Acupuncture for PCOS: How Chinese Medicine Can Help

PCOS is a complex disorder that needs a multifaceted treatment. Because of this complexity, Chinese Medicine is the perfect way to provide symptom relief and guide your body back to balance.

 

PCOS, or Poly-cystic Ovarian Syndrome, shows up in different ways in each person so diagnosing it can be time consuming and frustrating. The general criteria is, at least two of the following:

• Anovulation(no period) or oglioovulation (long or irregular cycles)
• Excess Androgens (male sex characteristics such as facial hair, acne and abdominal fat)
• Polycystic ovaries on ultrasound

 

These symptoms may or may not be present (notice how you just have to have 2 of these symptoms to get diagnosed) and are just the tip of the iceberg with PCOS unfortunately. It’s such a complex problem that it can feel like every system in your body is affected from your weight and metabolism to your mood, energy level, stress level and body image.

 

Because PCOS can has such an enormous effect of quality of life and the way women feel and show up in their body’s we absolutely love treating it with Chinese Medicine. It is typically very responsive to acupuncture, herbal medicine and nutrition therapy; we see some remarkable changes in women’s body’s and lives.

 

So how exactly does Chinese Medicine help with PCOS? Here are just a few ways:

 

Decrease androgens– The mechanism for this is not yet fully understood but both recent studies and clinical observation has shown that acupuncture successfully reduces signs of increased testosterone as well as lab values.

 

Manage Stress – Acupuncture specifically is one of the best ways to calm the “fight or flight” nervous system which is usually dysregulated in women with PCOS. This has a positive effect on insulin sensitivity, normal ovulation, obesity and cardiovascular disease

 

Regulate Metabolism – A combination of nutritional therapy, plant medicine and acupuncture work synergistically to balance hormones that regulate your weight and metabolism. Hormones like insulin, thyroid hormones and appetite regulation hormones are all affect by this synergistic treatment.

 

Improve mood– In a recent study 14 acupuncture treatments over 16 weeks showed improvement in social functioning, energy, vitality and general health in women with PCOS versus the control group which showed no significant improvement.

 

Promote normal menstruation– Chinese Medicine has been successfully regulating and improving periods for thousands of years safe and effectively. We pay close attention to subtle variations through a cycle to target exactly what’s going on from a Chinese medicine perspective. Whether you haven’t had a period in years or have just a few a year, we see women consistently and predictably improve with proper acupuncture and herbal treatment.

 

New research is constantly coming out about PCOS and we are coming to understand it more all the time. One thing we know for sure Is that for the women who suffer from it, it can greatly affect their quality of life. Chinese medicine is the perfect solution to both relive symptoms and restore balance within the body. A complex, interconnected condition requires a treatment that views your body as whole and interconnected. We provide that for you.

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Fibromyalgia – Can Acupuncture and Chinese Herbal Medicine Help?

The answer is yes, as part of a Whole Systems Treatment, but let’s cover some background first.

Fibromyalgia is a collection of symptoms: pain, fatigue, un-refreshed sleep, and a foggy mind, sometimes accompanied by a collection of other symptoms such as headaches, jaw pain, dizziness, IBS, bladder problems and mood disorders.

Fibro originates from a dysregulation of the autonomic nervous system, called the stress response.  For some, it begins with a very stressful or significant event, for others, it is a series of stressful events.

Normally, once the stressful event is over, the body switches to the parasympathetic state, otherwise called the rest and digest state.  For fibro patients, when the stressful event is over, the brain remains stuck in a sympathetic response called fight or flight.  The muscles are constantly tense and can become very painful, the gas pedal is always on, so you run out of fuel, become fatigued, yet can’t sleep well. With the fight or flight system stuck on, circulation is diverted away from the digestive and hormone systems, which may result in additional deterioration in health.

There is no easy one step solution for fibromyalgia.  We work together with patients to reverse the process, improve overall health and focus on re-teaching the brain how to react to stress in a move balanced way. We call this approach Whole Systems Treatment which includes:

  • Acupuncture to resolve pain and promote relaxation, better circulation, better digestion, and improved sleep.
  • Chinese herbal formulas to optimize function and reduce pain
  • Health coaching to improve sleep
  • Health coaching to optimize digestion
  • Health coaching to develop a movement plan
  • Teaching relaxation techniques including qigong, special breathing patterns, mindfulness meditation

With treatment, patients experience a reduction in pain, more energy, better sleep, and improved overall health.

So yes, acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine can help all of the symptoms that are commonly associated with fibromyalgia and allow you to regain your health and vigor.

Take care,

Ann & Emily

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Is there Sex after Menopause?

You could really look at menopause as the beginning; the beginning of the next phase of your life.  This next phase could last 35 years or more.    So, are you interested in maintaining an active sex life after menopause?  If the answer is yes, then let’s make it happen.

Things might be a little different post menopause.  On the positive side, the fear of an unwanted pregnancy is gone, so you don’t have to pay attention to that at all.  Often, by menopause, if you had children, they are gone or have at least one foot out the door, so there is not as much constant attention to them as when they were young. Hopefully you are working at relaxing just a bit more.

For women, one of the most common complaints post menopause is vaginal dryness.  This change is associated with the natural decline of sex hormones. The vaginal tissues will need some extra attention to stay plump and moist.  There are some great natural vaginal lubricants such as coconut oil, or olive oil.  In our office, we carry a vaginal restoring lubricant made with rose essential oil (never apply undiluted essential oil to your skin or tissues).  There is also a natural product available from Dr. Christiane Northrup called Amata Vaginal Moisturizer.  This moisturizer is made with an herb from Thailand called Peuraria Mirifica, it works really well!

The next most common complaint is a decline in libido. you may need to spend some time building it back up.  I recommend a book, written by a fellow acupuncturist called Sex Again, by Jill Blakeway it is available from Amazon, as well as other sources.  It will give you some great ideas on how to re-charge your libido.

One recommendation Jill makes in Sex Again, is to seek care from an acupuncturist who is certified to prescribe Chinese Herbs.  We have a full Chinese Herbal pharmacy in our office, so we can create a custom herbal formula to address your specific complaints.

So, yes there is sex after menopause, it may take a little effort to get your sex life on track again, but I think you will be happy.

Take care, Ann

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5 steps to sleeping like a champion

 

 

I often get asked for advice on improving sleep or hear stories about how people have experienced insomnia for years and they’re looking for a magic pill to fix it. Unfortunately, there is no magic pill or improving or fixing your sleep; not sleeping well is symptom that your body is not functioning properly. I actually recommend not investing any money in supplements until you implement these 5 things:

 

  1. No electronic is the bedroom. This means, TV, cell phone and tablets. You can buy a cheap alarm clock an amazon.
  1. Disconnect for AT LEAST 30 minutes. Turn off the TV, put your phone on airplane mode or do not disturb and have some tea, do some stretching, take a walk, read a book or have some quality time with your partner 😉
  1. Get sunshine during the day! 15-20 minutes each day. Eat your lunch outside, or take a walk. If this is not possible because of your climate then supplement with Vitamin D but actual sunlight is best.
  1. Block that blue light! Out your phone and ipad on night shift mode, turn down the brightness after dark and downlowd f.lux (http://ift.tt/1iBXKqa) on your computers. Light is not your friend at night!
  1. Perfect your sleep environment. Your bedroom should be completely dark and reasonably cold. The perfect sleep temperature is 68 degrees Fahrenheit so get as close to that as possible.

There you go my friends, my 5 non-negotiables when it comes to improving your sleep. Make sleep a priority and I promise you wont regret it!

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How to avoid weight gain during menopause – here is what’s key

Menopause is a time of change; it signals the end of a women’s reproductive years.  But life continues.  Assuming a normal life span, each woman spends as many years post menopause as she does in her active reproductive years.  So, life is not over, it has actually just begun!!!!!

Our purpose here at Harmony + Health, is to help you through the transition so that you feel strong and healthy for at least another 35 years.

One thing many women notice during this time of change is weight gain, especially around the middle.  Weight gain is actually a natural process that begins, slowly, around age 30, it can just kind of feel like it catches up with you once you hit your 50’s.

 

So, what is a woman to do, if she does not want weight gain to get out of control.  It may not be realistic to maintain the same weight in your 50’s and beyond that you had in your 20’s and 30’s, but you do have the power to keep your weight at a level that is healthy for you.

 

There are two key things to focus on: maintaining (and building) muscle and making some modifications in what you eat. (notice, I did not say anything about dieting)

 

# 1 – Get Stronger

That subtle weight gain that I mentioned beginning at about age 30, is due to a slow decline in muscle mass.  It is a natural process.  With a decline in muscle, there is an increase in fat, it’s a matter of biology.  To slow the increase in body fat, you need to increase muscle.  I don’t mean, you have to enter a body building contest or anything like that, you just need to make a concerted effort to maintain muscle.

 

How do you maintain muscle??  Resistance training is the key, that means lifting weights.  When you put strain on your muscle, it thanks you by getting stronger.  And there are lots of advantages to having strong muscles.  No only will you slow weight gain, you will be able to do more for yourself and avoid fatigue, you will be steadier on your feet with less chance of injury or falling.  By placing a strain on your muscles, you keep your bones healthier and stronger (good-by osteoporosis).  Your joints will remain healthier longer. Resistance training even helps your brain!!You will feel more confident, and even look better in your clothes.

 

How do you start a resistance training program?  The safest way is to find a qualified personal trainer or a group training class.  These could be live and in person, or perhaps online. You might want to focus your search on finding a trainer or class that specializes in working with older adults.  Safety, and learning proper form will help you reach your goals without getting injured.

 

#2 – Modify your Eating Plan

 

OK, who wants to change the way they eat??  Often, we eat on autopilot, and we are still alive, right?  Well, I am going to suggest ditching the autopilot, and focusing more on what you are eating, to identify the foods that serve you and keep you strong and healthy, and limiting those that don’t serve you.  Here is the thing: there is no one size fits all way of eating that works for everyone.  So you will have to figure out what is going to work for you going forward.

 

How do you start?  You need to start by keeping a record of what you eat every day.  Yeah, that is going to require a bit of work.  You can write everything down, but that is kind of boring.  What I do is use an app.  There are several.  My favorite is Cronometer.  Other options are My Fitness Pal, and Loose It.

 

Keep track for about a week, don’t fool yourself, record everything you eat or drink.  The apps make it easy to search for or scan your foods.  After gathering info for a week, you can take a look at the information. Most important for now is your macros: the amount and % of your natural intake of protein, carbohydrate and fat.  You will also have a record of your daily calorie intake.

 

Ok, now that you have a baseline what to do?  For women in their 50s or over, the first place I look to make a change is in the % of carbohydrates.  If carbohydrates are 30% or more of your normal daily diet, shoot for 28 – 25% and see how you feel.  You can look at your info in the app and it will tell you where your carbs are coming from.  Try the lower carb level for a week or two.  Do you have the energy you need?  Has your weight changed?  You may need to make further adjustments from there.

 

For best results, you will want to use both strategies, getting stronger, and modifying your eating plan. If all this is too overwhelming, make an appointment with us.  We provide acupuncture, Chinese herbal medicine, and health coaching, all of which can be used to help you meet your health goals, including maintaining a healthy weight, after menopause.

 

Take care,

Ann & Emily

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9 tips for improving male fertility

If fertility is on your radar you might have heard recently that the sperm quality of North American men is on a significant decline. There has been a 52% decline in sperm concentration and a 59% decline in total sperm count over a nearly 40-year period ending in 2011 which has dramatically affected fertility rates and early term miscarriages. Remember 1/3 of infertility and sub-fertility is due to male factor.

There is good news, though! Lifestyle factors have a huge impact on sperm count, morphology and motility! It takes approximately 90 days for sperm to be created so it’s time to implement some changes now! Here are 9 tips for improving male fertility:

 

1. Avoid processed foods, soy products and sugar.

 

2. Limit alcohol consumption and stop smoking marijuana and cigarettes!!!

 

3. Eat a variety of healthy fats including nuts and seeds, grass-fed butter, olive oil and coconut oil, fatty fish and avocados.

 

4. Supplement! A high quality multi-vitamin, vitamin C, vitamin D, fish oil and zinc.

 

5. Reduce expose to chemicals in your environment and body care products. Follow the dirty dozen for organic food, avoid plastic Tupperware and water bottles. Transition to more natural products avoiding BPA, phalates, parabens, synthetic colors and fragrance, BHA and BTA, petroleum and sulfates. Check your labels for these things.

 

6. Make sure to get adequate sleep, 7-9 hours. A good gauge is if you wake up feeling rested each morning and are able to get though the day without stimulants.

 

7. Exercise! 2-4 times a week with a mixture of cardio and resistance training is best.

 

8. Manage Stress. Simple ways to manage stress are taking a walk outside, reading something uplifting or inspirational for 10-20 minutes or journaling.

 

9. Avoid overheating sperm with things like laptop computers in your lap, hot tubs, hot yoga, saunas and tight brief underwear.

 

If you have questions or need help with improving fertility give us a call or email fertility@attainharmony.com

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Acupuncture and Fertility; A Perfect Pair!

The fertility journey is one that’s exciting, frustrating, and confusing all at once. Month after month you’re not sure how to feel; hopeful and excited! Then another period comes and now you might feel let down and frustrated with your body. We get it. We have been helping couples through this process for 8 years now. Each fertility journey is unique; here are 5 ways that acupuncture, and Traditional Chinese Medicine can help you!

 

 

  1. Reduce stress – This is number one for a reason, your body shuts down non-essential functions (like reproduction!) when it’s in a constant state of stress! Acupuncture calms the fight or flight response that occurs when stress is at a constant low level, like in our modern lives.
  2. Improves blood flow to the uterus- Acupuncture is all about blood flow! When it comes to your uterus this will result in a thicker, healthier uterine lining that will increase the likelihood of implantation.
  3. Improved ovarian function- This is related to both blood flow and hormone regulation. Acupuncture has been proven to restore ovulation in anovulatory woman and improve follicle quality which will increase chances of fertilization!
  4. Acupuncture directly effects your hypothalmus and pituitary – The hypthalmus- pituitary complex is the commander center for hormones in your brain. It regulates LH, FSH and thyroid hormones all of which effect fertility in a number of ways. Acupuncture “wakes up” this area of the brain so that it returns to homeostasis is something is off.
  5. Improves sperm! One third of fertility problems are related to sperm issues so it’s essential that male factors are addressed. Acupuncture has been shown to improve sperm quantity, quality and morphology. Lifestyle modification and herbs are also important to consider for male factor fertility.

 

 

Acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine helps with:

 

  • hormonal imbalance
  • unexplained infertility, amenorrhea, luteal phase defect, anovulation
  • endometriosis, polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), uterine fibroids & cysts, tubal obstruction, irregular menstrual cycles
  • recurrent miscarriage
  • advanced maternal age
  • male factor infertility

 

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