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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!

Light Canada Green!

Wednesday, April 27th
830pm

The Whole Family Health Team will be joining the Fertility Matters Canada Lighting Canada Green initiative.

On Wednesday, April 27th, 30+ landmarks across Canada will be lighting GREEN to honour the journeys of the #1in6 Canadians who are faced with infertility struggles and who may need to access fertility care.

In Canada, we wear green to raise fertility awareness, to show our support to the fertility community, and to start important conversations about fertility, pregnancy and infant loss, and family-building.

To mark this momentous occasion (the first time for this in Canada!) we will wear green and meet on April 27th at 8:30pm at Kinsmen park in the football fields east of the high level bridge and adjacent to the kinsmen aquatic centre.

Please join us!

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

No Resolutions? No Problem!

Let me first start off by saying I have nothing against the culture of “New Year, New Me”, but making a list of resolutions can be daunting, unrealistic, and unenjoyable.

If you’re not big into making New Year’s Resolutions that is completely okay. Unfortunately, societal pressures and obligation is what drives a lot of people to become a whole new, fancier, and better self. The big question for me is what is better and how long will it take until you are fully satisfied? Even once we achieve our goals, how long until we fall out of these good habits?

I believe goals and practices can be set at any time, new years is overrated. I used to have this nonsensical rule that I could hold off starting my goal until the beginning of the next week. More often than not, the beginning of the week would roll around and I would lack all motivation and push starting further and further away. Not much was getting accomplished, and I was feeling bad for procrastinating something that would essentially benefit me.

Movement

While I’m not big into listing off numerous long-term goals, I want to reinforce how important movement is to incorporate in your daily life. For myself, and possibly many others, my long term/life-long goal is to improve my mobility to benefit my physical and mental health. Movement is so important to the body as it promotes cardiovascular health, fights back anxiety and depression, and releases endorphins.

Back in November, every morning my muscles felt tense and stiff, as if I did an intense workout the night before. Except I hadn’t – I had barely moved.

Since the pandemic, I had become more sedentary than ever. I knew I had to start moving more. But I wanted it to be fun and not painful. Also, it was in the middle of a week in November, no official way to start a daily practice. I truly did debate just holding it off until the New Year, but that made no sense. I was feeling so stagnant and fatigued.  

I started practicing some basic yoga I had remembered from previous yoga classes I took. It felt so refreshing to start moving again, the practice only took around 20 minutes and the next morning I was stiff, but in the areas I had stretched. This wasn’t the same groggy stiffness I was used to either, it felt like the muscles were finally being used again.

Because it felt so good and it put me in a relaxed mood afterwards, I made a conscious effort to be kind to myself and avoid discouraging myself. Moving everyday started becoming a daily practice, some days would last an hour and others 10 minutes. But I gave myself patience and the space to grow. 

Online Resources

I am so grateful for the vast content you can find online. While the internet’s endless content can be a blessing and a curse, I chose to really utilize all the free, low barrier entry ways to experiment with personal growth.

Putting on yoga videos and guided meditations have become a fun daily ritual I’ve adopted. There’s an endless stream of really awesome daily full body workouts (without equipment), Tai Chi lessons, and Qi Gong (breath-work) practices that are just clicks away.

Don’t forget to modify those videos to your speed (practice 10 minutes a day first and then increase when you’re ready), you don’t have to start on hard mode. You just need to begin! 

Baby Steps

I recommend baby steps. Take your goal day by day.

Start by making small adjustments and if those are working out for you and you’re happy, then you can move forward with what’s comfortable. It’s okay to respect your limitations and give yourself room to grow. You don’t have to race or push yourself to the extreme. It’s totally okay to have off days, but just remember that doesn’t mean you failed or gave up. 

Habit Forming

Consistency will help it get easier and ease it into your daily lifestyle. A study published in the European Journal of Social Psychology (2009) found that it takes a person 18-254 days to develop a new habit, and around 66 days for a new behaviour to become automatic.

Everyone’s journey is unique, and it doesn’t have to be linear. But once that habit is set, it becomes a daily ritual you’ll miss when you can’t practice it. Set those positive daily intentions and affirmations in the morning to help motivate you. It’s okay to be your own cheerleader. You’ve got this!

To find out more ways to support your health and wellbeing, contact us for a free 15-minute phone consultation.

Image @aolanow

References

DOI: 10.1002/ejsp.674

Year Of The Water Tiger

Growing up, the Lunar New Year was the biggest holiday for my Vietnamese – Canadian family.

I continue to love that it’s about beginning anew & taking the opportunity to intentionally invite blessings of health, growth, abundance & prosperity. I appreciate the mindful reminder to invite new possibilities.

I find joy in these Lunar New Year traditions & I have come to love them. May you use also use them as a framework for being present with intentions as the new year begins:

DANCING

The lunar new year is traditionally marked with a lion dance – complete with loud drums & fire crackers, which are meant to ward off bad luck & clear negative energy. I like to have my own little ‘lion’ dance party, complete with my own favourite raucous music. Dancing with reckless abandon is one of my favourite ways to release tension from the body.

FRESH THREADS

Traditionally, we start the new year fresh with a new outfit. Typically, we choose something red – symbolizing ripeness, abundance, happiness & good luck.

SPRING CLEANING

On the eve of the lunar new year, we clean our homes – sweeping out bad luck & stale energies that have accumulated from the previous year that can hide in nooks & crannies. We clear out old cobwebs to make space for good luck as well as new & fresh possibilities. We also wash & repair windows so that we may see with clarity.  

SPECIAL LUNAR NEW YEAR FOODS

We ring in the new year with these special & symbolic foods:

  • Whole fish, which symbolizes a harmonious & whole family, as well as unity for the coming new year.

  • Clear broth to symbolize clarity of mind & body for the new year.

  • Oranges, with their round shape & golden colour symbolizing good luck & abundance.

  • Long noodles representing longevity.

COMMUNITY

Lunar new year is a time for reunion with family & friends, to begin the year in community, collectively expressing our happiness & gratitude.

THE WATER TIGER

2022 is the year of the Water Tiger. It’s considered an auspicious year of strength & courage. Water Tigers are known for their intelligence, humour, stability, kindness & sociability.

May the year of the Water Tiger begin beautifully for you!

Stress-Free Clinic for Frontline Healthcare & Support Workers

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

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

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

See registration details below.

ABOUT THE EVENT:

WHO

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

WHAT

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

1. Acupuncture

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

2. Mindfulness

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

WHEN

Sunday, December 19th
945am – 1pm

WHERE

Whole Family Health Wellness Centre

COST

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

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

WHY

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

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

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

We want to treat you to some moments of reprieve!

Healthcare burnout facts

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

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

Movember: Mental Health & Erectile Dysfunction

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

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

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

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

Treatment Options 

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

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

Counselling 

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

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

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

Acupuncture

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

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

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

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

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

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

Partner Support

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

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

Research

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

Acupuncture & Stress : How Does It Work?

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

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

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

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

HRV

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

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

Endorphins


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

Neuropeptide Y (NPY)

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

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

Researchers found that acupuncture significantly reduces NPY.

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

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

There were four groups of rats used:

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

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

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

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

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

Sign up for our newsletter to get updates about our upcoming Free Stress Clinic.

References

PMID: 33512256

PMID: 15135942

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