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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

How To Navigate Pregnancy After Infertility & Pregnancy Loss

OLIVE GUEST BLOG

I have the honour of guest blogging for Olive Fertility Centre this month.

Here’s this week’s blog:

Pregnancy Is Not A Cure For Infertility or Miscarriage Stress

I had expected to feel nothing but joy and exhilaration when I finally got that positive pregnancy test after a difficult 7+ year fertility journey.

But what I found was that the effects from the grief, loss and shock of infertility and pregnancy loss were not simply cured by the positive pregnancy test. After all the worst-case scenarios that I had experienced, I was wired to expect and wait for the other shoe to drop.

PTSD In Pregnancy

In fact, some researchers argue that infertility and pregnancy loss can be a form of complex trauma that replays even once pregnancy has been achieved. (1,2) For some women, the anxiety and worry they experienced during their fertility journey persists throughout the pregnancy. In addition, once they “graduate” from their fertility clinic they may feel cut adrift from sources of support they had relied on.

If you are continuing to experience anxiety during your pregnancy, it is important to seek out support like counselling or a support group.

Mindfulness Reduces Stress and Increases Resilience

Another resource is a Mindfulness-Based program. Mindfulness has been shown to help decrease stress and anxiety, while increasing resilience and well being. Research shows that when practised throughout pregnancy, not only can Mindfulness help to promote mental health, it can also make childbirth easier, improve partner relationships and enhance parenting sensitivity as well as child well-being. (3)

When I finally became pregnant with my son, a home pregnancy test revealed that I was pregnant during a 10-day silent meditation retreat. I was trapped there, with all of the thoughts and feelings, excited, elated and terrified. Yet I was forced to sit and be with it all, without uttering a word about it to anyone. I anchored myself in the steadiness of my breath, as I practiced watching the storm of thoughts and emotions bubble through my mind, trying not to judge them, or let them take over me.

Mindfulness allowed me to make peace with the unknown of the future, by helping me to accept and find ease in the present moment.

My mindfulness practice gave me the inner space and calm to recognize and take good care of what I did have control over, while cultivating openness and deep acceptance of whatever outcome I did not have control over. It allowed me to make peace with the unknown of the future, by helping me to accept and find ease in the present moment.

Mindfulness for Pregnancy After Infertility & Pregnancy Loss Program

To learn more Mindfulness tools, join me for a Mindfulness program dedicated to those who are currently Pregnant after Infertility and/or Pregnancy loss.

This program follows the famous 8-week Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction program, developed by Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn and associates at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. It is the most well-established mindfulness program to date and has become a standard in scientific research.

It will give you the tools you need to support you through your pregnancy, so that you may feel more at ease and enjoy this very special time.

Program details:

Online Mindfulness For Pregnancy After Infertility & Pregnancy Loss
Jan 31 – Mar 28, 2021
By donation at the end of the program

For more program information and to register, go to www.mindfulnessforfertility.com

References:

  1. Farren J, Jalmbrant M, Falconieri N, et al. Posttraumatic stress, anxiety and depression following miscarriage and ectopic pregnancy: a multicenter, prospective, cohort study. Am J Obstet Gynecol 2020;222:367.e1-22
    DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ajog.2019.10.102
  2. Kami L. Schwerdtfeger & Karina M. Shreffler (2009) Trauma of Pregnancy Loss and Infertility Among Mothers and Involuntarily Childless Women in the United States, Journal of Loss and Trauma, 14:3, 211-227
    DOI: 10.1080/15325020802537468
  3. Duncan LG, Shaddix C. Mindfulness-Based Childbirth and Parenting (MBCP): Innovation in Birth Preparation to Support Healthy, Happy Families. International Journal of Birth and Parent Education. 2015 Jan;2(2):30-33.
    PMID: 29051821

Exercise When Trying To Conceive Naturally

It’s another New Year and starting a new exercise regimen is usually high on the list of healthy changes people make at the start of the New Year. But what if you are trying to conceive, is it ok to exercise then?

There can be a lot of conflicting advice out there and it can be quite confusing to know what is right when it comes to exercise and trying to conceive. It is completely understandable, because there are different guidelines as to what is safe and healthy, depending on what your current situation is.

For example, recommendations depend on your current level of fitness, Body Mass Index (BMI), whether or not you’re going through IVF or using ovarian stimulating medications, if you have PCOS or if you have suffered from miscarriages in the past.

Therefore, I will try to break it down as best as I can over the coming weeks for different scenarios, starting with exercise when trying to conceive naturally.

Exercise When Trying to Conceive Naturally

As I mentioned, it does depend on your current fitness level. When I am talking to my patients about exercise, I always assess what their current fitness level and regime is.

There is a fine line between too much exercise and too little exercise. Too much high-impact and vigorous exercise has been shown to negatively impact fertility, as it can cause menstrual and ovulation dysfunction (meaning no menstrual/ovulation cycles or irregular cycles in both). 

This is mainly because people who are too lean affect their hormones in a way that can stop/delay ovulation and menstruation and this can negatively impact conception (1).

That said, studies have also shown that people who are of average weight (within a healthy BMI) but lead sedentary lifestyles also have lower fertility rates (2).

For those who have a higher BMI and live a sedentary lifestyle, this can negatively impact ovulation as well. This in turn, can decrease chances of conception (3).

I also want to mention that it is more about living a healthier lifestyle that includes a healthy diet and being physically active that will positively affect fertility rates rather than an arbitrary number going down on the scale (4).

So where does this leave you and how much should you exercise? 

General Guidelines: 

  • If you are exercising 7 days a week, working out longer than 1 hour each day, or are below your BMI:
    • You need to cut down your workouts by at least 2 days a week and/or decrease the intensity/amount of time of your workouts and eat higher calories. 
    • A good gauge for an appropriate level of intensity is that you should be able to talk through workouts.
    • Do not push yourself to a point of endorphin release (aka the runner’s high).
    • Refrain from going from high-impact to low-impact or no exercise, based on the menstrual cycles (for example pushing yourself to exhaustion with excess exercise before ovulation and then becoming sedentary after ovulation, until taking a pregnancy test). This can also add to the emotional roller coaster of trying to conceive.
  • If you are of average or higher BMI 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.

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

References: 

  1. PMID: 11431132
  2.  PMID: 23963750
  3. PMID: 26097395
  4. PMID: 31304974 

Image:
IG @mre.cloe

COVID Vaccine When Pregnant or Breastfeeding

As administration of vaccines begins to roll out, we’re getting a lot of questions about the vaccine and pregnancy.

The Society of Obstetricians and Gynecologists of Canada (SOGC) released an official statement on December 18th, which has also been endorsed by The Canadian Fertility and Andrology Society (CFAS).

Here’s a summary of the SOGC statement:

Because there haven’t been any clinical trials that can support any evidence-informed recommendations about the COVID-19 vaccine for pregnant and breastfeeding populations, the official recommendations are subject to change.

At the time of release of the statement, the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID 19 vaccine was the only authorized COVID-19 vaccine authorized for human use in Canada. This vaccine is administered in two intramuscular injections 21-28 days apart.

Pregnant and breastfeeding individuals were excluded from the Phase II and Phase III trials

Pregnant and breastfeeding individuals were excluded from the Phase II and Phase III trials involving the randomization of about 44,000 people, which showed an efficacy rate of 94.6% for symptom prevention at least 7 days after the second dose.

Unfortunately, pregnant and breastfeeding people were also excluded from all other vaccine trials for which Phase III results are available.

No potential harm has been flagged with the vaccine

Although no potential harm has been flagged, the potential risk of vaccination to a pregnant person and fetus remains unknown.

It is however known that pregnant people have an increased risk of severe morbidity if infected with COVID-19, and that severe infection carries risks to both maternal and fetal health.

There is increased risk of COVID infection to both maternal and fetal health

While pregnancy itself does not seem to carry increased risk of COVID infection, pregnant people may be vulnerable to increased risk of infection depending on their work situation (eg. health care workers, caregivers or outbreak settings). Other underlying comorbidities, like maternal age may also carry higher risk of COVID-related morbidity.

COVID-19 vaccine should not be offered to populations excluded from clinical trials until further evidence is available.

As such, the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) has advised that the “COVID-19 vaccine should not be offered to populations excluded from clinical trials until further evidence is available.

Risk assessment can deem that the benefits of vaccine outweigh the potential risks

However, if a risk assessment deems that the benefits of vaccine outweigh the potential risks for the individual or for the fetus/infant (in the case of pregnancy/breastfeeding) and if informed consent includes discussion about the insufficient evidence in this population, then a complete series of authorized COVID-19 vaccines may be offered to pregnant and breastfeeding individuals.”

People who are planning a pregnancy are advised to complete the series of 2 vaccination injections ahead of the pregnancy.

This is the official word on COVID vaccinations for pregnant and breastfeeding people, for more detailed information, you can read the full statement here.

For more information on supporting pregnancy and fertility health, feel free to contact us for a free 15-minute phone consultation.

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IG @fieldandsea

Top 3 Fertility Podcasts

If you are currently in the midst of your fertility journey, seeking some insight into what the process of IVF is like, or just beginning to get a deeper understanding of your body, these podcasts might interest you!

With more time at home and social distancing, now is a great time to give your regular streaming entertainment a break and switch it up with these fertility and health podcasts.

You’re not alone on your fertility journey

Listening to shared stories about people’s experiences can help ease the stress and anxiety about, knowing you are not alone in this. The great thing about a podcast is that there is something out there for everyone. No matter where you are on your fertility journey, there is sure to be some insight gained from listening to the stories shared. 

Top 3 Fertility Podcasts:

These are my top three podcasts related to fertility education, support, or sometimes even just a friendly voice that “gets it” and their description from Apple Podcasts. 

#3: Mastering Your Fertility 

Episodes: 94

Description: Do you worry you won’t get pregnant, stay pregnant, or have a healthy baby? Infertility rates are on the rise. Women are waiting until later in life to start a family. It is more important than ever to start understanding exactly how to take control of your fertility.

Your host is Kristin Cornett, a functional nutritional therapy practitioner and fertility specialist at Tiny Feet. She dives deep into the true causes of infertility and what you can do to get your health and fertility back on track to support a healthy pregnancy and a healthy baby.

You can check out one of the latest episodes here! 

#2: Fertility Friday Radio

Episodes: 299

Description: Fertility Friday Radio is your source for information about the Fertility Awareness Method and all things fertility related. Fertility Friday Radio debunks common myths about the fertility awareness method, birth control, and conception. Learn how to increase your chances of getting pregnant if you’re trying to conceive, and learn how the Fertility Awareness Method is more effective than the pill for birth control when used correctly.

Your host Lisa, founder of fertilityfriday.com, is passionate about women’s health, specifically in the areas of fertility, hormone-free birth control, conception, and pregnancy.

Lisa delivers in-depth weekly interviews with a wide variety of special guests covering fertility awareness, birth control, menstrual health, hormonal health, pregnancy and much more.

This podcast has a huge variety of episodes and a lot to listen to, but this one about the power of abdominal techniques is near the top of my list!

And finally, this is my number one podcast for informative listening about reproductive health and the process of IVF.

#1: As a Woman  

Episodes: 90

Description: Welcome to As a Woman. This podcast is hosted by fertility physician Natalie Crawford, MD to educate and empower women. Each week you can learn about your health, your fertility, and how they relate to your true self. You can become a part of the community fostering collaboration over competition while learning how to authentically find your voice and amplify others as a woman.

There is a lot of information on the IVF process in this podcast especially in the early episodes. The host covers a variety of topics, even covering male infertility. A great place to start is one of the earlier episodes to get a foundational look at the menstrual cycle.

No matter where you are on your fertility journey, there is a conversation out there for you. You can find all of these podcasts on Apple Podcasts for free and easy listening!

References

Cornett, K. (2020). Mastering Your Fertility. Retrieved from https://podcasts.apple.com/ca/podcast/mastering-your-fertility/id1442366218

Fertility Friday Radio (2019). Fertility Friday Radio. Retrieved from https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/fertility-friday-radio-fertility-awareness-for-pregnancy/id953371091

Crawford, N (2020). As a Woman Podcast. Retrieved from https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/as-a-woman/id1449553339

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Yoga and Male Fertility

A conversation came up in the clinic recently regarding male factor infertility and what type of exercises can be beneficial to sperm health. Most people are probably familiar with the idea that regular exercise is good for overall health and stress management, but what types of exercises are optimal for sperm health? 

Immediately I began to think about how a regular yoga practice can contribute to overall health and aid in improving sperm parameters. It seems logical from my own point of view. The integration of movement and breathing can help calm the nervous system and decrease stress. Depending on the type of yoga you are doing, you can really get the heart pumping and increase the circulation through the entire body. For anyone who has experienced a vinyasa flow class, I am sure you will know what I am talking about. 

Research on Yoga & Male Reproductive Health

But what does the research say? Is yoga beneficial to incorporate into your wellness routine to help optimize male fertility? 

A 2013 review of studies and literature suggests that practicing yoga has an effect on the neuroendocrine axis and can have beneficial changes in the practitioners. Stress and anxiety can have an impact on fertility and yoga is very effective at reducing stress. Stress hormones like cortisol can impair reproductive function, so it is important to manage mental and physical stress that a person is exposed to. 

Included in the same review was information about a study done in 2000 where fertility patients practiced relaxation techniques such as yoga and 55% of these patients had a baby within 1 year. This review suggests that yoga has an effect to decrease the stress response within the body and improve circulation. 

“it is fair to conclude that yoga can be beneficial in the prevention of infertility and improve male reproductive health.” 

Overall the researchers suggest that according to the review of the literature, “it is fair to conclude that yoga can be beneficial in the prevention of infertility and improve male reproductive health.” 

So if you are looking for ways to decrease stress as well as giving your fertility a boost, you may want to opt for that yoga class your partner has been wanting you to try! 

If you have any questions about how we can support your reproductive health with a treatment plan including yoga, acupuncture and lifestyle modifications, contact us today for a free 15-minute online consultation.

References

PMID: 23930026

Image: IG @yoga_inder_india

Pregnancy Nutrition: Foods To Build A Healthy Baby

Many people understand the importance of eating healthy during pregnancy because food plays a huge role in a baby’s development. Many cultures around the world have famous foods that are prized for nourishing people before, during and after pregnancy.

Your body will do everything in its power to reproduce successfully, however it’s up to you to provide it with the necessary nutrients to build the healthiest baby possible.

The Plate Method

A good place to start is by having a good balance of macro and micro-nutrients at each meal (vitamins, minerals, carbs, proteins and fats).

The plate method is an excellent guideline to use when planning meals and measuring proportions. Aim for half of your plate being composed of non-starchy vegetables, one quarter composed of protein and fats, and the remaining quarter composed of fruits or vegetables.

For example:

  • 2 or more cups of vegetables with some healthy fat, like a good quality oil or avocado.
  • 3-4 oz of protein, either plant-based or animal-based
  • 1/2 cup of starchy or root vegetables 

If you feel better on a low carb diet, aim for less starch and more greens, healthy fat and protein.

The Plate Method Components:

1. Protein

Strive to have a variety of protein sources in your diet to ensure you get a good balance of amino acids and other key vitamins and minerals. Try not to get caught in eating the same thing again and again.

For example:

  • Organic beef, lamb, bison, chicken, turkey
  • Seafood (wild caught)
  • Organ meats such as liver, heart, kidney
  • Eggs (pasture raised, organic)
  • Almonds, cashews, pecans, walnuts, hazelnuts, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seats, chia seeds
  • Beans, peas, lentils, brown rice

2. Fat

Your body’s need for fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E, K)  increases during pregnancy. A baby’s brain is made up of 60% fat and depends on omega fatty acids, choline, and fat soluble vitamins for development. The key is to prioritize high quality/healthy fats and avoid trans and saturated fats.

For example:

  • Fish
  • Nuts & seeds
  • Olives, coconuts, avocados
  • Organic butter or ghee

Avoid processed vegetable oils such as corn oil, canola oil, soybean oil, peanut oil or margarine. Try to stay away from anything deep fried or processed, as they are usually cooked in these low quality oils.

3. Vegetables

Vegetables are little powerhouses packed with vitamins and minerals necessary for building baby’s bones, blood, joints and much more. Aim to fill half your plate with an assortment of vegetables. And just like protein, don’t get caught up in only eating the same few vegetables again and again. Choose from a wide variety of vegetables.

For example:

  • Artichoke
  • Asparagus
  • Bells pepper
  • Cabbage
  • Brussels Sprout
  • Cauliflower
  • Celery
  • Eggplant
  • Greens: spinach, kale, collards, watercress, bok choy, arugula, dandelion
  • Tomato
  • Leek
  • Okra
  • Onion
  • Radish
  • Zucchini
  • Carrot
  • Cucumber
  • Snap pea
  • Spaghetti squash
  • Sweet potato
  • Beet

4. Fruit

Fruit is an excellent source of hydration, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and phytonutrients. These are all required for collagen/skin formation, immune development, iron absorption, wound healing and much more.

When craving something sweet, try fruit such as baked apples & cinnamon, peaches & yogurt or a berry smoothie. Try to satisfy your sweet tooth with whole foods.

For example:

  • Blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, blackberries
  • Apples
  • Peaches
  • Bananas
  • Mangoes
  • Melons

5. Fluids

When you’re pregnant, your fluid intake needs to increase. Your baby is swimming in amniotic fluid and your blood volume increases significantly. Water plays a huge role in nutrient absorption, digestion, transporting oxygen, and more.

Try to drink good filtered & mineralized water. Chlorine in tap water disrupts the gut flora for both the pregnant parent and the baby. Aim for about 10 cups of water a day.

In Summary

Make it a priority to add more real foods and minimize processed foods.

Think variety! Try to avoid eating the same dishes over and over again, incorporate new proteins, new vegetables, and new fruits.

Eat healthy omega-rich fats and avoid trans or saturated fats.

Stay hydrated!

For more information on how we can help you optimize your Pregnancy Nutrition, book a free 15-minute online consultation today!

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

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Nutritional Program: PCOS Recipe

Special offer : 4 week PCOS Nutrition Program

$256 (reg $320)
until Sep 30

In honour of PCOS awareness month, I have created a four week nutritional program to help manage symptoms and balance hormones using food. Each week comes with a different lesson, protocol, meal plan, grocery list and recipes.


Week one: 

Focuses on detoxing the home and body to remove endocrine disrupting chemicals. We will touch on what to avoid, and how to remove a chemical buildup within the body.

Week two: 

Focus on understanding hormones, how to nourish each endocrine gland and what nutrients are needed for proper hormone production. I provide recipes that use the proper foods with the specific nutrients needed.


Week three: 

Focuses on gut health; the impact of low stomach acid, candida, and blood sugar imbalance on hormonal function. I touch on how to know if you have any of these imbalances and how to correct it.


Week four: 

Focuses on lifestyle, stress management, the effect of cortisol on the reproductive system, and I provide stress reduction tools.

Here’s a sample PCOS recipe from the PCOS Nutritional Program:

Chicken Thigh Shredded Salad
40 minutes 

Ingredients

1 lb Chicken Thighs with Skin 
1/4 tsp Sea Salt
1/4 tsp Thyme (dried)
1/2c Red Onion (thinly sliced)
3 Carrots (shredded)
1c Radishes (thinly sliced)
1/4c Mint Leaves (finely chopped)
2 Tbsp Avocado Oil
1 Tbsp Lime Juice
1/8 tsp Ground Ginger
2 Tbsp Coconut Aminos

Directions

Preheat the oven to 375oF (191oC).

In a large cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat, add the chicken thighs and cook skin side down for 6 to 8 minutes. Flip the chicken over and transfer to the oven to cook for 16 to 18 minutes or until cooked through. Remove, let cool and then shred. Set aside.

In a large bowl, add the red onion, carrots, cucumber, radishes and mint. Add the avocado oil, lime juice, ginger and coconut aminos and toss to combine. 

Serve the salad with the shredded chicken on top. Enjoy! 

Notes

Leftovers. Refrigerate in an airtight container for up to three days. For best results, store the dressing separately. 

More flavour. Add additional herbs such as cilantro or seasoning such as chili flakes. Top with sesame seeds. 

Make it vegan. Omit the chicken and use tofu or roasted chickpeas instead. 

No avocado oil. Use extra virgin olive oil instead.

Meal prep. Save time by slicing the veggies ahead of time and cooking the chicken. 

No coconut aminos. Use tamari or soy sauce instead.


Let me explain why this meal is medicinal and how it will function within the body

  • A healthy dose of protein from the (preferably organic) chicken thigh will help to balance blood sugar.  Symptoms of PCOS are the result of insulin and inflammation disrupting your cells. The insulin resistance is what drives increased weight gain and the ovaries to produce testosterone.
  • The raw carrots provide the correct type of fibre that binds to old hormones and will carry it out of the body, promoting daily bowel movements.
  • Radishes are antibacterial, anti-fungal, and diuretic. They are rich in Vitamin C, folate, and anthocyanins. These are excellent for killing candida, opening the liver’s phase 2 detox pathway, and providing enzymes that will help digest & metabolize the chicken.
  • The ginger warms the meal to ensure proper blood flow, since the blood is responsible for carrying hormones to where they need to go. It’s important to include foods that promote healthy blood circulation.
  • The lime juice also stimulates liver detoxification to excrete old hormones from the body such as testosterone and estrogen.
  • The thyme is antibacterial and antiviral it can kill any unproductive bacteria in the gut that may be blocking nutrient absorption. Optimal nutrient absorption is vital for hormone balance because the body needs to actually access the nutrients from food in order to produce the necessary hormones.
  • This meal tastes delicious and will provide a sense of nourishment and contentment!

For more information book a free 15 minute phone consultation today.

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