2018 – A busy year of Fertility research and study

2018 has been a very busy year for me and it’s been a while since I wrote a blog article. So I thought I’d use a few spare minutes to let you know what I’ve been up to and give you an idea of what’s in store for 2019.

Over the course of the year, I have been doing the Diploma in Advanced Fertility Acupuncture with Naava Carman, founder of the Fertility Support Company. I’ve attended 5 intensive weekends on various fertility and pregnancy related topics including:

  • causes of infertility such as PCOS and endometriosis
  • reproductive immunology and recurrent miscarriage
  • supporting IVF, IUI and other Assisted Reproductive Techniques
  • treating complex diseases in pregnancy.

It was a wonderful course taught by an inspiring and very experienced, knowledgeable woman. The course included talks from experts in the field such as Dr Thum, specialist in Reproductive
Immunology at the Lister Clinic.  It has greatly enhanced my knowledge of complex fertility issues and given me some valuable contacts. The course culminated in a 5,000 piece of coursework which
focused on anonymously auditing my patient notes to identify women with indicators of reproductive immunological issues and evaluate commonalities and effectiveness of treatment approaches.  It was a lovely piece of work to audit how many women have come to see me and gone on to become pregnant and have babies. I’ll be writing more on this and the other topics in the coming months.

I was delighted to receive my certification this morning from the Fertility Support Company and am proud to display the logo on my website to demonstrate the depth of additional CPD I have undertaken in this field. You can see it on the Welcome page and the Fertility Support page of my website.

In addition to that I have completed another major piece of work that was two years in the making with the lion’s share of the work from September 2017 to September 2018. It was a piece of research in fulfillment of an MSc in Acupuncture with the Northern College of Acupuncture. The research study was about treating Recurrent Miscarriage and utilised the Delphi method which is used to seek consensus between a group of experts. The aim was to produce a set of guidelines and to do so, I assembled a group of fertility acupuncturists with significant experience of working with women who had experienced two or more miscarriages. I asked them what in their view were the most important things to consider when diagnosing, treating and supporting women with this condition. I will write more on this in the New Year as there are a lot of interesting points I’d like to share.

My research has fitted very nicely with the Diploma in Advanced Fertility Acupuncture as there were many commonalities in diagnosis and treatment strategies between the topics covered in the diploma and issues that arose in the guidelines produced by my research. Although my CPD (Continuing Professional Development) in 2018 has focused largely on Fertility Support based topics, much of the subject matter has relevance and is transferable to other health conditions I regularly treat in my acupuncture clinics.

For example, a pervasive theme that crops up throughout working with fertility patients and most other patients is that of “self-care”.  This is a topic that I can identify with particularly after this very busy year. Self-care is a very broad term and means different things for different people depending on their circumstances and the state of their health. It is also something that can be adapted to suit your lifestyle. This will the be the subject of another blog article I am preparing for the new year, where I will reflect further on my experiences of juggling my own acupuncture business, studying and family life and will provide you with tips to look after yourself in your own busy life. However, I wanted to give you just a quick few points on self-care to help you over the festive season…

  • Find a little quiet time for yourself each day where you get to do just what you want guilt-free and without judgment;
  • Get enough sleep – aim for 8-9 hours a night;
  • Aim to get a bit of fresh air everyday, even in inclement weather – just remember to wrap up well;
  • Eat seasonally, naturally and healthily – that means eating warm food cooked from scratch with real foods that include lots of vegetables;
  • Drink plenty fluids (and I’m not talking about alcohol!) – you may prefer warmer drinks in this cold weather;
  • Enjoy time with friends and family, but keep the drinking moderate and have a drink of water for every glass of alcohol you have.

You can read more on ways to keep yourself healthy in the winter and supporting your immune system in earlier blogs I have written:

Although 2018 has been a very busy year, I have thoroughly enjoyed it and am proud of my achievements. I’m looking forward to what 2019 will bring – which will include a few new developments for my clinics… Have a very happy, healthy festive season filled with warmth, laughter and love.

Acupuncturist, Jill Storstein is member of the British Acupuncture Council and  working at Albany Street Clinic, 36a Albany Street, Edinburgh EH1 3QH and Offizone, Kenmore Street, Aberfeldy PH15 2BL. To make an appointment go to the Contacts page or call: 07772 501810

Acupuncture Awareness Week 6 – 12th March 2017

aaw2017

Today marks the start of Acupuncture Awareness Week 2017… I’ll be sharing research and information about about acupuncture throughout the week on my Facebook and Twitter accounts, but thought I’d start with a brief introduction to acupuncture for my blog post.

Introducing Acupuncture

Acupuncture is a tried and tested system of traditional medicine which has been used in China and other far eastern cultures for thousands of years to restore, promote and maintain good health. Acupuncture is a very safe and versatile therapy that has been used to help relieve a wide range of both acute and chronic symptoms including (but not limited to): back pain; arthritic pain; IBS; sciatica; hay fever; severe headaches; menopause; musculo-skeletal pain and dysfunction; PMS and other gynaecological conditions including fertility support; and mental-emotional issues such as low mood, stress, insomnia and anxiety. Because acupuncture has its own diagnostic framework, you don’t need to have a formal medical diagnosis to try it. It is very safe for people of all ages and can be used in the elderly, in children, and even in pregnancy.

Acupuncture focuses on all factors that contribute to disease and not just the presenting symptoms. Because every patient is unique, two people with the same western diagnosis will have different acupuncture treatment plans because the pathology of their illness is different. Trained Acupuncturists like myself, Jill Storstein and my local colleague Lou Radford (based 9 miles west of Aberfeldy) have a wealth of professional experience.  We are trained to observe and interpret subtle signs and physical changes in order to identify the precise nature of imbalance. Treatment plans are designed for each individual using selected acupuncture points to relieve both the immediate symptoms and the underlying root cause of the problem.

Acupucture is very safe when carried out by appropriately trained practitioners. It involves the insertion of a few very fine, sterile needles into carefully selected points. Most patients barely feel the needles going in and soon forget about them once they are in. People tend to find acupuncture a very relaxing experience which leaves them with a general sense of wellbeing and relaxation afterwards.

Acupuncture predates contemporary western medical science by thousands of years. It has been developed, tested, researched and refined over centuries to give a complex and detailed understanding of both the body’s energetic balance and its physical functions. Acupuncture is just as logical and empirical as any other system of healthcare. Traditional acupuncture’s benefits are widely acknowledged around the world and in the past decade acupuncture has begun to feature more prominently in mainstream healthcare in the UK.

Jill Storstein is fully qualified in Traditional Acupuncture and is a member of the British Acupuncture Council. Jill works in Edinburgh and Aberfeldy, Perthshire.

Jill Storstein, MBAcC Tel: 07772 501810, http://jillstorstein.com

Aberfeldy Acupuncture Clinic, Offizone, Kenmore Street, Aberfeldy PH15 2BL

Albany Street Clinic and Natural Fertility Centre, 36a Albany Street, Edinburgh EH1 3QH

 

Acupuncture Awareness Week 6th – 12th March 2017 http://www.introducingacupuncture.co.uk

 

A new year – a new health kick…

pitlochry-picThe new year can be a good time to take stock of life and consider what you want to achieve in the forthcoming year. However, new year’s resolutions are not necessarily the best way to bring lasting change as they can be easily broken. Instead it is better to set goals for the year, that way you haven’t failed if you have a wobble. If your goal for 2017 is to get healthier, this article based on founding principles of acupuncture and Chinese medicine will help guide you.

The best way to improve your health and wellbeing is to take a holistic approach and aim to bring balance to the 4 pillars of your health:

  1. Your mind. The stresses of life can have a profound impact on health and wellbeing. Get the right balance between keeping your mind stimulated and being able to switch off your internal dialogue to be still and focus on the things you are doing. Make sure you keep joy in your life by doing things you enjoy and seeing people you love. Keep your mind healthy by managing your stress using therapies such as acupuncture and practices such as mindfulness or meditation.
  2. Your food and drink. Eat real food including plenty fruit, vegetables and good quality protein. Avoid excess sugar and processed foods. Eat at regular intervals, don’t skip meals and don’t eat too late at night. Drink according to your thirst and activity. Enjoy your food and remember that the key to good health is moderation. Eating the occasional bit of chocolate is Ok, so long as you enjoy it in moderation and eat plenty of healthful, nutritious foods (see my previous blog for more information on healthy eating here). If you find you crave a lot of sweet foods, your digestive system is out of balance and acupuncture could help to address this.
  3. Your body. Find the right balance between exercise and relaxation. Some daily physical activity is essential for good health, but how much will depend on your individual constitution. Balance your exercise – cardio activities such as running and aerobics shouldn’t be the only type of activity you do, also do something more nurturing such as yoga, pilates or tai chi. And make sure you have some down time where you can rest and just be. If you have pain or physical injury – consider a restorative treatment such as acupuncture to help you recover.
  4. Your sleep. Getting a good night’s sleep is essential for a healthy mind and strong body. It is the time when our minds process the days events and our body repairs and regenerates. To get a good sleep, try to aim for 7 – 9 hours a night, ensuring you get to bed well before midnight. Avoid looking at screens before bed and don’t drink any caffeinated drinks after 5pm. Keep your room nice and dark and free from electronic gadgets. If you struggle with sleep, acupuncture can help.

Lifestyle and dietary advice form part of the therapeutic treatment in an acupuncture session. Acupuncture is a very versatile, safe and effective treatment that can be use to help treat not just symptoms but the underlying cause of those symptoms. It aims to help restore your natural balance and proper function in whatever way is needed. To find out more about living well, visit http://jillstorstein.com and follow me on Facebook & Twitter.

Acupuncturist, Jill Storstein is member of the British Acupuncture Council working at Albany Street Clinic, 36a Albany Street, Edinburgh EH1 3QH and Offizone, Kenmore Street, Aberfeldy PH15 2BL. To make an appointment go to the Contacts page or call: 07772 501810

Acupuncture and Migraine

A couple of weeks ago was Migraine Awareness week and it inspired this latest blog as it is a subject close to my own heart.

Acupuncture can help to reduce the frequency and intensity of migraines
Acupuncture can help to reduce the frequency and intensity of migraines

After the birth of my second son, I began suffering from frequent, debilitating migraines. After the birth of my third child I was having them so frequently I was rarely well. I seemed to be in a cycle of migraine and gradual recovery from it only to be hit with another one again. It was awful trying to look after three small children when at times, I didn’t even have the strength to walk across the room. I had tried several different treatments including the conventional triptans and beta blockers (which didn’t help at all), and other alternative therapies which helped a little. Various other stressful events happened in my life and I became seriously unwell with a chronic illness as well as still having the migraines regularly. I was really at my wits end when a colleague suggested I try acupuncture. The relief from migraines was almost immediate and to this day, I very rarely have migraines and on the odd occasion that I do, they are very mild and short lived.

I became fascinated by acupuncture and the philosophy behind it – the more I read, the more I wanted to know so I decided to study it for myself. I learned that Chinese medicine views health in a very different way to conventional western medicine. Conditions with the same diagnosis in conventional medicine such as migraine are considered symptoms of a variety of different patterns of ill health in Chinese medicine. These patterns can have different root causes due to a combination of constitutional tendencies when combined with lifestyle and dietary factors. Acupuncture seeks to address both the symptom (the migraine) and the underlying root causes.

Migraine in Chinese Medicine

In Chinese medicine, migraine – the symptom – is considered to be due to Yang Rising. Yang in this context, is energy or heat. The Yang rises from the torso to the head and can cause the aura and pain. The Yang rising can be due to an underlying deficiency or due to excess. If it is due to excess, there is too much of something that is generating too much Yang. This could be due to a build up of emotional tension that overflows and with a catalyst surges upwards causing the headache. Other excesses that can lead to Yang rising can be consumption of rich, spicy or greasy foods or too much coffee or alcohol or even being in too hot an environment. Where there is deficiency, it is because there is not enough of the Yin balancing component to contain the Yang. Deficiency can arise out of an underlying weakness or a combination of overdoing things and not eating well.

As an acupuncturist, I would be looking to ascertain whether your migraines were underpinned by deficiency or excess or possibly a mixture of the two and I’d be finding out more about your lifestyle, your general health, your menstrual pattern (in women) and your eating habits. This is because common triggers for migraines can be: eating and drinking too much or certain foods; skipping meals, emotional factors like stress or anger; tiredness; and hormonal imbalances.

Example of an Excess Migraine Patient

Some key signs and symptoms that one might see in someone suffering from an excess type migraine could be extreme irritability and prone to shouting outbursts of temper, red face, tending to feel the heat, restless sleeper and the headache would likely to be severe and pounding, on one side, probably around the temple and eye. Someone suffering from this type of migraine would be likely to have triggers such as eating too much rich or greasy foods, drinking too much alcohol or coffee, being in a hot environment or being under additional stress.

In this instance, Acupuncture treatment would focus on a selection of points that helped to clear heat in the system and reduce stress and suggestions would be made for stress management, lifestyle adjustments and reduction of heating foods and drinks.

Example of a Deficiency Migraine Patient

It is most often women who suffer from deficiency type migraine headaches and they can often, though not always be related to her menstrual cycle. This person would be likely to feel tired a lot of the time, have difficulty getting to sleep at night, suffer from episodes of lightheaded-ness or dizziness, get blurred vision and dry eyes, and feel weak, especially after missing a meal. Someone suffering from this type of migraine is likely to have triggers that include skipping meals, overdoing things, lack of sleep or feeling particularly tired, certain foods may trigger migraines such as wheat or cheese and a female patient may find that she gets migraines during or after her period.

In this instance, Acupuncture treatment would focus on a selection of points that would strengthen the digestive system to help improve the uptake of nutrients and strengthen constitutional reserves. Advice might include some dietary adjustments, ensuring the person is eating enough and enough of the right sort of food and that enough rest is built into the day and increase sleep.

Example of a Mixed Deficiency and Excess Migraine Patient

The mixed migraine patient is likely to share some similarities to the deficiency and the excess patient but their symptoms of tiredness and temper may not be quite so extreme as the other categories. This patient may have a busy life and feels stressed and irritable a lot of the time. They may find they have enough energy whilst at work or for other essential tasks but feel exhausted when they are finished. Their headaches often start at the end of a particularly stressful day or week and are likely to be painful at the time and leave them feeling exhausted afterwards.

Acupuncture treatment would focus on reducing stress and strengthening core reserves. Advice would be likely to include relaxation techniques and additional sources of support for stress management as well as doing appropriate exercise and some dietary recommendations to help improve energy.

Acupuncture for Everyone

Everyone is unique and has his or her own complex pattern of health, and every migraine sufferer has their own individual set of circumstances that underlie and trigger their migraines. My role as an acupuncturist is to identify what is out of balance in your individual set of circumstances and provide you with individualised treatment and advice.

The Evidence

Acupuncture has a proven track record of success and is recommended as preventative management of migraines by the Scottish Intercollegiate Guidelines Network (SIGN: http://www.sign.ac.uk/pdf/sign107.pdf ) and by the National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE: http://pathways.nice.org.uk/pathways/headaches/management-of-headaches#content=view-node%3Anodes-prophylactic-treatment&path=view%3A/pathways/headaches/management-of-migraine-with-or-without-aura.xml).

One of my patients was kind enough to write this on my own Facebook timeline about her experience of acupuncture for migraines:

Gem GD Suffering from 1-2 stress related migraines a week and now down to 1 every 4 months all thanks to Jill Storstein

You can read more about the evidence of acupuncture for migraine by clicking on the links below:

http://www.abetterwaytohealth.com/the-uks-top-migraine-charity-is-about-to-reveal-a-safe-effective-drug-free-treatment-for-migraine/

http://www.acupuncture.org.uk/a-to-z-of-conditions/a-to-z-of-conditions/migraines.html

How can you find out more?

If you’d like to discuss how acupuncture could help you or book an appointment get in touch with Jill Storstein on 07772 501810 or use the contact form here.

Nausea in Early Pregnancy and Acupuncture

Early pregnancy is a strange time. It can bring up a range of emotions – sometimes unexpectedly. I remember finding out I was pregnant with my first child. I was in a good relationship, at a good stage in my life to have a child and although not exactly planned, it wasn’t a surprise either. Nevertheless, I felt shocked and terrified for a good while before I felt happy about it. Once it had sunk in, I still felt adrift and very lonely as I adjusted to my new reality… Then there are the physical changes to contend with I was fortunate enough only to experience mild nausea, but I

© Can Stock Photo Inc. / AndreyPopov
© Can Stock Photo Inc. / AndreyPopov

know plenty of other women and patients who have had it a lot worse. Women can feel sick constantly, not just in the morning. Some just feel sick for much of the time, others are actually sick. I remember one friend telling me how she had vomited in the kitchen sink while doing the dishes!

Acupuncture has been shown to help reduce nausea and calm anxieties. In a large scale study conducted in Australia, traditional acupuncture was found to significantly reduce nausea and vomiting in women less than 14 weeks pregnant. You can read more on the findings of the study in this article from the Daily Mail here, and access the original study here.

There are several hypotheses about what causes nausea in pregnancy. It could be due to the change in hormone levels of hCG and oestrogen, or due to the brain stem’s reaction to these hormones. It has also been suggested that women who were deep down tired and under stress prior to pregnancy can be more likely to experience more nausea (Betts, 2006). This last theory would certainly fit with the Chinese medicine model which recognises that pregnancy can accentuate existing minor imbalances in one’s health. In this model, pregnancy can also  exacerbate emotional confusion or upset and cause pregnancy disorders.

Traditional acupuncture looks to support the whole person mentally and physically. It works to restore balance, bringing a sense of calm and helping to alleviate symptoms. Nausea in pregnancy is viewed as a result of rebellious Stomach Qi (energy) which can be caused either by an underlying weakness in the digestive system, emotional difficulties upsetting the natural flow of energy (Qi), or an excess of heat or phlegm. Sometimes it can be a combination of one or more of these. Acupuncturists treating nausea would be looking to address all the underlying causes as well as using points to address the immediate symptoms. Many women who have received acupuncture for nausea relief find they feel better soon after the needles are in and find coming for treatment twice a week initially, then dropping to weekly helps them get through those early weeks more comfortably. Dietary tips based on your specific Chinese medicine diagnosis may also help to lengthen and enhance the effectiveness of the treatment.

If you’d like to ask me more about how acupuncture could help you or you’d like to book an appointment you can either use this contact form here or call me on 07772 501810

There is an excellent advice sheet from one of the leading acupuncturists in obstetric acupuncture (Debra Betts) available here. This short film clip is also interesting about the use of acupuncture for nausea.

Jill Storstein DipAc, MBAcC is a member of the British Acupuncture Council with clinics in Edinburgh and Portobello.

References:

Betts D, (2006) The Essential Guide to Acupuncture in Pregnancy and Childbirth, The Journal of Chinese Medicine, Hove, East Sussex.

Smith C et al. (2002) Acupuncture to treat nausea and vomiting in early pregnancy: a randomized controlled trial. Birth, Mar;29(1):1-9.

Eat well to keep well in Winter – Bone Broth and Chicken, Kale and Leek Soup Recipes

winter pic 4

We are into the darkest part of the year and there has certainly been a corresponding shift in the weather. It is important at this time of year to conserve our energy, slow down a bit and wrap up warmly. We tend to do this naturally anyway because our bodies are working that bit harder at keeping warm. In this modern age, we can lose touch with listening to what our bodies’ food needs are and allow generalized public health advice and marketing cloud our natural judgment and food desires. For example, in the supermarket fruit and vegetable isle and we still see a big selection summer fruit and veg such as tomatoes, lettuce, cucumbers and even melons. Raw fruit and vegetables are very cooling on the digestive system, which can prevent our bodies working efficiently and in the longer term can weaken digestion, our defenses and leads to a variety of chronic health issues including perennial runny noses, IBS and fatigue. Moreover, these foods are out of season and will have traveled many miles across the globe losing at great deal of vitamins (not to mention the carbon foot print!). So salads and summer fruits are best avoided in the winter.

At this time of year we need warmth and extra nutrients to keep healthy and our immune systems working well. So what can we do help support our health in the winter? Eating warm cooked food is essential. The body’s enzymes involved in digestion need to be at a particular temperature to work efficiently. If we are eating cold foods, our bodies need warm the food up to the optimal temperature – which uses precious energy. In addition to this, the cell membranes of many fruit and vegetables are tougher in their raw form. Cooking helps to break down these membranes so we can get the nutrients out. Soups are perfect winter foods and you can cram loads of nutrients into a soup.

My favourite soup of the moment is Chicken, Leek and Kale soup made with bone broth. Bone broth is a very nutrient dense type of stock and is made by boiling bones as you would a homemade stock but for a really, really long time. This helps to break the bones down and release all the nutrients that are locked away and that can be difficult to get in our natural diets. It contains collagen, glucosamine, calcium and magnesium to name but a few. Collagen and glucosamine are vital for the good functioning of our soft tissues, muscles, tendons and ligaments. They can also help to improve the lining of our guts.

In terms of Chinese dietary therapy, bone broth is wonderful for our Jing which is the core of our being and our foundation. It supports the production of everything else include our blood and bones. The combination of Chicken, Kale and Leeks is warming, good for helping to build the blood and boosts our natural defenses. The leeks also help to keep good circulation of energy and the kale helps to balance bodily fluids. All in all, it is the perfect winter soup, so easy to make and is a great use of the left over roast chicken.

Recipes

Chicken Bone Broth

Ingredients*

Left-over roast chicken carcass

1 tbsp Apple Cider vinegar

1 onion

2 stalks of celery (optional)

2 bay leaves (optional)

bunch of thyme (optional)

2 cloves of garlic (optional)

1 tsp sea salt

ground black pepper

water

Strip all the edible meat of the chicken carcass and keep in a tub in the fridge until the stock is ready to make into soup. Put all the rest of the bones, skin and cartilage into a large heavy based pot (with a lid) or a slow cooker. Cover with water and add the other ingredients. Bring to the boil, then turn down to a low heat and cook for a minimum of 3 hours but preferably about 18 hours to allow the bones to get really soft and the cartilage to dissolve. Check the water levels periodically and add more as necessary – it will boil dry on the stove if you don’t. After a few hours of cooking you should be able to easily break the larger bones either with your hands or a potato masher. Breaking the bones up helps them to break down more quickly.

Chicken, Leek and Kale Soup

Ingredients*

1 large leek, washed and chopped

Coconut oil or butter

150g Kale washed, thick stalks removed and sliced

left over roast chicken

750ml of Chicken Bone Broth

A glug of white wine if you happen to have a bottle open or a squeeze of lemon at the end.

Salt and pepper to taste

Gently sauté the chopped leek in some melted coconut oil or butter for a few minutes add the chicken, bone broth and wine if using. Bring up to simmering and simmer for about 15 minutes. Add the kale for the last 5 minutes of cooking. Adjust the seasoning as necessary and add a squeeze of lemon if you’ve not used wine.

*Use organic where available and funds allow.

Read more about the benefits of these ingredients here:

Kale http://foodfacts.mercola.com/kale.html#

Leeks http://foodfacts.mercola.com/leeks.html

Bone Broth http://www.thepaleomom.com/2012/03/health-benefits-of-bone-broth.html

Sources:

Hartwig D & Hartwig M, (2012) It Starts with Food: Discover the WHOLE30 and Change your life in unexpected ways, Victory Belt Publishing Inc. Las Vagas, NA

Leggett D, (2005) Helping Ourselves, A Guide to Traditional Chinese Food Energetics, 2nd Edition, Meridian Press, Totnes, England.

Pitchford P, (2002) Health with Whole Foods: Asian Traditions and Modern Nutrition, 3rd edition, North Atlantic Books, Berkley, CA

National Fertility Awareness Week 27 October – 2 November 2014

National fertility week
National fertility awareness week

Today marks the start of National Fertility Awareness Week. 1 in 6 couples have difficulty conceiving. Sometimes some simple changes to diet and lifestyle or even a clearer understanding of our reproductive systems can help. However, for others, some form of assistance might be needed.

Acupuncture has grown a solid reputation for supporting fertility for both men and women. So much so that many mainstream fertility clinics recommend and offer acupuncture to support fertility. This article considers what optimal fertile health looks like through the Chinese medicine lens and how divergences from this can give helpful clues to an acupuncturist to help formulate a diagnosis and prepare a treatment plan and inform dietary tips or lifestyle modifications that can help to improve fertility.

Traditional Acupuncture is a branch of Chinese medicine, which is an excellent model to use to understand fertility. Chinese medicine is based on very simple principles that can be combined and interwoven to understand the very complex reality of an individual’s fertility and broader health.

The Yin and Yang of the Menstrual cycle

One of these sets of principles is the ebb and flow of Yin and Yang. This elegantly mirrors the different stages of the menstrual cycle. Yin is still and quiet, nurturing and moistening – it is the preparation phase. Yang is more dynamic and warming, it is the active growing phase.

Yin and Yang
Daoist Yin and Yang symbol

The Yin phase equates to the oestrogen dominated half of the cycle prior to ovulation. It is the first half of the cycle, and is preparing for ovulation by first shedding the endometrial layer from the previous cycle (the period), building the new layer for an embryo to implant into and ripening the follicles. It is responsible for governing the cervical secretions which need to be rich in potassium to fuel the sperm and loose and slippery for the sperm to swim through easily. The middle of the cycle is dedicated to ovulation when the follicle ruptures and the egg is released. The next phase is the Yang phase, the progesterone dominated half of the cycle. It dries up mucosal secretions to allow smooth passage the fertilized zygote and aid implantation. It facilitates the release of nutrients from the endometrial layer to nourish the embryo. If there is no conception and implantation, Yang is the motive force that builds to get the next period started to begin the new cycle.

Observing the Menstrual Cycle

A very useful fertility to tool to view the health of the menstrual cycle is charting. It can help a couple to know when the most fertile time is, and provide useful information for the acupuncture practitioner to track not only the length of the menstrual cycle, but also the length of the Yin/oestrogen phase and the Yang/progesterone phase. Charting is done based on your Basal Body Temperature (taking on waking at the same time each morning) and recorded on a chart. Below is a typical temperature chart.

Sample BBT chart

It shows that in the first half of a typical cycle the temperature is lower than the second half. It shows that there is a dip in body temperature, a result of an oestrogen surge just in advance of ovulation. Around this time you should also see an increase in cervical mucous. Shortly after ovulation at the start of the Yang phase, there should be a spike in temperature, which should stay relatively constant for the remaining half of the cycle.

Charting is not for everyone, it does take dedication to taking the temperature every morning and paying very close attention to the cycle. However, there are other signs and symptoms that can be very informative – details that may not be considered as particularly relevant by a Western medical doctor – but can provide insightful clues into why a couple may be having difficulty conceiving.

Examples of signs and symptoms of particular relevance are: when and how your period starts and finishes; colour of blood; pain at any time during your cycle; headaches; cervical secretions; sleeplessness; mood. These signs and symptoms and temperature fluctuations help to understand the how the balance of Yin and Yang is in the individual and therefore where the focus of treatment should be.

For example, the first half of the cycle is very susceptible to emotional strain and can cause early ovulation (i.e. before day 14). Emotional strain can cause imbalances resulting in a slightly raised temperature, irritability and a degree of insomnia. Early ovulation can mean that eggs are being released before they are fully ripe and therefore either might not be fertilized or may not implant well if they are fertilized. Acupuncture treatment in this instance would focus on regulating your temperature, calming the mind and reducing stress.

Another example can be where the temperature is too low in the second half of the cycle and this can cause poor implantation or early miscarriage. In this instance treatment would focus on raising temperatures and nourishing the endometrial layer.

Each individual woman’s cycle is different and as such each treatment is personalized for whatever your particular set of circumstances might be. Advice around observing the fluctuations in the menstrual will help to maximize chances of conception and can be provided around diet and lifestyle for each individual’s health.

Male Factor

Acupuncture is not just used to support female fertility but male as well. There are a variety of signs and symptoms that can help to identify areas of treatment to focus on for men too. For example, men who experience feelings of coldness, fatigue and reduced sexual desire may well have sperm with low motility. In this case, treatment would focus on supporting the Yang aspect of a man’s health and advice around eating habits may be appropriate.

Research

There has been research into how acupuncture can help support fertility naturally. Showing that it can:

  • be effective in regulating the hormones involved in fertility (Jin 2009, Huang 2009).
  • It can reduce the stress response, also known as “the fight or flight response” which can have a significant impact on the function of the reproductive organs and can inhibit ovulation (Magarelli 2008, Anderson 2007 ).
  • Increase blood flow to reproductive organs – improving the supplying of oxygen and nutrients to developing eggs in the ovaries and improve the blood supply to the uterus, thus making a healthier, thicker endometrial layer – which improves chances of successful implantation. (Stener-Victorin 2006, Lim 2010, Liu 2008)
  • It can work to counteract the effects of PCOS – balancing hormone levels, increasing ovulation and warming the uterus to improve blastocyst implantation (Stener-Victorin 2000, 2008, 2009, Zhang 2009.

Research into acupuncture for male fertility has shown that acupuncture can help to improve sperm maturation (Crimmel 2001), lower scrotal temperature (Siterman 2009), improving blood supply to the reproductive organs (Komori 2009).

More details on this research and full references can be found on the British Acupuncture Council website at the following links:

Female Fertility: http://www.acupuncture.org.uk/a-to-z-of-conditions/a-to-z-of-conditions/female-fertility.html

Male infertility: http://www.acupuncture.org.uk/a-to-z-of-conditions/a-to-z-of-conditions/male-infertility.html

Understanding Fertility: An Acupuncturist’s view

Fertility Awareness Week is 27th October to 2nd November. Traditional Acupuncture is used to support fertility naturally and as an adjunct to Assisted Reproductive Technology. It is growing its good reputation for support in this area, so I thought I’d write my latest blog on understanding acupuncture and fertility for the KnotStressed website. The full article is available by clicking on this link: Understanding Fertility: An Acupuncturist’s View.

Sterile, single use needles are always used and almost a fine as a human hair.
Sterile, single use needles are always used and almost a fine as a human hair.

For the past few months, I have been working as a member of the KnotStressed therapy team and from Wednesday 29th October I will also be working from the KnotStressed premises in addition to my existing clinics. On Sunday 2nd November we will holding an Open day at the clinic with taster sessions available. Full details to follow soon.

Understanding Yin and Yang Theory – Part 2: Yin and Yang Theory in Health and Chinese Medicine

The importance of Balanceskye

The theory of Yin and Yang outlined in Part 1 can be applied to health and is fundamental to the philosophy of Chinese Medicine. Throughout its development and evolution, Chinese Medicine has drawn parallels between patterns observed in nature and people. Lets take the example described in part 1 of the blog which demonstrated the importance of getting the balance between yin and yang right… Plants need the sun to grow – which is Yang – it is light, dry and provides warmth. However the plant also needs water, which is Yin, it is cooling and moistening. If the balance of sun and water is wrong the plant can either shrivel and die or become saturated and rot.

The same can be said for people, we need to live a balanced life. We can use the theory of Yin and Yang to understand what balance means. A good illustration is Hot (Yang) and Cold (Yin) in people. If it is too hot, people become red, to cool themselves down, they need more water due to increased sweating. If the heat continues people can become irritable, get headachy, agitated and so on. If people overheat, it can lead to serious illness such as dehydration and heat stroke. There are similar impacts on the other end of the scale if it is too cold. When someone gets cold, they shiver and lips can go blue as blood is stored in the trunk to conserve heat, eventually they can become sleepy and even hypothermic. However, we as humans have ways to keep warm in the cold and cool in the heat – we naturally try to keep ourselves at the right temperature. We put on jumpers and coats when it is cold or sit in the shade and drink ice drinks when it is too hot.

There is another dimension to this – not everyone will feel the heat and the cold to the same extent – some will be able to tolerate the heat much more than others and similarly, others can tolerate the cold much better than others. From a Chinese medicine perspective, this is due to the balance of Yin and Yang in the individual. Yang is warming, so someone who is lacking in Yang will feel the cold much more than someone who is lacking in Yin. Yin provides basis for the cooling and moistening function in people so if this is lacking, the person may experience symptoms of heat and dryness. This might manifest in agitation, anxiety and restlessness. The Yang deficient person on the other hand, in addition to feeling the cold may also feel sluggish and tired.

The theory of Yin and Yang in health does not just apply to Hot and Cold, but can be applied widely to every part of our lives. If we think about activity and rest – activity is Yang and rest is Yin. If we do not have enough activity in our lives and oversleep and lack exercise our Yang energy can’t move causing us to become more lethargic. The stuck Yang energy can create stagnation and doesn’t flow to the organs and muscles as it should resulting in reduced functionality. On the other hand, if we are overactive and work too much we don’t have enough restful, Yin time. We may also feel tired but struggle to sleep and switch off. Overtime, the over use of our Yang side – this heating, active function, can deplete the Yin as it overworks trying to keep the Yang in balance. This can result in sleeplessness and feelings of anxiousness or an overly active mind.

This is why living in balance is so important for our health. However, lives tend to be complicated and living a life in balance is not always possible. We can try to mitigate it by making adjustments where we can, but where we can’t and imbalance arises, illness or lack of wellbeing can occur. Traditional acupuncture addresses these imbalances in the body and mind’s function. By stimulating carefully selected points, the acupuncturist can move stuck energy, sedate overactivity or restore good function as needed for the individual. This can make significant improvements to our sense of wellbeing.

Understanding Yin and Yang Theory – Part 1: The Basics

Yin and Yang
Daoist Yin and Yang symbol

The theory of Yin and Yang is one of the most important paradigms underpinning Traditional Chinese Medicine. Yin and Yang are complementary opposites which define each other. They exist only in relation to each other and each contains an aspect of the other. The famous Daoist symbol depicting Yin and Yang accompanies this article and elegantly describes the theory. The symbol shows Yin and Yang intertwined with each other in a continuous circle. Each has a dot of the other demonstrating that each contains an aspect of the other and has the potential to transform into the other.

Everything in the Universe can be categorised as being either Yin or Yang. Perhaps the simplest example of this is night and day. Night is Yin and day is Yang. To understand what day means – when the sun is up and there is light, we need to have night – the time when the sun is down and the sky is dark. The contrast between the two enables us to understand the significance of each. Moreover, Day will transform into night and night back into day. Another good example of this are the seasons. We have just passed the Summer Solstice – that wonderful time of year that makes living in Northern Europe worth while with the long days. The summer solstice is the time of maximum Yang – the time when the days are as long as they can be – but yet, within this Yang time, there is Yin because we still have night.

Some more examples of Yin and Yang are below:

Yin                      Yang

Dark                     Light
Water                   Fire
Cold                     Hot
Slow                     Fast
Activity                Rest
Female                 Male
Death                   Life
Chronic                Acute
Stillness               Movement

 
A further factor of the theory is that Yin and Yang are relative. For example, dawn is Yang in relation to night, but Yin when in relation to day. Water is Yang in relation to ice, but Yin in relation to steam.

The balancing of Yin and Yang can be seen throughout nature and in Daoist philosophy is necessary for a healthy environment, life and universe. Take the weather and growing vegetables for example, if you have too much sunshine and not enough rain, vegetable plants will wither and die. Similarly if you have too much rain and not enough sun, vegetables can rot or will be feeble and bitter. A balance of sun and rain is essential for healthy plant growth.

To be continued in my next Blog: Yin and Yang Theory – Part 2: Yin and Yang Theory in Health and Chinese Medicine