The Importance of Weight & Metabolic Balance in Female Reproductive Health

By Leigh Lewis NMD, L.Ac., FABORM, RYT

The role of weight in all aspects of female reproduction has been validated by science for several decades with both underweight and overweight body habitus causing problems.  Being underweight has been linked with a relative hormone deficiency what can lead to thin uterine lining and irregular ovulation and menses, therefore interfering with fertility.  Adipose tissue, most notably abdominal fat, has been linked to excess production of estrogen which can also lead to issues with ovulatory and cycle irregularity and decreased fertility.  Once pregnant, body weight should increase for most patients by 25-35 pounds, however, women who are underweight at the time of conception may need to gain more, with overweight women needing to gain less or sometimes, simply maintain their pre-pregnancy weight.  Pregnant women who are underweight are at a higher risk for having a miscarriage, an underweight baby or a preterm birth.  Being overweight confers an increased risk for miscarriage, gestational diabetes and hypertension, preeclampsia, C-section, and an overweight baby. There are also increased risks to the baby born to an overweight mother: diabetes and metabolic syndrome (high cholesterol, blood sugar imbalances, hypertension, overweight) in child- and adulthood. In a recent study, the CDC concluded that 50% of American women gain too much weight in pregnancy.  Oftentimes, excessive weight gain during pregnancy is difficult to lose in the post-partum and can be further compounded by subsequent pregnancies. Finally, many women gain weight during the months or years of hormonal fertility treatments…this weight can be the most difficult to lose.

In general, recommendations are for women to maintain a “normal body weight” as indicated by a body mass index between 18.5-25, although individual variability may dictate otherwise.  This would be a weight between 120-140 for a woman who is 5’6”. However, there are individual issues that might change this recommendation; for example, a female body builder will have a higher muscle to fat ration and since muscle weighs more than fat, she would likely have a higher healthy body weight. Your provider can help determine your ideal weight range.

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Diet and exercise are often the first recommendations made to women and while this is typically good advice, many women are frustrated because usually they have tried it all before.  An important and often neglected first step is to make sure there aren’t any underlying metabolic issues that might predispose one to having weight issues.  Lab analysis of Vitamin D, thyroid function, cholesterol, glucose and insulin can provide insight to underlying factors that could make weight loss or gain more difficult.  Radical diets may help one achieve initial goals, but are difficult to maintain for the long-term and may lead to nutritional deficiency.  In fact, most current research suggests that a sensible, whole-food, Mediterranean-style diet is the best for promoting and maintaining both a healthy weight as well as general health, including fertility and pregnancy.  Some individual variations may be necessary; women with PCOS for instance often fair better with a higher protein/lower carb diet.

In general, one does not have to even achieve a “normal” body weight to see improvement in ovulation, menses and fertility, including improving the success of in vitro fertilization treatments: improvement can be seen with as little as 5-10% weight change.  This is good news, but can seem daunting to many nonetheless, and getting assistance from a team of professionals at least initially may be the best course.  As many of us know, what to eat is only part of the issue for most…we all know less sugar and alcohol and more fruits and vegetables would be beneficial, portion size matters, exercise is important. You likely have heard it all before and could probably tell your best friend or daughter or mom the keys success. The issue isn’t so much how to eat better and exercise more, it is why can’t we implement what we already know we should be doing.  There are several studies that illustrate the positive impact individual or group therapy can have in changing lifestyle behaviors is a way that can have long-lasting health impacts.  In addition, while it may seem like a luxury to have a personal trainer, a series of 4 weekly sessions or joining small group trainings geared for women can set you up to have success with your workouts instead of just grinding out miles on the treadmill.  Some trainers can also help set up individual meal plans.  Finally, stress, both physical and mental can play havoc with the hormones that affect both weight and fertility, adding a mind/body practice to any regimen is a great place to start, whether it be as part of a group or as a home practice.

The bottom line is if you are concerned that your weight may be negatively impacting your reproductive health and fertility or you simply are trying to re-establish your pre-pregnancy weight for general health reasons, consider making an appointment to discuss your individual goals with one of the practitioners here at ilumina and please see resources below for other specialists offering programs to help you meet your goals.


Farrah Hauke, PsyD – offering individual therapy and a 4-week workshop series on psychological strategies to lose weight & keep it off. 480.659.5107; www.arizonapsych.com

Lindsey Cusey & McKenzie Smalley - Personal Trainers/Nutrition Consultants *offers a discount to ilumina patients; www.fithappygirl.com

Donation-based Yoga + Mindfulness classes for women @ Kinfolk Chiropractic, Tuesdays 6:30pm, to RSVP email leighklewis1@gmail.com

Libido Recharge Part III

Written by Dr. Dana Price DOM, Dipl. O.M., L.Ac.

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For part three of our Libido Recharge blog series I would like to explore a far too common reason for low libido- “I’m too tired for sex”, which in Chinese medicine translates as Yang deficiency. This is the common pattern of living a lifestyle on the go, working too much and not getting enough rest and downtime, and then when sex does cross your mind, you just don’t have it in you.

With Yang deficiency, women can feel like their metabolism has slowed, they are gaining weight easier, they tend to be tired and low energy, and often feel cold easily. Yang is the warmth, active, moving, extroverted energy that we all have. So when we deplete our Yang through taking on too much, overwork, lack of exercise, stress and excessive adrenaline, or chronic illness we don’t have much energy left for sex.

So what can you do to rebuild your Yang deficient low libido?:

Diet: Non-wheat complex carbs with a small amount of high-quality protein (vegetable) is best as well as cutting out dairy, fruit juices, and fried or fatty foods.

Foods that rebuild the Yang are: Carrots, mushrooms, onions, leeks, sweet potatoes, ginger, cherries, apples, bananas, quinoa, lentils, black beans, cauliflower, kale, brussels sprouts, walnuts, and cabbage.

Exercise: Don’t exercise when you are tired and get at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise 5 times a week.

Avoid Caffeine: Caffeine gives a “false” energy and can make you feel more run down when it wears off.

Cut Down on Alcohol: No more than one drink per night and 3 drinks in a week.

Avoid Excess Salt: Salt in a small amount boosts the Yang but in large amounts depletes it. Check your labels and avoid processed foods which are high in sodium.

Acupuncture and Chinese herbs also work great to boost the Yang

Libido Recharge Part II

Written by: Dr. Dana Price DOM, Dipl O.M, L.Ac. 

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In the first of this three part series, I brought to attention the #metoo movement and asked the reader to visualize what a completely unhindered expression of female sexuality would look like. I hope you had the opportunity to explore this. If not please spend some time with this. It is my belief that if we have the vision, we can direct our actions to support and become it. 

I also brought up the three most common types of Yin/Yang imbalance and patterns that arise with low libido. I presented the “stressed” type. In this blog we will explore the “not feeling sexy enough for sex”, or as we translate it in Chinese medicine,Yin deficiency.

This pattern of Yin deficiency can manifest as low libido with difficulty becoming aroused, painful intercourse and lack of lubrication. In general Yin deficiency can include a general dryness of skin and hair, the lack of self nurturing, and potential negative self image. This pattern can also manifest as rushing through sex, and restlessness during sex, stubbornness and inflexibility in relationships, easy to get anxious, irritable and being scattered, vivid dreams, constipation, feeling warm, and light and short menstrual cycles. Here are some things you can do to rebuild your Yin:

Exercise: yoga (not hot), tai chi, qi gong, swimming or hiking. Limit aerobic workouts to 30 minutes three times a week. 

Nutrition: Whole foods diet that emphasizes vegetables, fruits, whole grains, with small amounts of protein and healthy fats. Avoid red meat and eat more vegetarian sources of protein than meat. Food that increase the Yin energy are: seaweed, beets, flaxseeds, spinach, chard, string beans, grapes, blackberries lettuce, nuts, millet and whole wheat to name a few.

Hydration: Here in Arizona it is already hot, sunny and dry which by nature depletes our Yin. It is very important to drink between 100-120oz of fluids per day. Alcohol and caffeine are dehydrating so it should be avoided. With that said avoid becoming overheated saunas, steam rooms, hot baths and hot yoga are not good choices.

Sleep: Getting at least 8 hours of sleep per night is imperative to rebuild Yin. If you remember from the first in the series, rest and night time is Yin. So you need more.

Meditation: Begin a daily meditation routine and do what you can to reduce stress levels. 

Vitamins: Potassium (bananas are good), Calcium, Magnesium and Vitamin E are helpful.

Chinese Medicine: Acupuncture and Chinese herbal formulas are very potent to increase Yin and rebalance your Qi

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

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.

 

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.

Keep Cool with Chilled Nourishment

As temperatures rise here in Phoenix, chilled soups are a great way to cool down and utilize all the fresh produce that is available during summer months. I recommend using fresh local, organic ingredients whenever possible for the recipes listed here. Both of these chilled soups are great for a light lunch option, or a starter to your evening meal. Cucumber Avocado Soup

Serves 4

4 large cucumbers, cleaned and peeled, seeds removed

4 celery stalks, chopped

1 avocado, peeled and pitted

¼ c. chopped dill (optional)

¼ c. fresh squeezed lemon juice

4 c. purified water

Put all ingredients in the blender and whir until creamy smooth. Pour into bowls and serve.

Additional notes: Cucumbers have a high water content which gives them diuretic properties, as well as cooling qualities in Chinese Medicine.

Spanish Gazpacho

Serves 5-6

¼ c. cold-pressed olive oil

6 medium fresh tomatoes, roughly chopped

1 medium onion, chopped

1 large bell peeper, yellow or red, chopped

1 medium clove garlic

1 cucumber, seeded and chopped

4 basil leaves

1 T. Sea salt

1 large carrot, shredded

¼ c. apple cider vinegar

¼ t. Tabasco or sririacha to taste (for an extra kick)

Chopped fresh basil, chopped avocado, and/or parsley for garnish

Combine all ingredients in a food processor or blender and process until blended but still chunky. Remove half of soup, and puree remainder well. Combine both mixtures, stir, chill for 1 hour and serve in individual servings.

This is a great spicy summer soup with healthy fats; the apple cider vinegar helps to reduce blood sugars as well.

Sugar And Fertility: What Do They Have In Common?

Calling all you soda, candy, doughnut, cookie loving people.  I have a couple of questions for you. When you are feeling hungry and/or tired and in need of an energy boost at 3 or 4 pm, what do you do? Do you reach for a candy bar, soda, or sugary snack for that sudden boost of energy? That will definitely provide the instant boost of energy that you are looking for, but it will shortly be followed by a feeling of hunger, tiredness, and/or depression.  This is what we call the sugar roller coaster ride.  I am sure many of you have felt this; I know I have.

For me, the roller coaster ride on many occasions has left me feeling dizzy, headachey, and nauseous, but also left me feeling somewhat exhilarated.  Although the ride is quite fun at times, especially while you slowly creep up the big hill in anticipation of the BIG drop, the sudden plunge downwards leaves my stomach on the floor, and can make me feel yucky. The adrenaline rush felt for the 2 minutes usually leaves me feeling sick for about 2 hours. The sugar roller coaster that you are currently on is definitely something that is going to leave you feeling sick and yucky.  This ride can be the cause for many health issues such as weight gain, high blood pressure, diabetes and infertility.

The Nurse’s Health Study, referenced in The Fertility Diet, by Jorge Chavarro, MD and Walter Willet, MD have proven that sugar, especially certain kinds of sugars, have a large impact on reproductive health.  Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome is a condition that can be brought on by insulin resistance, which is caused by the consumption of too much sugar. Insulin resistance equals hormonal imbalances. The body has to work overtime when you make the decision to have a soda for breakfast, white bread sandwich for lunch, candy bar for a snack, or white rice for dinner.

So you ask, what should I eat for my health, happiness, and reproductive health? The answer is complex - literally: complex carbohydrates/sugars (not simple ones) are the way to go.  My definition of complex carbs is fiber-filled food paired with a starch or sugar that exists naturally in nature. The less refined the carb, the better it is for you, and that goes for most foods.  For example, whole wheat and brown rice have the fiber needed for your body to digest the starch slowly so your blood sugar levels stay even. Even blood sugar levels should be your goal when making food choices everyday.  I know, after suffering from breakdowns in my own body, that complex carbs have helped me to not only resolve my dizzy spells, irregular periods, and moodiness, but I have more energy then ever!

Your body identifies simple carbs/sugars, such as white flour and white rice as sugars. There is no fiber, because it is taken out during the refinement process.  When there is no fiber medium, to help slowly digest the sugar the body goes into emergency mode and digests the sugars very quickly. The sugar provides an immediate boost in energy that your body thinks you require, because you just ate a fiberless starch.  Here is the 411 on how the sugar is processed by your body.

The body quickly breaks down the sugar into glucose and suddenly injects it into the blood stream.  Your blood sugar levels spike the pancreas releases large amounts of insulin. Each cell in your body is able to absorb the glucose, because of the insulin. Once the cells absorb the glucose, blood sugar levels suddenly drop.

Hence the roller coaster feeling described earlier. So think about this - if you fill your day with eating simple carbs, your cells over time will require more and more insulin in order to absorb the same amount of glucose, thus causing insulin resistance.

In summary, here are my top 5 picks for complex carbs (whole grains) and natural sugars to eat in order to enhance your reproductive health, along with regulating your weight, heart health, and just feeling great overall!

Top 5 Whole Grains Top 5 Natural Sugars
Brown Rice Maple Syrup
Buckwheat (Soba Noodles) Honey
Whole Wheat Pasta Brown Rice Syrup
Stoneground Whole Wheat Molasses
Quinoa Stevia (the green kind)

Footnotes:

The Fertility Diet, by Jorge Chavarro, MD and Walter Willet, MD

Written by Kavita Jhaveri-Patel

www.theafa.org

7 Easy Ways to Improve Your Chances of Getting Pregnant

Trying to conceive is an exciting time but it can also be a trying time if things aren’t going according to your plan. Many women tend to forget about their overall health and well-being until right before they’re deciding to try for a baby. This forgetfulness can hurt your chances of becoming pregnant.

Here are seven easy ways to improve your chances of becoming pregnant that you should start practicing before you decide now is the time to conceive.

Take care of yourself

Easier said than done most of the time, but watching what you eat and getting daily exercise has numerous health benefits.

Cook consciously

When you’re cooking, choose unsaturated fats like olive oil or canola oil. Take some time and read labels and limit your intake of processed foods and trans fat.

When it comes to prepping for meals, cut up veggies at night or on the weekends and freeze them in small portions so that when you need them, they’re easily within your reach and the work is done.

It goes without saying that to cook more consciously you should be making your meals at home rather than eating out. If you feel you’re strapped for time and options, then consider investing in a slow cooker. With minimal time and ingredients, you can whip together a fabulous home-cooked meal while you’re at work or running errands. There are also a ton of free recipes online to help you with your meal planning.

Buy more fruits, vegetables, and whole grains to snack on

If you go to grab a snack and all you have in your house are fruits and veggies, then those are your only options. Makes snack time a little easier, don’t you think?

Many fruits and veggies can be eaten on the run while you’re out doing errands or working at your desk. It takes no time to eat an apple, peel a banana, peel a baby cheese round, or munch on baby carrots.

Adding more whole grains into your diet is as easy as choosing multigrain crackers, breads, and pastas.

Cook more vegetarian options

Beans are cheap and full of good-for-you fiber. They can be bought dry or canned and can be tossed in virtually any dish you make to up the fiber content and make the dish more filling.

Also, you can start small by switching out chicken broth for vegetable broth – the change doesn’t have to be immediate unless you want it to be.

Out of a seven day week, try cooking meat-free three or four of those days. If you begin to really enjoy the no-meat factor, then consider going vegetarian full time.

Make water your go-to for everything

Your body is mostly comprised of water, so it’s no secret that it works well in all aspects of your body. Water is fantastic at keeping you hydrated and giving you clear skin. It’s also extremely beneficial for helping to flush out toxins in your body.

To make toting water around easier, buy yourself a pretty water bottle or two and keep them within reach at all times. That’s how I cut out soda – I simply carried water with me everywhere and now it’s really the only thing I drink besides my morning cup of coffee.

Which brings us to our next tip…

Cut out excess caffeine

Coffee in the a.m. is fine, but drinking it throughout the day is not. Caffeine should be halted after twelve noon, this way you’re better able to calm down and fall asleep at a reasonable time.

Exposing yourself to soft drinks, tea, and coffee excessively could lead to headaches, heart palpitations, and overall restlessness of mind and body.

Keep yourself focused

Being present in your choices of food and health is important for keeping you on a healthy track. Simple things like making a list for food shopping, planning out your meals, and taking the stairs instead of the elevator can become second nature when you slowly incorporate them into your daily routine rather than try and change everything at once.

Take up yoga or tai chi to help keep your mind and body balanced and aware of your decisions and goals.

  • The above seven ways are fantastic options for getting your body ready to conceive. Your best chances for a baby are when your mind and body are in a harmonious balance of health, calmness, and vitality.

Written by

www.americanpregnancy.org

How do nutrition and acupuncture work together to enhance fertility?

Traditional Chinese Medicine expert Alex Goldberg explains how TCM, acupuncture, and what you eat can make it easier to get pregnant. Q: I get regular acupuncture treatments to help me conceive. My acupuncturist recently started talking to me about the role of nutrition – and she mentioned “dampness” in particular. Can you explain how nutrition and acupuncture work together in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) to help women get pregnant?

A: As an acupuncturist and herbalist my patients always want to know how nutrition affects their fertility. As your acupuncturist probably told you, nutrition is a very important part of TCM, but when I’m explaining it to my patients I usually like to start with the idea of dampness.

You can think of dampness as a kind of blockage in your body. That obstacle (which isn’t a real physical blockage, like a tumor, but an energetic blockage, according to TCM) means your body has to find other ways to work. Not surprisingly, if the blockage is in your reproductive organs that can make it a lot harder to get pregnant. Dampness can be created by either external or internal factors. Internally, it is directly related to the foods we eat. The main instigators include alcohol; fried, greasy, and spicy foods; cold and raw foods like salads, fruits, and vegetables; and the biggest culprit of them all – dairy, including milk, cream, cheese, and butter. (You can also watch this short video on dampness, created by Dr. Goldberg: http://vimeo.com/31466445)

In TCM, the belief is that the spleen is the key organ in digestion. Think of the spleen as a cast-iron pot that cooks the food you eat. When you continually put food in your body that is cold or raw, your spleen has to “cook” the food before it can use its energy. By eating warm foods you are saving your spleen-energy, which will increase your body’s overall health.

If you eat a dairy food, like a piece of cheese, for example, you can see that it’s heavy and greasy, and even after you wash your hands after holding it you can feel a stickiness between your fingers. Also, when you take that block of cheese out of the refrigerator it’s at about 40ºF, but when you eat it you’ve added a chemical reaction – heat -- because your body is at 98.6ºF.  What happens when you add heat to cheese? It becomes delicious, but it also stretches out, becoming thicker, longer, and greasier, which increases its natural properties (dampness), which adds to that energetic blockage.

With the severe role that blockage already plays in fertility, I generally ask my patients to avoid dairy, and other dampness contributors, as best they can, during the month leading up to and during pregnancy.

Alex Goldberg is a licensed and nationally board-certified acupuncturist and herbalist with a private practice in Brooklyn, New York, Garden Acupuncture. He has studied with Randine Lewis, a premier fertility specialist and is the only TCM practitioner in Brooklyn who has had the esteemed privilege of learning directly under her tutelage.

Written by Lorie A. Parch
www.conceiveonline.com

Infertility or Celiac Disease ?

Infertility is an emotional journey, especially when the reason for your infertility is unexplained. After going through all the tests and still not getting any closer to an answer, you’re mentally, emotionally, and physically exhausted! Up to 25% of couples trying to conceive are given the diagnosis of unexplained infertility. However, approximately four to eight percent of these cases are found to have a hereditary disorder known as celiac disease. This underlying cause of infertility is typically found in people who have an unfavorable reaction to gluten, which damages the lining of the small intestine and prevents it from absorbing parts of food that are important for maintaining good health.

The disease may not be diagnosed initially because people with celiac disease often have no symptoms of the body’s adverse reaction to gluten. However, others experience bloating, diarrhea, abdominal upset or pain, foul-smelling or grayish stools, as well as weight loss, making diagnoses easier. Celiac disease may also present itself in less obvious ways, such as:

  • Irritability or depression
  • Anemia
  • Joint pain
  • Muscle cramps
  • Skin rash
  • Mouth sores
  • Dental and bone disorders (such as osteoporosis)
  • Tingling in the legs and feet (neuropathy)

When tested, antibodies and genes associated with celiac disease are present. People with celiac disease have higher than normal levels of some autoantibodies, which react against the body’s own cells or tissues. Eventually, because celiac disease decreases the body’s ability to absorb nutrients, vitamin deficiencies can prevent vital nourishment to an individual’s brain, peripheral nervous system, bones, liver, and other organs.

The Mayo Clinic reports that while celiac disease can affect anyone, it’s most commonly found in those individuals who have:

  • Type 1 diabetes
  • Autoimmune thyroid disease
  • Down syndrome
  • Microscopic colitis

Gluten is found in items like bread, pasta, cookies, pizza crust, etc. and is the combination of the gliadin and glutenin proteins. The disease causes the body’s immune system to overreact in response to the gluten in food. Some of the more well-known food items to avoid are:

  • Barley
  • Bulgur
  • Durum
  • Farina
  • Graham flour
  • Rye
  • Semolina
  • Spelt (a form of wheat)
  • Triticale
  • Wheat

After removing gluten from your diet, the inflammation of your small intestine begins to subside within several weeks. However, you may begin to feel better in just a few days. Complete healing may take anywhere from several months to as long as three years. In addition, by modifying your diet to completely eliminate gluten, normal reproductive functions often occur.

To help you with your understanding of and planning for a gluten-free diet, ask your practitioner at ilumina Healing Sanctuary.

For more information about celiac disease, you can visit:

5 Mistakes Made at the Grocery Store When Trying to Eat Healthier

1) Shopping Without a List: Preparing a list keeps you focused on buying healthier, makes you less likely to impulse buy, and saves time.
2) Forgetting to Shop the Perimeters: The outside of the supermarket contains the main food groups needed to eat healthier. Shopping along the outside helps guarantee that you stock up on grains, fruits, veggies, dairy products, and proteins.
3) Skimping on Fruits and Vegetables: Fruits and vegetables are loaded with vitamins, minerals, water and fiber. Water helps make you feel fuller longer which helps with weight control.
Tip: The deeper and more vibrantly colored produce is packed with the most nutrients.
4) Missing Out on Whole Grains: February’s issue of the Tufts University Health & Nutrition Letter notes that “consuming a diet rich in whole grains has been linked to reduced risks of chronic diseases, including heart disease, diabetes, obesity and some cancers.”
5) Ignoring Nutrition Label: Using labels helps us choose more nutritious foods by tracking calories, identifying ingredients and maximizing nutrients.
Tip: Pay attention to the serving size and calories per serving listed. A packed muffin may contain 300 calories on its label, but list its serving as half a muffin. That means that it actually has 600 calories a muffin (and who eats a half of a muffin?)
Extra Tip: Staying away from processed, packaged food is better all together!Written by: Healing Anthropology

The Fertility Benifits of Eating Organic

A healthy diet can help contribute to a healthy conception, but does it matter if the milk you drink or the veggies you eat are organic? Sometimes it does…There’s no shortage of advice on what you should eat when trying to get pregnant. Much less is known about how food—or more precisely the preservatives, hormones, pesticides, and other toxic chemicals lurking there—could interfere with your ability to conceive. To be on the safe side, some experts think now may be the time to go organic with at least some of the foods you consume. “The science is still inconclusive, but there is some suggestion that women exposed to persistent organic pollutants have more reproductive health problems that can lead to problems with fertility,” says Tracey Woodruff, Ph.D., director of the Program for Reproductive Health and Environment at the University of California at San Francisco.One of the proponents of going green is Robert Greene, M.D., medical director of the Sher Institutes for Reproductive Medicine of Northern California. In his new book, Perfect Hormone Balance for Fertility (Three Rivers Press, 2008), Dr. Greene notes that about 90 percent of our total intake of pesticides, fungicides, herbicides, preservatives, additives, and antibiotics comes from the foods we eat. Most of these chemicals, he adds, are hormone disrupters, which interfere with the body’s hormone balance and can reduce fertility or lead to miscarriage.While organic foods are becoming more widely available, they still tend to be more expensive. If cost is an issue, Dr. Greene recommends focusing organic purchases on animal products (meat and dairy), which he says are likely to contain the highest levels of hormone disrupter chemicals. Dr. Greene also writes, “The most harmful BioMutagens are contained in the fat of meat and fish, so always buy lean and low-fat products.” Another good strategy is to take a good look at your daily diet, and then buy organic versions of the foods you eat most frequently.Among fruits and vegetables, levels of pesticide residues can vary significantly, according to the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP). Opt to go green at least with the fruits and vegetables that are most likely to be contaminated (see chart below).The IATP also advises that consumers buy produce from small, local farmers whenever possible. Not only is this produce generally fresher and more flavorful, but it also tends to harbor fewer chemicals than foods grown on large industrial farms. Whatever their source, fruits and vegetables should be thoroughly washed in cold water before being eaten. Washing can remove at least half of pesticide residues, as well as pathogens such as E. coli and salmonella, which can cause illness.Through the foods you choose, as in all things, the goal is to maintain optimum health when you’re trying to conceive. “Anything you can do to improve overall health is likely to maximize your fertility and ensure a healthy pregnancy and a healthy baby,” says Louis DePaolo, M.D., chief of the Reproductive Sciences Branch at the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.Highest Pesticide ResiduesApplesGrapes (imported)NectarinesPeachesPearsRed raspberriesStrawberriesBell peppersCarrotsCeleryGreen beansHot peppersPotatoesSpinachModerate Pesticide ResiduesApricotsBlueberriesCantaloupeGrapefruitGrapes (domestic)HoneydewOrangesCollard greensCucumbersKaleLettuceMushroomsSweet potatoesTomatoesTurnip greensWinter squashLowest Pesticide ResiduesApple juiceBananasKiwifruitMangoesOrange juicePapayaPeaches (canned)PineapplesPlumsTangerinesWatermelonAsparagusAvocadoBroccoliCabbageCauliflowerOnionSweet cornSweet peasA version of this article originally appeared in the Summer 2008 issue of Conceive Magazine .

Beverage for Urinary Tract Health

At ilumina Healing Sanctuary, I see patients with chronic urinary tract or vaginal infections and are caught in the cycle of antibiotic use without results. My favorite delicious, simple, and easy to make at home beverage can be a beneficial addition to your current therapy. Is it also useful for IBS, digestive disorders, constipation, bloating and gas as well as chronic yeast infections just to name a few.

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Eastern Nutrition&Detoxfication Program

Eastern Nutrition ProgramThis is a program that involves the energetics of food to create balance in the body. Learn the Taoist system of the 5 elements and the 5 tastes of food to balance your overall diet. Circumstances that influence dietary choices and habits such as convenience and emotions around eating will be discussed. Food choices, places to shop, and recipes are recommended as well. This program is an overall wellness program that includes nutrition supplements, exercise recommendations and stress management techniques. Three appoints are necessary to receive all of these facets to the program.Detox ProgramThis program is customized for the individual depending on their medical history and their energetic diagnosis. The detox diet includes a clean, balanced combination of foods based on Eastern nutritional principles. Along with the diet includes detox therapies to practice at home, supplements, and tea. The duration of this program is 10-14 days.The detox program includes two different detox plans. Both programs are a whole body detox which cleanses the liver, large intestine, blood, lymph, lungs, skin, and kidneys. One program is more specific to candida that includes a yeast free diet and supplements to clear the body of candida.For more information or to schedule an appointment please call.In Health,Dana Price DOM, L.Ac., Dipl.OM, FABORMilumina Healing Sanctuary7520 E. Camelback RoadScottsdale, Arizona 85251(602)957-2602