All Posts by Ariele Myers

Why Endometriosis Occurs and How to Treat to Increase Fertility

Women with endometriosis already know just how painful it can be.  Uterine-like (endometrial) tissue has developed outside the uterine wall, and just as uterine tissue grows and then sheds during menstruation, this extraneous tissue does the same. Some of the symptoms of endometriosis are heavy bleeding during the period, excruciating cramps, pain during intercourse and even digestive upset around the time of your period. 

There are different stages of endometriosis, based on the amount of tissue growth outside of the uterus. In some cases, a surgical procedure may be an effective treatment, but unless preventative measures are taken, the tissue can grow back. Unfortunately, in Western Medicine, there are ineffective preventative measures, as the cause is relatively unknown. Some medications, including the oral contraceptive, can slow the rate of endometrial-type tissue growth by blocking hormones, but unfortunately, once a woman wants to conceive, this solution is no longer an option. 

According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, endometriosis is considered one of the three major causes of female infertility, and can be found in 24-50 percent of the women who experience infertility. 

In my Traditional Chinese Medicine Acupuncture & Fertility practice, I’ve had a lot of success treating endometriosis, relieving the pain it inflicts, reducing inflammation and often slowing the development of new extraneous tissue growth. Many of my patients with endometriosis are now mothers.

While it’s best to begin to treat endometriosis as soon as the symptoms of pain or heavy bleeding begins, this is unfortunately when many women (or teenage girls) are put on birth control to block their symptoms. Unfortunately, this doesn’t do anything to unravel the pattern of stagnation, and because hormonal contraceptives have to be processed by the liver, they can actually exacerbate the imbalance of stagnation that contributes to endometriosis in the first place.

So when many women get off the pill, they find their endometriosis quickly becomes unbearable.

In terms of the Eastern Medicine that I practice, rather than just looking at the tissue that’s growing where it shouldn’t be, we look at the overall energetic of what’s happening in your body. Because we are a micro-system of the Earth, in this post, I will try to explain this in terms of nature as well as give solutions for treatment.

Picture a stream or a brook and imagine that the water is the blood contained within your body. If you were to throw in a few branches, some bits of trash, leaves, etc., eventually this will start to accumulate over time. In these areas, the water will get “stuck” around this pile of debris, and the stream will not move as easily. The flow of water/ blood will slow.

When this happens in your body and your blood begins to stagnate, you might experience some cramping around your period. It’s not necessarily endometriosis yet, just blood stasis. 

Endometriosis takes years to build up to the point of actually having endo. If you think back to when you were first getting your period, you may have had immediate horrible pain, but many women say that it built up over time, after a year or two or three of having their period.

Left unresolved and untreated, this area of “stuckness” continues to gather more and more debris.This will cause the flow of both qi and blood to stop moving.  Women often want to understand why this “debris” accumulates in our body, and it’s important to note that while there are causes, we should never feel guilt or blame about how we hold energy in our bodies. Some women just have a tendency to hold more in that area — more emotion, more stress, more tension. Cold is one factor that can contribute to this. The uterus is a muscle, so imagine being outside on a cold day. Our muscles tense up, and energy can get stuck.

Because the digestive organs lay so close to the reproductive organs, excessive cold and raw foods can do this as well. 

Trauma (physical, sexual, emotional and even spiritual) can be held by our wombs. While this might sound a little far-fetched to many of you, I do believe that we hold the trauma of our ancestors in our wombs and I work with many of my patients to release this trauma of our lineage. 

Eventually, over years of build up, it’s almost as if a dam has been built across this stream. Occasionally, if there’s a serious trauma, this can happen in one “fell swoop,” almost as if a huge tree falls across the stream blocking the flow of water. However, the more gradual build-up is more common.

In either case, the stream is blocked, the water starts pushing up against this build-up and has nowhere to go except up and out, and it overflows the banks of the river. This is exactly what’s happening when your endometrial tissue is moving out of your uterus — because the pathways in the uterus are so blocked that they’re no longer available. 

Clearing this extraneous tissue is helpful in reducing the pain, which is why it is so often surgically removed. But unfortunately, Western Medicine hasn’t proven effective in both clearing and preventing the initial build-up, and this is where more energetic medicine like acupuncture, plant medicine and energy medicine is so effective.

Unless we remove the tendency to hold onto stress and tension in the womb-space, the likelihood is that endometrial tissue will return. 

When I work with women with endometriosis, we focus on warming and moving, to unravel the conglomeration of stagnation. 

1. Manual Manipulation

An effective way to begin this unravelling process is to physically move the energy. We do this by touch and movement. Think about how important it is to move and massage a tight muscle to release the build-up of tension there. It’s the same with our uterus. I highly recommend womb massage and have a Free Tutorial on my YouTube channel

Especially when you have endometriosis, womb massage as often as possible is essential, although we don’t perform womb massage when you’re bleeding. I recommend at least twice a week, although 3 times a week is ideal to really encourage the blood flow to the uterus. I have both a Womb Healing and a Womb Warming massage oil, which are both recommended to use with Castor Oil. Since the castor oil is heavy, it really penetrates and can be effective in “pushing” out the stagnation. To help you decide which oil blend is best for you, feel the area below your belly button. If it’s colder than the area above your belly button, choose the Womb Warming Oil Blend. Otherwise the Womb Healing is a better choice. 

Other physical therapies like acupuncture can be especially effective in treating Endometriosis as well.

2. Warmth

Warmth on abdomen is effective and important and can ease endometrial pain.  A heating pad is a great way to encourage blood flow to the uterus. Moxibustion, or mugwort is a really great herb for all things related to menstruation and women’s reproductive health issues.  It has been said to energetically help you connect to the femininity of your spirit, as well as to help with connection to ancestors, and can help to uncover ancestral trauma. On a physical level, mugwort is warming and moving, so it’s great in treating endometriosis. There’s a moxa pole included in my endometriosis bundle, which is extremely warming and can help to invigorate the blood. Smoke can penetrate in and can really resolve some of that blockage and is great for pain.

Because our digestive organs lay so close to our reproductive organs, it’s important to keep our digestive tract warm. Avoid cold foods and any iced beverages. It’s important to focus on warmth, temperature-wise like broths and stews, but also energy-wise – ginger, garlic, cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon. 

Excessive raw foods can also negatively impact fertility. Dairy is not good for your reproductive system, and you can get calcium from better, less inflammatory sources. 

3. Plant Medicine

Plant medicine is extremely effective in healing reproductive issues, and has been used in treating women’s issues for centuries. We choose herbs that invigorate your blood and target the reproductive organs, such as Mugwort, Motherwort, Milk Thistle, Dandelion, Passion Flower, Lemon Balm. Warming ingredients such as orange peel, ginger, etc, can also be beneficial in moving your energy so that it doesn’t accumulate in the womb. 

The herbal tea blends available in my Endometriosis Bundle are formulated to support your reproductive organs while invigorating your blood and qi. They help to reduce pain and cramping associated with menstruation, and can prevent the build-up and stagnation of blood tissue outside of the uterus. B*tch’s Brew Tea is one of my best-selling tea blends because it is so effective in supporting healthy menstruation by targeting uterine blood stagnation. 

4. Physical Movement

When you have endometriosis, exercise is important to keep your energy moving throughout your body and to get your blood pumping. Twists can be effective in “wringing” out your organs, and these are often incorporated into a yoga class focused on twists. Even a brisk walk can help reduce the pain and discomfort often associated with endometriosis. 

5. Time

Endometriosis is a progressive condition, so it’s important to note that unwinding and unraveling it will also be progressive. It’s not something that will just “go away” immediately.  I usually ask my patients to give their bodies three months to really notice a significant improvement. Drink the invigorating tea 2-3 times daily, use moxa and womb massage at least once a week. Consistency and regular treatment is essential. My Mermaid Bath soak is another way to invigorate the blood. The salt can help draw out impurities to help detoxify your body and help move through some of that stagnation. 

While endometriosis can be extremely painful and even debilitating, it’s important to be consistent with your treatment and care. Focusing on the metal element’s energy of letting go is important for women with endometriosis, which I discuss more in my blog about the blood phase of the menstrual cycle.

 

Supporting Your Body’s Fertility When you Have PCOS

PCOS is one of the most common contributing factors of infertility today, and many women don’t understand why it happens to them.

I’d like to share both the types of imbalances that ultimately can lead to a diagnosis of PCOS as well as tips and tools to unravel these imbalances so that you can be proactive in improving your fertility and your overall reproductive health.

When we begin to discuss PCOS, it’s important to note that while of course there are the factors that Western medicine would note, such as elevated LH levels and possibly cysts on the ovaries, in Eastern Medicine, which includes herbal/ botanical/ plant medicine, the focus is more on how energy is living in your body. This is important to note because this is the level at which plants and “energetic” type medicines like acupuncture, moxibustion and womb massage work.

These energies can eventually also manifest at the physical level, such as in the case as actual “cysts,” but the energy that contributes to the physical cyst typically exists long before the actual cyst develops.

I want to simplify this idea as much as possible, so imagine that energy should ideally move through your body like air. Imagine how the air feels on a crisp, brisk fall day. You might feel energized. You might feel a spring in your step.

Now imagine a foggy day. There’s more moisture or dampness in the air. When you have PCOS, instead of your energy moving through your body briskly and easily, it’s almost as if a fog descends. There’s moisture and dampness in your body, which actually blocks the movement of Qi. In order for your energy to move, it has to work a lot harder, which may slow down many of your body’s functions.

Because everything slows down energetically, you might not ovulate. Your body’s ability to have that burst of energy you need for ovulation to occur isn’t available. Some women feel this sluggishness. Their limbs may feel heavy. They may gain weight.

If you think about the progression of the accumulation of dampness in your body, eventually it becomes almost like a sludge, like a thick accumulation of phlegm. The dampness can accumulate to the point that it actually solidifies into a cyst.

In treating PCOS, processing this dampness is essential.

Here are a few important methods for reversing the imbalances that contribute to PCOS.

1. One of the most accessible (do it yourself) ways to do this is to focus on balancing blood sugar. This is why so many women with PCOS are on Metformin.

It’s common to have a dis-regulated insulin response with PCOS. Sugar cravings may be high because when you have the fogginess that is common in PCOS, sweets can give you a quick burst of energy. While that energy does cut through the dampness, ultimately sugar creates more dampness, and it becomes a self-perpetuating cycle.

It’s best not to have any sugar when you have PCOS. While I don’t like to recommend restrictive diets for my patients and clients, unfortunately when you’re trying to conceive and have PCOS, stabilizing your blood sugar is incredibly important. In this instance, I do recommend a super low-sugar, low carb diet. It’s necessary to help to stabilize blood sugar and reduce the inflammation that can be contributing to difficulty conceiving.

This isn’t forever, but I recommend cutting out all grains, all tubers like potatoes & sweet potatoes and reducing starchy foods. Some women are okay with some fruit sugars like grapefruit or berries. For some women I recommend a Ketogenic diet, and most of my patients with PCOS immediately feel more stabilized.

Again, this doesn’t have to be your diet for the rest of your life, but if you have PCOS, it can absolutely be helpful. While this is not a diet I recommend for all of my fertility patients, the women in my fertility practice with PCOS who have adopted this diet are the ones who have gotten pregnant most quickly.

2. Avoid Dairy

Dairy is the enemy of PCOS. When you have PCOS, it’s essential to omit dairy from your diet. Milk and milk products can be extremely damp-producing, which is exactly the imbalance we are trying to correct in PCOS. If you’re continuing to drink milk and consume dairy, it’s virtually impossible to eradicate the dampness that contributes to the formation of cysts.⁠

Replace dairy products with non-dairy alternatives. My favorites are almost and cashew milk. I buy the unsweetened version and, if necessary, sweeten with a drop or two of liquid stevia.⁠

3. What to Drink?

Often, women with PCOS will feel that drinking water doesn’t really quench their thirst. This is because water tends to just contribute to more dampness, and it does little to support processing of the dampness.

Because supporting the processing of dampness by the liver is our ultimate goal, consider adding lemon juice to your water. The acidity can help to penetrate some of that dampness and can support the liver.

4. Focus on “cutting through” the Dampness

All of the products in my PCOS Bundle are formulated to help invigorate your energy. This is done by encouraging your liver to process that “dampness” or “fogginess” (which on a more Western Medicine level, can support hormone balance). The following are all different “avenues” to get to the damp accumulation, and work on both the energetic and physical levels. 

  • Botanical Medicinals (Herbs, Plant Medicine)

Other self-care items that should be on your shelf are liver-cleansing herbs like milk-thistle, dandelion and nettle leaf. The liver is the organ that helps to process the hormones and dampness that contribute to PCOS, so it’s imperative to support and detoxify your liver. In my PCOS bundle, I have two teas, the Detox and Fertile moon Tea, which contain those ingredients and many more.  The Detox Tea is to be used for 7-10 days to really support invigorating the energy of the liver to cut through this dampness, and then the Fertile Moon is used after the Detox has ended to continue to energize and nourish the liver, and also contains herbs that support the uterus and ovaries to help regulate ovulation.

  • Womb Massage

Fertility Womb Massage is important when you have PCOS, as you can manually move the energy that gets blocked, invigorating the flow of Qi and blood to your reproductive organs. I have free womb massage tutorials on my YouTube channel, so be sure to check them out. It’s ideal to perform the womb massage with my Womb Healing oils and castor oil, as they can both help to nourish the reproductive organs and energetically pull out some of that dampness. It’s normal and okay if you have diarrhea the first few times you perform the womb massage (this is the excess dampness leaving your body!)

  • Detoxification

Another important way that you can detoxify this dampness through your body is via the skin, your largest organ! The Mermaid Bath soak is another way to increase movement of Qi to cut through some of that dampness. The salts and the seaweed can grab onto that excess dampness as well, and the herbs added to the blend are all supportive of reproductive health. 

You can absolutely use my products with common PCOS and fertility supplements, such as inositol (either form) and even if you’re using Metformin to balance blood sugar.

I have quite a few YouTube videos about PCOS, so be sure to check them out (the channel name is Ariele Myers). In them, I discuss the overall imbalance in the body that tends to contribute to PCOS, and ways to support your body’s coming back into balance.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One of the most effective ways to track your fertility

BBT Charting


Tracking your Basal Body Temperature is one of the most effective ways to track your fertility. Unlike your Ovulation Predictor Tests, your BBT not only shows you when your fertile window is, but can also indicate if there’s an issue during one of your phases that might be preventing you from conceiving. 


For instance, tracking your LH surge alone will let you know if you’re ovulating, but with your BBT, you may find that your luteal phase temperatures aren’t getting high enough. This might indicate that you have low progesterone, or just that you need to use some womb warming products to help increase those temperatures so that implantation can occur.


Another example of how your BBT can be informative is if you see that your follicular phase (days 1-14) has an up-and-down or sawtooth pattern, as opposed to a steady, even temperature. This means that your body’s hormone levels may be off (often an indication of cortisol levels spiking and impacting estrogen levels), which impacts the growth of your egg/ follicle. In this instance, you’d need some cooling, yin nourishing support during this phase. 

Why An Ovulation Predictor Kit Only Tells You a Part of the Story


While of course it's important to know if you're ovulating based on the hormone levels in your urine, a significant temperature spike in your BBT chart (at least 5/10ths of a degree) is a good indication that you've ovulated. However, only knowing that you've ovulated isn't really enough to tell you HOW to correct an imbalance that might be impacting fertility. For instance, if your temperature doesn't STAY elevated, even if you've ovulated, conception won't occur. 

Watch this video to understand how to take and track your BBT:

I created this video to help explain how to measure and chart your BBT as well as what to do if you notice a certain phase of your cycle is off. Remember, there are four distinct phases of your cycle, and during each phase, it's important for certain energies to be in place for conception to occur. Hopefully you can start tracking as soon as possible... it's a great way to understand what's happening in your body every day. 

Can Acupuncture Help You Get Pregnant?

Many women express surprise when they learn that acupuncture can support reproductive health and improve fertility. Often, they believe that acupuncture just relieves pain or muscular tension and maybe reduces stress. In reality, “Fertility Acupuncture” can significantly support a woman’s efforts to conceive, increase the likelihood of her carrying to full-term, benefit and ease labor, and help post-partum healing, including improved lactation, hormone rebalancing and emotional wellness. 

While I have treated women in their efforts to conceive for almost 20 years, I have always hesitated to call myself a “fertility acupuncturist.” I see reproductive health as simply a product of total body/ mind/ spiritual wellness, as a part of the whole woman. I try to meet each woman who walks through my door exactly where she is. My goal is to support every woman with whatever she is experiencing, from infertility to menopause and everything before, after and in between. 

When it comes to infertility, I see women at varying stages in their journey. Many women are initially only open to what I see as the “surface” or physical level of the process. In this case, often they want me to review their labs, see what’s off hormonally and help guide their body into balance. Dietary and lifestyle changes combined with weekly acupuncture can improve any underlying imbalances in the body that might be impeding conception or sustained pregnancy. This is a completely valid way to rely on acupuncture to conceive, and usually within 3-6 months, we notice significant improvement in a woman’s hormone levels as well as her uterine and follicle health. My online fertility course begins with this level of balancing the body, improving reproductive health and restoring egg quality.

In my practice, I have about a 75% success rate working with women at this level.

Of course, I always love to go deeper, and I’m starting to see more and more women who recognize that their reproductive health is related to so much more than just what is physically apparent. Out of balance hormone levels, “unexplained infertility,” PCOS, endometriosis, “swollen uterus,” recurrent miscarriage. On a deeper, emotional and energetic level, it’s all connected to not just how a woman relates to (patriarchal) society and the Earth, but even how she is holding the trauma and wounding from her maternal lineage.

In these instances, we often dive deeper into what it means to be a fertile woman on this planet. We look at past trauma, generational wounding, the deep-seated beliefs about the value of the feminine. We look at how a woman presents herself in the world, how her body internalizes her values and beliefs about “Mother” energy. We look at her connection to nature and how the energies of the elements (wood, water, fire, metal, earth) are held in her body.

I recognize that this might sound like a foreign language to many of you, so I’ll give you an example. I had a patient who first came to me after she had been trying to conceive for almost a year. She had been diagnosed with “unexplained infertility” and also mentioned, in passing, that she had been suffering from chronic left-sided hip pain. 

In Chinese Medicine, the left side is related to the feminine, the right to the masculine. She said she felt like her leg was just hanging on, not really connected to her body. We discovered that her left side was actually much weaker than her right. It was tightening up to defend against injury from that weakness. Her right side was much tighter, rigid and tense, although not experiencing pain. 

In beginning to explore how her body might be holding her core beliefs, we looked into her ideals about the masculine and feminine. She was a professional woman, viewed herself as an entrepreneur, and greatly valued the more “masculine” or “yang” expression of presenting herself in the world: as productive, busy, rational, efficient, intellectual and effective. 

When we discussed how she related to more “yin” or feminine energy, she recognized that she felt completely disconnected. They felt foreign to her. “Yin” energy tends to be about the darker, more intuitive and receptive modes of being. It’s about trusting, BEing, intuiting on a more energetic level, relating to the world and to people and to ourselves from an almost mythical and magical perspective, as opposed to the more mental consciousness of yang energy. 

In all people, male and female, yin and yang must be in relationship for a person to feel “whole.” Most people are more naturally in touch with one or the other, and typically males are more connected to Yang, masculine, energy. But I’ve been finding that many women, too, tend to view this Yang mode of operating — effective, productive, intellectual — as having more value than the more yin mode of being.

Communing with nature, gardening, being with the land, with animals, in deep, intuitive connecting with other people — these are not things that have been valued in our society for centuries, or since Judeo-Christian religions began to overtake the more aboriginal communities and their nature-worshiping belief systems. Consider the witch-hunts, where connecting and communing with nature resulted in being burned at the stake. I strongly believe that, at the root of our society’s epidemic of infertility is this lack of valuation and even fear of the yin aspects of our selves.

Upon further exploration, my patient remembered that, as a child, she had felt connected to animals and enjoyed being in nature. She loved art. But she recalled being told she was “overly sensitive” and whether consciously or not, worked to suppress those qualities that were deemed inappropriate or lacking value.  

By the time she came to see me, she didn’t even recognize that those qualities could still be a part of her.  She expressed that even if she had felt curious about them, she wouldn’t have felt like there was time to do explore them:  to reflect, relax, meditate — it felt “lazy” or “indulgent” or like a “waste of time.” 

While working together, my patient was able to explore how, in her family of origin, the male role was all-important, and her stay-at-home mom was not really valued. She “learned” that the more yin qualities of nurturing, receptivity, connection, mothering were not rewarded, so she abandoned them. We uncovered a deep wound of rejection of the feminine. 

In defending against being totally disconnected, the feminine/ yin had been calling out for attention, calling out with left-sided physical pain. It was spasming and tightening up in resistance against being ignored, forgotten, neglected, rejected. 

Her right side/ masculine/ yang, by default, was carrying her whole being. It was holding it all because it wasn’t balanced by the feminine/ yin. 

We worked together to bring her energy and attention back to her womb space, so that she could explore and experience the intense power that is held there.

My patient began to recognize an energy within her womb, her divine feminine wisdom, which she could experience as being where much of her feeling of “self” resided. She began to explore various ways she could work to continue to connect with this aspect of her being. She began spending time in nature and with animals, focusing on her breathing, connecting to her womb via womb massage and deep listening, recognizing how and where she had been subjugating this important aspect of her self. 

This patient did become pregnant and has gone on to have 3 children. But more importantly, she connect

ed to herself as a fertile, creative being on the planet. While she doesn’t desire to expand her family at this time, she continues to do her womb work, continues to explore and work to cultivate these more yin aspects of herself. She recognizes that this connection helps to remind her of who she is, guiding the way she mothers, the way she connects with the people with whom she is in relationship, and how she feels most present in herself.

While I haven’t treated her since I moved out of state, we have stayed in touch. Recently she expressed to me that when she first came to me for acupuncture, she was doing it as a “last-ditch” effort before moving on to IVF. She felt like maybe, if anything, it could improve her stress level so that IVF could have abetter chance of being successful.

She shared that, instead, her acupuncture treatments felt like they opened up an entire consciousness that she had never before experienced. It helped her feel more connected to her body, so that she could feel how and when she was getting out of balance, and have the tools to do what she needed to continue to find balance in her life. She knows that she’s a more conscious and aware mother and woman than she might have been otherwise.

 

2 Can I Still Have a Baby at 40?

THINKING OF HAVING A BABY? WHY YOU PROBABLY NEED TO DETOXIFY YOUR LIVER FIRST

For almost twenty years, I’ve been working with women to help them become pregnant.  While I’m grateful for the busy practice, I can’t help but notice that the number of young women (under age 35) with fertility issues is increasing.  Often, these women seem relatively healthy; they tell me that their inability to become pregnant is the only thing “wrong” with them. My background in Chinese Medicine encourages me to always look at the body as a whole, so I recognize that infertility is just a symptom of a larger, more holistic imbalance.

I’ve written a lot of articles discussing the Chinese Medicine perspective of fertility problems, but I realize that I have failed to relate one of the most basic and obvious contributors to infertility in our country: we are living in what the World Health Organization describes as a “toxic soup.” I see women who exercise daily, practice yoga, try to eat cleanly and think they are relatively healthy.  While I never want to turn my patients into fearful and neurotic health-nuts, it would be negligent for me not to inform them about the reality of our day to day lives: we are absorbing and inhaling a ridiculously exorbitant amount of toxins every day, and our bodies are simply unable to detoxify them.

The toxins to which I’m referring are environmental toxins, which include herbicides, insecticides, pesticides, plastics, detergents, preservatives, cosmetics, gasoline additives, solvents, glues, and heavy metals.  Antibiotics, pharmaceuticals, radiation and electromagnetic stress are also treated by your body as toxic, and place a heavy burden on your liver as well. Over 80,000 chemicals have been developed, distributed and discarded into the environment over the past 50 years.  The EPA Inventory Update Reports that 27 Trillion Pounds of chemicals are produced or imported into the US per year. That’s 250 pounds of toxins per person! Scarier still is that this report does not even include fuels, pesticides, pharmaceuticals or food products.

While I won’t go into detail about the physiology of how toxins affect your body, I will say that they do affect almost every organ and system in your body, from your liver, kidney and skin to your nervous and endocrine systems and gut lining.  The Toxicant and Disease Database links chemical contaminants with 180 human diseases or conditions and WHO reports that 50% of chronic disease is due to environmental pollutants and toxins.

Not only do environmental toxins disrupt endocrine health and mitochondrial efficiency, which can lead to infertility, but many of these toxins can pass through the placenta.  So even if a woman does become pregnant, she is unwittingly passing dangerous toxins to her baby. The Environmental Working Group reported that the cord blood of the average baby at birth contains over 200 chemicals (chemicals that should not be in baby’s cord blood!)  While toxins affect everybody, children are especially affected because they have an inhibited and underdeveloped detoxification pathway. Because they’re not supposed to carry any toxic load, it’s harder for them to process the toxins, and they accumulate much more easily.

It is my personal belief that it is this accumulation of toxins in our children which is contributing to our country’s rapid increase in developmental delays and neurological disorders.

A patient recently told me that she would rather not be informed about the magnitude with which environmental toxins are wreaking havoc on our systems; that ignorance is bliss.  I completely understand that sentiment. But ignorance, unfortunately, is not bliss. It’s chronic illness, chemical sensitivity, digestive disturbance, skin disorders, chronic allergies, endocrine disorders, emotional disorders, neurological disorders and, in her case, infertility.  If there was nothing that we could do about it, then yes, I would agree that I would much rather remain uninformed and just enjoy my life.

But there is a LOT we can do.

And it’s really not that hard. While I recommend making these changes at least a month prior to becoming pregnant, three to six months prior is ideal.  It is important NOT to detoxify while you are already pregnant or nursing. You can still be conscious to reduce toxin exposure, but actual detoxification will release toxins from your cells right into your bloodstream or breast-milk, and right into your baby.


8 Simple Steps You Should Take Before Becoming Pregnant:

  1. Do a liver detox 3 to 4 times a year.  My favorite is Pure Encapsulations Detox Pure Packs.  You can purchase the kit online through the link and receive 10% off all products ordered.  If it feels easier for you to sip on a detox tea throughout the day, try Detox Tea from our own Ariele’s Apothecary line of Artisanal Small-Batch Blends. If you want to blend your own detox kit, it’s important to include Reduced Glutathione, a B Complex, Cysteine, Vitamin C, Folate and Alpha Lipoic Acid.  We can schedule a simple 45 minute herbal consult to choose the best formula for you.  Milk Thistle is a simple herb that can strengthen the liver. If you have unremitting skin conditions or other conditions that do not improve from liver detoxification, you may want to consider getting tested for heavy metals toxification.
  2. Always on my list of ways to improve health is Acupuncture! Acupuncture can help to strengthen the body’s detoxification systems, including the liver and gallbladder. This will promote your body’s ability to detoxify.
  3. Many women only become conscious about products once they are actually slathering something on their newborn’s skin, but now is the time to start being hyper-conscious about all products used.  What goes onto your skin or into your lungs then goes into your bloodstream, which feeds your baby.  From cosmetics, including perfume and nail polish to sunscreens to cleaning products and laundry detergents, look at the ingredients.  If the ingredient list has a chemical you don’t recognize, the likelihood is that your body won’t recognize it and it will need to be processed by the liver.  Because there are minimal requirements for labeling something as “green,” don’t rely on the product to tell you the truth about its ingredients. “Sensitive” and “All Natural” essentially mean nothing.  Some of my favorite skincare products are from Poofy Organics. Favorite cleaning and laundry products are from Honest Company. You can find a great variety of clean skin products and makeup here.
  4. Eat clean.  Take the advice from #2 and apply it to your food.  I know a lot of pregnant women allow themselves to eat all the food they might not let themselves eat when they’re not pregnant, but now is not the time to hit up fast-food drive thrus on your way home from work (you know who you are). Again, if you don’t understand or know what an ingredient is, your body doesn’t either. Avoid endocrine-disrupting chemicals like trans-fats, refined sugars, or excess additives. Reduce inflammatory factors like gluten. Better still, don’t eat food that comes in packages! The cleaner and closer to whole foods, the better for your body.  Increase Anti-oxidant support from fresh fruits and veggies.
  5. Be very careful of Pesticides and Herbicides.  Try to eat organic whenever possible.  While I won’t talk about every single offender, the big one that has me extremely concerned, even scared, is Glyphosate, also knowns as RoundUp.  Be conscious that when your food (meat and chicken, dairy) has been fed with feed laden with pesticides, you (and your baby) are absorbing it too.  For those of you who want details on on how Roundup affects human health, read below*** Bottom Line — Support GMO labeling, and when you see that something contains GMOs, avoid like the plague.
  6. Avoid using plastics.  If you do have to use plastic, NEVER heat or freeze.  Acidic conditions also accelerate the release of BPAs, so don’t store acidic foods like lemon juice, vinegar or tomato sauce in plastic containers. Choose BPA-free plastics whenever possible, but be aware that BPA is now being replaced by BPS (Bisphenol S) which has not been studied much, so just because something says BPA-free doesn’t mean it won’t leach toxins into your food. Use glass containers to store your food whenever possible. There are a ton of great to-go options now.
  7. Open your windows.  There are tons of toxic chemicals used not only in cleaning products, but also furniture, mattresses, packaging materials, etc.  Let some fresh air in. Toxins can leach out of building materials for two years, so if you live in a brand new house, get new furniture or a new car, air them out.  Air fresheners often contain phthalates, so choose chemical-free air fresheners made with purifying essential oils such as lemon, citronella, tea tree, pine, peppermint, sage, and rosemary.  When you do have your baby, consider diffusing purifying essential oils in the room, especially if you’ve gotten a brand new crib, glider, etc. I make an awesome Organic Essential Oil blend at the Apothecary called Purity.
  8. Reduce exposure to EMFs. Place a barrier between yourself and your computer. Don’t put your laptop or ipad right on your lap (especially not when you’re pregnant!)  Put your personal devices in a bag instead of in your pocket, and NEVER carry it in your bra (I’ve seen this a lot!). Keep your phones and electronic devices out of your bedroom at night, and unplug everything when it’s not in use.
  9. Don’t smoke.  Are you kidding me?!  Don’t smoke.

*** The use of Roundup in many GMO foods, including soy and corn, has increased 6,500% between 1991 and 2010.  It is absorbed through the plant, and does not wash off. Glyphosate has serious effects on human health. It deprives living organisms of vital nutrients, vitamins and minerals.  In humans, it is a chelator of magnesium, iodine, zinc, iron and cobalt. It lowers B12, glutathione and biotin, which are important to the liver’s ability to detoxify. It blocks manganese uptake, inhibiting the enzymes necessary to make neurotransmitters, which ultimately can lead to brain disorders having to do with communication.  It can also block phenylalanine production, which can lead to leaky gut.

As if that’s not enough, it acts as a potent antibiotic, which can lead to an imbalance of microflora.  So even if the chicken or meat you eat does not contain added antibiotics, if their feed contains “Roundup Ready” soy and corn, your beneficial bacteria may still be depleted, which can lead to build-up of other pathogenic species such as Group-B Strep and Clostridia.

Glyphosate also binds with aluminum and mercury, and they work synergistically to create deficiency in sulfate supplies to the brain, which may contribute to autism, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.

CITED WEBSITES:

http://www.epa.gov/cdr/

http://www.who.int/en/

http://www.cdc.gov/

http://www.healthandenvironment.org/tddb/disease/773

http://www.ewg.org/

IMPORTANT ARTICLES

“Environmental Toxins Associated with Diabetes and Obesity” Medscape Medical News, June 2014

“Childhood Cancer and Environmental Toxins are Both Increasing” Medscape Medical News, February 2011

“BPA and Obesity: Is this Connection Real?” Medscape Family Medicine, January 2013

“Infant Lead Poisoning Associated with Use of Tiro, an Eye Cosmetic From Nigeria” Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, September 2012

“Fracking Chemicals May Disrupt Hormonal Activity” Medscape Medical News December 2013

INCREASING FERTILITY WITH WISDOM OF THE WOMB: THE YANG PHASE

While there are many studies that prove that acupuncture and herbal medicine do indeed promote fertility, many women still question how and why they work.  I’ve created this four-part post to familiarize you with each phase of your menstrual cycle. You will learn how acupuncture and Chinese herbs can help to increase fertility during each phase, as well as gain tips and pointers that you can implement yourself to help to increase your own fertility.

While I do recommend some common herbal formulas for each phase, please note that each woman has very specific needs.  I highly recommend that you take my Virtual Herbalist Quiz or schedule a one-on-one consultation with one of my talented fertility specialists.

Learn more about the energetic of the Yang Phase and Implantation.

YANG

This is the phase in our cycle after which ovulation has occurred and your ovary is producing progesterone, usually between days 16-30.  It corresponds to the luteal phase of your menstrual cycle. Because progesterone is a more warming hormone than estrogen, your body temperature should naturally be elevated during this phase.  You may have heard those somewhat terrible expressions “a cold womb” or “luteal phase defect” (LPD). Because we want to encourage the burrowing of the fertilized embryo into the uterus, the Yang phase is the time in which warming the uterus is especially important.  A warm uterus is much more inviting than a cold one.

Even if ovulation occurs and the follicle is fertilized, it might not be implanting into the uterine wall. During the Yang phase, the uterus should develop a triple-layer or become “tri-laminar.”  While the yin of the body gives us the substance for the uterus to thicken, the yang energy is needed during this phase to develop and divide into layers, as well as to encourage the burrowing energy of the embryo.

On our basal body temperature chart, we are looking for maintenance of the elevated temperature that was hopefully achieved during the Qi Phase of your cycle.  If you see a temperature that drops after ovulation or that doesn’t rise to at least .5 degrees higher than the highest temperature in your follicular or Yin Phase, this is a good indication that you need support during this time in your cycle, and that acupuncture and herbal medicine can help you.

HOW ACUPUNCTURE AND HERBAL MEDICINE IMPROVE FERTILITY

  1. Increase the body’s yang energy to promote warming of the uterus and production of progesterone.

  2. Increase the ability of the uterine lining to ripen into a triple-layer and for the cells of the lining to produce more secretions.

  3. The Yang Phase is an important time to come in for acupuncture. Your acupuncturist might perform moxibustion as well as insert needles to encourage tonification of Kidney Yang.  A favorite formula at the Apothecary is Jade Moon Women’s Phase 4.

  4. Fertile Mama Tea, one of Ariele’s Apothecary’s line of Artisanal Small-Batch Blends, is a highly effective blend that supports the female reproductive system. Rich in calcium and magnesium, it strengthens the uterus, balances hormones, soothes and cleanses the liver, promotes circulations and tonifies the blood.  If you experience painful periods, heavy bleeding, cramps or PMS, switch toB*tch’s Brew Herbal Tea at mid-cycle, or around Day 14. An Apothecary favorite, B*tch’s Brew is a delicious yet therapeutic blend for PMS relief. Supports uterine health, strengthens the liver, balances hormones, encourages healthy blood flow to reduce cramping and relieves stress and anxiety. Neither formula is intended for pregnant women, so if you do become pregnant, switch to Blissful Mama Tea.

PHASE 4 TIPS:

1. Keep Warm

The Yang Phase is all about warming energy, which is supple and inviting yet also energizing. We want to encourage tonification of yang by bringing more heat into the body, or at least preventing cold from entering. Wear socks or slippers around the house (this is important all the time), as the Kidney channel begins on the bottom of the feet. Keep your low back warm with a heating pad or hot water bottle. Avoid swimming in cold pools and considering avoiding cold-weather sports like skiing. I don’t want to suggest you stop doing the things you love, but if you’re trying to become pregnant and this phase of the cycle is proving to be an issue, consider scheduling your ski trip for earlier in the month. Your acupuncturist may perform moxibustion in your acupuncture session during this time. As for an at-home moxa stick so that you can continue to warm your channels throughout this phase of your cycle.

2. Eliminate Cold Foods

Think about what happens to your neck and shoulders when you go out on a cold day. They tense up, right? Your uterus is very close to your digestive organs. If you’re downing iced coffee and salad all day, not only will your digestive organs absorb the cold and become tense, but your reproductive organs may as well. This has become such a prevalent issue in so many women since the raw, vegan diet has become so popular. So many women are trying to do what they believe is best for their body are seriously damaging their yang energy. Cold is not only less inviting to a fertilized embryo, but is also more likely to spasm and cramp.

Choose warming and nourishing foods during this phase of your cycle, and if your yang energy is significantly depleted, you would probably be best served to avoid cold and raw foods cycle-round. Soups and stews are yang-tonifying, especially if you add ginger and warming spices like cloves, cinnamon and nutmeg. Bone-broth soup with loads of garlic and ginger is a perfect choice. Stick to warm teas instead of iced drinks, or at least room temperature.

3. Check your Progesterone

If your BBT chart indicates that your Yang/ Luteal phase temperatures are consistently low, it might be beneficial to go in for a Day 21 Progesterone Test. If your temperatures are low for the entire cycle (below 97.1 on days 1-3), I recommend getting your thyroid checked as well. It is beneficial to know if there is a hormonal imbalance so you can respond properly. There are many yang-tonifying herbs to support progesterone production and something as simple as a progesterone cream can encourage your body to support a healthy pregnancy. Especially if you suffer from recurrent early-stage miscarriage, deficiency in progesterone can often play a role.

4. Write, Feel, Breathe

Yang is considered the energy needed for action to take place. If Yin is about BEing, Yang is about DOing. What needs to take place before action to occur? Thinking: those split-second decisions to lift your arm or turn your head. I believe thinking represents yang energy at its finest. For this reason, I believe journaling to be especially beneficial to encourage yang energy during this luteal phase of your cycle. The purpose of allowing yourself to get deep in thought is simply to elicit feelings. It may feel uncomfortable or unnecessary, but when you feel, you can release. Please do not skip this step. This is often the answer to clearing some deep-seated patterns that could be blocking your energy flow and preventing pregnancy.

Place one hand on your womb and the other on your heart. Your energy follows your breath, so slow down your breathing. Lengthen your inhalation and exhalation. On every inhale, envision your breath traveling down your low back and to the area beneath your belly button.  Your inhalation should move the hand that is resting on your womb.

Journal about the emotions your fertility may be triggering, about what motherhood means to you, about ways you feel your partner will be a good father and your fears about how he may not. Do you feel you will be a good mother? How do you feel about your own childhood, your own parents? How do you want to parent differently? Feel into your womb as you’re writing. Feel into your heart. Try, if you can, to not use your head. Yes, of course thinking can come from your head. But often we give so much power to our minds and thoughts that we totally disconnect from our body. It is crucial to re-establish the connection between our heart and our womb. So write. Feel. Breathe.  Aim to sit for at least ten minutes each day, or as many days during this Yang Phase as you can.

Lots of Love,

Ariele

INCREASING FERTILITY WITH WISDOM OF THE WOMB: THE QI PHASE

While there are many studies that prove that ancient womb wisdom, including acupuncture, plant medicine and womb massage do indeed promote fertility, many women still questions how and why they work.  I’ve created this four-part post to familiarize you with each phase of your menstrual cycle. You will learn how Wisdom of the Womb can help to promote fertility during each phase, as well as gain tips and pointers that you can implement yourself to help to increase your own fertility.

While I do recommend some common herbal formulas for each phase, please note that each woman has very specific needs.  I highly recommend that you take our Virtual Herbalist Quiz or schedule a call with one of our fertility specialists to help you decide exactly which formulas and supplements are right for you.

QI

This is the phase in our cycle during which ovulation should occur, usually between days 12-16.  It’s considered a time when we need an abundance of qi, or energy, as ovulation requires a burst of energy to release the egg from the follicle.  Our body also requires enough qi to encourage the egg to travel from the ovary through the fallopian tubes and into the uterus. Without adequate qi, the egg might instead implant in the fallopian tube wall.  On our basal body chart, we’re looking for a spike in temperature, remaining elevated for at least 2 days. This is a good indicator that we have, indeed, ovulated, as ovulation allows for a release of progesterone, which is warmer than estrogen in temperature.  If you see a slow to rise temperature on your BBT chart, this is a good indication that acupuncture and herbal medicine can help you. Ovulation might be occurring, but it might not be reaching the uterus in time for fertilization to take place.

HOW ACUPUNCTURE AND HERBAL MEDICINE IMPROVE FERTILITY:

  1. Increase the body’s qi to allow for ovulation.

  2. Remove stagnation that could impede or delay stagnation.

  3. Increase production of fertile cervical (egg-white) fluid.

  4. Mid-cycle is a great time to come in for acupuncture, to encourage ovulation.  A formula that I recommend often is Jade Moon Phase 3, which helps promote ovulation.

Fertile Mama Tea, one of Ariele’s Apothecary’s line of Artisanal Small-Batch Blends, is a highly effective blend that supports the female reproductive system, especially for those looking to increase fertility and become pregnant. Rich in calcium and magnesium, it strengthens the uterus, balances hormones, soothes and cleanses the liver, promotes circulations and tonifies the blood. Not intended for pregnant women.  If you experience painful periods, heavy bleeding, cramps or PMS, switch to B*tch’s Brew Herbal Tea at mid-cycle, or around Day 14. An Apothecary favorite, B*tch’s Brew is a delicious yet therapeutic blend for PMS relief. To reduce PMS and cramping or pre-period insommnia, anxiety, breast tenderness and more, begin drinking this hormone-balancing blend 10 -14 days before your period is expected, or enjoy throughout the entire cycle.Supports uterine health, strengthens the liver, balances hormones, encourages healthy blood flow to reduce cramping and relieves stress and anxiety.

PHASE 3 TIPS:

1. Move your Body

While running or intense aerobic activity is usually not recommended when fertility is an issue, Phase 3 is a good time to get moving.  A brisk walk is the perfect exercise for this time.

2. Eliminate Dairy

If ovulation tends to be an issue, consider eliminating dairy, ideally for the entire cycle.  If you are sensitive to dairy, it can create mucus (we see it as dampness, in TCM) that can stagnate your energy.  It’s like your body trying to function in pea soup. Sugar and refined flour can also increase dampness in the body.  Instead, consume foods that encourage the movement of qi, like garlic, scallions and chives and leafy green vegetables.

3.  Get Busy!

I would think it’s fairly obvious, but you’d be surprised how many women only have sex with their partner once ovulation has already occurred and they see a smiley face on their ovulation test.  I like to think of the egg as a major diva. Waiting until after you ovulate would be like Mariah Carey getting onstage to an empty auditorium, with people filing in through the doors only after she’s begun performing.  Fill that house with sperm, ladies! The egg wants to arrive to be greeted by those little guys! If you tend to ovulate on Day 14, start having sex every other day beginning on Day 8 through day 16.

While these posts are mainly focused on helping women to improve their fertility, it is important for our partners to be tested too if you have been trying unsuccessfully to conceive for a while.  Acupuncture and herbal medicine can improve sperm quality, count and morphology. During this time in our cycle, it could be helpful to do a post-coital semen analysis. That means going in to remove the sperm from your body to see how the sperm fares in your cervical mucus.  It sounds a little invasive, but it’s a really simple test that can tell us a lot.

Learn more about supporting the energetic of the Qi Phase.

INCREASING FERTILITY WITH WISDOM OF THE WOMB: THE YIN PHASE

While there are many studies that prove that ancient womb wisdom, including acupuncture, plant medicine and womb massage do indeed promote fertility, many women still questions how and why they work.  I’ve created this four-part post to familiarize you with each phase of your menstrual cycle. You will learn how Wisdom of the Womb can help to promote fertility during each phase, as well as gain tips and pointers that you can implement yourself to help to increase your own fertility.

While I do recommend some common herbal formulas for each phase, please note that each woman has very specific needs.  I highly recommend that you either schedule a call with one of our fertility specialists or take our free virtual herbalist quiz to give you personalized recommendations based on your specific diagnosis.

Yin:

With Wisdom of the Womb, the Yin Phase is the time in your cycle, after your period, during which your follicles are developing.  It roughly corresponds to the follicular phase of your cycle, or about Days 5-12. Yin is considered the cooling and nourishing and more feminine aspect of your body, corresponding to estrogen in Western Medicine.  During this phase, it is important to keep cool, emotionally and physically. Focus on nourishing and nurturing your body. If we’re really stressed or agitated, we might see a spike on our basal body temperature charts, which can indicate sporadic follicular development.  If we’re perpetually stressed, we might even have a shortened follicular/ yin phase and premature follicular development. The uterine lining is also being rebuilt after being shed in phase 1, so again, we really need to nourish our body to promote that growth. If you’re over 35, it is especially important to focus on balancing your body during this phase of the cycle.  Our estrogen levels decrease with age, and this is the part of the cycle where we often see this depletion of estrogen affecting our fertility.

How Wisdom of the Womb Improves Fertility

  1. Nourish the blood and yin to allow for later growth of a thick and juicy uterine lining.

  2. Increase blood flow to the uterus.

  3. Improve quality of follicles (Lowering FSH levels – Yes, it is VERY possible)*

  4. Increase number of follicles developed in an IVF cycle.

  5. Replenish your body’s blood and yin that is lost during Phase 1.

  6. A formula I recommend often for my patients is Health Concerns Fertile Garden.

Yin Phase 2 Tips:

1. Chill out.

Literally and figuratively.  If you’re taking your basal body temperature, it’s ideal to see temperatures that are all at least .5 degrees cooler than temperatures in your luteal phase.  Recognize that agitation, stress and anger can all cause a release of cortisol that can definitely impede fertility. Take long walks, practice deep breathing and meditation.  If you’re finding it really difficult to relax and let go, Catecholcalm is one of my favorite supplements to help your body balance your Cortisol levels and relax without the use of sedatives.  I also developed Fertile Mama Tea, which is a highly effective blend that supports the female reproductive system, especially for those looking to increase fertility and become pregnant. Rich in calcium and magnesium, it strengthens the uterus, balances hormones, soothes and cleanses the liver, promotes circulations and tonifies the blood.

2.  Slow down.

While it’s always great to encourage the flow of qi, this phase is really about building — both the uterine lining and healthy follicles.   I wouldn’t encourage running or any high intensity exercise during this phase. Exercises that promote and increase Qi and Yin, like Tai Qi, Qi Gong, and Yin Yoga are best for this phase.  These exercises can also increase blood flow to the uterus.

 3. Sleep!

Please sleep!  This is probably the most important thing I can suggest for you.  The night is considered the yin time, and in order to replenish and support our body’s yin, we need to sleep.  If we’re awake and active and doing a more yang activity during the yin time, instead of replenishing yin, we’re burning up more of our body’s yin reserves.  Sleep sleep sleep. Please sleep. Aim for 7-8 hours a night.

4.Nourish

During the Yin Phase, it is important to try to replace some of the nutrients lost during the Blood Phase of our cycle.  It’s the perfect phase during which to eat some grass-fed red meat, but any dark meat is great — duck, dark meat, leg poultry meat.  If you’re vegetarian, eat an abundance of Go Ji Berries and Golden Berries, and consider taking a supplement that boosts Yin and blood, like Energizing Iron.

Learn more about the energy of the Yin Phase and Follicle Health.

INCREASING FERTILITY WITH WISDOM OF THE WOMB: THE BLOOD PHASE

While there are many studies that prove that ancient womb wisdom, including acupuncture, plant medicine and womb massage do indeed promote fertility, many women still questions how and why they work.  I’ve created this four-part post to familiarize you with each phase of your menstrual cycle. You will learn how Wisdom of the Womb can help to promote fertility during each phase, as well as gain tips and pointers that you can implement yourself to help to increase your own fertility.

While I do recommend some common herbal formulas for each phase, please note that each woman has very specific needs.  I highly recommend that you either schedule a call with one of our fertility specialists or take our online virtual herbalist quiz to give you personalized recommendations based on your specific diagnosis.

Blood:

It might not sound pretty, but the blood phase is such an informative phase in our cycle.  So many women see their menstrual cycle as this phase only — the time during which we actually have our periods.  During this phase we are shedding our uterine lining.

  • Is there pain?  

  • Are there clots?

  • Is menstrual blood heavy or light?

  • Is menstrual blood dark or red?

  • Do you feel better or worse once your period starts?

  • Do you experience diarrhea, dizziness or hot flashes with your period?

  • Do you get a headache, breast tenderness or yeast infection with your period?  

I learn so much about my patients during this phase of their cycle.  Women always seem surprised that while it is common, it’s not actually a sign of a healthy reproductive cycle to have cramps and pain and other intense PMS symptoms.

How Wisdom of the Womb can Improve Fertility:

  1. Promote complete shedding of the uterine lining so that no stagnant blood remains.

  2. Build your overall blood so that the loss of blood doesn’t leave you feeling depleted and deficient.

  3. Reduce cramping, pain and other PMS symptoms that may be indicative of a stagnation of your body’s qi (energy) and blood.

  4. A great formula during this Phase is Jade Moon Phase 1: Regulate.  It helps to invigorate the flow of blood while replenishing lost blood.  If there are lots of clots, cramping* or dark blood, then Jade Moon Phase 1: Invigorate is recommended.

  5. B*tch’s Brew Herbal Tea is also highly-effective at encouraging healthy menstrual flow.  An Apothecary favorite, B*tch’s Brew is a delicious yet therapeutic blend for PMS relief. To reduce PMS and cramping or pre-period insommnia, anxiety, breast tenderness and more, begin drinking this hormone-balancing blend 10 -14 days before your period is expected, or enjoy throughout the entire cycle.

  6. Supports uterine health, strengthens the liver, balances hormones, encourages healthy blood flow to reduce cramping and relieves stress and anxiety.

Phase 1 Tips:

1. Go with the flow.

Encourage your body’s natural flow of blood.  If you’re able to use pads instead of tampons, even for part of the day and night, it can not only really let you know more about the quality and amount of your menstrual blood, but also keep your blood flowing in the direction it should  — down and out. This is also a good time to forego yoga inversions like headstand and shoulder stand.

2. Twist & Shout

We want to really encourage the complete shedding of the uterine lining during this phase, so yoga twists can really help to squeeze out any stagnation of blood.  It’s also important to release any emotions that may have been building up.. go for a run, have a good cry, punch a pillow. It’s important to focus on release and letting go during this time.

3. Warm it up

Because we want to encourage movement during Phase 1, warming foods that are nourishing and invigorating are beneficial.  Try ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom and cloves. While we may crave ice cream, it’s especially important to avoid cold or iced foods, as cold causes contraction and we are trying to promote expansion and release.  One of my favorite treats is to warm rice or almond milk with some of the spices I’ve listed above added, plus a little bit of agave. It totally hits the spot.

Putting a heat-pack on your lower abdomen or low back during the blood phase can really help if you experience menstrual cramps.  In acupuncture sessions during this phase, I especially like to use Moxa or Moxibustion, a warming and invigorating herb placed on the lower abdomen.

*If you experience severe pain during your period, it is extremely important to seek some form of holistic treatment to diagnose and treat the imbalance.   There is an old saying in Chinese Medicine that translates as “With pain, there is stagnation. With stagnation, there is pain.” Basically, if you have pain, it means that something is stuck.  In the case of menstrual pain, it’s usually your blood. Even if you know the cause of your pain, such as endometriosis, treatment to encourage movement of blood will help to prevent worsening of your condition.  Pain medication and muscle relaxers just mask the symptoms, but do little to correct the stagnation.

Learn more about energetically supporting the Blood Phase.

When to Have Sex to Increase your Chances of Getting Pregnant

When I first started treating infertility in my acupuncture practice 15 years ago, one of the first things I realized was that many of my patients felt uncomfortable or embarrassed to ask a really important question, a question that could determine whether or not they would get pregnant that cycle:

When should they be having sex?

Once I decided that this was one of the first conversations I needed to have with each and every fertility patient, I discovered that most of my patients were waiting until they knew they were about to ovulate to have sex. This is usually way too late!

It’s important to remember that while the egg is only viable for about twenty-four hours, the sperm actually live for five days. Imagine that your egg is a magical queen (because she is). Waiting until you’re about to ovulate to have sex is almost like Beyonce starting to perform while the audience is still trickling into the theater. Just as Beyonce should be arriving on-stage to a packed house, your egg should be bursting forth into a completely full house, with tons of sperm vying for her attention. Imagine her disappointment if she arrives to just a handful of sperm.

I have an easy formula to help ensure that you are ovulating to as many viable sperm as possible, to maximize your pregnancy success rate.

Beginning the day after your period ends, you should have sex every other day until you ovulate. Let’s say that you have your period for five days. You should then have sex on days 6, 8, 10 and 12. If you know you ovulate on day 14, for example, you’ll also have sex for 3 consecutive days surrounding the day that you ovulate. So for a day 14 ovulation, you’ll have sex days 13, 14 and 15. Then, you’ll skip a day, and have sex again on day 17. Any sex after day 17 is optional.

I’ll give you another example for a later ovulation. If you know that you tend to ovulate on day 16 and your period lasts for 6 days, you’ll have sex days 7,9,11,13,15,16,17 and 19.

Here’s one more example so that it’s really clear. If you have a 3 day period and tend to ovulate around day 12, you’ll have sex on days 4, 6, 8 and ten and then surrounding ovulation on days 11, 12 and 13.

Make sense?

My patients tend to ask me why they need to start having sex so early if the sperm only lives for five days. It’s true that day seven sperm is no longer viable by day sixteen, but it’s important to remember that sometimes we ovulate early. We don’t want to “waste” a whole cycle just because we ovulated early that month. If you happen to ovulate on day 12 that cycle instead of day 16, you will still be ovulating to a “packed house” of sperm. Your egg will still feel like the magical queen she is.

Now of course you can use this formula even if you aren’t sure exactly when you’re going to ovulate. You can just have sex every other day. But it is helpful to have a sense of when you ovulate to really take the most advantage of this formula. If you haven’t been tracking your basal body temperature with a basal thermometer, it’s incredibly helpful so that you know when you’ve ovulated. Usually, post-ovulation, the temperature elevates by at least a half of a degree, or .5 degrees. An ovulation predictor kit (OPK) can also be helpful.

Some other useful tips to increase your chances of conception:

  1. Avoid any store-bought lubricant that might contain ingredients that negatively impact sperm. Olive oil is a very safe and effective lubricant that everyone seems to have on-hand.
  2. Both partners should avoid recreational drugs or alcohol when you’re trying to conceive. They have a tendency to negatively impact the fertility level of both cervical mucus and sperm motility.
  3. Especially around ovulation, it’s important to reduce or even remove completely both sugar and dairy from your diet. Both sugar and dairy tend to stagnate our energy. It’s important to keep your energy moving as smoothly as possible so that the “bursting” of ovulation can occur. It’s great to get in a cardiovascular exercise right when you’re about to ovulate.
  4. This might be a "touchy" subject, but it's ideal for your partner to conserve his sperm so that he's only ejaculating during sex with you during this time period. The skipping of a day is actually for the purpose of sperm regeneration, so that there is as much sperm in each ejaculation as possible.
  5. My patients always ask me about eating pineapple. I’ll answer that question here: The core of the pineapple is very high in Bromelain, which can help with implantation. So, if you’d like to help promote implantation, you can buy a ripe, ideally organic pineapple and cut the core into 5 equal pieces. Please don’t eat the pineapple itself -- it has way too much sugar. Share it with your friends instead. Starting the day that you ovulate, eat one piece of the core for five consecutive days. Once you’re done and five days has passed, do not eat any more pineapple core. Too much bromelain can actually increase movement of the blood to the point that it can dislodge an implanted embryo, so just stick to the five days post ovulation.
  6. I know that “trying-to-get-pregnant-sex” has a tendency to lose all the fun, spontaneity and even enjoyment of good old sex. So as much as is possible, try not to stress about getting the schedule “perfect.” Stress pumps cortisol into our body, which throws all of our other reproductive hormones out of whack, which is a general bummer for fertility. While I know it might not be realistic for me to tell you to try to just have fun and have sex, I’m going to say it anyway. Just try to have fun with sex. Try as much as possible to avoid letting it become another thing about this whole process that stresses you out. I recognize that you might hate me for even suggesting it, but as much as you can will yourself to let sex be a time that you let go of all the stress and worry and concern about getting pregnant, the better.

I hope that I’ve given you some useful info about when to have sex to improve your chances of getting pregnant. If you do suffer from PCOS or another menstrual imbalance where you’re not ovulating regularly, I’ll address the best ways to improve your reproductive health in future blogs, so stay tuned.

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