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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

World Kindness Day

2020 has been a tough year and at times, it has probably been hard to remember to be kind to one another. Maybe because we’ve been in a constant state of uncertainty, living in survival mode and feeling like there is an impending doom looming in the air. At least that’s how it has felt for me and I am pretty sure I’m not alone.

Even though it is not the happiest of times in our world, I do think that it is especially important during these tough times to make an extra effort to be kind to others and ourselves. Having a day dedicated to kindness feels so right. So, what exactly is World Kindness Day? 

What is World Kindness Day?

“World Kindness Day is a global day that promotes the importance of being kind to each other, to yourself, and to the world. This day, celebrated on November 13 of each year, has the purpose of helping everyone understand that compassion for others is what binds us all together. This understanding has the power to bridge the gap between nations.” (1)

World Kindness day reminds me to reflect on how I have been shown Kindness.  Here are personal experiences that warm my heart and inspire me to be kind:

Big Acts Of Kindness: 

6 years ago, I was going through a separation with my ex-husband. As anyone can imagine, separation is hard enough on its own, but I was also unsure as to where I was going to live.

I felt scared and alone, because I was not as financially stable at that point to live on my own. 

My dearest friend who was not even living in the same city as me, knew my situation and reached out to someone she knew to see if they could possibly help me out. I only knew this person as an acquaintance at the time, but after meeting her and sharing my story, she generously offered for me to rent a room in her house. Despite having only met a handful of times before, she was taking a chance in sharing her home with me, and demonstrated such kind compassion toward me. 

Without these acts of kindness from my friend and this generous woman, I may have had to face a less than ideal or even unsafe living situation. Instead, I gained a new true friend, who is now more like family to me.

I am so grateful for their kindness toward me. I truly believe that these acts of kindness created a ripple effect. Not only did they help me to survive, but they also helped me to thrive. I was able to get back on my feet and I now own my own home and I am co-owner of a beautiful business too. 

Small Acts Of Kindness:

Acts of kindness do not always have to be grandiose to be impactful. At the clinic, we do small things like bring one another treats and we make sure we all have a safe way home. We cover one another’s shifts and offer one another treatments when anyone is unwell.

We care for each other’s safety and wellbeing and these small acts of kindness go a long way. Kindness is contagious and even the smallest act of kindness nourishes us and inspires kindness in others. It has a ripple effect.

What are things you can do to inspire Kindness?

  • Wear a mask in public as it protects others around you.
  • Think back to times when people have shown you kindness and remember the feelings that occurred when those situations happened. Consider journaling it.
  • If you see garbage on the ground pick it up.
  • Leave a generous tip to a server.
  • Write a nice note for a co-worker. Send them an email, or place a sticky note on their desk/computer.
  • Text someone, letting them know how great they are and what you appreciate about them.
  • Compliment and express gratitude to a couple of people you talk to.
  • Assist someone in need.
  • Volunteer your time to a non-profit.
  • Take time to do something for yourself or go to a spot you enjoy.
  • Praise a local business online for their good work, giving them a good review.
  • Shop at local businesses and eat at local restaurants.
  • Conserve energy. Try adjusting your thermostat down by 1 degree, hanging your clothes to dry in summer months, walking or riding your bike, or eating vegetarian meals 1-2x/week.
  • Reduce paper usage. Try switching to online bills and reusing wrapping paper or making your own.
  • Use reusable containers like a water bottle or reusable shopping bag.
  • Let someone into a lane they need while on the road.
  • Call someone to hear about their day and to let them know you care.

References:

1.https://inspirekindness.com/world-kindness

Photo: www.thegoodtrade.com ; IG @thegoodtrade

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

photo: www.carlacascales.com
IG @carla_cascales_alimbau

PCOS and Mental Health

If you are new to learning about Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, welcome. PCOS is the most frequent endocrinological disorder affecting people of reproductive age (1).

You may have read our previous blogs explaining what PCOS is, but you may not know that it can affect depression, anxiety and stress. In fact, studies report an overall higher prevalence of depression, perceived stress and anxiety in people with PCOS compared to people without (2).

You may be reading this if you have PCOS and saying to yourself, “why did my doctor never bring this up?!” Unfortunately, it’s still something that is not discussed as often as it should be. Let’s change this!

PCOS and Depression

Why does there seem to be higher rates of depression in those with PCOS?

Currently, there are still only theories to hypothesize what might be the cause of this correlation. People with PCOS have hormonal imbalances and this could contribute to the cause.

It is very common in people with PCOS to be insulin resistant. This basically results in their pancreas working overtime and their bloodstream having higher levels of insulin. There is still much more research needed in this area, however there is growing evidence that insulin resistance and depression could be correlated (3). 

Several other factors could also play a role, such as our societal “norms”. People with PCOS have excess androgens which can cause excess facial hair, body hair, and thinning of head hair. This can cause embarrassment and self esteem issues and further impact the depression, stress and anxiety experienced.

Further tests have shown that people with PCOS show increased salivary amylase and cortisol levels; indicating overall higher stress markers in their systems (1). These higher stress markers were found to have a significant affect on a patient’s BMI as well (1).

There seems to be multiple possible causes of the link between PCOS and stress, depression and anxiety. The more we discuss these important aspects of the disease, the more awareness and hopefully research will be done.

PCOS Mental Health Support

What can we do to combat the effects of stress, anxiety and depression with PCOS?

Well, we can do a few things. Stress reduction is crucial to getting our bodies healthy.

Acupuncture

I suggest starting with a regular Acupuncture routine. Acupuncture influences your Parasympathetic system; it allows your body to flow into a state of rest. This is oh-SO-important when PCOS is causing the body to constantly fire higher levels of cortisol and thus kick us into that Flight or Fight response.

But don’t just take my word for it. There have been studies done to show the positive effects Acupuncture has on women with PCOS in regards to their depression and anxiety (4). 

Mindfulness Meditation

Having the ability to set aside time for yourself and help find solutions to treating your PCOS is empowering! Along with Acupuncture, Mindfulness is another amazing tool to add to your tool box of stress butt-kicking techniques.

Our own Dr. Alda Ngo is offering an Online 8-week Mindfulness course that teaches you Mindfulness Meditation training. Check out this link for our Guided Mindfulness class.

Empowerment

The way I like to approach treatment of conditions such as PCOS is to access more resources. The more resources you are able to have, the better equipped you are for empowering yourself and treating your PCOS in the best way that you possibly can.

You may be experiencing higher stress, depression and anxiety as a result of your PCOS, but that doesn’t mean you have to suffer silently. There are several tools we can add to get you feeling healthy and empowered!

To see how we can support you, contact us to book a free 15-minute phone consultation.

References:

  1. DOI: 10.4103/jhrs.JHRS_78_17
  2. PMID: 30131078
  3. PMID: 29908775
  4. PMID: 23763822

Photo: Aline + Celia
www.sacreefrangine.com

Mindfulness and the Mind’s Cycle of Stress

The Downward Spiral

Mindfulness is not a linear process. It’s not about getting anywhere or achieving a particular outcome. It’s a process, which some describe as a spiral. 

On autopilot, we tend to spiral downward into a self-perpetuating cycle of reactivity that goes something like this:

We encounter some event or stimulus, and it has a feeling tone: it’s either pleasant, unpleasant or neutral

If it’s neutral, the tendency is to dismiss or ignore it, but if it’s a strong feeling tone, it hijacks our attention and the mind fixates on it – giving rise to thoughts and emotions about it.

If it’s pleasant, the tendency is to try to hang on to it, while if it’s unpleasant, we tend to push it away or try to make it stop.

If we react un-skillfully, we may get temporary relief, but in the long term we develop maladaptive coping strategies and our resilience to discomfort dwindles. 

This self-perpetuating cycle can lead to chronic stress, depression and anxiety.

The Upwards Spiral

However, with Mindfulness, this downward spiral pattern can be disrupted. 

When we’re not in autopilot we can begin to spiral upward instead:

We encounter some event or stimulus and we are more awake, open and receptive to the internal and external experience of it.

As a result, we are more aware of strong feeling tones as they arise. With increased awareness, we are able to bring in attitudes of mindfulness (like a beginner’s mind, patience, kindness, etc.) which help prevent us from being hi-jacked.

There is room for choice as to where and how to place our attention and we understand that we are not our experiences.

This understanding creates space to observe experience objectively and to make choices about how to respond with more intention and skillfulness. 

Facebook Live Event

Tune in to our Facebook Page on Monday, Sept 14th at 7pm MT

Join Dr. Alda Ngo, Registered Doctor of Chinese Medicine and Acupuncturist and Mindfulness Instructor to explore how to stop the downward spiral of the mind’s self-perpetuating cycle of stress.

photo: Angela Glajcar

Mindfulness for Fertility: Fall Online Program

Mindfulness has many proven benefits for those struggling with fertility issues.

It has been shown to reduce the emotional burden of fertility treatments, increase resilience and wellness while decreasing anxiety and depression.

The MBSR (Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction) Program is the most well established and scientifically tested mindfulness program.

Join Dr Alda Ngo and Stephanie Curran for this 8 week Online MBSR for Fertility Program.

They have over 35 years combined clinical experience supporting fertility patients and they have both had their own experiences struggling to grow their own families.

When:

Mandatory Orientation: Mon, Sept 28 (6-730PM PT | 7-830 MT)
Weekly classes: Mondays, Oct 5 – Nov 23 (6-830PM PT | 7-930 MT)
Day of Mindfulness Retreat: Sun, Nov 8 (9AM-3PM PT | 10AM-4PM MT)

Cost:

By Donation
(during these uncertain times and with many experiencing significant financial strain)

To register: www.mindfulnessforfertility.com

Prenatal YogacuPressure

When

Sundays
11:00am – 12:00pm

May 3 – June 7

Who

Instructor: Sarah Kent
BA. Psychology
Certified Yoga Teacher

Why

Studies show that yoga postures and acupuncture points help to decrease pregnancy pain and benefit pregnancy, labour and birth outcomes.

Join us for this special on-line 6 week series of Yoga and Acupressure to support mom’s changing body throughout pregnancy and to help prepare the body for labor.

This practice will focus on:

  • strengthening and energizing
  • relief of pregnancy pain
  • increasing flexibility
  • breathing & relaxation techniques
  • creating a calm environment for you & your growing baby

This class welcomes all stages of pregnancy and all levels of yogis, including beginners.

Registration

6 Classes: $120
drop-in: $25

Register on-line
A secure link will be sent to you upon registration.

Canadian Infertility Awareness Week | Free Events

April 19-25
2020 theme | We See You

We know that many of your fertility treatments have been put on hold.

We want to help you transform it into an opportunity to continue to optimize your overall health and fertility.

Throughout the week, we will offer free resources on our Social Media to support you through this uncertain time.

You can keep nourishing the soil before planting that seed.

You and your body will be ready when your treatments can resume.  

FREE Facebook Live Events Schedule


Monday, April 20th
7pm
MINDFULNESS | NOURISHING LIFE
w/ Dr. Ald
a
Registered Doctor of TCM | Acupuncturist | Mindfulness Instructor
Mindfulness decreases stress, calms the mind & helps you recover a sense of peace. All of which supports hormone balance and nourishes life.

Tuesday, April 21st
7pm

DETOX YOUR HOME & YOUR BODY 
w/ Christina

Registered Acupuncturist | FABORM | Fertility Specialist
Learn simple ways to detox your home & body from harsh chemicals and hormone disruptors.

Wednesday, April 22nd
7pm

YOGA-PRESSURE FOR HORMONE BALANCE
w/ Mykayla

Registered Acupuncturist | Yoga Teacher
Balancing postures & acupressure points to support hormone balance.

Thursday, April 23rd
7pm

ANTI-INFLAMMATORY SUPERFOODS 
w/ Alicia
Holistic Nutritional Consultant
A simple superfood approach to reducing inflammation in the body to support hormone balance. 

Friday, April 24th
7pm

LOVE IN THE TIME OF COVID: CONNECTING WITH YOUR PARTNER 
w/ Sandra MacLean
Registered Clinical Counsellor | Masters in Counselling Psychology | Emotionally Focused Couples Therapist
Join Dr. Alda & Clinical Counsellor, Sandra in their conversation about how to connect with your partner under the extra pressures of home quarantine.
 

Click the links below to watch Live Events on Facebook or the Replays:

Facebook
Instagram
YouTube

 

Yoga

A regular yoga practice offers many health benefits to both the mind and body. Yoga practice provides a refuge from our busy stressful lives.

Physical Benefits:

  • Strength
  • Flexibility
  • Muscle tone
  • Cardiovascular health
  • Circulation
  • Physical endurance
  • Lung capacity
  • Weight reduction
  • Pain and injury prevention
  • Anti-inflammatory

The mental and spiritual aspects are extremely valuable; yoga can help with stress management and calmness. It can help alleviate depression, insomnia and anxiety as well.

We offer both group yoga sessions as well as one-on-one personalized yoga.

Our instructors are additionally trained in fertility and prenatal yoga as well as acupressure as an effective adjunct.

Contact us for more information.

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