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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

Traditional Chinese Herbs – How They Work

Herbal medicine has been used for thousands of years in countless cultures across the world. Many pharmaceutical medicines are even derived from different plant materials. Our natural world is truly a garden of medicine, which we enjoy exploring through the art of herbal medicine.

The ancient Chinese methods of diagnosing and prescribing herbs is very unique. From a Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) perspective, illness arises from a disharmony of the natural functions of the body. The body’s internal environment is a reflection of the external patterns of nature; similarly, humans are intrinsically part of nature.

Thus, through careful and astute observation, the ancient Chinese perceived the internal workings of bodily functions. Specifically, what tendencies cause imbalance, and what can help engage the body’s natural homeostatic tendencies.

What Makes Traditional Chinese Herbs Unique

Each herb has a combination of flavours which have certain actions in the body

  • Sweet – Tonify the body, harmonize digestion, moisten dryness
  • Pungent – Disperses pathogens, move stagnation and invigorate the blood
  • Sour – Astringe and stabilize
  • Bitter – Drain and dry
  • Salty – Softens hardness, scatters lumps, drains stools
  • Bland – Drain downwards, leach out dampness, promote urination. 

Each herb has a thermal nature

  • Herbs can be Warm, Cool, Neutral, Hot or Cold. This is why we often ask questions that help us understand your body’s thermal nature. 

Each herb has a tropism or direction in the body

  • Different herbs go to different places. For example – Ji Xue Teng goes to the fingertips and toes, Bai Zhi goes to the sinuses and forehead, and Bai Shao goes to the Liver. 

Herb combinations

  • Herbs are used in combination to enhance, accentuate, counteract or suppress common or opposing effects. TCM herbs are always prescribed in combination – often between 2-25 herbs are used together in a formula to specifically suit the patient’s specific constitution.

One Thousand Questions

When you come for a visit with a Traditional Chinese Medicine Herbal Practitioner, they will ask you ‘One Thousand Questions’, because they want to know every single detail about your health.

With the myriad of details, we perceive the complex pattern that has brought them into imbalance. We can determine the thermal nature and the functional organ system imbalances. Then, we match the complexities of the constitution and nature of the imbalance with an appropriate herbal formula.

For example, if 7 people are struggling with headaches, each of these people will have different presentations: location of the pain, duration of the pain, nature of the pain, triggers for the headaches, different things that create relief or worsening of the symptoms, and more.

On top of the difference in manifestation of the headache, each person’s other signs and symptoms will be different too. The TCM practitioner takes all of these things into consideration, crafting a different custom blend of herbs for each person, ensuring that the formula matches the presentation of illness as well as the constitution.

With all of these complexities, you can imagine the process of deliberation required for each patient!

Classical Herbal Formulas

Many of the formulas we use are ancient formulations, dating up to 2000 years old. These classical formulas are then modified, depending on the patient’s unique constitution and situation as discussed above. Sometimes, we even write a formula from scratch if there isn’t one to fit a patient’s particular situation. There is a general hierarchy present for the herbs in each formula:

  1. The Emperor Herb – this is the most important ingredient of the formula and has the greatest effect on the principle pattern or disease. 
  2. The Minister Herbs – these herbs aid the Emperor Herb in the treatment of the main pattern and can also act as main ingredients to counteract a co-existing pattern.
  3. The Assistant Herbs – these herbs enhance the effects of the Emperor or Minister Herbs, directly treat a less important aspect of the pattern, moderate any toxic or unwanted effects from the Emperor or Minister Herbs, and sometimes even counteract the Emperor Herb if there is an opposing pattern.
  4. The Messenger Herbs – These herbs guide the action of the formula to a particular region of the body and harmonize the actions of the other ingredients. 

As you can see, the construction of an herbal formula is complex. 

Chinese Medicine Constitutional Approach & Epigenetics

In TCM, we have a concept called the Prenatal and Postnatal constitutions. Essentially, it is the same concept as epigenetics and DNA. The Prenatal constitution is everything that we inherited from the moment of conception,  from our parents – it is the genetic blueprint and DNA that makes up our physical body.

The Postnatal constitution is everything that we take in after conception – the air we breath, the food we eat and the thoughts we think. In short, our lifestyle turns on or turns off different parts of our genetic blueprint. It is in the interaction between these two, within the inner environment of the body, that the field of TCM works. 

Substances which interact with our epigenetics in a positive way are known as epigenetically active substances. Some substances, such as green tea or broccoli sprouts, are epigenetically active substances. This means that they have the ability to interact with our epigenetics in a positive way.

Research

Interestingly, in a study in 2011, researchers analyzed 3294 TCM herbs to find out if they have epigenetically active properties. To their surprise, they found that the 29.8% most commonly prescribed herbs have chemical constituents that interact with epigenetic related proteins!

Researchers also analyzed 200 herbal formulas to find out about their epigenetically active herbs. They discovered that each formula contains epigenetically active properties.

Interestingly, researchers found that when organized from the most actively epigenome interacting herbs to the least actively epigenome interacting herbs the results were consistent with the order of hierarchy used in each formula. These results remained the same even if the dosing is set to one gram each! This means that the most epigenetically active herb was exclusively the emperor herb and the least epigenetically active herb was the messenger herb. The pattern here is absolutely fascinating.

This research suggests that TCM herbs may even be influencing the interaction between our inner environment and our genetic expression. It also suggests that, perhaps, when the Chinese medicine practitioner is piecing together the complex patterns from the constellation of signs and symptoms, they are also treating the way the body’s inner environment can express the genetic blueprint.

At Whole Family Health our TCM specialists are always interested in discussing TCM and a care plan best suited for you. 

If you would like to book in for a free 15 minute consultation to discover if herbs would be a good fit for you, please don’t hesitate to contact us.

Resources

PMID: 21785634

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.

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

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

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