Categories > Women’s Health

The Research On Acupuncture For IVF

Acupuncture has become a commonly sought out resource for people going through IVF fertility treatment.

When you see a Traditional Chinese Medicine Practitioner for fertility support, they take more into account than just your reproductive organs. Your practitioner looks at your whole body and how the interconnected systems may be out of balance to support your entire body and self. Treatments are specific to each person’s needs.

Whole system Traditional Chinese Medicine (WS-TCM) can include acupuncture, Chinese herbal medicine, dietary support, advice on supplementation with nutraceuticals, and lifestyle support. 

Whole System Chinese Medicine Acupuncture and IVF Research

In a 2015 retrospective cohort study published in Reproductive Biomedicine Online, 1231 IVF patient records were reviewed to assess the effects of adjuvant WS-TCM on IVF outcomes compared among three groups:

  1. people who had Whole Systems TCM treatment with IVF (WS-TCM group)
  2. people who had 1 acupuncture treatment on the day of embryo transfer with IVF (acu-group)
  3. people who had no additional treatment with IVF (usual care group)

Among 1069 non-donor cycles reviewed, the WS-TCM group was associated with greater odds of live birth (61.3%) compared with the acu-group (50.8%) and the usual care group (48.2%).

There was also a lower rate of spontaneous miscarriages in the WS-TCM group compared with the other 2 groups. However there was no significant difference between the three groups in terms of biochemical or ectopic pregnancies.

Among 162 donor cycles, WS-TCM was associated with increased live births at 85.7%, compared with 59% in the acu-group and 62.5% in the usual care group.

This study shows a correlation between an increased number of acupuncture treatments (11-12 treatments) and greater odds of live birth. This suggests that a combined approach of WS-TCM treatment before starting IVF with the two treatments on the day of embryo transfer acupuncture may be an optimal intervention to improve IVF birth outcomes in addition to stress reduction.

Increased Acupuncture Dose Improves Effectiveness

Other studies also suggest that an increased acupuncture dose is consistent with the effectiveness of improved fertility outcomes: 

  • A 1996 study demonstrated that Uterine blood flow was improved with eight electro-acupuncture sessions (2). 

  • A 2009 prospective clinical trial consisting of 9 electro-acupuncture sessions plus embryo transfer day acupuncture were correlated with an increase in serum cortisol and prolactin and improved IVF outcomes (3). 

  • A 2011 Randomized Controlled Trial that consisted of 14 sessions of low-frequency electro-acupuncture significantly reduced androgens and improved menstrual frequency over physical exercise or no treatment in women with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). (4)

  • A 2013 Randomized Controlled Trial shows positively induced ovulation in people with polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) with 24 visits over 3 months. (5) 

Acupuncture On Embryo Transfer Day

I would be remiss not to mention that in 2014 there was one randomized control trial finding live births were lower in the IVF plus acupuncture group compared with the control group that had IVF with no other intervention (8). 

Researchers suspect that the location of treatment offsite from the IVF centre may have contributed to this finding.

Furthermore, initial randomized controlled trials published in 2002 and 2006 found that acupuncture improved IVF pregnancy rates compared to IVF alone (9, 10). 

The 2002 study found that having 1 acupuncture treatment before embryo transfer and one acupuncture treatment after embryo transfer was associated with 42.5% pregnancies, whereas pregnancy rates in the control group (no acupuncture) only had a 26.3% pregnancy rate (9).

The 2006 study compared 3 groups (10):
1. people who received acupuncture on the day of embryo transfer (ACU 1 group)
2. people who received acupuncture on the day of embryo transfer and again two days later (ACU 2 group)
3. people who received no acupuncture (control group)

Clinical pregnancy rates were 13% and 10% higher in the ACU 1 and ACU 2 groups respectively compared to the control group (10). 

It’s also consistent with the previously mentioned studies cited above (1,2,3,4,5), that only having acupuncture surrounding the embryo transfer is not as effective in increasing live birth outcomes when compared to increased dose of acupuncture treatments.

Acupuncture For Fertility Stress

Receiving acupuncture not only helps IVF outcomes but it has also been associated to help reduce stress and anxiety in patients undergoing IVF. This stress reduction was demonstrated in two randomized control trials published in 2009 and 2012 (6,7). Both studies showed that acupuncture on or around day of embryo transfer does significantly reduce stress in IVF patients. 

In Conclusion

In conclusion, there is evidence that having acupuncture surrounding an IVF cycle is beneficial but having a whole system Chinese medicine approach starting prior to an IVF cycle is more effective and associated with greater chances of achieving a pregnancy and live birth. 

For more information on how we can support your fertility journey, feel free to contact us for a free 15-minute Q & A consultation.

References

  1. PMID: 25911598 
  2. PMID: 8671446 
  3. PMID: 19118825 
  4. PMID: 20943753
  5. PMID: 23482444 
  6. PMID: 18314118 
  7. PMID: 22499825  
  8. PMID: 24937975 
  9. PMID: 11937123 
  10. PMID: 16600232 

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

Support for Lining Thickness

I have been seeing a number of patients in the clinic recently that have had issues in the past with their Frozen Embryo Transfer (FET) because their uterine (endometrial) lining has not been thick enough for embryo implantation. The optimal uterine lining is at least 8 mm in thickness and has a three-layer (trilaminar) appearance. 

To help support the growth of your endometrial lining, I tend to advise on supplements, diet, acupuncture treatments, and of course following the advice of your Reproductive Endocrinologist (RE). Your RE follows a protocol that they deem will yield the highest success and therefore it is important to trust and follow their advice. 

Supplements and Medication 

When it comes to medications and supplements to help support the growth of the endometrium, I tend to site a pilot study that was published in the Journal of Fertility and Sterility (1). This study compares Vitamin E, L-Arginine, and Sildenafil Citrate (Viagra) in 61 women with thin endometrial lining (less than 8mm) and a high radial artery-resistance index (RA-RI) . Radial artery-resistance is associated with lower pregnancy outcomes. 

The study found that vitamin E improved endometrial thickness in 52% and RA-RI in 72% of participants. L-arginine improved endometrial thickness in 67% and RA-RI in 89% of participants. Sildenafil citrate (Viagra) improved thickness and RA-RI in 92% of participants. The control group (no medication) improved in both parameters in 10% of participants.  

It is important to speak to a practitioner about dosages of Vitamin E and L-arginine. If Sildenafil citrate is something that you wanted to explore you would have to talk to your RE about this, because they would need to write a prescription. 

Diet

I know it might seem like a no-brainer to eat a healthy and balanced diet to help with good blood flow and overall health, but did you know that Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) also places importance on eating warm foods?

This includes eating foods that are cooked and not raw. The thought behind this is that a warming diet builds the body’s energy and blood to have the strength to conceive and carry a pregnancy full term. It also helps focus energy and blood circulation on the lower abdomen where reproductive organs reside.

With this in mind, I suggest making a big batch of bone broth and drinking 1 cup of this warm liquid every day for 2-4 weeks leading up to your transfer. Bone broth is high in nutrients, minerals, and collagen that can support the body on a blood level.

Another suggestion that is completely anecdotal but also yummy is drinking 1 cup of pure pomegranate juice per day for 2-4 weeks.  

Acupuncture

Acupuncture has the potential to support the uterine lining because it increases blood flow to the reproductive organs, and it can help to reduce central sympathetic tone and this may lower uterine contractions at the time of embryo transfer. When the uterus is calmer at the time of embryo transfer this has the possibility of a better embryo placement. 

A small study done on central sympathetic tone showed that electroacupuncture did reduce the pulsatility index of those who had greater than 3 (2). Having a pulsatility index of 3 or higher at the time of transfer tends to have a less likely chance of a live birth (3). 

Another small pilot study published in Fertility and Sterility evaluating combining electro acupuncture and Sildenafil on the endometrial lining thickness showed positive results (4). This study provided evidence that combining these two treatments resulted in endometrial lining thickness of greater than 9 mm in all participants who could not reach greater than 8 mm in previous cycles and these positive results included one patient whose lining did not exceed 5 mm previously.

Contact us to find out more about how we can support you with acupuncture and lifestyle support for uterine lining assistance and/or to book an appointment with our wonderful practitioners!

Image http://basiabanda.pl/

References

  1. PMID: 19200982
  2. PMID: 8671446
  3. PMID: 9363232
  4. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.fertnstert.2007.01.203

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

Massage Therapy For Stress & Headaches

Did you know that massage therapy is about so much more than relaxing muscles?

How Massage Therapy Works

Massage activates arterial and venous blood flow in the lymphatic system and in the connective tissue and muscles.

It also increases circulation and helps to correct postural stress from long periods of sitting. This can be especially important and beneficial for those who have sedentary desk jobs. 

A registered massage therapist works on these systems and the nervous system, to relieve sore and tight muscles from over-stimulated nerve pathways between muscle fibres and the brain.

We all intuitively know that human touch is therapeutic, here is a little research to support this:

Massage Therapy Decreases Stress

Research published in the International Journal of Neuroscience shows that massage therapy leads to decreased cortisol and increased serotonin & dopamine levels.

Basically, massage therapy leads to the biochemical signature for decreased stress and increased relaxation in the body.

Massage Therapy For Headaches.

The American Journal of Public Health published a study suggesting that muscle-specific massage therapy techniques significantly reduced headache frequency while the duration of headaches tended to decrease during the massage treatment period as well. 

Massage therapy is a functional, non-pharmacological intervention for reducing the incidence of chronic tension headache.

Contact us to find out more about how we can support you with massage therapy and/or to book an appointment with our wonderful registered massage therapist!

References:

Image: @lindbloomfloral

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.

December Menstrual Product Drive: Taking a Stand Against Period Poverty

Whole Family Health is proud to support No Period Without, a local non-profit organization founded in 2017 that advocates to end period poverty in Edmonton.

We are partnering with No Period Without for the month of December, as their drop-off location for menstrual product donations.

Throughout the month of December, we are welcoming donations of the following unused and unopened products:

  • Tampons
  • Maxi Pads
  • Panty liners
  • Menstrual treatment products

Any kind, size or brand appreciated

Donations will be collected by No Period Without and distributed to other Edmonton charitable organizations in need.

** For every menstrual product donation, your name can be entered into a free draw for a Whole Family Health Gift Certificate redeemable for one acupuncture session.

What is Period Poverty

There is a negative stigma when having discussions surrounding periods.

Have you ever felt self-conscious of your period, or fear it leaking through? Have you grown up hearing that periods are gross? Have you felt embarrassed when you asked someone for supplies because it came up unexpectedly?

Throughout history, misinformation has spread regarding periods. While hygiene may be part of these concerns, stigma can cause people to feel ashamed for experiencing this natural bodily process.

Stigma and misinformation can also lead to serious threat, especially to financially or emotionally vulnerable individuals. Imagine not having access to a supply of menstrual products – this is period poverty.

Every day there are people who have no choice but to resort to using makeshift pads and tampons or prolonging their use of period products – all leading to risk of infection that can even be fatal.

According to a 2018 Plan Canada study, an alarming 63% of menstruating people felt the need to conceal their menstrual products in public. the same survey also revealed that over half of menstruators (55%) have missed work, school, or have declined social activities due to their period.

It’s time to break this stigma, half the population endures monthly periods, and we need to spread awareness to educate, ease anxieties, and take steps to end period poverty.

Menstrual products are a necessity

The price of menstrual products is high and unattainable for many. In 2019, United Way Period Promise estimated the annual cost per person for menstrual products is $70, the cost increasing with decreased accessibility.

I believe menstrual products are a necessity, not a consumer good and need to be equally accessible, regardless of income. No one should be in a position where they must compromise their health on a monthly basis.

Although Homeward Trust (a non-profit organization committed to ending homelessness in Edmonton), noted a steady decrease in homelessness since 2007, there has been a steep increase since the pandemic. Since the beginning of the pandemic, there has been an increase from the estimated ~1,500 homeless people in April of 2019 to ~2,800 in 2021 – that’s an increase of 86%.

Homeward Trust estimates that approximately 44% of this current homeless population potentially experiences menstruation. There are over a thousand impoverished menstruating people in our city that likely have unmet monthly sanitary needs.

As we move into the cold of winter, homeless shelters expect a busy season. A 2021 United Way Period Promise research study has shown that 95% of community organizations are asked if they provide free menstrual products.

The shelters need resources, and there is a particular need for an often-overlooked item: menstrual products. 

Progress in the community

Despite the increase in homelessness in our city, city administration has taken several steps over the years to reduce period poverty. Some of these actions include:

How can you support the Period Poverty movement?

Please stop by the clinic with your menstrual product donations, which will be collected by No Period Without and distributed to other Edmonton charitable organizations in need.

For every menstrual donation, your name will be entered into a free draw for a Whole Family Health Gift Certificate redeemable for one acupuncture session.

We are grateful for your support!

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

Pregnancy Loss Awareness Month: Grief & Ritual

Guestpost for Olive Fertility

October is Pregnancy Loss Awareness Month & studies show that this kind of reproductive trauma can lead to complex grief.

Miscarriage & stillbirth stigma can contribute to a lack of cultural infrastructure to navigate it. In my own experience of pregnancy losses, I had to learn a kind of grief literacy to face the loss.

On my first trip to Vietnam, I met my mother’s family for the 1st time & it was the anniversary of my Ba Ngoai’s (grandma’s) passing. We acknowledged this with ceremony & ritual – a container for expression of all the feelings: sadness, frustration, anger, love, gratitude, peace & even joy & happiness.

We chanted & ate & burned things & I had the privilege of standing in the doorway of our home with a beautiful bamboo cage full of tiny birds from the market & I released them all into the sky. So moving! One of the village monks explained to me that this symbolized setting the heaviness of our hearts aflight to help release my grandma from the weight of our grief.

For me, ritual offers a sense of control through otherwise disorienting life events. They create an opportunity to acknowledge & pay attention to what is arising in a transformational time. It is an opportunity to begin anew.

When I had my miscarriages, creating my own rituals offered a framework for being present with grieving & to discover what else was available to me. It didn’t make the pain go away, but it helped me to give it its own proper space.

Ritual also helped me to discover how sadness, disappointment & anger gave me the capacity to feel peace, hope & gratitude. Sometimes the whole spectrum all at the same time.

Here is a ritual that may help you in your grieving process:

  1. Write a message to the baby you lost on a piece of paper & then fold it into a paper boat.
  2. Light the top of the boat aflame & set it adrift on a lake or river.
  3. As best as you can, bring kind & open awareness to the sensations in your body, thoughts & emotions as you do this. What do you notice? Intentionally turning toward what comes up may allow you to recognize more possibilities in each moment.

For more info on Mindfulness & upcoming Mindfulness for Fertility programs go to www.mindfulnessforfertility.com

Image @susanna_bauer

Online 3-week MBSR Refresher Program

Event Description

Revitalizing the Practice: Connecting to the Heart of Experience

For MBSR Graduates

Join us for this 3-week MBSR refresher program with Mindfulness Instructors, Hannah Marsh and Dr. Alda Ngo, who are both trained MBSR Facilitators with the Centre for Mindfulness Studies.

Anyone who has completed an 8-week Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program is invited to join us!

This 3-week online program is intended to refresh and support your mindfulness practice. Together, we’ll revisit practices and themes from the MBSR program, including “As long as you’re breathing, there’s more right with you than wrong with you.” We’ll also introduce new practices focused on supporting ourselves amidst the challenges of practice.

Whether your practice has continued steadily or fallen away, the invitation is to begin again. Everyone is invited to come together to offer one another the support and encouragement of our presence.

Through it all, we’ll remember the “heart” in mindfulness – how heartfulness and mindfulness are one and the same. We may discover that heartful practices, like self-compassion and loving-kindness can nurture and support our mindfulness and well-being.

By the end of the program, we hope to leave you with a revitalized practice, and some new tools to help you flourish in your mindfulness practice and your daily life.

This will be a highly interactive web-based program using Zoom.


WHEN

Mondays, November 15, 22, 29
7:00-9:00pm MT


COST

Sliding scale:
$75
 + GST (partial scholarship)
$125 +GST (sustainable fee)
$175 + GST (helps to support others requiring scholarships)

*Please pay more, if you can, to help support those less able to pay.

Accessibility is important to us, scholarships are also available to those for whom cost is a barrier. All are welcome and no one will be turned away due to financial concernsPlease contact us for more information (alda@wholefamilyhealth.ca).

Registration deadline: Nov 12th

Register Here

Cancellations received prior to the registration deadline will be refunded minus a $40 processing fee. No refunds will be issued after that date.

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