Optimal Health for Fertility – and the rest of your life

If you’re thinking about having children, the best thing you can do is optimize your general health. Pregnancy and childbirth can be quite taxing on the body (not to mention the process of actually raising children ;) ) – in Chinese medicine terms we say that the process consumes your qi and blood – so think of yourself as an athlete getting ready for a big event. All the weeks, months or years prior to getting pregnant and the nine months of pregnancy are your training time.

The key here is relaxed intensity. Eat well, get acupuncture regularly, take herbs formulated for you, exercise regularly, meditate, do all these things but without being too obsessive about it. Always take time to relax and remember that everything will unfold as it’s supposed to.

I’d like to share this success story from a colleague:

In my clinic, when I guide my patients to make positive lifestyle adjustments, they are able to achieve a healthy pregnancy later in life. Currently, I have a couple in my practice who unfortunately have been in the throes of fertility treatments for more than five years (and are still without a child). This past year, after following a nutrient dense diet free of processed and refined foods, receiving regular acupuncture, taking Chinese herbs, meditating, sleeping 7 to 8 hours/night, focusing on gratitude, making time for “date-night” and taking anti-oxidant rich supplements for a few months had, at the age of 44, the best in vitro fertilization (IVF) outcome they have ever had. They are happily 20 weeks pregnant at the moment. Yes, they did IVF. However, they have done several IVF treatments and this go around the doctors were amazed at the sperm and egg quality they produced. It was the best sperm and egg quality they have ever produced. Translation: chronological age, for this couple, was not the biggest issue.

The whole article can be read on the Acupuncture Today website.

The author goes on to make the distinction between chronological age and physiological age – how old you are in terms of how many times you’ve been around the sun versus how old your cells are compared to most people your age. Regardless of whether or not you want to have children, healthy aging is an important subject. More on that in the next blog post…

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Lu Rong Farm, 1978

A deer farm in China, 1978. Photo by Tom Lederer.

A deer farm in China, 1978. Photo by Tom Lederer.


Here’s a nice picture of a farm in China where they produce the Chinese medicinal substances derived from deer antler. Lu Rong (鹿茸) is deer antler velvet – the velvety substance that eventually hardens into mature deer antlers. Lu Rong strongly tonifies Yang, which means it can be useful when recovering from a serious illness, for high performance athletes, or for men who suffer from Kidney Yang type erectile dysfunction.

Click here to learn more about Chinese herbs.

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A Guide to Greens

I found this great guide to green vegetables on the internet. If you’ve ever stood in the produce section of the supermarket or been to the farmer’s market and found yourself wondering – what is that? How would I use it? – take a look at this.

As I like to remind people, there is a lot of controversy over what is considered healthy eating. Meat, dairy, bread – everyone has an opinion on how much or how little and what kind is okay to eat. But one thing that everyone agrees on is that vegetables are great and you should eat more of them.

If anyone knows the original designer of these images, let me know. Enjoy!

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Is Depression Caused by Inflammation?

Short answer: maybe. The long answer is that people who are depressed show elevated levels of cytokines, which are associated with many different inflammatory processes in the body.

The relationship between depression and physical health is discussed in this article from The Guardian:

George Slavich, a clinical psychologist at the University of California in Los Angeles, has spent years studying depression, and has come to the conclusion that it has as much to do with the body as the mind. “I don’t even talk about it as a psychiatric condition any more,” he says. “It does involve psychology, but it also involves equal parts of biology and physical health.”

What causes inflammation? Sugar, chronic stress, low-quality food, cigarette smoking. So what can you do to lower your overall levels of inflammation? Cut or drastically reduce sugar in your diet. Exercise. Eat good food, including lots of green vegetables. Drink plenty of water. If you smoke cigarettes, quit. Get acupuncture treatment.

This is Holistic Health 101, and many of these suggestions may sound familiar if you’ve been to see me or another acupuncturist. You might wonder why we recommend all these so-called “lifestyle changes” for so many patients. If you need a reason other than common sense, inflammation may be the string that ties them all together. You can learn more about holistic treatment of depression here.

Inflammation is also implicated in a host of other chronic disease states, from Crohn’s disease to heart disease to rheumatoid arthritis. However, it’s important to understand that inflammation is a natural process. Let’s not wage war on inflammation. Let’s not decide that inflammation is the boogeyman (there’s only one) and try to completely eliminate it. Instead let’s keep an eye on inflammation. Let’s manage it. Let’s take steps to prevent unnecessary inflammation.

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Flu Season

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Just a reminder to keep your immunity up to avoid the flu. Whether or not to get a flu vaccination is a personal choice. I’ve never gotten a flu vaccine, and I don’t plan on it, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t. However the Centers for Disease Control notes that the flu vaccination available currently does not protect against the most common circulating influenza virus:

Laboratory analysis of circulating flu viruses this season indicates that most of the H3N2 viruses are antigenically or genetically different than the H3N2 vaccine virus. This means it’s possible this season’s vaccine may not work as well against those viruses, but it should work well against the minority of circulating H3N2 viruses.

To keep your natural immunity up, I recommend the following:

  • Light exercise – walking, jogging, hiking. Keep your blood moving but don’t overdo it at this time of year.
  • Ginger tea
  • Avoid cold foods like salad and food straight out of the refrigerator

If you do get sick, acupuncture and herbs can help shorten the length of your illness. Typically we’ll use acupuncture points Fengchi, Lieque, Hegu, Fengmen, and Feishu. Herbal formulas vary according to your symptoms and presenting pattern, but Gui Zhi Tang (Cinnamon Twig Decoction) and Jing Fang Bai Du San (Schizonepeta and Siler Powder to Eliminate Toxins) are common choices.

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Light-Emitting E-Readers Before Bedtime Can Adversely Impact Sleep

Photo by F. Delventhal/Flickr CC license

Another victory for common sense!

Use of a light-emitting electronic device (LE-eBook) in the hours before bedtime can adversely impact overall health, alertness, and the circadian clock which synchronizes the daily rhythm of sleep to external environmental time cues, according to researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) who compared the biological effects of reading an LE-eBook compared to a printed book.  These findings of the study are published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences on December 22, 2014.

“We found the body’s natural circadian rhythms were interrupted by the short-wavelength enriched light, otherwise known as blue light, from these electronic devices,” said Anne-Marie Chang, PhD, corresponding author, and associate neuroscientist in BWH’s Division of Sleep and Circadian Disorders. “Participants reading an LE-eBook took longer to fall asleep and had reduced evening sleepiness, reduced melatonin secretion, later timing of their circadian clock and reduced next-morning alertness than when reading a printed book.”  Read the full article —>

Shutting off electronics one or two hours before sleep is part of what’s known as “sleep hygiene.” If you’re having trouble sleeping, or even if you get adequate sleep and still feel tired and groggy the next day, try these additional steps, all at least one or two hours before bed:

  • Turn lights down low
  • No eating – let your stomach rest
  • Try a cup of warm chamomile tea – no caffeine and very relaxing. Valerian is another single herb that can work quite well for sleep problems, but is a little harder to find.

Acupuncture and herbal formulas can also help immensely with sleep problems.

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Why Acupuncture Works for Anxiety Relief – Everyday Health

This article summarizes a few of the studies dealing with acupuncture and anxiety.

How does it work? Led by Eshkevari, researchers at Georgetown University used lab studies to demonstrate that acupuncture slows the body’s production of stress hormones. Their findings were published in the April 2013 issue of the Journal of Endocrinology

Read more here…



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Acupuncture Anti-Inflammatory Effect Revealed

Researchers have quantified mechanisms by which acupuncture exerts anti-inflammatory and pain reducing medical benefits. A new laboratory experiment proves that true electroacupuncture and not sham acupuncture causes biological reactions responsible for eliminating pain and inflammation. Researchers discovered that acupuncture inhibits ERK1/2-COX-2 pathway activation and ERK1/2-CREB-NK-1 pathway activation. Let’s take a look at why these biochemical pathways are so vitally important to pain management…


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Nature group walks linked to improved mental health

A new study links group nature walks with significantly lower depression and perceived stress.

Group nature walks are linked with significantly lower depression, less perceived stress and enhanced mental health and well-being, according to the study conducted by the University of Michigan… People who had recently experienced stressful life events like a serious illness, death of a loved one, marital separation or unemployment especially saw a mood boost after outdoor group walks.

The study surveyed members of the U.K.-based group Walking for Health. Closer to home, a quick search of Meetup.com turned up more than 100 walking groups in the bay area – take a look! With the warm weather we’ve been having, now is a great time to get outside.

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Today is the Autumn Equinox

Seasonal yin and yang are perfectly balanced today – there is almost exactly as much daylight as there is night time.

Chinese medicine is based in part on the idea of continuously moving and repeating cycles. For the sake of convenience, let’s define two very broad categories of observable phenomena: yin and yang. In the yin category is everything that is dark, cold, wet, moving downwards, getting smaller; the moon; female energy; and so on. In the yang category is everything that is bright, warm, dry, moving upwards, getting bigger; the sun; male energy; and so on.

The summer solstice is the peak of annual yang – the longest day of the year. From that point onwards, yang starts to decline. Where we are now is exactly halfway down our slide back to the winter solstice, when yin is strongest and yang is weakest. From the winter solstice we start the climb upwards back to the summer solstice, and we mark the halfway point with the spring equinox.


A sine wave describing the seasonal alteration of yin and yang.

Just as you there is a continuous alternating flow of yin and yang in the seasons, there is an alternating flow of yin and yang in your body and in your life. Your body follows nature – not because of any external ideas or theories but because it has to. Humans are a part of nature, just as much as trees and lions and mushrooms and scorpions. When it gets dark, we should sleep. When it’s light outside, we should be up.

My aim as an acupuncturist, at a very basic level, is to restore the optimal flow of yin and yang. Yin and yang should be balanced, but it’s a kinetic balance – at any one moment, yin and yang are fluctuating in a natural progression from one to another (if yin and yang are perfectly balanced and remain perfectly balanced… it means you’re dead!).

For instance, in a typical high blood pressure presentation, yang has become ascendant, and yin is deficient. We must anchor the yang energies of the body in yin. In practical terms, that means a combination of points on the upper part of the body (to clear excess yang) and points on the lower part of the body (to nourish and restore deficient yin). It gets much more complicated and specific than that, but that’s partly why we’re in school for four years before we can sit for the acupuncture license exam.

I hope that wasn’t too dry and theoretical. If you have observations about the alternation of yin and yang in your own life, feel free to share them in the comment section below.

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