Categories > Acupuncture

Whole Family on CBC Radio

Listen to Whole Family Health’s Dr. Alda Ngo and Dr. Caitlin Dunne from PCRM speaking to Canadian Infertility Awareness Week 2022.

From CBC RadioActive: This Saturday, a virtual event is taking place to help those struggling to have children. Dr. Caitlin Dunne is a Reproductive Endocrinologist, and Co-Director of the Pacific Centre for Reproductive Medicine, and Dr. Alda Ngo is a Doctor of Chinese Medicine and Acupuncture. They will be bringing their expertise on infertility to the discussion and join us to tee up the event.

For more information on how we can support you on your fertility journey, please contact us for a free 15-minute Q&A Consultation.

Devonee’s Story

In honour of Canadian Infertility Awareness Week 2022, Whole Family Health friend and client shares her fertility story – 5 years in to her fertility journey she is still navigating with grace.

Thank you so much to Devonee, our sweet, courageous and generous #1in6 friend, for sharing your fertility journey and heart in honour of #CIAW2022.

Thank you for giving voice to the experience of infertility to help de-stigmatize and normalize the conversation around infertility.

Follow Devonee on her Instagram @ivfgotyou 💚💚💚

For more information on how we can support you on your fertility journey, feel free to contact us for a free 15-minute Q&A Consultation!

The Research On Acupuncture For IVF

Acupuncture has become a commonly sought out resource for people going through IVF fertility treatment.

When you see a Traditional Chinese Medicine Practitioner for fertility support, they take more into account than just your reproductive organs. Your practitioner looks at your whole body and how the interconnected systems may be out of balance to support your entire body and self. Treatments are specific to each person’s needs.

Whole system Traditional Chinese Medicine (WS-TCM) can include acupuncture, Chinese herbal medicine, dietary support, advice on supplementation with nutraceuticals, and lifestyle support. 

Whole System Chinese Medicine Acupuncture and IVF Research

In a 2015 retrospective cohort study published in Reproductive Biomedicine Online, 1231 IVF patient records were reviewed to assess the effects of adjuvant WS-TCM on IVF outcomes compared among three groups:

  1. people who had Whole Systems TCM treatment with IVF (WS-TCM group)
  2. people who had 1 acupuncture treatment on the day of embryo transfer with IVF (acu-group)
  3. people who had no additional treatment with IVF (usual care group)

Among 1069 non-donor cycles reviewed, the WS-TCM group was associated with greater odds of live birth (61.3%) compared with the acu-group (50.8%) and the usual care group (48.2%).

There was also a lower rate of spontaneous miscarriages in the WS-TCM group compared with the other 2 groups. However there was no significant difference between the three groups in terms of biochemical or ectopic pregnancies.

Among 162 donor cycles, WS-TCM was associated with increased live births at 85.7%, compared with 59% in the acu-group and 62.5% in the usual care group.

This study shows a correlation between an increased number of acupuncture treatments (11-12 treatments) and greater odds of live birth. This suggests that a combined approach of WS-TCM treatment before starting IVF with the two treatments on the day of embryo transfer acupuncture may be an optimal intervention to improve IVF birth outcomes in addition to stress reduction.

Increased Acupuncture Dose Improves Effectiveness

Other studies also suggest that an increased acupuncture dose is consistent with the effectiveness of improved fertility outcomes: 

  • A 1996 study demonstrated that Uterine blood flow was improved with eight electro-acupuncture sessions (2). 

  • A 2009 prospective clinical trial consisting of 9 electro-acupuncture sessions plus embryo transfer day acupuncture were correlated with an increase in serum cortisol and prolactin and improved IVF outcomes (3). 

  • A 2011 Randomized Controlled Trial that consisted of 14 sessions of low-frequency electro-acupuncture significantly reduced androgens and improved menstrual frequency over physical exercise or no treatment in women with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). (4)

  • A 2013 Randomized Controlled Trial shows positively induced ovulation in people with polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) with 24 visits over 3 months. (5) 

Acupuncture On Embryo Transfer Day

I would be remiss not to mention that in 2014 there was one randomized control trial finding live births were lower in the IVF plus acupuncture group compared with the control group that had IVF with no other intervention (8). 

Researchers suspect that the location of treatment offsite from the IVF centre may have contributed to this finding.

Furthermore, initial randomized controlled trials published in 2002 and 2006 found that acupuncture improved IVF pregnancy rates compared to IVF alone (9, 10). 

The 2002 study found that having 1 acupuncture treatment before embryo transfer and one acupuncture treatment after embryo transfer was associated with 42.5% pregnancies, whereas pregnancy rates in the control group (no acupuncture) only had a 26.3% pregnancy rate (9).

The 2006 study compared 3 groups (10):
1. people who received acupuncture on the day of embryo transfer (ACU 1 group)
2. people who received acupuncture on the day of embryo transfer and again two days later (ACU 2 group)
3. people who received no acupuncture (control group)

Clinical pregnancy rates were 13% and 10% higher in the ACU 1 and ACU 2 groups respectively compared to the control group (10). 

It’s also consistent with the previously mentioned studies cited above (1,2,3,4,5), that only having acupuncture surrounding the embryo transfer is not as effective in increasing live birth outcomes when compared to increased dose of acupuncture treatments.

Acupuncture For Fertility Stress

Receiving acupuncture not only helps IVF outcomes but it has also been associated to help reduce stress and anxiety in patients undergoing IVF. This stress reduction was demonstrated in two randomized control trials published in 2009 and 2012 (6,7). Both studies showed that acupuncture on or around day of embryo transfer does significantly reduce stress in IVF patients. 

In Conclusion

In conclusion, there is evidence that having acupuncture surrounding an IVF cycle is beneficial but having a whole system Chinese medicine approach starting prior to an IVF cycle is more effective and associated with greater chances of achieving a pregnancy and live birth. 

For more information on how we can support your fertility journey, feel free to contact us for a free 15-minute Q & A consultation.

References

  1. PMID: 25911598 
  2. PMID: 8671446 
  3. PMID: 19118825 
  4. PMID: 20943753
  5. PMID: 23482444 
  6. PMID: 18314118 
  7. PMID: 22499825  
  8. PMID: 24937975 
  9. PMID: 11937123 
  10. PMID: 16600232 

It Takes Two: Sperm-Related Infertility

When it comes to enhancing fertility, it is so important for both partners to be involved in the process of optimizing their overall health.

Often we only see one partner at our clinic seeking specialized care in order to optimize their fertility. However, optimal fertility takes more than just one person. Statistically, sperm-related infertility contributes to upwards of 40% of infertility cases (1). 

Sperm Parameters On The Decline

The quality of sperm has been taking a downward trend for decades. For example, in 1992, the average amount of normal sperm morphology (shape) was at 15% (2). Today, The World Health Organization considers normal sperm morphology to be at 4% – implying that it is normal that 96% of sperm do not develop and mature optimally.

A meta-analysis study published in 2017 cites that among 43,000 people in North America, Europe, New Zealand and Australia – sperm counts per mL of semen had declined by more than 50% between 1973 to 2011. Furthermore, total sperm counts were down by almost 60% (3).

Reasons for Worldwide Decline In Sperm Health

A recent 2020 review suggests that lifestyle changes, pollution, environmental/work factors, the increased use of electronic equipment, and dietary factors contribute to the quality of sperm (4). A high BMI, smoking, drugs, and STI’s can also contribute to the decline. Fortunately, studies show that regular acupuncture treatments, as well as lifestyle, and education changes can increase chances of conception. 

Acupuncture Improves Sperm Health

Fertility and Sterility published a comparative study (2005) with 40 participants with low sperm counts, poor motility (movement), and poor morphology (development)(5). 28 of the participants received acupuncture twice weekly, for five weeks. The data showed a significant increase in normal sperm morphology and total motility in the group receiving the acupuncture treatments. The study concluded that acupuncture could benefit one with infertility factors by improving sperm quality.

In a 2008 randomized controlled trial, 231 candidates with oligospermia (low sperm count) and asthenospermia (reduced motility) were divided into three groups (6): the first group received a 3+ point protocol with electroacupuncture, the second group was supplemented with Chinese herbs, while the third group received both electro acupuncture and herbal treatment. The outcome measures were semen density, vitality, and acrosomal enzyme activity. The effective rate of increase in these measures for groups one and two were 67.6% and 68.3% respectively. But with with the combination treatments in group three, there was a significant increase in effectiveness of 84.6%   

A 2003 prospective controlled and blind study researched the use of acupuncture as an adjunct to moxibustion therapies in patients with abnormal semen concentration, morphology, and motility (8). The patients were randomized into a test group that received the acupuncture and moxa treatments as well as a control group that didn’t receive the treatments. The results showed a significant increase in percentage in total functional sperm for the group who received acupuncture with moxibustion. 

How Does Acupuncture Benefit Sperm Health

Acupuncture has a cumulative effect, and in some cases depending on infertility factors, may need more time and consistent treatments to resolve. You wouldn’t expect to have a six-pack after one workout!

At Whole Family Health we base our treatment plan protocols on evidence-based fertility studies, tailored to your unique manifestations. 

Acupuncture is able to increase blood circulation and nerve conduction to the reproductive organs. The reproductive organs are then able to optimally produce and mature the sperm, regulate the temperature, and induce proper hormone signalling. 

Depending on your timeline, and if you are doing IVF treatment, our treatment protocols are based on research. We recommend treatments anywhere from once to twice weekly for 5 – 12 weeks, keeping in mind that it takes 72-90 days for sperm to fully mature. By working with you during this key preconception spermatogenesis period we can create the best conditions for the sperm to develop and grow to their peak potential. 

Lifestyle, environment, and what you put into your body can have great influence on sperm quality. Fertility specialized acupuncturists listen to your fertility journey to help provide lifestyle, diet, and supplement recommendations to optimize your sperm health. 

For more information on how we can support your fertility journey, feel free to contact us for a free 15-minute Q & A consultation.

Image: https://www.instagram.com/ambarazcorra/

References

(1) PMID: 15049583
Male factor infertility: Evaluation and management
DOI: 10.1016/S0025-7125(03)00150-0

(2) PMID: 11387287
Semen parameters, including WHO and strict criteria morphology, in a fertile and subfertile population: an effort towards standardization of in-vivo thresholds
https://doi.org/10.1093/humrep/16.6.1165

(3) PMID: 28981654
Temporal trends in sperm count: a systematic review and met-regression analysis
https://doi.org/10.1093/humupd/dmx022

(4) PMID: 32168194
Reasons for worldwide decline in male fertility
DOI: 10.1097/MOU.0000000000000745

(5) PMID: 16009169
Quantitative evaluation of spermatozoa ultrastructure after acupuncture treatment for idiopathic male infertility
DOI: 10.1016/j.fertnstert.2004.12.056

(6) PMID: 19055284
Clinical observation on electroacupuncture and Chinese drug for treatment of oligospermia and asthenospermia of the male infertility patient]
https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19055284/

(7) PMID: 14695986
Effects of acupuncture and moxa treatment in patients with semen abnormalities
https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/14695986/

Canadian Infertility Awareness: FREE ONLINE EVENT

SATURDAY, APRIL 30
2 – 4PM MDT

FREE ONLINE EVENT:

IN PARTNERSHIP WITH PCRM

Are you Trying To Conceive?

#1in6 people struggle with fertility in Canada.

April 24 – 30 is Canadian Infertility Awareness Week – an opportunity to honour and empower those struggling with infertility.

Join us for this free online event to de-stigmatize infertility and to support you as you navigate your fertility journey.

Join the Whole Family Health Fertility Wellness Specialist Team, in collaboration with Dr. Caitlin Dunne from Pacific Centre for Reproductive Medicine (PCRM) for this informative and empowering online event.

This event is open to anyone who would like to attend.

Saturday, April 30th
2 – 4pm MDT

To Register:
info@wholefamilyhealth.ca
780-756-7736

EVENT PRESENTERS:

NAVIGATING INFERTILITY TREATMENTS & BUSTING COMMON MYTHS ABOUT IVF

Dr. Caitlin Dunne
Co-Clinical Director of PCRM, Reproductive Endocrinologist

Dr. Dunne will speak to fertility treatment options and help to debunk common myths about IVF. She will also be available for a Q&A to answer your questions about fertility treatment.

INFERTILITY & STRESS

Dr. Alda Ngo
WFH Co-owner, Registered Dr of TCM & Acupuncturist, Fellow of the ABORMCo-Director of MindfulnessForFertility.com

Dr. Alda will discuss infertility stress and share some accessible tools and resources that will help to decrease stress and cortisol to increase resilience on your fertility journey.

NATURAL LIFESTYLE FACTORS

Christina Pistotnik
WFH Co-owner, Registered Acupuncturist, Fellow of the ABORM

Christina will share some natural and simple lifestyle factors that you can incorporate to support your overall wellness and fertility health.

ACUPRESSURE FOR FERTILITY

Catherine Woodlock
WFH Registered Acupuncturist

Catherine will share some acupressure points you can use at home to help improve circulation, manage hormonal symptoms and support your fertility.

MASSAGE FOR REPRODUCTIVE WELLNESS

Candice Cole
WFH Registered Massage Therapist

Candice will share self-massage techniques you can use at home to help you relax and alleviate tension build-up.

FERTILE FOODS – 5 NUTRITIONAL TIPS FOR FERTILITY

Kathryn Simmons Flynn
WFH Certified Nutrition Consultant, Founder of FertileFoods.com, Author of Cooking For Fertility and Co-author of The Fertile Secret

Kathryn will share her 5 top nutritional tips for nourishing fertility.

To Register:
info@wholefamilyhealth.ca
780-756-7736

Endometriosis Awareness Month

March is Endometriosis Awareness Month.

Endometriosis affects an estimated 1 in 10 people around the world. Many people have received a delayed diagnosis due to a lack of awareness.

Often healthcare professionals can assume this pain is a normal part of menstruation. Unfortunately, there is a negative stigma surrounding people’s reproductive health and discussions surrounding period pain are looked at as taboo. It is not normal for pain to take control of your life, with appropriate pain management suffering can be controlled.

Endometriosis is an overlooked condition affecting thousands of people a year, and awareness must be spread.

What is Endometriosis?

Endometriosis is an inflammatory condition where endometrial-like tissue, similar to the lining in the uterus, is found outside the uterine cavity invading the pelvic and abdominal areas. As hormones naturally fluctuate throughout the month, this triggers the endometrial-like tissue to become reactive and inflamed.

Symptoms of Endometriosis

Symptoms of endometriosis can include pain during periods, ovulation, during/after intercourse, when urinating or while passing bowel movements. It can also cause heavy bleeding during menses, chronic pelvic pain or abdominal pain, extreme fatigue, and infertility.

Endometriosis can place a huge negative impact on one’s lifestyle and social well-being. If you have any of these symptoms, please consult with your general practitioner. There, they can offer an ultrasound scan, further testing (eg. blood work/ MRI scan /biopsy), and/or a referral to see an ObGyn specializing in endometriosis. Hormone contraceptives, or hormone therapy and surgery may become options for treatment.

Diagnosis of Endometriosis

There is no usable set of symptoms that can accurately predict a diagnosis of endometriosis. Surgery is a definitive way to determine a diagnosis for endometriosis. However, a study performed by the University of Aberdeen analyzed primary care records and found that pain and menstrual symptoms occurring within the same year accompanied by lower gastrointestinal symptoms occurring within 90 days of gynaecological pain was a good predictor for endometriosis (1).

  • Specialized ultrasound technology has been improving for detection of endometriosis, but a normal ultrasound cannot rule out endometriosis. Endometriosis takes many appearances, making it difficult to differentiate from other conditions, without sampling the tissue itself.
  • Laparoscopy (a surgery to examine the pelvic and abdominal area) can be performed to cut or burn out any lesions or fibroids to be taken for further diagnostic testing. While this surgery is the only reliable way for a diagnosis and can take away some of the pain, it is invasive and follow-up studies have shown it may not be curative (1). 20-28% of patients did not feel a reduction in pain post-operation and 40-50% required another surgery after 5 years. Given that surgery may only fix endometriosis temporarily, what are solutions that will help cope with endometriosis pain?

Acupuncture For Endometriosis

This chronic condition can take its toll on someone’s mental and physical well-being.

Chronic pain is inconsistent – there are good days and bad days. It is important to have resources and a toolkit that can help alleviate life hindering symptoms.

Acupuncture can help with controlling endometrial pain. Acupuncture works to increase blood circulation, decrease inflammation, and balance hormones.

A Cochrane study enrolled 67 endometriosis patients suffering from dysmenorrhea (painful periods) to receive a 15-point acupuncture prescription and auricular (ear) acupuncture to help relieve their symptoms (2). The study’s primary outcome measure was decrease in pain and the secondary outcome measures were improved quality of life, pregnancy rates, and reduced recurrence of endometriosis. The auricular therapy group came out with a 91.9% success rate and dysmenorrhea pain scores were lower with the group receiving the 15-point acupuncture prescription.

Another study performed in China at Guangzhou University (Department of Gynaecology) shows abdominal acupuncture for 3 months to be effective in treating dysmenorrhea in patients with endometriosis (3).

Diet

Endometriosis is hormone-dependent and susceptible to foods that leave inflammatory markers.

Trans-unsaturated fatty acids, red meat and ham, as well as alcohol are found to potentially exacerbate the risk of developing endometriosis (4).

A Nurses’ Health study followed approximately 81 thousand participants’ diets from 1991 to 2013 (1). They found people consuming more than two servings of red meat per day had a 56% higher risk of endometriosis compared to those consuming one or less red meat products per week.

Being mindful of the amount of refined sugars and grains consumed is also optimal for decreasing inflammation.

Consuming colourful vegetables (rich in antioxidants and vitamins), as well as supplementing with B-group vitamins, calcium, vitamin D, and fish oils including Omega-3 may decrease the prevalence of endometriosis and pain associated with it (4).

Moving Forward

Let’s end the negative stigma by being open to discussing endometriosis and people’s reproductive health. If you feel like there’s something wrong with your reproductive system, don’t be afraid to advocate for your health by seeking a diagnosis and treatment.

Acupuncturists don’t want to see you in constant physical and mental pain, even if you don’t have a diagnosis, we can help bring balance back to your system to repair any ailments and provide lifestyle support.

For more information on how we can support you with endometriosis symptoms, feel free to contact us for a free 15-minute Q&A consult.

Image from fieldandsea.com

References

  1. PMID: 32089831
  2. PMID: 21901713
  3. PMID: 21442808
  4. PMID: 29944729
  5. PMID: 28326519

Support for Lining Thickness

I have been seeing a number of patients in the clinic recently that have had issues in the past with their Frozen Embryo Transfer (FET) because their uterine (endometrial) lining has not been thick enough for embryo implantation. The optimal uterine lining is at least 8 mm in thickness and has a three-layer (trilaminar) appearance. 

To help support the growth of your endometrial lining, I tend to advise on supplements, diet, acupuncture treatments, and of course following the advice of your Reproductive Endocrinologist (RE). Your RE follows a protocol that they deem will yield the highest success and therefore it is important to trust and follow their advice. 

Supplements and Medication 

When it comes to medications and supplements to help support the growth of the endometrium, I tend to site a pilot study that was published in the Journal of Fertility and Sterility (1). This study compares Vitamin E, L-Arginine, and Sildenafil Citrate (Viagra) in 61 women with thin endometrial lining (less than 8mm) and a high radial artery-resistance index (RA-RI) . Radial artery-resistance is associated with lower pregnancy outcomes. 

The study found that vitamin E improved endometrial thickness in 52% and RA-RI in 72% of participants. L-arginine improved endometrial thickness in 67% and RA-RI in 89% of participants. Sildenafil citrate (Viagra) improved thickness and RA-RI in 92% of participants. The control group (no medication) improved in both parameters in 10% of participants.  

It is important to speak to a practitioner about dosages of Vitamin E and L-arginine. If Sildenafil citrate is something that you wanted to explore you would have to talk to your RE about this, because they would need to write a prescription. 

Diet

I know it might seem like a no-brainer to eat a healthy and balanced diet to help with good blood flow and overall health, but did you know that Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) also places importance on eating warm foods?

This includes eating foods that are cooked and not raw. The thought behind this is that a warming diet builds the body’s energy and blood to have the strength to conceive and carry a pregnancy full term. It also helps focus energy and blood circulation on the lower abdomen where reproductive organs reside.

With this in mind, I suggest making a big batch of bone broth and drinking 1 cup of this warm liquid every day for 2-4 weeks leading up to your transfer. Bone broth is high in nutrients, minerals, and collagen that can support the body on a blood level.

Another suggestion that is completely anecdotal but also yummy is drinking 1 cup of pure pomegranate juice per day for 2-4 weeks.  

Acupuncture

Acupuncture has the potential to support the uterine lining because it increases blood flow to the reproductive organs, and it can help to reduce central sympathetic tone and this may lower uterine contractions at the time of embryo transfer. When the uterus is calmer at the time of embryo transfer this has the possibility of a better embryo placement. 

A small study done on central sympathetic tone showed that electroacupuncture did reduce the pulsatility index of those who had greater than 3 (2). Having a pulsatility index of 3 or higher at the time of transfer tends to have a less likely chance of a live birth (3). 

Another small pilot study published in Fertility and Sterility evaluating combining electro acupuncture and Sildenafil on the endometrial lining thickness showed positive results (4). This study provided evidence that combining these two treatments resulted in endometrial lining thickness of greater than 9 mm in all participants who could not reach greater than 8 mm in previous cycles and these positive results included one patient whose lining did not exceed 5 mm previously.

Contact us to find out more about how we can support you with acupuncture and lifestyle support for uterine lining assistance and/or to book an appointment with our wonderful practitioners!

Image http://basiabanda.pl/

References

  1. PMID: 19200982
  2. PMID: 8671446
  3. PMID: 9363232
  4. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.fertnstert.2007.01.203

Stress-Free Clinic for Frontline Healthcare & Support Workers

As the holiday season unfolds, we want to take the opportunity to acknowledge, support & offer gratitude for the hard work & stress that frontline healthcare & support workers have had to endure throughout the pandemic.

On December 19th, Whole Family Health is honoured to be teaming up with the Mindfulness Institute to offer a Stress-Free Clinic Event to frontline workers.

The Mindfulness Institute, founded in 2010 by Dr. Catherine Phillips, Assistant Clinical Professor in the Department of Psychiatry at the U of A, is an Edmonton-based international resource for the latest information on mindfulness, and a leader in teaching and integrating mindfulness into personal and professional settings.

See registration details below.

ABOUT THE EVENT:

WHO

All frontline healthcare and support workers who have experienced increased stress due to the pandemic are welcome. (Proof of occupation/ workplace will be required.)

WHAT

We will be offering free evidence-based stress reduction interventions to all Healthcare Workers who register:

1. Acupuncture

One relaxation acupuncture session from WFH
Studies have shown that acupuncture brings on the relaxation response and reduces physiological stress-markers associated with the fight, flight or freeze stress response.

2. Mindfulness

One mindfulness for healthcare workers webinar from the Mindfulness Institute (accessed via link)
Research shows that physicians who undertook an 8-week mindfulness training program showed less burnout, better mood and emotional stability, as well as improved physician empathy.

WHEN

Sunday, December 19th
945am – 1pm

WHERE

Whole Family Health Wellness Centre

COST

Free!
Although donations to our December Menstrual Product Drive are welcome.

REGISTRATION
Register online for your free acupuncture session HERE
We look forward to seeing you then and you will receive a link to view the mindfulness webinar on December 19th too.

WHY

Stats Canada research confirms that there has been a rise in anxiety and stress among Canadians in response to the pressures of dealing with the pandemic. Different populations have been affected in different ways, and it’s evident that healthcare and support workers along our frontlines are among the most negatively impacted.

Many Whole Family Health clients are hospital and frontline workers, so we have become acutely aware of the increased stress you have been enduring during the pandemic. We recognize the psychological & physical toll it has taken on you and your bodies, working within our strained healthcare system and putting yourselves at risk to help others.

We want to extend our support and gratitude in this small way in the hopes that you may access some evidence-based resources.

We want to treat you to some moments of reprieve!

Healthcare burnout facts

  • An epidemic of burnout and discontent was already well documented among physicians and frontline healthcare workers prior to the pandemic. Approximately 1 in 3 physicians is experiencing burnout at any given time.
  • A recent Canadian survey finds that both nurses and physicians have experienced significantly higher levels of burnout, stress, depression and anxiety than they remembered feeling before the pandemic. 
  • A recent survey’s most striking finding and barometer of distress is that amongst 119 respondents, 50% of nurses and 20% of physicians expressed intentions to quit their jobs.

We would love to treat you to a relaxation acupuncture session! Register HERE.

Movember: Mental Health & Erectile Dysfunction

The Movember Foundation continues to work to destigmatize men’s mental health by bringing to light that men do experience mental health issues and that it is a real concern.

Stats Canada states that suicide rates are 3x higher in men than in women.

Mental Health not only affects people on an emotional and psychological level but on a physical one as well. Erectile Dysfunction (ED) is a common occurrence for those dealing with anxiety, depression, and high stress levels.

Experiencing ED can also lead to a negative cycle of emotions creating more anxiety, low self-esteem and guilt (often associated with not being able to pleasure their partner). Therefore if you are experiencing ED, it is important to speak with your doctor about it, in order to get psychological support and/or to look into further causes. This is because there is also an association between ED and cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and obesity. 

Treatment Options 

Of course, there is always medication that can help with erectile dysfunction and most people think about that little blue pill – known as Viagra, that has been marketed so well to help solve ED.

However, if there is a mental health disturbance going on, it is more beneficial to deal with the underlying issues for prolonged effectiveness of resolving erectile dysfunction. 

Counselling 

There are different types of therapy that have been shown to help with erectile dysfunction. Evidence has shown that group, individual, or Cognitive Behavioural Sex Therapy (CBST) has helped to resolve ED (1,2). The best outcomes were seen when treatment was combined with psychological treatments and with medication (i.e. Viagra) compared to medication alone (1,2). 

Psychological treatment is most likely to be helpful for those who:

  • Wake up in the morning with an erect penis 
  • Are going through or have gone through a stressful major life event, such as divorce, separation, death of a loved one, change in job, or moving.
  • Grew up in an environment where sex and sexuality were considered negative, wrong, or “bad,” or who were sexually or physically abused as a child.
  • Lost a parent during early childhood.
  • Have a history of serious relationship problems.
  • Have a history of anxiety disorders 

Acupuncture

There is promising data to show that acupuncture can help with erectile dysfunction but the data is limited. A prospective study looked at the effectiveness of acupuncture in patients with psychogenic erectile dysfunction (3). 

The participants were placed in two groups, one group had acupuncture in the specific spots for ED. The control group was given acupuncture in other areas of the body that are typically used to treat headaches.

Over 60% of those in the group getting acupuncture in the ED treatment showed signs of improvement of their ED symptoms compared to the control group.

Some in the control group were allowed to crossover and receive the ED treatments as well. Several of those patients also showed improvement of ED symptoms.

Another 21.05% of the patients had improved erections with simultaneous acupuncture treatments with 50 gm sildenafil (Viagra). 

Now I know what you are thinking, where exactly do the needles go when treating erectile dysfunction? I get this question all the time, followed by another sheepishly asked question: “do the needles go near or in the genitalia?” The answer is a big “NO”. For ED treatment, acupuncture needles are placed in the legs, hands, abdomen and/or back.

Partner Support

The importance of communication and listening to your partner cannot be stressed enough. Providing support and taking an active role in your partner’s treatment will help them navigate things in a positive way and take some of the shame away. It will also be important to keep a positive attitude and be open to trying new ways of experiencing intimacy. Putting pressure on your partner will only lead them to have more problems with erectile dysfunction rather than resolving them.  

Contact us to find out more about how we can support you and if you would like to know more about Movember and how to support mental health please visit the Movember Foundation 

Research

  1. PMID: 32591219
  2. PMID: 17636774
  3. PMID: 14562135

Acupuncture & Stress : How Does It Work?

If you’ve ever had acupuncture, you’re probably familiar with the commonly reported state of relaxation experienced after a treatment or the general feeling of calm with regular treatments.

On the other hand, if you’ve never experienced acupuncture before, you might wonder how it could possibly be relaxing to lie on a table with needles inserted all over your body. That does not sound relaxing at all!

In 1979, the WHO published an official report listing conditions & diseases shown to be treated effectively by Acupuncture. Chronic stress was among the listed conditions. While acupuncture is widely used to treat chronic stress, the mechanism of action has been mysterious.

Ongoing research points toward how acupuncture decreases physiological stress in the body:

HRV

Studies point toward a correlation between acupuncture and improved HRV. Heart Rate Variability (HRV) is a non-invasive autonomic measure that indicates the body’s capacity to deal with stress.

A healthy heart is not actually one that ticks perfectly evenly. On the contrary – a healthy heart beats with variation in the time interval between consecutive heartbeats. Because a healthy heart adjusts its rate in response to the environment. Its ability to do so corresponds with a higher HRV, which is associated with better overall health, including mental health.

Endorphins


Acupuncture also stimulates the release of endorphins,  which are hormones secreted by the brain & nervous system that play a role in pain regulation & the general feeling of well-being. For example, we release endorphins when we laugh or fall in love.

Neuropeptide Y (NPY)

NPY is a neuropeptide secreted by the sympathetic nervous system, that is associated with the fight, flight or freeze stress response.

A study published in the Journal of Endocrinology in 2013 was designed to monitor the effects of acupuncture on blood levels of neuropeptide Y (NPY), to help explain how acupuncture helps to reduce stress on a molecular level.

Researchers found that acupuncture significantly reduces NPY.

Because rats mount a measurable NPY stress response when exposed to cold temperatures, they were used in this research.

Electroacupuncture (EA) was also used in this study, to ensure that each animal was receiving the same treatment dose. EA was applied to acupuncture point ZuSanLi (St36), commonly used to alleviate stress among other conditions.

There were four groups of rats used:

  1. A Control group – that was not stressed and received no electroacupuncture.
  2. A Stress group – that was stressed and received no acupuncture.
  3. A Sham-EA group – that was stressed and received ‘sham’ electroacupuncture.
  4. An Experimental EA St36 group – that was stressed and received electroacupuncture.  

The Experimental EA St36 group of rats that was exposed to stress and received the electroacupuncture was measured to have similar NPY levels as the Control group.

A second experiment was conducted where the experimental group was continually stressed while acupuncture was discontinued and NPY continued to remain low, indicating a cumulative, long-term effect from the acupuncture.  

This is only a sampling of how we are beginning to unravel how acupuncture helps to reduce stress and the negative impacts on the body. Research is ongoing and as we begin to understand more and more from a Western scientific perspective how it works – the 2500+ year-old body of clinical evidence that acupuncture is an effective intervention for dealing with stress continues to grow.

Contact us to find out more about how we can support you & your body with stress.

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References

PMID: 33512256

PMID: 15135942

https://doi.org/10.1530/JOE-12-0404
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