Turkey, Bean & Vegetable Soup with Bone Broth

YummySoup

On Friday, I taught you how to make Turkey Bone Broth using your leftover turkey carcass from Thanksgiving.

Now you get to use that delicious bone broth (or chicken broth, if you prefer) to make Turkey, Bean & Vegetable Soup, a nutritious and comforting one-pot meal that makes use of the random extra vegetables, potatoes, herbs, beans and meat you may have in your fridge.

This soup is nourishing to the Spleen and Stomach organ systems, easy on digestion, and a great immune booster, so it’s an excellent choice for this late Fall/early Winter time of year.  It’s also a great fertility food: a nice way to get in your daily dose of bone broth when you’re trying to conceive.

The idea of this soup is that it’s EASY.  Although Turkey or Chicken Bone Broth takes about 24-36 hours to make, most of that time is passive: it leaves you with lots of broth to freeze for later use.

If you don’t have bone broth, and just need a quick soup for tonight’s dinner, this recipe fits the bill.  You can use store-bought broth in place of bone broth, it just won’t be quite as nourishing.  Feel free to use your creativity and substitute whatever vegetables and herbs you have on hand, and toss in leftover cooked chicken, turkey, sausage, and/or beans.

TurkeyBeanVeggieSoupBowl

Turkey, Bean & Vegetable Soup

Serves 8

Total Cooking Time for Soup: 50 minutes

Active Time: 10-15 minutes

Ingredients:

3 c. Turkey Bone Broth (or substitute chicken bone broth or store-bought broth)

3 c. water

1 red onion, diced

5 cloves garlic, peeled and diced

3 stalks celery, diced

5 carrots, peeled and chopped

1 red, yellow OR orange pepper, chopped

2 large russet potatoes, diced

2 c. cooked beans* – I used 1 c. pinto beans and 1 c. kidney beans

*My homemade beans recipe: 1 c. dried organic beans (black, pinto, kidney, etc., or combination of the above), washed, soaked 6 hours or overnight in a bowl, then cooked 5.5 hours on HIGH with 8 c. of water, 1 bay leaf and 1 pinch cumin powder in a slow-cooker.  You can use canned beans if you don’t have homemade ones on hand or are short on time.

1 c. cooked turkey (boneless), or 1 c. cooked chicken or sausage  – use what you have!  You can also omit this step.

1 T. coconut oil

1 bay leaf

4 leaves fresh sage, finely chopped

Pinch dried thyme

Salt to taste (I like fleur de sel for soup, but you can also use pink or grey salt or sea salt)

Parmesan Cheese, freshly shredded (optional)

Directions: 

1.) In a large stainless steel or cast-iron pot on the stovetop, heat the coconut oil.  (My absolute favorite kitchen item is my 7 1/4 quart Le Creuset dutch oven – perfect for soups and stews.)  

2.) Saute onion, garlic, chopped sage and a pinch of salt on medium, until transparent and fragrant.

SauteeingOnionsGarlicSage

3.) Add bone broth, water, vegetables and potatoes.  Turn to high and bring to a boil.  Once boiling, reduce heat to medium low, stir, add bay leaf and simmer 30 minutes, stirring once or twice.

4.) Stir in cooked beans and the cooked turkey (or chicken or sausage) and simmer another 10 minutes.

5.) Add salt to taste.

6.) Reduce from heat and let sit 10 minutes or so.

FinishedSoup

7.) Serve with a sprinkle of parmesan cheese on top of each bowl, and maybe some crusty sourdough bread on the side. 

ThumbsUpForSoup

My kids (4 and 6) polished off their helpings and declared this soup “yummy.”

My daughter (above, sitting in my lap – her favorite place to eat dinner) gave the soup two thumbs up.

My son described it as a “creamy beany veggie soup with turkey.”

What’s your favorite kind of soup for late Fall?

 Written by Abigail Morgan, L.Ac.; photos by Abigail Morgan and Dave Clark, all rights reserved.

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Kicking Off the NELA Fertility Support Group

ToddlerKissBelly9mo

Supporting women who are struggling to conceive is not easy.

As an acupuncturist specializing in Reproductive Health, I see and hear it all.

Primary infertility, secondary infertility, recurrent miscarriage, failed IVF’s, premature ovarian failure, tubal defects, “unexplained” infertility…it takes a toll on a woman’s mental health.

Whether she’s married to a man, a woman, partnering with her gay friend, using a surrogate, a live egg donor, or is a Single Mom By Choice, she most likely feels alone, isolated, and struggles with the shame of not being able to set her mind to getting pregnant and make it happen when she’s ready.

It seems as though every single other woman she knows got pregnant on her honeymoon, or as soon as the first kid was out of diapers, or the first cycle back post-pregnancy.  The baby shower invites, Facebook ultrasound pictures and blossoming bumps conspire to make her feel like a total failure.  Her sex life has become utilitarian.  She’s tired of hearing the questions from her Mom at Thanksgiving (“when are you gonna make me a Grandma?!”), not to mention her 4-year-old (if she’s trying to conceive #2): “Mama, I want a SISTER!”

It sucks.

I hear stories of shame, sadness, anxiety, fear, and hopelessness every single day.  Stories that would break your heart.  I am not a therapist, but I do a lot of listening and giving empathy.

Daily meditation keeps me grounded, positive, and allows me to stay present for each story and each person I work with.

I want my patients to know they are not alone.  If only they knew how many other women are going through a similar journey!  But I can’t open to the door to each treatment room and say “hey, talk to the woman in room 2, she’s in the same boat!”

Thankfully for my patients, I am bound by federal privacy laws to keep my mouth shut, and not introduce Sally A. to Jane Z.

Quite often, I ache to normalize their experience, to let them know they’re not alone.

Today I had lunch with Robin Starkey Harpster, LMFT, my co-host and co-founder of the Northeast L.A. Fertility Support Group, which starts in a week at my acupuncture clinic, FLOAT: Chinese Medical Arts.  (Sign up here!)

Robin is awesome.  A fellow mom of two and small business owner, she and I were introduced by our birth doula, Elena Vogel, about six years ago.  We’ve been referring patients to each other, running into each other at birth community events and sharing the occasional brainstorming lunch for several years, but last summer we started collaborating on this idea…

What if all these women we treat, who are struggling to feel sane in the process of trying to get and stay pregnant, had a place to go and share their stories?  What if we could create a safe space for them to vent, learn mindfulness techniques, and be moderated by a psychotherapist and an acupuncturist, both of whom are moms on the other side of the TTC journey?

Individual therapy is awesome, and often an integral part of the journey to parenthood.  Chinese Medicine is amazing for addressing the mental and physiologic aspects of infertility.  But sometimes a woman needs group support surrounded by other women who are going through the same struggle.  Sometimes she just needs to talk, be heard, and SEE that she is not alone.

For years, I’ve tried to refer my fertility patients to a support group on this side of town.  There isn’t one.

So Robin and I are starting one.  A Mind-Body-Spirit approach to support for infertility and miscarriage…bring it on!

The Northeast LA Fertility Support Group will be meeting once a month starting on Sunday, September 28th from 11am-12:30pm, at FLOAT.  More Info/Sign Up here.

If you or someone you know/love/support is struggling to get and stay pregnant, please let them know about our group.  It’s free (suggested donation $20), and we will have tea and yummy snacks.

We will explore grief and loss, shame and guilt, sadness, anger and fear.  You will learn creative, holistic techniques and resources for becoming more mindful and less overwhelmed by this journey, and share your story.  Topics will include: Expectations, Sex, Radical Acceptance, Trauma, Dealing With Family, and anything else the group wants to bring up.

I can’t wait!

(Copyright 2014 Abigail Morgan, L.Ac., Photo by Dave Clark, all rights reserved.) 

3 Healthy Summertime Mocktails – Guest Post by Jacqueline from Sweet Beet & Green Bean

3 Healthy Sumertime Mocktails Recipes

Jacqueline Gabardy, L.Ac.Today’s guest post was written by our Associate Acupuncturist Jacqueline Gabardy, L.Ac. who blogs about health, nutrition and recipes at Sweet Beet & Green Bean.
 

 Whether you don’t drink at all or you are just trying to cut back, mocktails are an alcohol-free, refreshing way to enjoy a drink with friends on a warm summer day.  These incorporate ingredients like aloe juice, raw apple cider vinegar, and coconut water, which all have important health benefits.  They’re super easy to make, too!

Are you a tired pregnant or nursing mom?   Trying to conceive?  Suffering from digestive problems or chronic pain?  Alcoholic drinks may be off limits for you, but these mocktails can actually help you feel bright and shiny without any side effects.

 

The Aloe-jito

Recipe
3-4 sprigs of fresh mint
1/2 a lime
1-2 tbsp sugar, honey, maple syrup or agave (to your taste)
2 oz aloe juice
Sparkling water

 

A take on the classic mojito, the aloe-jito uses aloe juice in place of rum.  Aloe Vera juice is a healing and soothing tonic in small amounts.  It can detoxify, moisten and cool the body, clear skin, and soothe the digestive tract.

Drinking aloe can relieve constipation because it has a mild laxative effect, so don’t overdo it on the dosage.  1-2 ounces per day is a enough for most people; you may want to start with a smaller dose if you are prone to loose stools.

To make this mocktail, use a tall glass and add the lime (cut into smaller pieces) and mint leaves into the bottom and muddle them well.  If you don’t have a muddler,  you can use the handle of a wooden spoon.  Once muddled well, add the sugar and mix well.  I have used raw honey for this before, but it doesn’t mix in quite that well; I find maple or agave syrup work better.  How much sugar you use will depend on your taste, I found 1 tablespoon to be plenty.  Then add a few ice cubes and pour over the aloe juice, top with sparkling water and garnish with a lime wedge and another sprig of mint.

You can also make this recipe without the aloe and it is still quite refreshing.

 

Strawberry Shrub Soda Recipe

Recipe
2-3 tbsp homemade strawberry shrub (see below)
About 8 oz sparkling water
 
Basic Shrub
1 part fruit
1 part vinegar
1 part sugar

 

Shrub is a traditional vinegar-based syrup that is often used to make soda.  In Chinese Medicine, small amounts of sour foods like vinegar are beneficial to the Liver system.  Especially healthy are the naturally fermented vinegars like raw apple cider vinegar which contains probiotics that support digestive health.  When added into the diet in small amounts, apple cider vinegar can support digestive and immune health.

By making shrub with apple cider vinegar it becomes much more palatable because of the hint of fruit flavor and sweetness.  Also, by mixing up a big batch of shrub it makes it much easier to incorporate into your daily diet or to serve to a big group of people.

The fruit for the shrub should be finely chopped up first and added in after the vinegar and sugars are mixed well; I find a mason jar is best for this.  Once mixed together, the shrub needs to sit in the fridge for at least 1 day but up to 1 week, the fruit flavor will intensify the longer it sits.  After a week, strain the mixture to remove the fruit.  You can use the fruit in a smoothie if you don’t want to waste it, but it’s a little sour to eat on its own and you can’t leave it in the shrub indefinitely.

I used local raw honey as the sugar in this recipe, and the apple cider vinegar dissolves it well, but granulated cane sugar, maple syrup or agave syrup would all work.  You can also try different variations of fruits and vinegars to see what you like the best!

I like to serve the shrub soda over a large ice cube and I find about 2-3 tablespoons of shrub per cup of sparkling water is the right balance.  Obviously you can play around with it and find what ratio works best for you.

 

Pina Colada Cooler Recipe

Recipe
1/2 cup frozen pineapple
1/2 banana
1/2 cup coconut water
1/4 cup coconut cream
ice cubes (optional)

 

While we usually don’t recommend too many cold foods to our patients, an icy beverage is sometimes the only thing that feels refreshing when the weather gets really hot.

This recipe is more or less a traditional Piña Colada without the rum.  Most traditional colada recipes just use coconut cream, which is a great source of healthy saturated fats and has anti-fungal properties, plus it serves as a delicious creamy alternative for those who are dairy sensitive.  I’ve also included some coconut water in this recipe because it’s so high in electrolytes that it works well to keep us hydrated during those hot summer days.  In addition to the usually pineapple and coconut ingredients, I’ve added in half a banana for a little extra sweetness and creaminess.

Preparation of this drink is as simple as blending all the ingredients together, and topping with a tropical drink umbrella if you have one on hand!  You can add a few ice cubes to the mix if you want it to be thicker and colder, but I didn’t find it needed them.

Try these and let us know what you think in the comments section!

"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)

“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)

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.

Fertility is Not Just for Baby-Makers!

Moxa

Moxibustion (“Moxa”) over the abdomen to help relieve menstrual cramps.

When you walk into our clinic you can quickly tell we treat a lot of fertility and pregnancy.  There’s a wall of baby pictures, Mothering magazines in the waiting room, a stack of children’s books and toys, plus the Pregnancy and Mother’s Milk Tea we offer alongside the traditional green and black varieties.

We still treat a good deal of non-reproductive health issues: back pain, allergies, anxiety, stress and digestive problems, just to name a few.  Occasionally, when these non-reproductive health patients come into the office for the first time they second-guess if they are in the right place.  Sometimes, a patient who is not looking to conceive will ask me if there are acupuncture points I could use to help her to not get pregnant, to which I always reply, “a healthy body is a fertile body.”  Fertility is a reflection of good overall reproductive health, which is something to be celebrated.

The word “fertility” should not be feared by those who don’t wish to get pregnant (or at least, not yet).  Currently, the American birthrate is at a record low: see this recent article in TIME for more on that.

As someone who hasn’t yet had children myself, I understand as much as anyone the desire to choose when to have kids.  But the common approach for women seems to be to ignore their reproductive organs all together until suddenly it is the right time to get pregnant, and then everything is expected to work perfectly, right on cue.  Hormone flows can easily be overridden with birth control pills and menstrual cramps can be hidden with pain killers, but neither fix the underlying conditions that are causing the symptoms.

Oral contraceptive pills are known to cause a number of side effects.  Quite a few women report The Pill causes them to have scanty or complete lack of menses (amenorrhea).  I often hear those patients say “my gynecologist says it’s normal” – in fact, those symptoms are common, but they’re not normal.  A regular menstrual cycle is a strong indicator of a healthy reproductive organs and is very important to pay attention to.

The combination of many years of a neglected reproductive system, plus the decision to wait until later in life to conceive, often leads to problems for women once they are ready, and it is becoming more and more common.  This is why women of childbearing age must start thinking about their reproductive health, whether or not they wish to have children.

Here are 3 simple suggestions to help those of you who don’t wish to conceive (either not now, or never) but still wish to enhance your reproductive health:

1. Educate Yourself

Educate yourself well when it comes to your body; you’re stuck with it!  I recommend women learn about the physiology of their reproductive organs: how everything works, and how to tell when it’s not working well.  Get regular Well-Woman exams (paps as recommended by your OB/GYN, STD screenings, and annual check-ups with your primary care physician).  Make sure you read up on and ask plenty of questions about any medications, vaccinations, contraceptives, or procedures before you give your consent.  If you have any other health conditions (especially a genetic condition, an endocrine or auto-immune disorder), learn about how these conditions may potentially affect your reproductive health.

Taking Charge of Your FertilityTaking Charge of Your Fertility is the first resource I provide to a woman who is hoping to learn more about her fertility.  We have two copies in the lending library of our clinic, but many women find they need one of their own.  It explains all the phases of the menstrual cycle, how to identify your fertile window, and the physiology of getting pregnant.  It is a great resource for both women looking to conceive as well as those looking to avoid getting pregnant by better understanding when they can and cannot conceive.

In fact, I think many of the tools women trying to get pregnant use (such as taking her basal temperature each morning or using ovulation predictor kits) are important tools for any woman wishing to take a close look at her cycle and make sure it is functioning normally.

2. Pay Attention

You know best what is normal and what is not.  Pay attention and keep notes in a journal or calendar, so you can notice the patterns that arise.  How many days does each cycle last?  (We measure cycle length from Day One of bleeding to the next Day One of bleeding.)  Is it regular?  When do you ovulate?  Does it change each month?  What is the quality and quantity of your flow?  How much pain do you experience?  Do any other symptoms arise at the same time each cycle?

Journal by Rory MacLeodRemember that pain and emotional distress are common menstrual symptoms but are not normal; they do not have to be tolerated.

While your symptoms might not be accompanied by a diagnosable condition (such as fibroids, ovarian cysts, or endometriosis), they still indicate there are imbalances under the surface.

Chinese medicine pays close attention to all signs and symptoms and employs acupuncture and herbs to treat the underlying condition accordingly.  Whether the body needs to be warmed up, blood needs to be moved, or the mind needs to be calmed, these can be simple adjustments with acupuncture treatments, herbal prescriptions, and diet/lifestyle adjustments.

In Western medicine, however, oral contraceptive pills seem to be the tool of choice for most menstrual disorders, despite the fact that the synthetic hormones do not usually correct any underlying problems.  Many symptoms that are mild or considered “within normal limits” are ignored completely.

3. Stay Healthy

Physical Health by Military HealthAgain, a healthy body is a fertile body.

PMS, irregular menstruation, painful periods, or periods with heavy bleeding are signs that something is out of balance.  Pay attention to them.

Do all you can to stay in general health and your reproductive health will follow.  That means eat well, avoid stress and toxins, get plenty of sleep, and exercise regularly.  There are many foods and herbs you can take to improve specific conditions; a Licensed Acupuncturist can help direct you towards what works best for you.

(Post by Jacqueline Gabardy, L.Ac, of FLOAT: Chinese Medical Arts; photo credits: Moxa by Dave Clark Photography, Taking Charge of Your Fertility from tcoyf.com, Journal by Rory MacLeod, Physical Activity by Military Health)

Bringing Sexy Back to Fertility

kiss2012

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 Liver

In Traditional Chinese Medicine, every organ system has a color and a season.  The Liver is green.  Spring green.  April and May are great months to focus on adding cleansing foods into your diet to help your Liver work better.  When the Liver works better, we feel less stressed and irritable, we lose excess weight, sleep better, and aren’t bothered by headaches or PMS.  Try some of these yummy Liver-nourishing foods and see how good you feel!  Check back here often for more posts on foods that benefit the 12 Organs.

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

20 Benefits of Bee Pollen

According to Traditional Chinese Medicine, bee pollen is considered a mild Jing tonic: it directs energy to the Kidney system.  Royal jelly is an even stronger Jing tonic, and can be used for more serious cases of deficiency.

  1. Fertility Fertility Fertility!
  2. Protein-rich (half of which is free amino acids that are easily used by the body)
  3. Great source of vitamin B12
  4. Energy tonic
  5. Helps balance blood sugar
  6. Used by cultures around the world for several different applications
  7. Improves endurance and vitality
  8. Aids recovery from chronic illness
  9. Helps add weight during convalescence
  10. Reduces cravings and addictions
  11. Can be taken between meals in place of a snack
  12. Regulates the Intestines
  13. Builds new blood
  14. Improves immunity
  15. Antibiotic properties
  16. Thought to protect against radiation
  17. Used as a remedy for hay fever and allergies (especially when it is local to your region)
  18. Considered an important supplement for vegans and vegetarians
  19. Great to take before a workout
  20. Used during recovery from UTIs

Keep in mind that raw bee products are not considered suitable for children 1 year or younger.  And you should always test yourself for an allergy to bee pollen by trying just one tiny pellet first and waiting to make sure you don’t have a reaction.

About 1 tsp is generally enough for a dose; not much more is usually needed.  It is most easily taken with a glass of water.  The taste of bee pollen is an acquired one so try it before adding to your food.  I do like the taste when it is on top of a little yogurt with fruit or nuts, but I despise the taste when blended into smoothies.

For more information on Chinese Nutrition and Whole Foods, check out the wonderful book by Paul Pitchford, “Healing With Whole Foods.”

(Photo and Post by Jacqueline Gabardy, L.Ac. of FLOAT: Chinese Medical Arts)