Tag Archives: Health

Vitamin D

As a naturopath I am always going on about the importance of Vitamin D with my patients. Vitamin D is needed to strengthen bone health, to balance the immune system, to help mental health issues especially depression, to reduce inflammation and improve intestinal lining health and is also essential for male and female fertility and pregnancy.

Vitamin D is essential for wellness
Vitamin D is essential for wellness

The reason it is so essential to fertility and getting pregnant is because it is needed to help the body create sex hormones. The correct amount of sex hormones in your body is vital to your overall well-being, otherwise you may suffer PMS, PCOS, and sadly, infertility.

Regulating cell growth is another key function of Vitamin D.

Yale University School of Medicine conducted a study of 67 infertile women, where it was discovered that a mere 7% had normal Vitamin D levels. The remainder of the women either had insufficient levels of Vitamin D or they had clinical deficiency of Vitamin D in their bodies.

Tips for Optimizing your Vitamin D Levels

  • Get 15 minutes of unprotected sun exposure daily while the sun is at its highest, between 11 and 3. Even weak sunscreens will block the ability of your skin to manufacture vitamin D. Note that you do not make Vitamin D when sitting behind a glass window.
  • Gradually build up your exposure. Start early in the year (spring), or early in the morning before the sun is strongest and slowly build up the amount of time you spend in the sun. Regular short exposures have been found to be much more effective and safer than infrequent, long ones.
  • The best places to absorb Vitamin D are your inner arms and thighs.
  • After your 15 minutes of unprotected time in the sun,¬†apply sunscreen or wear a hat and light clothing to protect yourself. Opt for sunscreens with fewer added chemicals, look in your local health store.
  • Always avoid sunburn. It is sunburn, not healthy sun exposure that causes problems.
  • Showering: Vitamin D3, an oil-soluble vitamin, is on the surface of your skin and it apparently takes up to two full days before you can absorb this vitamin into your bloodstream. So avoid washing with soap for 48 days after sun exposure. Wash your armpits and groin area with soap but the rest of your body with pure water.
  • Increase your anti-oxidants and omega 3 intake. These nutrients help to protect your skin from sun damage. Eat lots of vegetables and fruits daily, eggs and oily fish (salmon, mackerel, trout, sardines, anchovies and herrings) at least twice a week.

You can ask your GP to check your Vitamin D levels or there home kits that you can buy. I generally recommend to my patients to supplement Vitamin D3, I find that liquid drops are best in 1000iu. The dosage would be dependent on what was going on with the patient. Contact me if you would like further info on this.

Enjoy the sunshine safely ūüôā

Full-fat is good for fertility

This is a topic that I always go through with my fertility patients, please get rid of the low fat foods…! They are more damaging than good. This piece below is from the new Zita West book Eat yourself Pregnant¬†and it outlines the dangers of low-fat foods and trying to conceive.

‘Many women make the mistake of substituting foods containing fat with low-fat products, thinking they won’t gain weight using them. However, for fertility – and, for that matter, for weight management – the principle is flawed. These products often contain trans-fats, sugars and sweeteners.

Artificial sweeteners disrupt the normal hormonal and neurological signals that control hunger and satiety. Many studies have shown that a diet that is high in sweeteners in the end leads to a greater consumption of calories and so to weight gain.

But, weight aside, there is some startling evidence for how low-fat products can hamper conception. In one extensive study in the USA, women who ate two or more low-fat dairy products a day were twice as likely to have problems conceiving. Ovulation rates were 38% better among those who used full-fat milk. One reason for this might be that when the fat is skimmed off dairy products to make reduced-fat versions, estrogen and progesterone are removed too, leaving an unnatural preponderance of androgen’s – male hormones.’

heart 2

Scary stuff, my recommendations are to swap all low-fat dairy with organic full-fat dairy, or use alternative dairy products such as goat’s and sheep’s products or coconut & unsweetened almond milks and yogurts. But watch out for¬†soya products such as soya milk, as these may well have a negative effect on fertility.

As part of the fertility consultation I ask my patients to do a 3 day diet sheet. I then make individual detailed nutritional suggestions for the patient to help them conceive.

 

 

 

 

Cervical fluid/mucus/discharge?! How to recognise your fertile window…

I don’t know why but we are always grossed out by discharges and sometimes we fail to see the importance of them, especially when it comes to fertility. As part of my consultation with patients who are trying to conceive I always ask if they are aware of their fertile period? Do they notice any discharge and if so how much and when?

This ‘discharge’ (such a horrid word for such an important fertility fluid!) is vital for conception as it shows that the body is getting ready to release an egg and to aid sperm on their long journey to reach the egg for the magic conception to happen. In chinese medicine this is the time that yin turns into yang, the cooling phase of the run up to ovulation turns in the incubation phase for implantation.

As an acupuncturist and naturopath I am looking to help increase/promote cervical fluids with acupuncture, diet, lifestyle and correct supplements. And obviously to include the couple having sex in the fertile period!

There are lots of misconceptions about cervical mucus, here is some info to help you decipher your discharges…!

Fertile mucus means you are ‚Äėpotentially‚Äô fertile.
It’s not the day we see the most amount of fertile mucus (characteristically clear/egg white consistency), it’s the last day we recognise this mucus. If the mucus lasts for 4-5 days this can be key for timing intercourse.

Cervical fluid changes with fertility and goes through a predictable pattern each and every cycle. After you have finished menstruating you should have a period of no discharge at all.

It should then be:
1. Sticky – In a 28 day cycle, this will be around day 7 or so. Your cervix will start producing a sticky or pasty kind of cervical fluid. This is the beginning of the fertile period.
2. Creamy – As your cycle progresses, your estrogen level is rising daily and the water content of your cervical fluid will increase.
3. Egg white – It is called this as it resembles raw egg white. It’s clear and slippery and can usually stretch an inch or more between a finger and thumb. This is the really fertile stuff!! It’s alkaline and keep sperm alive for up to 5 days inside your body.
4. Watery – Sometimes the water content inside a woman’s cervical fluid will be so high that the eggwhite cervical fluid is more like water, it’s clear, slippery and does not hold any shape. You will know it’s there by a very wet sensation in your vagina. This is very fertile cervical mucus is the last stage of the fertile period and suggests that the egg is about to be released.
5. Dry – this happens quickly after the wet period/egg release, the fertile window has finished for this cycle. Some women do experience a water cervical fluid the day before thee period, this is the endometrial lining starting to break up.
Acupuncture, diet & supplements can help increase fertile mucus
Acupuncture, diet & supplements can help increase fertile mucus
Cervical fluid is an incredibly valuable substance that is produced by your cervix. It’s made up of water, sugars, electrolytes and proteins. Fertile cervical fluid keeps sperm alive once it is inside the vagina. It provides nutrients, a hospitable alkaline environment and aids in transportation. Cervical fluid helps the sperm survive, sometimes for up to 5 days while waiting for the egg to be released.¬†It also tells¬†a lot¬†about the state of¬†a¬†woman’s¬†hormones.
 
Cervical fluid helps the sperm in 3 ways:
1. It provides an alkaline environment for the sperm. A¬†woman’s¬†vagina is slightly acidic and hostile to sperm. Fertile¬†cervical¬†mucus¬†is alkaline, like a mans semen, and provides a safe harbour for the sperm.
 
2. It provides sustenance for the sperm while they swim on the way on up through the cervix, to reach the egg in the fallopian tube. The sperm need food along the way and fertile cervical fluid provides the needed nutrition.
 
3. It provides an easy pathway for the sperm to swim through. It also helps filter out irregular sperm so only the most suitable arrive at the egg.
There are many foods and supplements that can improve your cervical mucus such as royal jelly, evening primrose oil, increase your omega 3’s, avocados, olives etc…
I look at each women/couple individually and recommended foods and supplements to go with the acupuncture fertility program.

15 facts you may not know about Acupuncture…

Here are 15 factoids you may not know about acupuncture:

  1. Originally acupuncture needles were not made of stainless steel but of stone, bamboo, and bone.
  2. Studies have shown that acupuncture points have significantly more electrical conductivity than areas of skin without acupuncture points.
  3. Acupuncture can increase the success rate of In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) up to 65%.
  4. The word acupuncture comes from the Latin acus, “needle” and pungere, “to prick.”
  5. Acupuncture needles are single use, sterilized and pre-packaged.
  6. Acupuncture is over 5,000 years old and is one of the oldest practicing forms of medicine known to date.
  7. When performed by a properly trained and licensed practitioner, acupuncture is safe and effective, free from negative side effects.
  8. Even though a needle is being inserted into the skin, acupuncture is virtually painless.
  9. Acupuncture needles are a lot smaller than standard hypodermic needles, and they do not draw blood and are not hollow.
  10. Acupuncturists feel your pulse and look at your tongue to gain a better understanding of what is going on inside the body.
  11. Acupuncture is highly individualized ‚Äď for example, if 50 people with a cough got acupuncture, all 50 people could have different acupuncture points in their treatments.
  12. The benefits of acupuncture are sometimes difficult to measure when using western research because western research depends on a constant variable to measure all data against…something that goes against acupuncture treatment plans.
  13. Licensed acupuncturists attend an in-depth four year program and obtain over 400 clinical hours.
  14. Acupuncture is just one form of therapy used within the medical system known as Traditional Chinese Medicine, which also consists of other modalities such as herbal medicine, nutrition, cupping, moxabustion, tui na and special exercises such as Tai Chi and Qi Gong.
  15. Licensed acupuncturists in Ireland are fully insured and are registered with either the Acupuncture Foundation Professional Association or the Acupuncture Council of Ireland
Acupuncture can help treat many physical and emotional conditions.
Acupuncture can help treat many physical and emotional conditions.

If you or someone you know would like to learn more about what acupuncture can do, please contact me on 086-8163130 or email me at helena_barker@hotmail.com.

I practice in 3 locations, Navan and Slane in Co. Meath and Ongar in Dublin 15.

 

Acupuncture Awareness Week – 3rd-10th March 2014 – Get involved!

Are always curious about Acupuncture? Never got round to making an appointment? Have lots of questions about the therapy, will it hurt? can it help me? what will I experience?

Well this is for you… To coincide with the UK & Ireland Acupuncture awareness week from the 3rd – 10th March I am offering FREE Acupuncture sessions to new patients. The sessions will be at limited times and one session per person on a 1st come basis. This will be a 45 mins taster session where you will get a treatment and I will discuss how Acupuncture would help you.

FREE SESSIONS AVAILABLE:
Ananda Centre, Slane – Wednesday 5th March – 2pm, 3pm & 4pm
Body Therapy Ireland, Navan – Friday 7th March – 10am, 11am & 12pm

Why use Acupuncture?

As a natural form of healing, acupuncture has the following benefits:
1. provides drug-free pain relief
2. effectively treats a wide range of acute and chronic ailments
3. treats the underlying cause of disease and illness as well as the symptoms
4. provides an holistic approach to the treatment of disease and illness, treating the body, mind and spirit.
5. assists in the prevention of disease and the maintenance of general well-being

free

If you are interested on availing of a FREE session, please contact me on 086-8163130 or fill in the form below and I will get back to you ASAP.

Some Acupuncture info…

Acupuncture Treatments
Acupuncture is a complex medical system that is used to diagnose and treat illness, prevent disease and improve well being. It originated in China more than 3,000 years ago and due to it’s proven effectiveness has been embraced throughout the world. It involves the insertion of extremely fine pre-sterilised needles at predetermined points on the body’s surface to restore health.

Acupuncture can be used alone or combined with Western Medicine or with other forms of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) such as Herbal Medicine, Moxibustion (Heat Treatment), Cupping, Qigong, (Theraputic Exercise) and Tui-na (Chinese massage).

Commonly Treated Conditions:
The World Health Organization recognizes Acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine as a viable means of treatment for a wide range of conditions. Some of the most commonly seen complaints in the acupuncture clinic are as follows:

Infections: Colds, Flu, Viral Infections.

Ear, Nose and Throat Conditions: Sinusitis, Hay fever, Rhinitis, Catarrh.

Dermatology: Eczema, Psoriasis, Acne.

Psychological: Depression, Stress, Insomnia, Anxiety

Musculoskeletal: Arthritis, Sciatica, Pain Relief, Sports Injury, Bells Palsy.

Internal Disease: Asthma, Bronchitis, Blood Pressure, Indigestion, Bowel Problems, Diabetes, M.E., Headaches/ Migraine, M.S, Trigeminal Neuralgia.

Genitourinary/ Gynaecology: Pregnancy, Male and Female Fertility, Impotence, Premenstrual Syndrome, Menstrual Problems, Menopause, Cystitis, PCOS, Endometriosis, Fibroids, Miscarriage.

A typical Acupuncture Session

The practitioner will spend some time discussing your condition and a detailed case history is taken. Your tongue and pulse may also be examined. Total confidentiality is assured at all times.

Number of Treatments

Since each person is unique the number of treatments needed, will vary. Chronic long term conditions will take longer to treat than acute conditions that have just occurred. If the patient is in good health recovery may be quicker.
Also the frequency of treatment prescribed will have an impact. Initially treatments may be administered close together and then become less frequent as the condition improves.The adherence of the patient to the instructions provided can also influence the speed of recovery. Helena will discuss the treatment plan with the patient.

Patient Safety
Acupuncture is a safe and effective treatment. Helena uses pre-sterilized, disposable needles. Helena is a fully licensed Acupuncturist and a member of the Acupuncture Foundation Professional Association of Ireland (AFPA) and as such fully complys with association’s code of ethics and best practice.

If you are pregnant or trying for a baby it is important you let your Helena know as the treatment will need to be modified as Acupuncture is used extensively for fertility and pregnancy issues.

2014 Detox and fasting program – Week 2 – eliminate caffeine

6 Week Detox Program finishing with a 2/3 day juice fast ‚Äď This is a gentle program that will change your lifestyle and make you glow from the inside out.

Week 2 ‚Äď Caffeine Detox

Well done, hopefully you have survived week one of my detox. Well, how was it? Did you manage to keep away from the white wine?

Even if you slipped up you should carry on with the detox program, as each week is accumulative you will continue to stay clear of alcohol.

This week the item to eliminate is caffeine. This is going to be tougher as caffeine is an everyday item, the main culprits being coffee & tea.

Below is a chart that shows the caffeine content in everyday items:

Item Caffeine (mg)

Coffee, brewed (240ml/8oz) 60-120

Coffee, instant (240ml/8oz) 70

Coffee, decaf (240ml/8oz) 2-5

Tea, black, 5-min steep (240ml/8oz) 60-100

Tea, green (240ml/8oz) 20

Coca-Cola (355ml/12oz) 34

Milk Choc (30g/1oz) 1-15

Dark Choc (30g/1oz) 20

As you can see from this, it’s not just tea & coffee that you have to eliminate from your diet. Sorry the chocolate has to go…! As you may know, green tea has many health benefits but I will come back to these at a later date, for now all you need to know is that it contains caffeine so it’s a no, no.

What you can drink:

It‚Äôs all about the herbal tea‚Äôs, these days the shops are filled with so many flavours and you will be surprised at how good they taste. I recommend that you get yourself a ‚ÄėTower of Tea‚Äô, below is mine, I‚Äôve been an herbal tea addict for a long time and I‚Äôm always finding new flavours. My new favourite is from a brand called Clipper and is an Orange & Coconut flavour ‚Äď tasty.

Tea
Tower of tea!

Side effects from detoxing from Caffeine:

Caffeine is a drug. It’s addictive, gives you a sudden rush of energy and offers you a bit of a high, which is usually followed by a bit of a crash. Once you start to feel the crash, more caffeine is needed to maintain stimulation. But the biggest sign that caffeine is a drug is that when you have a go at detoxing from it, you will experience crazy withdrawal symptoms.

Headaches, nausea and moods so bad‚Ķthis is what prolonged periods of abstinence can do to the caffeine addicted. Drinking coffee is a ritual and symbol of important, busy people. The more responsibilities we have, the bigger the cup of coffee we need to carry around with us. I never drank Coffee until I started studying to be an Acupuncturist & Naturopath, I think that it was the working full-time and studying that did it. I managed to give up coffee and black tea this time last year whilst doing this detox, I’m still partial to a bit of dark chocolate now and again.
The more stress we have in our life, the more caffeine we drink. It’s a vicious cycle. We need caffeine to keep up with the pace of modern life, but if coffee is your choice, itself actually helps to create nervous energy. Coffee wakes us up and gets us going, but over time this unnatural stimulation of our nerves creates stress levels that wreak havoc on our immune systems, hormones and our adrenals.
It is widely known that caffeine enhances alertness and concentration, but the negative effects are pretty well downplayed. The health risks include inhibiting the absorption of essential minerals like iron, magnesium and zinc as well as B vitamins. Many studies have also linked heavy coffee consumption with higher risks for miscarriages, osteoporosis and heart disease.
Drinking caffeine is a habit that should be gradually given up ‚Äď especially if you rely on more than one cup each day. Caffeine withdrawal is not fun ‚Äď for you or for those around you. Here are a few things you can do to help you kick the habit:
1. Drink more water ‚Äď you can help to flush out the caffeine in your system by drinking a lot more water throughout the day.
2. Try Dandelion and Chicory root blend tea ‚Äď this tea is a great coffee substitute as it looks like coffee and it still has a rich flavor. You can also add oat milk or almond milk if you prefer it creamy. This stuff is rich in minerals, provides energy and is also known for its detoxifying properties.
3. Get plenty of rest ‚Äď when you take caffeine away, your body won‚Äôt know what‚Äôs hit it. Without that false energy, you will most likely feel tired and more lethargic than usual. Be gentle with yourself and honor your body with more sleep and rest.
Good luck this week, any questions let me know…
Helena

The natural approach to Menopause

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
  • headaches
  • insomnia
  • 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.

Menopause

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: ‚Äúbone that has holes‚ÄĚ.¬† 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‚Äôs 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

Hot spices

Animal fat from meat and dairy

Dairy products

Hot fluids

Coffee, tea and alcohol

Stop smoking

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 ‚Äď Coconut, rice, almond etc‚Ķ

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.

http://www.naturalmenopausenow.com/2012/03/23/how-to-use-maca-to-get-rid-of-menopause-problems/

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.

Exercise

Endorphins are the 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.

Stress Management

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

Vitamins, Minerals and Herbs can help with Menopausal symptoms
Vitamins, Minerals and Herbs can help with Menopausal symptoms

Herbs

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 ‚Äď which progressively improved over the treatment period ‚Äď 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.

Dampness – How to resolve it…

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 ‚Äď 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 ‚Äėtransportation and transformation‚Äô. The stronger or Spleen function is the better we are able to extract nourishment from any food to support our body‚Äôs 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 ‚Äď milk, cheese, yogurts, ice cream ‚Äď Sheep & Goats products are less dampening
  • Wheat ‚Äď breads, pastry‚Äôs, biscuits, all yeast products
  • Pork & rich meat
  • Processed foods, sugar & sweeteners
  • Concentrated juice‚Äôs especially Orange & Tomato
  • Beer
  • Bananas ‚Äď these are a big NO in TCM
  • Saturated fats

In particular foods that need to be avoided are too much raw, cold, sweet & rich foods and the overconsumption of fluid, especially cold water.

yin yang 1
Balancing your diet & lifestyle is the key to wellness in TCM

Dampness can be divided into three kinds:

Dampness

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.

Water

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.

Phlegm

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 ‚Äď enjoy your food, have a good relationship with food
  • Positive attitude ‚Äď welcome food as wholeheartedly as you can
  • Relaxation ‚Äď 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 ‚Äď 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 ‚Äď 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‚Äôt flood the Spleen ‚Äď 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‚Äôs action and weakens digestion.
  • Don‚Äôt chill the Spleen ‚Äď too much raw or chilled food or fluid will also weaken the Spleen, the digestive process needs warmth.
  • Eat your main meal early ‚Äď 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.

 

Foods which resolve Dampness

Aduki bean        Caraway             Garlic                    Mackerel                           Pumpkin

Alfalfa                  Cardamon          Green Tea           Marjoram                          Quail

Anchovy             Celery                  Horseradish      Mushroom (button)      Radish

Asparagus         Clove                    Jasmine Tea        Mustard leaf                     Rye

Barley                  Coriander           Kidney bean      Onion                                  Scallion

Basil                     Corn                     Kohlrabi              Oregano                             Turnip

Buckwheat        Daikon                 Lemon                 Parsley                               Umeboshi plums

 

Foods which resolve Water

Aduki bean       Broad bean        Grape                    Pea                                      Seaweed

Alfalfa                  Celery                   Kelp                       Plantain                              Squash

Anchovy             Clam                     Kidney bean       Plum                                    Tea

Barley                  Fenugreek          Lettuce                 Raspberry leaf                  Watercress

Basil                      Corn                     Mackerel             Rice                                      Water Chestnut

Black Soybean  Duck                     Mungbean          Sardine

 

Foods which resolve Phlegm

Almond               Grapefruit                          Mustard seed    Peppermint       Tea

Apple peel          Lemon peel                       Olive                     Plantain               Thyme

Black pepper     Liquorice                            Onion                   Radish                  Walnut

Celery                  Marjoram                           Orange peel       Seaweed              Watercress

Clam                     Mushroom (button)      Pear                      Shiitake

Garlic                    Mustard leaf                     Pepper                 Shrimp

 

If you would like any further recommendations or advice regarding Chinese food therapy and Acupuncture please do not hesitate to contact me.

 

 

Reference

Helping Ourselves ‚Äď A Guide to Traditional Chinese Food Energetics ‚Äď Daverick Leggett

 

 

 

 

Caffeine & Fertilty

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 Р3 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.

Caffeine can have an adverse effect on fertility
Caffeine can have an adverse effect on fertility

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.

References

  1. Dulgosz L, Brachs M B 1992 Coffee reduces fertility. Epidemiologic Reviews 14:83
  2. 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
  3. 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

What is Cupping?

What is Cupping and how does it work?

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.

image_cupping

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.