Let’s talk endo, fertility and Chinese medicine

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What is endometriosis?

Endometriosis is a condition where the tissue that lines the uterus grows in places it shouldn’t, like the ovaries, fallopian tubes and bowel. This tissue responds to the hormonal changes of the menstrual cycle. It builds up and then sheds just like it would in the uterus but because it can’t leave the body, it becomes trapped and leads to excessive inflammation and severe pain.

Besides debilitating period pain, women with endometriosis often experience painful ovulation, pain during sex, fatigue and difficulty or delays in falling pregnant.

How is it diagnosed?

The only way to diagnose endometriosis is by laparoscopy. A laparoscopy is performed by a surgeon who makes small incisions in the abdomen and inserts a tiny camera that allows them to inspect the reproductive organs for abnormal tissues growths and remove them if possible.

How can it effect fertility?

Endometriosis can cause a build up of scar tissues on the reproductive organs, reducing the natural movement within the fallopian tubes and obstructing the pathway of the egg and sperm. The increased amount of inflammation in the pelvic area can have a negative effect on the delicate environment that is required the for fertilisation, implantation and development of a healthy embryo.

How can Acupuncture and Chinese medicine help?

In Chinese medicine the belief is that when the your system is returned to a state of balance, your body is free from pain and can function as nature intended. Acupuncture and Chinese medicine is an amazing natural alternative for treating the symptoms of endometriosis and improving fertility!

These are just some of the effects it can have on the body:

  • promotes the release of endorphins (the body’s own pain killer)

  • increases blood flow to the pelvis

  • relaxes the muscles and restores healthy movement in the reproductive organs

  • reduces inflammation and moderates the immune system

  • balances hormone and regulates the menstrual cycle

In addition to herbs and acupuncture, endometriosis (and fertility) can be improved by a healthy diet and lifestyle.

Fuel your body with delicious hormone regulating foods like leafy greens, cruciferous vegetables and healthy fats from avocado, nuts, fish and olive oil. Avoid the foods that cause inflammation, such as refined sugar, gluten, processed foods and dairy.

As well as proper nutrients, our bodies needs adequate time to reenergise, regenerate and heal. Getting enough sleep and managing stress is essential. Sleep and self-care is not a luxury. It’s a necessity and participating regularly in relaxing and enjoyable activities, such as yoga, meditation and getting out into nature, should be just as important as brushing your teeth or paying the bills.

5 Signs of a Healthy Menstrual Cycle

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While every woman is unique and in the real world, there is no such thing as textbook perfect periods, these five factors are strong indicators that you have a health menstrual cycle.

1. Your menstrual cycle is between 26-35 days.

Ideally your menstrual cycle should be between 26-35 days long and about the same length every month. The total length of the cycle is counted from the first day of proper flow of your period to the last day before your next period. Cycles that are irregular in length by more than 5 days or shorter or longer than 26-35 days can be an indication that your hormones are out of whack.

2. Your period is pain free

Yes, that’s right! A healthy menstrual cycle should be pain free. A slight feeling of discomfort and distention in the lower abdomen is okay, but if you are experiencing painful cramping in the abdomen, back and/or legs, this is your body’s way of telling you that something’s Not Quite Right.

3. You only bleed during the days you have your period

A healthy period starts with 3-7 days of solid flow, followed by a couple of days of lighter bleeding. There should be no bleeding at any other time of the cycle. Prolonged or heavy bleeding (filling a tampon, cup or pad in under 2 hours), a really light period (1-2 days of flow and/or barely needing to change your tampon, cup or pad) or spotting at other times during the cycle may indicate low progesterone, iron deficiency and other internal imbalances.

4. The blood is a healthy red colour

Menstrual blood that is a crimson red colour without the presence of clots or mucus occurs when there is adequate blood flow within the uterus. Dark, purple or brown blood and the presence of clots indicates poor uterine circulation. Blood stagnation in the uterus causes pain and can lead to other complications.

5. You don’t experience Pre-menstrual tension (PMT)

If your period comes and goes without PMT taking over your body and throwing a party, it’s a sign that your hormones are happy!

It may seem like most of the women you know (yourself included) experience tender breasts, headaches, food cravings, bloating, changes in your bowels and feeling overly emotional in the days or weeks leading up to their period but this is not the norm! If you are experiencing any combination of these symptoms its your hormones screaming out for attention and some serious TLC!

It is so important to take the time to check in with your body as your menstrual cycle is a direct indicator of your overall health. I recommend using a period tracking app (my favourite is fertility friend) to keep track of your cycles and any symptoms you experience.

If your menstrual cycle needs a health check up, or you’d like some help to regulate your cycle naturally, contact the team at NFG.

Surya x

To book an appointment with Surya, click here




Phases of the Menstrual Cycle

Image helloclue.com

Image helloclue.com

Ever wondered how exactly the menstrual cycle works?

If we look at the cycle from a biological perspective we can divide it into to four phases, these phases are regulated by the hypothalamus and the anterior pituitary gland of the brain and the ovaries.

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) we look at the cycle through the theory of yin/yang, and Qi/Blood.

Yin and Yang Theory

Yin and Yang refers to two opposing energies that cannot exist without each other

For example, yin can be likened to night cool, darkness, and stillness, in contrast yang can be likened day warmth, brightness and activity.

Qi and Blood

Qi is the energy that flows through the meridians of the body, it can be explained as the driving force that provides life to the cells in the body.

In Chinese medicine blood is nourishing in nature and plays an important role within the female reproductive system, particularly when it comes to supporting growth of the endometrial lining.

The Menstrual Cycle

Below is a breakdown of the menstrual phases firstly what is going on from a biological perspective followed by how this is can be in explained in TCM theory and what our focus may be when using TCM to regulate the menstrual cycle.

Menstrual Phase

  • The menstrual phase begins on the first day of full bleeding.

  • When embryo implantation fails to occur in the previous cycle, this causes oestrogen and progesterone levels to drop.

  • This prompts the lining of the uterus (the endometrium) to shed.

  • Bleeding can last anywhere from 3 – 5 days (sometimes longer)

TCM

  • During menstruation the yang energy descends transitioning into the yin phase.

  • On the days of bleeding the focus of treatment is the smooth flow of qi and blood, this will ensure the old lining is completely cleared out allowing for fresh new lining to grow.

  • As TCM practitioners we want to help you achieve a pain free period.

Follicular Phase

  • The follicular phase overlaps with the menstrual phase, also starting on day one of the cycle.

  • The hypothalamus sends signals to the pituitary gland to produce Follicular Stimulating Hormone (FSH), this hormone stimulates to growth of new follicles (fluid filled sacs that contain immature eggs).

  • One follicle will become dominant and continue to mature, while the rest of the follicles are reabsorbed back into the body. (occasionally more than one follicle can mature).

  • The Maturing Follicle releases oestrogen which causes the endometrial lining to thicken, in preparation for an embryo to implant.

TCM

  • Once bleeding has ceased the treatment focus shifts to building yin to stimulate the growth of new follicles.

  • It is also important to nourish and promote blood flow to the uterus, to support thickening off the endometrial lining.

Ovulation

  • The continual rise in oestrogen levels stimulates the pituitary gland to release luteinizing hormone (LH).

  • When LH levels surge this prompts the dominant follicle to release its matured egg, that will travel down the fallopian tube to be fertilised by the sperm.

  • If you are trying to conceive this is the phase of your cycle where you are most fertile.

TCM

  • When ovulation occurs, yin reaches its peak and the cycle begins to transition into yang.

  • Treatment is focused on supporting the transition of yin into yang to promote ovulation and encouraging implantation (if pregnancy is the goal).

Luteal Phase

  • After the dominate follicle has released its mature egg it begins to change into the corpus luteum, which is responsible for the secretion of several hormones including progesterone, oestrogen and inhibin.

  • Progesterone and oestrogen continue to stimulate the growth of the endometrium.

  • While inhibin suppresses FSH (to stop more follicles from maturing).

  • If implantation occurs the placenta will start to produce human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) this hormone helps maintain the corpus luteum and keeps the endometrial lining thick.

  • If implantation doesn’t occur the corpus luteum begins to degenerate leading to the decrease in oestrogen, progesterone and inhibin, which will stimulate the endometrial lining to shed and prompt the beginning of a new menstrual cycle.

TCM

  • Yang is now dominate in the luteal phase causing a slight rise in your temperature

  • Treatment will be focused on warming the yang and encouraging flow of qi and blood to the uterus to support pregnancy.

Bianca x

To book an appointment with Bianca, click here.

10 Ways to Improve Fertility Naturally

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I have compiled a list of my top ten lifestyle and diet changes that can be made to improve fertility before conception. In our clinic we see how daunting it can be for clients to work out where to start on the fertility journey, so I hope this little list is a big help for you.
Jaya x

1.    Eat real food

When we talk about eating real food, we are talking about avoiding processed packaged foods that are high in unhealthy fats, sugars and chemicals, wherever possible.
Instead choose vegetables and fruits (spray-free/organic is best), grass-fed meat and eggs, good fats from avocados, nuts, seeds, coconut oil and olive oil, and wholegrains like quinoa, brown rice and buckwheat.

2.    Take care of your gut health

Poor gut health is a common cause for nutrient deficiencies, mineral imbalance, poor ability to detoxify and increased inflammation in the body. Bad gut health can also give rise to autoimmune problems which can directly affect your fertility.
Research into the microbiome is revealing the important connection between gut health and overall health status, immune function and hormone production.

3.    Drink lots of water!

So many of us aren’t drinking enough water. However adequate water intake can improve fertility by aiding in cell division, metabolism and reproduction. It can also aid in the development of a healthy egg, as without sufficient water, your body can’t process nutrients and hormones.
To increase your water intake, start the day with a big glass of water, have a drink bottle with you to sip during the day and drink herbal tea and sparkling water to mix things up.

4.    Quit Smoking

No matter how much you smoke, you are affecting your ability to conceive. Studies have shown it is particularly harmful for male fertility, affecting all aspects of sperm health.

5.    Take a good quality prenatal vitamin

Getting good quality supplements is essential. A lot of cheaper vitamins do not contain enough active ingredients and are full of unnecessary fillers. Talk to your natural fertility practitioner about which supplement would best suit your needs.

6.    Start taking your temperature

Taking your BBT (basal body temperature) each morning is an excellent way to see what is happening with your hormones and to know which day you ovulate. Grab a BBT thermometer from a pharmacy and take your temperature each morning when we wake up before you get out of bed. Using an app like Fertility Friend means you just have to enter the temp and the app will create a chart for you.
Your natural fertility practitioner will be able to use your charted temperatures to gain further insight into your cycle, estrogen, progesterone and ovulation.

7.    Get enough sleep

Sleep really is vital to fertility, having adequate melatonin levels aid the production of healthy hormones. Studies have shown that women with low melatonin and serotonin levels have a shorter luteal phase, this is the time between ovulation and menstruation. If this phase is too short the ability to conceive is reduced.
Lack of sleep also impairs the body’s ability to properly regulate adrenaline, cortisol, and insulin, making conception more challenging.

8.    Get the right amount of exercise

Exercising regularly has many health benefits and helps with fertility by reducing stress and helping to maintain a healthy body weight. However, too much intense exercise can have a negative effect on the body’s ability to ovulate and just as losing weight can greatly improve your fertility, if you do not have enough body fat your body can go into an anovulatory state, meaning ovulation is not occurring.
We love walking, Pilates, yoga and PT sessions to keep us fit.

9.    Limit the amount of chemicals and toxins in your life

Chemicals and toxins are damaging to the body and add extra pressure to all organs, in particular the liver which is important in hormone production and elimination. By limiting caffeine and alcohol, eating spray-free and organic produce, changing to natural household cleaners, beauty products and skin care and avoiding tinned food and plastics, we reduce the toxic load on our bodies and improve fertility. Chemicals such BPA mimic hormones in the body, increasing the production of some hormones and decreasing the production of others. Chemicals also interfere with hormone signalling, compete with essential nutrients and accumulate in organs that produce hormones.

10.  Reduce Stress

Our lives are busy and stressful, and sometimes the stress of eliminating stress is just overwhelming! But the truth is we all get stressed, it’s part of life, therefore we need to manage stress and nurture our nervous systems to improve fertility. Incorporating activities like meditation, yoga, walking, journaling and acupuncture into your routine will improve how you deal with stress. And eliminating things like working late, too much social media and overcommitting will reduce the stress you have to deal with.

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