can be frightening, this yearning for a child - its hard to fathom the desperate urgency."  ~ Wendy Wasserstein, Award-Winning Playwright and first-time mother at age forty-six, from Creating a Life by Sylvia Hewett


As young girls, maternal instinct prepares us to become mothers - even the girls who show no interest in babies or dolls still assume they possess the capacity, and desire to have children. But, what happens to women who, when they are ready to have babies find its not quite as easy as they were led to believe?


The pain and disappointment of failing to conceive. The causes of infertility are wide in their range - unfortunately, partners usually don't realize there is a problem until they want to conceive and are then are thrust into an endless cycle of diagnosis, treatment, pregnancy, and failings. The desperate hunger of couples who want to bear children and the pain of the journey to create life envelopes them.


Western reproductive medicine has provided some of the best-publicized miracles. The "infertility epidemic" has given rise to a huge industry and indeed, assisted reproductive technology (ART) has given hope to many women who could never bear children otherwise. But the physical, financial, and emotional ramifications are high. Women are willing to spend every penny and hyperstimulate their ovaries, turning them into egg-producing, hormone-raging, mad-women. Women have sex, don't have sex, have sex on schedule - whatever they're told will work. Unfortunately all too often we end up broke and heartbroken; empty arms, and exhausted bodies.


The failures of the Western reproductive medicine, has turned heads to seek out healthier, holistic alternatives such as traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) techniques to enhance both partners fertility and holistic health. TCM is safe to use with Western reproductive medicine, and will enhance the chances of conception. 


TCM describes the female reproductive system as a network of energy systems with complementary organs and hormonal responses. This network responds to stress, chemicals, lack of exercise, poor eating, and excessive emotions, all of which put the body off balance. The most incredible part of our bodies is it will also respond to gentle-healing and balance.


Chinese medicine is safe, and effective. I advocate an easy four-step approach that will help you balance your internal energies while preparing you to conceive:

  • The first step is to correctly identify what imbalances are going on inside. What is causing your reproductive disharmony.
  • The second step is to change your diet (if the need should arise). Certain foods have certain properties, and depending on your diagnosis it may be important to add food that will nourish you to move energy. We may also explore adding certain vitamins or minerals into the diet.
  • The third step is to clear your energies via acupuncture. A series of acupuncture treatments will be administered over a course of 3-6 months. Remember restoring health and well-being can take time. At this stage, additional excercises may be included: Yoga, femoral massage, Qi Gong breathing, meditation, etc.
  • Lastly, we need to increase your chances of conception through the addition of Chinese herbs. These herbal remedies have been around for thousands of years in China to help increase fertility. 

The success rate is around 75 percent. Many of the 25 percent who are not successful have not followed through with their treatment plans. Traditional Chinese medicine is not a quick fix; restoring the body to health takes time. You must give yourself at least three to six months for the treatments to have full effect. All I ask is that you remember some conditions have been a while in the making and it may take a while to unmake the imbalance. Use how you feel to gauge your progress.


Above all remember Chinese medical treatment is designed to work with Nature, and allow conception to occur rather than force it. You will have emotional clarity, and a sense of calm as you become aware that your body is working with you to prepare you. The focus is to remove the obstructions, to overcome fertility barriers, and take control of your fertility health. No one is more in tune with your body as much as you are. You will learn to trust your instincts, and above all, know that you are not broken; you are not deficient. No matter the outcome of your journey, you are whole.

If you have been told you are infertile, my message is this: There is no such thing as infertility: it is a myth! Rarely is a woman of childbearing age with all her reproductive organs intact unable to bear children. As long as the anatomical structure is present the diagnosis of "infertility" is simply untrue. Nature is on your side girl!
Over the course of this 8 week blog series my goal is to address the most commonly diagnosed obstacles to fertility. Please join me next week as I discuss part 2 of this series:
Advanced Maternal Age (over thirty-five).


The beginning of knowledge is the discovery of something we didn't know existed. 

"The Valley Spirit never dies.
It is named the Mysterious Female.
And the Doorway of the Mysterious Female
Is the base from which Heaven and Earth sprang.

It is there within us all the while:
draw upon it as you will, it never runs dry."

~ Tao Te Ching

 


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