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GOT TO GO- INDIA

This is for you, the restless intrepid traveller, who takes delight in adventure and doing things out of your comfort zone. A you that delights in all that nature has to offer. A you that loves a challenge, and at the same times acknowledges the importance of inner peace.

In March 2019 I plan, along with my yoga teacher friend, to take a small group to Madhya Pradesh India . It will be a trip combining the excitement of tiger spotting with the peace and inner harmony of daily teacher led daily yoga practice. This promises to be an incredible trip!  One that offers the exotic and the sublime.

Our journey will begin in Delhi and Agra were we will spend a couple of days, before heading for Bandhavgarh National Park in Madhya Pradesh, home to the Royal Bengal tiger and acknowledged as one of the top parks for tiger sightings in India. (Trust me. I have been there and was not disappointed.)

We are encouraging like minded travellers to join us, to experience India at its most wild and beautiful. To travel with open hearts and minds , leave preconceptions behind  and plunge into a new adventure.

 We will be accompanied by an experienced guide troughout the entire trip within India.  So that while we marvel at the magnificence of the Taj Mahal and experience the exotic colours and sounds that India has to offer, he will be with us to make sure the trip goes without a hitch. As we travel inland he will  make sure everything runs smoothly. Our guide will also accompany us to our safari lodge and remain with us to make sure our daily trips to Bandhavgarh National Park go without a hitch.

 

Photo: Liz Elicott

 

All About Balance

This trip will be designed in such a way that there will be a balanced mix between daily yoga sessions,  and tiger sightings in  Bandhavgarh   National Park. The aim of this trip is to make it like no other. One that leaves  you, the traveller with a deeper knowledge on all levels.

The Itinerary

 

Day 1/2

We will begin our journey in DELHI where we will stay the first night. The following day we will travel to Agra and visit the Taj Mahal, The Red Fort and Etma Ud Dula’s Tomb. We will have time to relax, unwind and sample the culinary delights that India has to offer from the comfort of our hotel in Agra.

 

 

 

Day 3/4 We will travel to Skay’s Camp, Tala , Madya Pradesh either by train or plane (TBA) .The Camp is very close to Bandhavgarh National Park.

Accommodation 

Skay’s Camp   houses seven double ensuite, secure,  air conditioned rooms. . The small buildings containing each room are set in a tranquil garden, with orchards filled with birdsong and butterflies.  It is very much a family run operation, run in an eco friendly way. Skay’s Camp has a Quality grading under TOFT (Tour Operators for Tigers U.K.)

Our hosts  Kay and Satyendra Tiwari will be there to welcome us, and will always be on hand to make sure our stay is comfortable and enjoyable.   Both Kay and Satyendra are committed conservationists with an in depth knowledge of tigers and their habitat. Over the years they have hosted and advised BBC wildlife film crews, authors and photographers. Satyendra is a recognised wildlife photographer and Kay is an acclaimed wildlife artist and glass designer.  Over deliciously prepared vegetarian meals, Kay and Satyendra charm their guests with their jungle tales and stories about about the tigers and their families which they have observed over many years.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Day 5

AM

We begin our first trip into the Park . Travelling  by jeep. We will drive through the park accompanied  by a guide experienced in tracking tigers. He/she will teach us how to observe pug marks(paw marks): listen for deer alarm calls, alerting us that a tiger is nearby; we will wait for that incredible moment when we spot a tiger, either walking along the road, drinking by a pool or just resting against a tree trunk.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photo: Kay Hassal Tiwari

 

 

 

 

Photo: Satyendra Tiwari

 

 

 

Photo: Liz Ellicott

 

Bandhavgarh National Park

 

 

 

Noted for its high density of the  Royal Bengal tiger, Bandhavgarh National Park  spreads across 105 sq kms with a buffer area of approximately 400 sq kms. It is watered by small dams and water holes. The  lush vegetation is a combination of sal and bamboo forests.

 

There are many other animals in the Park to see apart from tigers: monkeys, deer, wild boar, elephants, guar. There are 37 species of mammals, 250 species of birds and 80 species of butterflies .

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

PM

Yoga

India is the spiritual home of Yoga.  To have this opportunity to practice it in such tranquil surroundings away from the chaos of normal life is something not to be missed.

Yoga practice will be in the mornings or afternoon at Skay’s Camp . This will take place  indoors/outdoors (TBA)under the expert guidance of our teacher.  More details to follow.

 

 

Itinerary

Days 5-8 morning Park visit – afternoon Yoga

Days 9-11 morning Yoga – afternoon Park visit

There will also be time to just chill out in the relaxing atmosphere of Skay’s Camp, enjoy some birdwatching  and indulge in shopping in the small local village. Al meals will be at the camp and included in the price.

Day 12 – morning Yoga followed by return to Delhi  from Jabalpur Airport. Overnight in Delhi

Day 13 – depart Delhi

Registration and Price Details to Follow. 

 

 

Acupuncture: Pain and Depression

High Quality  Clinical Trials

A team of scientists in the UK and US brought together the results of 29 high quality clinical trials, which focused on patients treated for chronic pain with acupuncture and standard medical care. This information was published in the National Institute of Health Research Journals Library. Based on evidence found from these trials , health specialists at the University of York found that acupuncture can boost the effectiveness of standard medical treatment,  debunking the placebo effect theory.

Patients with chronic pain treated with acupuncture and standard medical care, were tested against those who were treated with standard medical care of anti-inflammatory drugs and physiotherapy . Approximately 18,000 patients suffering with chronic pain of the neck, lower back and knee were involved in the trials.

Compared with stand alone medical care,  the report shows that the addition of acupuncture significantly reduced the number of headaches, migraine attacks and the severity of neck and lower back pain. Patients with osteoarthritis also shows a reduction in pain and disability.

University of York – Department of Health and Sciences

Professor MacPherson, from the University of York’s Department of Health and Sciences said ” There has been a question mark for many years over whether policy and decision makers should or should not provide wider access to acupuncture. Our aim was to bring together data from high quality clinical trials and provide a robust evidence base that will help reduce this uncertainty and support commissioners and health professionals in making informed decisions backed up with research.”

In addition, the team also conducted a new clinical trial for depression. This was carried out  on 755 patients in the North of England. Acupuncture and counselling were given to patients and compared to the effectiveness of medication.

Results- a significant step

This is the largest study of its kind. Professor MacPherson said that ” we have now  provided a solid evidence base to show that not only can acupuncture and counselling help bring patients out of an episode of depression, but it can keep the condition at bay for up to a year on average. ” Professor MacPherson also states that this evidence clearly demonstrates that  when acupuncture is used, the reduction of pain is significantly more substantial than those measured from sham (placebo) acupuncture.

Professor Macperson added. “Our new data provides a significant step forward in treating chronic pain and managing depression, because patients and professionals can now make decisions onmacupuncture with more confidence. Not only is it more cost effective, but it reduces pain levels and improves mood levels, which could reduce the over reliance on drugs that can sometimes result in unwanted side effects.”

(Story source Science Daily  January 30, 2017, provided by the University of York)

Journal Reference: Acupuncture for chronic pain and primary care: a programee of research. Programme Grants for Applied Research, 2017;5(3) 1DOI: 10.3310/pgfar05030

 

 

 

Break The Worry Habit

“Worry”, a Facebook Friend posted, “is like praying for something you don’t want.” Worry can really transform, but in a negative way. It is that powerful. According to Chinese Medicine, its effects are twofold, physical and emotional. On an emotional level, we become less grounded, less able to move forward in life. We become obsessive, less imaginative. Problem solving becomes a chore. We fail to notice the beauty around us Our memories become faulty, sleepless nights kick in and we feel down a lot of the time. The natural flow gets stuck in a groove. This can happen gradually over time and becomes a way of life before we know it.

A healthy level of worry on the other hand can help us perform better at work, learn from mistakes past and present and anticipate danger. Too much worry however creates vulnerability and lack of control. It is really important to break this cycle and get out of worry’s paralysing grip.  Constant worry over a prolonged period, according to Chinese Medicine, can change, not only the emotional flow, but also the natural flow of the body’s digestive process. Fluids become stuck. This can manifest in catarrh and in some cases asthma. Women can have difficulties with menstruation and suffer miscarriages. Leg cramps and oedema are other manifestations as well as varicose veins. More serious conditions have the potential to develop later.

 

In order to break the worry habit it is important to give up the idea that worry helps and protects you from the worst. Once you acknowledge that worry is the problem not the solution you are on the right track.

 

Tips for helping to control worry.

Exercise – every day if possible. Take a brisk  walk in a park/wood or by the sea. This can clear and distract the mind.

Acupuncture – targets specific areas that control worry patterns and stop it spiralling out of control.

Sleep – keep regular hours and try to get eight hours. When the body has enough rest thoughts become clearer.

Cut down on alcohol and caffeine. Stimulants give the mind a temporary high, then plummet.

Structure your life where it is needed most. Floundering around leads nowhere.

Laughter and humour. Surround ourself with friends who have a good sense of humour and don’t dwell on the negative.

Meditation and Mindfulness – to stop the mind wandering into negative thinking.

Qi Gong or Yoga – quietens the mind and  circulates oxygen and blood.

Connect with people – join local groups – walking, cycling, birdwatching, drum circles, choir.

Share your worries with people that you trust. Worrying alone always compounds the problem. Talking invites a fresh perspective which can be very helpful.

 

A guide to mental and emotional health published online by helpguide.org offered useful self-help strategies for tackling the worry problem. Here are some of the approaches that they suggest. For further reading on each of these headings visit their website.

 

Create a worry period by learning how to postpone worry by going over your ‘worry list” during that period.

Ask yourself if the problem is solvable. Productive, solvable worries are those that you can take action on right away. If the worry is solvable, start brainstorming and deal with with unsolvable worries.

Accept uncertainty. Start by tackling your need for certainty and immediate answers.

Challenge anxious thoughts. Stop worrying by questioning your thoughts.

Be aware of how others  affect you. Keep a worry diary. Spend less time with people who make you anxious and choose your confidants carefully.

 

For all worriers out there. Make this year the time to break the worry habit.

 

 

Fertility News – IVF – new sperm sorting device

A team from Worcester Polytechnic Institute at Stanford University in the U.S.,  have designed a device for selecting the “best” sperm possible. It’s called SPARTAN (Simple  Periodic  ARray for   Trapping And IsolatioN). According to the designers, this will increase the patient’s chances of becoming pregnant and reduce the number of IVF cycles needed. There are already sorting methods for selecting the fastest sperm, but this microfluidic device also makes sure they are the healthiest.

SPARTAN

The gadget, which is about 4mm wide by 12 to 16mm long, contains an array of tiny three dimensional posts that act as a mini obstacle course. Donor sperm are injected into one end of the device. The sperm in the semen then have to make their way to the other end of the course.  The top performers that make it to the finishing line  are collected. Sperm speed will remain a factor but SPARTAN will be able to ensure that the top healthiest performers at the finishing line will be selected  for immediate use in in vitro fertilization.  Malformed sperm, with for example  bent necks or large heads will have difficulty navigating the course and will be culled out. Cell damage that can occur with traditional sorting methods can  also be prevented using this method This device can be used at the fertility clinic eliminating the need for freezing and shipping to the lab for processing. The procedure takes between five and thirty minutes.

According to Prof Erkan Tuzel at Stanford University  this could increase patients’ chances of getting pregnant. “With SPARTAN we not only get sperm with excellent motility, but also with normal morphology and better DNA integrity, helping families worldwide by reducing the stress IVF procedures, while potentially increasing pregnancy rates.”

The work by Professor Tuzel and his colleagues at Stanford University documenting the use of SPARTAN has been published in the journal Advanced Science.

DxNow,Inc., a Gaithersburg Md. -based company licensed the patent for SPARTAN from WPI and Stanford in December 2017. Subject to FDA approval the device is expected to be released commercially in July 2018.

 

 

 

 

Fertility News – The Case for Omega 3 and vitamin E

For anyone with PCOS trying to get pregnant there are several recommendations out there, both medical and complimentary, which  offer patients solutions to help alleviate the condition and create a viable path towards a successful pregnancy.  Depression and anxiety are some of the symptoms which manifest in patients and should be addressed.

I read an article posted on January 14 by Dr Fiona McCulloch Bsc ND, in Canada. She cites a recent study carried out  on 40 women in   Canada, which showed remarkable results. This particular research focused on combining two easily found supplements, Omega 3 and Vitamin E. The patients were matched for BMI and age. They were given 1000mg of Omega 3 fatty acids supplements and 400IU of vitamin E. (The other group were given placebos which matched the vitamins in appearance. )The were told to carry on their daily  routines as normal. The supplements were taken daily over 12 weeks. Normal food intake remained the same. Their food and physical activity were recorded  at both the beginning and end of the 12 weeks. Each patient undertook common mental health inventory tests, BDI, GHQ and DASS. These are the tests which measure  depression, anxiety and stress markers.

Each woman was measured in this way, along with the gene expression of PPAR-Gamma, a hormone receptor found in fat cells. They were also checked for cytokines, the body’s chemical messenger involved in inflammation. These would be quite high in women with PCOS. The women’s insulin levels and HOMA-IR were also checked. After 12 weeks the women who received Omega 3 and vitamin E supplements showed significant improvement in three of the mental scores. There was also an increase in the PPAR-Gamma gene. In this short period of time, these gamma receptors actually increased. There is already  significant research available that indicates that these receptors can have beneficial effect  on conditions such as diabetes and PCOS. By increasing these receptors, this study found  improvements in anxiety and depression.

” PPAR-Gamma receptors are sensors of the body’s lipid function and they ave a major role in regulating lipid metabolism. These receptors also inhibit inflammatory gene expression(2).  Omega 3 fatty acids are natural ligands of this receptor, and so it is thought that they can cause more of these beneficial receptors to be produced.Combined with vitamin E, which is a fat-soluble antioxidant, the effect of these two  supplements may be synergistic.

Once the study was completed we saw that the expression of these beneficial fat  hormones definitely increased.” (Dr Fiona McCullough)

It was  noted also in the study that “there was also a significant decrease in the strong inflammatory cytokines which are often found in increased levels in women with PCOS.” (Dr Fiona McCullough)

This  study, as well as others carried out in the past, showed  that women with PCOS are more likely to suffer from anxiety and depression. It has been known for some time that Omega 3 can decrease inflammatory markers and cause mood improvements. This study shows however, something not seen before, the correlation between mood and the function of our fat cells.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Acupuncture for Pain Relief in Hospitals: Study

In June 2017 it was published that the world’s largest randomised control of acupuncture in emergency departments, found that the treatment of acupuncture is a safe and effective alternative treatment to pain relieving drugs for some patients.

The trial, led by the RMIT University, Melbourne Australia, was conducted in the emergency departments of four Melbourne hospitals, between January 2010 and December 2011. It was funded by a grant from the National Health and Medical Research Council and led by Professor Marc Cohen from RMIT’s School of Health and Biomedical Sciences.  The study found that acupuncture was effective as pain medicine in providing long term relief to emergency patients in considerable pain. It involved 528 patients with acute low back pain, migraine, or ankle pain. Patients, rating their pain levels between four and 10 received  either, only acupuncture, acupuncture and pharmacotherapy or pharmacotherapy alone. Less than 40% of patients in all three groups felt any significant reduction in pain. However 48 hours later, 82.8% of acupuncture-only patients said that they would probably repeat their treatment. compared to 80.8% in the combined group and 78.2% in the pharmacotherapy-only group.

Professor  Cohen stated, that although acupuncture is used widely within the community, it is rarely used in a hospital emergency department.  “But it is clear,” he said, “we need more research overall to develop better medical approaches to pain management, as the study also showed patients initially remained in some pain, no matter what treatment they received. Our study has shown that acupuncture is a viable alternative, and would be especially beneficial for patients who are unable to take standard pain-relieving drugs because of other medical conditions.”

Professor Cohen went on to say that , “some Australian emergency departments already offer acupuncture when trained staff are available but further studies are needed on ways to improve pain  management overall in emergency departments, and the potential role for acupuncture in this. We need to determine the conditions that are most responsive to acupuncture, the feasibility of including the treatment in emergency settings, and the training needed fore doctors or allied health personel.”

 

 

 

 

Acupuncture Complements Cancer Care

 

 

ACUPUNCTURE AS AN INTEGRATIVE CANCER TREATMENT IN THE U.S.

 

Background

For the past 70 years the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston has been leading the world in cancer research. The Dana-Farber/Brigham and Women’s Cancer Centre was ranked in 2017,  as the best cancer care in New England  the 17th year in a row, and ranked fourth in the U.S.  At the Centre, they offer the most advanced cancer care available.  Clinicians  create precise treatment profiles for each patient, based on clinical trials and  a searchable database.

Five academic medical centres and two Harvard schools are united under the Dana-Farber/Harvard Cancer Centre,   bringing together and utilising the research and resources of the cancer research community. There are more than 1,100 DF/HCC researchers working together, sharing facilities, using  cutting edge technology and training the next generation of researchers. This is one of the largest cancer research enterprises in the world, with thousands of patients enrolled in clinical trials

 

Leonard Zakim

Leonard P. Zakim had a dream. An attorney and civil rights activist, he was treated for multiple myeloma  at Dana-Faber. At the same time as having treatment, he combined acupuncture, massage and Reiki and other therapies to help with the chemotherapy and radiation side effects. He worked tirelessly  with doctors, administrators and others to realise his goal of establishing an integrative  affordable centre within Dana-Faber. A year after his death in 1999 the Zakim Centre was opened.

At the Leonard P. Zakim Centre for Integrative Therapies and Healthy Living at the Dana-Faber Institute, cancer patients and are offered the opportunity to incorporate complementary therapies into their cancer care. Led by physicians, therapists, nurses and other health care professionals, this  system of integrative care helps patients of all ages to feel better, by reducing the symptoms  of pain, nausea and anxiety caused by cancer and its treatments  The therapies available at the Zakim Centre offer a range of treatments, either as individual treatments or group programmes; they include acupuncture, massage, movement, creative arts and exercise and nutritional consultations.Heading the team is Dr Jennifer Ligibel who is also a breast oncologist in the Susan F. Smith Centre at Dana-Faber

 

Acupuncture

At Zakim acupuncture is one of the centre’s most popular complementary therapies and heads the list. Patients attending the Centre say that they find it a calming experience as well as invigorating. They also find that it helps them mange the symptoms and side effects of surgery, radiotherapy and chemotherapy. . There are four attending oncology acupuncturists on the team of therapists which also includes a Qigong and T’ai Chi Instructor.

www.dana-faber.org

 

Water Babies

In April 2017 The Coombe Hospital in Dublin recorded,  that the Birthing Pool , which  was installed in 2013 , has  introduced more than 100 babies into the world.   The pool is available in the Delivery Suite for women with uncomplicated pregnancies, who are considered suitable for this process. Women are screened for risk factors to minimise complications  to either mother or baby . There are also  safety conditions in place and  midwives remain close at hand during  all births.  An article written in The Irish Times, in  April 2017, cited two women who  had positive experiences using the Birthing Pool. Research midwife Paula Barry is hoping that by highlighting positive experiences had by women , more women  will be encouraged to have water births.

 

The background to home births

It wasn’t until 1805 that the first account of birthing using water was documented, even though the Egyptians, the Maori and the Indians of Central America are know to have used water during the birthing process for hundreds of years.  In 1960s  the Russian researcher Igor Tjarkovsky pioneered its use and installed a large aquarium in his home in Moscow.  Many mothers gave birth in this aquarium. The births were photographed and brought  to the west. The possibility of an alternative and  gentler way of giving birth without hospital intervention had arrived.

Pioneers

Midwives and doctors in France became interested in water births in the 1970s. Their aim was  to help eliminate the traumatic process that babies undergo when they are being born. Frederick Leboyer , a French  obstetrician, considered that a water birth would protect a baby’s brain and enhance its cognitive abilities. Leboyer’s method was to use a warm bath for the newborn after birth, followed by a bonding period, skin on skin with the mother.

Following on from this , Dr Michel Odent, a French Obstetrician installed a pool in the hospital at Pithiviers in 1977. The idea behind this, was to give mothers another option for pain relief and comfort during long or difficult labours. He observed, that water births afforded babies a more peaceful journey from the womb.They appeared more relaxed and willing to engage with the mother and to breastfeed.

In 1983  Dr Odent published his finding in the Lancet. His recommendations provided the basis for the first midwifery guidelines for water births.  Inspired by these possibilities, couples took it upon themselves to create their own home birth pools, causing a lot of unease among the medical profession. Outside the control of a medical environment obstetricians questioned this practice. Outlining their the fear of  babies drowning and the risk of infection. However during the 1980s and 1990s interest grew and more champions emerged. Guidelines were  then laid down to make sure that water births were safe.

Research

At the John Radcliff Hospital in Oxford, neonatal physiologist Dr Paul Johnson carried out research on the trigger breathing mechanisms of a newborn baby. He concluded that they were not at risk because the baby is protected against the possibility of breathing while underwater in the few seconds between emerging from the birth canal and being lifted out of the water. These findings were published in the British Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology in March 1996. This was followed by an important study by  Prof Ruth E. Gilbert and Pat.A. Tookey of the Institute of Child Health, London in 1999. It was a study from a total of 4,032 water births over a two period between 1994 and 1996. It was hugely important , as it showed that there was no risk to health for babies born in the water  It was the green light.  However, it must be noted that water birthing is still a contentious issue. But as more and more information becomes available  and documented by those in obstetrics and midwifery, a woman can   make an informed choice as to how she wishes to go through the birthing process.

 

Books

Water Birth by Janet Balaskas and Yehudi Gordon

The Water Birth Book by Cathy Meeus and Janet Balaskas

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fertility Support

Following my last Blog  on the importance of food for fertility, I was encouraged to read  that British  fertility clinics have begun enrolling patients in nutrition and cookery courses . At the European Society for Human Reproduction Conference in Geneva,  fertility experts said that this is an attempt to improve the chances for infertile couples. This is something that we in Chinese medicine have been advocating for years,  and it can only help couples chances of having a family when this thinking becomes mainstream.

 

At Leeds Fertility in the UK, recognising that diet and lifestyle are important factors when preparing for IVF treatment,  they spearheaded a free fertility and preconception support  care pilot  with  research group Balance Fertility . The pilot was  led by Prof Adam Balen, Professor of Reproductive Medicine and Surgery and  chairman of the British Fertile Society  and Reproductive Biologist Grace Dugdale. Their objective was to  offers information on evidence-based diet and lifestyle factors to couples with fertility problems.  Grace Dugdale delivered the sessions. The programme was rounded off with a cookery class, which allowed patients to  put to practical use  the advice  that they had been given.

Miss Dugdale encouraged couples to switch from low carbs such as white bread and pasta, to wholemeal products .  She advised swapping  breakfast cereals for yoghurt and fruit and  to change from  quick lunchtime sandwiches to salads. Biscuits and cakes were on the list of foods to avoid. She said that ” people should be cautious of the refined carbohydrates in white bread, pasta, cereals, biscuits and cakes because their simpler molecules break down more quickly in the body, causing a spike in blood sugar.” She went on to say that,  “over time the body becomes less able to process sugar, leading to poor metabolic health, which can cause inflammation in the body and damage mitochondria, the powerhouse of cells. A woman’s eggs are very large cells with a high number of mitchondria, so their quality is affected. Poor diet that includes refined carbohydrates can also affect male fertility by damaging the DNA in sperm. This affects sperm motility, their ability to swim, their morphology, or the shape which makes them good swimmers, and the sperm count, on how much sperm is produced.

“A diet low in refined carbohydrate is therefore important for both the man and the woman.”(  The Telegraph 5th July 2017).

 

Dr Gillian Lockwood is executive director of fertility group IVI Midland, in the UK she  has highlighted research carried out in the US on 120 women ,which showed that 58% in the low carb group went on to have  babies. Dr Lockwood considers that a diet with plenty of fresh vegetables and protein is the way to improve fertility,  and  advises patients to limit their carb intake to just one portion a day. It’s either a jacket potato for lunch or pasta for supper. They can’t have both. She went on to concur that a typical diet  of carb, tasty and cheap foods, tend to creates fertility problems and they have very low nutrition values.

 

Fertility Foods – Do’s and Don’ts

There’s a lot of information out there advising couples what to eat when planning a family. A healthy diet may  increase the odds of getting pregnant , but it also makes sure that the body is in peak condition at the time of conception.     Most  women are mindful of this and make great efforts to eat the right foods.

Balance is always the key. That means eating a variety of foods in combination.  Foods that are easy to digest, cooked and not too cold or too spicy. The store cupboard might take a little reorganising but once everything is up and running it becomes a way of life. Here are a few tips that might be helpful. I would always advise celiacs, diabetics etc to check with their health care professional before embarking on any new regime.

 

DO’s

1.Eat organic. Yes, it’s a little more expensive. But think of the pesticides and chemicals you avoid consuming. Some of the discount supermarkets stock  organic products so it’s worth having a root around when buying meat, chicken, fish, vegetables and fruit.

2.Lean meat and poultry provide a high level of protein, rich in iron and certain B vitamins. If you feel that you can have some meals without animal protein, eat cooked dried beans and nuts.( A recent study from the Harvard School of Public Health published findings based on a study of 18,000 women over an eight year period, found that women who ate higher amounts of trans fats, animal proteins and carbohydrates, as well as other dietary factors, were most  likely to have an ovulatory disorder.)  Eat Organic meat and chicken which are free of antibiotics and growth hormones, preservatives and additives. Always check the label.

3.Nuts and seeds are a great source of protein and healthy fats. These help stabilise blood sugar levels and boost fertility. Seeds such as sesame are a good source of Zinc and flaxseeds have an abundance of omega-3 fats. Almonds and walnuts are a good source of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats and can be used on salads or just nibbled on their own.

4. Whole grains provide more essential nutrients than refined grains and contain more fibre. They are full of B and E vitamins and fibre  and iron which helps blood sugar and are generally good for fertility. There are several to choose from, oatmeal, brown rice, whole grain barley, buckwheat. Try to keep wheat at the bottom of the list.

5. Beans and Legumes

These are packed with protein and other nutrients such as calcium, iron and potassium. They also contain a high percentage of folate . The darker the bean’s coat the higher it’s antioxidant activity. Check up on peas though, they contain m-xylohydroquinine, which is said to upset oestrogen and progesterone levels.

6. Vegetables and Fruit

It goes without saying that these are a must in the list of do’s for pregnancy. Or any healthy diet for that matter. Dark leafy greens , such as leafy spinach and kale are a great source of folic acid. Vegetables in general provide a variety of minerals, vitamins and fibre, and enhance fertility. When cooking it’s always better to steam to retain nutrients, and prevent  overcooking and loss of nutrients. You can of course put vegetables in salads but  don’t eat salads on a daily basis. According to Chinese Medicine this can create overload on the digestive system which in turn creates complications, especially when trying to get pregnant.

 

7. Fish

Is a good source iron, zinc, iodine, selenium, vitamin D and two Omega-3 fatty acids DHA and EPA that are difficult to find in other foods. Because it’s such a good nutritional choice it is recommended that you include in your diet  on an average of about 14oz a week. There is however the risk of Mercury or Methylmercury as it is know, which can harm a baby’s developing brain and nervous system.  The Food Safety Authority in Ireland issued a warning in 2004 that high levels of mercury were found in shark, swordfish, marlin and tuna and advised against  overconsumption.  Cod, whiting, pike and hake were identified also as contributing significantly to methylmercury through diet. Salmon, trout, anchovies, sardines are considerably lower in Methylmercury . A large  Danish study indicated that mothers  who ate on average 14 oz per week had children with better motor and cognitive skills at six and 18 months than mothers who at very little fish. This must however be outweighed by the negative impact of Mercury which can have the opposite effect on the brain.  Scientists at the Environmental Working Group  argue that even if women follow the guidelines they might be exposing themselves and their unborn babies to unsafe levels of Mercury. There are a lot of unclear guidelines out there, so exercise caution when planning your fish suppers. Buy your fish small and local but it’s still a very difficult one to monitor.

8. The Good Fats

Polysunsaturated fats provide essential food that the body needs. They contain Omega-3 fatty acids, such as DHA and ALA, which are crucial for a baby’s development You will find them in flax seeds, oil, walnuts,  canola oil and some cold water fish.( See above. Pregnant women are advised to eat seafood on a weekly basis, however some concerns have arisen  recently about the levels of mercury in some fish). Omega -6s and   polysunsaturated fats are found in sunflower, corn and soyabean oils.  Unsaturated are found in nuts, seeds, vegetable oils and seafood. Olive oil is in every mediterranean person’s store cupboard and research has shown.

Monounsaturated fats are found in olives,  olive oil, avocados, canola and peanut oils and some nuts and have been part of the much lauded  Mediterranean diet for a very long time.

 

DONT’S

1.Saturated Fats. Keep these to a minimum. They are found in high fat meat, whole milk, tropical oils, butter and lard.. When buying meat stick to lean cuts and when buying sauces, check the labels first. The good news is, that if you are eating enough good fats they take care of your body’s fat requirements.

 

2.Trans Fats These are found in fried foods and some margarines. They are used in some packaged foods, biscuits and crisps. Check the labels first.

 

3. Sugar compromises blood sugar levels and it’s in almost everything. It messes with hormones, it drives insulin levels too high, which then come crashing down.  Cortisol and adrenaline are released by the adrenals which then try to rebalance sugar levels. This eventually leads to hormone imbalance.Cortisol and progesterone (the main hormone for ovulation to occur) then compete. Cortisol always wins ,and if this happens over a period of time it can disrupt the entire endocrine system and sex hormones, regardless of gender. Our bodies are not equipped to handle quantities of sugar. Chinese Medicine and Western Medicine are at one with this. Endometriosis sufferers notice significant and substantial changes when they cut sugar from their diets

Trying to avoid  sugar  is a nightmare. It is found in most packaged and tinned products. Which makes for very difficult grocery shopping. But with a little time and effort  it is possible to rewire your thinking,  by realising that fruits, fresh and dried, such as dates, can satisfy a sweet tooth.  It’s a good idea to avoid juices, other than those you would prepare at home. They will contain additives of some sort and often added sugar.  Further down the road you will wonder how on earth you consumed so much sugar. If you really, really, must have sugar, honey and maple syrup taken in small amounts  won’t have an adverse effect, unless you are diabetic of course.

 

4.Dairy 

There is a lot of controversy surrounding dairy and fertility. We have been brought up in the west to think that milk is good for you.  That was probably the case over 100 years ago before pesticides and GMO.  Chinese Medicine has always come out strongly against dairy products, and gives clear cut reasons as to why dairy has a negative impact on the  body’s system. As practitioners  we are encouraged to advise patients to cut out dairy if they possibly can. Like sugar, it is everywhere .  It is so handy as a snack or incorporated into a sauce or on a pizza.  Consider the hormones that have been found in milk: prolactin, somatostatin, melatonin, oxytocin, growth hormone, luteinising release hormone, thyroid stimulating hormone,  oestrogen,  progesterone, insulin, corticosteroids and more. There is an association between milk and infertility. Animal products that have a high content of hormones, pesticides and herbicides are known endrocin disruptors. Excess oestrogen and pesticides have been also linked to PCOS and Endometriosis.

The good news is that you can get calcium from leafy greens, broccoli, kale , spinach, kelp: black beans, salmon, sesame seeds and almonds. If you are trying to get pregnant drop dairy from your diet and perhaps you will never look back.

 

5.Processed Foods

They can be such a handy  and sometimes tasty alternative when time is at a premium. Think though what you are doing to your body. Look at ways you can prepare meals in advance.  By always making sure you prepare your own nutritious food  you can avoid preservatives, saturated fats, trans fats, and a lot more besides.

 

6.Coffee or Caffeine

We seem to be in the zone where coffee is now considered by some ‘experts’  to be good for you. But a beverage that stops you sleeping properly, upsets your stomach and makes you jumpy can’t be doing you much good can it? To be as stress free as possible is recommended for optimum fertility.  Anything that impedes this is not good. A study carried out in 2016  by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development in Michigan,  linked drinking more than two caffeinated drinks per day to a 74% early miscarriage risk. If a couple drink more than two caffeinated drinks  a day before or after conception , the study  indicates that this could lead to lead to miscarriage . This was the first study to show that men’s consumption of coffee can affect a pregnancy outcome  as well.  Women taking multivitamins before getting pregnant were found to be 50%. less at risk.

7. Alcohol  

Alcohol, for obvious reasons gets a lot of attention regarding health and behaviour .  Guidelines, depending on who published them, state that no more than two standard drinks a day is enough to keep you risk free for life. When it comes to fertility however findings from the US and the UK have been contradictory. Some show no decrease in fertility, others show a slight increase.  In Denmark a team used data from females aged 21-45 .  Participants were asked to fill in a questionnaire twice a month  for a year, until conception occurred.  Information about the type of alcohol drunk, beer, wine, or spirits. Alcohol was measured in 1-3,4-7, 8-13 and more than 14 units a week.   Women who had the highest consumption of alcohol recorded 37 pregnancies out of 307 cycles . Those who abstained from alcohol had 1,381 pregnancies in 8,054 cycles. There were some shortfalls to this study however, only 1.2% of women fell into the highest alcohol consumption group and the study did not take into account weather there was binge drinking or if the alcohol was evenly spaced throughout the week.

An editorial written by Dr. Annie Britton,  an expert on the  epidemiology of alcohol from the University College London stated that …” if alcohol is consumed moderately, it seems that this may not affect fertility.” She however went on to  write that, …..”it would be advised to avoid binge drinking, both for the potential disruption to menstrual cycles and also for potential harm to the baby during early pregnancy. If a couple are experiencing difficulty in conceiving, it makes sense for both partners to cut down on their alcohol intake .”