Raspberry Leaf: an ally in women’s health

Raspberry leaf (Rubus idaeus) is a herb that’s famous for preparing mothers for childbirth. This herb can shorten labour and decrease the likelihood that complications will arise during pregnancy and in childbirth (Hoffman, D., 2003, pg. 293). It is also used to ease menstrual issues such as reducing cramps and excessive menstrual bleeding (Balch, P. A., 2000, pg. 93).

According to Balch, P. A. (2000),  raspberry leaf has the following benefits:

Reduces excessive menstrual bleeding

Relaxes uterine and intestinal spasms

Strengthens uterus walls

Reduces morning sickness, hot flashes, and menstrual cramps

Promotes healthy nails, bones, teeth and skin (pg. 93)

How does raspberry leaf do all this?

Astringent: As as astringent herb, raspberry leaf constricts the bodies tissues, reducing blood flow and mucous. The astringency will tighten and tonify the body, and act to strengthen the uterine and pelvic muscles and prevent miscarriage. In addition, raspberry leaf tones the mucous membranes throughout the body, soothes the kidneys and urinary tract, and helps prevent hemorrhage in delivery.

Relaxant: The relaxant properties bring about a tonic relaxation of the smooth muscle of the uterus, helping to reduce the pain of uterine contractions with labour. This applies to the uterine contractions experienced with cramping during menses as well. The herb is slightly sedative in that it helps to quell nausea and is useful for morning sickness and hot flashes.

Nutrition: An infusion of raspberry leaf tea contains 200-250 mg of calcium, assisting in the formation of breast milk, and strengthens nails, bones, teeth and skin. Ellagic acid, an antioxidant, alters estrogen metabolism which can reduce the risk of hormonal cancers.

Raspberry leaf, if used before delivery helps to ensure a safe, easy, and speedy childbirth, and after delivery to improve milk production and assist in recovery from birth.

https://optimalfertility.ca/ Visit this website to purchase Harmonic Arts Woman with Child tea blend, which contains raspberry leaf. Although this tea blend is called Woman with Child, it is designed for so much more- from helping with the conditions mentioned above, to general tonification and well-being.

Balch, P. A. (2000) Prescription for Nutritional Healing. New York, NY: Avery.

Hoffman, D. (2003) Medical Herbalism. Rochester, VT: Healing Arts Press.

Painful periods? Acupuncture can help!


A woman’s period and the pain that’s associated with it are like Yin and Yang: it seems you can’t have one without the other! The pain experienced with menses is different for every woman; some experience very mild cramps while others are curled up on their bathroom floor calling in sick for work. Does the latter sound familiar? If it does you may suffer from dysmenorrhea, so what can you do about it?

Heat is often used as a remedy for cramps and pain experienced during menses.

What exactly is Dysmenorrhea?

Dysmenorrhea, (or Painful Periods), is defined as extreme pain that radiates throughout the abdomen and low back around the time of menses, and is accompanied by headaches, diarrhea, constipation, nausea, vomiting, and even fainting. Dysmenorrhea affects between 20-90% of the female population, which is an odd statistic but that’s because it is the most common menstrual disorder (Osayande, A.S, Mehulic, S. 2014, pg. 89). Heavy duty pain killers are most commonly prescribed, while others are prescribed birth control at a very early age. These medications can come with a lot of side effects, but that discussion is for another blog!

What causes Dysmenorrhea?

Primary Dysmenorrhea is a result of uterine contractions and ischemia (lack of blood supply to tissues). Contributing factors may include:

  • Passage of menstrual tissue through the cervix
  • A narrow cervix
  • Malpositioned uterus
  • Lack of exercise

Secondary Dysmenorrhea is caused by pelvic abnormalities, such as:

  • Endometriosis
  • Fibroids, cysts, tumours
  • Pelvic inflammatory disease
  • Congenital malformations

Be sure to see your doctor to determine the exact cause of your symptoms, and to rule out anything more serious. See your doctor right away if your symptoms worsen.

So what solutions are available?

Acupuncture helps to ease pain through direct stimulation of muscle tissue. Sensory neurons then send signals to the brain to release endorphins (the body’s natural painkiller) thus inhibiting pain perception. An added bonus is that acupuncture also stimulates the brain to release serotonin, a brain chemical involved with mood. This means that along with pain relief, patients may also experience:

  • Improved mood
  • Increase in energy
  • Better sleep

Chinese herbs help to reduce pain by correcting organ imbalances and clearing toxins which may be causing pain.

Moxibustion is an herb that Acupuncturists burn over top of acupuncture points to push heat deep into the body to clear cold out of the uterus-this is a known cause of pain in Chinese Medicine.

Diet is crucial to a healthy cycle in women; too much cold, raw food can cause pain by creating stagnation in the body. This is especially true in the winter months, so warm foods such as soups, stews, or spices like cinnamon and turmeric are encouraged to warm the body and ensure movement in blood and body fluids.

Sleep is another valuable element to ensuring a smooth cycle in women. Our bodies repair overnight so by getting a full 8 hours, our bodies can heal, rest, and continue serving us daily.

Regulating emotions is something we all must strive for, as stress degrades the body just like lack of sleep, and over a long period of time can have detrimental effects. Exercise, sleep and proper diet are key to regulating emotions.

Call, email, or visit our website today to see how we can help you with pain management!

Osayande, A.S., Mehulic, S. (2014, March). Diagnosis and initial management of dysmenorrhea. American Family Physician, 89. Retrieved from https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dysmenorrhea

Pinkerton, J. V. (2017, September). Dysmenorrhea. Retrieved from https://www.merckmanuals.com/en-ca/professional/gynecology-and-obstetrics/menstrual-abnormalities/dysmenorrhea

Mental Health and Chinese Medicine: An Introduction

This is the first entry in be a series dedicated to different psycho-emotional issues that can be ameliorated with Chinese Medicine.

More Than Just Pain

Public Education about Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine is something very near and dear to my heart. If the general population doesn’t know about the full scope of our medicine, how can we expect them to take advantage of it? For most people, when it comes to knowledge about the benefits of Chinese Medicine, the treatment of physical pain is usually the first thing that comes to mind. While it’s true that Acupuncture is extremely effective when it comes to treating musculoskeletal conditions – to say that physical pain is our ONLY focus really misses the point of this healing system.

Chinese Medicine is a holistic form of healing, which means that practitioners don’t make a separation between a person’s physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being. All factors of the patient are taken into account when formulating a treatment with Acupuncture or Herbs. The main goal of this system is to not just chase symptoms, but to get to the real root of a problem. For example, a headache is rarely just a headache – it can often be accompanied by other symptoms such as irritability or mood swings, feelings of heat or flushing of the face, high blood pressure etc. This “pattern” of symptoms indicates a deeper imbalance of the body’s organs. Physical pain can take a toll on mental health, and poor mental health can lead to physical pain. If the underlying root imbalance is corrected the patient will see improvements in not only their chief complaint, but their overall health and well-being.

Blood Vessels Artistically Represented By Tree Branches
We are so much more than our physical bodies

The Heart of the Matter

Chinese Medicine can be a useful tool in treating a myriad of mental health conditions. Symptoms of depression, anxiety, PTSD, etc. – can be reduced with either Acupuncture or Herbs. In addition to treating Western Mental Health diagnoses, Chinese Medicine can also assist in areas that are a little less obvious.

TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) can also help people to process emotional traumas, move through difficult phases in life, feel more grounded and calm day-to-day, boost self-worth, increase drive and ambition, and the list goes on! This system of medicine attributes emotional qualities to the physical organs of the body. For example, the chief emotion of the Lungs is Grief – so by targeting this organ system we can assist our patients in grieving the loss of a loved one. The Kidneys correspond to the emotion of Fear so by targeting this area/meridian we can help people with things like overcoming phobias. The Spleen is closely related to pensiveness or overthinking, so if you’re someone who lies awake at night constantly replaying scenarios in your head – it may mean that the Spleen needs to be addressed.

What I’m essentially trying to get across in this article is that Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine can be a beneficial tool in areas of your life beyond just the physical body. Don’t get me wrong – Western Medicine is amazing at what it does. It keeps us alive. It targets dangerous, life threatening conditions like cancer. Acupuncture sure isn’t going to fix your broken arm. However, so often, patients feel as though there is something lacking when they visit a Doctor. They don’t want to be viewed as “just another patient.” If you’re looking for a system of healing that acknowledges your entire being; if you are searching for a way to lead a more balanced life – physically, emotionally and spiritually – then this is just the modality you need. I truly believe that patients achieve the strongest results when they incorporate the best of both worlds (Eastern and Western Medicine).

Stay tuned for blog updates which will dive into different mental health issues in more depth. (Anxiety, depression etc.)

Declining Sperm Count: What Chinese Medicine Can Do For You

Sperm Count

Well Gents, it’s official, our little swimmers are dwindling at an alarming rate. A recent meta-analysis conducted at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem confirms that “sperm concentration has declined by more than 50 percent, with no evidence of ‘leveling off’ in recent years.” Even more alarming is the fact that scientists aren’t really sure why this is occurring. There are plenty of valid theories out there pointing to various culprits – plastics, soy, even global warming – but there is no one answer that truly explains the massive drop in sperm count among Western men.

Does this mean that we should just resign ourselves to a childless dystopian future, like the one portrayed in “Children of Men?” Not exactly. There is still plenty you can do to keep your count high, or increase it if it is already low.

Supplements

Diet is one of the easiest ways to improve your sperm count and motility. While it is always ideal to get our nutrients from whole foods, sometimes that just isn’t realistic. Supplements are something easy, and manageable to add to your daily routine. However, they will only help if a nutrient deficiency is the cause of your low sperm count. Below are some examples of the most commonly used supplements in treating male infertility.

  • Zinc: Increases sperm count, and motility as well as testosterone levels.
  • Selenium: Beneficial for both sperm motility, and morphology
  • Vitamin C: This supplement ensures sperm doesn’t stick together or form clumps.
  • Vitamin E: Deficiency of this vitamin can cause damage to reproductive tissue
  • Vitamin B12: Deficiency of B12 can damage the nerves of the penis leading to erectile dysfunction

Traditional Chinese Medicine (Acupuncture and Herbs)

Traditional Chinese Medicine has a lot to offer in the treatment of male infertility, especially if stress is a contributing factor. Acupuncture and herbs work along a lot of the same avenues as supplements, for example, these modalities can: increase blood flow to the genitals (specifically your testicular artery), cool the scrotum, increase sex drive, regulate the nervous system, and calm the mind. Therefore, we are able to treat conditions like: low sperm count / motility, loss of libido, erectile dysfunction, and premature ejaculation. Some areas that Chinese Medicine won’t have much of an effect is in structural abnormalities (like a sperm duct defect) or a chromosomal disorder.

Some areas that Chinese Medicine won’t have much of an effect is in structural abnormalities (like a sperm duct defect) or a chromosomal disorder.

Lifestyle Factors to Avoid

Incorporating healthy nutrients, and a proper treatment plan are important tools in boosting fertility, however another important step is reducing lifestyle habits that can be harmful to your reproductive system.

  • Smoking: I’m sure it comes as no surprise that smoking has been linked to poor sperm quality. Smokers are 54% more likely to be infertile.
  • Infrequent Ejaculation: Increases oxidative stress which can be damaging to semen, as they remain in the testes for a longer period of time before being ‘recycled.’
  • Stress: Testosterone levels can decrease as a result of chronic stress. (Acupuncture is a great tool for helping managing stress!)
  • Heat: Hot tubs, laptops, seat warmers, and even tight clothing can all increase the temperature of your testicles. Heat negatively impacts sperm production, as they are produced in a very sensitive environment. Ideally, your testes need to be a few degrees cooler than the rest of your body.
  • Saturated Fat: A diet high in saturated fat can lower sperm concentration an average of 31%

It’s time to pay attention

While the fact that sperm counts are dropping is concerning, one positive side effect is that it has brought men’s health issues to the forefront. I’m hoping that this will push more men to become active participants in their health and wellbeing. Out of all the patients we see here at Meridian Health centre, only about 25% of them are men. There is a wealth of literature out there that shows just how beneficial Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine can be for Men’s Health – so where are all the guys? Better late than never fellas.

References:

Levine, H., Jørgensen, N., Martino-Andrade, A., Mendiola, J., Weksler-Derri, D., Mindlis, I., … & Swan, S. H. (2017). Temporal trends in sperm count: a systematic review and meta-regression analysis. Human Reproduction Update, 1-14.

Men’s Sexual & Reproductive Health. (n.d.). Retrieved September 02, 2017, from https://www.dontcookyourballs.com/

3 Step Natural IVF Support

3 Steps toward an improved success rate (Frozen and Fresh Transfers)

Lifestyle: Stress decreases IVF success rates. Stress increases inflammation and promotes an autoimmune response all of which are detrimental to a successful IVF. Deep breathing has been proven to calm the nervous system and promote relaxation. Do something you love and that makes you laugh. These practices will increase endorphins and oxytocin, the happy hormones, which are all things involved in successful baby making.

Sperm health is strongly affected and influenced by optimal nutrition.

Diet: Consume nourishing foods that have a high vitamin and mineral content, no processed foods. Our body gets energy from the air we breathe and the food and water we consume. Consuming high quality, bioavailable multivitamins and minerals will provide your body with what it needs to produce healthy and fully mature follicles, a receptive uterine lining and good quality sperm. That’s right guys, you can help out too! Sperm health is strongly affected and influenced by optimal nutrition. (See our BioClinic Opti-ova and Mito-Motile kits).

Acupuncture: Frozen and Fresh IVF Cycles: 3 months of treatment for men and women prior to the IVF cycle is recommended. Follicles take 90-120 days to develop (folliculogenesis) and sperm an average of 100 days.

  • Your Period: Acupuncture will help ensure a complete shedding of the uterine lining and set the stage for a healthy and receptive endometrial re-growth.
  • Follicular development: 2 sessions during days 4-11 will help ensure optimal blood flow/nutrient delivery to the developing follicles.
  • Follicular Maturation: Days 11-14. Follicles are ready for collection. A treatment before egg collection, at trigger shot, will help complete maturation and loosen the follicles to facilitate a smooth retrieval to ease your discomfort.
  • Post Retrieval: REST, get acupuncture to settle down tissue trauma and restore normal blood flow to the pelvis.
  • Fresh Transfer: It is here where you will follow your acupuncturists guidelines for “The Transfer” (as seen below).
  • Frozen Transfer: Weekly treatments until frozen embryo transfer will keep the nervous system calm and ensure optimal blood flow to the pelvis (enhanced nutrient end oxygen delivery)
  • The Transfer: simply continue seeing your acupuncturist weekly to follow the phases of the menstrual cycle. Treatments before and after the transfer promote endometrial receptivity and embryo nourishment.  Weekly acupuncture sessions until the positive pregnancy test and until 12 -14 weeks is optimal to reduce stress and the risk of miscarriage.