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Dragon Wellness Tea

We launched our signature premium organic green tea last month! In celebration of the clinic’s 24th birthday in the Year of the Dragon. It’s Dragon Wellness Tea. Smooth, mild and full of anti-oxidants. We all know the health benefits of green tea don’t we? Here they are just in case:

10 Evidence-Based Benefits of Green Tea

1. Contains healthy bioactive compounds

2. May improve brain function

3. Increases fat burning

4. Antioxidants may lower the risk of some cancers

5. May protect the brain from aging

6. May reduce bad breath

7. May help prevent type 2 diaabetes

8. May help prevent cardiovascular disease

9. May help you lose weight

10. Might help you live longer

Source: 10 Evidence-Based Benefits of Green Tea (healthline.com)

Collect your tea instore at Freedom Chinese Medicine in Ivanhoe or contact us to send some to you:

Phone: 039486 5966 or

email: reception@freedomchinesemedicine.com

3 Ways to Relieve Migraines Naturally

Migraines can be debilitating and sometimes the medications don’t work. In Chinese Medicine, there are several types of migraine, all with different underlying causes and differentiated by symptoms. In a session, it is the practitioner’s job to go through a process of differential diagnosis to determine exactly what is causing your migraines, so that the treatment may be as targeted and effective as possible. Some of the methods we use to treat migraines are..

  1. Acupuncture

Acupuncture is the primary form of treatment for migraines in Chinese Medicine and has been found to be quite effective (1). It is safe and has less side effects than commonly prescribed medications (1). Your practitioner will determine the most appropriate acupuncture points to use for your case in order to treat the underlying cause, so not everyone’s treatment will look the same. Like all good things, it may take a little time. Several sessions are likely necessary before you start to truly see results, though everybody is different.

  1. Chinese Herbs

Chinese herbs are another method that’s quite effective in the treatment of migraines. The herbs we prescribe will also be used to treat the underlying cause, just as the selected acupuncture points are. In fact, Chinese Herbs have been found to significantly reduce the frequency and pain severity of migraines, with longer treatment times resulting in increased effectiveness (2). Having herbs each day is like giving yourself a little treatment and tends to help carry the patient from one acupuncture appointment to the next, so that the underlying cause is being treated daily in one form or another.

  1. Diet and Lifestyle Advice

The correct diet and lifestyle choices are powerful tools for the management of our health and wellbeing. Migraines are no different. Common lifestyle advice for migraines includes ensuring you have enough sleep and rest to replenish and refresh your body and working towards a healthy work/life balance. A term I’m sure we’ve all heard so much at this point that it seems trivial. But the concept of balance in life is highly important. If you do suffer from migraines, have you ever noticed that they tend to become more frequent when you’re under stress and/or spread particularly thin? There’s a reason for that.

Written by

Camille Mucha

Dr Camille Mucha

Acupuncturist & Herbalist

Camille grew up surrounded by natural therapies and even technically received acupuncture while in utero!

Even so, she initially decided to pursue Science – before coming back to her roots and studying Acupuncture and Chinese Herbs.

Camille is a compassionate, caring and intuitive practitioner whose areas of interest include chronic health issues, pain management, migraine management, mental health, stress, anxiety and Women’s health, including fertility.

Camille is available at Freedom Chinese Medicine in Ivanhoe, Melbourne on

Mondays, Wednesdays & Saturdays 
Call (03) 9486 5966

Click this link to Book Your Appointment with Camille TODAY

References:

1.         Urits I, Patel M, Putz ME, Monteferrante NR, Nguyen D, An D, et al. Acupuncture and Its Role in the Treatment of Migraine Headaches. Neurol Ther. 2020;9(2):375–94.

2.         Lyu S, Zhang CS, Guo X, Zhang AL, Sun J, Chen G, et al. Efficacy and Safety of Oral Chinese Herbal Medicine for Migraine: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analyses Using Robust Variance Estimation Model. Front Neurol. 2022;13:889336.

How Do I Know if I’m Ovulating?

The first thing to work out when you’re planning to fall pregnant, is whether you’re ovulating or not.

There are a few ways to tell:

  1. You can use an ovulation (LH surge) test kit at home.
  2. You can look for fertile mucous each cycle.
  3. You chart a rise in your basal body temperature for the second half of your cycle.
  4. You can have a pelvic ultrasound after ovulation time.
  5. A Day 21 (or 7 days post ovulation) Progesterone test is also an indicator of ovulation.

I recommend that you check by more than one of the above methods. As most are not 100% accurate. If you’ve been trying for more than 12 months (less if you’re over 35), I suggest you have the medical tests, via your GP is sufficient.

But, if you’re just starting out on this journey or want to get to know your body better, I suggest that you learn how to check for fertile mucous

and

take your basal body temperature. BBT for short.

What is fertile mucous?

It’s the discharge that you get usually midway through your menstrual cycle. It is like raw egg white. It is transparent, stretchy and there’s more of it than other times in your cycle. Some women notice it when they go to the toilet. Others will notice it as a wet patch in their underwear. Fertile mucous is usually noticeable for 2-3 days. We usually ovulate during this time.

If you haven’t ever noticed fertile cervical mucous before, don’t worry. Most women don’t notice until they start paying special attention.

And if you have been paying attention for a while but still haven’t noticed any.. look to some other methods, such as taking your BBT.

Written by:

Elaine Hickman

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 25 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 most other days. Elaine’s trusted Associates are available most weekdays. Click here to book.

How can improving your stomach acid improve your health?

What is Hypochlorhydria? Hypochlorhydria is when you secrete less than an optimal amount of stomach acid. This means the body isn’t breaking down the proteins and foods you ingest. It also means you lose a line of defense against microbes, spores and viruses coming into the body via food1.  

People commonly think that stomach acid is bad. That it causes reflux and heartburn.  Actually, having the right amount of stomach acid is vital for health. A healthy person’s gastric acid should sit below a pH of 3. But some studies and claims show that up to 90% of the population may have low acid levels. Some of the symptoms may include: feeling full after regular meals; heartburn; undigested food in stools; bloating; constipation; diarrhea; gas and stomach cramps. 

How does low acid affect my health? 

Low gastric acid means we are unable to break down and absorb proteins and nutrients from the foods we eat. I often tell my patients that the expensive high quality foods and  supplements they buy are wasted unless we correct their stomach acid first. Over time low acid can lead to nutritional deficiencies like Vitamin B12 deficiency, digestive dysfunction such as small intestine bacterial overgrowth (SIBO), bloating, constipation, fatigue and h-pylori infection. 

How do you know if you have low acid levels?

Common tests include:

  • Betaine HCL challenge test: most reliable home test involving taking a HCL supplement to determine insufficiency.
  • Comprehensive gut testing: will reveal undigested food is in the stool as well as being able to identify other imbalances contributing to low levels.
  • Heidelberg pH test: pH test prescribed by a gastroenterologist. 

What can I do to improve my acid levels? 

  • Hydrochloric acid supplements such as betaine hydrochloride (hcl) and enzymes are used to restore the pH of your stomach. 
  • Zinc is a building block for stomach acid, so make sure you are getting enough in your diet  from foods like – oysters, crab and lobster, pumpkin seeds, chicken, kale and mushrooms,  and/or take a supplement.  
  • Medications like PPI’s (proton pump inhibitors) and antacids reduce the secretions of  stomach acid.  

Relax

According to Harvard Medical School stress can slow down or even stop the digestive  process. Relaxing with calming music, deep breaths and putting screens aside whilst you  eat are some effective ways to enhance gastrointestinal function and increase stomach  acid secretions. 

Chew your food slowly

We all know someone who literally inhales their dinner and are therefore bypassing the first phase of  the digestive process- chewing. Chewing generates saliva to signal parietal cells in the  gastric glands of the stomach to secrete hydrochloric acid (HCL). Smelling and tasting  your food heralds this acid secretion too. So next time you sit down for a meal, take time to bring your bowl close for a smell before savoring the tastes whilst chewing slowly and enjoying. 

Bitter is better

Bitter digestive herbs are used to stimulate stomach acid. Aperitifs contain herbs like bitter citrus leaves and gentian root to prepare the body for a meal. You can get a hold of a digestive formula and have a few drops before meals. Or nibble on some bitter greens like chicory or radicchio as salad before a big meal to stimulate more secretions.

How can we help you?

You can book in for a nutritional consult where we can assess your symptoms and provide further functional testing such as stool tests, SIBO breath test and food intolerance panels. We stock herbs and HCL capsules to test and boost your stomach acid. 

Click here to book: https://freedomchinesemedicine.com/booking/  

Click here to contact us:  (03) 9486 5966

By Dr Jessie Fayers (TCM)

Dr. Jessie Fayers has been practicing acupuncture and herbal medicine for over 15 years. She uses functional pathology testing with in depth case history to provide her patients with individualized treatment strategies to make sustained changes reach optimal health and vitality. Jessie’s special interests include digestion and women’s health and is available by appointment at Freedom Chinese Medicine on Monday, Tuesday and Thursdays.

References

1. Hunt, R.H., Camilleri, M., Crowe, S.E., El-Omar, E.M., Fox, J.G., Kuipers, E.J.,  Malfertheiner, P., McColl, K.E.L., Pritchard, D.M., Rugge, M., Sonnenberg, A., Sugano, K.  and Tack, J. (2015). The stomach in health and disease. Gut, 64(10): 1650-1668

5 Ways to Prevent COVID After Exposure

hay fever reliefThere’s still plenty of COVID cases around, and we know how to minimise our risk of exposure, and transmission to others. But what if you’ve just found out your a close contact? If you’ve had a get together and one of you has come down with COVID since. Is there more you can do to prevent infection for yourself?

Yes.

Here are 5 good options:

  1. Use a mouthwash containing cetylpyridinium chloride (CPC)

The virus that caused COVID is SARS-CoV-2. It enters our body via our mouth or nose. It quickly multiplies in either cavity before spreading further down our airways. Using a solution that can inhibit SARS-CoV-2 in these cavities has been shown to reduce the likelihood of COVID infection. Mouthwashes containing CPC currently available in major supermarkets and chemists (in no particular order) include:

  1. Oral-B Clinical Alcohol Free Fluoride Rinse Clean Mint Mouthwash
  2. Colgate Plax Antibacterial Mouthwash Freshmint Alcohol Free 500ml
  3. Colgate Plax Antibacterial Mouthwash Fresh Tea Alcohol Free 500ml
  4. Colgate Neutrafluor 220 Daily Fluoride Mouth Rinse Mint 473ml
  5. Colgate Plax Ice Fusion Antibacterial Mouthwash Cold Mint 500ml
  6. Colgate Plax Antibacterial Mouthwash Freshmint Alcohol Free 250ml
  7. Colgate Plax Antibacterial Mouthwash Peppermint Alcohol Free 500ml
  8. Colgate Plax Antibacterial Mouthwash Peppermint Alcohol Free 500ml
  9. Colgate Plax Antibacterial Mouthwash Freshmint Alcohol Free 1l
  10. Listerine Smart Rinse Mouthwash For Kids Berry 500ml
  11. Coles Pro Zero Mouthwash
  12. Coles Pro Teeth Defence Mouthwash

    2. Gargle Chlorhexidine. 

    Brand name is Savacol, available in pharmacies. Chlorhexidine is an antimicrobial agent that has been shown to be effective in killing enveloped viruses, including SARS‐CoV‐2. The tricky part is gargling for 30 seconds, right at the back of your throat. It’s harder than it sounds. Certainly possible. Counting and pausing to breathe through your nose helps.

    3. Use a Nasal Spray. Numerous studies have confirmed that povidone-iodine (PI) inactivates many common respiratory viruses, including SARS. 10–20 ml 1% PVP-solution is placed into the nasal cavity.  Three recent studies identified a reduction in viral load in saliva after the use of mouthrinses with PI (up to three hours), chlorhexidine (up to four hours), or CPC-containing mouthwash (up to six hours). So use 15 ml 1% PVP-I as a swish and spit for 30 seconds or dilute betadine throat gargle by putting it into a saline nasal spray bottle (to a 1% PVP solution). Don’t forget to dilute it! I did once. Ouch. PVP-I functions as an antiseptic through several mechanisms and is considered to have the broadest spectrum of action compared to other common antiseptics such as chlorhexidine.  Through oxidation of cell surface receptors, PVP-I prevents the attachment of viruses to cellular receptors.

    4. Take Vitamin C. High-dose vitamin C has been shown to enhance immunity, reduce inflammation, improve oxygen support status, and reduce mortality in COVID-19 patients, all without causing any negative side effects. What is high dose? 2000mg daily, increasing by 1000mg each day, up to 5000mg daily, or until you get diarrhoea. Stop increasing the dose then. Sound unpleasant? Sure, but it’s cleaning your gut whilst preventing/ treating COVID.

    5. Take Quercetin. Quercetin displays a broad range of antiviral properties which can interfere at multiple steps of pathogen virulence -virus entry, virus replication, protein assembly. You can buy Quercetin in supplement form and dose according to the manufacturers instructions.  You can also eat Quercetin-rich foods, which are apples, honey, raspberries, onions, red grapes, cherries, citrus fruits, and green leafy vegetables.

You can hedge your bets and do all of the above! I certainly do after exposure.

Stay well!

 

Written by,

Dr Elaine Hickman sitting at clinic deskDr 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.

Elaine is available for consultations:

Monday & Tuesday
Call (03) 9486 5966

 

References

Dutta, Sanchari Sinha. (2021, August 09). Cetylpyridinium chloride-containing mouthwashes shown to inhibit SARS-CoV-2 in oral cavity. News-Medical. Retrieved on January 09, 2023 from https://www.news-medical.net/news/20210809/Cetylpyridinium-chloride-containing-mouthwashes-shown-to-inhibit-SARS-CoV-2-in-oral-cavity.aspx.

Huang YH, Huang JT. Use of chlorhexidine to eradicate oropharyngeal SARS-CoV-2 in COVID-19 patients. J Med Virol. 2021 Jul;93(7):4370-4373. doi: 10.1002/jmv.26954. Epub 2021 Apr 1. PMID: 33755218; PMCID: PMC8251493.

Colunga Biancatelli Ruben Manuel Luciano, Berrill Max, Catravas John D., Marik Paul E. Quercetin and Vitamin C: An Experimental, Synergistic Therapy for the Prevention and Treatment of SARS-CoV-2 Related Disease (COVID-19). Frontiers in Immunology. VOLUME=11. YEAR=2020. URL=https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fimmu.2020.01451

Naqvi, S.H.S., Citardi, M.J., Cattano, D. et al. Povidone-iodine solution as SARS-CoV-2 prophylaxis for procedures of the upper aerodigestive tract a theoretical framework. J of Otolaryngol – Head & Neck Surg 49, 77 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1186/s40463-020-00474-x

Hernández-Vásquez, A., Barrenechea-Pulache, A., Comandé, D. et al. Mouthrinses and SARS-CoV-2 viral load in saliva: a living systematic review. Evid Based Dent (2022). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41432-022-0253-z

Jhon Paul Iakov Mezarina Mendoza, Briggitte Patricia Trelles Ubillús, Gabriela Tazziana Salcedo Bolívar, Rosa Del Pilar Castañeda Palacios, Paulo Sergio Gilmar Herrera Lopez, David Alex Padilla Rodríguez, Karin Harumi Uchima Koecklin,
Antiviral effect of mouthwashes against SARS-COV-2: A systematic review,
The Saudi Dental Journal, Volume 34, Issue 3, 2022

Shahbaz U, Fatima N, Basharat S, Bibi A, Yu X, Hussain MI, Nasrullah M. Role of vitamin C in preventing of COVID-19 infection, progression and severity. AIMS Microbiol. 2022 Mar 30;8(1):108-124. doi: 10.3934/microbiol.2022010. PMID: 35496992; PMCID: PMC8995185.

 

Gluten-Free Quinoa Tabouli

Do you have an abundance of parsley in your garden this Spring? Here’s a yummy use for it!

Ingredients

2 cups water

 2 cups flat-leaf parsley loosely packed, very finely sliced

 ½ cup fresh mint leaves, finely sliced

 3 spring onions/scallions, finely sliced

 250 gm cherry tomatoes, quartered 

2 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice (or to taste)

½ cup extra virgin olive oil

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

 Recipe Measurements:

For accuracy, we recommend weighing your ingredients. This will produce the best results.

Instructions

  • Put the quinoa in a fine-meshed sieve and rinse well under cold, running water, swishing the quinoa with your hand. Drain the quinoa well.
  • Add 2 cups of water to a medium-size saucepan. Add the quinoa. Over medium-high heat bring it to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer, covered for about 10 minutes, until the seeds are tender. When they are cooked you will notice that they have little curly “tails”.
  • Remove the saucepan from the heat. Place a clean tea towel or 3 layers of paper towel over the saucepan.  Put the lid back on and set aside for 5 minutes. The tea towel/paper towel will absorb excess moisture.
  • Fluff the quinoa with a fork, then turn it into a bowl and leave to cool completely.
  • Add the finely sliced parsley, mint, spring onions/scallions and quartered tomatoes to the quinoa.
  • Add the olive oil and lemon juice, sea salt and freshly ground black pepper and gently toss the ingredients together.
  • Taste and adjust the seasoning if necessary, adding more olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper as required. The salad should have a bright, lemony flavour but adjust it to your personal taste.
  • Serve at room temperature or refrigerate and serve cold.

9 Ways to Prevent Miscarriage

Wouldn’t it be great if all miscarriages could be prevented? So much pain and loss avoided. Unfortunately, it cannot be so. But there are several things we can do to reduce the chances of miscarriage for ourselves. These things have been studied extensively. So where do we start?

  1. Aim to conceive before your over 35 years old. Miscarriage rates rise dramatically after this time. Most early miscarriages are due to chromosomal abnormalities. Not always possible, I know, I met my partner later in life. There are other options you can focus on..
  2. Not smoking during pregnancy. Tobacco, marijuana or vaping.
  3. Avoid 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.¹
  4. Eat a healthy, balanced diet with a large variety of vegetables.healthy food
  5. Supplements such as DHEA and CoQ10 (Ubiquinol), may help to reduce the chance of chromosomal abnormalities, if taken for several months before trying to conceive. Because most chromosomal errors in eggs occur 3-4 months before ovulation.woman holding her pregnant belly
  6. Avoid toxins such as BPA. 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.  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.  How to get out of the high range?

    – 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.

    – Swap your plastic kettle for a stainless steel one.

    – 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.

    – Swapping plastic colanders for stainless steel ones.

    – Avoiding use of coffee machines with plastic components, using a stainless steel French press at home instead.

  7. Avoid 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.
  8.  Avoid refined sugar. 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. And increase the risk of miscarriage².  So, we need to avoid sugary drinks³. Avoid refined sugar in all it’s forms. There is clear evidence that excess sugar consumption compromises fertility.³  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.

  9. 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.

Written by

Elaine Hickman pregnantDr 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 at an advanced age herself.

References

1 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.

2 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.

3 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.

Preventing Miscarriage

Nutrition for COVID & Flu 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 non-respiratory 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 ultra-processed 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 3 of them at Freedom Chinese Medicine; Dr. Jessie Fayers, Dr. Leoni Zakarias & 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.

 

 

References

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33982105/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7306972/

  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.
https://nutrition.bmj.com/content/early/2020/11/05/bmjnph-2020-000160

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
  • Eat 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 overhaul 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.

References

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 hormone 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 you’re 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.

References

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

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