During an IVF cycle there is a lot of emphasis on improving egg and sperm quality, but what about the health and receptivity of the womb? This is an equally important factor, as the thickness and quality of the endometrial lining is essential for the success of an IVF cycle and the ability to carry a baby to term.

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What is a thin lining?

The endometrium is the inner layer or lining of the uterus. It it is this layer that is shed during menstruation each month and it thickens in preparation for the implantation of a fertilised embryo. The hormone oestrogen is responsible for creating a thick, rich and healthy uterine lining. If oestrogen levels are low and blood flow to the pelvic cavity is poor, then the lining of the uterus can be thin.

Pulsatility Index and Blood Flow to the Uterus

So for any woman undergoing IVF, good blood flow to the pelvic region is essential and there is a very precise technique that predicts both uterine blood flow and also the success of an embryo transfer.

A transvaginal ultrasound can be used to measures the pulsatility index in the uterine arteries, which is the blood flow to this area. A higher index indicates greater restriction of blood flow to the uterus. The pulsatility index has been used in many studies to assess endometrial receptivity (1,2).  Many studies also indicate that a higher index (greater restriction of blood flow) has been associated with a decreased pregnancy rate following embryo transfer. One study showed that a pulsatility index of 3.0 or more at the time of embryo transfer could actually predict 35% of failed pregnancies.

Can Electroacupuncture Increase IVF Success?

Acupuncture has been shown to increase blood flow to the womb lining and increase vascularization of the lining also. Electroacupuncture, which involves gentle electrical stimulation of acupuncture points, has been shown to reduce blood flow impedance to the uterine arteries. In one study, a group of women undergoing IVF received a series of 8 acupuncture treatments over the course of 4 weeks. In these women, a statistically significant drop in the pulsatility index was measured by the end of the 8th treatment.  This benefit could still be measured 10-14 days after the treatment period had ended. Following the acupuncture treatments, the pulsatility index fell within the range for optimal uterine receptivity of 2.0 – 2.99, for the majority of the women in this study.

Summary

At Shen we use an evidence-based protocol by Stener-Victorin (3), to improve lining quality, thickness and blood flow, thus enhancing implantation and reducing miscarriage rates. A series of 8 electroacupuncture treatments is recommended to increase uterine artery blood flow and promote endometrial receptivity in women undergoing IVF.

References:

  1. Steer, C.V., Campbell, S., Tan, S.L. et al. The use of transvaginal colour flow imaging after in vitro fertilisation to identify optimum uterine conditions before embryo transfer. Fertil. Steril. 1992; 57, 372-376.
  2. Steer, C.V., Tan, S.L., Mason, B.A. and Campbell, S. Vaginal color Doppler assessment of uterine artery impedance correlates with immunohistochemical markers of endometrial receptivity required for the implantation of an embryo. Fertil., Steril. 1995; 61, 101-108.
  3. Stener-Victorin, E., Waldenström, U., Andersson, S.A. and Wikland M. Reduction of blood flow impedance in the uterine arteries of infertile women with electro- acupuncture. Hum Reprod. 1996;11, 1314-1317.
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Foods for the Winter Season

January 20, 2018

Everybody knows that food is what gives our bodies the energy we need to survive. But not everybody is aware that certain foods should be consumed at specific times of the year.

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Traditional Chinese Medicine is a medical system that has been around for nearly 4,000 years. When this system came into being, people were much more in tune with the seasons and their environment. The foods they consumed were based on the seasons and when those foods were available. This is a system that should be followed for people to remain healthy throughout the year, regardless of where they live.

In Traditional Chinese Medicine, winter is a time of reflection and rejuvenation.  The body needs the extra hours of darkness to repair. The kidneys are the center of energy in the Traditional Chinese Medicine system and thus, they need to be nourished during the winter months. It is recommended we consume foods that are warming and that will boost the kidney energy. We also need to eat foods that benefit the Shen (spirit) so that the winter months don’t bring about depression.

Things like soups and stews are extremely important during the cold winter months. Energetically, warming foods such as bay leaves, chestnuts, fennel, leeks, nutmeg, pine nuts, sweet potatoes and walnuts are all great to incorporate into the diet. Also, foods that boost kidney energy are just as important. Items like millet, sesame seeds, kidney beans, grains, seeds and nuts are all good tonics for the kidneys. It is recommended that the foods be cooked for longer periods and at lower temperatures to retain as much energy as possible. It is also advisable to eat more food with bitter flavors while reducing salty flavors, so that heart health is promoted and the workload of the kidneys is reduced. Bitter-flavored foods include apricot, asparagus, celery, coffee, tea, grapefruit, lettuce, kale, vinegar and wine.

One of the most commonly used foods is something known as congee. Congee is a thick grain-based soup or porridge. Congee is used in a preventive fashion to promote good health and strong digestion. Congee can be made with a single grain, like brown rice, or a combination of grains, beans, vegetables and medicinal herbs.  Incorporating this food  into the daily diet will improve energy levels over time. Congee is prepared in a crock pot overnight, which fits in perfectly with the aforementioned principles of slow cooking at lower temperatures. It is said that the longer the congee cooks, the more powerful it becomes.

Incorporating the foods listed above during the winter months, can be a wonderful way to boost your energy throughout the season. And this will also help in the seasons to follow, as the body will be healthier and better prepared.

 

 

Most acupuncturists begin an initial session of acupuncture with an extensive health intake that goes over all of the systems of the body. We use this information to determine certain patterns of imbalance, allowing us to treat the root cause of the problem.Blogimg - Positive Effects of Acupuncture.

However, when someone makes an appointment to deal with their pain, naturally this is all they are concerned about. So, when we see these patients, we focus on their presenting issue. Once this problem has resolved, they will likely see other beneficial side effects from the treatment, such as:

A reduction in stress or anxiety. Acupuncture is incredibly calming, and when you get acupuncture on a regular basis, that feeling of peace and well-being tends to become your new norm. Life’s little stresses just seem easier, somehow.
You don’t get sick as often. Acupuncture boosts the immune system, and regular clients often comment on having lesser colds and illnesses throughout the year.
Better sleep. It promotes a deep, restorative sleep that can’t be matched by anything else. Acupuncture is very effective for insomnia, but even those without sleep issues look forward to a fantastic nights sleep after a treatment.
Less painful periods. When the blood and energy of the body flow as it should, pain and stiffness disappear. Acupuncture moves the blood, lessening cramps and even alleviating the symptoms of PMS.
Happier digestion. Again, acupuncture is moving, so it creates movement within the digestive tract too. If you are prone to constipation, this medicine can get you unstuck. And if you fall on the other end of the spectrum and suffer from frequent or loose bowel movements, acupuncture can help to regulate that as well.
More energy. When your body is in balance, you have the right amount of energy to get through your day. Patients who get treatment regularly tell us that they feel more energised and alert throughout the day.
Increased fertility. Studies have shown getting regular acupuncture increases your chances of getting pregnant. It regulates hormones and lowers stress levels.
Better relationships. I know it sounds strange, but hear me out. Acupuncture helps to regulate the emotions. It can vent your anger, ease your grief and help you to let go of negativity you’ve been holding on to. Irritated or frustrated? Try a treatment. You will immediately feel those emotions slipping away. When your negative feelings begin to transition into a lighter, calmer place, you will connect with people around you in a very different way.

Leukopenia is a term used when there are less than adequate white blood cells in the bloodstream. This condition may make those suffering from it susceptible to infections. Leukopenia is often seen in diseases such as AIDS, cancer and lupus, as well as in common occurrences like the flu or a cold. Leukopenia can also be medically induced, as is often the case for cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy and radiation. While there are several prescription medications available to battle this condition, most of them also have multiple adverse side effects.

But there are alternative natural methods that can increase white blood cell count without the side effects. One of these is Traditional Chinese Medicine.Blogimg - Increase White Blood Cell Count

Traditional Chinese Medicine is a medical system that has been around for thousands of years and incorporates multiple modalities to treat the body holistically. Acupuncture is one of the modalities utilized by TCM practitioners that can help increase white blood cell count. In fact, the World Health Organization (WHO) recommends and endorses acupuncture for treating leukopenia. Research has demonstrated acupuncture can increase immunity, while improving both red and white blood cell counts.

Traditional Chinese Medicine considers the spleen to be a very important component of immune function in the body. In TCM, the spleen is responsible for removing nutrients from food and then using those nutrients to build up blood. Patients with low blood cell count tend to suffer from fatigue. This can be countered by receiving regular acupuncture treatments that not only increase immunity, but also boost the production of blood cells.

Another important modality of TCM is herbs and herbal formulas. Specific herbs and formulas can actually increase white blood cell count and improve immune function in the body. The peony root, for example, is used in at least three different forms to boost or tonify the blood. In single herb form, peony root is known as Bai Shao, Chi Shao and Shao Yao. All of these forms are known to tonify blood, which ultimately increases immunity.

Tai chi and qi gong are not technically part of TCM, but they are ingrained in Asian history and used by millions of people worldwide. Studies have shown these forms of low-impact exercise can be very beneficial to those suffering from leukopenia. In fact, the studies confirm blood cell count can be increased by practicing tai chi or qi gong on a regular basis.

Diet and nutrition are other important areas when battling leukopenia. In TCM, nutrition is vital for overall health. One of the superfoods in TCM is Shiitake mushrooms. These mushrooms are recommended because they are known to enhance immunity. Shiitake mushrooms contain lentinan, which is an antiviral substance that has strong immune-stimulating properties. This mushroom is used as a meat substitute in TCM nutrition. And when combined with other immune-boosting foods, this in itself can make for a very healthy meal.

Lastly, a practice known as meditation should be considered when low white blood cell count is present. While meditation is not specific to TCM, it is frequently prescribed and used by TCM practitioners. Mediation is a practice that helps calm the mind and the nervous system. When the nervous system is overstimulated, it creates metabolic stress within the body. Metabolic stress causes the immune system to become weakened, thus decreasing the number of white blood cells in the body. Meditation can help reverse this problem.

While Western medicine may be the current line of defense in fighting leukopenia, it is very feasible that alternative medicine may offer more without harmful side effects. The two forms of medicine can be used in conjunction, allowing the patient to have more options and more control over their treatment regimen.

 

Easy Does It Meditation

August 22, 2017

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There are lots of different types of meditation to choose from. There is transcendental meditation, mindfulness, zen, mantra, chakra, sound, guided and active meditations and Buddhist practices also.

Here are some of the benefits you might experience from practicing meditation

● Increased relaxation
● Less anxiety and stress
● Increased energy
● Improved focus
● Deeper spiritual connection to oneself
● Increased amount of positive feelings

The goal of meditation is to quiet the mind and bring your consciousness to the present moment. In addition, meditation helps one connect with the inner self and increases connection to others and the whole of creation. Meditation eases persistent mental noise, improves focus, creativity and is calming. Almost any activity can be meditative if it absorbs your attention and keeps you present. Let’s consider some meditation exercises:

Qigong, tai chi, yoga – These exercises cultivate “life energy” and promote the circulation of energy (Qi) through the focus on breathing and movement. In particular these exercises circulate oxygen and blood. If you are interested in one of these, seek out a qualified instructor to guide you.

Activity mindfulness – Walking or doing other enjoyable activities such as sports, art, music or writing promote activity mindfulness. Doing dishes, gardening or cleaning can also be considered a meditation if we are focused and present while enjoying the experience.

Guided meditation – This type of meditation is where one sits and focuses on specific imagery given by an instructor or through audio. This form of meditation is often used in healing, as one can focus on specific parts of the body.

Sound – The focus of this meditation is on a sound, repeated mantra or vibration.

Mantra – Mantra meditation is repeating a mantra such as “Om” or “Om mani padme hum.”
Transcendental meditation – this is a very popular and well-known practice which includes a mantra and is usually practiced about 20 minutes twice a day. It might be a good idea to seek out an instructor for transcendental meditation, as it has specific techniques that might require a higher level of assistance.

Mindfulness meditation – this involves bringing one’s attention to the present experience on a moment-to-moment basis. The practice is quite simple, just get comfortable, pay attention to your breath, and when your attention wanders just return to focusing on the breadth.

Sitting – Sitting meditation is very common and can incorporate focus on sound, a mantra or breathing. Practices tend to originate from Buddhism, and established positions, such as the lotus, have been taught to encourage deeper inner connection.

Binaural Beats – This is a modern addition to the meditation circle. Binaural beats are special frequencies that put the brain into meditative states such as alpha or theta. The frequencies, which synchronize brain waves, have benefits such as increased awareness. Binaural beats tend to quickly enhance mood. They can be found easily using an Internet search.

If you are ready for meditation, start slowly with one that appeals to you and looks enjoyable. In choosing what type might suit you, think about the type of person you are overall, the amount of time and dedication you have, and where your interests lie. What do you intend to get out of meditation?

To really feel the benefits of your new practice remember to set aside some time for it every day.

 

 

Most people have heard of the field of acupuncture by now, but did you realise that it is a part of Chinese medicine, and includes so much more than needles? Let’s explore this ancient therapy.

Firstly, the practice of Chinese medicine starts with a diagnosis. The practitioner asks many questions to build a picture of the person; questions about digestion, appetite, diet, sleep patterns, bowel movements, urination, pain, lifestyle and stress levels, for example. The acupuncturist will also be noting the voice pitch, hair lustre, skin colour and tone, as well as the posture and mood of the patient and any significant odour. After that, there is a pulse and tongue analysis to determine where the energetic imbalances are. When the history taking is complete, a diagnosis and treatment plan is determined. What might be included in this plan?

Needles: Acupuncture needles are very fine, sterile, painless and safe. They are, of course, the main component of the treatment plan. They are placed into certain acupuncture points on the body, either locally (at the pain site) or distally (away from the pain). The needles are retained anywhere from 20 to 40 minutes and most find the treatment to be relaxing and calming.

Herbal formulas: Chinese medicine includes the use of herbal formulas. The herbs and acupuncture needles work together to bring the body into harmony naturally. Herbal formulas come in either patent formulas, or the practitioner will make you your own formula.

Nutritional counselling: In Chinese medicine, food is medicine, and if you don’t get an herbal remedy, you will probably get dietary advice tailored to your specific constitution. For example, if someone has a pale tongue with a white coating, and it is puffy with teeth marks on the side, this might indicate this person has too much cold in the stomach, which is hampering the digestive fire. Chinese medicine rates food according to its temperature, season, colour, shape and whether it’s right for your individual body. Cold foods include too many cold, raw vegetables, iced drinks and smoothies. A food such as ginger might be a nice addition to one’s diet in this case.

Cupping and Gua Sha: Cupping uses bamboo, plastic or glass cups heated with a small flame to create a suction on the skin. This dissipates stagnation of blood and lymph fluid, promotes blood flow, eases stiffness, encourages better circulation to muscles and tissues, and feels great. It leaves a purple bruise and “cup” mark, only temporarily.

Gua sha uses a flat edged tool that is scraped in one direction on the skin, usually on large areas such as the back. Gua sha is used for many ailments, but especially for pain and stiffness. It removes blood stagnation and promotes the smooth flow of oxygen and blood. Waste and toxins are removed, and the scraping helps circulate fluid and nutrients, encouraging micro-circulation in soft tissue areas. Gua sha can be used on the face for health and beauty, as well.

Moxibustion: Moxibustion is heated mugwort and comes in many forms. Usually this smoky herb is held over an area of the body to warm and circulate. It’s great for menstrual cramps, cold conditions and chronic pain.

As you can see, the wide practice of acupuncture is much more than just needles. In addition to the above mentioned treatments, some practitioners use massage techniques and a form of manipulation called Tui Na, or acupressure.

Heart- The Fire Element

February 13, 2017

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The organs in Chinese medicine are more than just a physical representation. The organs include not only their physiological function, but also their mental, emotional, spiritual and elemental qualities that align with nature and the seasons. Let’s explore the heart.

The heart season is summer, and heart is considered the most yang: hot, bountiful and abundant. Yang is what is bright, moving, outward, hot and loud. Yin is what is more inward, still, dark and cooler. The colour of the heart is associated with red, the climate is heat, the flavour is bitter and it’s paired organ is the small intestine (many urinary issues are due to “heart fire” heat descending). The sense aligned with heart is the tongue, and the vessels associated with heart are the tissues. The heart sound is laughing, and the emotion is joy. The heart houses what is known as the shen, which is the mind and spirit. You can see a person’s shen in a healthy complexion and radiant eyes that are clear and bright. The heart is in charge of circulation and keeps the tissues well nourished. It is also associated with mental clarity, memory and strength. The motion of this fire element is upward, like a flame. Many who have this element dominant in their personality have red hair that is curly or spikes upward. The heart is also connected to speech. An imbalance in heart energy can result in stuttering, speaking excitedly or talking excessively.

A healthy heart energy exudes a sense of joy, fun, enthusiasm, action, warmth, charisma and fun. These people are the “life of the party,” and love to have a good time with friends and to be the centre of attention. When the heart is balanced, sleep is sound and one is well rested.

On the other hand, when there is an overabundance of fire this can result in restlessness, anxiety, sweating, excitability and symptoms such as palpitations, irregular heartbeat, insomnia, disturbing dreams, mouth sores, thirst, red face, constipation and dryness. This person might shrink if not in the limelight and would constantly seek attention and need activities that produce a lot of excitement. He or she might have trouble being introspective and could not be alone. “Overjoy” is an imbalance of heart energy and is likened to manic behaviour. A dominant fire may also be extremely sensitive to heat. A lack of the fire element, on the other hand, can result in a lustreless complexion, low energy, inertia, depression, feeling cold, low libido and the personality may lack warmth. This type may seem cold, frigid, lack drive and may be prone to addictions.

How to help your heart stay in balance? Red foods have been shown to help the heart biochemically; foods such as hawthorn berries, strawberries, cherries, raspberries, tomatoes, watermelon, peppers and goji berries keep your heart happy with lycopene and anthocyanin, antioxidants and beneficial vitamins. Other helpful foods include garlic, cayenne, coriander, basil, magnesium (found in leafy greens, nuts and soy) and green tea. Also try ginseng, jujube dates, reishi mushrooms, dong quai, seaweed and schizandra berries. Calming activities such as walking, tai qi, or qi gong help calm the shen.

If you feel that your heart energy could be out of balance call one of our practitioners for a consultation.

Happy Valentine’s Day

Do you ever feel your life’s a ride that won’t ever stop? How many nights do you wait for Mr. Sandman to magically appear? How often do you truly take time for yourself? Do you have aches and pains almost daily? Are over-the-counter or prescription medications controlling your life? When was the last time you actually felt at peace? If any of these questions resonate with you, then it might be time to look at Traditional Chinese Medicine and acupuncture for an answer. People in Asian countries have known the magnificence of acupuncture for thousands of years. Traditional Chinese Medicine is growing in popularity in Ireland and across the world, and here are some reasons why you might want to consider utilizing it also.

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1. Insomnia / Restless Sleep
Acupuncture can address imbalances in your body that may contribute to your  inability to get a good nights sleep. The needles can actually encourage the brain to produce the chemicals that help you relax and sleep better. If you have difficulty falling asleep, you wake up frequently or you toss and turn a lot, acupuncture might just be the missing link.

2. Anxiety / Depression
Thousands of people in Ireland suffer from depression and anxiety. And while there are many amazing therapists available to talk to, psychotherapy may not be enough. Also, many of the prescription medications available have terrible side effects. This is where acupuncture and Chinese herbal formulas can help. Acupuncture can actually start to relieve symptoms of depression and anxiety in as few as two treatments without any harsh side effects.

3. Allergies
Runny nose? Sneezing? Watery, itchy eyes? Does this sound familiar?
Seasonal or otherwise, allergies can be debilitating. But multiple studies have shown that allergy symptoms can be decreased and sometimes even eliminated with the use of regular acupuncture treatments. Immunity begins in the gut and acupuncture treatments for allergies will focus on the energetic meridians that support your immune system.

4. Migraines
For those who suffer from these monsters, life can be a toss of the dice. Migraines can come on without warning and can be completely devastating. And yet again, the pharmaceuticals that most migraine sufferers are prescribed can lead to harsh side effects. Acupuncture can reduce the frequency and intensity of migraines over time.

5. Menstruation Issues
Many women suffer monthly from menstruation problems. It can be that the period is irregular, painful or so heavy that it leads to anemia and fatigue. There can also be mental-health effects associated with periods such as depression and anger. Over-the-counter medications only mask the symptoms. To treat the root of the problem, give acupuncture a try. Once again, it’s all about balancing your body. That’s how acupuncture works to regulate menstrual problems.

6. Chronic Pain
Pain is the number one reason why people turn to acupuncture, and for good reason. If you’ve tried everything else and got little to no relief, acupuncture may be right for you. But remember, chronic pain took time to develop and it will also take time for acupuncture treatments to work. Many people get some relief immediately, but acupuncture works on a cumulative basis, so commitment to the process is a must.

7. Preventive Medicine
Did you know that acupuncture’s main function is to help keep you healthy? If not, then you’re not alone. While acupuncture may not be known for preventive care, it should be. Waiting until there is an injury or illness will only cause the treatments to take longer. Using acupuncture preemptively will help you fight off illness and let you recover more quickly. That’s reason enough to give it a try.

Now that you know how acupuncture and traditional Chinese medicine can help you, what are you waiting for?

Now go get healthy. Contact us today to see how we can help you

When the seasons change you have to be ready for a change in mood, especially as we move from Autumn into winter. Although it may not seem as drastic of a shift as you think, it matters more to our mental and physical states than you may know. Seasonal affective disorder affects millions of people each year.

As we begin to lose sunlight and transition into the darker months of the year, depression and fatigue seem to make that transition with us. But, there are ways to shake off the impending gloom and brighten your day, if you follow some of these steps you can combat seasonal affective disorder and find yourself being just as happy as you are in the warm, bright summer months.

Try light therapy:

Doctors have called this idea phase shifting. Because we lose sunlight
so quickly as we head into the winter, you could start your day with bright lights turned on. By eating breakfast and starting your daily routine under bright indoor lights, you get used to not having sunlight and can better adjust to your new surroundings.

Exercise. Exercise. Exercise:

Regular exercise works wonders for depression in general,
so why would it not work for SAD-induced depression? By maintaining regular exercise habits you can work to get rid of the fatigue, depression and tiredness by adding at least 60 minutes a day of activity into your life.

These next two ideas go hand in hand, as both work together to not only combat SAD,
but promote a healthy lifestyle.

Maintain a heart-healthy diet and get plenty of sleep:

No brainers? Maybe. But, you would be surprised at the amount of people who do not follow both or one of these guidelines, I’m sure you know someone who fits into those categories. Make sure to maintain a regular sleep schedule while keeping up with a heart-healthy diet in order to fight seasonal affective disorder.

Last, but not least, try acupuncture! 

Acupuncture is a great solution to combating SAD.
There are various points on the body that have been known to alleviate symptoms of
SAD. A primary point that should be addressed when treating SAD is Yintang, and when being treated for SAD by an acupuncturist you should be seen between one to two times a week.

Try some of these techniques and you should have no problem battling and conquering the seasonal affective disorder that may be bothering you this winter.

As the air starts to cool and the sun begins to fade, many people begin to experience a flare up in back pain symptoms.

Back pain is a very common problem, in fact, it’s one of the top reasons people seek medical care.

Unfortunately, back pain isn’t always easy to diagnose or relieve. Low back pain in particular can become a chronic, or ongoing, problem.

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Acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) are very effective in treating back pain and helping keep your body in tune  with the seasonal shift. They can also be used together with traditional Western treatments to maximise your healing and recovery.

There are many possible causes for back pain, including strained muscles or ligaments, often caused by improper lifting, sudden movements or traumatic injury. Other culprits include arthritis (whose symptoms can be exacerbated with the onset of cold damp weather), structural abnormalities of the spine, or when the discs between the vertebrae bulge or rupture and press on a nerve.

Practitioners of acupuncture and TCM view back pain another way and understand that it can arise from disharmonies such as:

  • Stagnation type pain
  • Cold, damp obstruction type pain
  • Deficiency type pain

Once the cause of your back pain has been determined, a specific treatment plan will be designed to address your concerns and boost your overall health and vitality.

An acupuncturist will not only work to relieve your symptoms, but will also work to find and treat the underlying cause of your pain.

Ref: Acupuncture Media Works/ Shen