“Rest and Digest” vs. “Fight or Flight” – How Stress Affects your Health

by Anna Gutermuth

You may have heard the terms “Rest and Digest” and “Fight or Flight,” but do you understand what that really means for your health?

“Rest and Digest,” sometimes alternatively referred to as “Feed and Breed,” is shorthand for the Parasympathetic Nervous System.  On the other hand, “Fight or Flight” (also known as “Fight Fright or Freeze”) is another way of referring to the Sympathetic Nervous system.  Together they make up the Autonomic Nervous System which is what controls all the involuntary actions in our body.

These two systems very much reflect the concept of Yin and Yang because they are opposing forces which regulate and balance each other.  The Parasympathetic nervous system is more Yin in nature and the Sympathetic is Yang.  Just as Yin and Yang seek to balance each other, so should the Sympathetic and Parasympathetic nervous systems.

The purpose of these systems is to assess our environment and allocate bodily resources according to importance.  Cortisol, the main stress hormone in the body, dominates the “Fight or Flight” system where energy is sent to our eyes, lungs and muscles and allows us to make quick responses in the face of impending danger.

In most of human evolution, “Fight or “Flight” was only needed in life-or-death situations.  The problem with modern lifestyles is that they can trigger cortisol release all day long.  Low blood sugar levels from irregular diets, work or family-related stress, and over-stimulation from TV/internet/phones can all cause stress.

Unfortunately, this constant flood of cortisol causes many people to find themselves permanently stuck in “Fight or Flight” mode, even at night when cortisol levels are supposed to be the lowest.  In Chinese Medicine we would call this Yin Deficiency because the body is not getting enough “yin time,” meaning it is not the “rest and digest” state enough.  This can lead to chronic stress, insomnia, inflammation, headaches, digestion problems and eventually Adrenal Fatigue.

Hammock by StuartAlternatively, the “Rest and Digest” system focuses on relaxing, properly breaking down food, procreating and sleeping.  This is the system that focuses more on our long-term health, since it is activated in response to a calm, safe environment.  It’s important to understand that “Rest and Digest” is not something we only do on vacation; it needs to happen every day to keep the body functioning properly.

In our clinic, we often see overly stressed patients having problems with menstruation or getting pregnant.  This is because the body is constantly getting the signal that it is in danger, so it focuses on surviving day-to-day rather than diverting resources for long-term health.

The good news is the Acupuncture is amazingly effective to snap out of the “Flight or Fight” mode and relax into the “Rest and Digest” state.  This is why patients complaining of insomnia and anxiety often have no problem falling asleep during an Acupuncture treatment.

If you experience stress, insomnia, chronic inflammation, problems with your reproductive health or you feel your “Flight or Fight” system may be overstimulated, then consider adding Acupuncture to your routine of self-care.  Practices like meditation, yoga, Qi Gong, massage, and hypnotherapy are all helpful tools to manage stress as well.  Find what combination works for you.

(Post by Jacqueline Gabardy of FLOAT: Chinese Medical Arts; Photo credits: 5/365 by Anna Gutermuth, Hammocks by Stuart)

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"Rest and Digest" vs. "Fight or Flight" – How Stress Affects your Health

by Anna Gutermuth

You may have heard the terms “Rest and Digest” and “Fight or Flight,” but do you understand what that really means for your health?

“Rest and Digest,” sometimes alternatively referred to as “Feed and Breed,” is shorthand for the Parasympathetic Nervous System.  On the other hand, “Fight or Flight” (also known as “Fight Fright or Freeze”) is another way of referring to the Sympathetic Nervous system.  Together they make up the Autonomic Nervous System which is what controls all the involuntary actions in our body.

These two systems very much reflect the concept of Yin and Yang because they are opposing forces which regulate and balance each other.  The Parasympathetic nervous system is more Yin in nature and the Sympathetic is Yang.  Just as Yin and Yang seek to balance each other, so should the Sympathetic and Parasympathetic nervous systems.

The purpose of these systems is to assess our environment and allocate bodily resources according to importance.  Cortisol, the main stress hormone in the body, dominates the “Fight or Flight” system where energy is sent to our eyes, lungs and muscles and allows us to make quick responses in the face of impending danger.

In most of human evolution, “Fight or “Flight” was only needed in life-or-death situations.  The problem with modern lifestyles is that they can trigger cortisol release all day long.  Low blood sugar levels from irregular diets, work or family-related stress, and over-stimulation from TV/internet/phones can all cause stress.

Unfortunately, this constant flood of cortisol causes many people to find themselves permanently stuck in “Fight or Flight” mode, even at night when cortisol levels are supposed to be the lowest.  In Chinese Medicine we would call this Yin Deficiency because the body is not getting enough “yin time,” meaning it is not the “rest and digest” state enough.  This can lead to chronic stress, insomnia, inflammation, headaches, digestion problems and eventually Adrenal Fatigue.

Hammock by StuartAlternatively, the “Rest and Digest” system focuses on relaxing, properly breaking down food, procreating and sleeping.  This is the system that focuses more on our long-term health, since it is activated in response to a calm, safe environment.  It’s important to understand that “Rest and Digest” is not something we only do on vacation; it needs to happen every day to keep the body functioning properly.

In our clinic, we often see overly stressed patients having problems with menstruation or getting pregnant.  This is because the body is constantly getting the signal that it is in danger, so it focuses on surviving day-to-day rather than diverting resources for long-term health.

The good news is the Acupuncture is amazingly effective to snap out of the “Flight or Fight” mode and relax into the “Rest and Digest” state.  This is why patients complaining of insomnia and anxiety often have no problem falling asleep during an Acupuncture treatment.

If you experience stress, insomnia, chronic inflammation, problems with your reproductive health or you feel your “Flight or Fight” system may be overstimulated, then consider adding Acupuncture to your routine of self-care.  Practices like meditation, yoga, Qi Gong, massage, and hypnotherapy are all helpful tools to manage stress as well.  Find what combination works for you.

(Post by Jacqueline Gabardy of FLOAT: Chinese Medical Arts; Photo credits: 5/365 by Anna Gutermuth, Hammocks by Stuart)

Acupuncture Happy Hour at FLOAT: Thursday 12/5, 3-7pm

FYI – Acupuncture Happy Hour is a kid-friendly event, but the treatment rooms will be adult-only to preserve a quiet, therapeutic environment in which you can relax.  The holiday craft will be supervised by a fabulous artist/kid-wrangler, and is appropriate for kids ages 18 months and above.  Babies and younger children are welcome, as long as they are accompanied by an adult at all times.

This event will sell out, so call now so you can get the time slot you want: 818-392-8797.  We hope to see you there!

Did you just stumble on this blog post?  Find out more about FLOAT: Chinese Medical Arts here.  We look forward to meeting you soon!

Post by Abigail Morgan, L.Ac.. Owner of FLOAT: Chinese Medical Arts; water image by Dave Clark Photography, all rights reserved.

 

$25 Off Initial Visit for New Patients Only

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Now through December 24, 2013 – take advantage of a rare discount on the initial visit for new patients!  As you’ve surely noticed, the holiday season insanity starts with Halloween (yesterday!), and along with it, stress, common colds and the lack of self-care time.  Prove ’em wrong and thrive through it!  If you have a friend or family member considering acupuncture, please share this post with him or her.

Posted by Abigail Morgan, L.Ac, Owner of FLOAT: Chinese Medical Arts.

10 Ways to Thrive In Cold & Flu Season

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We might not have actual snow here in the Los Angeles area (I took the selfie above last week while visiting family back East), but we still have cold & flu season.

Are you overwhelmed by the amount of antibiotics you and/or your kids take every year? Eager to stay healthy through the holidays and germy season?

Here are my top 10 holistic tips on how to thrive through cold and flu season…

1. Wear a scarf

Grandma was right!  It’s crucial to cover your neck, especially the back of your neck and the occipital ridge.  There is a saying in Traditional Chinese Medicine, “wind is the leader of a thousand diseases.”  Cover your neck (and head too, when it’s really cold) so the wind doesn’t whisk pathogens into the body via the acupuncture points along the back of the neck and head.  Pack a scarf in your carry-on bag while traveling; those vents on airplanes blow air (+ all kinds of germs from other passengers) directly at your head and neck. Even during summer, it’s important to keep our necks covered and away from drafts when we are constantly in and out of air conditioning.

2. Get Acupuncture

It is especially important to get acupuncture at the change of the season.  Acupuncture helps boost immunity, regulates the endocrine system, reduces inflammation in the respiratory system (and elsewhere), and is excellent at bringing your immune system into high gear when you are fighting a cold or virus.  If you think you’re coming down with something, see your local acupuncturist, and get them to prescribe some herbs for you to take home.  This time of year, many of our patients call us for a treatment at the first sign of a cold; we often get a call or email the next day letting us know they are once again feeling like themselves. Book with me here.

3. Take adaptogenic tonic herbs to help fend off colds and flu

Adaptogenic herbs are plants that have a regulating, normalizing effect on the body; in other words, they stimulate our body to do what it should in order to restore us to optimal health.  One single herb may cool down your mother’s night sweats while it warms up your cold hands and feet.  Adaptogenic herbs are useful for reducing stress as well as keeping us healthy through the Cold & Flu season.  The best way to determine the best herbs for you is to see a Licensed Acupuncturist & Herbalist.  We can prescribe stronger, medicinal herbs to treat illness and we can also prescribe more gentle, tonic herbs to boost immunity and keep you healthy. (And please…don’t buy herbs on Amazon.)

4. Get as much sleep as you can! 

LSleeping

Ahh, sleep is so good…

This may seem impossible if you have young children (as I do), but if you want to stay healthy through the cold and flu season (roughly October through March), sleep is worth prioritizing.  Getting restful sleep is more important than having a clean house.  It’s more important than keeping up with social media.  It’s more important than dashing around “trying to get stuff done” as soon as your kids are asleep.  When we sleep, we build new cells, our Nervous System and brain regenerate.  Nighttime is Yin Time; we need a balance of yin and yang each day, and if we do yang activities (such as working out at the gym, cleaning the house, catching up on email, spacing out in front of screens) during the yin time, we drain our yin substances and make ourselves more open to getting sick.  So go to sleep already.

6. Take a Cod Liver Oil supplement

Cod Liver Oil contains the fat-soluble vitamins A and D, which support the immune system, eye health, bones and epithelial tissue. It contains Omega-3 fatty acids (EPA and DHA), which have an anti-inflammatory effect on the body, and have been found to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.

At FLOAT we carry an excellent and affordable Cod Liver Oil in shelf-stable capsule form, made by Standard Process ($42.50 for 180 capsules). It is extracted from fish found in deep Norwegian waters, and contains 100% of the FDA-recommended amount of EPA and DHA for pregnant and nursing women. Standard Process supplements are only available from Licensed healthcare practitioners.

 5. Eat Real Food in season

Salads are for summer! In the colder months, when the days are shorter and the nights are longer, we are supposed to eat food that is grown locally and in season, and that warms our body.  Check your local farmer’s markets: right now, in Southern California, the markets are full of root vegetables, pumpkins, dark leafy greens, apples, pears, pomegranates, and fermented foods such as pickles and saurkraut.  You’ll also find organic grass-fed beef, bison, pasture-raised chickens, local eggs, goat cheese.  You won’t find a lot of lettuces, cucumbers and spinach: even in Southern California, the cold raw veggies don’t like the colder nights.  In the Fall and Winter, the best thing you can feed your body is a variety of freshly prepared COOKED vegetables, warming slow-cooked soups and stews, organic cooked grains such as barley, oatmeal and rice, fermented foods, and good fats.  Locally grown organic fruits in moderation are also helpful.

7. Sit down at mealtime

According to Traditional Chinese Medicine, meals should always be eaten sitting down, with both feet on the floor.  This encourages better digestion and absorption of our food.  Try to resist the easy quick meal eaten in the car or while chasing your kids around.  Take time to enjoy a meal with your family.  When you’re at work, don’t eat at your desk, in your car, or while shopping at Target.  Please.

8. Eat Nature’s probiotic: fermented foods

80% of your immune system is located in your digestive system.  “You are what you eat” has never been more true!  Probiotic foods (such as fermented veggies, saurkraut, pickles, beet kvass and kombucha) can modulate your body’s immune response via your gut’s mucosal immune system.  Avoid cheap commercial brands with added vinegar, and make your own or buy them at your local farmer’s market, a good health food store, or my favorite local “food club,” Culture Club 101 in Pasadena.

9. Sit in a Salt Room

If you are prone to chronic colds, allergies, or you or your child has a history of asthma, spend time relaxing in a salt room.  According to Salt Studio Pasadena, halotherapy (also known as salt therapy) is “an all-natural, drug-free treatment that benefits the lungs and skin with the use of dry sodium chloride (salt) aerosol…salt therapy reduces inflammation in the respiratory tract and aids in mucous clearing, leaving patients breathing easier.”  Some traditional Korean spas also have salt rooms.  45 minutes spent chilling out in a salt room will leave you refreshed and feeling like you had a 3-hour nap!

10. Meditate

Buddha

In a study at Harvard Medical Center (May 2013), Dr. Herbert Benson reported that “a range of disease-fighting genes were active in the relaxation practitioners that were not active in the control group.”  So, meditation is not only for stress relief: it keeps you healthy.  I enjoy doing mini-meditations with my kids (who are 3 and 5) on weekend mornings when we’re not rushed, and in between patients during my busy days at the clinic.  I also wake up before the rest of my family a few days a week so I can do 20-30 minute meditations by myself when the house is quiet.  I am convinced that meditation helps keep me healthy, especially when I’m treating sick people every day.

If you’ve never tried meditation before, check out Oprah and Deepak Chopra’s 21-Day Meditation Experience.

Or try sitting in a quiet spot outdoors, closing your eyes, and listening to the birds.  Focus on your breath, count to 100 and back to 1 again.  But if it’s chilly, wear a scarf.

Post by Abigail Morgan, L.Ac, FABORM, owner of FLOAT: Chinese Medical Arts; all photographs by Abigail Morgan or Dave Clark, all rights reserved.)

How Does Acupuncture Work?

How Does Acupuncture Work?

Today’s Guest Post is by my associate acupuncturist, Jacqueline Gabardy, L.Ac., who attempts to answer one of the most common questions we get asked: How Does Acupuncture Work, anyway?

I hear this question often from patients, friends, family, and skeptics alike.

Most people want an answer that is scientific.  Many people consider me a good candidate to answer because I am a child of chemists who graduated pre-med from USC before becoming a Board-Certified Acupuncturist and Herbalist.

like comparing apples and carrotsEach time I am asked this question, I struggle to make my response clearer and more concise.  The problem is, acupuncture is based on a completely different ideology than most of us are used to.  There simply isn’t proper language to adequately translate all of the concepts between the two models.  As my colleague and owner of FLOAT, Abigail often says, comparing Traditional Chinese Medicine and Western Medicine is like comparing apples and carrots.

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) includes the practice of acupuncture, herbal medicine and several other techniques.  It is holistic which is it takes the whole patient into account during diagnosis and treatment.  The points we use vary from visit to visit as a person’s body responds to the treatment or undergoes everyday stress.  Many of the treatments Acupuncturists use have been employed for thousands of years and proven effective through experience.

substanced like qi have no equivalent in western medicineAn Acupuncturist views the body as interactions between several different organ systems.  Each has an interior-exterior relationship, meaning symptoms occurring elsewhere in the body can be the result of an imbalance in an organ system.  There are also discrepancies between how Eastern and Western medicines view the components of the body.  While they agree on blood for example, other substances like Qi have no equivalent in Western Medicine.

On the other end of the spectrum, the standard Western scientific method seeks to breakdown complicated systems into smaller, more understand parts.  While effective for understanding things on a microscopic level, when zoomed in that close you lose a sense of the big picture.

For instance, in order to understand acupuncture in a scientific way, research conducts controlled experiments to determine if certain points are effective treatment.  In order to compare the results, patients must be treated in groups and all receive the same treatment regardless of their individual presentation.  In reality the success rate would be much higher if patients could be treated on a case-by-case basis.

Rather than “how does acupuncture work?” I think asking “how would acupuncture work for me?” gives more useful information.  If you are asking about how acupuncture helps to improve fertility, treats back pain, or regulates digestion, the answers are all going to be very different.

(Photo by Dave Clark – all rights reserved; Post by Jacqueline Gabardy, L.Ac. Associate Acupuncturist at FLOAT: Chinese Medical Arts)

Acupressure for Labor & Birth: A Couples’ Workshop, 9/26 6:30-9:30pm

Event: Acupressure for Labor & Birth, Prenatal Acupuncture

Acupressure for Labor & Birth: A Couples’ Workshop
Abigail Morgan, L.Ac., Licensed Acupuncturist and Herbalist and mother of two, will lead a workshop on 9/26/13 from 6:30-9:30pm, on how to support your partner during labor and birth using simple acupressure techniques. Learn how to use your hands to give physical support to your partner during the birth process. What points can help reduce pain, soothe anxiety, bring baby down, make contractions stronger? We will go over good body mechanics for the partner, and do lots of hands-on work to help each couple find ways to use this ancient method to enhance the labor process. Becca Gordon, doula/childbirth educator/yoga instructor, will co-teach this class and bring a fresh perspective to supporting the birth process. You will leave with a detailed handout of the techniques we learned in class, as well as questions to discuss with your partner during the rest of your pregnancy.
This class is designed for couples, but we define “couple” loosely; if you’d like to bring your sister/mother/friend/doula instead of a partner, that’s fine with us. Please be informed that this is not a professional-development class for birth professionals – Abigail offers that workshop at other times – but we do welcome doulas if they are accompanying a pregnant client.
When: Thursday, 9/26/13; 6:30-9:30pm

Location: FLOAT, 800 S. Central Avenue (at Windsor), Suite 302, Glendale, CA 91204. Parking is free in the garage under our building, but be sure to arrive no later than 6:45 pm.

Cost: $100 per couple (we accept all credit cards, checks and cash; payment in advance is required by 9/25)

Sign Up / More Info: 818-392-8797 or frontdesk@floatchinesemedicalarts.com – Call or email us today!

We hope to see you there!

Post by Abigail Morgan, L.Ac. of FLOAT: Chinese Medical Arts.

Upcoming Events for New Moms, Pregnant Moms and Women Trying to Conceive

 

Prenatal Events, Prenatal Acupuncture

September is a busy month for us at FLOAT!

Abigail will be guest-teaching a support group, participating in a panel on Prenatal Wellness, and leading an acupressure workshop for couples here at our office.  Read on, and please send any questions to frontdesk@floatchinesemedicalarts.com.

9/9: HOLISTIC SELF-CARE FOR THE POSTPARTUM PERIOD at BINI BIRTH

FirstOutingMamaGnL

Abigail in 2010 with her kids, 2 weeks and 2 years old

 

Abigail will be the special guest at Bini Birth’s New Moms and Pregnant Moms’ Support Group (led by Rachel Myers) on Monday 9/9/13, 12:30-1:45pm.  This group is open to anyone who is pregnant, recently gave birth, or is supporting moms in any way at all!  Babies are welcome.

The Talk: Abigail Morgan, L.Ac, Licensed Acupuncturist & Herbalist and mother of two, will speak about holistic ways to take care of yourself during the postpartum period (birth-12 months), and offer a variety of techniques to bring balance to the crazy-insane-overwhelming time that characterizes the first year of a child’s life.  Whether you are pregnant with your first child, just a few months postpartum, or getting used to being outnumbered, putting Mom’s health first is crucial for keeping the whole family happy – not to mention avoiding postpartum depression, baby blues, adrenal fatigue and Depleted Mother Syndrome.  Come learn tips for what to eat, rhythms to incorporate, and home remedies for boosting Self-Care in the postpartum period.  Abigail will also discuss ways you can prepare for a smoother recovery from childbirth while still pregnant.

Location: Bini Birth, 13743 Riverside Drive, Sherman Oaks, CA, 91423

Cost: $20 cash or check (made out to Bini Birth), same-day, or $110 for a series of 6 classes (every Monday, 12:30-1:45)

More info: binibirth.com or 818-286-3944

 

 9/21: PRENATAL WELLNESS ROUNDTABLE

Event: Prenatal Wellness Roundtable, Prenatal Acupuncture, Fertility Acupuncture

 

I’m so excited to have been asked by Fit for Expecting and The Institute for Girls’ Development to participate in this Prenatal Wellness Roundtable, on Sat. 9/21, 10-11:30am.  (Click on the flyer above to see details and ticket information.)  I’ll be talking about how Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine can help with conception, pregnancy, labor and birth.  There will be several other prenatal care providers on the panel – hope to see you there!

 

9/26: ACUPRESSURE FOR LABOR & BIRTH: A COUPLES’ WORKSHOP

Event: Acupressure for Labor & Birth, Prenatal Acupuncture
Acupressure for Labor & Birth: A Couples’ Workshop
Abigail Morgan, L.Ac., Licensed Acupuncturist and Herbalist and mother of two, will lead a workshop on 9/26/13 from 6:30-9:30pm, on how to support your partner during labor and birth using simple acupressure techniques.  Learn how to use your hands to give physical support to your partner during the birth process.  What points can help reduce pain, soothe anxiety, bring baby down, make contractions stronger?  We will go over good body mechanics for the partner, and do lots of hands-on work to help each couple find ways to use this ancient method to enhance the labor process.  Becca Gordon, doula/childbirth educator/yoga instructor, will co-teach this class and bring a fresh perspective to supporting the birth process.  You will leave with a detailed handout of the techniques we learned in class, as well as questions to discuss with your partner during the rest of your pregnancy.
This class is designed for couples, but we define “couple” loosely; if you’d like to bring your sister/mother/friend/doula instead of a partner, that’s fine with us.  Please be informed that this is not a professional-development class for birth professionals – Abigail offers that workshop at other times – but we do welcome doulas if they are accompanying a pregnant client.

When: Thursday, 9/26/13; 6:30-9:30pm

Location: FLOAT, 800 S. Central Avenue (at Windsor), Suite 302, Glendale, CA 91204.  Parking is free in the garage under our building, but be sure to arrive no later than 6:45 pm.

Cost: $100 per couple (we accept all credit cards, checks and cash; payment in advance is required by 9/19)

Sign Up / More Info: 818-392-8797 or frontdesk@floatchinesemedicalarts.com

We hope to see you there!

 

Post by Abigail Morgan, L.Ac. of FLOAT: Chinese Medical Arts.

Bringing Sexy Back to Fertility

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A kiss in wine country

With apologies to Justin Timberlake for hijacking his term, we’re bringing sexy back to fertility.

Or perhaps it would be more accurate to say we’re bringing sexy back to the Lower Jiao.

What is the Lower Jiao?  In Chinese Medicine, the Lower Jiao refers to the organ systems below the belly button, including the reproductive organs, the kidneys and the urinary bladder.  It is one of three Jiaos, each of which comprises specific organ systems.

The Lower Jiao can also be compared to the Second Chakra.

In Chinese Medicine, an imbalance in the Lower Jiao can lead to all kinds of problems with Reproductive Health, whether the person is male or female, straight, gay or bisexual.

Acupuncturists treat a lot of infertility.

I specialize in Chinese Medicine for reproductive health and the childbearing cycle -I see teenagers with painful periods, pregnant women, new grandmothers going through menopause, and everything in between – but in recent years, my practice has seen more and more patients seeking answers for primary infertility, secondary infertility, sub-fertility and sterility.

In the USA, 1 in 10 couples is diagnosed with infertility.

Infertility is defined as the inability to get pregnant after having unprotected sex for 6 months to a year, depending on the woman’s age.  This does not mean these women will never be able to get pregnant, but it can put a lot of stress on a relationship.

No matter their age, anyone who has tried to get pregnant and found it is a little (or a lot) harder than they thought, tends to suffer from Fertility Fatigue.

Trying to Conceive (“TTC”), with or without fertility problems, can be exhausting.  For many couples, baby-making sex becomes a chore, without any of the spice that sex had when they were trying not to get pregnant.

The Lower Jiao suffers from an identity crisis, as it was ignored for decades and now is suddenly being called on to Make a Baby Already!

Getting pregnant can be (not always) even more challenging for women and men who have experienced early childhood trauma, which gets imprinted in the Lower Brain and has a strong effect on the Lower Jiao.  I will address this in another post, later this month.

Many women who have spent cycle after cycle actively trying to conceive a baby complain of losing their mojo. They feel depleted, fat and ugly. Sex has become rote and boring, just a means to an end, with no end in sight. They want to be pregnant yesterday, and they’re not accustomed to finding something so hard to control: successful, intelligent, clear-thinking women who are accustomed to putting their mind to something and making it happen can be particularly triggered by how hard it is to get pregnant.  They have spent their whole fertile life trying NOT to get pregnant, and now suddenly getting pregnant isn’t so easy.  This can make her feel helpless, anxious and out of control.

Some women whose mojo is doing fine (no libido problems) become distressed when their partner suddenly can’t keep it up.  Or he keeps it up for a few days and then as soon as she reaches her fertile window, he can’t ejaculate.  (He’s not used to having this problem.)  Quite a few men have told me they feel their wife only wants them for their sperm; they start feeling helpless and that makes Performance even more difficult.  It’s too much pressure.

After a year or more of actively TTC without a BFP (Big Fat Positive), couples will often start to argue more.  One partner loses interest.  Maybe he doesn’t want kids after all.  She starts to worry it’s never going to happen.  They forget about Dan Savage’s Fuck First rule (always do it BEFORE dinner/movie/wedding ceremony!), and only have sex with the intention of getting pregnant.  That gets old real quick.

One lesbian mom I know who conceived via in-home self-insemination (i.e. the Turkey Baster Option) has advised some of her straight friends to just get the guy to hand her his sperm sample in a cup so she can save him the stress of having to perform at the same time every month.  She said it’s pretty nice to be able to separate the Getting Pregnant Part from the Making Love part.  I think this is really cool.

Clearly, there are a lot of Lower Jiaos that need re-tuning.

So, how do we bring sexy back to the Lower Jiao?

Here are 9 things you can do to bring sexy back to your Lower Jiao.  (9 is a magic number in Taoist thought.  I like 9.)

 

1. GET ACUPUNCTURE & TAKE HERBS

 

Room 3 at FLOAT: Chinese Medical Arts

Room 3 at FLOAT: Chinese Medical Arts; Photo by Samuel Morgan Photography

 

Of course I’m an acupuncture junkie: I’m an acupuncturist.  I love getting it, I love giving it.  There’s nothing quite like an Acu-High.

For so many reasons, Acupuncture and Chinese Herbal Medicine are very effective at enhancing fertility and preventing miscarriage.  Among other functions, acupuncture relieves blockages of Qi and Blood in the uterus and ovaries, increases follicle count, boosts the uterine lining, makes IUI and IVF work better (increases the rate of take-home babies), reduces drug side effects, and combats stress.

Acupuncture is also great for helping women and men reconnect with the sexual, reproductive energy located in the Lower Jiao (and in the body in general).

There are many, many points that acupuncturists use to treat infertility patterns, but I’ll give examples here of just a few points I use frequently:

Ren 4 / Conception Vessel 4 (Guan Yuan): this point is translated as “Gateway to Original Qi,” or “Gate of Origin.”  It’s located between the navel and the pubic symphysis, on the midline of the body.

DU4 / Governing Vessel 4 (Ming Men): this point is translated as “Life Gate.”  It’s located below the spinous process of the second lumbar vertebra.  It is the #1 point to nourish the Kidney Yang, and it’s also great for lower back pain.

ZiGongXue, or “Palace of the Child.”  This is my favorite point location name.  This point is used to treat any type of problem in the uterus, including painful periods (dysmenorrhea), infertility and uterine prolapse.  I also find it helps to regulate ovulation.

Give yourself a belly massage.  Gentle massage in clockwise circles on your lower abdomen can help to circulate energy in the Ming Men (also known as the Dan Tien), and stimulate many of the acupuncture points in that region.  This is something you can do by yourself or with your partner.  It’s best to do in the proliferative phase of your cycle, not in the luteal phase (when you may be pregnant).  Use a nice organic massage oil and maybe some of my favorite lavender essential oil.

Qi Gong is also a terrific practice for removing blockages in the Ming Men and the Lower Jiao in general.

 

2. AVOID FERTILITY FATIGUE.

 

Don’t, for goodness sake, have sex every day all month, or even every day for two weeks.  This drains your Kidney Qi and Jing, and that of your partner.

The Kidney system is one third of the three main organs of female reproduction: Kidney, Spleen and Liver.  We need the energy of the Kidney, Spleen and Liver Organ systems to be flowing freely in order for conception to occur.  Too much sex with the pressure to get pregnant can end up backfiring by exhausting your partner’s sperm and depleting your receptivity to said sperm.

It’s also not so effective to have sex only once per cycle and expect to get pregnant.  Although this is certainly how a lot of Bonus Babies are made (oops!).

So when should you do it? The Fertility Awareness Method (charting your cycle) can help you and your partner figure out when to do the Baby Dance.

Become familiar with how to understand your cervical fluid.  The days that really count are the five days before ovulation and the day of ovulation itself.  Printing your chart and showing it to your fertility acupuncturist is helpful in allowing him/her to see patterns according to Chinese Medicine, and time your treatments and herbal regimen accordingly. But I do have some patients for whom charting the cycle causes a lot of stress.  Listen to your intuition and follow it.

 

3. EXERCISE.

 

Find something that works for you and stick with it on a regular basis.

Qi Gong, Tai Qi and Yoga are great ways to circulate Qi between acupuncture treatments, or if you’re unable to find an acupuncturist in your area.

Exercise increases blood flow to the ovaries and uterus, boosts serotonin levels, helps you shed unwanted extra pounds, and just makes you feel good.

I know it’s really hard for moms with one or more kids at home (who are struggling to conceive again) to find time to exercise.  Barter babysitting with other moms, or bring the kids to a gym that has free childcare. Just make it happen.

 

4. GO ON VACATION.

FamilySquaw

My family on vacation in Lake Tahoe

 

How many couples do you know who were struggling to conceive and as soon as they finally “took a break” and went to Cabo, they got pregnant?

The reason for this is often because when we detach from outcome –when we stop wanting it so much – we get out of Fight-or-Flight mode (Sympathetic Nervous System) and get into Rest-and-Digest mode (Parasympathetic Nervous System).

If you can’t afford a vacation, take a Staycation.  Even one day off work at the end of a weekend can allow you and your partner time to shut off the phones, email, social media and catch up on sleep and conversation.  Imagine that!

When the hormones of stress stop surging in your bloodstream, it allows the hypothalamic/pituitary/ovarian axis to work better, improving your chances of getting pregnant.

 

5. ADDRESS THE SHAME.

 

We all have shame.  Brene Brown, the brilliant researcher and storyteller, defines shame as “the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing that we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging – something we’ve experienced, done, or failed to do makes us unworthy of connection.”  (Watch her ground-breaking TED talk, “Shame and Vulnerability,” here.)

Brene Brown also says that “shame corrodes the very part of us that believes we are capable of change.”

I think this can be applied to the fertility journey.

The transition of going from being an independent woman (married or not) to a mother involves the most massive change you will undergo since you were born.

Becoming a mother again – if you have other children – is also an enormous change.  Trauma from a previous birth (surgical or vaginal) can affect fertility.  The challenges of caring for young children and simply trying to find time to have sex with your partner, let alone deal with fertility issues, can be a major trigger for anxiety and stress.  It can also trigger PTSD and bring up what I clinically refer to as Shit From the Past.

It is crucial that we trust we are capable of the change involved in getting pregnant and becoming a parent.  (Note: there are of course many ways of becoming a parent- becoming pregnant is only one of them – but the biological parenting part is what I’m discussing here.)

Many women have sublimated shame from the past, which may be lodged energetically in the Lower Jiao.

Talking about it, writing about it, praying or meditating about it, seeing a therapist, getting acupuncture, are just a few of the ways we can address shame.

To borrow the words of John Bradshaw, let’s start the process of healing the shame that binds us (in this case, binds our Lower Jiao) in order to open ourselves up to conception, a healthy pregnancy and ecstatic birth.

LucyBirth

Me, my second child, Lucy, and my husband, about 1 minute after Lucy was born at home.

This is not to say that you must have totally recovered from shame or trauma in order to conceive.  Not true.  But it can be helpful to bring these issues to your awareness so you can let go of some of it.

Ask yourself what works for you?

 

6. PRACTICE DETACHMENT.

 

Stop trying so hard. Really. You’re having sex in your fertile window, eating well, exercising, resting at the end of the day, refusing to work on the weekend (you’re doing that, right?), taking your herbs, getting acupuncture and charting your cycle, meditating…

Whew!

Just writing that list is exhausting.

“What more can I be doing?” is a common question my patients ask.

“Detach,” I say.

It will happen when it happens, and you truly have no control over when that will be.

Even if you’re doing IVF, there is no way to select the cycle during which you will get pregnant.

Detach, while still encouraging your body to be a garden ready for the new plantings.

Use mindfulness techniques, meditate, try self-hypnosis.

Take Chinese tonic herbs to calm your Shen (ask your acupuncturist).

Detach.

 

7. EAT REAL FOOD.

Stew

This is a blog post for another day – if you’ve met me, you know I have a lot to say about food! – but for now I’ll leave it at this:

Eat local and organic whenever possible, and prepare your own food.

Food is love.

Two excellent books on eating well are “Real Food for Mother and Baby” by Nina Planck and “Nourishing Traditions” by Sally Fallon.

 

8. SLEEP!

 

Get at least 7-8 hours of sleep a night, whenever possible.

If you have a toddler and/or older children at home, this is a tough one.

I can relate: my kids are 2 years apart and I’ve been breastfeeding for 5 years straight.

As my friend and fellow acupuncturist Luke says, “Sleep is my drug of choice.”

Whatever it takes, prioritize a good night’s sleep.

 

9. FIND YOURSELF SEXY.

This may seem silly, but find ways to enjoy yourself – not only so you feel sexy to your partner (if you have one) but so you seem sexy to yourself.

Enjoy the process of opening the Palace of the Child.

So go do it already.

Get your sexy back.

 

Post by Abigail Morgan, L.Ac, owner of FLOAT: Chinese Medical Arts.  Photos by Abigail Morgan, Dave Clark Photography, Samuel Morgan Photography, and Sara Pereira.   All rights reserved.

Foods for the Heart

We have already covered the Foods for the Liver, so the next organ system is the Heart.  In Traditional Oriental Medicine, Summertime is associated with the Heart and Small Intestine.  The color of the Heart system is red and the flavor is spicy, so small amounts of foods with these characteristics are often used to treat disharmonies of the Heart system, such as anxiety, insomnia, irritability, cardiovascular problems and hypertension.  Fresh, cooling foods in season right now, such as lettuce and basil, are also very beneficial for cooling the body in the hottest months.  It’s important to have a clear understanding of your Chinese diagnosis before making any major dietary changes.  Many licensed acupuncturists use nutritional consultation as part of their plan of care.

(Co-Written by Abigail Morgan, L.Ac and Jacqueline Gabardy, L.Ac. of FLOAT: Chinese Medical Arts; image by Jacqueline, all rights reserved.)