Proven Fertility Diet

There’s a bunch of fertility diet advice on the internet, but most of the advice has no evidence to support it. Most claims have not been tried and tested. Or, it’s general nutritional advice, not tailored for fertility.

And fertility advice is not a one size fits all approach. Shouldn’t be anyway. Some women’s fertility issues are related to their lining, some to their hormones, some to their eggs. And 50% of the time, it’s a male fertility issue.¹

The dietary recommendations below are to help improve a woman’s hormonal balance, egg quality and reduce miscarriage risk.

High blood sugar and insulin levels are a big problem for fertility because it disrupts the balance of other hormones that regulate the reproductive system. They also compromise egg quality². And increase the risk of miscarriage³.

The first step is to slightly reduce overall carbohydrate intake. And increase protein intake. A good ratio appears to be around 40% of calories from carbohydrates, 30% from protein, and 30% from fat. This represents a healthy, balanced diet and most people will be able to reach these ratios simply by changing just one meal per day. Such as having eggs for breakfast, rather than toast or cereal.

An even lower carbohydrate diet is likely helpful for those who are very overweight, or have PCOS, insulin resistance, or diabetes. For most women though, it is probably not beneficial to adopt a very low carbohydrate diet. In some cases, it may even have negative consequences for fertility, by elevating cortisol levels, and suppressing thyroid function. 4

  • Avoid refined carbohydrates: the white flours, pastries, potatoes, white bread. Swap out for lower GI carbs such as brown rice, wild rice, steel-cut oats, quinoa or buckwheat. There are many pastas available these days made out of quinoa or buckwheat. This will help to balance your blood sugar and insulin levels. 
  • Avoid refined cane sugar, in all it’s forms. There is clear evidence that excess sugar consumption compromises fertility.5   Minimise all types of sweeteners, and foods with significant amounts of added sugar. Whole fruit is OK in moderation (2 serves daily).  If you find yourself craving a sweet treat, and fruit won’t cut it, a small amount of dark chocolate is a good choice. Also keep in mind that it is long term daily habits that matter most. The occasional indulgence is not worth feeling guilty about. 
  • Have lots of different vegetables. Aim for 4 different colours each day.

  • Include legumes
  • Eats nuts and seeds
  • Include olive oil in your diet

  • Eat fish twice per week
  • Avoid saturated fats – typically found in butter, red meat, coconut oil. Appear to negatively impact egg development. A higher intake of red meat has been associated with lower embryo quality.

What about gluten and dairy?

There is some concern that both gluten and dairy can contribute to autoimmunity and inflammation in those with a sensitivity, even in the absence of celiac disease. For those with endometriosis, a history of recurrent miscarriage driven by immune factors, it does make sense to avoid gluten and diary. For everyone else, these foods may not be problematic. One option is to eliminate them from your diet for 2 weeks, and see how you feel. If you feel better, it may indicate that you do have a sensitivity and will benefit from avoiding gluten and/or dairy longer term.

What about alcohol?

Numerous studies have indicated that drinking regularly during pregnancy can increase the risk of miscarriage. However, low to moderate alcohol consumption ( 6 drinks per week or less) before you become pregnant is not an issue. The safest option is avoiding alcohol after ovulation, in case you become early pregnant without realising, or before testing.

What about caffeine?

Unfortunately, caffeine can increase miscarriage risk. Even caffeine intake before pregnancy. Studies indicate that miscarriage risk begins to rise with just one cup of tea or less than half a cup of coffee per day.


I appreciate that this advice could be alarming for some of you. It could suggest that a big diet overall is needed. If so, I suggest you start at the top of the list, and slowly make your way through, once you’ve got a handle on each.  A more tailored dietary approach is often useful, taking into account your history, your microbiome and your genetics. So it’s best to ask your practitioner at Freedom Chinese Medicine for specific advice or to help guide you through any changes needed. Most of us have nutritional training and have lots of experience with healthy diets.


Written by:

Dr Elaine Hickman

B.H.Sc.TCM (Acupuncture), Cert.Cl.Ac. (Beijing)

Elaine has trained and worked in various settings, both in Australia and China.  She has over 20 years experience in treating many health problems.  Elaine loves to provide a health care experience for people that is respectful, effective, empowering and enjoyable.  Elaine’s acupuncture treatments are gentle, powerful, amazingly relaxing and incorporate Japanese & Chinese techniques, as well as Medical Qi Gong if appropriate.  Elaine has a particular interest in Gynaecology, Fertility, Obstetrics, Family Medicine, Wellness promotion and Mental Health. She brings extra expertise and understanding to the table as she’s been through infertility herself.




1 Esteves SC, Agarwal A. Novel concepts in male infertility. Int Braz J Urol. 2011 Jan-Feb;37(1):5-15. doi: 10.1590/s1677-55382011000100002. PMID: 21385475.

2 Jinno M, Takeuchi M, Watanabe A, Teruya K, Hirohama J, Eguchi N, Miyazaki A. Advanced glycation end-products accumulation compromises embryonic development and achievement of pregnancy by assisted reproductive technology. Hum Reprod. 2011 Mar;26(3):604-10. doi: 10.1093/humrep/deq388. Epub 2011 Jan 12. PMID: 21233108.

3 Tian L, Shen H, Lu Q, Norman RJ, Wang J. Insulin resistance increases the risk of spontaneous abortion after assisted reproduction technology treatment. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2007 Apr;92(4):1430-3. doi: 10.1210/jc.2006-1123. Epub 2007 Jan 23. PMID: 17244790.

4  Kose E, Guzel O, Demir K, Arslan N. Changes of thyroid hormonal status in patients receiving ketogenic diet due to intractable epilepsy. J Pediatr Endocrinol Metab. 2017 Apr 1;30(4):411-416. doi: 10.1515/jpem-2016-0281. PMID: 28076316.

5 Machtinger R, Gaskins AJ, Mansur A, Adir M, Racowsky C, Baccarelli AA, Hauser R, Chavarro JE. Association between preconception maternal beverage intake and in vitro fertilization outcomes. Fertil Steril. 2017 Dec;108(6):1026-1033. doi: 10.1016/j.fertnstert.2017.09.007. Epub 2017 Oct 3. PMID: 28985907; PMCID: PMC5716855.

Hjollund NH, Jensen TK, Bonde JP, Henriksen TB, Andersson AM, Skakkebaek NE. Is glycosylated haemoglobin a marker of fertility? A follow-up study of first-pregnancy planners. Hum Reprod. 1999 Jun;14(6):1478-82. doi: 10.1093/humrep/14.6.1478. PMID: 10357963.

Chavarro JE, Rich-Edwards JW, Rosner BA, Willett WC. A prospective study of dietary carbohydrate quantity and quality in relation to risk of ovulatory infertility. Eur J Clin Nutr. 2009 Jan;63(1):78-86. doi: 10.1038/sj.ejcn.1602904. Epub 2007 Sep 19. PMID: 17882137; PMCID: PMC3066074.

Karayiannis D, Kontogianni MD, Mendorou C, Mastrominas M, Yiannakouris N. Adherence to the Mediterranean diet and IVF success rate among non-obese women attempting fertility. Hum Reprod. 2018 Mar 1;33(3):494-502. doi: 10.1093/humrep/dey003. PMID: 29390148.

Mirabi P, Chaichi MJ, Esmaeilzadeh S, et al. The role of fatty acids on ICSI outcomes: a prospective cohort study. Lipids Health Dis. 2017;16(1):18. Published 2017 Jan 21. doi:10.1186/s12944-016-0396-z

Moran LJ, Tsagareli V, Noakes M, Norman R. Altered Preconception Fatty Acid Intake Is Associated with Improved Pregnancy Rates in Overweight and Obese Women Undertaking in Vitro Fertilisation. Nutrients. 2016 Jan 4;8(1):10. doi: 10.3390/nu8010010. PMID: 26742065; PMCID: PMC4728624.

Chen LW, Wu Y, Neelakantan N, Chong MF, Pan A, van Dam RM. Maternal caffeine intake during pregnancy and risk of pregnancy loss: a categorical and dose-response meta-analysis of prospective studies. Public Health Nutr. 2016 May;19(7):1233-44. doi: 10.1017/S1368980015002463. Epub 2015 Sep 2. PMID: 26329421.

Huang H, Hansen KR, Factor-Litvak P, Carson SA, Guzick DS, Santoro N, Diamond MP, Eisenberg E, Zhang H; National Institute of Child Health and Human Development Cooperative Reproductive Medicine Network. Predictors of pregnancy and live birth after insemination in couples with unexplained or male-factor infertility. Fertil Steril. 2012 Apr;97(4):959-67. doi: 10.1016/j.fertnstert.2012.01.090. Epub 2012 Jan 23. PMID: 22270557; PMCID: PMC3319287.

Detoxing to increase your chances of getting (& staying) pregnant

There are a bunch of toxins in our environment that have been proven to reduce our fertility and increase the chance of miscarriage. Yes, we can’t avoid all of them. Yes, our grandparents did OK without this knowledge. But they didn’t live with the multitude of endocrine disrupters that we now do. There are a few main offenders. Let’s focus on them. And the simple steps we can take to reduce our exposure.


BPA – stands for bisphenol A, an industrial chemical that has been used to make certain plastics and resins since the 1950s. BPA is a known endocrine disrupter. Which means that it messes with our hormones. Hormones that are essential for normal ovarian function, follicle maturation, ovulation and fertilisation. And for sperm production. These normal processes are complex, there are lots of ways that things can go wrong. BPA has been found to be more frequently detected in infertile women thus leading to hypothesize a possible effect of BPA on natural conception. In addition, in procedures of medically assisted reproduction (such as IVF/IUI), BPA exposure has been found to reduce estradiol levels during gonadotropin stimulation, number of retrieved oocytes, number of normally fertilized oocytes and implantation¹.

So, where do we start to reduce our BPA exposure? BPA reacts/ leaks from hard plastics when exposed to:

  • Liquid
  • Heat
  • Acid
  • UV light

So the main things to look at are:

  1. Drinking water. Get rid of your plastic drinking water bottle. Even if listed as BPA-free, other plastics probably contain other endocrine disrupters. We just don’t know about them yet. Best to go with glass or stainless steel.
  2. Boiling water. Swap your plastic kettle for a stainless steel one.
  3. Storing left-overs. Especially wet ones. Swap over your hard plastic food containers for glass or stainless steel ones. IKEA has some good glass ones with lids that don’t leak and stand the test of time.
  4. Swapping plastic colanders for stainless steel ones.
  5. Avoiding use of coffee machines with plastic components, using a stainless steel French press at home instead.
  6. Canned food. BPA is often found in the lining of tin cans. Reduce your use of canned food as much as possible. Ie. Buy passata in glass bottles rather than cans. I’m aware that somethings are only found in cans ie. Coconut milk so let’s focus on reduce, not eliminate.
  7. BPA is also found on printed receipts, such as receipts from EFTPOS transactions. So you can wash your hands after handling such receipts or try to avoid touching them often.

Interestingly, research has shown that folate-rich foods reduce the effects of BPA. The folate found in most supplements, doesn’t do the same thing. That may be because most supplements contain synthetic folic acid, whereas the folate present in fruits and vegetables is usually in the form of biologically active methylfolate or other forms that are readily converted to methylfolate. Folate-foods are berries, oranges, spinach, broccoli, cauliflower, kale, asparagus, avocado and lentils.

Even though high levels of BPA are linked to higher miscarriage risk. It is important to keep in mind that it is the highest BPA levels that are linked. To increase your odds of conceiving and preventing miscarriage, the main goal is simply to get out of that highest range; to lower your overall exposure rather than to avoid all possible sources of BPA.

Phthalates – Are also endocrine disrupters. Phthalates are found in many products made of plastics, but especially in synthetic fragrances. Such as:

  • Perfumed cosmetics/ moisturisers
  • Perfume
  • Hair spray
  • Scented fabric softener
  • Nail polish
  • Air fresheners

Before you freak out about all these products that you may use on the regular, remember it’s about reducing your exposure. Try to focus on one product at a time and swap it over for a natural, non-fragranced product. Maybe start with your body lotion/ moisturiser, as this covers a large part of your body. And when looking for alternatives, avoid items with fragrance listed in the ingredients. As these often contain Phthalates. And manufacturers can label products as phthalate-free but be aware – there is a labelling loophole in which the products may actually contain phthalates. It’s best to find products made from all natural ingredients or labelled fragrance-free. That way your reducing your exposure to other toxic chemicals such as parabens also.

New research indicates that the main way that Phthalates gets into our body’s is through food. In particular, fast food and highly processed food². One study suggests that simply making more meals at home is one of the most powerful ways to reduce exposure to the phthalates of greatest concern.


Have you already taken the above steps? Here’s some more you can do (only when you’re ready though, otherwise it can be overwhelming):

A provocative new study finds that women who have trouble getting pregnant are more likely to have high concentrations of certain non-stick chemical pollutants circulating in their blood than are those who become pregnant within the first month of trying. The suspect compounds — generally known as PFOA and PFOS —found in Teflon and Scotchguard products. 

Today, the chemicals are present on non-stick pans and in carpeting, upholstery and clothing that has been treated with stain-guard chemicals. They’ve also been used for years to treat popcorn bags and other packaging that might make contact with grease. Yet tests of these products show minimal release of PFOA and PFOS. Meanwhile, these compounds are showing up in the water entering municipal treatment plants long distances from manufacturing facilities — not to mention in animals and people around the globe. So what can we do?

  • Filter your drinking water
  • Install a shower or bath filter
  • Ditch your old non-stick pans for ones made of cast iron, stainless steel, pyrex glass baking dishes and/or ceramic non-stick cookware

Whether you are trying to conceive naturally, going through IVF or trying again after a miscarriage, it is worthwhile doing what you can to improve egg (& sperm) quality. It takes 3-5 months for an immature egg to develop into a mature egg ready for ovulation. So it is worth making positive changes three months before trying to conceive (or now if you’ve already started).

Remember, one step at a time. When I was trying to conceive, I decided to focus on a new project each month. That is, each time my period came and I got over the disappointment, I then focused on what new thing I could do next to improve my chances.


Written by:

Elaine HickmanDr Elaine Hickman

B.H.Sc.TCM (Acupuncture), Cert.Cl.Ac. (Beijing)

Elaine has trained and worked in various settings, both in Australia and China.  She has over 22 years experience in treating many health problems.  Elaine loves to provide a health care experience for people that is respectful, effective, empowering and enjoyable.  Elaine has particular expertise in Women’s Health, Children’s Health, Family Medicine and Wellness promotion. She brings extra understanding and knowledge to the table having been through infertility herself.

Elaine is available Mondays & Tuesdays at Freedom Chinese Medicine in Ivanhoe, Melbourne or via video chat. Click here to book.



1. Pivonello, C., Muscogiuri, G., Nardone, A. et al. Bisphenol A: an emerging threat to female fertility. Reprod Biol Endocrinol 18, 22 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12958-019-0558-8

Bisphenol-A and Female Infertility: A Possible Role of Gene-Environment Interactions. Xiaona Huo, Dan Chen, Yonghua He, Wenting Zhu, Wei Zhou, and Jun Zhang. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2015 Sep; 12(9): 11101–11116. Bisphenol-A and Female Infertility: A Possible Role of Gene-Environment Interactions

2. Koch HM, Lorber M, Christensen KL, Pälmke C, Koslitz S, Brüning T. Identifying sources of phthalate exposure with human biomonitoring: results of a 48h fasting study with urine collection and personal activity patterns. Int J Hyg Environ Health. 2013 Nov;216(6):672-81. doi: 10.1016/j.ijheh.2012.12.002. Epub 2013 Jan 18. PMID: 23333758.

Nonstick chemicals linked to infertility.  2009. 

Fei, C., . . . and J. Olsen. 2009. Maternal Levels of Perfluorinated Chemicals and Subfecundity. Human Reproduction 24(in press). DOI:10.1093/humrep/den490

Fei, C., . . . and J. Olsen. 2008. Prenatal Exposure to Perfluoroocanoate (PFOA) and Perfluorooctanesulfonate (PFOS) and Maternally Reported Developmental Milestones in Infancy. Environmental Health Perspectives 116(October):1391. [Go to]

Fei, C., . . . and J. Olsen. Perfluorinated Chemicals and Fetal Growth: A Study within the Danish National Birth Cohort. Environmental Health Perspectives 115(November):1677



Trouble-shooting Your Fertility Test Results

When a woman or couple is trying to conceive, many tests may be done. It can be difficult to understand what these results mean. In my experience, most patients don’t understand them, even after seeing a fertility specialist. I think knowledge is power. And you wanna be empowered in your fertility journey right? So here is a basic outline of what tests may be done and what they indicate..

Usually when a woman tells her GP that she is trying to get pregnant, they’ll run a bunch of blood tests. The first ones are for STI’s and if the GP is thorough, they’ll include Iron, Vit D and a Thyroid study in the bloods.

Vitamin D is often low, so a good supplement is needed. If they are really low, it’s worth talking to a nutritional medicine practitioner for correct dosage of Vit D, such as Dr. Jessie Fayers at Freedom Chinese Medicine in Ivanhoe, Melbourne.

If you’ve been trying to conceive with no success for 12 months (or 6 months if you’re over 35), then other tests are done:

  1. Pelvic Ultrasound – Can show any structural issues, lining thickness and will give a AFC, antral follicle count. This is the number of maturing eggs visible. Usually visible on both sides. You add these together to get the total count.  The AFC is the single most important indicator of your follicular reserve – egg count. An AFC lower than 8 is indicator of a lower reserve. If this is you, try not to despair, there is much that can be done to improve egg quality (it only takes one!) and optimise follicular reserve. Contact us to discuss.

2. Base hormone tests. This is a blood test taken at Day 2 or 3 of your menstrual cycle (day 1 is counted as the first day of  flow- not spotting). Your base hormones should include oestradiol, progesterone, prolactin, testosterone, FSH and LH. These are usually within normal range.

3. Progesterone tests are often overlooked but well worth doing. This is another blood test which should be taken 7 days after your usual ovulation time (if you know it). Often on Day 21, but if you ovulate late or early, this test should be done accordingly, ie. bloods taken on Day 17 if you ovulate on Day 10. The most thorough way to test progesterone is to take two more blood samples every second day after the first. That is, Day 21, 23 and 25. Seem excessive?

I can’t tell you how many women I’ve seen in 22 years of private practice, who have had trouble conceiving or keep miscarrying because of low progesterone. It’s a simple test, and often a simple fix.

12 days of sufficient progesterone levels are necessary to support implantation of a fertilised embryo. So, if you tend to have short cycles, it’s worth working out when you ovulate (via urine test, cervical mucous, BBT, bloods or u/sound). To ensure that there is at least 12 days between when you ovulate and when you bleed.

4. AMH

If your over 35 or if your pelvic ultrasound showed a low AFC, another blood test will be recommended; an AMH test.  This measures a hormone related to your egg count/ follicular reserve. It’s a fairly new test which is only really useful to indicate potential response to IVF and/ or how far you are from menopause.

The graph below shows the change in normal AMH range with age.  The breadth and value of this range reduces with age, which reflects the diminishing ovarian reserve.

AMH Ovarian Reserve Graph V1

However, age is not everything! When I had my AMH tested at 36yo it was 6, at 40 it was 2. Yes, I’ve felt the anguish, worry and tears. I went on to conceive naturally at 41yo. Yes I did a lot of work to improve my health, nutrition & fertility. You can too. Drop me a line to hear what I did and get a fertility plan tailored to you.

There are no guarantees of course, but there is the satisfaction that comes from knowing you’re doing what you can to improve your chances. Here’s me & my healthy daughter:


5. Semen analysis for him (if there is one).

Been told that his semen is AOK? Do you know that the levels for “normal sperm” have been lowered dramatically in the last 30 years. Now, this doesn’t matter if your going for IVF/ ICSI. However, if you’re trying to conceive naturally or via IUI, read on..

In 1987, the normal levels for sperm morphology, that is sperm shape (- one head, one tail or two heads, missing tail) was 50%. Now it is at 3%. That is, it is considered normal for 97% of the sperm to be misshapen. Once again, this doesn’t matter with IVF as the healthy sperm can be selected. But if not, your partner/ donor’s sperm should be above 15% normal to have a decent chance of natural conception.

Morphology is considered the most significant semen parameter. Research shows that the percent of morphologically normal sperm are significant predictors of time to pregnancy. Even independent of sperm concentration.1

I hope this helps navigate some of those fertility tests. Of course, they can be more complex if you have PCO or endometriosis. Wherever you’re at, we are experienced in helping every step of the way.

Written by

Dr Elaine Hickman

B.H.Sc.TCM (Acupuncture), Cert.Cl.Ac. (Beijing)

Elaine has trained and worked in various settings, both in Australia and China.  She has over 22 years experience in treating many health problems.  Elaine loves to provide a health care experience for people that is respectful, effective, empowering and enjoyable.  Elaine has particular expertise in Women’s Health, Children’s Health, Family Medicine and Wellness promotion. She brings extra understanding and knowledge to the table having been through infertility herself.


Elaine is available

Monday & Tuesday
Call (03) 9486 5966


Natural Therapy for Anxiety, Stress, PTSD & Depression

Need help with Anxiety, Stress, PTSD or Depression?

Talking Therapy hasn’t helped or not accessible?

This may assist ~

We are now offering 1 to 1 instruction in Meditation, Qi Gong, Breathing Exercises and Tension Release Exercises.


We have established a Zen Wellness Program because of the deep need we see for practical and effective intervention to help us manage our mental and emotional wellbeing. To ease the effects of stress, anxiety, trauma and depression and to empower people to take an active role in their own complete health and wellness.

With The Zen Wellness Program, we aim to provide instruction and education in simple but highly effective techniques and simple habits that, when practiced regularly, really enhance vitality, resilience and mental and emotional equilibrium.

In the Program we combine traditional interventions like acupuncture and massage with instruction in meditation, tai chi, qi gong, breathing and trauma release exercises as well as advice on diet and lifestyle.

We recognise that, although psychology and counselling are excellent and essential interventions, not everyone responds equally well to talking therapy. Just like some people say they struggle to meditate. For some of us, exercise and movement are the best forms of therapy and as such we are offering Zen Wellness to identify and meet individual needs.

Why Choose Zen Wellness

Sure, you can look up guided meditation, yoga or mindfulness on YouTube, but nothing compares to individualised instruction.

We encounter many people who say they cannot meditate but this is often due to a misunderstanding about what meditation is and how to really do it. YouTube can’t help with that, only a trained and experienced instructor can identify what you are doing and how to enhance it to improve your meditation or mindfulness practice.

We aim to tailor a wellness program to suit your individual needs, i.e., if you like movement we will provide you with instruction on Tai Chi/Qi Gong and Tension Release Exercises, if you prefer meditation we will provide you with specific meditative and mindfulness techniques ranging from practical mindfulness stress reduction or spiritual visualisation if that is your preference and for some we will explore all of our different wellbeing options to find the perfect fit.


Zen Wellness is about giving you the skills and techniques to take charge of your own wellbeing. Autonomy and self-mastery are key components to creating complete holistic wellbeing. We will provide you with the necessary skills and techniques for you to take an active role in your own health and wellbeing.


The Body Keeps the Score

This is the title of the ground-breaking book by Bessel Van Der Kolk outlines how our bodies retain the memory of stress and trauma in our tissues. Therefore, for many of us, it is essential to have a physical component to our therapeutic health interventions in order to release the physical manifestation of stress and trauma.

We seek to blend meditative and mindfulness practices with the physical practices of breathing, Qi Gong and Tension Release Exercises so as to enhance the benefits of other therapies and create the physical space for healing within.

Wanna know more about the techniques?

1. Meditation & Mindfulness

Meditation is about activating your conscious awareness. Contrary to what many believe it is not only about trying to empty your mind of thoughts.  Meditation is also to observe yourself. Your mind, body and the world around you. In fact, the word meditation comes from the Latin verb meditari which means to think.

Mindfulness is about bringing your full conscious awareness into the present moment. The here and now. By doing so we can release our attachment to the past and the future. This attachment can cause us so much stress, anxiety and regret.


Both meditation and mindfulness have incredible benefits for our health and wellbeing. There is now a multitude of scientific studies showing the benefits. They can improve physical and mental wellbeing in measurable ways. And actually stimulate brain and nerve growth. These practices can improve creativity, productivity and collaboration. Enhancing our ability to move into states of conscious flow which enhance our harmony with both our environment and those around us.


2. Breathing Exercises

Everyone knows how to breathe right? Did you know that, in a recent study, 61% of people identified as mouth breathers? Yet the nose has 1 purpose only, breathing. Nasal breathing reduces the frequency of breathing by 50%. This in turn slows our heart rate and calms our nervous system. When nasal breathing we instinctively activate the diaphragm to support the inhalation. This has numerous health benefits. Mouth breathing forces us to use our neck muscles and thus contributes to neck tension. Activating the diaphragm down regulates the nervous system and releases abdominal tension. Nasal breathing also filters pathogens and warms our breath reducing instances of cold and flu.

In addition to these and other benefits of correct breathing, we can also use our breath to calm, reduce stress, anxiety and tension. Aid sleep or even stimulate the nervous system when we need more energy and activation.

There are several exercises we can teach you to breathe properly and better.


meditation3. Qi Gong

Qi Gong roughly translates as energy work. It involves a series of movements designed to harmonise the relationship between mind and body. In Qi Gong we synchronise our breath and movement to stimulate the flow of “Qi’ or energy much like we do when we practice acupuncture. In fact, practicing Qi Gong is almost like giving yourself acupuncture as it harmonises and stimulates the flow of Qi. Removing areas of blockage or stagnation and strengthening areas of weakness or deficiency.


Qi Gong is like a meditative or mindful movement. An embodied meditative practice that brings a deep sense of calm to the mind while also strengthening the body. Qi Gong is gentle and suitable for people of any age. It is profoundly calming. Some Qi Gong exercises can have an incredibly stimulating effect and can be used to increase vitality.


4. TRE

Tension or Trauma Release Exercises (TRE) is a new term. However, it is something that is innately part of all living creatures and has likely been practiced by humans for a long time.

Stress and Trauma manifest physically in the body and is stored in our muscles. It’s no secret that when we feel stressed or anxious, we tense our muscles. Sometimes our body has difficulty releasing this tension afterwards and it remains.

TRE is a way of triggering the nervous system to produce a gentle tremor in our muscles to release tension, stress and trauma from the body. By gently fatiguing the muscles they start to shake, thus, releasing tension and subsequently downregulating the nervous system and restore us to a state of calm and relaxation. The real benefit of TRE is that it is safe, easy to do, doesn’t require any special equipment and once you know how to do it, you can do so yourself whenever you feel the need. We can teach you how.

We can teach you any of the above techniques. Work out which one is best suited to you and your situation. And help you to implement the practice into your daily life (yes, there are tips and tricks to help it all stick).

You can access any of these practices at Freedom Chinese Medicine in Ivanhoe, Melbourne or via an online video session.

You can attend any of these as a stand-alone session. You can also access them as a package to ensure you get the most benefit and save $. We’ve called them Zen sessions. Because it’s all about helping you to be more Zen!


  • Calm
  • Resilient
  • Balanced
  • Centred


Zen Foundations 


  • One hour consult; in which we listen to what’s going on for you, teach you what’s going on in your body, and advise which kind of therapy would work best for you, based on our extensive experience
  • One hour practice session: Either Meditation or Breathing exercises or Qi Gong or Tension Release Exercises
  • Instructional video to keep
  • 30 min follow up session 2 weeks later to gauge how you’re feeling, how your practice is going, what else you might need

All for $297 

. (If pay as you go, adds up to $300)

Click here to book your initial consult. Sessions are listed under Mind-Body Wellness

Deep Zen 


  • The Zen Foundations Package
  • Plus 4 weekly one hour Massage sessions
  • Or 4 weekly Acupuncture sessions
  • Or a Herbal/Nutritional consult with 4 weeks of herbal medicine or nutritional supplements to support your nervous system.
  • Includes a 15min follow up to make any adjustments to your individualised prescription

All for $697. Health Insurance Rebates available.

(if pay as you go, adds up to $720)

Click here to book your initial consult.  Sessions are listed under Mind-Body Wellness


Total Zen


  • Zen Foundations Package
  • Deep Zen Package
  • Plus 2 more sessions of Massage or Acupuncture or 2 more weeks of Herbal or Nutritional Medicine to give you more lasting change
  • Includes a 30min follow up at conclusion to assess what further care, instruction or advice you may need.

All for $947. Health Insurance Rebates available.

(if pay as you go, adds up to $970)

Click here to book your initial consult. Sessions are listed under Mind-Body Wellness

Keep Me Zen – Maintenance package

  • Monthly Acupuncture or Massage or Herbs or Nutritional Support for 3 months

All for $297 

(if pay as you go, adds up to $300)


Note: we continue to offer our low cost Express Acupuncture sessions at $30/40 for those of you who find acupuncture is sufficient.

Nutrition for COVID prevention

More than 2,500 years ago, Hippocrates said: “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.”

Now that we’re facing COVID, optimal nutrition is more important than ever.

Which nutrients support the immune system?

Micronutrients are dietary components that may contribute substantially to a robust immune system.1 Essential micronutrients like vitamins A, D, E, C, B6, B12, and folate and trace elements such as iron, zinc, and selenium, available in a variety of fresh animal- and plant-based foods, aid the body’s ability to fight infections.2 Health and survival are increasingly dependent on the functioning of the immune system.


Optimal nutrition impacts the immune system through gene expression, cell activation, and signaling molecules modification. In addition, what we eat determines our gut microbiome and subsequently shapes the immune responses in our body.


What is optimal nutrition when in comes to preventing COVID?

Certain factors such as lifestyle, age, health status, sex, and medications affect the nutritional status of an individual.4  Several studies have confirmed that micronutrient deficiencies are associated with a weakened immune system that predisposes individuals to increased vulnerability to infections.24,25 Recently, Calder et al6 reviewed the association between optimal nutrition and the immune system in providing better protection against viral infections. They suggested that essential micronutrients and the omega-3 fatty acids have the capacity to boost immunity against viral infections. Similarly, Chaturvedi et al46 described the complex relationship between trace elements and viral infections, highlighting the immunomodulatory properties and antiviral activities of certain micronutrients such as iron, zinc, selenium, and copper. Apart from functioning as antioxidants, these trace elements were shown to inhibit viral replication in host cells.

The role of optimal nutrition for managing the current COVID-19 pandemic cannot be underestimated. Nutrition has a demonstrable role in the prevention and treatment of moderate to severe respiratory and nonrespiratory infections. Adequate nutrition is even more essential for marginalized communities and in low- and middle-income countries, where deficiencies in key vitamins and minerals expose individuals to greater morbidity and mortality.

Each meal brings thousands of different substances into the body, affecting thousands of different biological processes, all the way to the cellular and subcellular level. Scientists are only beginning to grasp this enormous universe of food and nutrition effects on the body. Among these substances are nutrients, both macronutrients and micronutrients for which reference daily intakes have been defined, as well as upper levels for safe intake for many.16 17 However, a plethora of other bioactive substances found in foods, such as polyphenols and carotenioids, that seem to be important for health and wellness, are also brought along. The importance of these are bluntly reflected in food-based dietary guidelines (FBDGs), represented as recommendations for a variety and diversity of whole vegetables, fruits, berries, nuts, seeds, grains and pulses, along with some meats, eggs, dairy products and fish, if selected, as discussed in the paper by Calder.4 This type of healthy diet is a tactical approach to build a healthy body and a strong immune system, as emphasised by the WHO and other organisations during the pandemic,18 especially when eaten at the expense of more ultraprocessed food items.19

However, with advancing age and for high-risk groups, a nutrient-rich diet is not always enough to meet needs for micronutrients.4 14 While high intakes should be avoided, there may be a a role for immune-targeted supplements that might be necessary to achieve the intake of nutrients needed for an optimally functioning immune system.4 Furthermore, there is one thing to enhance the public health nutritional status, through preventive actions, while the clinical situation of an active disease is another situation altogether. Overall, older people are harder hit, and while fighting an infection, the nutrient needs of patients might be increased.14 This might warrant special nutrition therapy, potentially with higher doses of supplements and functional foods,11 as quality care also involves quality nutritional care.

Tailored nutritional advice and prescription for the prevention and treatment of COVID-19 is complex. The best way to navigate this is via professional advice from nutrition-trained professionals. Thankfully, we have 2 of them at Freedom Chinese Medicine; Dr. Jessie Fayers & Dr. Laura Thiveos.  Telehealth consultations to discuss your nutritional status and get advice or prescriptions are inexpensive and easy to book via: www.freedomchinesemedicine.com/booking.

Written by Dr. Elaine Hickman

B.H.Sc.TCM (Acupuncture), Cert.Cl.Ac. (Beijing)


Elaine runs a private practice in Ivanhoe and is the trusted family physician of many. Elaine is a registered Doctor of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). She completed a Bachelor of Health Science – TCM, majoring in Acupuncture, and a hospital internship in China in 1998. Elaine is the Principal Practitioner at Freedom Chinese Medicine, managing a dedicated team of practitioners & staff, and supervises many TCM students in clinical training. Elaine’s passion for Chinese Medicine has her regularly furthering her education, Qi Gong training and sharing knowledge.






  1. Annual Research Review: Improved nutrition–pathway to resilience.  Yousafzai AK, Rasheed MA, Bhutta ZA
J Child Psychol Psychiatry. 2013 Apr; 54(4):367-77.

Healthy Chocolate Christmas Balls

I love this recipe, it is a great snack for when I am craving something sweet and since it is sugar free it is great for my health. I also find that they fill me up, so I don’t have to eat heaps of them to satisfy that craving.

I make these for family and friends as Christmas gifts and after all the indulgent food they have eaten, they are thankful for something healthy and yummy at the same time. They look fantastic inside a small colourful bowl, wrapped in cellophane and tied with Christmas ribbon. I usually double the recipe so there is enough for everyone. Makes about 30 small balls.


  • 5 cups (225g) Whole Almonds (and or Walnuts, Cashews – whatever nuts you have handy!)
  • 15 Medjool Dates, pitted
  • 1 tablespoon Chia Seeds
  • 1 tablespoon Cacao Powder/Cocoa Powder
  • 2 tablespoons Coconut Oil
  • Zest of 1 Orange


  1. Place the nuts into a food processor and blend until they are finely ground.
  2. Add the dates, chia seeds, cocoa powder, coconut oil and orange zest and blend until the mixture is completely combined and holds together when you press a chunk together.
  3. Roll into large teaspoon sized balls using your hands, then place in the fridge to cool for 30 mins-1 hour.

I store these in the fridge in an airtight container and they last for a week or so.

Walnuts are great for the kidneys and if you are trying to conceive, they are especially beneficial for men!


Written by:

Dr Kate Howden


Dr. Kate Howden is an empathetic and caring practitioner, with over a decade of nursing experience, in both general and psychiatric nursing. And now years of experience as a Chinese Medicine practitioner. She takes a holistic approach to client care and loves seeing people feel better about themselves.

Kate has a particular passion for women’s health. She is a mother with her own children and stepchildren and understands the many challenges women face.

She enjoys regular games of netball and long walks with her partner.

Open Room Acupuncture update

To give more people access to low cost Acupuncture AND keep our sessions hygienic &  allow for physical distancing we’ve changed the Open Room/ Community Acupuncture schedule as follows:


  1. We’ve changed the schedule to allow 3 people max per hour and metres apart to adhere to social distancing requirements.
  2.  The sessions now start 15 mins apart. That is, 1 person is booked at say 2pm and the next at 2.15, 2.30 and so on..

This change has changed the way you can book online slightly. Now you book via the appointments tab, not the group sessions tab. Scroll down the appointment types until you see Open Room Follow Up and select. Then choose your day/ time.

And we’re now offering sessions on Mondays nights with Heather. In addition to the Wednesday, Friday & Saturday sessions.

Click here to book

Feel free to contact us if you have any questions.


Health Check Quiz

1 min Health Check Quiz

Warning: even doing this quiz may improve your health:)

Click this link to complete the quiz: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/T6SBC99

Your answers can be evaluated & discussed in a consultation as part of the Spring Vitality Recharge Challenge. Click here to book your challenge. (Click the Chinese Medicine tab, then click Spring Vitality Recharge Challenge Initial Consult).

Spring recharge here you come!


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