Misconceptions of Preconception

Photo by {artist}/{collectionName} / Getty Images

Photo by {artist}/{collectionName} / Getty Images

By Leigh Lewis ND, L.Ac, Naturopathic Doctor

Are you hoping for pregnancy in 2018?  If so, keep reading for information that may help you reach you goals.  You may be surprised to learn that the conception rate for any one act of intercourse at the right time of the month, when the stars are aligned and without any fertility issues, is only about 25%.  Yet, even knowing this, many couples expect to be able to conceive easily without much forethought or planning.  This may be in part because we, especially as women, have spent most of our lives trying NOT to get pregnant.  As such, it is not surprising that many couples are blindsided if they are not pregnant within the first several months of trying.   However, there are a few simple things you can do to increases your chance for a timely & healthy pregnancy.
 

Preparation is Key:  General Recommendations for All

Prenatal lifestyle & supplements: As with many goals in life, the path to a successful conception and a healthy pregnancy is planning.  Lifestyle factors, including cigarette, alcohol & caffeine consumption, and marijuana and other recreational or prescription drug use in either partner can increase time to conception and increase risk of miscarriage & chronic health issues in children.  Current research suggests that even if you have very regular and normal cycles starting a prenatal vitamin with adequate methylfolate several months prior to intended conception has numerous benefits in decreasing the risk of nutritional deficiencies, decreasing time to conception, preventing birth defects and decreasing risk of miscarriage as well as decreasing the risk of future autism spectrum disorders and other learning disabilities.  While a prenatal helps correct nutritional deficiencies, some women may need additional vitamin D, B12 and iron depending on lab levels.  These nutrients, if low, can interfere with one’s ability to get and maintain a healthy pregnancy.  The  omega 3 fatty acid derived from fish oil, DHA, has been found to benefit brain development and should also be part of the pre-conception plan.  Finally, finding prenatal supplements that are well-tolerated prior to pregnancy can help avoid problems with consistency if nausea and vomiting are an issue early in pregnancy.  A well-rounded multivitamin and mineral can also improve many aspects of sperm health when taken for at least 3 months prior to planned conception.  First pregnancy and want to improve chances?  Be sure to seek help on tracking ovulation and cycle via basal body temps or apps combined with timing intercourse (see resources below).
 

Pre-conception weight: Another recommendation that can decrease time to conception and increase probability of a healthy pregnancy is a normal weight.  Being overweight or underweight can interfere with fertility by decreasing ovulatory cycles.  Being overweight can also predispose to gestational diabetes and hypertension that can increase the risk of both conditions for mother and baby later in life.  Normal weight has also been found to improve the success of fertility treatments like IVF.  In short, it stands to reason that taking 3-6 months to address any weight issues can go a long way to improving health parameters for both mother and baby.  Special diets or intense exercise can also cause some deficiencies that can be ruled-out with simple blood tests.
 

Contraception: It should be noted that it may take up to 12 months to re-establish normal ovulation and cycles after discontinuing hormonal contraception.  That said, some women may be able to conceive the month after stopping contraception.  The best course of action is to stop any hormonal contraception a year prior to intended conception, using non-hormonal forms (i.e. condoms) until conception is desired, to allow the body to re-set.  This would also be a good time for both partners to start their respective supplements mentioned above.  For those that are trying to avoid or delay pregnancy, remember prevention is the best medicine…there are several safe and effective forms of contraception to choose from.  Finally, a word about lactation:  While breastfeeding can help to space babies, it is not fool-proof and many women will return to fertility while breastfeeding, some even before regular menstruation resumes.  For some women however, even breastfeeding infrequently can delay another conception. Please keep this in mind whether hoping for a pregnancy or to prevent one.

For those with fertility problems:

According to the CDC, American infertility statistics between 2011-2015 were as follows:

  • 12.1% women aged 15-44 with impaired fertility
  • 7.3 million women aged 15-44 who have ever used infertility services

While as many as 30% of couples never find the cause of their infertility, we do know several possible contributing factors that may play a role:

  • Age: fertility rates within one year decrease & time to conception increases after 30 years of age

30s:  75% chance
At 40:  40% chance
By age 43: 1-2%

  • Underweight, overweight and nutritional deficiencies (see above).
  • Hormonal imbalances: thyroid disorders, endometriosis, polycystic ovarian syndrome, low estrogen and/or progesterone.
  • Stress, anxiety, & depression: evolution may have set us up to delay conception at times of emotional stress
  • Structural issues: blocked tubes from prior infections, uterine fibroids/polyps, adhesions or scarring from endometriosis or previous pelvic surgery
  • Chronic illness such as autoimmune conditions

Infertility is diagnosed as no conception within 12 months of trying if under 35 years and 6 months if over 35 years. It helps to recognize the importance of these definitions as further lab testing, semen analysis, pelvic imaging and consultation may be recommended at this time.  

Couples with any of the above issues should consider when they ideally would like to conceive and give themselves at least 6-12 months to get healthy by following the above general recommendations and seek guidance from a practitioner who specializes in women’s health and fertility to address specific issues in particular.  The same could be said for women in between pregnancies in order to prep selves for a future conception as pregnancy, breastfeeding and caring for a growing family can take a toll on the body and mind.

If ovulatory, menstrual, or hormonal irregularities are suspected, addressing them by ruling out underlying factors is key.  Research shows that acupuncture and specific herbal formulas and supplements may help normalize hormones and cycles, facilitate conception and improve the health and wellbeing during pregnancy and increase the success of conventional fertility treatments.

Fertility issues can be stressful, especially when combined with pre-existing insomnia, depression, or anxiety, and this can interfere with fertility and exacerbate emotional issues; truly a vicious cycle.  However, there are safe ways to address these issues through meditation, yoga, acupuncture, herbs and supplements.  In some cases medications may be the safest option with several studies showing that medications are preferable to “white-knuckling it” through depression and anxiety.

We here at ilumina are here to help you at any stage: from pre-conception and prenatal to postpartum and beyond, we offer diet & lifestyle counseling, mental health support, acupuncture, western & oriental herbs and supplements, massage and medications to address these issues.  Please feel free to contact us today to get started on your pre-conception health & wellness plan.

Resources:
1. Taking Control of Your Fertility
https://www.tcoyf.com
2. RESOLVE: The National Infertility Association
http://www.resolve.org
3. American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM)
http://www.asrm.org
4.  American Board of Oriental Reproductive Medicine (ABORM)
http://www.aborm.org
5. Clue: Menstrual/Fertility Tracker App
https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/id657189652

January is Thyroid Awareness Month

Photo by {artist}/{collectionName} / Getty Images

Photo by {artist}/{collectionName} / Getty Images

This little butterfly shaped gland in your neck has many functions, so when it is malfunctioning the body feels the consequences, as many as 12.5% of Americans suffer with a thyroid disorder, and many people are undiagnosed. Some causes of thyroid disorder include: Autoimmune disease, gluten intolerance, stress, toxins, adrenal fatigue, and iodine deficiency.

The thyroid gland drives the metabolic rate of every single cell in your body, which is 37 trillion cells, so you can imagine symptoms like weight gain, male and women’s infertility, hair loss, depression, and chronic fatigue are some symptoms of a low and hyper functioning thyroid.

At ilumina Healing Sanctuary, we bridge Eastern and Western medicine making it easy to check your thyroid, and get help with any imbalances of your hormones. It’s important to get your thyroid checked regularly. The thyroid plays an important role in getting pregnant and maintaining pregnancy. New research suggests that a slightly underactive thyroid may affect a woman’s ability to become pregnant even when the gland is functioning at the low end of the normal range, according to a study published in the Endocrine Society’s Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism.

Chinese Medicine has come to the rescue, considering a study published in the Journal of Traditional Chinese Medicine, which stated, “Cases of Hashimoto’s thyroiditis and their immune function and thyroid function were observed. It was found that Chinese Medicine was able to reduce the thyroid antibodies in the peripheral blood of the patients with hypothyroidism and to recover their thyroid function”. Treating patients with Chinese Medicine can help lower anti-thyroid antibodies and regulate thyroid function

Check your thyroid frequently, maintain a healthy balanced gluten free diet, manage stress, and regular acupuncture treatments are important to keep the thyroid happy.

It is essential to keep the body balanced. Discussing these concerns with your Chinese Medicine practitioner may help you take control of your thyroid health.

Written by Charlene Hagner L.Ac., Dipl.OM

 

Why (not) Bike Commute?

Oftentimes schedules are so busy it is difficult to get in the recommended daily exercise requirements for general health and weight management.  One way to combat this issue is to bike commute to work, gym, happy hour, acupuncture, or other errands. It is definitely easier than most people think initially and, given that we are blessed with pretty nice commuting weather for about 8 months per year, what’s your excuse for not giving it a try?

First things first: The bike. Finding a bike that fits and is in good working condition is key.  Definitely check out Craigslist for good deals, but be sure to stop by a bike shop to be sure that it fits or can be altered to fit before you buy. Despite the great weather, commuting in AZ can cause difficulties in the form of thorns, rocks, broken glass, construction nails, etc commonly found in the bike lane.  Luckily, there are several ways you can set yourself up for success in your commute.  Choose a mountain bike or a hybrid bike that allows for wider, thicker tires. Any bike shop or REI can help you pick tubes that are thorn-resistant.  Keeping an eye on your tires and/or taking your bike in for annual maintenance/tune-ups are keys to preventive care.  

Currently, my commute is 5.5 miles and takes about 25 minutes each way. I am riding a 1986 Bianchi hybrid bike that was a hand-me-down from my husband.  If you start snooping in the garages of friends and family, I bet you too could come across a hand-me-down bike.

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Next step: The route.  In addition to maps at local bike shops, ADOT has a great website with access to several bike lane maps: http://www.azbikeped.org/maps.asp
Also, Google maps has a “bicycle” icon and it will suggest a route to your destination that is safer for commuting by bike vs. car.  I have found the latter suggestions to be fairly accurate.

Other things that make commuting easier are listed below.  I link to REI because they will install racks, tires, etc on to your bike if you by the items there and they are very helpful and have great sales on gear as well as informative classes on bike maintenance:
A helmet
A comfy seat
A water bottle holder + water bottle
A commuter rack + panniers: allows you to carry things to/from errands, office, yoga without having to get a sweaty back or tight shoulders. https://www.rei.com/learn/expert-advice/bike-bags-racks.html
A lock
A portable pump + possibly tubes
A light to see and be seen
Pedal cages, not a must but they do increase the efficiency of each pedal stroke

Now that you have outfitted the bike, let’s get to you, the rider. There are several companies that make clothes that are perfect for commuting. There’s no reason to wear spandex unless you want to.
Women’s specific bike commuting clothes
ElevenPine shorts: https://www.elevenpine.com/collections/womens/products/women-s-uprising-11p-short
Terry for dresses, jeans and other bike-to-event commuting wear: http://www.terrybicycles.com/Apparel?gclid=Cj0KCQiA0vnQBRDmARIsAEL0M1m9NIrlmOTXOvclWLyoHL602F8FfqBq_uBYaDvwJ6EWBU6UvxcvVIkaAq4QEALw_wcB

Clean up at your destination
Burt’s Bees face/body wipes
Travel sized deodorant
Essential oil face/body spray
Extra underwear

Other tips:
Bike Mechanic classes @ REI & local Bike shops
AAA roadside bike assistance
UBER/LYFT rides, just let the rider know you have a bike to be sure they can/will accommodate, though most that state 6 passengers will be able to get you where you need to go
If you are going to ride more than say 8-10 miles or an hour each way, you may want to invest in a professional bike fit and maybe a class on basic care skills, like changing a tire: Jeff Lockwood at Lifesport@cox.net

If you have any questions about getting started of cycling groups in the area, just ask…most of us at ilumina are cyclists and love to talk bikes!

Why (not) Meditate?

By Dr. Leigh Lewis

This is a question I have been personally struggling with for years, nay, decades. I have long been aware of the research supporting the practice as pertains to health benefits, both mental & physical, and yet there was this wall blocking me from doing it. As a former endurance athlete, I’d spend hours each week running, biking, swimming and lifting, sometimes in the pouring rain and freezing temperatures, but never had the time to meditate for 15 minutes.

Then, when I relocated from Oregon to Arizona, by design, I found myself with more time. Coincidentally, I also found myself struggling with some health issues that required me to slow down. A quick web search and chat with my colleague, Dana Price, who is a strong advocate of meditation, I was able to connect with a local resource, the Phoenix branch of the international Tergar organization, which has a number of on-line and in-person meditation training opportunities and resources, offering both secular and Buddhist-based tracks.

It has been one year since I have embarked on my quest for a daily meditation practice. I haven’t been perfect, but have meditated formally more days than not and have been able to integrate mindfulness into my daily activities. What I have found is not earth-shattering, but, like many others will attest, this practice has helped me feel more calm, increase my tolerance to inevitable stressors, approach my dealings with others in a more compassionate way. Again, I am not perfect, I may still curse others in traffic and get irritated when placed on hold for more than 10 minutes, but I am more likely to see how these reactions are not beneficial and may, in some cases, be harmful. Many sources will describe how our thoughts can re-wire our brain and affect the levels of hormones and neurotransmitters produced thereby having specific physical actions. Physically, I have slept better, experienced less migraines, and have less distress from hormonal fluctuations.

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In my clinical practice, I am frequently working with patients who are reporting physical symptoms that are at least partially due to or exacerbated by stress. Many have been told they need to decrease stress to see improvement in these symptoms. However, there is no anti-stress pill or quick fix to achieve this and stress is, unfortunately, a very prevalent fact of our modern lives. Unlike many other medical treatments, meditation is not only effective, but is free, has no side effects, is easily accessible, and can be done by anyone. Research supports the application of meditation for a wide variety of health issues such as anxiety, depression, high blood pressure,  perinatal mood issues, chronic pain, insomnia, infertility, disordered eating, and decreased immune function.

So knowing that stress is a fact of life and has negative impacts on our health and well-being, where does one start? First, it is important to realize there is no “right way” to meditate. Like with exercise, it is important to find a technique that resonates with you for long-term success. Listed below are a variety of apps, books, websites and local resources that can help you find a path that will work best for you. I suggest starting with one of the books that do a great job providing the foundation of why meditation can be so helpful and how to go about starting a practice. If you are more technologically-minded, the apps may provide a great resource for guided meditations and ways to track your time. As always, contact me if you have any questions or would like to discuss this topic further

Books:

Joy of Living: Unlocking the Secret & Science of Happiness; Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche

Why Meditate: Working With Thoughts and Emotions; Matthieu Ricard

Peace is Every Step: The Path of Mindfulness in Everyday Life; Tich Nacht Hahn

Apps

Headspace www.headspace.com

Insight Timer www.insighttimer.com (free)

Online Resources:

https://learning.tergar.org Joy of Living and Path of Liberation training resources.

https://palousemindfulness.com/MBSR/gettingstarted.html 8- week free MBSR training

Local Resources:

http://www.iluminahealing.com/meditation/ Led by Dana Price

https://tergar.org/communities-and-practice-groups/find-a-center-or-group/phoenix/

http://www.solutionmindfulness.com/about MBSR group training & resources

 

 

Cold and Flu Prevention: 5 Tips to Better Health Revisited

Its that time of year again where summer turns to fall and many patients come in with seasonal colds, increased stress levels and abnormal digestive symptoms. Boosting your immune system during these times are important for helping you stay healthy. Chinese Medicine has been treating the common cold for over 5,000 years, and helps prevent sickness by boosting your immune system and restoring balance.

Five tools for a pathway to prevention and remedy during the cold season:

1. Traditional Chinese Medicine uses diagnostic tools such as your tongue and pulse. The tongue is an expression of your digestion and body system. This can be a tool for prevention and diagnosing imbalances. The pulse is a way to understand the rhythm of the body. The pulse represents different organs in respect to Chinese Medicine practices. Using these tools help us better understand how to treat and prescribe the best herbs and treatment plan for your optimal health. Regular acupuncture treatments are beneficial for prevention and remedy for this year’s cold and flu season.

2.This time of the year the body craves more rest, and in preparation for the cold season getting seven to nine hours of sleep per night is highly recommended.

3.Eating a balanced meal can be challenging during the holidays, but staying close to a healthy, clean diet can prevent inflammation and digestion upset.

4. Zinc- is an essential trace mineral necessary for all forms of life and growth. It is part of DNA development, immune system response, and may reduce suffering from symptoms of the common cold.

5. Elderberry- has been frequently linked with increased immune coordination. This berry has been shown to boost the production of immune cytokines. The cytokines are key messengers in the immune system to help regulate immune response. This allows the body to defend against disease.

By Charlene Hagner, M.Ac., Dipl. O.M., L.Ac.

Benefits of Breastfeeding


In Chinese Medicine theory breast milk is an expression of Blood energy and Qi (vital energy).  It is understood that once a baby is born the Blood that was once nourishing the placenta is now transformed into breast milk. Breastfeeding has many benefits to the baby and mother, and is recommended by WHO (World Health Organization) to breastfeed the first six-months of your babies life for some of the reasons listed below.

  • Better healing post labor: Oxytocin is released when your baby is nursing. Oxytocin helps your uterus to contract and return to its normal size more quickly.

  • Baby Health: The incidence of pneumonia, colds, and viruses are reduced among breastfeed babies. Also, breastfeed babies are less likely to develop type1 diabetes, Crohn’s Disease, and Celiac Disease.  

  • Getting to Know Your Baby: You have to read your baby's 'satiety cues' a little better, because unlike with a bottle, you can't see how much he's eaten," Kelly says. "You have to rely on your own instincts and your baby's behavior to know when your baby is full."

  • Lower SID’s Risk: Breastfeeding lowers your baby’s risk of sudden infant death syndrome by half.

  • Stronger Bones: Women who breastfeed have a lower risk of postmenopausal osteoporosis. When a woman is pregnant and lactating, her body absorbs calcium much more efficiently

  • Custom-Made Supply: Formula isn't able to change its constitution, but your breast milk changes to meet your baby's needs. Colostrum that comes in after you deliver is full of antibodies to protect your newborn baby. It's also higher in protein and lower in sugar than full milk, so even a small amount can hold off your baby's hunger

  • Calorie Incinerator: If you feed your baby 20 ounces a day, that's 400 calories, you've swept out of your body. Women lose their mommy tummy more quickly with breastfeeding.

Below is a great source for all breastfeeding questions:
http://kellymom.com/category/bf/

The Fourth Trimester: No Need to be "Wonder Woman"

The "Fourth Trimester” discussed here includes the weeks, months, and years after pregnancy, between pregnancies or following a woman's last pregnancy. Referred to elsewhere as “postnatal depletion”, this is not an illness or disease that requires treatment in most cases. Instead, it falls into a nebulous category with other periods of normal hormonal flux women experience throughout their lives, including PMS, pregnancy, & menopause. And, like these issues, a given woman may experience a range of symptoms on a continuum, similar to a bell-shaped curve, with some women experiencing little to no distress, most women experiencing moderate distress, and some women significant amounts of distress. Similar to the aforementioned hormonal issues, the severity of symptoms may meet clinical diagnostic criteria and even still women may feel like they have to "white-knuckle it" through this stage, not wanting to ask for help for fear of being discounted.

"Is ours not a strange culture that focuses so much attention on childbirth--

virtually all of it based on anxiety and fear--

and so little on the crucial time after birth, when patterns are established that will

affect the individual and the family for decades?"

~Suzanne Arms

It is important to acknowledge that in the US we often put more kind focus on pregnant women and then switch this focus to the baby immediately after delivery when mother-focused support is virtually non-existent. We as a culture ignore the needs of new mothers and make many demands on them that are prevented in other cultures out of respect for the postpartum period, a time recognized & honored as distinct from other times in a woman's life. Curiously, these other cultures, which also incorporate social supports for menstruating and menopausal women, have virtually no post-partum disorders compared to 50-85% of new mothers in industrialized nations like the US. During this time, protective measures, so-called "mothering the mother", help support and care for new mothers.  Specifically, the practice of "lying in" relieves women of their normal workload and the implied duty to entertain visitors, allowing time for recuperation, rest, and family bonding.  Not only does our culture minimize the significance of this change & the support necessary to healthfully assimilate this change into the family's life, but there is often an unspoken belief that any woman who needs post-partum support has somehow failed when in reality we as a culture have failed her.

Of course, having a child & parenting is physically, emotionally, and mentally demanding and these effects are compounded with subsequent pregnancies & deliveries. Most women survive the transition relatively unscathed, but at what cost?  Few can honestly say they did not experience any of the symptoms listed below and, sadly, most did not seek any assistance either because they did not want to "bother" others or because they were simply too exhausted to focus on anything but mothering. However, by drawing attention to these issues, we can address these concerns sooner, rather than later, thereby avoiding a crisis. By caring for and prioritizing oneself, you can be healthier as an individual, mother, partner, colleague, & friend.

Symptoms may include, but are not limited to:

  • Fatigue
  • Sleep dysfunction
  • Poor motivation, concentration, memory
  • Mood swings
  • Menstrual irregularities
  • Inability to lose weight
  • Urinary & vaginal issues
  • Low libido & sexual dysfunction
  • Hot flashes/night sweats

By assessing a woman's medical & reproductive history, diet, lifestyle and relevant test results, we can often identify the underlying contributing factors to the symptoms she is experiencing.  Special attention should focus on follow-up on any issues encountered in previous pregnancies, such as prenatal/post-partum mood issues, blood sugar & blood pressure abnormalities, and nutritional & thyroid deficiencies.  These problems can negatively impact a woman's health and well-being long after the pregnancy & post-partum stages and make these already challenging stages more so.

A holistic approach focusing on the mind & body by integrating Eastern & Western medical therapies can be selected based on the severity of symptoms, individual risk-factors, and patient preference and may include recommendations for the following:

  • Social engagement & support
  • Counseling
  • Meditation & quiet time
  • Acupuncture
  • Aerobic exercise & yoga
  • Hormone replacement
  • Pharmacological & non-pharmacological treatment options

Unfortunately, one of the hardest things for any mom to do is find time for herself for self-care, but you may be surprised by the number of resources available to you: friends, family, neighbors, and daycares at gyms/studios are resources that are available to most. Having in-home help for a couple hours per week may seem like a luxury, but if it provides you with the support needed to get out for a massage, a run, therapy, acupuncture, lunch with a friend or a yoga class, it is money well-spent.

For more information, if you have any questions, or to schedule an appointment, please feel free to contact us today.

 

Transfer Day Acupuncture helps to increase chance of pregnancy by 10%

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Nearly 1.6% of all infants born in the United States every year are born using Assisted Reproductive Technology. Reproductive Endocrinologists are persistently looking for ways to increase couple’s success for pregnancy. Recently a two-year study was done in the Arizona Valley to determine the success of using acupuncture day of transfer. The total sample size was 396 patients with the minimum age of 23yo and the maximum age of 45yo, and an average age of 35yo. Those who did receive acupuncture before and after transfer improved their chances of pregnancy by 10%; compared to the group that didn’t receive acupuncture.

According to Manca di Villahermosa et al “failure of embryo implantation is considered the biggest challenge of reproductive medicine”.

IVF is a stressful process to the body and finding ways to relax and prepare the body for implantation are crucial. Acupuncture increases the blood flow to the uterus, increases endometrial-lining development, decreases spasms, and calms the patient. Many studies continually support the data that when ART is combined with Chinese Medicine the pregnancy rates are higher. Acupuncture not only improves the pregnancy rates, but also helps ease the anxiety of the patients.  Wherever you are in your fertility journey acupuncture will be helpful, if you are thinking about onsite acupuncture day of transfers, we will go to most doctors in the valley to offer our services.

By Charlene Hagner M.Ac., Dipl. OM. L.Ac.

 

Need a little help understanding Pre-eclampsia?

Hypertension in Pregnancy

Pre-eclampsia is a pregnancy complication defined by high blood pressure, 140/90 millimeters of mercury (mm Hg) or higher, and signs of damage to another organ systems, most often the liver and kidneys. Pre-eclampsia usually begins after 20 weeks of pregnancy in women whose blood pressure had been normal. Even a slight rise in blood pressure may be a sign of pre-eclampsia.

What factors increase risk of pre-eclampsia?

  • Previous history of pre-eclampsia
  • Multiple gestations
  • History of Chronic High Blood pressure, PCOS, Diabetes, Kidney disease, and organ transplant.
  • First Pregnancy
  • Obesity, BMI 30 or greater
  • Family History


How does pre-eclampsia affect pregnancy?

Hypertension can impair kidney and liver function, and cause blood clotting problems, pulmonary edema, seizures and severe edema. Pre-eclampsia affects the blood flow to the placenta, often leading to smaller or prematurely born babies.

What can help with pre-eclampsia?
 

  • Continue to follow a healthy diet and regular exercise (low sodium diet)
  • Magnesium is an excellent supplement safely used in pregnancy. Magnesium citrate, at doses of 400-600 per day, is often used in both preventing and treating hypertension. Hospitals use IV magnesium for hypertensive episodes and pre-eclampsia to reduce blood pressure.
  • Acupuncture helps to smooth the flow of blood and increase the tone of the vascular system, and returns the body to parasympathetic state.
  • Vitamin D levels should be checked, because Vitamin D deficiency has been linked to hypertension.
  • Coenzyme Q10 was studied for prevention of pre-eclampsia at 200mg per day from 20 weeks to delivery. This should be taken under the supervision of a physician.
  • Medications to lower blood pressure. Medications, called anti-hypertensives, are used to lower your blood pressure if it's dangerously high.

 

Skin Cancer Awareness

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We in AZ are probably more attuned to issues related to sun damage and skin cancer than our friends in Northern climes, but I am frequently amazed how few people use a daily SPF and reapply as recommended to truly prevent pre-cancerous changes.  People usually are good about applying and reapplying when on vacation at the beach or the lake, but it the daily ultraviolet exposure driving to work, walking the dog or working in the garden that adds up over time and causes skin cell damage that can cause discoloration, wrinkles and skin cancer. Over 5 million new cases of skin cancer are diagnosed each year in America, with nearly 90,000 of those attributed to melanoma, which is the cause of almost 10,000 deaths.  

Skin cancer can be present anywhere on the body and with little to no signs or symptoms, however, most can be caught through the simple process of monthly self-check and annual dermatologist skin exams. Early detection, like in all health concerns, is key, and knowing your body’s specific moles and freckles and other marks is the best way to notice a new lesion or change in a previously existing one.

The “ABCDE Rule” of skin cancer detection is simple to follow when conducting monthly self-check skin exams and should be a sign to see a dermatologist:

ASYMMETRY: if one half is different from the other half of a lesion
BORDER: irregular edges to a mole
COLOR: any multicolored lesion or growth that contains blue, pink, white, red or black shades
DIAMETER: a growth that is larger than ¼ inch across or increases in size
EVOLUTION: any changes to a pre-existing mole

In terms of prevention, The American Cancer Society recommends people “SLIP on a shirt, SLOP on sunscreen, SLAP on a hat, and WRAP on sunglasses” to prevent the negative effects of UVA and UVB radiation from the sun.  Understandable, people worry about the chemicals found in sunscreens, but there are ways to find which sunscreens are the safest by researching the Environmental Working Groups website and/or app http://www.ewg.org/sunscreen/

Even with this information, many are confused by the array of sunscreens on the market.  Physical sunscreen formulations are made up of minerals like titanium and zinc oxide that create a barrier on the skin, blocking & reflecting both UVA rays (cause wrinkles & cancer) and UVB rays (responsible for sunburn). Mineral sunscreens are effective once applied, unlike chemical sunscreens which require approximately 30 minutes to become effective.  In addition, chemical sunscreens not only are less effective than physical forms, but have been found to accumulate in the body and have even been linked hormonal disruption and breast cancer. Chemical sunscreens may also oxidize in the sun, causing potential free radial formation which could increase the risk for premature aging and skin cancer.  Some companies have added minerals to their chemical sunscreens as a marketing tool, but the risks of the chemicals stay the same.

I personally have been very impressed with TiZo, a mineral sunscreen that is free of oils, parabens, fragrances and dyes and unlike the pallor imparted by many similar products in the past, these blend well and are very comfortable to wear.  Since these products are only available through licensed professionals, mention it to your ilumina practitioner and we can get some ordered for you.

Parabens: It is important to know what they are.

Our skin is the largest organ in the body, and what we put on our skin is important to our health.  Everyday we use products such as; sun screen, body lotions, shampoo, body wash, deodorant, and so on. These body products have ingredients that can cause harm to our immune and endocrine system.

A commonly used synthetic ingredient to help preserve body products, food, and pharmaceuticals is paraben. The parabens most commonly used in cosmetics are methylparaben, propylparaben, butylparaben, and ethylparaben. It’s important to check your products for these parabens, and buy products that are paraben free.

Parabens acts like estrogen, which may increase the risk of women developing estrogen-positive breast cancer. Researchers conducted tests on 20 different samples of human breast tumors, which revealed parabens to be present in each sample.

Parabens also affects men’s endocrine system; findings from several studies have reported low sperm counts as well as decreased levels of testosterone in men. It was concluded that these results were related to the absorption of parabens in commercial products.

It is important to check the labels of your cosmetics, and buy paraben free products. Many companies are realizing the dangers of paraben products, and switching their formulas to paraben-free. Keep healthy this summer and check your body products and sunscreens for these hidden ingredients.  Make informed choices in regards to what you put on your skin.  If you aren't sure, ask one of us at ilumina and we can help make recommendations.

 

 

Author Highlight: Christiane Northrup

At ilumina we want to be an educationalresource for our patients and with that we have a lending library were we make available some of our trusted teachers and authors.  

Christiane Northrup started with a medical degree from Dartmouth Medical School and completed her residency at Tufts New England Medical Center in Boston. She is an obstetrician and gynecologist and an advocate for woman’s health and wellbeing. She has written several books including Women's Bodies, Women's Wisdom; The Wisdom of Menopause; Mother-Daughter Wisdom; The Secret Pleasures of Menopause; and Goddesses Never Age: The Secret Prescription for Radiance, Vitality, and Wellbeing. Dr. Northrup is a crusader for woman’s health, and is helping woman change their ideas around aging in our society.

As a Chinese Medicine practitioner her views on women’s health align with the ancient Chinese beliefs in treating the root of the problem verse the patients symptoms. At ilumina we treat the origin of the ailment, and help woman to restore health and balance in their lives. Chinese Medicine has a deep history in treating Women’s Health and is being used to treat a variety of conditions to help reestablish health in the body.

In Women's Bodies, Women's Wisdom, she covers the treatment of many health concerns PMS, menstrual cramps, breast cysts, fibroids, cervical dysplasia, endometriosis, infertility, depression, and cystitis. She takes her time explaining how many of these physical problems have roots in emotional upsets or lifestyle choices. This book helps woman to have an educated and healthy outlook on there bodies.
    
Women have trusted Dr. Northrup’s approach for decades. In 2013, Reader’s Digest named her one of “The 100 Most Trusted People in America.” And, in 2016, she was named one of Oprah Winfrey’s Super Soul 100, a group of leaders using their voices and talent to help and heal humanity.

Christiane Northrup has many hobbies including Argentina tango, culinary arts, travel, and watching movies. Dr. Northrup’s work has been featured on The Oprah Winfrey Show, the Today Show, NBC Nightly News, The View, Rachael Ray, Good Morning America, 20/20, and The Dr. Oz Show. 


“True health is only possible when we understand the unity of our minds, emotions, spirits and physical bodies.”
-Christiane Northrup

 

 

Why is water so important to the body?

Water is important to many functions of the body. We can survive three weeks without food, but only three days without water. There are some factors when figuring out how much water we should consume, like our activity level, age, and the consumption of water-rich veggies and fruit. On average we should consume 90oz of water on a daily basis. Increasing your water consumption can help with anxiety, constipation, and more.

1. Clearer Skin - Certain toxins in the body can cause inflammation to the skin, which results in clogged pores and acne. Water helps flush the system and reduce blemishes.

2. Fluid Balance - Roughly 60 percent of the body is made of water. Drinking enough H2O maintains the body’s fluid balance, which helps transport nutrients in the body, regulate body temperature and improves digestion.

3. Kidney Function - Our kidneys process 200 quarts of blood daily, sifting out waste and transporting urine to the bladder. Kidneys need hydration to clear away what we don’t need in the body.

4. Fatigue Fighter - Water can help fight the afternoon energy drops. One of the most common symptoms of dehydration is fatigue.


Bottoms Up!!

Begin by drinking a glass of water as soon as you wake up. Get in the habit of keeping a water bottle on hand at all times. If the taste begins to become a drag, shake it up with a squeeze of citrus, cucumbers or mint.

 

The Baby Box

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SIDS: How to Reduce the Risk

At ilumina we work very hard helping women and couple conceive and have a healthy baby. We have been focusing on educating women on the benefits of acupuncture & Chinese medicine during postpartum for fatigue, breast milk production, and anxiety/depression. So I started thinking to myself what can we do for the babies?

My answer came while driving to work one day when I heard about Baby Boxes and how Finland has the lowest infant mortality rate due in part to the government handing out baby boxes to expectant mothers on their prenatal visits.

A riff of the Finnish model is being incorporated here in the United States with Alabama and Ohio joining New Jersey in providing expectant mothers with a baby box. Arizona is not on board yet but hopefully soon.

If you would like to learn more about Baby Boxes and how to get one on your own you can see the Baby Box University's website.   Also see the American Academy of Pediatrics sleep guidelines website.
You can also see NPR's original story on Baby Boxes

Achieve Optimal Fetal Positioning with Spinning Babies

   To enhance her Prenatal Massage offering at ilumina, our highly experienced massage therapist, Audrey Blanchard has recently completedadvanced training in the Spinning Babies method for optimal fetal positioning and body balancing during the second and third trimesters of pregnancy. These self care and specific bodywork techniques can be utilized starting at 25 weeks to help bring balance to the muscles, ligaments and fascia in the pelvis and to release some discomforts such as low back and groin pain, rib pain, round ligament pain and discomfort above the pubic bone. If baby is presenting in a breech, transverse or occiput posterior (sunny-side up) position these techniques can be incorporated to help baby ease into a left occiput anterior position which is optimal for easier labor and delivery.
    Spinning Babies uses the three principles of balance, gravity and movement, emphasizing balance first.The muscles, ligaments and fascia of the pelvis must be balanced in order for gravity and movement to help open the pelvis for better fetal positioning. Gravity includes maternal positioning with gravity friendly postures during rest, but particularly during sitting activities to help baby move into a head down position. Using movement with yoga, walking and stretching help to keep the pelvis balanced and ensure comfort for both mom and baby.
    Belly mapping is a fun and interactive waymom and partner can identify fetal positioning by feeling the bumps, kicks and wiggles starting at 34 weeks. This information is used to identify which techniques and self care activities will best help baby turn or “spin” if they are presenting breech, transverse or occiput posterior.
    A Spinning Babies session can be added on to your Prenatal massage or used as an adjunct treatment along with Acupuncture to help turn a malpositioned baby.

How Stress Affects Women's Health

Stress has many affects on the body, and starts a chain reaction of hormones released. When the body is in danger or under stress the pituitary gland discharges a hormone called adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH). When (ACTH) is released from the pituitary gland, a little gland on top of the kidneys, called the adrenals, releases a hormone called cortisol and epinephrine in the bloodstream. Cortisol in the right amount is healthy, but in excess can cause inflammation, belly fat, increase blood glucose levels, and menstrual irregularities.

Many functional medicine doctors are finding a connection with stress hormones and polycystic ovarian symptom. Polycystic ovarian syndrome, or PCOS, is a condition in which a woman’s levels of the sex hormones estrogen and progesterone are out of balance. This leads to the growth of ovarian cysts (benign masses on the ovaries). PCOS can cause problems with a women’s menstrual cycle, fertility, cardiac function and appearance. 1 in 20 women in childbearing age are diagnosed with (PCOS) in America. It’s well known that stress can cause the disruption or total loss of menstrual function in women, and menstrual dysfunction, along with the physical symptoms of hormone imbalance.

Here are five ways to curb your stress level today:

1.  Acupuncture is effective in treating the many facets of woman’s health and getting to the root cause of health concerns. Acupuncture takes down inflammation in the body and stress levels naturally and effectively.

2.  Meditation is a great way to relax your mind and help ease stress and tension. On every Wednesday night of the month, Dr. Dana Siekman-Price DOM, L.Ac., the owner of ilumina, offers a meditation class. 

3.  Sleep is important 6-8 hours of sleep is the recommended hours to maintain good health.

4.  Take a deep, mindful breath throughout the day. Taking a nice big belly breath in the midst of your day can increase oxygen, and take down your stress levels.

5.  Exercise: Daily cardio & a brisk walk can help blood flow, and help decrease glucose levels in the body.

By: Charlene Hagner M.Ac., Dipl. O.M., L.Ac.

Acupuncture Throughout Your Pregnancy

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Acupuncture’s positive effects on regulating menses and improving fertility have been known for many years, but acupuncture, Chinese herbs, diet and massage can also have many benefits throughout the pregnancy and beyond.

First Trimester
As early as the first positive home pregnancy test, acupuncture can help decrease risk of miscarriage and alleviate several of the well-known early symptoms of pregnancy, though while encouraging, can have a negative impact on a woman’s quality of life and ability to carry out daily tasks at work and home.

  • Fatigue
  • Nausea & vomiting
  • Headaches
  • Mood swings
  • Sleep disturbance

Second Trimester
The second trimester is often entered with a sigh of relief as the risk of early miscarriage and intensity of morning sickness decreases at week 12. However, as your baby grows in size, this increases demand on blood supply and pressure on surrounding organs leading to several new symptoms.  Some are diagnosed with blood sugar or blood pressure issues, and we can provide nutrition advice and acupuncture for this as well.

  • Back pain
  • Congestion and nose bleeds
  • Headaches
  • Constipation
  • Heartburn
  • Weight gain
  • Increased susceptibility to infections

Third Trimester
As weight gain continues with the increased size of your baby, the same symptoms that can cause problems in the second trimester increase in intensity with additional issues that can significantly interfere with your quality of life and well-being.  Also, keep in mind that while acupuncture can help decrease these symptoms, it can also be helpful for breech presentation and labor preparation in the final weeks before delivery.

  • Fatigue
  • Leg pain
  • Swelling of hands/wrists and feet and ankles
  • Shortness of breath
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“Fourth” Trimester
Here at ilumina, we like to be conscientious of the months after delivery and the issues that can creep up after you are back at home with your newborn.  Sleep deprivation and the resultant fatigue and moodiness is expected, but knowing when to ask for help and making time for yourself in key in helping you care for your baby.  It may also be time to have labs to check for thyroid dysfunction and nutritional deficiencies that are common in post-partum.  Finally, in addition to helping with energy and mood, acupuncture can help with lactation, muscle aches, and menstrual issues as your cycle starts up again.

Need a Resolution? Personal Responsibility for Proactive Health Care in 2017

No matter your personal feelings about the outcome of the election, one thing is sure to be true: health care as we know it is changing. Actually, there has been a slow, but steady change in premiums, deductibles, covered benefits and out-of-pocket expenses over the past decade with the net effect that patients are shouldering more and more of the financial responsibility. On the other hand, care seems to be less personal, with less provider continuity and less time allocated for patient appointments and follow-up. This has led many government officials, providers, and patients to call for reform. Unfortunately, there appears to be little consensus on how to fix the problems and more concerning is the question as to whether our current system can even be fixed?

 

One thing that seems to be clear is that most of the illnesses Americans are struggling with are those related at least partially to lifestyle and thus potentially preventable. By modifying our habits and keeping an eye towards prevention, we can significantly decrease our risk of the most expensive and debilitating illnesses. Recently, the CDC named “heart disease, stroke, cancer, type 2 diabetes, obesity, and arthritis as the most common, costly, and preventable of all health problems”. For example, according to the American Diabetes Association, diabetes is the 7th leading cause of death in the US, affecting over 30 million adults and a growing number of children. These figures relate to what is known as Type 2 diabetes, a largely preventable condition that also significantly impacts the risk of cardiovascular disease. Another nearly 100 million Americans have pre-diabetes. Medication to control diabetes can exceed $250 per month and combined with the costs of regular doctors visits, and related medication for blood pressure and cholesterol, it may be possible to spend $5000 per year to manage this one condition.

 

On the other hand, what would happen if this money were spent on improving individual general health and wellness; efforts to improve diet, manage weight, and decrease stress. In doing so, we can decrease our risk for all the aforementioned conditions named by the CDC and therefore improve overall health and quality of life, maybe even avoiding medications altogether.

 

This is a laudable goal and not an easy one to achieve. It requires us to shift our focus from a reactive, treatment-focused approach to health care to a proactive, preventive approach where the patient takes responsibility for her own health, utilizing the medical system for support and guidance along the way. It is important to acknowledge that even with our best efforts, not all disease can be prevented, but by taking an active role in partnering with providers to improve health as much as possible, significant progress can be made. By addressing symptoms early, being informed about family medical history and disease risks, screening for blood pressure, glucose, weight, and nutritional deficiencies, and following recommendations for cancer screening, you can significantly impact your risk for chronic disease in the face of the changing health care landscape.

 

2017 is the year of the fire rooster, a sign of dawn and awakening, of triumph and success, only achievable through hard work and patience. We at Ilumina are committed to prevention and proactive care, happy to help guide you to improve your general health and address specific concerns through our naturopathic and Chinese medicine services with diet, exercise, and supplement advice, acupuncture, massage, and meditation. Together, we can work to make 2017 your healthiest year yet.