Fertility is the New Holy Grail

Resolve to know more about the underling factors affecting conception and alternative family possibilities. * This article was originally written for the February 2015 Digital Issue of Essential Living Maine*

I had two stepmothers who were infertile for various reasons, and have an adopted baby brother. Several of my close friends and family member have used IVF to conceive, and I have my eggs cryopreserved. A few of my good friends have fostered and adopted, and others have intentionally chosen childfree lives. As lesbian and gay marriage has normalized, and divorce rates have climbed, more and more alternative families are being created using sperm banks, surrogates, egg donors, known sperm donors and more. The quest for fertility is all around us, and has been for the past 30 years in ever-increasing numbers.

The Internet has an enormous amount of information available on this topic, as the World Wide Web offers an enormous cross cultural support network for women trying to conceive (#TTC.) Infertility is usually a silent disease without any visible disability associated; however, it draws deeply on the mind/body and soul in underground ways that cannot be explained to those who do not have to undergo its trails and tribulations. Thus, the web is a great way to connect, share information, and do research while maintaining public anonymity.

220px-Sangreal-1Integrative Medicine is key to enhancing fertility. Integrative Medicine combines the best of modern medicine (reproductive technology) with time-honored complementary and alternative medicines (botanical therapies, clinical nutrition, homeopathy, acupuncture, and stress management support.) The quest to get pregnant (and stay pregnant!) has been a calling of doctors and midwives since the beginning of time and across all cultures.

After ten years of fertility specialization, here are my Top Ten Integrative Medicine Fertility Fundamentals to know about when mapping your journey:

  1. First, while on oral contraceptive pills, rings, or IUD’s and for at least 6 months coming off them, it is important to supplement with a good quality multivitamin that contains at least 10-20mg of all of the B vitamins, magnesium, vitamin C, and 800mg folic acid. These are depleted by synthetic estrogens, and a deficiency can cause long term fertility issues down the road.
  1. If you have a family hx of miscarriage, have had a miscarriage yourself, or have any anemia or high homocysteine on lab work, you may want to test for a genetic defect called MTHFR that leads to a folic acid absorption issue. http://www.apothecarybydesign.com/blog/archives/332
  1. DHEA is a fat-soluble antioxidant and hormone precursor produced by the adrenal glands. DHEA is also a key player in egg health, showing improved embryo quality and higher live birth rates than controls. Studies have used 75 mg of DHEA daily. 1 DHEA supplementation also evidenced higher rates of spontaneous pregnancies in long-term poor responders to IVF in another study using 25 mg three times per day. 2 DHEA supplementation slows the aging process by preventing lipid oxidation while improving energy and metabolism.
  1. CoQ10 is imperative to egg health. Egg division from 46 to 23 chromosomes requires effective mitochondrial function. 3. It has been suggested that mitochondrial DNA defects that effect metabolic capacity may be a cause of failure in egg maturation, fertilization, or early embryonic development. 4. Aged eggs have decreased mitochondrial energy which can result in deficient energy to divide properly resulting in Downs’s syndrome and other genetic anomalies. All women over 30 who are still considering pregnancy should be on 100mg of ubiquinol daily to maintain efficient mitochondrial activity.
  1. Test your hormones early, and keep testing every few years for an objective measurement of fertility reserves. Follicle Stimulating Hormone (FSH) levels must be tested on day 3 of the menstrual cycle with Anti Mullerian Levels (AMH) levels before beginning fertility protocols. FSH reflects the relationship between the ovaries and pituitary and higher levels indicate perimenopause and poor ovarian function. Therefore, levels of FSH under 10 are best. AMH is also called the “egg timer” as it gives an accurate level of the follicular reserves of the ovaries. AMH levels do not fluctuate throughout a cycle and can be tested at any time. Serum AMH levels decline throughout ones reproductive life cycle, and are undetectable after menopause; therefore, higher levels are more desirable.
  1. Don’t wait too long to consider IVF. If you have been #TTC for more than 9 months and have not become pregnant with regular, timed inseminations, IUI’s or intercourse, make appointments with a fertility clinic and an Integrative fertility specialist. Having a Plan B will decrease stress, and it takes time to consider the financial and medical burdens associated with reproductive technology. However, it is worth it to have that baby in your arms! If IVF is needed, committing to the process earlier in your fertility journey can increase your chances for that #BFP (Big Fat Positive) on your first attempt.
  1. Don’t forget the men! At least 30% of infertility is male factor. Too often one half of the couple is doing everything possible (yoga, clean eating, no caffeine, no alcohol, meditation, support group, acupuncture, etc) while the other half is the root cause of the issue. Getting a sperm analysis is one of the first steps in a fertility evaluation, and can bypass months of angst from non-conception.
  1. Sperm need fertility enhancing supplements too! Omega 3 fats, 15 mg zinc, and stress busting herbs like Maca or Ashwaganda will improve sperm health, tonify libido and boost fertility.
  1. Have your thyroid hormones including TSH, Free T3 and Free T4 and your progesterone levels tested. Low thyroid function leads to low progesterone, which leads to frequent miscarriage in a classic vicious cycle. Some Endocrinologists and Family Docs may have conservative opinions on these levels and may use outdated reference ranges or be unwilling to test for Free T3. Consulting an Integrative Medicine Doc, Naturopathic Doctor or anti-aging Hormone Doctor may give you more information about optimizing your hormone levels rather than operating at a subclinical deficiency.
  1. Consider alternatives to the traditional nuclear family. There are many beautiful babies who want safe, stable, loving homes and need fostering and adoption. I know three amazing families of beautiful fostered babies! There are also women able and willing to carry babies to create families that are not their own. While a biological birth is what we are taught to dream for, this is not the answer for some. Infertility is tragic and real for people who have always assumed they would be able to birth when they are ready. Allow your self to grieve as a couple, but do not close the door on other options even if they seem inconceivable at first.

On another note, childfree living also has many blessings. Our culture is slowly shifting away from the definition of having a (nuclear) family as the ultimate success. Childfree living allows for a more relaxed and abundant lifestyle with more freedom, ability to travel, and heightened romance for a couple. We are an overpopulated planet, and I know from my life, having an auntie that is invested and involved in my life is incredibly valuable. Here are many ways to be a part of a family, and each version needs to be recognized as equally valuable and important!

I could keep typing another ten set of treatments supports, and probably another ten after that,  I am so passionate about fertility! However, as I said earlier the Internet is a rich resource. Some other articles I have written on the topic include:

I wish each of you success on your Holy Grail of Fertility. May your journey connect you to your own Divine nature as you experience one of the great, uncontrollable mysteries of life: Conception!

References

  1. Addition of Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) for poor-responder patients before and during IVF treatment improves the pregnancy rate: a randomized prospective study. Hum Reprod.  2010; 25(10): 2496-500Accessed September 13 2013
  1. Leonidas mamas, Eudoxia Mamas. Dehydroepiandrosterone supplementation in assisted reproduction: rationale and results. Current Opinion in Obstetrics and Gynecology 2009, 21:306-308.
  1. David Meldrum, MD. Aging gonads, glands, and gametes: immutable or partially reversible changes? Fertility and Sterility 2013; 99:1-4.
  1. The use of mitochondrial nutrients to improve the outcome of infertility treatment in older patients. Fertility and Sterility 2010; 93:272-5.

To book an appointment:

http://www.agemanagementcenter.com/contact-amc/  or call 207-774-1356

Clinical Practice:

www.agemanagementcenter.com

www.facebook.com/AgeManagementCenter

For more information about Infertility see:

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5 Steps for Fertility Preservation Over 35

1Rope_Cross. CoQ10 preserves the quality of the eggs mitochondria  – essential for replication and good “egg energy” aka ATP for cell division. 100-400 mg daily prevention, 400 mg twice daily during a stimulation cycle.  ( The use of mitochondrial nutrients to improve the outcome of infertility treatment in older patients. Fertility and Sterility 2010; 93:272-5. )

2. DHEA is a lipid antioxidant and youth-reviving hormone precursor. I suggest 10 mg daily for prevention,  25 mg daily 6 weeks before stimulation cycle. Up to 75mg daily is evidenced to improve egg and embryo quality and enhance spontaneous conception. (Addition of Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) for poor-responder patients before and during IVF treatment improves the pregnancy rate: a randomized prospective study. Hum Reprod.  2010; 25(10): 2496-500 Accessed September 13 2013)

3. This is your individualized medicine step – what do you need to tonify your specific reproductive patterns and enhance the chances of conception?

4. Fertility Massage is key for addressing muscular and ligament stress lodged deep in the pelvis that could mechanically impair the ability to maintain pregnancy. Concomitant castor oil packs clear debris from the ovaries and fallopian tubes, flushing lymphatic channels for a more balanced local immune response. The self massage/ hands on aspect maintains a connection between the cerebral, medicalized experience of ART and the physical sensations of the lower belly while reducing emotional stress. http://natural-fertility-info.com/fertility-massage.

5. Optimize your nutritional status with: extra leafy greens on a regular basis; superfoods especially in smoothies;daily  fresh vegetables; and choosing clean meat and dairy whenever possible. Reduce or eliminate sugar during high intensity hormone treatments including birth control pills.

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Advanced Maternal Age

IMG_0560I did not think I would be single and 41. I was pretty sure at 25, 27, 33, even 35 that kids were unconditionally on the horizon. I was not concerned that I would have kids later – after all I didn’t even graduate from medical school until I was 27. Then, I broke up with my long term love at 35. A quick trip to the fertility clinic at that time told me I was still good to go, and gave me info on my options.

I have been a lesbian for most of my adult life,  so assisted reproduction was  a necessary part of the planning. I  had considerable time to collect information on the legalities of sperm donors vs sperm bank options, and to become familiar with the insemination options that both gay and straight couples use in the quest for pregnancy. As a fertility specialist, I have supported many people through natural conception, IUI, and IVF. Now, well, lets say it could happen accidentally as I have switched teams. But, at my “advanced maternal age” natural conception is quite unlikely. So, after a second trip to the fertility clinic to confirm my continued fertile-ability, I am 3 days away from cryopreserving my eggs.

What this means, is I am doing the first half of an IVF cycle, and then instead of fertilizing  and transferring them, the eggs are put on ice for a later date. I am choosing to suspend the eggs instead of pre-made embryos, because  as referenced above, I am not in a relationship ready for babies. Its a logical choice for a single woman who is reaching the end of the #fertile years. It is also exciting to foil time, and have the possibility of a young family in the next few years. The miracles of modern medicine :)

Fortunately,  I decided around 33 to become an expert in #enhancingfertility and Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART) as an Integrative Medicine doctor. I studied  TCM/ acupuncture and fertility support from 2005-2011, and switched my focus to botanicals, endocrine function and anti-aging medicines in 2012. Read my published article about Integrative Medical support for the follicular phase of #IVF here.

I have quietly been preparing for this date in case I did not end up with a kid on my hip during my rather tumultuous 30’s. I will gracefully accept a child-free lifestyle if that is what is meant to be, as it has a freedom I value and I have wonderful children in my life. I may also choose to foster and adopt locally in Maine. The point of this cryopreservation is not only to end up with a child,  it is to preserve my choice to work towards conceiving within the next few years.

IMG_0672For those in the know, I am on day 8 of a stimulation cycle. I took 450 IU of Gonal-F for the first 6 days, and have ramped down to 300 for the next 2 days. I started 0.25 mg Cetrotide yesterday and will be continuing that for the next few days. Then, the trigger shot and retrieval Tues or Wed. My response is good and side effects minimal, which I am very grateful for. It really does pay to prepare for an event like this even years ahead. (PS. I had 21 eggs collected! 12 mature and 8 immature)

Here are my Top 5 steps for Fertility Preservation in Women over 35

1. CoQ10 preserves the quality of the eggs mitochondria  – essential for replication and good “egg energy” aka ATP for cell division. 100-400 mg daily prevention, 400 mg twice daily during a stimulation cycle.  ( The use of mitochondrial nutrients to improve the outcome of infertility treatment in older patients. Fertility and Sterility 2010; 93:272-5. )

2. DHEA is a lipid antioxidant and youth-reviving hormone precursor. I suggest 10 mg daily for prevention,  25 mg daily 6 weeks before stimulation cycle. Up to 75mg daily is evidenced to improve egg and embryo quality and enhance spontaneous conception. (Addition of Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) for poor-responder patients before and during IVF treatment improves the pregnancy rate: a randomized prospective study. Hum Reprod.  2010; 25(10): 2496-500 Accessed September 13 2013)

3. This is your individualized medicine step – what do you need to tonify your specific reproductive patterns and enhance the chances of conception?

4. Fertility Massage is key for addressing muscular and ligament stress lodged deep in the pelvis that could mechanically impair the ability to maintain pregnancy. Concomitant castor oil packs clear debris from the ovaries and fallopian tubes, flushing lymphatic channels for a more balanced local immune response. The self massage/ hands on aspect maintains a connection between the cerebral, medicalized experience of ART and the physical sensations of the lower belly while reducing emotional stress. http://natural-fertility-info.com/fertility-massage.

5. Optimize your nutritional status with: extra leafy greens on a regular basis; superfoods especially in smoothies;daily  fresh vegetables; and choosing clean meat and dairy whenever possible. Reduce or eliminate sugar during high intensity hormone treatments including birth control pills.

It is the grit of everyday living that builds the pearl of one’s career. In the process of enhancing my own fertility, I have learned as much from the patients I have treated and supported as they learned from me. This primal biological drive has helped me to become a much better doctor in this field as I experience the nuances of treatment myself. I look forward to continuing to support all patients seeking conception, especially those of us above 35 that have lived full complicated lives and have had to balance the biological desire to have children with the real-life tensions of sex, gender, career, finance, and relationship.

 

 

 

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#TTC – Safe Treatments for Fertility & First Trimester Anxiety

The work of becoming/being pregnant marks a time in a woman’s life when the game changes. Alcohol is no longer an option for stress management. Most herbs and even common teas are viewed with suspicion, and many medications are frowned on. Many of our crutches for managing the stresses of daily life are taken away, and the stress of in/fertility is added. However, there are natural treatments available for this time period to reduce stress, ease anxiety, and support a healthy first trimester.

Flower Essences are very safe for all expecting and #TTC moms, and are especially useful for women using multiple fertility and metabolic medications as they have no interactions or side effects! Flower remedies are literally essences of the particular flower in a brandy solution. Bach flower essences are the most commercially available. FES (Flower Essence Society,) Alaskan Essences, Perelandra and more are other well respected flower essence brands. Bach has 38 different flower remedies available; however the following are especially pertinent for fertility and first trimester. Dosage is 3-5 drops in water 2-4 times daily or as needed. The very small amount of alcohol in these medications will not cause any fetal problems as it is so minute a dose.

Aspen: For apprehension and vague fears

Gorse: Brightens perspective and increases optimism.

Holly: For envy or jealousy of others

Larch: Gets one out of the success/failure paradigm and increases self-confidence

Wild Rose: Restores interest and joy when feeling apathetic or resigned.

White Chestnut: Restores a peaceful mind when caught in repetitive thoughts

Botanical Medicine: Some herbs are appropriate for this time period, however most herbs are best set aside until the pregnancy is well established or beyond breastfeeding. One herb that is a #TTC and first trimester best friend is viburnum prunifolium otherwise known as black haw. This is different from viburnum opulus aka cramp bark – do not mix the two! Black haw quiets an “irritable” uterus, and prevents miscarriage. It is very safe and quite effective. I recommend 1/4 to 1/2 tsp daily for the first trimester as needed. For questions and concerns, refer to your local Naturopathic Doctor who can take your full history and prescribe according to your individual health care needs. Oatstraw or avena sativa is also a wonderful tonic that is nourishing to the body and calming to the mind. This herb is best taken as a tea. It is gluten free, hydrating with rich minerals (therefore great for morning sickness) and soothing to frazzled nerves. Valerian is perfect for nighttime anxiety. It is safe in pregnancy, breastfeeding, and for pediatrics. This is Mother Nature’s truly sedative herb. Used in doses of 5-30 drops before bed, this can help quiet the mind and improve the duration and quality of sleep. I like it as an alcohol free (glycerite) tincture as the taste is slightly sweeter than the alcohol based formula. Capsules are also an option although I prefer the smaller dosing options of the liquid form. (Valerian is very well researched, please contact me for a formal monograph if desired.)

imagesFinally, lavender essential oil has a time honored place in the treatment of anxiety.  For those whom lavender has a calming effect you can use lavender products liberally that have the real essential oil in them – avoid synthetic fragrance analogues. There are now lavender essential oil capsules that are quite effective for treating occasional or situational anxiety. These act quickly and safely to diminish feelings of panic, irritability and stress. Typically essential oils should not be used internally during pregnancy, so these lavender caps are best used only until the day of ovulation. There is a lavender glycerite tincture also available which can be used sparingly while pregnant in doses of 1-2 drops for anxiety and panic as needed. There is some (internet) controversy surrounding the use of lavender in pregnancy; however, it is not listed in any of the classic literature as a herb to avoid in first trimester.  My opinion is that if this botanical medicine is the one thing that works to soothe your fears, use it in moderation. If it increases your anxiety due to the multitudes of internet opinions, avoid it! Here is a link to a well researched blog post on the safety of lavender essential oil in pregnancy: http://roberttisserand.com/2011/07/lavender-oil-and-pregnancy/

Acupuncture and Registered Massage Therapy are also fabulous safe care therapies for anxiety and stress while #TTC. Acupuncture has a proven track record of efficacy when it comes to enhancing not only assisted reproduction but also all conception. Studies have shown that weekly acupuncture greatly reduces the rate of miscarriage during first trimester, especially for women with a previous miscarriage. This is in part due to its ability to support the expectant mom through the first 12 weeks. The therapeutic touch offered by massage therapy also has the ability to soothe anxiety, ease depression, and support the physical changes of pregnancy. The resulting relaxation offers an anxious expecting mom a few moments to quiet the mind, which can have great positive effects overall. It is important to see an acupuncturist or massage therapist trained in pregnancy massage as there are specific techniques and positions used for this treatment.

All in all, this is such a time of mystery, of waiting, and of trust that it can be overwhelming to have to “go with the flow.” Every couple experiences some level of anxiety, and some have a very hard time as #BFN’s happen again and again.  Flower essences, black haw, oatstraw and lavender glycerite are natural remedies that any couple can use to support their own mental and emotional wellness on the road to becoming a family. There are many more herbs, vitamins, and therapies available for #TTC and expectant moms that are based on the individualized medicine offered by a licensed Naturopathic Doctor.

Links and Resources:

http://www.gowonderworks.com/flower_essences

http://www.bachflower.com

http://www.fesflowers.com

http://www.biomedcentral.com/1472-6882/12/20

http://www.fertilityfactor.com/infertility_acupuncture.html

http://americanpregnancy.org/pregnancyhealth/prenatalmassage.html

 

 

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#TTC Obsession – Confessions

Getting pregnant is scary and exciting. The process of wanting to conceive and then waiting to find out…. not priceless. I am intimately aware of this as a Naturopathic Doctor with a focus on In/Fertility. I have also been privately preparing for this moment of my late 30’s when I am ready to conceive.  I have treated and supported many women through this process already. And here I am, alone with my OPK stick in the bathroom, discerning the workings of a secret universe. CONCEPTION.

I am amused at my complete immersion in the consuming nature of trying to predict my own ovulation. I cannot believe how often I think of the subject. I am constantly turning the information over in my mind. I read fertility forums online to gather information; I delve into friends’ personal experiences. Medicine looks so different when one is the patient! Suddenly there are a thousand things I do not know… Ovulation Predictor Kits are only the beginning.

And, in the obsession of pregnancy, it becomes everywhere. Books and television remind me that women have been torturing themselves about the ability to get pregnant forever! First, it was conceiving a boy, and whether or not the First Son would be born.  With rampant infertility, the collective obsession has turned to the BFP and away from gender preference.

We want to be able to control this event with every ounce of heart and mind. We are so used to be able to create what we need, if we only put enough effort into the act! It is maddening to have to develop techniques like trust and patience to achieve our highest goal…. and yet that is what it comes down to in the end. Do we hold the ultimate responsibility of whether or not life occurs in our very body?  It is appears to be the hugest responsibility, and yet it is one we cannot. create. on. our. own.  As my friend said yesterday, “We are accomplished and often privileged women! Powerful creations, and yet…” we cannot read what should be the simplest signs of all from our flesh. Are we ovulating today? Are we pregnant? It’s a huge pressure.

For same sex couples and single folks, there is the additional stress of genetic material to procure. The art of conception (often) looks very different for lesbian and gay couples. Not only will the inseminations need to be precisely timed, but the acquisition of said tools of conception must also be arranged. The cost of becoming pregnant begins with the very first try, an additional ingredient in the pressure-cooker of preparation. (In a call-out to women with biologically male partners, I do understand that when women hit the fertility clinics, we are all in the same machine.  The sex or gender of our partner becomes much less relevant although issues of accessibility to and cost of genetic material remains an additional stress.) It’s a wonder any of us become pregnant at all! But we do, in every increasing numbers.

The minute details, test results, and potential scenarios become an endless gerbil wheel of anxiety. It is important to step back from your own fertility and restore some normalcy to your daily routine. I was wound up over the timing of what was only a pre-cycle. Imagine how physically stressed out I could be for the real thing! One of my friends advised me after her first birth – make it fun. Try to relax around it. And she laughed knowing how hard that would be. I suggest distracting yourself as much as possible from thinking the same old anxious thoughts.  HOW? Listen to music that makes you sing. Watch a movie that engages you. Make time for friends or family who you like talking to and who are interesting. Write in a journal so you can get the thoughts out of your head and onto paper. The less time that is spent obsessing about the timing or prediction of said events will be in your best interest overall!

There is no conclusion to the story. The (new brand of) OPK kits wait for next cycle in my bathroom cupboard. I am going to pray for myself, light candles of hope, and continue to make the daily small offerings I do towards pregnancy – high quality prenatal vitamins, DHA essential fats, green tea, and other things appropriate for my personal care. My sweetheart and I also have a plan B, and C in place to rely on. When I get in the hamster mind of prediction anxiety again, please remind me of this post. Stress inhibits Ovulation!

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Treatment Protocol: Weaning Off Coffee

Treatment strategy adapted in part from Naturopathic Doctors News and Review article Managing Caffeine Withdrawal in the Patient Undergoing Detoxification (V. 7 Issue 12 p. 8-9) by Dr. Peirson ND and from Dr. Braverman’s Dopamine Deficiency Protocol. For more information on caffeine addiction see: http://thewrightdoctor.com/2011/12/26/coffee-addiction/

Daily Supplements and Lifestyle Changes:

  • 200-400 mg Magnesium Citrate – I like Trace Minerals Research liquid mineral formulas. It allows for a personal tailoring of dosage. Too much magnesium can have a laxative effect (which can be helpful if constipation is a side effect of caffeine withdrawal.) Take daily in juice.
  • 100mg B Complex  – I like Orti B by Seroyal, Thorne B5 Complex or Cortico B5B6 by Metagenics. 1 daily with food.
  • Buy several organic green teas, decaf coffee beans, a black tea and a decaf black tea. Start to mix the caffeinated and decaffeinated beans in your morning brews, and order “half-caf” when out.  Eventually leave the coffee behind and just have decaf or green teas.
  • Adrenal Assist by Vitanica – Vitamins, herbs and minerals for restoration of adrenal glands. Cross-check any medications with the herbs for possible interactions before starting this. 3 capsules daily, best in the morning for 3 – 6 months.
  • Coffee 6ch homeopathic remedy. 2 pellets as needed for headache associated with caffeine withdrawal.
  • High paced lifestyles need to be balanced with relaxation and restoration. Stress busting exercises such as deep breathing exercises, non-work related reading, chess, and non-aerobic exercises such as weight lifting are recommended 3 times per week.
  • Eliminating the kick of caffeine will result in cravings for sugar. Instead of sweets, turn to high protein foods rich in phenylalanine and tyrosine to restore dopamine levels depleted by chronic caffeine use. Round out high protein meals with plenty of fruits and vegetables. Phenylalanine is an essential amino acid found in the brain and blood that is converted to tyrosine and then to dopamine. Food sources of dopamine include:
Foods Amount Phenylalanine Tyrosine
Wild game 6-8 oz 2.6g 1.5g
Cottage cheese 1 cup 1.7g 1.7g
Chicken 6-8 oz 1.6 g 0.40
Duck 6-8 oz 1.6g 0.60
Turkey 6-8 oz 1.6g 0.70
Walnuts 6-8 oz 1.4 g 0
Wheat germ 1 cup 1.35g 1.00
Ricotta 1 cup 1.35g 1.50
Granola 1 cup 0.65 0.40
Rolled Oats 1 cup 0.50 0.35
Plain nonfat yogurt 1 cup 0.40 0.40
Whole milk 1 cup 0.40 0.40
Egg 1 0.35 0.25
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Coffee Addiction

I am a coffee lover – dark, black, strong, sometimes sweet.   I am the girl who will get out of bed for a french press. I have known for some time though that I will need to break the addiction – for detoxification, for adrenal fatigue, for hormone health, for fertility. And, I have finally decided that its time to start weaning myself from the dream bean. I know my skin will improve in hydration and texture, that my energy levels will improve (after I get through the caffeine withdrawal) and that my body will thank me in the long run. Coffee is a strong, complex mix of chemicals, and eventually any constant chemical exposure must play its toll.

I don’t intend to become completely abstinent! I just want to break my daily reliance on the drug. I want to become someone who savors the delicate flavors of organic green tea on sunny mornings. I will know a gen mai from a jasmine or sencha, and my cells will bathe in the anti-cancer catechins from the green tea flavonoids. However, I am not there yet. This week I am weaning to “half-caf,” and then to decaf (french press.) I will still have occasional, even weekly hits of delicious (full strength) coffee. I am also using a black/green tea mix to break the coffee habit while also slowly weaning off caffeine.

In her NDNR (Naturopathic Doctors New and Review) article Managing Caffeine Withdrawal in the Patient Undergoing Detoxification (V. 7 Issue 12 p. 8-9) Dr. Erica Peirson ND recommends supplementing Magnesium Citrate, a B Vitamin Complex and Adrenal Botanicals while weaning off caffeine. She also explains how caffeine works as a CNS stimulant. “Blocking adenosine receptors in the brain is a primary way that caffeine acts as a stimulant given its structural similarity to adenosine, Adensoine is not a neurotransmitter but a neuromodulator. Adenosine receptors inhibit the release of neurotransmitters. The release of neurotransmitters is increased when adenosine receptors are blocked by caffeine, resulting in central nervous system stimulation.” She then goes on to explain that the headaches associated with caffeine withdrawal are in part from increased sensitivity of these same receptors leading to dilation of blood vessels and hypotension.

To take the biochemistry of caffeine one step further, the binding of caffeine to the adenosine receptors means instead of slowing down, the brain/nerve cells fire up. The pituitary notices this increased action and sends hormones to tell the adrenal glands to increase production of adrenaline, giving you a boost of fight or flight energy. At the same time, caffeine slows down resorption of dopamine which is our pleasure neurotransmitter. With extra dopamine, you not only feel alert, but you feel good!

All of this is great occasionally – but I know that years and years of this cycle cant possibly be good for me. I am dehydrated, magnesium deficient, and my adrenaline and dopamine levels are pushed beyond their natural limits of production. Stepping off the caffeine / coffee platform will give my body the opportunity to restore adrenal health, balance my brain chemistry, and a great side effect will be improved liver detoxification leading to improved skin texture and color.  Its not going to be all fun – I am sure I will be more tired than usual, need more rest, and I may even be a little grumpy as my dopamine deficiency gets exposed. At least its winter in Maine, and I can tuck in early!

http://science.howstuffworks.com/caffeine5.htm

Arousal effect of caffeine depends on adenosine A2A receptors in the shell of the nucleus accumbens. The Journal Of Neuroscience: The Official Journal Of The Society For Neuroscience [J Neurosci] 2011 Jul 6; Vol. 31 (27), pp. 10067-75.

http://scienceblog.com/community/older/2003/C/2003921.html

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Women Over 30 -The New Eating Disorder

Eating Disorders – just as prevalent in women over 35 as they are in teens. The thirties are a time of life when, like for teenagers, life can seem extremely stressful and out of control. This is the prime ground to feed a renewed, or a new eating disorder. Family, Career, Finances, Fertility – Life can become overwhelming, and food is one thing we have been taught we can control (or not.) Recovery from binge eating, purging, calorie deprivation and/or exercise bulemia  is possible.

As a ND, lifestyle counseling and stress management are always important components of treatment for eating disorders. Giving up “dieting” and re-learning how to eat for your body type is a cornerstone. Every woman will have a different story, and unique circumstances. This is where Naturopathic Medicine shines, as Naturopathic Doctors are trained to listen, and help you come to your own solutions for regaining a sense of center amidst the uncertanties of life. Often minerals, nutrient rich foods, herbs and homeopathics are used to to restore hormonal and digestive health and emotional wellness. Psychotherapy is also needed to unpack and address childhood issues that may have led to the original eating disorder.

http://health.nytimes.com/ref/health/healthguide/esn-eating-disorders-ess.htm

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/04/07/health/07eating.html?_r=1

The National Eating Disorder Information Center is a great resource for all people affected by disordered relationships to food. Their Eating Disorder Self Checklist is an interesting and objective way to gauge your own relationship to food.

http://www.nedic.ca/knowthefacts/selfcheck.html

http://www.nedic.ca/knowthefacts/overview.shtml

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As Fertile as the Day is Long

Fertility is a crossroads of mysticism, science, religion, psychology and medicine. I come to this practice with more than dollars in my eyes.  With two infertile stepmothers and an adopted brother 25 years my junior, (in)fertility been in my life for many years. Plus, lets be honest – I’m a 37 year old nulliparous woman. Why do you think I am so passionate about knowing the ins and outs of how to get pregnant! (My time will come when I will be sitting in the patient chair.)

My approach to fertility is twofold. First and Foremost, the monthly cycle must be optimized. Good quality blood, clear fertile fluid, effective ovulation, and strong luteal phases all provide a premium conception opportunity. Chinese medicine is brilliant at working with each of these phases. Eastern medicine has a way of understanding the body’s intersections of physical/mental/emotional/hormonal health in harmonized, century old patterns. Phrases like Liver Qi Stagnation and Heart Fire sound so much easier to embrace than a luteal phase defect. So, using nutrition, acupuncture and chinese herbs we set out to smooth and tonify the monthly cycle to set the stage for conception.

The second half of the work is the mysterious part. It is helping women access that intangible quality of uterine receptivity. It is finding the balance between living the daily life of a healthy adult and becoming a vessel for an unborn possibility. The mystery of fertility comes in symbols and half thoughts and an inherent feeling. It lies tangled in childhood preconceptions of womanhood, success, career, family, and production. It is in the crux between your sexuality and personality. Alot of my work is helping you find yourself. To find your own balance and your own mystery, is to unlock your own secret (fertile) chamber.

There are many tools that can be used to dissolve obstacles encountered along the way. For example, herbs for PCOS, supplements for endometriosis, homeopathy for anxiety, counseling for stress reduction, massage therapy for relaxation. This is where the individualized nature of Naturopathic Medicine comes into play. Few women will receive the same treatment, as few women will have exactly the same picture. As a ND, I also  promote the scientific basis of fertility – doing bloodwork and  ultrasounds to rule in and out hormonal imbalances, uterine dysfunction and sperm motility issues are integral to understanding difficult conception. If we know what the mechanisms are, it unravels the mystery that much more.

I have a special passion for fertility medicine. It speaks to the alchemist and doctor and midwife in me. It gives me hope for my own potential to conceive, and inspires me. I am grateful for the women who have taught me their secrets and trusted me with their mysteries. We are all fertile in our hearts and minds, every one of us.

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