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Erectile Dysfunction: A Functional Approach

Erectile Dysfunction (ED) affects a startling amount of people, and has been for hundreds of years.

10% of people under the age of 40 experience ED, and by the time they are 70 years old, 60% will experience ED. This is incredibly common, and not an easy situation to deal with.

Yet there are so many aspects of health that can be impacting this vital function. It is possible to view the body as a whole and get to the root of the issue before resorting to the little blue pill to achieve the end result. 

ED Can Be A Precursor to Cardiovascular Issues

It is  important to get to the root of the imbalance, as the disharmony that causes ED is not always isolated to sexual function.

One of the main pathomechanisms is vascular endothelial dysfunction – meaning that the lining of the arteries are hardening, making dilation difficult. This reduces blood flow.

The kicker is that if it is affecting sexual function, it could in the future, affect the rest of the body’s arterial health. Over the long term, vascular endothelial dysfunction can become much more rampant than ED, causing cardiovascular issues such as heart illness, neurological issues and dementia. 

There Are Multiple Reasons Why

Both functional and Chinese medicine view the body as a whole, meaning that there could be seemingly unrelated issues that lead to ED. It might be surprising to know that what we eat and how we process our food could be affecting sexual function like this.

Insulin resistance, pre-diabetes, obesity and hypertension are all connected to vascular endothelial dysfunction – which can cause ED. Again, this could be impacting the blood flow to all of the organs, not just the reproductive organs.

What You Can Do:

Reduce Inflammation

Inflammation and toxins can also damage the blood vessels and lead to ED. For example, chronic alcohol use can impact the health of the blood vessels.

Here’s how:

  • Limit processed foods
  • Limit sugar and simple carbohydrates
  • Choose an anti-inflammatory diet plan

Reduce Alcohol Consumption

Chronic alcohol use can cause short term endothelial dysfunction, which can also lead to a psychological cascade of performance anxiety.

Here’s how:

  • Reduce alcohol consumption or choose to stay sober

Reduce Stress

Stress is another huge factor when it comes to arterial health. Stress causes systemic inflammation as well as issues with blood vessel dilation due to excess cortisol levels. 

Here’s how:

  • Engage in mindfulness practice
  • Try Acupuncture and counselling to help process stress

Balance Testosterone Levels

Another aspect of the picture is the complex hormonal orchestra that is involved with sexual function – particularly testosterone. Testosterone can have an impact on ED as it impacts the enzyme PDE5 and Nitric Oxide, which are both responsible for allowing the blood vessels to dilate.

As people age, there is a natural decline in testosterone. However, some people can have low testosterone earlier, also known as andropause.

Some things which impact the body’s ability to produce testosterone include sleep apnea, alcohol, diabetes, stress and obesity.

Here’s how:

  • Mindfulness practice and stress reduction
  • Exercise – particularly aerobic activity, HIIT and weight lifting
  • Eat healthy fats, they are the precursor molecules that help the body to maintain testosterone levels

As you can see, all of the pillars of health can be a part of the picture when healing ED. This common issue is a complex imbalance with an avenue of healing that will radiate to all aspects of health.

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

Image IG @krisarchielee

How to Supplement Nutrient Depletion From Oral Contraceptives

What Are Oral Contraceptives

Oral contraceptives (OC). The pill. Birth control. A method of contraception that has been available in Canada since the 1960’s and according to Stats Canada it is one of the most frequently used medications by Canadian women. These pills can contain a combination of both estrogen and progestin, as well as progestin only packs. 

The pill can be used to prevent pregnancy by stopping the body from ovulating. It is also used to manage side effects of the menstrual cycle like heavy, painful periods, irregular and unpredictable cycles, and skin concerns like acne that are menstrual cycle and hormone related. 

Oral Contraceptives & Micronutrients

But did you know that these hormonal contraceptives can also alter the metabolism of vitamins and micronutrients in your body and may leave some of these stores depleted or deficient in your body with long term use?

A 2012 study compared the blood serum levels of vitamin B12 in oral contraceptive (OC) users versus those without OC and noted a significant decrease in serum B12 levels during the first 6 months of OC use. Long term use without proper supplementation or dietary supply, as you could imagine, could result in a deficiency over time.

Vitamin B12 is an essential vitamin that is used for DNA synthesis and supports the function of nerve cells. It is readily available in animal products, fortified or added to some foods.

A review of the literature found that OC tend to depress levels of vitamin B2 (riboflavin), vitamin B6 (pyridoxine), folacin (folic acid), vitamin B12, vitamin C, zinc and elevate levels of vitamin K, copper, and iron.

How to Supplement

Riboflavin and pyridoxine can both be obtained from animal products like meat and eggs.

Folacin or folic acid can be found in leafy green vegetables – think spinach, brussel sprouts, and asparagus.

Vitamin B12 is obtained through animal products like eggs, meat and dairy, as well as fortified cereals. Just be sure to check the labels of your food, especially if animal products are not a part of your diet. 

Food sources of zinc include meat, shellfish, seeds like hemp hearts or nuts, such as cashews and almonds.

Sources rich in vitamin C of course include oranges and surprisingly broccoli and brussel sprouts as well. 

It is important to discuss these effects of OC with your healthcare provider and ensure that you are able to maintain proper vitamin and mineral intake either through diet or the appropriate supplementation to maintain optimum health. 

For more information, contact us for a free 15-minute phone consultation.

References

  1. https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/pub/82-003-x/2015010/article/14222-eng.htm
  2. PMID: 22464408
  3. PMID: 7001015

Image: IG via @dearklaude

Starting The Year of the Ox Fresh: A Beginner’s Mind

Guestpost by Dr. Alda Ngo for Olive Fertility Centre

Starting Fresh

The Lunar New Year is fast approaching and February 12th is the first day of the Year of the Metal Ox.

Growing up, my family’s lunar new year rituals were all about taking the opportunity to begin anew & we would take extra care to clear out the old cobwebs & clean the house together. The intention being to start the new year with freshness.

Now, the lunar new year is a reminder for me to take the opportunity to practice inviting freshness both outside & within.

One of the foundational life affirming attitudes in Mindfulness practice is to adopt a Beginner’s Mind.

What is a Beginner’s Mind

Most of the time, we are on autopilot, our experiences filtered & shaped by past experiences, beliefs, biases & values.

Cultivating a Beginner’s Mind is about remembering to be with experience with freshness, no matter how familiar, repetitive or mundane it might be. With a beginner’s mind, each moment is a new moment, worthy of our full attention & curiosity.

Having a beginner’s mind means being open, investigative & seeing things as though for the first time. When we widen the aperture of our perspective beyond our usual perceptions, we are more receptive to new possibilities where we might otherwise be stuck in a rut.

Stepping out of our ‘expertise’ can open doors to so much discovery & the ordinary can be extraordinary. A beginner’s mind allows us to really see the richness of the present moment.

As an experiment, try practising Beginner’s Mind in your daily life & see what you notice.

Here’s how:

The next time you’re with someone familiar to you, ask yourself if you’re seeing them with fresh eyes, as they really are. Or are you seeing a reflection of your own thoughts about this person. You could try this with a friend, colleague, partner, family member or even pet.

What happens when you look at the sky or ocean, a cloud, tree, or rock with the same wonder & curiosity that you would had you never seen anything like it before?

You could also try it with a problem. Are you seeing things as they really are, or through a veil of habitual thoughts & opinions? What else is actually available to be seen?

Click here for more info on our upcoming Mindfulness Programs

Exercise When Undergoing ART

It is best to maintain healthy exercise when trying to conceive, but what about if you are starting ovarian stimulating medications as in IVF, medicated assisted IUI cycles or other ART?

These medications stimulate follicle growth in the ovaries. Some of them are oral and others are in the form of injections.

Gonadotropins

Injected medications contain gonadotropins. Gonadotropins help the ovaries to develop more than one egg at a time (typically the ovaries only develop one egg per cycle). This can put a lot of strain on the ovaries and their supporting ligaments, because the size of the ovaries are a lot larger than they normally are.

Ovarian Torsion

The concern around exercise and larger ovaries due to medication lies in the rare, but real concern surrounding ovarian torsion.

Ovarian torsion is when the ovary twists on itself. The ovaries are supplied with blood running through the ligaments that suspend them, and these ligaments become cut off in the twisting process, which is extremely painful and also dangerous.  For this reason, many people are told to radically reduce exercise, especially if they are used to doing high intensity exercises. 

I want to differentiate ovarian torsion from the normal aches that can occur during the ovarian stimulation phase.

Ovarian torsion is rare, it occurs in 0.03% of IVF cycles (6). When torsion has occurred, it has been described as extreme pain that makes you want to double over and is accompanied by nausea or vomiting. It typically has a sudden onset in the setting of a moving or twisting motion.

Always consult with your doctor if you have any concerns.

Note

This does not typically apply to people taking oral ovarian stimulating medications such as Clomid or Letrozole, because these meds do not stimulate the ovaries in the same way that gonadotropin meds do. 

However, because the ovaries are larger than usual when stimulated by these oral meds too, you are still advised to be cautious with exercise when taking them.

Always consult with your primary care provider to make sure the exercise you are doing is safe.

So What Kind of Exercise is Typically Safe?

It is still important to do some light/low impact movements during ART because it can improve mood, sleep, and recovery.

So, what are safe movements that can be done? 

Exercises that are typically safe to do (always consult with your fertility clinic to make sure, advice can vary depending on individual cases):

  • Walking (but no quick twisting)
  • Light jogging (But not near the end of injections or close to retrieval time and again no quick twisting)
  • Swimming (but no twisting or flip turns at the end of the lane)
  • Yoga (but no twisting or inversions)
  • Light weightlifting (2-5 lbs)  (but no quick twisting)

Exercises to Avoid:

  • High impact exercise with quick changes in body position
  • Running 
  • Vigorous acrobatics (ie. trapeze, aerial silks, etc..) 
  • Pole dancing
  • Pilates
  • Barre Classes 

General tips

Exercise is good for you whether you are trying to conceive or not and if you are trying to conceive, you may want to modify your routine.

Always speak with your primary care provider about your personal situation to help find a routine that is right for you. 

For more advice on how to support your reproductive health and wellbeing, book a free 15-minute phone consultation.

Photo www.chloehphoto.com IG @chloealexisham via @yogateau

Exercise When Trying To Conceive With PCOS

Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) can present along a spectrum of numerous signs and symptoms that some people exhibit, while others may not.

The symptoms can include irregular menstrual cycles, high levels of male hormones (androgens/testosterone), acne, excessive hair growth on the body, head hair loss, insulin resistance, difficulty losing weight, and infertility.

However, the biggest component that contributes to infertility in people with PCOS is anovulation (lack of ovulation), due to insulin resistance. This is when cells do not respond efficiently to insulin, making it more difficult for the body to absorb glucose from the bloodstream. This in turn leads to anovulation because higher blood glucose levels cause the ovaries to produce too much testosterone, which interferes with the development of the follicles and prevents normal ovulation.

The relationship between physical activity, higher BMI, and insulin resistance associated with PCOS has been studied extensively, and one review showed improved ovulation, weight loss, and insulin resistance with moderate exercise for 12- to 24-week exercise programs (1).

General Guidelines: 

  • If you are of average BMI or higher, and are sedentary (not exercising):
    • You should be doing light to moderate exercise at least 3x/week but no more than 5x/week.
  • If you are exercising at least 3-5x/week:
    • Maintain this and do not exceed 5x/week of exercise, especially if it is higher intensity exercise.

Types of Exercises Best Suited to PCOS (do one or the other, not both in the same week):

  • Resistance exercise 3x/week for 45 minutes per session. 
  • Vigorous exercise 75 minutes/week, which can include high intensity interval training (HIIT) but for no longer than 20 minutes each time.

For more advice on how to support your reproductive health and wellbeing, book a free 15-minute phone consultation.

References

PMID: 20833639

Image:
Stephanie Deangelis
www.stephaniedeangelis.com
IG @steph_angelis

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