Currently viewing the tag: "Acupuncture"

Finally, spring may have just sprung. The long, cold and damp winter has not been kind to our bodies with exacerbations of arthritic and rheumatic pains and nasty cold and flu viruses in the air. Dark and cloudy days and staying mostly indoors have deprived us of sunlight and vitamin D. Your body may need just a gentle nudge to get it back into the seasonal flow.

 

Here are 12 signs to look out for, and the reason for you to spend a little bit of effort getting your health back on-line.

  1. Weight gain, a few extra pounds gained over the winter overeating indulgence.
  2. Tired and sluggish, can’t think properly, ‘brain fog’ and poor concentration.
  3. Emotionally feeling stressed, low and lethargic.
  4. Tired eyes, dark circles around the eyes or puffiness around the face.
  5. Digestive discomfort or bloating and heartburn.
  6. Poor sleep. Difficulty falling or staying asleep, or waking up tired and unrefreshed.
  7. Drinking alcohol in the evenings to unwind or relax.
  8. Stopped attending the usual exercise, sport, yoga, and dance or meditation class.
  9. Eating more processed food or ready meals, and less fresh fruit and vegetable.
  10. Appearance of spots, dry skin patches or exacerbation of allergies and eczema.
  11. Headaches
  12. Body aches and pains.

To get yourself back on track, here are some things you can do.

  • Shift that body: It is a known fact that physical activity promotes the release of ‘endorphins’ also know as feel good chemicals. It relaxes the muscle and joints and invigorates the mind, thus preventing low mood and depression. Movement also improves the body’s blood circulation but also lymphatic flow which is important for our immune system. When we move our muscles act as a natural pump, helping blood to return to the heart, whilst the lymph flow is increased by 15-30 times. Our bone density responds to high impact movements (like jumping), making them stronger. Exercise also helps with weight management.
  • Good sleep regimen allows the body to rest and recuperate. The body has a natural circadian rhythm which is linked to the release of hormones and regulation of body functions. Research has shown that when we are awake the brain is in a state of inflammation, and sleep helps to reduce that inflammation.
  • Hydration, the body is 70% water and the blood and lymph circulation is dependent on it. Avoid dehydrating drinks such as tea, coffee, fizzy drinks and alcohol.
  • Clean up the diet by minimising processed and high carb foods especially bread, cakes, biscuits and fatty and fried foods. Avoid sugary foods.  Freshly cooked foods are much preferred. Regularise your eating and increase fruit and vegetables and essential fats found in fish, seeds and nuts.
  • Mindfulness is an excellent practice to manage stress and emotional distress. It calms and relaxes the mind and body.
  • Friends and Family is important for our well-being. Enjoy some relaxing or playful time with them.
  • Supplements can help to make up for loss due to increased stress, but also normalise existing body levels. Stress increases cortisol levels, which makes you eat more thus contributing to weight gain. In particular it also uses up B vitamins, vitamin C and minerals magnesium and zinc. It also affects the digestive microbiome of good bacteria which is extremely important for our immune system, so increasing pre or probiotic intake through food or supplement can help.
  • Therapies like massage, acupuncture, yoga is extremely beneficial for well being. They give an extra boost to health. Their importance is even more so when the usual self-management or health changes may not be sufficient. They are an added dimension to the overall treatment to facilitate and focus on health improvement to get added benefits to getting better.

 

If you are experiencing abnormal tiredness and general weakness which does not seem to remedy with added rest; you become breathless and/or dizzy; People say you look unusually pale; there may be palpitations, headaches, brittle nails, poor appetite, swollen feet and leg pains. Then you may be Anaemic.

Anaemia is most common (but not exclusive) in adolescent girls, women in their reproductive years and pregnant women. Toddlers on milk-based diets are also at risk.  Anaemia is diagnosed when red blood cell levels fall below normal. Red blood cells contain haemoglobin responsible for carrying oxygen to the tissues. As a result of anaemia the amount of oxygen supplied to the tissues is reduced. The most common type of anaemia is Iron deficiency. Iron is needed for the production of red blood cells. The main causes of iron deficiency anaemia are;

  • Poor diet: Your body needs iron regularly. Over a period of time a diet lacking in iron will result in iron deficiency.
  • Blood loss: Loss of blood during menstruation puts women at risk of anaemia, particularly if the periods are heavy. Slow, chronic blood loss can be through peptic ulcer bleeding, a colon polyp, colorectal cancer.
  • Inability to absorb iron: Conditions like celiac disease and pancreatic disease affects intestinal absorption and can lead to iron deficiency anaemia. Hypochlorhydria is associated with low levels of hydrochloric acid in the gastric juices of the stomach which affects the absorption of iron present in the diet.
  • Pregnancy: In pregnancy it is normal for the total blood volume to increase. Without iron supplementation there may be a risk of developing anaemia. However since iron blocks the absorption of zinc, it must not be prescribed without first checking serum ferritin levels.
  • Drugs that block iron absorption: Prolonged use of antacids and ulcer medication will lower the levels of hydrochloric acid thus reduce the absorption of iron.
  • Dietary blockers: Some foods if eaten in larger amounts and frequently can hinders iron absorption e.g. calcium (milk, yogurt, cheese, broccoli, almonds), eggs contains a phosphoprotein which binds with iron, Oxalates (spinach, kale, beets, nuts chocolates, tea) bind with iron, Polyphenols found in tea, coffee, cocoa, spices, walnuts, apples, blackberries have the ability to inhibit iron absorption. Similarly tannins are naturally occurring plant-based substances can interfere with non-haem iron absorption from some plants such as beans, legumes, spinach and other dark-green leafy vegetables. Phytates (soy protein, fibre, almonds sesame, dried beans lentils, pea and whole grains) also have strong inhibitory affect on iron absorption.

Prevention

  1. Improving iron intake

Iron deficiency anaemia can be corrected by introducing plentiful of iron rich foods. These include;

  • Meat, poultry and liver
  • Seafood
  • Dark fresh green leafy vegetables, beans, peas
  • Dried fruits (raisins, apricots)
  • Iron-fortified cereals, breads and pasta
  1. Enhancing Absorption

As a general rule always take multivitamins alongside any iron supplements that may have been prescribed to you. This will enable the various chemical processes that take place when iron is being absorbed. This can further be enhanced by taking probiotics, which will be of particular benefit if there are any digestive symptoms. Drinking plentiful of fluids and water is also a must. Other things to consider include;

  • Increasing foods with high vitamin C content such as; broccoli, citrus fruits, kiwi, leafy greens, melons, peppers, strawberries and tomatoes.
  • Avoid foods containing tannins e.g. black, green and rooibos tea, coffee, grapes, wine,  sorghum and corn.
  • Avoid gluten, particularly if there is a diagnosis of celiac disease or other food allergies or intolerances. Gluten is damaging to the intestinal wall.
  • Avoid foods containing phytates (see examples above).
  • Avoid antacids and ulcer medication.
  • Long term alcohol intake can damage the gut and inhibit folate absorption and functioning of iron.

 

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Fibromyalgia  is a chronic conditions that causes widespread pain in the body. It is accompanied by increased pain sensitivity, extreme tiredness, muscle stiffness, sleep difficulties, headaches, functional impairment e.g. memory and concentration (known as “fibro-fog”) and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).

The cause of fibromyalgia is not well understood, but genetic, automimmune factors,  traumatic events and stress are contributory. Treatment is limited to improving function using pain medication, antidepressants and antiepileptic, supported by physical and talk therapy.

Although there is no cure for fibromyalgia, acupuncture can provide respite from symptoms.  One study found that 1 in 5 people suffering with fibromyalgia use acupuncture within a period of 2 years after diagnosis. The WHO recommend acupuncture for treating fibromyalgia but conclude that more research is needed.

Pain intensity was noticeably reduced after 10 weeks using tailored acupuncture treatments at weekly intervals in a multicentre trial conducted in three primary care centres. Participants were randomly assigned to real acupuncture or placebo, whilst continuing their medical management.  A total of 153 participants completed the study. The acupuncture group reported a 41% reduction in pain, compared to 27% in the placebo group. The effects were still apparent at the end of 12 months, reporting 20% and 6% reduction respectively. Other measures of anxiety, fatigue and depression were also significantly reduced at 10 weeks.

A review of multiple small studies concluded that acupuncture was safe to use for fibromylgia. Electro acupuncture was more effective than manual acupuncture for pain and stiffness, well-being, sleep and fatigue. Effects lasted up to one month.

Acupuncture is well knows to be effective in reducing many types of chronic pain, including arthritic, rheumatic, headaches. It releases feel-good natural pain killers in our body called endorphins. These same chemicals are also released after orgasm, thus leave us with a relaxed warm afterglow.  Its ability to modify pain, reduce stress and enhance well being is ideal to tackle these fibromyalgia symptoms.  The insertion and twisting needle action also release adenosine, an anti-inflammatory chemical that lingers for up to an hour after the treatment.

It is unsurprising therefore that many people with fibromyalgia would be interested in trying acupuncture.  A  Personal story  from  one sufferer shows how acupuncture  can help change lives.  Despite the mixed results from studies, most suggest that it may have a beneficial role in treating fibromyalgia, which can be used without anxiety about its safety. It can be used on its own for symptom management, but often advocated in addition to other exercise or physical program.

 

Puffy eyes, Runny nose, Sneezing and headaches…..  ?

Slowly but surely we are moving into the allergy season. The combination of sun, fresh flowers and grass and warm air could be the end of a good spring or summer.

Good News! although the seasons are unavoidable, the need for antihistamines and a constant supply of tissues can be avoided with a few simple steps.

Hydration: Make sure you are well hydrated. On average drinking 2 –2.5 litres of fluids (includes drinks and soups) daily will ensure that your body functions can be optimised.

Supplements:  Start taking supplements now so that your body is fully protected when the allergy season starts. These are called ‘essential’ because the body is unable to synthesize them and they have to be obtained directly from food sources.  Supplements  are to be taken not necessarily as a treatment, but to support general health. They will top-up any existing nutrient deficiencies. To get the most benefit choose a formula that is right for your health needs. Here are some recommendations;

  • Vitamin C with bioflavonoids – strengthens the immune system
  • Acidophilus/probiotics-  support the gut, and helps the immune system
  • Multivitamin/mineral – supports vitamin and mineral deficiency or  added requirements
  • EPA/DHA fish oils –  provides omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, which are not normally produced in the body
  • Quercetin – anti-oxidant and anti- histamine action

Honey: Honey is one of the best natural allergy treatments. In particular if you can find honey that has been produced locally. Take a teaspoon full of honey daily for at least 6 wks before the allergy season starts.

Acupuncture & Acupressure: Effective both as a treatment and prevention for allergies and headaches, acupuncture regulates the body functions thus reducing the allergy response. The best part is that you can do it YOURSELF, but can prolong the effects of acupuncture treatments therefore requiring less frequent treatments. A great time to start is 4-6 weeks before the allergy season, but if you miss this preventative window you can still use it. It is not usual for people to experience immediate clearing of sinuses and heaviness of the head.

Face allergy

Specifically, there are 7 acupuncture points that can work wonders. All it takes is a little concentration and your fingers. Stimulating the points is not a substitute for real acupuncture but is excellent as a preventative measure and for treatment of sudden allergy attacks.

 

So, where to press?

Six points on the face. Three on each side, Bladder 2, Stomach 2 and Large Intestine 20.  All three points are pressed with firm circular pressure symmetrically on each side moving in the direction shown on the picture.

 

Spleen 5The seventh point is Spleen 5, located just below and distal to the medial malleolus (prominent bone on the inner ankle). In Chinese medicine allergies are linked to ‘dampness’ and this point acts on it. Dampness in the body is not healthy and acts like heavy sludge causing obstruction. You need only hold and press this point on one leg and massage it gently with tiny circular movements. The easiest position is to sit cross legged.

Seasonal allergy sufferers no longer need to stay indoors or suffer its effects. No more, thanks to acupuncture !

 

Note: This is a revised version of an previous post published 13/6/2016.

If there is one New Year’s resolution that we should all make is, drastically reduce the amount of sugar we have in our diet. Why ?…. because it is strongly linked with causing cancer. Shockingly this was discovered in a study nearly 50 years ago – but since the research was funded by the sugar industry the results were never published.

Most of us enjoy a sweet treat, but many are addicted to the taste of sugar.  Sugar has been linked to the development of diabetes and heart disease. In 2016 a study on mice linked high sugar intake with an increased risk of breast cancer. Previous studies have highlighted an increased risk of endometrial cancer in women and colon cancer in men, although clear cut evidence is still forthcoming.

Sugar is everywhere!. Increasingly hidden sugars are a problem. From dried fruits to fruit juice. Clearly, too much sugar is not good for our health but the challenge is how to avoid it. This is especially difficult for those who have a ‘sweet tooth’ and find it hard to abstain. It is essential that the body maintains blood sugar levels within an acceptable range. When it falls too low the energy supply to the tissues is compromised.

Sucrose and fructose, both constituents of table sugar are thought to change cell metabolism and increase cancer activity. Researchers  from VIB and Vrije University in Brussels most recently discovered that a compound found in sugar stimulates aggressive cancer cells helping them to grow faster. This research reaffirms the Warburg hypothesis based on the Warburg effect. The Warburg effect explains that sugar is rapidly broken down by cancer cells as fuel for growth. The reason for the rapid breakdown is because cancer cells are fast growing and therefore greater energy needs. Levels of sugar intake is much higher than healthy cells, and results in the production of lactic acid During the sugar breakdown reaction an intermediate compound is produced which directly activates Ras (a cancer causing protein). The researchers identified a vicious cycle where the Ras protein in turn stimulates sugar breakdown.

This direct link between sugar and the aggressiveness of cancer should not be ignored. However, it does not mean that eliminating dietary sugar will make you cancer free but it will improve chances of a more successful cancer treatment.

Reducing the consumption of sugar as a New Year resolution can be a turning point for improving your health. You cannot control sugars already contained in fruits and vegetables, but you can choose to reduce how much sugar you put in your tea or coffee. Most processed foods will contain sugar. There is more sugar in pre-packaged foods than you think. Always read the label !

 

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Christmas is one of the most testing periods of the year. It can be stressful but also challenging for our digestive system. We are excited but also anxious about organising the festivities and celebrations, whilst at the same time agonise about what presents to get for our friends and family. Being the end of the year we are also preparing to ‘wind down’ and regenerate for the New Year.

 

‘Tis the season for Flu and Colds’

Changes from autumn to winter means that the period prior to Christmas is full of flu and colds. This can carry on well into the spring. Frequent travel both local and distant exposes us to different cold viruses. Minimise your risks by maintaining a healthy immune system so you are more able to fight off any viruses. Eating a healthy diet, getting enough sleep and not smoking will help. More about flu supplements.

 

 ‘All I want for Christmas is Food’ 

Food and drink is a large part of Christmas. We must remember to stuff the turkey, but not ourselves. Food is always plenty at Christmas, turkey, nuts, chocolates, cheese, pudding, mince pies and cheese straws.  One Christmas dinner can add up to 3000 calories, between 500 -1200 calories more than the average adult requirement.  This does not include what we eat the rest of the day. Slowing down the speed of eating and savouring each bite will help to make the meal more satisfying. Remember that it takes our brain 20 min to register that the stomach is full.  A huge meal will give us indigestion and make us tired, thus contributing to weight gain. Be mindful about what you eat, and decide if it is something you really want before popping it into your mouth. Don’t eat it just because it is there.

 

‘Keep calm and say Ho, Ho, Ho……’                                                         

Don’t stress about making sure Christmas is Stress-Free. Most of us will be working through long lists of shopping, cooking and cleaning and visitors, so try to keep things manageable. Plan ahead and try to be organised. Shopping online can make things easier and if you are terrible at wrapping presents use gift bags.  It’s not a disaster if everything is not perfect and the mashed potatoes were a bit lumpy, or that the top of the Christmas tree you bought is not perfect – it’s what makes Christmas memorable. You could think ahead and consider organising some therapeutic treatments in the New year. Complementary therapies work really well for stress relief.

 

Peace, love and Joy’ 

Catching up with family and friends is a big part of the Christmas spirit. Instead of the usual salutatory wishes in a festive card, consider instead a photo card or a few sentences updating them about you and the family.   We have little choice in who we are related to, so there will always be a critical mother-in-law or a disapproving relative.  Prepare yourself for what is to come, but remember it is only for one day and you still have the rest of the year without them.

 

‘Silent night’

Make sure you rest and renew with plenty of restful sleep. Despite the time off work, late night celebrations from Christmas to the New Year will disturb our normal sleep pattern. Sleep hugely influences our physical and mental wellbeing. It is when our body heals and recovers from our waking activities. Try to return to your normal sleep pattern as soon as possible. Further about the benefits of sleep here.

 

‘Don’t get Ho, Ho, Hammered!’ 

During Christmas, alcohol is free flowing, mulled wine, bucks fizz, brandy, wine and even alcoholic punch. Don’t just indulge, decide what your limits are and then keep tabs on how much you are drinking. Mix non-alcoholic drinks in between and it will make it much more enjoyable. Excess alcohol can affect others. Be aware that although it can lift your mood initially, it is also a depressant and in some people can bring out unsociable and aggressive behaviour.  There is a considerable rise in the number of assaults and drink driving over Christmas and New Year. Added to this is increased incidence of alcohol poisoning.

 

Happy New Year! 

Let’s be honest, most of us spend the entire year not thinking about our health. Review the past year and consider if your health needs some attention. If you have had more frequent flu and colds, developed an allergy or skin condition, tend to get tired more quickly, fatigued most of the time, bones and joints ache, have a brain fog or spend time feeling frustrated and depressed, then it is time to make a plan to do something about it. It is more important than ever to get out the vitamins and minerals, consider having some therapies or book a doctor’s appointment.

 

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year !

Acupuncture has a long history of use to treat many conditions, including pain, depression, fatigue and addictions.  It is known to effect local responses as well as distal changes through neurological and endocrine systems. When used together with heat treatment it can cause multiple biological responses, seen both in animals and humans.  However, the mechanism and biochemical changes responsible for these effects are still unclear.  Chinese concepts refer to the flow of Qi, five element theory and yin and yang. Anatomical studies show that most acupoints located along the meridian lines (also known as channels) are located closely to nerve fibre distribution and blood vessels. Interestingly, there is also an increase in hair follicles and sweat glands at these points.

Nitrous Oxide (NO) is known to play an important physiological role in skin local microcirculation, neurotransmission, immunity and wound healing. It produces relaxation of blood vessels via an increase in NO synthase acitivty, but also utilizes the nitrate-nitrite-NO pathway in the human skin. Studies in rats have also shown that NO content and NO synthase protein levels are in the skin tissue at acupoints and meridian lines. Repeated thermal application also increases immunoreactivity and NO synthase in hamsters. NO also mediates noradrenergic function on skin sympathetic nerve activation, which contributes to low resistance characteristics of acupoints and meridians.

One crossover study conducted on 20 volunteers who underwent a real acupuncture and then non-invasive sham acupuncture in the hand or forearm with 1 week interval between treatments. The blood plasma concentration of NO in the acupunctured arm and hand was significantly increased, which was not observed in the sham acupuncture.

A more recent published study at the Harbor-UCLA Medical Center examined the effect of manual acupuncture and electrical heat to the release of nitric oxide (NO) over the human skin. Participants included 25 volunteers (men and women) aged 18-60 yrs. Participants were randomly asked to undergo manual acupuncture over the pericardium meridian, or heat treatment over the lung meridian. NO was monitored using a Biocapture device with a collecting solution taped to the skin along the meridians. Results found that manual acupuncture and electrical heat cause release of NO from the local skin, which was almost doubled at acupuncture points.

Initial pilot studies also show that the extent of NO production can vary depending on the person’s age and gender due to the differences in sympathetic acitivity, body weight, hormones, sweat rates and skin thickness. There was no noticeable difference between different ethnic groups.

The importance of a rich blood circulation is an evident necessary part of tissue healing, and suggests the rationale for subsequent pain relief or sensitising substances. These studies determined that acupuncture elevates the local level of NO in the treated areas, thus increasing blood flow and warmth. There is vasodilation accompanied neurochemical changes which may further contribute to generation of NO. Thus suggesting that acupuncture treatment using a reinforced technique and the addition of electrical heat will improve local circulation.

Clinical experience has shown that the use of acupuncture for pain relief is an excellent alternative to the use of medicinal pain killers.  However we must not ignore the benefits of increase blood circulation for other conditions, therefore improving the overall body functions.  My own clinical practice regularly incorporates the use heat in the form of direct or indirect moxa or electrical heat. We have always found that the addition of heat enhances the needle effects, thus confirming the above research findings. It should be a treatment choice for those experiencing pain but in particular where there is chronic pain.

 

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Farmers know it:  If you hope for a good harvest, prepare the field well before planting. That’s as true for your family as it is for a crop of barley. This is true for both men and women, particularly if you are experiencing fertility problems or planning to undergo IVF treatment.

As science and medicine unlock the intricacies of our genes, we already know that they’re not an unalterable inheritance from our own parents.  Your body is constantly rewriting biological code. Add to this the contraceptive pill and HRT- major risk factors for heart and arterial disease and cancer (to name a few), nutrient deficiencies and stress, and you have a pretty potent chemical mix. Poofh ! and you have a new biological code giving the orders resulting in fertility problems.

When you give it optimal fuel and avoid environmental hazards, you help it repair transcription errors and disarm disease triggers.

If you are of reproductive age–even if you don’t intend to have children now, are not in a long-term relationship or aren’t sexually active–these suggestions are wise to consider.  Life can change in an instant.  Birth control can fail.  And even an unplanned-for child is entitled to be born as healthy as possible.  Just like a farming crop it takes 3 months for an egg or sperm to mature, so start to make changes as early as possible to get your health in good order.

Here are some helpful tips both for fertility problems or if you are planning to get pregnant.

  • Recognize that your physical and mental well-being are your greatest assets. If you’re in a relationship, encourage your partner to value good health too.
  • Good hormone status indicators are a regular menstrual cycle, free from pre-menstrual tension and mood swings. Hormones are highly dependent on micronutrients. Western diets high in processed foods, carbohydrates and sugar, along with antibiotics and use of hormones increases the risk of yeast infections e.g. vaginal thrush.
  • Take a good-quality daily multivitamin, essential fatty acids and vitamin C, D. This applies to both parents. No matter how good your diet is, the challenges of modern life put enormous stress on your body. Questionable modern farming methods also compromise the value of nutrients in food.   Good health is more than the absence of disease, and many of us are deficient in essential micro-nutrients.
  • If you are a smoker or drinker, your body is under even more stress, and you may be deficient in vitamin C and B-complex vitamins. Low levels of folic acid, for example, are a leading cause of some preventable birth defects, and B-vitamins are essential for good nerve function and energy metabolism. It’s important to remember that by the time most women realize they’re pregnant and begin receiving prenatal care, crucial developmental stages have already occurred in their babies’ brains and nervous systems. Get help in quitting. Unknowingly, you may be self-medicating for undiagnosed anxiety or depression.  Having a discussion with a non-judgmental health professional is the first step in freeing yourself from addictive behaviors.  Improving your diet may help you to resist cravings or to eliminate them entirely.
  • Reduce your toxic chemical load from e.g. processed foods, coffee, tea, alcohol, sugary drinks, additives, deodorants, shower gels and pesticides.
  • Stress is one of the biggest cause of fertility problems. Take time to relax. Stress affects the hypothalamus (part of the brain) which regulates the hormones needed for normal menstrual cycle and release of the egg. During stress the body behaves like it is in survival mode and starts to make more cortisol and adrenaline hormones. In chronic stress they have to be kept constantly high, and this is where the problem lies. For the adrenal glands to make cortisol they need progesterone – the pregnancy hormone. Thus, low progesterone levels create an imbalance with oestrogen and testosterone. Strengthening the adrenals and managing the stress will allow them to return to good function. The effectiveness of therapies such as acupuncture and massage in increasing fertility may be in their ability to counteract stress and support the adrenals thus normalizing hormone regulation.
  • A family health history will tell you if there is a history of early menopause or fertility problems then take this into consideration. Find a trusted health professional to discuss any concerns you may have now. In many cases, just because an illness may run in your family doesn’t mean you’ll inevitably get it too, or pass it down to future children. Improving your diet, exercising and reducing stress can all help armor you against a predisposition to serious disease.
  • If you have existing health problems then do all of the above plus get professional advice.

If you are planning to undergo IVF (fertility) treatment, then you may need additional support. Most clinics advise on having acupuncture treatments to alleviate stress, but also regulate your hormones. Acupuncture is well known to greatly boost your chances of IVF success.

Do you have questions or want further information on how we can help you have a healthy and successful pregnancy ?  Contact us.

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IVF (in vitro fertilization) is a modern miracle, responsible for 3% of babies born in the UK. However undergoing IVF treatment can be extremely stressful. For the women it is often a lonely road speckled with feelings of failure, guilt and desperation. This is made worse when seeing friends, family and colleagues enjoy the pleasures of having children.

The media are good at writing IVF success stories, but they fail to report those that have failed. Most people are unaware that two thirds of all IVF cycles fail. That even with seemingly perfect laboratory embryos something else can still unbalance the equation resulting in disappointment. Added to this is the financial burden, particularly when couples reach out to private clinics. Many will no doubt readily share their experience of huge roller coaster of emotional pain and anguish. Reasons for cycle failure are multiple, ranging from genetic, chromosomal, implantation problems, other gynaecological problems, general health, nutrition, age, stress and other nameless factors. For this reason it would make sense to maximise the success rate, but how would you do this?

Preparation is the key to success! It takes 3-4 mths for an egg to mature so the earlier you start the better. The more positive steps you take the greater benefit you will gain. Focus on preparing your body and mind for the journey ahead – “Creation of a baby”. Make improvements to your nutrition early. A good nutritious diet supported by vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and essential fatty acids will ensure that good quality eggs are produced. A nutritionist will be able to recommend the best supplements for your need.

Many IVF clinics recommend using acupuncture as an adjunct to maximise treatment success. Fertility enhancements provided by acupuncture apply to both natural conception and IVF patients. A study by Homerton University Hospital London, involved 160 couples experiencing fertility problems. Half were assigned to have four sessions of acupuncture during their IVF cycle. Of those who received acupuncture 46.2% successfully achieved pregnancy. Amongst those who did not pregnancy rate was 27.7%.

Acupuncture is a well know regulator of hormones and works by affecting the hypothalamic-pituitary-ovarian axis, which is central to the fertility process. Scientific data shows pregnancy rates can benefit by;

  • Regulating hormonal secretions and balance thus improving menstrual and ovulation regularity and normalising ovulation pattern.
  • Normalizes basal body temperature patterns
  • Improving the quality of eggs and sperm
  • Increases embryo survival and implantation
  • Improves blood flow to the uterus.
  • Enhance sense of well-being and relaxation, which reduces production of harmful stress chemicals.
  • Moderate immune function, which can cause implantation failure.

From my experience many women have emotional blockages which need to be cleared. The treatment is focused on supporting the yin and increasing blood circulation to the uterus and ovaries, whilst at the same time supporting the kidney energy to improve hormonal regulation. Acupuncture has long been used to improve fertility and help couples conceive, both naturally and supporting IVF. The more you do to help your mind and body, the better the chances of success.

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Diabetes is  life-long health condition where the amount of glucose (sugar) in the blood is too high because the body is not able to use it properly. Left untreated, the high blood glucose levels affect many different organs and tissue consequently resulting in serious health complications. Blood glucose levels are regulated by a hormone known as insulin, which is produced by the pancreas in the body. Glucose comes from food that is digested and also produced by the liver. Insulin allows glucose to enter the body’s cells where it is used as fuel for the cell functions.  In diabetes the body is not able to utilize glucose properly and so it builds up in the blood. 

There are two main types of diabetes;

Type 1 diabetes, is the most common type of diabetes in childhood accounting for around 10% of all diabetes. It usually develops at any time before the age of 40yrs, but most often in childhood. In this type the pancreas doesn’t produce any insulin. Treatment is regular insulin therapy.

Type 2 diabetes, is usually found in people over the age of 40 yrs, but can develop earlier. It accounts for around 85-95% of diabetics. This type is characterised by insufficient insulin production, OR the body cells may react to it poorly. In the early stages the condition can be well managed by changes to life style and diet.

There is no cure for diabetes hence developing methods that help the body to regulate blood sugar levels efficiently is the most effective strategy. Maintaining a healthy, balanced diet and regular exercise are crucial lifestyle factors that can help to achieve this, but introducing additional supportive dietary changes can further assist in blood sugar control.

Diabetes &  Apple cider vinegar

Apple cider vinegar (ACV)  is derived from cider or freshly pressed apple juice. ACV is produced after a slow process spanning several weeks or months in which sugars are broken down. There is some evidence suggesting that consuming apple cider vinegar may be useful in helping people with diabetes to control their blood sugar levels. One study  on rats with or without diabetes demonstrated that ACV had a lowering effect on blood sugar levels, but also a positive impact on cholesterol.

Researchers also looked at how carbohydrates affected blood sugar levels in 3 groups of participants who had type 2 diabetes, prediabetes, or neither condition. Typically, high carbohydrate foods will cause a spike in blood sugar levels immediately after eating. They gave all 3 groups less than half an ounce of ACV after a carbohydrate rich meal and compared it to consumption of a placebo drink. Results showed a significant reduction in blood sugar levels after taking ACV.  Another study  compared ACV and water in patients with type 2 diabetes. They found that drinking 2 tablespoons of  ACV along with a cheese snack before bedtime was sufficient lower blood sugar levels significantly the following morning.

It is thought that acetic acid found in ACV may play a role in slowing down the conversion of complex carbohydrates into sugar in the bloodstream. Thus providing more time for sugar to be removed from the bloodstream and allowing more constant blood sugar levels and limit spikes.

Diabetes & Cinnamon

Cinnamon is a well know spice made from the inner bark of the Cinnamomum trees. For thousands of years it has been highly prized for its medicinal properties. Scientific research has confirmed  its many health benefits. It has shown a potential role in the treatment of blood sugar control, as well as some associated symptoms. Research on blood sugar control is mixed and in the early stages and most studies have been very small, therefore more research is needed.

A 2003 study compared the effects of a daily intake of 1, 3, and 6 grams (g) of cinnamon with a group that received a placebo for 40 days. All three levels reduced blood sugar levels and cholesterol, which were observed even after 20 days after stopping cinnamon intake.

In a  2016 study of 25 people gave particiapnts 1 g of cinnamon for 12 weeks. They found that there was a reduction in fasting blood sugar levels, which may be beneficial for people with poorly controlled diabetes. However an earlier study in 2013 had a different result. The study, which used a more reliable method, and 70 participants found that 1 g of cinnamon per day for 30 days and 60 days offered no improvements in blood sugar levels.

A 2016 analysis published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics looked at 11 studies of cinnamon in the treatment of diabetes. All 11 produced some reductions in fasting blood sugar levels. Studies that measured HbA1C levels also achieved modest reductions, but only four studies achieved reductions in line with the American Diabetes Association’s treatment goals suggesting that cinnamon may be a useful treatment tool, but not a replacement for conventional diabetes treatments.

Summary

Despite the lack of, or mixed reports for people with type 2 diabetes it would be safe to consider consuming diluted ACV, 1-2 tablespoon in a large glass of water before bedtime to provide some benefit to blood sugar levels.

There is no research that suggests cinnamon negatively affects blood sugar, meaning that is safe to use for people who are looking for alternative diabetes treatment options. Cinnamon can be taken as a supplement to conventional diabetes medication should start small, with about 1 g per day (about ¼ to ½ teaspoon).

It is important for people to note that ACV or cinnamon should not be considered a quick fix or complete treatment for diabetes. Eating a diet low in carbohydrates, high in fiber, regular exercise, multivitamins, essential fatty acids  and complementary therapies to reduce stress and maximize body function will additionally help in diabetes control.