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

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

 

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

 

 

Am I Fertile? 7 Signs to Look For

By Kristen Karchmer

Article Published originally on MindBodyGreen

Being fertile is so much more than just being able to get pregnant.

Whether you're trying to conceive or not, understanding your fertility can give you information about your reproductive health that you have the power to influence.

Fertility isn't black and white, fertile and infertile. Instead, your fertility potential exists on a continuum that is constantly swinging in one direction or the other. That movement is largely dependent on the choices you make.

How do you know if your choices are affecting your fertility? The internet is full of misinformation, and your friends or even your mom won't always be your best guides. Believe it or not, your body and your menstrual cycle are great barometers for your reproductive health — you just need to know how to read them.

Here are a few fertility warning signs to look out for:

1. You're super-skinny.

Being in amazing shape is generally healthy, yes, but six-pack abs may not be your fertility's best friend. A healthy amount of body fat is essential for proper hormone function. If your body mass index (BMI) is too low, your hormone function may not be optimal for reproduction. Research shows that women with a BMI less than 18.5 took longer to conceive than women with a higher BMI (19 to 24.5 BMI). While we often associate thinness with good health, but there isn't necessarily a direct correlation. Listen to your body.

2. You get less than seven to eight hours of sleep per night.

You may feel like you need only six hours of sleep a night, but getting less than seven to eight has been associated with depressed leptin levels throughout the following day. Leptin is in charge of regulating the menstrual cycle. Also, disturbances in leptin concentrations have been linked with poor egg quality. Make sure you get sufficient rest every day to promote fertility in the future.

3. You enjoy more than two alcoholic drinks per day.

A few glasses of wine a week is unlikely to affect your fertility. But daily consumption of alcohol can significantly affect your ability to conceive. Remember, one serving of wine is only 4 ounces — not the 8-ounce pour that the cute guy at the wine bar gives you. Consumption of alcohol can have various effects on fertility including increased time to pregnancy and decreased probability of conception (by more than 50 percent).

A large-scale study in Stockholm, Sweden, found that women who consumed more than two alcoholic drinks per day were on average 60 percent more likely to be infertile than those who did not. That doesn't mean you can't have fun, just that moderation (as always) is the key.

4. You exercise more than five times per week at high intensity.

I love to rock a boot camp as much as the next girl, but high-intensity exercise seems to work against a fertile body. While moderate exercise has been correlated with an increase in fertility, overexercising has also been linked to infertility. Lean women who exercised at high intensity five or more days a week were shown to be 2.3 times more likely to develop fertility difficulties than those who did not. Exercise should always be about becoming a healthier you, not punishing yourself — love yourself with your exercise choices.

5. You have a short or long menstrual cycle (more or less than 28 days).

Most women have no idea how important having a 28- to 32-day cycle is for their fertility. A 28-day cycle allows plenty of time for the egg to mature properly and supports a healthy window for implantation. It also means that a fertilized egg will have plenty of time to implant before your next period starts. Both shorter and longer cycles have been associated with reduced fertility, in some cases decreasing the chance of delivery by up to 50 percent.

6. You have PMS and cramping.

PMS, pain, cramping, and clotting are more than just annoying: They often correlate with more serious issues like polyps, fibroids, endometriosis, or hormonal imbalances. In addition to being a drag, infertile women report these types of symptoms in much higher numbers than their fertile counterparts.

7. You have very light bleeding.

Women are always so happy when they have a short, light period. It may mean you don't have to deal with your cycle for as long, but it is not an indicator of a healthy body. The research shows that five days of bleeding resulted in the fastest time to conception. Why is the volume of blood so important? Healthy menstrual bleeding is the reflection of a healthy uterine lining. When the uterine lining is too thin, not only are bleeding times decreased, but embryo implantation is decreased as well.

What you can do about it:

When the choices we make aren't working for our bodies, it will show up in our menstrual cycles. These changes don't just reduce our fertility but can affect our overall quality of life. The good news is that if you make healthy lifestyle choices, many of these symptoms will improve, and so will your fertility.

Some of the risk factors I identified above are easy to fix. Not getting enough sleep? Commit yourself to getting some more shut-eye! Overdoing it at the gym? Aim for moderation.

But what about those things that are harder to control, something like short periods, for instance? Remember, your menstrual cycle is a reflection of your overall health. One of the best first steps to building a healthy, fertile menstrual cycle is to focus on diet — and a plant-based, whole foods diet is the best way to go. In fact, researchers found that women who substituted plant proteins for animal proteins for as little as 5 percent of their total daily calories had a 50 percent decrease in their risk of ovulatory infertility.

At Conceivable, we’ve researched hundreds of little ways to improve menstrual cycles for women to lead happier, healthier, and more fertile lives. Be sure to check out our blog for more information on how to realize your healthiest, most fertile self. 

ilumina practitioners use Conceivable products as part of a comprehensive treatment plan.

Women's Heath Concerns and How Acupuncture Can Help

The biggest threats to women's health are often preventable. Oriental medicine has always addressed the special needs of women throughout their lives and many health issues women face respond extremely well to acupuncture treatments. Taking small steps to improve your health can make a difference.The top health concerns affecting women and how acupuncture can help are:Cardiovascular DiseaseAs the number one threat to women's health, cardiovascular disease is not just a man's disease. In women, the condition is responsible for about 29% of deaths, reports the CDC. Although more men die of heart disease than women, females tend to be under diagnosed, often to the point that it's too late to help them once the condition is discovered. By integrating acupuncture and Oriental medicine into your heart healthy lifestyle, you can reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease by as much as eighty percent.Steps to prevention include managing high blood pressure and cholesterol, quitting smoking, eating healthy, maintaining a healthy weight, physical activity, reducing stress and improved sleep - all of which can be helped with acupuncture and Oriental medicine. Acupuncture has been found to be particularly helpful in lowering blood pressure. By applying acupuncture needles at specific sites along the wrist, inside the forearm or in the leg, researchers have been able to stimulate the release of opiods, which decreases the heart's activity and its need for oxygen. This, in turn, lowers blood pressure.CancerThere have been many advances in the early detection and treatment of cancer. While the standard medical care for cancer is effective, the treatments are aggressive and cause numerous unwanted side effects as well as a lowered immune system. The three most common cancers among women are breast, lung and colorectal cancer. While breast cancer is the most common cancer in women it is second in the leading cause of cancer death. Early detection screenings and recommended self examinations should be taken seriously.Acupuncture has received much attention as an adjunctive therapy in cancer treatments for its use in pain relief, reducing side effects, accelerating recovery and improving overall quality of life.From a preventive approach Oriental medicine works to restore imbalances in the system with a variety of treatment modalities including acupuncture, herbal therapy, tui na, qi gong in addition to food, exercise and lifestyle suggestions. Seasonal acupuncture treatments just four times a year serve to tonify the inner organ systems and correct minor annoyances before they become serious problems.OsteoporosisCharacterized by a decrease in bone mass and an increased likelihood of fractures osteoporosis is not simply a calcium deficiency. As a complex living tissue, bone is made of many different components and is influenced by many variables including the body's use of calcium from the bone to balance pH levels in the blood. Osteoporosis threatens 44 million Americans, of which 68% are women, reports the National Osteoporosis Foundation."Osteoporosis is largely preventable," says Mark. "The behaviors that women develop in their childhood, in their adolescence, and in their early adult years really play a significant role in the development of the disease." That's because bodies build up most of bone mass until age 30. Then new bone stops forming and the focus switches to the maintenance of old bone.Acupuncture and Oriental medicine coupled with a healthy lifestyle and regular exercise, have much to offer in improving the quality of life for those who suffer from bone and joint problems.DepressionDepressive disorders affect 10%-25% of women at some point in their lives. The body’s immune system is compromised and symptoms reduce functioning, impair work performance and social relationships. Common symptoms of depressive disorders include: a decreased interest in most activities, insomnia, fatigue, and feeling empty and worthless. At its worst, hopelessness sets in and suicide becomes a desperate option for approximately 15% of people who suffer from severe depressive disorders.Oriental medicine does not view people as a collection of segmented parts to be treated independently but rather addresses the link between the body, spirit and mind. The goal of Oriental medicine is to bring all the human systems into a healthy balance, insuring that both the mind and body feel well and when used in conjunction with psychotherapy acupuncture has a positive and holistic effect on depressed patients. If you suffer from depression, consider acupuncture therapy in conjunction with your treatment plan to regain peace of mind, regulate your immune system and stay healthy.Autoimmune DiseasesAutoimmune diseases are a group of disorders in which the immune system attacks the body and destroys or alters tissues. There are more than 80 serious chronic illnesses in this category, including lupus, multiple sclerosis, and type 1 diabetes.According to the American Autoimmune Related Diseases Association (AARDA), about 75% of autoimmune diseases occur in women. Individually, each disease appears uncommon with the exception of diabetes, thyroid disease, and lupus however as a group, the disorders make up the fourth-largest cause of disability among American women.Due to the complexity of treating autoimmune disorders, integrative medicine solutions have received much attention as successful therapies in their treatment. Acupuncture and Oriental medicine are specifically noted for use in pain relief, regulating the immune system, managing symptoms and improving overall quality of life.Menopause and Gynecological HealthGynecological conditions including Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS), fibroids, endometriosis, and infertility along with menopause are some of the most successfully treated problems by acupuncture and Oriental medicine. Oriental medicine has long recognized that health and vitality can be sustained over a woman's lifetime by restoring balance within the body and supporting the natural production of essential hormones.Menopause is a transitional period marking the cessation of ovulation in a woman's body. Symptoms vary from mild to severe, and are brought on as our bodies try to adapt to decreasing amounts of estrogen. Symptoms can include hot flashes, night sweats, insomnia, fatigue, mood swings, memory loss, dryness, headaches, joint pain, and weight gain. Menopause patients are encouraged to maintain a healthy weight, stabilize blood sugar, and eliminate stress, tension and anxiety or learn new techniques to cope with them to diminish the effects they have.Oriental medicine does not recognize menopause as one particular syndrome and aims to treat the specific symptoms that are unique to each individual using a variety of techniques such as acupuncture, herbs, bodywork, lifestyle/dietary recommendations and energetic exercises to restore imbalances found in the body. Therefore, if 10 women are treated each will receive a unique, customized treatment with different acupuncture points, different herbs and different lifestyle and diet recommendations.With support from Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine along with small changes in lifestyle and diet, menopause can be a time of a revival of vital energy and an opportunity for personal growth.By: Diane Joswick, L.Ac., MSOM