There are increasing number of couples who are having difficulty conceiving, this is due to many factors. I help treat fertility issues in both male and female partners with Acupuncture and Naturopathy, here is some information that I go through with my patients to make sure that they are at peak wellness when they are trying for a baby.
Fertility simply refers to a couple’s chances of becoming pregnant. If you are fertile, than there is a good chance that you will become pregnant at some point in time. Though pregnancy may not happen right away, if both a man and a woman are fertile, they will conceive a child eventually. Certain factors play a key role in determining fertility. In order for a woman to be fertile she must produce a viable egg during each monthly cycle. In order for a man to be fertile he must be able to produce strong and healthy sperm that can fertilize this egg. Numerous factors play a part in these roles including your diet, lifestyle and stress management. Keeping in mind the following guidelines, they will increase both your chances of conceiving and improve the health of your baby also.
Menopause should be a time to embrace the changes in the female body, not a time of dred, the word alone can send cold chills (or hot flushes) down the spine of many women! But does it really have to be that way? Is there anyway to maneuver through menopause and maintain one’s sanity? Acupuncture and Naturopathy can have a positive impact in this transitional time.
Although by definition the date of a woman’s last menstrual period; the term menopause commonly refers to the period of change, when the egg supply becomes exhausted and the levels of the hormones oestrogen and progesterone fall. Ovulation and menstruation become less frequent and eventually stop. This usually occurs between 45 and 55 years of age and constitutes a major transition period for most women. It can also happen at a younger age.
The Symptoms of Menopause
Symptoms in the transitional period may be felt for a short period or for several years depending on the body’s ability to adapt. They may include:
a change in the frequency or volume of blood flow of periods
emotional swings, irritability, depression
hot flushes and night sweats
loss of sex drive, vaginal dryness and recurrent vaginal infections
weight changes, reduction in breast tissue
bone loss of calcium may also occur.
However, many of these symptoms are also the natural side effects of ageing.
Hot Flushes and Night Sweats
Hot flushes and night sweats are experienced by more than 85% of menopausal women with varying degree of severity up to ten years after their last period. They occur because the brain decides that the body is overheated and responds by increasing the blood flow through the skin. The heated skin reddens and begins to perspire. The symptoms rise to a peak over about 4 minutes and then decline during the next 15 minutes accompanied by cold chills. Hot flushes are often accompanied by an increased heart rate and palpitations. Although harmless they can be very uncomfortable and distressing. Night sweats often cause frequent interruption of sleep, contributing to fatigue.
Menopause and Bone Health
The repair and maintenance system of bones is mainly controlled by hormones, including oestrogen and progesterone. As levels of these hormones fall, bones begin to deteriorate and loose density. Osteoporosis literally means: “bone that has holes”. It leads to an increased risk of fracture especially of the spine and long bones of arms and legs (hip fractures). It may cause pain, especially in the lower back, loss of stature, and various deformities (Dowager’s hump). Osteoporosis is a complex condition which also involves lifestyle and nutritional factors, and prevention is much better than cure.
Treatment of Menopausal Symptoms – The Naturopathic Approach
Long term poor diet, emotional stress, and lack of exercise may lead to an increase in menopausal symptoms.
Diet(Food, drink and drugs)
Eat a wholesome diet predominantly based on fresh organic foods. Prepare your own meals whenever possible.
Foods to eliminate or reduce
Sugar, cakes and other refined carbohydrates
Processed ready meals
Animal fat from meat and dairy
Coffee, tea and alcohol
Increase beneficial foods
Plenty of fruit and vegetables
Brown rice and whole meal bread
Lentils and beans
Nuts and seeds
Organic poultry and fish and eggs
A non-dairy milk source – Coconut, rice, almond etc…
Cold pressed oils (olive, linseed etc.)
Cooling foods and foods rich in natural oestrogens (see below)
In Chinese medicine, the consumption of cooling foods is recommended. Such foods are wheat germ and its oil, mung beans, mung bean sprouts, string beans, seaweed, spirulina, millet, black beans, tofu, kidney beans, barley, black sesame seeds, fenugreek seeds, saffron and cold sage tea.
Increase plant foods high in natural oestrogens (phytoestrogens). These include: soya products (don’t over-consume), flaxseed oil, flax seeds, nuts, whole grains (such as brown rice), apples, fennel, celery, parsley, and alfalfa. Maca powder has been proven to help reduce menopause symptoms and has been named the natural HRT.
Blood sugar control is also very important for hormone balance.
Drinking plenty of water keeps the body vital and young. Increase amounts gradually to about 1.5 to 2 liters per day.
For more advice of foods to eliminate and increase please contact me.
Endorphins arethe body’s own mood-elevating and pain-relieving compounds. They are also thought to relief hot flushes. Regular exercise enhances endorphins and has many benefits on health of bone and the cardiovascular system. It reduces stress, boosts the metabolism, increases energy levels and assists in achieving and maintaining normal body weight. In addition exercise may also help mobilise some stored estrogen, which may make for an easier transition.
Exercise in average 3 – 4 hours per week; Combine aerobic exercise, such as brisk walking, cycling, swimming with toning and strengthening exercise such as Yoga and Pilates.
Learn to adopt less aggressive attitudes. A relaxed, un-stressful life will greatly help overcome menopausal symptoms.
Supplementation & Herbs
Vitamins and Minerals
In addition to a good general supplement programme (multivitamins & minerals, fish oil) the following vitamins and minerals may help relieve menopausal symptoms:
Vitamins E and C – For hot flushes, night sweats, irritability and vaginal dryness
B-Vitamins, especially B6 – For hormone balance, energy production and a healthy nervous system
Vitamin D & Calcium – For protection against osteoporosis, and for hot flushes
Magnesium – For night sweats and irritability
Evening Primrose Oil – For hot flushes & breast pain
Much of the effect of herbal medicine is thought to be a result of phytooestrogens in the plants and the plants’ ability to improve blood flow.
Dong Quai (Angelica Sinensis): has a mild oestrogenic effect and stabilises blood vessels
Liquorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra): mild oestrogenic effect and raises progesterone levels
Black Cohosh (Cimicifuga racemosa): relieves hot flushes, depression, vaginal atrophy
Chaste berry (Vitex Agnus-Castus): Balances secretion of certain hormones
Gingko Biloba: Improves blood flow to the extremeties and to the brain.
Red Clover and Korean Ginseng may also help because of their oestrogenic effects.
Combining all of the above is thought to produce greater effect.
For advice on recommended amounts please contact me.
Other useful tips
Menopause can often be a time of lowered energy. Get adequate sleep and even take a nap when feeling tired. If hot flushes and night sweats are your main problems:
Keep a record of your hot flushes and see if there is a pattern developing.
Wear loose clothing, made of natural fabrics, with short sleeves and V-necks
Use a battery operated fan and keep a flask of iced water near by
Relaxing during a hot flush can diminish its intensity.
Keep your bedroom cool
Use night clothes and bed linen made of natural fabrics
Keep a sponge and a bowl of water near your bedside to cool yourself down easily.
Acupuncture & Menopause
Acupuncture can help women suffering from the most common symptoms of menopause, it is claimed. A study suggests that Acupuncture can curb the severity of hot flushes and also relieve mood swings among women receiving it regularly.
Hot flushes can suddenly produce an uncomfortable feeling of intense heat, while frequent flushes at night can disrupt sleep. The symptoms are caused by the dilation of blood vessels in the skin and are linked to hormone imbalances, but they are still not fully understood.
Medication proven to combat flushes includes Hormone Replacement Therapy and some antidepressants, which appear to damp down the body’s blood vessel system.
In the study, which was published in the journal Acupuncture in Medicine, Turkish researchers looked at 53 menopausal women. Twenty seven received acupuncture twice a week for ten weeks. This involved placing needles at certain points on the body to boost energy and release endorphins, the body’s natural painkillers.
The remaining volunteers were given ‘dummy’ acupuncture with blunted needles.
At the end of the trial, those receiving genuine treatment had lower scores for the intensity of the hot flushes and mood swings they experienced – which progressively improved over the treatment period – compared with those given dummy needles.
The researchers said the effect on endorphins might curb flushes by stabilising the body’s temperature controls, but they were unable to say how long the effect lasted after treatment finished.
The researchers admit the trial was small but claim that Acupuncture is worth trying for menopausal women unable or unwilling to use HRT.
Please contact if you would like any further information or to see how I can help you.
In traditional Chinese Medicine dampness comes from a failure to burn off or transform moisture in the body. It is nearly always associated with a weak Spleen, often with a weak Kidney and sometimes a weak Lung – all from a Chinese Medicine perspective.
In TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) the Spleen is expressed as the digestive system, the Spleen is responsible for adapting food to nourish and support our system. This process is called ‘transportation and transformation’. The stronger or Spleen function is the better we are able to extract nourishment from any food to support our body’s needs.
Dampness can lodge in a specific part of the body or affect us more generally, dampness can make us feel heavy and tired and it can make us swell up and it can obstruct our body’s functions.
Some people are more prone to damp than others, a tendency towards dampness can be aggravated by living in damp conditions and places (ex. Ireland) or by a sedentary lifestyle. It needs the transformative power of the body’s Yang Qi (energy) to stop it accumulating. Eating in ways which inhibit our Spleen function or which injure the Yang Qi will increase our tendency towards damp.
Dampness may also be caused by pathogens lodged in the body which have not been properly expelled or by the use of suppressant drugs.
Foods which promote dampness are:
Dairy – milk, cheese, yogurts, ice cream – Sheep & Goats products are less dampening
Wheat – breads, pastry’s, biscuits, all yeast products
Pork & rich meat
Processed foods, sugar & sweeteners
Concentrated juice’s especially Orange & Tomato
Bananas – these are a big NO in TCM
In particular foods that need to be avoided are too much raw, cold, sweet & rich foods and the overconsumption of fluid, especially cold water.
Dampness can be divided into three kinds:
This is the generalised condition of dampness associated with weakness of the Spleen, in may manifest in such ways as tiredness/aches in the limbs, digestive weakness or muzzy head. How it manifests depends on our individual constitution.
This describes a condition of edema where dampness is retained as water; this may be specific or general in location. It causes us to swell, be become waterlogged.
This describes a more sticky manifestation of dampness. It often lodges in particular organs and combines easily with heat or cold. Phlegm or mucus congeals and obstructs our functioning.
Resolving Dampness though food and Acupuncture:
All dampness is treated by strengthening the Spleen and may also need tonification of the Kidneys, Lung and Yang. Phlegm demands the reduction of Phlegm-forming foods and the use of Phlegm- resolving foods. Water is helped by Water-removing (diuretic) foods. Acupuncture in conjunction with the correct foods can help eliminate damp, water and phlegm.
Dampness is often the result of overeating or over-nutrition. It is important to support the Spleen to avoid the over accumulation of Dampness.
Here are some tips on how to assist the Spleen with its digestive function:
Joy – enjoy your food, have a good relationship with food
Positive attitude – welcome food as wholeheartedly as you can
Relaxation – the Chinese believe not to mix food with work, watching TV or reading, also important to relax your posture as not to hinder the passage of food through your body.
Chew well – well chewed food lessens the work for your digestive organs and increases the efficient extraction of nutrients, it also warms chilled foods.
Stop just before you are full – if you overeat at any one meal, you create stagnation, a temporary queue of food waiting to be processed. This results in feeling tired.
Don’t flood the Spleen – the Spleen does not like too much fluid with a meal. A little warm fluid with a meal is helpful; nut too much dilutes the Spleen’s action and weakens digestion.
Don’t chill the Spleen – too much raw or chilled food or fluid will also weaken the Spleen, the digestive process needs warmth.
Eat your main meal early – when your main meal is eaten late at night, your system is naturally slowing down and the food will sit around longer and creates stagnation.
Delighted to have an article published in the Summer edition of the Rude Health magazine. It explains the basic ideas behind Acupuncture and how it can help male & female fertility to help couples conceive.
It also includes a testimonial from one of my male fertility patients on how Acupuncture and Naturopathy helped him and his partner get pregnant.
No one should have to live with depression, unfortunately powerful prescription drugs such as Prozac can be almost as intolerable, not to mention expensive. Happily, nature has provided a whole range of gentler antidepressants such as St. John’s Wort, 5-hydroxytryptophan, S-adenosylmenthionine, tyrosine, phenylalanine and folic acid, among many others.
Considerable research indicates that these herbs, biochemicals and nutrients can often counteract clinical depression as efficiently and effectively as prescription drugs, but with fewer side effects and a more modest price tag. Unfortunatly there are restrictions on many of these natural remedys depending on where you live in the world, this is where acupuncture alongside basic naturopathic principles such as the correct diet and lifestyle advice comes in and can have a profound effect on your mental well-being.
In general, acupuncture is believed to stimulate the nervous system and cause the release of neuro-chemical messenger molecules. The resulting biochemical changes influence the body’s homeostatic mechanisms, thus promoting physical and emotional well-being.
Studies indicate that acupuncture can have a specific positive effect on depression by altering the brain’s mood chemistry, increasing production of serotonin (Sprott 1998) and endorphins (Wang 2010). Acupuncture may also benefit depression by acting through other neurochemical pathways, including those involving dopamine (Scott 1997), noradrenaline (Han 1986), cortisol (Han 2004) and neuropeptide Y (Pohl 2002).
Stimulation of certain acupuncture points has been shown to affect areas of the brain that are known to reduce sensitivity to pain and stress, as well as promoting relaxation and deactivating the ‘analytical’ brain which is responsible for anxiety and worry (Hui 2010). Stress-induced changes in behaviour and biochemistry may be reversed (Kim 2009).
If you would like to discuss with me how Acupuncture and Naturopathy can help, please feel free to contact me.
Everyone knows that seasonal allergies are painful and uncomfortable causing runny nose, sneezing, sinus pain, fatigue, watery eyes, and other debilitating symptoms. Allergies also affect your productivity at work and school and may be linked to depression, insomnia, and anxiety.(1)
Acupuncture offers an effective drug free treatment so you can smell the flowers. Acupuncture is different than taking a pill, it helps to reduce pain and inflammation. But rather than adding a medication that will temporarily block a receptor, histamine in the case of allergies, acupuncture works to regulate the body’s functioning. The goals is for long term improvement from the acupuncture treatment.
The idea is that acupuncture helps to reset the body and remind it how to be healthy. As balance is achieved, your body is able to maintain the healthy state without medications. So instead of simply suppressing the body’s reaction, it works to correct the root cause of the problem.
Acupuncture’s Understanding of Allergies
Acupuncture has its own view of the body and health. Acupuncturists look for an imbalance that is causing of allergies.
Qi is the body’s vital energy, it gives you the power to work, study, exercise, and fight illness. In acupuncture, the cause of allergies is often a qi imbalance. There are two major qi imbalances. The most common one for allergies is when there is too little qi, we call this a qi vacuity. When your qi is vacuous, you feel tired, can get colds easily, may have poor digestion, coughing, wheezing, and possibly asthma. The acupuncture works to boost up your qi, giving you more energy and protecting you from allergies.
The second imbalance is called qi stagnation. This is when your qi does not circulate well. This is often caused by stress, and can cause pain, headaches, menstrual cramps, and in some cases, bring on asthma attacks.
Inflammation is a cause of allergies and chronic sinus pain. In acupuncture, this is often related to an imbalance called heat. Heat can cause dryness, irritation, and pain. This is often common in chronic sinusitis.
The Acupuncture Treatment
An effective acupuncture treatment is based upon a specific and accurate diagnosis of the imbalance and by targeting the exact root of the condition leads to the most successful treatment.
I combine acupressure with the acupuncture to create greater results and a stronger sense of relaxation. Usually people will feel some relief after only a visits.
How Acupuncture Works
Acupuncture helps to reduce inflammation and increase circulation. Acupuncture also helps to regulate the brain to reduce pain, so it is also possible that is another way it works to help regulate the immune response to allergies (2).
1. Marcus MB. Seasonal allergies could spark depression, fatigue. USA Today. 3/18/2008.2. Napadow V, Ahn A, Longhurst J, et.al. The Status and Future of Acupuncture Mechanism Research. J Altern Complement Med. 2008 September; 14(7): 861–869.
A question on the minds of many women trying to get pregnant is whether the caffeine in their morning cup of coffee affects their fertility.
A large study carried out by the Yale Medical School found that the risk of infertility (which they defined as not being able to conceive after 12 months) was 55% higher for women drinking just 1 cup of coffee per day, this was then 100% higher for women drinking 1.5 – 3 cups per day and 176% higher for more than 3 cups per day (1) and this was then backed up 5 years later by a study in Europe which found that a high caffeine intake in women slowed rates of conception. (2)
Additionally there is evidence that coffee drinking in men and women increases miscarriage rates and that caffeine intake during pregnancy has a negative influence of fetal growth. (3) Most studies indicate that it is the consumption of 300mg or more of caffeine daily that can lead to fertility problems, it is estimated that most Americans drink more that 350mg per day, as we are not far behind America in the obesity epidemic I assume that the figure for the UK & Ireland is similar to this.
Also remember that there is not just caffeine in Coffee, it lurks in tea, carbonated drinks and chocolate. Below is a chart that shows the Caffeine content in everyday items:
Item Caffeine (mg)
Coffee, brewed (240ml/8oz) – 60-120mg
Coffee, instant (240ml/8oz) – 70mg
Coffee, decaf (240ml/8oz) – 2-5mg
Tea, black, 5-min steep (240ml/8oz) – 60-100mg
Tea, green (240ml/8oz) – 20mg
Coca-Cola (355ml/12oz) – 34mg
Milk Chocolate (30g/1oz) – 1-15mg
Dark Chocolate (30g/1oz) – 20mg
So, coffee drinkers having difficulty falling pregnant are advised to reduce their intake significantly and find alternatives to their morning and afternoon fix.
Dulgosz L, Brachs M B 1992 Coffee reduces fertility. Epidemiologic Reviews 14:83
Bolumar F. Olsen J. Rebagliato M, Bisanti L 1997 Caffeine intake and delayed conception: a European multicentre study on infertility and subfecundity. European Study Group on Infertility and Subfecundity. American Journal of Epidemiology 146(I):32-41
Ford J H, MacCormack L, Hiller J 1994 Pregnancy and lifestyle study. Mutation Research 313:153-164
Littleton J, Clavey S 2004 Treatment of Infertility with Chinese Medicine. Churchill Livingstone
Male sub-fertility is more common than you think, in 40% of couples that are trying to conceive male fertility issues are the main problem, yet apart from assisted reproduction technology there are limited options from a western medicine prospective.
There is growing evidence that acupuncture and lifestyle changes can improve sperm parameters and therefor play a positive role in improving male fertility. At my clinic I am seeing more and more male patients who want to try and improve the quality of their semen, not only those with low motility and morphology but also those who want to give there sperm the boost it may need to help reach their partners egg.
In Ireland normal sperm count values are currently given as:
• greater than 20 million sperm per ml
• greater than 50% of sperm moving vigorously (motility)
• greater than 14 % with no deformities (morphology).
A population study looking at men’s fertility found that those men that succeeded in fathering a child had:
• greater than 48 million sperm per ml
• a motility of more than 63%
• a normal morphology of 12%
(New England Journal of Medicine 345(19):1388-1393).
This study indicates the importance of men achieving the highest sperm count and motility possible.
So why are we seeing falling sperm counts?
The main reason is realistically due to lifestyle changes and environmental factors. We are constantly being bombarded with chemicals from aerosol’s and detergents to oestrogen’s in our water, preservatives in foods as well as the hormone’s being put into our meat & poultry. With regards to lifestyle we are drinking more alcohol and smoking more than any of our forefather’s, this can have a detrimental effect on sperm quality as they heat up the body and they also damage sperm with their toxicity. Sperm production is most efficient at 34 degrees and it can be impaired by a raise in temperature, so common advice is to remove mobile phones from pockets and not to use laptops on laps.
The good news is that semen matures every 90 days so Acupuncture, lifestyle and dietary advice can help in improving the quality of semen. I recommend that the male partner receives Acupuncture for once a week for a minimum of 3 months, especially around the time of their partner’s ovulation.
Fertility in Traditional Chinese Medicine terms has everything to do with the Kidneys. The Kidneys are responsible for storing life-force (Jing) and are the root of male sexual development, libido and fertility and control the urethra and testicles.
The Liver energy of the male also has to balanced; the Liver ensures the free flow and unobstructed circulation of energy (Qi) and blood in the pelvic and genital region.
Acupuncture involves the insertion of extremely thin, sterile, single use, disposable needles into specific points on the body to address factors contributing to infertility. The effectiveness of acupuncture is evidenced by its continued use for centuries and more recently by modern clinical trials showing successful results.
I believe that lifestyle advice is crucial in the improvement of semen quality, some changes that I advise to make may be relatively easy; others much harder.
Avoid excessive heat, especially to the testes, remove mobile phones from pockets and avoid using laptops on laps.
Take suitable exercise, enough to promote the smooth flow of Qi and blood, especially to the pelvic region. No excessive exercise, avoid prolonged cycling.
Adopt a suitable diet and reduce obesity, a balanced diet avoiding excessive soya, meat, dairy and sugar and one rich in antioxidants e.g. 5-7 portions of organic vegetables a day and green tea.
Stop smoking, excessive use of alcohol and recreational drugs.
Minimise environmental pollution.
Avoid drinking from plastic bottles, eating canned foods and heating foods and drinks in plastic containers in microwaves.
I also recommend a comprehensive supplementation programme to help increase the chances of conceiving and improve the health of the baby. This is individualised to the patient’s needs.
Multi Vitamin & Mineral – to improve nutritional status.
Vitamin E – increases sperm count and carries oxygen to sex organs – D-alpha-topherol form.
Vitamin C – helps to manufacture healthy sperm, prevents sperm from sticking together and can improve their motility, can increase sperm up to 1/3.
Vitamin D – essential for the healthy development of the nucleus of the sperm cell, and helps maintain semen quality and sperm count. Vitamin D also increases levels of testosterone, which may boost libido.
Zinc – cell division and improves desire & ejaculation.
Selenium – lack of selenium is linked with sterility.
Vitamin B Complex – stress and nervous system tonic.
L-Arginine & L-Carnitine – crucial for male fertility and sperm development.
Co Q 10 – energy for sperm.
Acupuncture can assist and improve the chances of conception by preparing the body for the journey ahead. It is important that both partners are in good health at the time of conception to give the best possible start to the new life.
If you would like more information or would like to speak with me to discuss how I can help, please contact me.
Cupping is one of the oldest methods of traditional Chinese medicine. Today acupuncturists use cups made of thick glass, plastic or bamboo. Glass cups are the preferred method of delivery, because they do not break as easily and they allow the acupuncturist to see the skin and evaluate the effects of treatment.
In a typical cupping session, glass cups are warmed using a cotton ball or other flammable substance, which is soaked in alcohol, lit, and then placed, inside the cup. Burning a substance inside the cup removes all the oxygen, which creates a vacuum.
As the substance burns, the cup is turned upside-down so that the practitioner can place the cup over a specific area. The vacuum created by the lack of oxygen anchors the cup to the skin and pulls it upward on the inside of the glass as the air inside the jar cools. Drawing up the skin is believed to open up the skin’s pores, which helps to stimulate the flow of blood, balances and realigns the flow of Qi breaks up obstructions, and creates an avenue for toxins to be drawn out of the body.
Depending on the condition being treated, the cups will be left in place from 5 to 10 minutes. Several cups may be placed on a patient’s body at the same time. Some cupping treatments will also include small amounts of medicated or herbal oils being applied to the skin just before the cupping procedure, which lets the cups move up and down particular acupoints or meridians after they have been applied.
What conditions does Cupping treat?
Cupping can be used for a variety of conditions but is mainly used for muscular-skeletal pain, cold and flu’s and cold syndromes. It is very beneficial in the treatment of pain.
Is cupping safe? Does it hurt?
While cupping is considered relatively safe, it can cause some swelling and bruising on the skin. As the skin under a cup is drawn up, the blood vessels at the surface of the skin expand. This may result in small, circular bruises on the areas where the cups were applied. These bruises are usually painless, however, and disappear within a few days of treatment.
In addition, there are several instances where cupping should not be performed. Patients with inflamed skin; cases of high fever or convulsions; and patients who bleed easily, are not suitable candidates for cupping. Pregnant women should not have cupping on their stomach or lower back. If the cups are being moved, they should not cross bony areas, such as the ridges of the spine or the shoulder blades.