Acupuncture for Fertility

 

Fatima Hozouri, Registered Acupuncturist

Over the past few decades fertility rates have decreased. Statistics show 1 in 5 couples over age 30 have problems conceiving after trying for one year. Many of these couples have used technologies available in Western Medicine such as IVF, IUI, donor egg/sperm transfer but the success rates can be less than optimal. Many couples have also reached out to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and Acupuncture to increase their fertility and improve their chance of conceiving.

Chinese Medicine and Acupuncture have a long history of treating infertility dating back to Han dynasty. According to TCM principles when there is a good flow of Qi and Blood, the person is in optimal health. In our modern world many factors can contribute to imbalance in our body, making pregnancy more difficult. Acupuncture and TCM helps to restore the Vital Energy (Qi) and enhance the flow of Qi and Blood.

Acupuncture helps to:

  • Increase blood flow to the uterus
  • Reduce the stress/anxiety associated with infertility
  • Improve sperm mobility and quality
  • Regulate menstrual cycle and normalize endocrine (hormonal) system
  • Balance hormones
  • Enhance the successful rates of IVF and IUI
  • Decrease the chance of miscarriage
  • Address any pre-existing medical conditions

Fertility approaches and treatments vary person to person, but usually treatments are scheduled for 3 consecutive menstrual cycles.

Why Should I See A Naturopathic Doctor?

– by Dr Joanna Rosenfeld, ND

I get asked this question a lot, and I have rarely given the same answer twice.

This is both a benefit, and a difficulty, with Naturopathic Medicine. Naturopathic Doctors (NDs) have such a large scope of training in a variety of modalities, that it is hard to give a succinct answer to this question.

FIRST OF ALL, WHAT IS A NATUROPATHIC DOCTOR?
The easiest place to start is to describe what it takes to become an ND. Naturopathic Doctors have completed a Bachelor’s degree, with pre-requisites in basic science courses, and then finished 4 years of Naturopathic College, including 1 year of residency and 2 sets of board exams. Passing these board exams allows us to use our modalities in practice: nutrition, acupuncture, herbal medicine, physical medicine, hydrotherapy and homeopathy. We also learn diagnostic skills, how to interpret lab results, and when to refer out for a more emergent, or serious conditions. In British Columbia, an additional set of exams allows us to prescribe pharmaceuticals.

Naturopathic Doctors have a unique philosophy regarding healthcare. We are focused on treating the root cause of disease when possible, and not only masking the symptoms. Although sometimes it is important to treat the symptoms, such as pain, we do so while at the same time trying to understand the reason the pain exists in the first place. For example, people with painful periods often take painkillers to help manage their cramps. As NDs, we explore why the cramps are there in the first place? What are your hormone levels? How could your diet be contributing to the pain? How could stress or lifestyle be a factor in your cramps? As part of this exploration, we address the whole person – both mental and physical aspects of their health.

Whac a mole

6 (OF MANY) REASONS TO SEE AN ND:

1. You aren’t feeling your best, and nobody can tell you why.

Maybe you are feeling run down, and more tired than usual. You’ve been gaining weight and can’t seem to lose it. Or maybe you keep getting sick and it’s taking you a long time to recover. Or you get bloated seemingly randomly throughout the day or month. These are symptoms that people tend to live with and eventually start thinking that they are normal. Symptomatic treatments may have helped initially, but now you just don’t know where to go. This is where a Naturopath will work with you by taking a thorough history, performing physical exams and ordering lab tests, to help tie your symptoms together and find a root cause.

2. You have a chronic condition and have been told there is no treatment available

As NDs, we often see patients after they have been struggling with a health issue for a long time, and been told there is no treatment or cure available. Common examples include irritable bowel syndrome, allergies, eczema, psoriasis, acne, depression, anxiety, chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, and autoimmune diseases. Although there may be no cure available for some of these conditions, NDs can help to manage chronic conditions by balancing the immune system, decreasing inflammation, using specific herbal treatments and prescribing therapeutic diets.

3. You are experiencing side effects from medications

Pharmaceutical medications can be very effective for managing certain conditions, but often come with side effects. Your ND can tell you which nutrients or vitamins are depleted by your medication, and give you safe options for managing side effects. In some cases, your ND can help you replace medication with effective natural alternatives, with fewer side effects.

4. You are in pain

A common reason for chronic medication use is chronic pain. However, chronic use of pain medication is associated with liver and digestive problems. Chronic pain, especially joint pain, can be associated with specific foods you are eating in your diet, being overweight, or generalized inflammation in the body. Naturopathic Doctors can help identify the cause of your pain and help to minimize it through the use of acupuncture, diet, herbs and other treatment options.

5. You would like a more integrative health care plan

Naturopathic Doctors like to work as one part of your health care team, and that is why you will often see NDs working in multi-disciplinary clinics. We aim to communicate our evidence-based approach with your other health care providers and doctors to ensure you are receiving a comprehensive and safe treatment plan. Although generally safe, supplements can still interact with medications and an ND is an expert in prescribing the right supplements in the right form and at the right dose for you.

6. You would like a “health coach” and want to learn more about preventative medicine for you and your family

Naturopathic Doctors are trained in health. Symptoms are your body’s way of communicating that certain systems within your body need some attention, and a Naturopathic Doctor can help get you back to optimal health and symptom-free living. By managing symptoms when they first occur, and optimizing your diet, body weight and lifestyle, you can prevent a variety of health conditions and your ND can show you where to start!

Questions about this article? Contact [email protected]

The Perfect Diet?

-by Dr. Joanna Rosenfeld, ND

There are so many diets out there – vegan, vegetarian, macrobiotic, paleo, primal, Mediterranean – the list goes on. But which one is the best? Your best friend swears that the paleo diet changed her life – she lost 50 pounds and her skin cleared up, but when you try it – nothing! Well that’s because diets and food choices need to be individualized! Integrated nutrition is all about learning to be more connected with what you eat, and how your body processes food.

eat right

Following a strict diet that you have read in a book may seem easy at first, but I can guarantee it’s not going to be the perfect diet for you. In order to understand how to eat, you have to first learn to listen to what your body is telling you and feed it nutritious foods. These 7 principles lay the foundation of the “perfect diet”

1. Drink More Water
Drink 2 cups of water first thing in the morning when you wake up. This will help to re-hydrate the body and set you on a good track for drinking water throughout the rest of the day. You can try adding freshly squeezed lemon juice, or sliced ginger to warm water, if you typically need some warming up in the morning.

Signs that you need more water include fatigue, sluggish digestion, headaches and frequent food cravings, or even just feeling thirsty!

2. Make your Own Meals
It is virtually impossible to eat well if you are relying on restaurants or take-out food to eat well. There is a lot of added sugar, salt and fat to make the food taste delicious, and portion sizes are often too large. Some of the most nutritious food is easiest to make, such as vegetables, fish and whole grains. You can even make your favourite “take-out” foods at home – swap the Macdonald hamburger and french fries for a homemade burger and roasted yams

3. Experiment with Whole Grains
Carbohydrates have been demonized, but there is a lot of benefit in eating healthy whole grains as part of a balanced diet. Whole grains provide energy, satiety, and a high source of fiber. This doesn’t include white bread or muffins, but start using quinoa, amaranth, and millet. If you have trouble digesting grains, try soaking them overnight in water – this makes the grains easier to digest and also neutralizes phytic acid , which is a component of grains that can block the absorption of other nutrients. How to cook different grains.

4. Include Naturally Sweet Vegetables
Craving sweets is natural, so try including healthy sweet foods instead of turning to preocessed sugar. Naturally sweet foods also contain beneficial nutrients and fiber to help balance your blood sugar. Certain foods become very sweet when cooked, and eating these foods will reduce your cravings for sweets! Carrots, onions, beets, winter squash and sweet potatoes are all great options.

5. Increase Leafy Greens!
Leafy greens are high in vitamins and minerals, fiber, and many other micronutrients and phytochemicals. They really are the super-hero food, and there are so many delicious ways to consume them. Try sauteing them, making a kale salad, or using a collard green leaf as a “bun” in your sandwich. Greens can also be easily added to your morning smoothie! Start experimenting by rotating your greens: bok choy, napa cabbage, kale, collards, watercress, mustard greens, broccoli rabe and dandelion are all great options. Here are some ideas on how to cook, and store, your leafy greens!

6. Include Protein
Protein, and it’s building blocks amino acids, are important for so many functions in the body. Protein is required for enzymes and hormone synthesis, as well as building muscle mass (thereby increasing our metabolism) and developing strong hair and nails. Protein also helps to stabilize blood sugar, reducing cravings and keeping us feel full for longer. Good sources of protein include fish, organic poultry, grass fed meats, lentils and eggs. Aim for a piece of protein the size of your hand, with the rest of your plate being colourful veggies and high quality fats.

7. Don’t Fear Fats
We are thankfully moving away from low fat diets, but people are still hesitant to include fats and oils in their diets. Fats are essential for increasing our feeling of satiety after a meal, improving our absorption of many fat-soluble nutrients and producing healthy hormones. Modern diets have an over-abundance of pro-inflammatory fats (omega 6) and low levels of anti-inflammatory fats (omega 3). Our cell membrane is composed of fat, so including anti-inflammatory fats in our diet, will help to reduce inflammation systemically. If you are cooking with oils, use ones with a high smoke point such as coconut oil, avocado oil or grapeseed oil. Olive oil and flaxseed oil should only be consumed cold, as they burn at a lower temperature. Other good sources of fat include nuts and seeds, fish (and fish oil), hemp seeds, chia seeds, flax and avocado.

Choose one of these principles to include next week. If you are able to stick with it, then try adding another. Make small, sustainable, changes and soon you will see drastic changes in your diet and your health!

Talk to your Naturopathic Doctor about your specific symptoms to individualize the best nutrition plan for you.

Questions about this article? Contact [email protected]

Acupuncture and Women’s Health

– by Fatima (Shekoufeh) Hozouri DTCM, RAc

acupuncture_womanBenefits of acupuncture for women’s health problems have been recorded in ancient Chinese medicine literature for centuries. Many women have encountered some gynecological issues throughout their life, such as problems with their periods, infertility, menopause, etc.

According to principles of Chinese medicine, a person’s health is mostly determined by the quality of their Qi (life force) and blood circulation. When Qi and blood are circulating smoothly, the body is fully nourished, balanced and strong. As soon as there is an interruption to the flow of Qi and blood, symptoms start to appear and the body gets out of balance. Conditions that can be resolved by acupuncture and that we’ve seen at Qi Integrated Health include the following:

– Regulating the menstrual cycle (PMS symptoms)
– Reducing stress and anxiety associated with infertility
– Normalizing hormone and endocrine systems
– Improving blood flow in the uterus
– Decreasing the chance of miscarriage
– Increasing the chance of pregnancy for women undergoing in vitro fertilization (IVF)
– Helping with symptoms associated with pregnancy (morning sickness, back pain, breech baby, etc.)
– Helping with menopausal symptoms

In addition to acupuncture, your acupuncturist may use other forms of therapy such as ear seed, e-stimulation, cupping and dietary recommendations to help bring your body to its optimum health.

Questions about this article? Contact [email protected]

What is Qi?

– by Kiem Schutter, R.Ac,
Founder at Qi Integrated Health

Qi (pronounced “chee”) is frequently translated as “natural energy,” “life force,” or “energy flow.” It is the underlying principle of Chinese medicine and martial arts. The literal translation of “qi” is “breath” or “air.”
qi
The original character for Qi (seen on the left) features the steam coming off of rice. It was created as such to describe the transformative element of Qi. Rice cannot be eaten raw so the Qi (heat, air) changes it to something nourishing.

Qi, like wind or heat, is a powerful, invisible force. It must be seen by observing the effects on its surroundings. In the case of wind, one sees the leaves on a tree moving, rather than the wind itself.

Qi animates all living things. It is one of the two main elements that support life, the other being blood.

Concepts similar to qi can be found in many cultures, for example, prana in the Hindu religion, pneuma in ancient Greece, mana in Hawaiian culture, lüng in Tibetan Buddhism, and ruah in Hebrew culture. Elements of the Qi concept can also be found in Western popular culture. For examples, scholars have recently drawn comparison between qi and “The Force” in Star Wars.

Qi Integrated Health took its name to emphasize the fact that Qi can be externally influenced by a practitioner, food, situations, and emotions. In our facility we hold a relaxing, calm space as it the best possible way to bring Qi into balance.

Questions about Qi? Contact [email protected]

Why Functional Medicine?

with Dr. Erika Kubanek,

There is a lot of buzz about functional medicine these days. I get calls and emails quite frequently from some who have heard about this progressive approach to medicine. Never heard of it? Check out the Institute for Functional Medicine. So, you may ask, what is all the excitement about? Functional medicine is very much akin to naturopathic medicine – one of our core principles is to discover the so-called ‘root cause’ of illness and disease.

“Imagine a world in which medicine was oriented towards healing rather than disease, where doctors emphasize prevention above treatment.” – Andrew Weil, MD

With our conventional medical approach once we are ‘diagnosed’, that is the end of the investigation, answer is found and all we need is a drug or surgery to fit that diagnosis and relieve symptoms, often without treating the underlying dysfunction.

With naturopathic, not to mention functional medicine, a diagnosis is merely the start of our investigation.

In my practice I am continually asking the question ‘why’. Why has this condition developed? Why are these symptoms present? Why has this lab test deviated from optimal? And with these questions we search for the root causes of disease. Naturopathic medicine is uniquely positioned to be at the forefront of the functional approach to health care.
Our belt of therapeutic tools is not only huge:

  • nutrition
  • vitamins
  • minerals
  • phytochemicals
  • botanicals, to name a few

It is also also safe when prescribed by your expert in natural medicine.

Visit www.qiintegratedhealth.com to book in with Dr.Erika Kubanek or to learn more about her approach visit http://ericathenaturopath.com/

Fertility Over 40

Are women having babies later in life? Yes indeed.

In Europe, the percentage of births to moms over 40 has increased from 1.6-3% since the late 1980s. In the US, 2.6% of births are to women over 40. In fact, women over 40 are the only group whose birth rate is on the rise!

Women who give birth after 40 have higher rates of college education, are more likely to read to their children, are 58% less likely to get ovarian cancer than women who have never had children, and do not experience the “motherhood penalty” of lost wages incurred by younger Mom’s.

The challenges for women over 40 include a decline in the total number and quality of eggs, as well as the higher rates of Down syndrome, autism, developmental delay, and food allergies. Special considerations for older Mom’s therefore include the ability to get pregnant, Mom’s health and ability to sustain a pregnancy, and health of the offspring.

When I asses a fertility in women over forty, a complete history and appropriate lab work is critical, particularly labs for thyroid antibodies, fasting blood glucose, iron status, vitamin D levels and a serum hormone panel at days 3 and 21 of their cycle.

Ovarian reserve is the biggest concern to a woman’s fertility over the age of 40. It indicates reproductive potential-the number and quality of oocytes, response to ovarian stimulation, and likelihood of achieving pregnancy.

Aging’s Effects on Eggs and Supportive Naturopathic Measures

1. Decrease androgen production:

Age related decline in the ovaries’ production of testosterone results in increase insulin sensitivity. Note: Women with PCOS see less of a decline in ovarian response with aging. Supplementation with testosterone is therefore beneficial.

Likewise, production of DHEA drops about 50% from age 25-45. In my experience low dose supplementation is a better option over high dosing which results in a high rate of side effects and only a modest ovarian response.

DHEA significantly lowers miscarriage rates, especially in women over 35 and markedly improves anti-mulerian hormone (AMH) values.

Aromatase inhibitors are used to block the conversion of testosterone to estradiol. Naturopathic alternatives to the drugs Letrozole and Anastrozole include resveratrol, quercetin, visum, garcinia, green tea and grape seed extract. Noteable testosterone supporting herbs include tribulus and maca.

2. Oxidative stress:

With aging, ovarian tissue undergoes age-related changes at a different rate from other organ tissues. Dysfunctional ovarian metabolism is the result of free radicals directly damaging ovarian fats, proteins and genetic material.

Strong scavengers of these specific radicals include melatonin, green tea, polyphenols, and N-acetyl cysteine.

3. Mitochondrial function

Ovarian cells depend on the mitochondria for their energy. The oocyte has the highest number of mitochondria of any cell.

Supportive measures here include, but are not limited to: CoQ10 & Alpha-lipoic acid – there is a significant age-related decline in ovarian tissue of both these nutrients with age.

 

Summary

Naturopathic Medicine offers a wide range of treatment options to help support the key parameters affecting fecundity over age 40. Using clinical signs and lab findings, we are able to determine treatment based on oxidative stress, mitochondrial dysfunction, low androgens and other challenges to fertility.

Whether the diagnosis is poor egg quality or Premature Ovarian Failure, Naturopathic Medicine can be utilized as sole therapy or adjuvant to fertility treatments.

 

 

-Article prepared by Dr. Adatya

 

 

Pregnancy Related Conditions Effectively Treated With Acupuncture

Acupuncture is good for treating many conditions and uncomfortable issues associated with being pregnant.

Prevent miscarriage. Treatments 1-2 times per week help prevent miscarriage or early pregnancy loss by reducing the activity of the sympathetic nervous system, reducing stress, and encouraging blood flow to the developing embryo.

Nausea or morning sickness. Depending on the severity of the nausea, 1-5 acupuncture treatments per week may be necessary to restore quality of life and the ability to eat. Often acupuncture is very effective for this condition, especially if combined with the knowledge and practice of keeping blood sugar levels consistent throughout the day.

Headaches. Many women experience headaches toward the end of their first trimester. Acupuncture is known better for the relief of pain than for any other ailment. If you are experiencing headaches that are not just obviously associated with dehydration or fatigue, then try acupuncture.

Depression. The balancing of many emotional conditions is a primary principle of treatment when pregnant women come to my practice. Acupuncture combined with singing lessons administered by singing teacher proficient in proper breathing techniques is quite effective for pregnancy or post-partum related depression. Sing the blues away.

Stress. Hormones secreted by the adrenal glands cause anxiety and stress. During pregnancy, this can affect the amount of life giving blood flow feeding the embryo. Therefore reducing stress or using techniques such as acupuncture to alleviate stress is important.

Back pain. Again, acupuncture is fundamentally one of the best choices humans have for relieving pain of any kind. Cupping and moxibustion may also be administered when back pain is effecting a woman that is pregnant.

Breech presentation. Studies have shown that moxibustion can be effective at turning a baby that is presenting breech. Is is most effective if done daily for 10-14 days between the weeks of 34-36.

Labour preparation or cervical ripening. Between the weeks of 37-40, acupuncture given once per week helps prepare a woman for labour by boosting vital energy and ensuring smooth flow of emotions and blood during the process. Induction is most often not needed when women commit to the cervical ripening acupuncture protocol.

Encouraging onset of Labour. Many women move swiftly into active labour after just one acupuncture treatment. Sometimes 2-3 are required within 1 week post due date.

– Article Prepared By Dr. Spence Pentland Dr.TCM, R.Ac., FABORM

Testosterone: being a STUD

By: Dr. Spence Pentland (Vancouver Fertility Acupuncturist)

Testosterone is a sex hormone in men required to be able to produce sperm. It is produced primarily in the testis and is especially abundant in young men. As we age, testosterone levels naturally decline. Statistically, at the age of 50, the decline becomes more rapid and gives way to male menopause (andropause).

Yes, it’s a fact guys, we become more sensitive with age. Tears come quicker, and we really deeply cherish the important things in life, like family and love. You may go through a denial phase and buy a really inappropriate car. You may feel the need to act out in various ways in order to feel young again. Inevitably the fact remains, that you have to accept this fate or grow old and bitter, hanging onto an array of different cousins of ‘anger’ like impatience, irritability, bitterness, resentment, and just basically not enjoying life.

Whether you are trying to reproduce, or be more manly, there are many things you can do and avoid to help slow the vanishing of the ‘James Bond’ within. The following list are things that may reduce testosterone levels in men. Most can be addressed quite easily with simple lifestyle choices. It’s time to take responsibility for your male hormone health!

1. Lack of sleep. A new study in Chicago showed a drop in testosterone levels when men did not get enough sleep.

2. High stress levels. Reduce your stress, or incorporate things into your life that help alleviate the stress such as acupuncture and time in nature.

3. Marriage and children. Once you have a family, you only need enough testosterone to properly provide and protect them. This is simply a time that requires you to put others needs ahead of yours, i.e. be more sensitive.

4. Lack of exercise. Need I say more? You know who you are.

5. Plant based protein diet. In many, many respects, this is a much healthier choice, but as far as testosterone production is concerned, a little animal protein may help, especially when trying to conceive.

6. Depression. Seek help when times are tough. Put away the ego and talk to a life coach, counsellor, or doctor of traditional Chinese medicine.

7. Alcohol. Some vino with a great meal, or some spirits with a worthy celebration is just a part of living a good life. But, if alcohol is a habit in your life, it is time to check in and make a change, for so so many reasons.

8. Tobacco. Unless being used ever so occasionally for ceremonial purposes, tobacco use should be avoided.

9. Illness. More serious infections such as the mumps can have detrimental effects on testosterone levels.

10. Testosterone and human growth hormone (‘steroids’) medications. When you supplement the body with these medications, the body stops producing them itself. Shooting yourself in the foot so to speak.

11. Age. After 30 it all starts, if at all possible, make your babies earlier in life. After 50, get ready to feel more emotions guys!

12. Obesity. An epidemic that can be avoided or reversed with proper support, sustainable healthier lifestyle choices, deep commitments to change, and shining lights on the aspects of yourself that will sabotage your success.

13. Type 2 diabetes. See #12.

14. Hypertension. Again, see #12.

15. Endocrine disrupting chemicals such as phthalates. Found in common household products and packaged foods. Learn about these and avoid them at all costs.

When one takes a step back and looks at the above list of 15 things that can negatively affect male hormones, it is quite clear that most simply belong to a prescription for a healthy life wouldn’t you say?

Conditions during pregnancy that are effectively treated with acupuncture

By: Dr. Spence Pentland (Vancouver Fertility Acupuncturist)

Acupuncture is good for treating many conditions and uncomfortable issues associated with being pregnant.

Prevent miscarriage. Treatments 1-2 times per week help prevent miscarriage or early pregnancy loss by reducing the activity of the sympathetic nervous system, reducing stress, and encouraging blood flow to the developing embryo.

Spotting (sub-chorionic hematoma). Acupuncture employed with a technique called moxibustion can help reduce or eliminate bleeding from the uterus (depending on the cause).

Nausea or morning sickness. Depending on the severity of the nausea, 1-5 acupuncture treatments per week may be necessary to restore quality of life and the ability to eat. Often acupuncture is very effective for this condition, especially if combined with the knowledge and practice of keeping blood sugar levels consistent throughout the day.

Headaches. Many women experience headaches toward the end of their first trimester. Acupuncture is known better for the relief of pain than for any other ailment. If you are experiencing headaches that are not just obviously associated with dehydration or fatigue, then try acupuncture.

Depression. The balancing of many emotional conditions is a primary principle of treatment when pregnant women come to my practice. Acupuncture combined with singing lessons administered by singing teacher proficient in proper breathing techniques is quite effective for pregnancy or post-partum related depression. Sing the blues away.

Stress. Hormones secreted by the adrenal glands cause anxiety and stress. During pregnancy, this can affect the amount of life giving blood flow feeding the embryo. Therefore reducing stress or using techniques such as acupuncture to alleviate stress is important.

Restless legs. Acupuncture has shown some promise in relieving the sometimes agonising frustration associated with restless legs. If you have it you understand all too well the agony mentioned. You may also need more calcium in your diet.

Back pain. Again, acupuncture is fundamentally one of the best choices humans have for relieving pain of any kind. Cupping and moxibustion may also be administered when back pain is effecting a woman that is pregnant.

Breech presentation. Studies have shown that moxibustion can be effective at turning a baby that is presenting breech. Is is most effective if done daily for 10-14 days between the weeks of 34-36.

Labour preparation or cervical ripening. Between the weeks of 37-40, acupuncture given once per week helps prepare a woman for labour by boosting vital energy and ensuring smooth flow of emotions and blood during the process. Induction is most often not needed when women commit to the cervical ripening acupuncture protocol.

Induction of Labour. Many women move swiftly into active labour after just one acupuncture induction treatment. Sometimes 2-3 are required within 1 week post due date.

Mastitis. Blocked milk duct. Acupuncture given quickly enough, along with somewhat aggressive self-massage and herbal compresses, can help hasten the recovery from a mastitis infection. This infection can progress quickly so do not hesitate to get treatment and do everything you can at home as well.

Lack of breast milk. Acupuncture and Chinese herbs, when given alongside a Guinness beer per day has shown moderate to good results with increasing the amount of milk production.