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Nutrition and Hormonal Balance

  Good Morning,  Nutrition and Hormonal Balance As an acupuncturist in the area of fertility, I realize tha...

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Wednesday, July 13, 2011

[AlternativeAnswers] Acupuncture for Infertility

 

by Andrew Pacholyk, MS, L.Ac. Peacefulmind.com

Infertility is often defined when a couple has 1 year of regular intercourse without contraception and has been unable to conceive. Primary infertility is seen when a couple has never been able to conceive, where as secondary infertility is difficulty conceiving after already having conceived and carried a normal pregnancy. Technically, secondary infertility is not present if there has been a change of partners. Infertility can be an issue for both men and women.

Whether you choose to do acupuncture and herbal medicine for fertility or a more aggressive procedure with IVF or IUI, there are viable options for increasing your fertility! Some patient choose to come to me and try to become fertile naturally. In this case, I am able to work with you one on one, as we determine your particular situation. We will have a consultation and then choose the best course of action. It may be with acupuncture or it maybe with acupuncture and herbal medicine.

If you choose the IVF/IUI route, I am there to support you and your doctor's decisions. I play an important, but secondary role in regards to this treatment, but I am there for you, none-the-less.

Traditional Chinese Medicine

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is the oldest, continually practiced, and professionally administered health care system in the world. It is a documented medical system spanning over 2,500 years based on comprehensive philosophies, rational theories, clinically tested and empirically verified by over 100 generations of highly educated practitioners. Chinese Medicine is a total system of internal medicine which is comprised of a diagnostic procedure based on signs, symptoms and treatment styles including acupuncture, herbal medicine, exercise, diet and meditation. It’s foundation is based on the principles of balance; the interdependent relationship of Yin and Yang. Through this balance, health is achieved and maintained.

Traditional Chinese Medicine is often helpful where conventional medicine is not. Certain disorders can complicate fertility. The goal in Chinese medicine is to better manage or resolve these disorders such as endometriosis, PCOS, pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), immune-related infertility and menstrual problems with acupuncture and herbal medicine.

Acupuncture and herbal medicine can help with issues of irregular menses, excess NK cells amd works with gonadotropin therapy to produce follicles in women undergoing in vitro fertilization. Low sperm count and sperm motility are fertility issues that men face and the combination of acupuncture and herbal medicine has shown to benefit men with these issues.

Infertility candidates for acupuncture are women or men who have a functional, rather than a structural reason. The American Academy of Medical Acupuncture, finds it helps as many as 65-80 percent of these cases.

While acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine cannot guarantee 100% success, it can aim to improve your odds at achieving pregnancy either with TCM alone or in combination with acupuncture and IVF. Acupuncture and herbs can help by:

1. Regulating the hormones to produce a larger number of follicles.

2. Improve the function of the ovaries to produce better quality eggs.

3. Relax the patient and decrease stress.

4. Increase blood flow to the uterus.

5. Increase the thickness of the uterine lining.

6. Strengthen the immune system.

7. Lessen the side effects of drugs used in IVF.

8. Prevent the uterus from contracting.

9. Improve semen to create better quality and quantity of embryos.

10. Decrease chances of miscarriage

Acupuncture and herbal medicine can be an effective complement to your treatment. Acupuncture redirects your vital energy into a more balanced flow. It provides support to the underlying importance of better digestion and improved circulation. Acupuncture releases tension in the muscles. This allows increased flow of blood, lymph, and nerve impulses to affected areas, decreasing the stress experienced by you.

TCM classifies Infertility into pattern differentials:

According to TCM philosophy, the Kidneys govern the reproductive system. If you are having problems conceiving, there is often a deficiency in the Kidneys or "kidney energy". Symptoms of Kidney deficiency include lower back pain, weak legs, dry mucous membranes, night sweats, cold feet, irregular menses, low libido, increased urinary frequency, and nighttime urination, to name a few. (During menopause, a woman's Kidney Essence, decreases, and many of the same symptoms occur.) A TCM practitioner will suggest taking herbal supplements to increase the "kidney energy" and nourish the body. Your practitioner should also recommend a diet containing foods that nourish the Kidneys, such as walnuts, black sesame seeds, barley, tofu, black soybean, wheat germ, seaweeds, various beans, meat, and wheatgrass.

1. Liver Qi Stagnation and/or Liver, Spleen, Stomach Disharmony: physical and mental fatigue, headaches, depression, sighing, chest tightness and hypochondriac distension, alternating loose stools and constipation, irritable bowel syndrome, bitter taste in the mouth. Tongue is dusky, with thin white coat. Pulse is wiry.

2. Blood Stasis: excessive menstrual bleeding, surgical procedures or emotional trauma can cause these problems. Clinically this will manifest as infertility; scanty periods; delayed periods with dark purple menstrual blood and blood clots; painful menstruation; frequent abdominal pain; a pale tongue body with purple spots; and a thin-wiry pulse.

3. Heart Blood and/or Yin Deficiency: fatigue, palpitations, irritability, disorientation, forgetfulness, insomnia, dream-disturbed sleep, hot flashes, night sweats, pale face. Tongue is pale or has a slightly red tip, with thin white coat. Pulse is thready, rapid or choppy.

4. Kidney Qi and Yang Deficiency possibly with Spleen Qi Deficiency: fatigue, soreness or pain of the low back, weakness in the knees, cold sensation all over body, morning diarrhea, frequent urination, poor diet and nutrition, shortness of breath that worsens with movement. This can manifest as impotence in men; or irregular menses in women. Tongue is enlarged and pale, with scallops and a thin white coat. Pulse is thready, weak and deep.

5. Phlegm Obstruction and Dampness Retention: fatigue, listlessness, sleepiness, plum-pit qi, chest tightness, puffy face and legs, and overweight or heavy sensation of the body. Dusky tongue with moist or greasy coat. Slippery or full pulse.

6. Blood Deficiency: due to loss of blood from trauma, surgery, or childbirth. Insufficient blood production due to fatigue or blood stagnation. Symptoms will include failure to conceive; delayed periods with scanty, light-colored menses, or copious, watery menses; absence of menstruation; pale complexion; a thin, weak body; dizziness; palpitations; breathlessness; insomnia; poor memory; tiredness; a pale tongue body with a thin-white tongue coating; and a thin-soft pulse.

In women, having an abnormal menstrual period is a good place to start. A regular 28 to 30 day cycle with good quality fertile mucus right before ovulation, relatively no premenstrual symptoms and a pain free period with efficient bleeding indicate a balanced hormonal cycle.

Physical examination and routine laboratory tests for women include:

1. Genetic testing: this is done to determine whether there's a genetic defect causing infertility.

2. Hormone testing: this may be done to check levels of ovulatory hormones, thyroid and pituitary hormones.

3. Hysterosalpingography: This exam evaluates the condition of the patient's uterus and fallopian tubes by indicating if there is any blockage in these areas.

4. Laparoscopy: this procedure involves inserting a thin viewing device into the patient's abdomen and pelvis to examine the fallopian tubes, ovaries and uterus. Performed under general anesthesia, the most common problems identified by laparoscopy are endometriosis and scarring.

5. Ovulation test: this blood test is used to measure hormone levels to determine whether patient is ovulating or not.

6. Ovarian reserve test: this test begins with hormone testing early in a woman's menstrual cycle. Testing may be done to determine the potential effectiveness of the eggs after ovulation.

7. Pelvic ultrasound: is performed to look for uterine or fallopian tube disorders.

If no physical illness is found, a regimen of proper diet, detoxing, exercise, and plenty of rest and water is a good start. Try to manage stress and balance situations around you.

In man, symptoms of infertility may have some signs of hormonal problems such as changes in hair growth or sexual function. The quality, quantity, morphology and motility of a man's sperm is also looked at.

1. Physical examination and routine laboratory tests for men include:

2. Hormone testing: a blood test is done to determine the level of testosterone and other male hormones.

3. Physical examination: includes the genitals and questions about medical history, illnesses and disabilities, medications and sexual habits.

4. Semen analysis: is the most important test for men. Your doctor will ask for one or more semen samples. The laboratory determines the number of sperm present and any abnormalities in the morphology and motility of the sperm. Sperm counts can fluctuate from one sample to the next.

5. Ultrasound: a transrectal and scrotal ultrasound can help the doctor look for evidence of conditions such as retrograde ejaculation and ejaculatory duct obstruction.

The Fertile Garden

The magic of conception is really an amazing and precise process of proper timing and precious essence, brought together in one heightened moment!

Each month the pituitary gland in a woman's brain sends a signal to her ovaries to prepare an egg for ovulation. The pituitary hormones â€" follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) and luteinizing hormone (LH) â€" stimulate the ovaries to release an egg. This is called ovulation. It is during this time a woman is fertile (usually about day 14 of her menstrual cycle).

The egg travels through the fallopian tube and can be fertilized about 24-72 hours after it is released. Conception is more likely to occur when intercourse takes place 1 to 2 days prior to ovulation or 1 to 2 days after.

For pregnancy to occur, a sperm must meet with the egg in the fallopian tube during this time. Sperm are capable of fertilizing the egg for up to 72 hours and must be present in the fallopian tube at the same time as the egg for conception to occur. In order for a sperm to reach an egg, the man must have an erection and ejaculate enough semen to deliver the sperm into the vagina. There must be enough sperm, and it must be the right shape and move in the right way. In addition, the woman must have a healthy vaginal and uterine environment so that the sperm can travel to the egg. If fertilized, the egg moves into the uterus where it attaches to the uterine lining and begins a nine-month process of growth.

Achieving Balance

A regular 28 to 30 day cycle with good quality fertile mucus right before ovulation, relatively no premenstrual symptoms and a pain free period with efficient bleeding indicate a balanced hormonal cycle. Fertile mucus appears several days prior to ovulation and is required to help nourish the sperm and guide it to the egg. An ovulation occurring on day 12 to 15 of a cycle indicates that the egg is being released at its optional developmental time. Ideally, a woman should experience menstrual bleeding for at least 3 to 5 days and this blood flow should be red in color without any clotting or flooding.

Issues that effect fertility include:

1. Hormonal imbalances

2. Ovary disorders such as tumors, cysts and stress

3. Age: early 30's has a 22% chance to conceive, early 40's - an 8% chance and early 50's - a 1% chance.

4. Blockage: such as in the fallopian tubes (egg and sperm cannot meet), pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) and STD's (HPV and Chlamydia)

5. Uterus disorders: such as fibroids and endometriosis

When there is an issue of fertility, it is a good idea to look at your lifestyle. These problems can complicate infertility:

1. Finding Balance: in a modern society we tend to "burn the candle at both ends". There MUST be a proper balance in the amount of work that we do, in the amount of sleep we have in the foods that we enjoy and in the amount of "down time" we give ourselves.

2. Excessive Work: can drain the very core of our energy. Today, if you are not working for a company who is placing high demands on your time, health and relationships, then you have your own business, which often has no boundaries when it comes to building and maintaining your dream.

3. Improper Diet: can be a nutrition zapper that robs the body of proper vitamins, mineral and sufficient amino acids that are important for energy product. Improper use of caffeine, alcohol and saturated fats have been shown to decrease fertility and increase the chance of miscarriage. A balance of fresh vegetables, complexed carbs, whole grain, as well as, fruits, nuts, seeds and protein are very important for maintaining proper energy levels.

4. Lack of Exercise: decreases blood circulation. Regular exercise builds stamina that can help anyone battle stress. But even something as casual as a walk around the block can help you burn off some of the tension that you carrying around. Stretching is a great tension reducer.

5. Poor Sleep Habits: can drain you of a good day full of vital energy. Overthinking, anxiety and a racing mind are all issues that cause difficulty in falling asleep and/or difficulty staying asleep. Lack of sleep has long been recognized as influencing fertility. It leads to physiological disruptions including the inhibition of growth hormones.

6. Stress: is a hidden issue that is seldom addressed. Stress has been linked to irregularities in ovulation and abnormal sperm development. When you can lower your levels of physiological stress, you have increased your chances of conception.

7. Weight: Being too thin or too heavy can have an impact on how quickly you conceive. Excessive thinness is known to interfere with menstrual periods. Now, it is also believed that if both partners are overweight or obese, conception will take longer.

8. Smoking: Smokers have an increased rate of repeated miscarriage. Women smokers have been shown to have lower levels of estrogen which, may delay conception. Smoking is also thought to influence tubal factor infertility, and can cause early menopause. In men, smoking may damage sperm. When men stop smoking, their sperm count increases quickly.

Tips For Improving Fertility

1. Balance Your Day: set boundaries with work, family, friends, exercise. To much of ANYTHING is not a good thing. Although we are constantly reminded that MODERATION is the key, we seldom recognize it in ourselves. Plan your day out on paper. Divide your time evenly and stick to it.

2. Improve How You Work: work smart. Do not allow the "fires you put out" each day to become uncontrollable. Allow a certain amount of time for these issues as well as new projects, clients or meetings.

3. Get Exercise: If you are saying, how can I exercise, when I have so much to do, this is all the more reason why you need to jump start your metabolism. Exercise is what your body instinctively wants to do especially under stress: fight or flight, and it works. It burns off some of the stress chemicals which tension produces. Therefore, a tired muscle is a relaxed muscle. Regular exercise builds stamina that can help anyone battle stress. But even something as casual as a walk around the block can help you burn off some of the tension that you carrying around as well as, increase blood circulation.

4. Take A Look At Food: Carbohydrates provide glucose for energy. Excessive carbohydrates can increase blood sugar levels to dangerous levels, which then makes your body shut down to protect itself. Protein is important because it allows the brain to synthesis the neurotransmitters dopamine and norepinephrine, which help keep your mind attentive and alert. Excessive protein levels make the organs of digestion work much harder to process this food and robs your energy stores. Find the balance for YOU. Listen to your body! It will tell you what makes you feel good and what does not. Especially in the long term. If you have issues with excess heat, look at eating foods that have a cooling nature. If you have excess cold, look at eating foods that have a warming nature. Neutral foods help to regulate our system.

5. Prepare for Better Sleep: Overthinking is a culprit that will rob you of great energizing and restorative sleep. Turn off that mind by starting to wind down early. Give yourself "quiet time". Utilize the power of peaceful music, a good book, diffusing essential oils, warm milk or tea before you lay down.

6. Manage Your Best Energy Times: Take advantage of your natural energy highs. Do your most strenuous work, thinking, planning, exercise when you have your greatest energy. Note the time of day when you feel your best and when you feel your worse. Expand your energy where it is most needed, pull back where you feel you can.

7. Keep Hydrated: Drink plenty of fluids, especially on hot, dry, windy days. If you're doing strenuous exercise, drink some fluids before the activity begins. You should also drink at regular intervals (every 20 minutes or so) during your activity and after the activity ends.

8. Boost Your Hormones: Reduce sedentary behaviors such as watching television and using computers. Being in one place for long periods actually slows metabolism and energy production. Proper nutrition is crucial for hormone balance. Essential fatty acids and nutrients such as vitamin A, B6, zinc, magnesium, and antioxidants are key factors to hormonal balance and therefore fertility.

9. Learn To Do Nothing: Our urge to drive ourselves to greater accomplishments, creates other issues such as exhaustion. Create/allow a few hours in your week to simply relax and do nothing. If you cannot find a few hours, it is time to rethink your priorities and commitments.

10. View Your Lifestyle: If illness is not the cause of your fertility, then it is a lifestyle issue. Are you creating unnecessary stress for yourself? Are there ongoing problems in your life that may be causing prolonged anxiety or depression? Consider counseling or talking about your issues with family, career personal or your doctor. Find the issues that are taking you away from a vital, fertile life!

11. Use the Power of Positive Thinking: Trying to get pregnant can often put a major strain on your relationship with your partner. Sometimes couples feel too tired and stressed to have intercourse or it feels to mechanical due to the pressures of trying to conceive. Keeping a positive attitude is imperative to getting pregnant because it improves your overall mental health; studies have found that positive thinking decreases levels of stress and the risk of depression, which in turn led to increased odds of getting pregnant. Many women feel "hopeless", "damaged" and "inadequate". These mental processes will decrease your chances of getting pregnant. It is important to address the emotional component.

12. Improve Your Chances: Your chances of getting pregnant each month greatly depend on your menstrual cycle and even more so, on ovulation. That is why timing intercourse is an excellent way to improve your fertility chances. In my practice, I have women begin a basal body temperature (BBT) chart. This charting is a great way of seeing and understanding your menstrual cycle, ovulation and period. Get started on your BBT chart now and learn better ways to predict your ovulation time.

Basal Body Temperature and BBT Chart

A Basal Body Temperature chart is a way commonly used to determine the time of ovulation. The basal body temperature refers to the temperature of your body at rest. You will need a special thermometer or ovulation thermometer and graph papers or a special chart. To determine your BBT, record your temperature everyday upon awakening before you get out of bed. Immediately after ovulation there will be a slight (no more than 0.4 to 1.0 degree Fahrenheit) but definite rise in your body temperature. Temperatures remain elevated until the next menstrual period.

Prior to ovulation, a woman's basal body temperatures generally range from 97.0 to 97.5 degrees Fahrenheit. Temperatures are suppressed at this time due to the presence of the estrogen. After ovulation, due to the production of the heat-inducing hormone progesterone, temperatures rise to about 97.6 to 98.6 F. This rise in temperature indicates that ovulation has occurred. Your most fertile day is the one immediately before the rise in temperature. This method can be best utilized along with other fertility signs such as a pain or aches felt on one side of the lower abdomen, to be accurate. When a woman is pregnant, her temperature remains elevated throughout pregnancy. This test can also be used to know whether a woman is ovulating or not. If ovulation does not occur the normal temperature remains static always.

Predicting Ovulation

1. Counting the Days: A cycle is counted from the first day of one period to the first day of the next period. Remember, the hormone levels are at point zero or neutral for the first three days. Keeping track of the average length of your menstrual cycles is one of the easiest ways to predict ovulation. In a 28-day cycle, for example, ovulation will generally take place between 12 and 15 days. This is the time that a women is most fertile and most likely to get pregnant. Therefore, the best time to have intercourse is between days 10 and 17 of your menstrual cycle. This first phase (Phase 1) should not be shorter than 10 day or longer than 17 days. If too short, the uterine lining does not have enough time to thicken and the egg does not have time to mature. If too long, this means a women's estrogen production is low.

2. Changing Cervical Mucus: As you approach ovulation, your cervical mucus changes in both volume and texture. You are most fertile when your cervical mucus discharge is clear and stretchy, like egg white texture. For conception, have intercourse during each cycle on the days when your cervical mucus (vaginal discharge) feels elastic, wet and slippery.

3. Cervix Changes: When levels of estrogen are heightened, as they are around ovulation, the cervix will become more pliable, soft and change positions upward away from the vagina. The cervical opening will also become wider. To check the position of the cervix, reach into the vaginal canal with your finger. The tip of the finger will touch the tip of the cervix. Note any subtle changes that vary before and after ovulation.

4. Lower Abdominal Discomfort: Some women may experience mild aches and pain in the lower abdominal area. Referred to as mittelschmerz (a German word meaning "middle pain"), abdominal pain can last anywhere from a few minutes to a few hours and is a sign that ovulation is occurring.

5. Body Temperature Increase: This change in temperature occurs because of the release of the egg and the production of hormones that accompany it. While this temperature is too slight to be felt, it can be measured using a body temperature thermometer.

6. Ovulation Prediction Kit: An ovulation predictor kit is an option in predicting ovulation. A positive result means that your hormone levels are high, signaling that ovulation will occur within 12 to 48 hours.

Nutritional Advise

A healthy diet along with maintaining healthy body weight (not too low, not too high) is most important in order to optimize your chances of conception. Proper diet supports your body and its hormonal functions.

A fertility diet should be based on the specific constitutional patterns found under Nutrition and Hormonal Balance. This correlates with any hormone imbalances you are experiencing.

Missing meals, dieting, and not eating properly can be helped by taking one multivitamin and mineral supplement a day. A lack of good nutrition can cause a host of problems. Consider several light meals to avoid a severe case of napping.

Eating most of your calories early in the day will give you the fuel you need to keep going. But you've got to be selective in the type of fuel you choose. Carbohydrate, for example, is a fast burner. Fat, on the other hand, burns slowly, meaning it slows you down.

Eat a healthy, balanced diet overall. Consider a high-protein, low-fat diet with healthy complexed carbohydrates.

Water is essential in any healing process. Distilled water is the best. 6-8 eight ounces glasses per day.

Consider juice therapy. Grapes, prunes, cherry, spinach, lettuce turnips and beets provide a great synergy for all menstrual disorders.

The power of green whole foods is essential for all day energy, greater focus under stress, sense of well-being, strengthened immune system, fewer food cravings and optimum synergistic balance of essential nutrients for total health. Green whole foods contain antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, amino acids, active enzymes, bioflavinoids, chlorophyll and other phytonutrients necessary for optimial cellular metabolism, repair and protection! These ingredients contain the most powerful combination of nutrients ever known in any grain, herb or food. They contain almost all of the vitamins, minerals, proteins and enzymes necessary for the human diet, plus chlorophyll.

Spirulina Blue Green Algae: Spirulina possesses a complete protein richer than steak, abundant organically complex minerals, a wide variety of essential vitamins, and many beneficial enzymes. Spirulina is more than just a food. As with Chlorella it has been shown to be valuable with almost every aspect of health. These necessities are bio-available which means that they are easily assimilated throughout the digestive tract, giving instant access to vital nutrients.Because of algae's high chlorophyll and high nutritional content it is an excellent part of a cleansing program.

Chlorella Green Algae: Chlorella's tough cell wall protects the valuable nucleus inside. When it is harvested it is instantly dried and the cell walls are gently cracked open. The nutrients inside retain full potency. Once in your body, the cracked open cells release their valuable nutrients. Because it is so easy to digest, your cells get the full benefit of this nutritional powerhouse. These necessities are bio-available which means that they are easily assimilated throughout the digestive tract, giving instant access to vital nutrients. The algae provides intestinal nourishment and has a soothing and healing effect on the mucous lining. It works to detoxify and purify our system.

Barley Grass and Wheat Grass: Eating barley and wheat grass is like eating a plate of green vegetables. These cereal grasses, are harvested young and are ecologically grown in nutrient rich soil. They are approximately 25% protein and contains all the essential amino acids, concentrated vitamins, minerals and fiber. They have been shown to increase our overall health by reducing intestinal putrefaction and maintaining healthy blood another important component of cleansing.

Klamath Lake Blue Green Algae: This remarkable plant grows 100% organically in the Upper Klamath Lake of Oregon. Blue Green Algae has more protein and chlorophyll by weight than any other plant or animal on earth. Klamath Lake algae is considered to be the most nutrient rich of the algaes.

What You Should Avoid:

Limit foods that have little or no fiber such as ice cream, cheese, meat, snacks like chips and pizza, and processed foods such as instant mashed potatoes or already-prepared frozen dinners. Too much white flour and refined sugar.

What you don’t eat may be even more important than what you do eat. Avoid alcohol and sugar, because they tend to worsen the situation.

Curb your caffeine. One or two cups of coffee can work to kick you into gear in the morning, but its benefits usually end there. Too much caffeine is just as bad as too much of anything. Drinking it throughout the day for an energy boost can actually backfire. Caffeine makes you feel like you have more energy, but you really don't. Cut back on caffeine to reduce the high and low effect.

Reduce Processed and Refined Foods:

Avoid fried foods, white pasta, white rice, full fat dairy, white potatoes, white bread (baguettes, bagels, pita).

Processed food can rob your food of nutrients and vitamins that your body needs to fight off stress and promote good health. Try to buy whole foods, unprocessed foods and try and stay away from "instant" foods, preservatives, artificial flavors, saturated fats, refined foods, hydrogenated food and MSG.

Reduce Sugar Intake:

Too much sugar can rob our body of essential nutrients. Simple carbohydrates from baked goods, pastries, most crackers and cookies must be limited to a very small portion or completely removed from the diet.

Nutrition and Hormonal Balance

Creating a fertility diet is best done by looking at hormone imbalances. Your endocrine system is a collection of glands that produce hormones that regulate your body's growth, metabolism, and sexual development and function. The hormones are released into the bloodstream and transported to tissues and organs throughout your body.

Hormones are chemical messengers that carry a signal from one cell (or group of cells) to another. All multicellular organisms produce hormones; plant hormones are also called phytohormone. Cells respond to a hormone when they express a specific receptor for that hormone. The hormone binds to the receptor protein, resulting in the activation of a signal transduction mechanism that ultimately leads to cell type-specific responses.

In regards to reproduction, the ovaries, uterus, breasts, and testes, are the important organs that are regulated by our hormones. Too little estrogen, too little progesterone, too many male hormones, and/or cortisol deficiencies, are all common problems with reproductive hormones.

Our endocrine system regulates our hormones, and therefore of vital importance to the reproductive health of both men and women. Proper eating habits, avoiding certain habits and weight control, are some areas, which should be given attention when conception, or health in general is your goal.

Many medical conditions can also adversely affect the hormonal balance such as a thyroid condition; diabetes, PCOS, endometriosis, fibroids and too high or too low body mass index are all common contributors to infertility.

If you think you are experiencing signs and symptoms of hormonal deficiencies or imbalances, the first place to look is your period and menstrual cycle.

Below you will find common hormone imbalances and how to start to remedy them:

Eating a healthy diet and maintaining a healthy body weight will optimize your chances of conception by supporting your body and its hormonal functioning.

Your nutrient levels and how well your digestion is functioning is a huge determinant of hormonal balancing in your body. Essential Fatty Acids and nutrients such as vitamin A, B6, zinc, magnesium, and antioxidants are key factors to hormonal balance and therefore fertility.

Enough fiber and optimal liver function are important because once hormones have completed their function; they are processed by the liver and put back into the digestive tract to be eliminated. A Liver Detox before beginning any fertility programs is usually a good idea.

Food sensitivities are also important to be determined; they effect digestion and will ultimately decrease your absorption of vital nutrients, and therefore compromise your hormone balance. Most people already know if they are allergic to things such as peanuts and shellfish, but other commonly eaten foods such as dairy and wheat products cause problems without people knowing. Eliminate or at least limit greatly your consumption of milk, cheese, cream, sour cream, bread, pastas, and flour. After a couple of weeks, once the cravings for these items is waning, reassess how you are feeling, your energy levels, headaches, libido, bowel habits, etc.. If you feel a lot better than usual, it is almost certain that you are sensitive to these foods.

It is also recommended strongly, if you are a meat eater, to make the switch to organic. The growth hormones (i.e. testosterone) in commercial meats wreak havoc on your hormonal balance.

Too Little Estrogen

The years leading up to menopause show a decrease in estrogen levels. Estrogen deficiencies also arise when estrogen is leached from the body via a diet too rich in wheat fiber, or if the bowels or liver recycles not enough estrogen. It may also be caused by low body weight, vitamin A deficiency, too much exercise, smoking, taking antibiotics, or being on the contraceptive pill for too long.

Symptoms: (Yin vacuity), irregular menses, vaginal dryness, painful intercourse, hot flashes, night sweats, bladder infections, dry skin, lethargy and depression, and signs of premature aging such as memory loss.

Solutions: eating phyto-estrogen rich foods and herbs (legumes, alfalfa sprouts, flax seeds, oats, hops, fennel, parsley, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, cherries, and soy), and B vitamins, which contain PABA that stimulates the pituitary to produce estrogen.

Too Much Estrogen

Environmental estrogens are found in pesticides, plastics, and PCB's (chemical pollutants in the water, air, and soil). These forms of estrogen are thought to have a major influence on the excessive amounts of estrogen that are being found in both men and women. Poor diet, with too much refined carbohydrate and saturated animal fat and too little fiber is also responsible.

Eat more high fiber foods (except wheat bran) to prevent excess re-uptake of estrogen by the bowel. Organic food reduces your exposure to pesticides, antibiotics, and growth hormones. Too much fat tissue increases your body's ability to convert male hormones into estrogen. Stress also plays a major role in your liver and digestive system removing excess estrogen.

Symptoms: (Yin excess), puffiness and bloating, water retention, rapid weight gain, breast tenderness, heavy bleeding, mood swings (anxiety, depression, weepiness), sleep problems, migraines, flushed face, low libido, foggy thinking, and high levels of copper in the system. Later, endometriosis, fibroids, gall bladder problems, poor blood sugar control, and hypothyroid conditions may arise.

Symptoms in Men: hair loss, headaches, bloating, weight gain, prostate enlargement, irritability, and breast enlargement.

Solutions: low fat high fiber diet, live yogurt (encourage excretion of estrogen), eating cabbage-family veggies increases the rate at which the liver converts estrogen into a water-soluble form that can be excreted, increase protein intake to improve estrogen metabolism in the liver, vitamin B6 reduces the effects of excess estrogen, more exercise, less stress, and lose weight.

Too Little Progesterone

Progesterone is used to produce three different types of estrogen, testosterone, cortisol, and aldosterone. It helps control water balance, the use of fat for energy, proper thyroid function, and is a natural antidepressant.

This is the most common hormone to be deficient in all women. When ovulation fails (due to perimenopause or other reasons) progesterone is not produced in the luteal phase (second half of cycle), or it is not produced long enough to sustain implantation. This can happen after using the pill too long, having a miscarriage, or breastfeeding. This is called a luteal phase defect. The luteal phase should be at least 12 days long for pregnancy to occur. Progesterone maintains a pregnancy in the beginning, so a deficiency may cause miscarriage. Women with PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome), faulty secretion of other hormones such as FSH, LH, or prolactin, endometriosis, and menstrual irregularities, may have a progesterone deficiency.

Symptoms: painful or lumpy breasts, headaches at a certain time of the cycle, anxiety, irritability, sleeping problems, unexplained weight gain, fatigue around ovulation, spontaneous sweating during the luteal phase, abdominal cramping and diarrhea, history of low blood pressure, PMS, bleeding between periods, a heavy menstrual cycle (but the blood is thin and watery)and reduced libido.

Solutions: Avoid cold, raw foods, eliminate sweets and refined carbohydrates, the controversial progesterone therapy, natural progesterone cream, vitamin B6, E, magnesium, and evening primrose oil, vitex agnuscastus (man jing zi, chasteberry), reducing stress, less exercise, and increasing low body weight. Herbs that are imperative for boosting are ginseng, atractylodes, dioscorea and astragulus.

Too Many Male Hormones

Excess androgens can affect both men and women. In women this is usually a result of PCOS, a poor diet that includes a lot of sugar, refined or fried foods, and simple carbohydrates. Adrenal disorders, anabolic steroid use, corticosteroids, and obesity can also cause this.

Symptoms: acne, ovarian cysts, excess body hair, unstable blood sugar levels, thinning hair on the head, mid-cycle pain, and erratic menses.

Solutions: high fiber vegetarian diet that is low in saturated fats and high in phyto-estrogens.

Cortisol Deficiency

Long term low level stress and/or poor nutrition fatigue the adrenals which causes a cortisol deficiency. This stress hormone competes with progesterone for receptor sites, leading to a condition of estrogen dominance and less active progesterone.

Symptoms: (Kidney vacuity), unstable blood sugar levels, extreme fatigue, allergies, candida, insomnia, PMS, loss of libido, weak immune system (frequent colds), low blood pressure, alcohol intolerance, chronic fatigue, weak muscles, depression, and headaches.

Solutions: reduce intake of stimulants such as sugar, caffeine, tobacco, and alcohol, healthy diet, relaxation, meditation, yoga, and Chinese herbal medicine.

Healing Touch Therapy:

There are many different approaches to massage and applications of it. "Massage Therapy" is a holistic procedure that affects all systems of the body; digestive, elimination, respiratory, circulatory, lymphatic, endocrine and nervous systems. Many of today's health problems arise from stress. Because stress upsets the delicate integral balance of all your body's functions, regaining this balance requires a holistic approach.

Massage Therapy and Lymphatic Drainage Massage not only treats those parts of you which are a problem, but also affects the whole of your metabolism through normalizing your circulatory, muscular and nervous systems and their interdependent functioning.

Massage is effective for the whole system. This can be done with soothing massage oils or relaxing body lotions in order for the practitioner's hands to "glide" over the body with smooth, relaxing strokes.

Learn How to Give a Massage. This step by step method will help you learn just how to make your subject feel great!

The Femoral Massage increases blood flow to the pelvis allowing more nourishment to the uterus and ovaries. This massage may be more effective when performed by a partner.

1. Apply pressure with your fingertips to the artery just beneath the inguinal groove (the crease in your groin between your thigh and lower abdomen). This is the femoral artery, which comes from the iliac artery. The iliac artery has branches that supply blood to the uterus, fallopian tubes, and ovaries.

2. Feel with your fingertips, the pulsation in the artery. As you compress it, it will stop. Hold the pressure for 30 to 45 seconds. The blood is now backing up and increasing the pressure in the iliac arteries and flooding the pelvic organs with more blood.

3. Release the pressure and let the blood flow normally. Releasing this hold should allow you to feel a sensation of warmth rushing down your leg as the blood supply returns to the lower extremity.

4. Repeat on the opposite side. Perform this femoral massage three times in a row, twice a day, up to ovulation (or the day before the embryos are transferred).

About Andrew Pacholyk:

I have an extensive background in fertility. Whether we work together or in conjunction with your doctors, I am happy to map out a plan for you that works. In Chinese medicine, our goal is to correct any imbalances, which are keeping you from getting pregnant. Situations that Chinese medicine and acupuncture are excellent at resolving include PCOS, endometriosis, fibroids, pelvic inflammatory disease, hormone regulation and creating a better ovulation.

The Mission/Vision:

My mission is to get you pregnant. To see the baby through its full term. Assist in breeching the baby if necessary and even inducing labor when need be. Call me at my office, ProAcuMed at 917 843 3623

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