Categories > Acupuncture

Part 1: How Acupuncture Can Help Decrease Fertility Stress

Experiencing fertility issues can be extremely stressful. In fact, research published by the Journal of Psychosomatic Obstetrics and Gynecology found that the psychological symptoms of those having fertility issues were comparable to those who were diagnosed with cancer or a cardiac condition (1). 

The authors suggested that it is important for those experiencing fertility challenges to have psychosocial interventions. Therefore, it can be inferred that it is important to find ways to help cope with stress.

I’ve already shared in a recent blog about how healthy sleep can decrease stress and support fertility, in my upcoming blog series, I’ll be sharing my next top 4 choices to help you decrease stress while you are on your fertility journey.

Here’s my first recommendation and stay tuned for the rest!

1. Acupuncture 

Regular acupuncture treatments can help decrease stress and help with blood flow. Blood flow is usually restricted to certain body parts when we are stressed, and this impacts fertility. 

A study done using ultrasound to measure blood flow proved that after acupuncture, blood flow did increase blood flow in the arteries (2). 

Basically, when we’re stressed, the body increases Cortisol production. This encourages more blood flow to the brain, some organs and to the big muscles (in the past this was to help people run away from something dangerous). This also means that it diverts blood flow away from the reproductive organs. We want good blood flow to go to the reproductive organs to encourage conception. 

Another research indicated that acupuncture treatment not only activates distinct brain regions caused by imbalance between the sympathetic and parasympathetic activities, but also modulates adaptive neurotransmitters in related brain regions to alleviate autonomic response which controls the fight-or-flight response (3).

If you would like to find out more about how we can help you, please feel free to schedule a free 15-minute phone consultation.

Resources

  1. PMID: 8142988
  2. PMID: 22778772
  3. PMID: 23762116

Image: @imangibson

Book Event: Catalogue Baby

Dr. Alda Ngo is honoured to be invited to moderate a Virtual Book Event on Thursday, May 20th at 6pm MT.

Audreys Bookstore is hosting a book event with author, Myriam Steinberg, who has just published her deeply moving tragicomic graphic memoir, Catalogue Baby: A Memoir of (In)fertility, about a single woman’s efforts to conceive in her forties. 

Myriam is a dear friend of Dr. Alda, who had the privilege of supporting Myriam along her journey toward motherhood. Myriam will be talking not only about her experience trying to birth her “rainbow” babies, but also about the process of writing such an emotionally charged memoir while still going through her fertility journey(!).

ABOUT THE BOOK


A few months after Myriam Steinberg turned forty, she decided she couldn’t wait any longer to become a mother. With her family and friends to support her, Myriam began her journey as a Single Mom by Choice that was far from straightforward.  

Whether it was choosing donors or opting for one medical procedure or another, she grappled with a wide variety of difficult decisions. She experienced not only the soaring highs and devastating lows of becoming pregnant and then losing her babies, but also the silences, loneliness, and taboos that often surround the loss of a pregnancy.

Although the lack of understanding and language around fetal loss and grief often made it very hard to navigate everyday life, Myriam nonetheless found solace in the community around her who rallied to sustain her. 

Beautifully illustrated by Christache, and told with humour, honesty, and courage, Catalogue Baby is one woman’s story of tragedy and beating the odds, and is a resource for all women and couples who are trying to conceive. This book is a compassionate portrait of fertility and infertility that hasn’t been seen before. 

EVENT INFO & REGISTRATION

Date: May 20, 2021
Time: 6 p.m. (MST)

Register for the event here:https://www.eventbrite.ca/e/myriam-steinberg-virtual-launch-for-catalogue-baby-tickets-153383398875

For additional info, please visit www.cataloguebabynovel.com and Instagram at @catalogue_baby

GET THE BOOK


If you would like to purchase and read the book ahead of the event, you can get your copy at Audreys Bookstore.*

The store is closed to browsing, but they are offering delivery or curbside pick-up at 10702 Jasper Avenue, Edmonton, AB


Order on-line: www.audreys.ca

Order by phone: 780-423-2487

Order by email: audrey@audreys.ca

REVIEWS

This book should be required reading for anyone working in the fertility field, as they are unlikely to find a more potent psychological study of a persistent individual experiencing infertility and loss….I found Christache’s visuals sublime, Steinberg’s story gripping
– Women Write About Comics

Catalogue Baby: A Memoir of (In)Fertility[is] an extraordinary feat of visual storytelling 
– Foreword Review

Steinberg’s solo-mother-by-choice perspective and accessible, well-paced graphic storytelling brings a fresh angle to the pregnancy memoir canon.
– Publisher’s Weekly

Warning: you’re going to need to set aside some uninterrupted time to savour Myriam Steinberg’s new graphic novel, Catalogue Baby: A Memoir of (In)fertility because it is hard to put down.
– Ormsby Review

Graphic novels are well known for tackling a wide-range of topics and presenting them in ways that convey the subject’s emotional experience in image and script. Catalogue Baby certainly succeeds…. Christache’s capturing of the experiences… is perfect.
-Vancouver Sun

“A bracingly candid, fearless, and funny look at the misconceptions of conception and the emotional rollercoaster of fertility. Myriam Steinberg has turned her journey of heartbreak and healing into something wonderfully alive.” 
—Elan Mastai, writer/producer of THIS IS US and author of ALL OUR WRONG TODAYS.

WFH on Real Talk with Ryan Jespersen!

Dr. Alda Ngo had the pleasure of joining a roundtable on Real Talk With Ryan Jespersen, one of Canada’s most popular live talk show/ podcasts.

Dr. Alda was joined by 3 other people intimate with the infertility journey, Ryan Jespersen himself sharing about his own experience.

A wonderful and meaningful conversation on infertility from the inside, the thoughts, emotions, the logistics, finances and a little bit of science.

Here’s the write-up:

It’s Canadian Infertility Awareness Week, so we check in with Dr. Alda Ngo, Kristina Melia, and Linda Hoang. What new options exist for Canadians hoping to start a family, what are some of the most significant barriers they’ll face, and what proactive steps can people take to improve their chances?

Join us for our free virtual CIAW event: Infertility During A Pandemic. Sunday, April 25th 2-330pm MT as we team up with Dr. Caitlin Dunne from PCRM and 3 courageous fertility patients who share their stories. Contact us for more info and to register.

If you’d like to learn more about how we can support you on your fertility journey, book a Free 15-minute Phone Consultation with one of our fertility specialists.

Canadian Infertility Awareness: Infertility During A Pandemic

April 18 – 24 is Canadian Infertility Awareness Week.

Roughly 1 in 6 who are trying to conceive in Canada experience infertility & this number has doubled since the 1980’s.

Research shows that the psychological symptoms associated with infertility are similar to those associated with other serious medical conditions like heart disease, cancer and HIV.

Infertility is already unpredictable, but with the added stresses of the pandemic, fertility patients are having to not only grapple with economic and societal uncertainty, but also disruption to fertility treatments related to fertility clinic closures and limited elective in-office services.

Many patients who are already on tight biological timelines are finding themselves under even more pressure.

Surveys conducted since the onset of the pandemic have revealed that infertility remains a top stressor, despite the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic.

The stress of infertility remains significant & is comparable to the pandemic itself.

For fertility patients, when, why, how & where become whether, if, what if or even oh no.

There are already so many loaded decisions to be made in the face of uncertainty when dealing with infertility, and all of these are made extra difficult with hormonally influenced emotions. The pandemic only complicates the process.

Additional common questions that fertility patients are having to deal with are:

“ Is it safe for me to get bloodwork & ultrasound while exposing myself to potential COVID-19 in the office?”

“ I don’t want to wait any longer, but what are the implications of starting a potentially high risk pregnancy during a pandemic?”

“How will I grieve failed treatments or delays if I can’t even get together with my community.”

“ Will my partner be able to join me for this appointment or will I have to face it alone?”

“ What if I start a treatment cycle & we have to cancel midway through because there’s a lock down again? “

Infertility is Isolating

Infertility is already an isolating experience, which is also exacerbated by the isolation of the pandemic. As fertility specialists, and in honour of CIAW, we’d like to recognize those who are currently struggling to grow your families and the hardships that you endure, often alone and in silence.

That’s why we are teaming up with Pacific Centre for Reproductive Medicine (PCRM) & 3 courageous women who have struggled with infertility, to offer a free virtual event on Sunday, April 25th from 2 – 3:30pm.

Together, we are taking the opportunity to educate, openly share stories, empower and change the conversation around infertility. We want you to know that you are not alone and offer you some hope and inspiration.

Join us online:

Infertility During a Pandemic

Sunday, April 25th from 2 – 3:30pm MDT

Three courageous women will share their personal fertility journeys & what has helped them most along the way.

Dr. Caitlin Dunne, Co-director of PCRM will speak to infertility & treatment options, as well as the impacts of COVID-19 on fertility & treatments.

With the increased stressors of dealing with infertility during the pandemic, WFH’s Dr. Alda Ngo will be offering some free evidence-based mindfulness tools to help you deal with fertility stress.

WFH natural fertility specialist, Christina Pistotnik will share some accessible lifestyle advice to empower you to support and optimize your fertility during this time.

Click here for more information

Or

Register:

Info@wholefamilyhealth.ca

780.756.7736

Stay tuned for more blogs throughout the month for more tips on how to support yourself on your fertility journey!

To find out more about how we can support you with your fertility, book a free 15-minute phone consultation with one our fertility specialists.

Chinese Medicine Postnatal Care

The postnatal period is considered the first six weeks after childbirth. According to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), the postnatal period is a very vulnerable time for the mother. 

The First Hundred Days

The first three days after birth are seen as a time of elimination, then followed by 30-100 days of rest in order to replenish blood and Qi energy that is lost through pregnancy and childbirth.

At this time, physical rest should be taken at any opportunity possible. Exercise can be appropriate (once given the okay by your doctor or Midwife) and a diet tailored to a woman’s constitutional needs should be followed.

Acupuncture and TCM as part of postnatal care can significantly reduce and prevent disharmonies from developing, such as depression/anxiety, persistent uterine bleeding, after-pains, night sweating, perineal discomfort, insufficient lactation, mastitis and breast abscesses.

Here Are Some Guiding Principals:

Avoid Cold and Stay Warm

When compared to previous Chinese times, nowadays it is much easier to keep ourselves warm with internal heating, hot baths and showers.

However, it is still important to avoid being exposed to extremely cold temperatures and wind. Do not go outside with wet hair, avoid sleeping or breastfeeding by open windows or fans, and avoid getting chilled from leaving swimming pools, hot showers and baths.

A diet of cold, and raw foods should also be avoided. Although foods such as yogurt, iced water/juice, raw salads, vegetables and sandwiches are usually quick and easy for a brand new post-natal mom, these foods can be detrimental to postnatal recovery, and can exacerbate certain conditions.

Postnatal Diet According to Chinese Medicine

This advice can be some of the most important when it comes to aiding in postnatal recovery. A woman’s underlying constitution needs to be considered when using diet therapy and should be prescribed by a trained Acupuncturist or Nutritionist.

Below are some basic guidelines for all new mothers to help build Qi energy and Blood.

Foods to Fortify Qi Energy

Oats, rice, potato, sweet potato, mushroom (button & shitake), yam, basil, cinnamon, clove, dill, fennel, fenugreek, ginger, nutmeg, rosemary, thyme and jasmine tea.

Foods to Build Blood

Corn, sweet rice, beetroot, all dark leafy greens, apricot, avocado, date, kidney bean, sesame seeds, egg and soya milk as well as iron rich foods like red meat and spinach.

Cooking Methods

Not only do the foods we eat matter when it comes to postnatal care, but so does how we prepare them. Cooked foods are easier on our digestive system, and allows the nutrients to be more readily absorbed. Warm soups are considered particularly nourishing for women in the initial postnatal weeks.

Mother Warming

“Mother Warming” is a useful one-time treatment given to women four to five days post birth. It is used to aid in recovery and energize the woman after childbirth by replenishing Qi energy and Blood lost during childbirth.

Moxa or Mugwort, a Chinese herb, is burned and used to heat the woman’s abdomen from the pubic bone to the belly button for 5-10 minutes or until the woman feels pleasantly warm.

If possible, this technique is also recommended on the lower back area as well, along the midline from the second lumbar vertebra to the sacrum for 5-10 minutes or until the woman feels pleasantly warm.

Caution:

It is important to note that this treatment should not be done if the woman is experiencing night sweating, has a raised temperature or if there are signs of retained placental products, as the use of moxa could cause further problems.

Please avoid moxa over a cesarean scar that appears to be infected, have redness or a pus-like discharge.

It’s best to consult with a trained Acupuncturist to ensure that there are no heat signs or other contraindications for the application of Mother Warming.

Acupuncture

Acupuncture is a great way to treat, and prevent postnatal disharmonies from arising after childbirth. 

Following Mother Warming, acupuncture and further moxa treatments 10 -14 days post birth can be administered to further assist the body in building good quality Qi energy and Blood to help with recovery.

Treatments once a week for two to three weeks is optimal.

To find out more about how we can help you with postpartum support, book a free 15-minute phone consult.

Source:

Debra Betts: The Essential Guide to Acupuncture in Pregnancy and Childbirth

Image:

Alina Gross IG @alina.gross

COVID Holiday Stress: What You Can Do About It

I’ve had several patients open up about their anxiety being magnified with COVID worries, as well as how they will approach the holidays. 

To help get more insight, I had the pleasure of speaking with Registered Psychologist Cherise Gardipee, out of Daring Greatly Psychological Services.

She offered some great advice and understanding into several common concerns I hear about from patients. I’m sure we can all relate with the challenges she speaks to.

Here’s what she shared:

How do you suggest we manage our anxiety as the holidays approach?

With the holiday season quickly approaching, and the ongoing uncertainty of COVID, there continues to be an increase in worries and anxiety.

Normally, we have ongoing outlets to help relieve our anxiety and tension, or connect with friends and family to vent and distance ourselves from our distress even for a little while. With our current limitations, it is important not to become overwhelmed with the things that may not be the same this holiday season.

Create new traditions

Instead, let’s focus on what is the same, and what new traditions can be created. We may not be able to have all of our family together this year in person, but we can create new ways of connecting with video calls, or retriction-permitting winter activities that allow for safe distancing.

We can also remember to always give ourselves permission to be sad, or angry or frustrated with the world not allowing for our old ways. 

Focus on small obtainable tasks

When focusing on anxiety specifically, it can present itself in a multitude of ways. Some individuals experience an increase of irrational thoughts or fears, a sense of panic, a need for control, striving for perfectionism, and an increase of worries.

These feelings can increase due to the holidays, lack of connection due to COVID and current uncertainty within our economy and health sector. 

During these times it is important to take pause, and reflect inwards to find a sense of stability and calm. We can often resort to black and white thinking, or become over-saturated in emotion, which can be unhelpful at times. Ultimately, we would like a balance of both, connecting both logic and emotion together without becoming overwhelmed, and allowing for a decrease in distress and tension.

When feeling overwhelmed or anxious it’s important to focus on small obtainable tasks, such as taking a shower, eating well, and staying hydrated. Find one task to complete throughout the day, that can include cleaning one area or space in your home. Often focusing on cleaning a space or decluttering an area can help with creating a sense of accomplishment and provide feelings of being in control. 

Connect with others

Respecting the new restrictions, reach out to others outside of your home through phone calls, video calls, or a meet-up with others in the community. This will help you feel connected. 

Say hello to your neighbour, even if you’ve never spoken before. We are all currently in the same isolated new normal, and those that may look like they are doing well with the adjustment may be struggling internally.

Exercise and humour boost endorphins

Exercise to get your heart rate up, flooding your body and mind with endorphins is a great mood booster. 

Find ways to do things you want to do, that bring you joy.

Last but not least have a good laugh, and find humour where you can. 

How do you recommend we stay safely connected, despite COVID restrictions?

With our new normal, we have limited access to friends, family and external supports or self care rituals that we may have enjoyed in the past. Thankfully there are still ways for us to interact with those who are a source of support to us.

Online platforms

It is easier than ever to utilize a virtual format to connect with those we love. There are many different virtual options such as FaceTime, Google Meet, Zoom and even party platforms such as hangouts where one can play games while video chatting with friends or family. 

Connect with nature

We are still able to get outside and enjoy the weather. We can go for a drive, get out for a walk, snowshoe or cross-country ski. These are wonderful options that allow for us to connect with nature, and increase our dopamine and serotonin levels leading to feelings of happiness. 

What are some tools or resources for when we feel overwhelmed with anxiety?

Music and dance

Try to be more mindfully present, listen to music that you connect with, it can be music that fuels your energy, or calms you. It’s never too late to break out in dance, even if it’s a dance party for one!

Practice mindfulness and focus on direct sensations

Focus on your surroundings: what do you see, what do you feel, what do you hear?

Lastly connect with something that brings you a sense of grounding and purpose, this can be a spiritual belief, or connecting with nature.

Other community resources

If your feelings are leading to a sense of hopelessness, or lack of motivation there are community resources that are easy to engage with that can provide mental health support:

The Mental Health Foundation

Mental Health Copilots

Gratitude to Cherise Gardipee, Registered Psychologist for her invaluable insight and advice on how we can all support ourselves with the anxiety and stress of the holidays, amplified by COVID this year. We hope these tips and resources are helpful to you!

For more information on how we can support you with the stress, please book in for a free 15-minute phone consultation.

Image: www.giselledekel.com IG @giselle_dekel

Treating Children With Traditional Chinese Medicine & Acupuncture

What a precious job – being the guardian of a tiny human.  It is filled with excitement, magic, and no small amount of uncertainty – especially when our treasured little human has something going on with their health.  It can feel helpless sometimes, as google suggests a wide array of worst case scenarios and an overwhelming range of solutions.

This is where acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine comes in.  Traditional Chinese Medicine has a long and rich history of treating people of all ages.  From issues that arise with newborn babies right through childhood to pubescent years, Chinese Medicine can help.  

Chinese Medicine Lens On Children’s Growth & Development

The lens of Traditional Chinese Medicine views children as pure Yang.  They encompass the upward springing dynamic of transformative expansion.  Within their tiny bodies and ever curious minds, children fully embody kinetic energy, as they grow wildly into their unique expression of full sized humans. 

With this much movement – upwards, outwards and forward – childhood is really just one huge transition after another.  And transitions can be difficult.  TCM helps to cultivate a free flowing relationship between the parents, the child and their constitution, helping them to thrive to their full potential and pass through these many transitions with ease.  

Paediatric Acupuncture

Most parents are a little bit alarmed at the idea of using acupuncture needles on children and babies.  However, this is often due to common misconceptions.

Common Misconceptions

– Parents who have not had acupuncture equate the idea of acupuncture needles with immunization or blood draw needles.  However, the needles that we use for acupuncture are super teeny tiny – 0.10mm for children.  In fact, 20-30 acupuncture needles fit inside one hypodermic needle.  Most babies and children don’t even notice the sensation of the acupuncture needles!

– Parents who have had acupuncture laugh at the idea of their active little chaos machines trying to sit still during a treatment, imagining the spa-like 20 minute needle retention of an adult treatment.  However, with a paediatric session, we use fewer needles (on average 2 to 8 needles) – and the needle retention is much shorter, only lasting seconds.  Usually we end up following the little one around the room while he or she plays with toys, or sits in his or her parents arms.

That being said, sometimes children or parents can be too overwhelmed by the thought of needles for acupuncture to be within the realm of possibility.  Thus, we always work in the comfort zone of the children and parents, and opt for a child-led approach

There are many other ways to stimulate the acupuncture points such as massage or other acupoint stimulation tools. 

5 Common Paediatric Conditions Commonly Treated with Chinese Medicine & Acupuncture

1.  Colic 

A double blind, placebo controlled trial found that light stimulation of one acupuncture point, twice per week, led to a shorter duration of fussy behaviour and a quicker resolution to infant’s colic (1). Acupuncture, herbal medicine and infant massage techniques can help to strengthen the digestive system, calm the nervous system and relax the infant.

2.  Constipation

Constipation can be a very common issue with children.  Acupuncture and herbal medicines help to treat constipation at the root of the issue, rather than through the band-aid approach of laxative use.  A systematic review found acupuncture to be a safe and effective treatment to increase stool frequency and improved constipation symptoms and stool formation (2). This has been found effective with children too, with my little patients often experiencing a bowel movement very shortly after acupuncture!

3.  Insomnia

In 2008, a meta-analysis showed that acupuncture and herbs are effective in the treatment of insomnia (3).  Often, as babies, toddlers and children develop, they experience sleep difficulties and sleep regressions.  Acupuncture and herbal medicine can help to balance your little one’s overall health and help them to make it through these transitions with more ease.  

4.  Acid Reflux

One of my saddest moments in clinic was when a three year old explained that it felt like there was lava in his chest.  After a few treatments this little fellow felt much much better.  Indeed one study found that acupuncture significantly reduced the symptoms of GERD (4), with another study finding positive effects on decreasing stomach acid (5).  

5.  Anxiety 

Acupuncture is effective at calming the nervous system, and helping the body to transition from the fight or flight sympathetic nervous system to the rest and digest parasympathetic nervous system.  This can help little ones who are struggling with anxious tendencies as well as behavioural issues.

As our precious little humans mature through the stages that lead to adulthood, there are many places that imbalance can occur.  Ultimately, Traditional Chinese Medicine, acupuncture and herbal therapy can help bring ease and vitality to most situations.  

Contact Us

If you would like to know if Traditional Chinese Medicine acupuncture or herbal therapy would be a good fit for your child, please feel free to book a free 15-minute phone consultation to speak with one of our paediatric acupuncturists.

References

(1) PMID: 20959312

(2) PMID: 6137450

(3) PMID: 19922248

(4) PMID: 27323443

(5) PMID: 24501947

Sperm: Canary In The Coalmine

It is Movember again, and we want to honour the health struggles that men come up against. Research shows there is a worldwide gender health gap. Men tend to be in worse health than women. Education and prevention strategies are vital in tackling men’s health issues including prostate cancer, testicular cancer, and mental health/suicide prevention.  

Sperm Are A Biomarker For Overall Wellness

Because we specialize in reproductive health, we come across all kinds of interesting data. A widely cited meta-analysis published in the Journal of Human Reproduction in 2017 tells us that out of 43,000 men from North America, Europe, New Zealand and Australia – sperm counts per millilitre of semen declined more than 50% between 1973 and 2011.

Total sperm counts decreased by almost 60%. So men are producing less semen and that semen has fewer sperm cells in it and the rate of decline is steady.

Research also tells us that sperm are a biomarker for overall health, so this is kind of a wake up call, canary in the coal mine situation.

There’s all kinds of debate as to what the cause is. Surely the cause is multi-factorial: more toxins in the environment, poor diet, lack of exercise, etc…  

The good news is, studies also tell us that there are things men can do to be proactive and improve their overall health and reproductive health.

3 Ways to Improve Sperm Health And Longevity:

1. Nourishment

Eat mindfully. It’s not just about what you eat, but how you eat. Be aware of what you are eating and where it comes from. Slow down and enjoy it.

Studies show that when you slow down and pay attention to the flavours and textures of your food and take the time to chew, you will enjoy your meals more, feel more satiated and be more in touch with when you are full, which prevents over-eating.

Your body will be able to digest and assimilate nutrients more efficiently and you will cultivate a healthy positive relationship with food, based on enjoyment rather than restriction.

2. Acupuncture

Acupuncture increases blood flow, decreases inflammation and stress and regulates hormones. It has been shown to effectively treat depression, anxiety,  and improve sperm health.

3. Mindful Meditation

Mindfulness meditation has been shown to down-regulate pro-inflammatory genes. It decreases stress and cortisol and even boosts immunity. It has also been shown to help couples going through fertility treatments.

These are just a few things you can do to support sperm health and overall health. Book in for a free 15 minute phone consult if you have any questions about how we can help you!

Visit our Events Page to learn about our upcoming Mindfulness Programs.

References

Does Our DNA Determine Our Destiny?

It’s not uncommon to have some type of illness in our genetic lineage that is attributed to genetics: cancer, Alzheimers, heart illness, etc.  Many of us have learned that these are generally hereditary conditions, which can leave us with a feeling of inevitability.  However, this may not be completely true.

A common misperception of the body is that our physical fate is destined by our genetic makeup.  ‘If I have the gene for cancer, I will most likely end up with cancer.’  Or, ‘if I have the DNA for Alzheimers, the future of my poor mind is indubitably doomed’.  However, while our DNA does hold the blueprint for our entire genetic makeup, the expression of our DNA is most certainly not written in stone.  

Epigenetics

Scientists have recently discovered that while the double helix strands of DNA generally remain the same, there are small organic molecules that chemically attach themselves to the outsides of the strands that can alter the expression of the DNA molecules.  These have the potential to turn a predisposition on or off.  This mind-blowing science is referred to as epigenetics.  

For example, there have been many cases of identical twins, with identical DNA makeup who have the gene for a disease.  Yet, one of these genetically identical twins will manifest with the disease, and the other one will not.  Wherein lies the difference?  It is all about our body responding to the choices we have made and the environment that we live in. 

Some of you might be thinking, “Uh Oh!!!”.  Like me, perhaps you have made choices in your life that have made your outlook a little bit detrimental?  Fortunately there is still hope for us.  

Telomeres: Chronological Age vs. Biological Age

The human body has two different ages: a chronological age and a biological age. The chronological age refers to the actual time a human has been alive, while the biological age refers to how old that human’s body seems. 

Experts consider telomeres — the protective ends of chromosomes — when calculating this age difference. Telomeres work to keep chromosome ends from deteriorating or fusing with a neighbouring chromosome, affecting how quickly cells age and die.  So, basically, the older you grow, the shorter your telomeres are.  

In a broad study, a hundred random people guessed the age of test subjects.  To a fault they guessed the biological age, rather than the chronological age.  This means that they guessed closer to the participant’s telomeres, rather than how old they actually are.  

Five years down the road, they took pictures of the same people, and once again the public guessed the biological age of telomere lengths.  Some of the participants had engaged in healthy lifestyles while in the 5-year waiting period.  The most exciting part of this study is that the public’s estimates of the participants’ ages reflected the positive effect that a healthy lifestyle had on the telomere length! 

Through the maintenance of a healthy lifestyle, through both a healthy diet and regular exercise, we can maintain our telomere lengths and prolong the advent of serious illness.  One study suggested that mindfulness-based stress reduction can even lengthen the telomere lengths. (1) Telomere shortening, or biological aging, is preventable, and even perhaps reversible.  

This is just one example of an epigenetic mechanism.  Ultimately, epigenetic processes occur at the interface between our environment and our genes.  By cultivating a healthy environment outside of ourselves and within our bodies, we can impact the expression of our DNA.  This is why working with lifestyle advice to cultivate a deeply healthy environment within yourself is key in long term preventative health care.

The Epigenetics of Chinese Medicine

The concept of epigenetics is mirrored by some of the theories in Traditional Chinese Medicine.  In TCM we have the concept of Pre-Heaven endowment and the Post-Heaven compilation of resources.  

The Pre-Heaven Essence is inherited from the mother and father at the moment of conception, and determines each person’s basic constitutional make-up, strength, vitality and individual uniqueness.  It is likened to a person’s genetic blueprint.

The Post-Heaven Essence is refined and extracted from the food and drink consumed after birth, the air we breath, the way we process emotions and how we enjoy our lives.  It is the summation of how our lifestyle impacts our body’s internal environment.  This is similar to epigenetics.

We perceive that the health of the body is controlled by the interface between our Pre-Heaven endowment, and this Post-Heaven compilation of resources.  Pathology arises surreptitiously from an imbalance between these two aspects of our body and manifests uniquely in each individual person, as no two humans have the same genetic makeup or set of lifestyle circumstances.

Through the intricate diagnosing practice of TCM, we can see the general direction that each person is heading.  The constellation of subtle signs and symptoms that present in each body, conglomerate into various patterns through which we can perceive the relative health of the Post and Pre-Heaven Essence.  (This is why our forms are so long and comprehensive – every detail matters!)  Following the recommendations from a Traditional Chinese Medicine practitioner are an excellent way to have a preventative and deep rooted relationship with your health.

I invite you to break free from any preconceived notion that you are at the whim of your genetic fate, and grasp on to the fact that we do have a choice in this matter.  Every day, when you choose to get out of your chair and exercise you are choosing to engage with the health of your DNA.  Every day, when you choose to eat real whole foods instead of processed alternatives, you are choosing to engage in your destiny as a healthy human being.   It is possible to steer our bodies into old age with our health intact.  

For more information on how our preventative medicine can support your DNA health, book in for a free 15-minute consult.

References:

(1) PMID: 24486564

photo: www.carlacascales.com
IG @carla_cascales_alimbau

PCOS and Mental Health

If you are new to learning about Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, welcome. PCOS is the most frequent endocrinological disorder affecting people of reproductive age (1).

You may have read our previous blogs explaining what PCOS is, but you may not know that it can affect depression, anxiety and stress. In fact, studies report an overall higher prevalence of depression, perceived stress and anxiety in people with PCOS compared to people without (2).

You may be reading this if you have PCOS and saying to yourself, “why did my doctor never bring this up?!” Unfortunately, it’s still something that is not discussed as often as it should be. Let’s change this!

PCOS and Depression

Why does there seem to be higher rates of depression in those with PCOS?

Currently, there are still only theories to hypothesize what might be the cause of this correlation. People with PCOS have hormonal imbalances and this could contribute to the cause.

It is very common in people with PCOS to be insulin resistant. This basically results in their pancreas working overtime and their bloodstream having higher levels of insulin. There is still much more research needed in this area, however there is growing evidence that insulin resistance and depression could be correlated (3). 

Several other factors could also play a role, such as our societal “norms”. People with PCOS have excess androgens which can cause excess facial hair, body hair, and thinning of head hair. This can cause embarrassment and self esteem issues and further impact the depression, stress and anxiety experienced.

Further tests have shown that people with PCOS show increased salivary amylase and cortisol levels; indicating overall higher stress markers in their systems (1). These higher stress markers were found to have a significant affect on a patient’s BMI as well (1).

There seems to be multiple possible causes of the link between PCOS and stress, depression and anxiety. The more we discuss these important aspects of the disease, the more awareness and hopefully research will be done.

PCOS Mental Health Support

What can we do to combat the effects of stress, anxiety and depression with PCOS?

Well, we can do a few things. Stress reduction is crucial to getting our bodies healthy.

Acupuncture

I suggest starting with a regular Acupuncture routine. Acupuncture influences your Parasympathetic system; it allows your body to flow into a state of rest. This is oh-SO-important when PCOS is causing the body to constantly fire higher levels of cortisol and thus kick us into that Flight or Fight response.

But don’t just take my word for it. There have been studies done to show the positive effects Acupuncture has on women with PCOS in regards to their depression and anxiety (4). 

Mindfulness Meditation

Having the ability to set aside time for yourself and help find solutions to treating your PCOS is empowering! Along with Acupuncture, Mindfulness is another amazing tool to add to your tool box of stress butt-kicking techniques.

Our own Dr. Alda Ngo is offering an Online 8-week Mindfulness course that teaches you Mindfulness Meditation training. Check out this link for our Guided Mindfulness class.

Empowerment

The way I like to approach treatment of conditions such as PCOS is to access more resources. The more resources you are able to have, the better equipped you are for empowering yourself and treating your PCOS in the best way that you possibly can.

You may be experiencing higher stress, depression and anxiety as a result of your PCOS, but that doesn’t mean you have to suffer silently. There are several tools we can add to get you feeling healthy and empowered!

To see how we can support you, contact us to book a free 15-minute phone consultation.

References:

  1. DOI: 10.4103/jhrs.JHRS_78_17
  2. PMID: 30131078
  3. PMID: 29908775
  4. PMID: 23763822

Photo: Aline + Celia
www.sacreefrangine.com

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