At Hoku Integrated Healthcare our goal is to help you conceive with Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM).
While acupuncture, herbs, cupping, and moxibustion can help optimize hormones, regulate your period, improve blood flow to your uterus, improve your overall state of health, and decrease stress, TCM does not stand on its own—to be most effective, the treatments need to be combined with some actions on your part to have the greatest effect.
The information in this blog will help you achieve the best conditions you need to become pregnant.
1. Cultivate a Healthy Mind: This is the most important measure in TCM to help you stay healthy. Your body, when it is stressed, produces hormones that make it more difficult to conceive. Meditation techniques such as mindfulness, following the breath, or repeating a mantra for 20 minutes a day is highly recommended. We can teach you how to meditate and can check your progress. In addition to meditation, incorporating what brings you joy into your daily life can ease your mind. Try not to worry or obsess over having a baby and try to remember see the small beauties, connection, and fun that can exist in each day.
2. Regular exercise is the second most important measure for promoting health in the Traditional Chinese Medicine point of view. This doesn’t have to be marathon running (which in fact can cause fertility issues in some women). It can be as simple as going for a 30 minute walk, 5 times a week, at a pace enough to gently elevate your heart rate. Not only does exercise tone your body, it enhances blood flow to all of your organs, including your uterus. Tai Qi, Qi Gong, and Yoga are also suggested as they promote both flexibility and strength. All types of exercise help with stress, but do speak to your doctor before engaging in a new exercise routine.
3. Diet: In TCM we want to insure that your digestive energy is strong, as what we eat fuels the energy not only of our bodies, but of conception as well. To keep this energy strong it is really important not to eat or drink anything cold in temperature. This means that it is not a good idea to have cold smoothies, cold drinks, ice—anything out of the fridge or freezer is to be avoided. Smoothies can be very healthy, but they should be consumed at room temperature.
In TCM there are foods that are cold in nature which can weaken digestion in certain people. Too many green salads, smoothies (even if at room temperature) or too much watermelon, tofu, seaweeds, grapefruit, pineapple, for example, can cause mucous, fatigue and loose stools. If you are experiencing this, we will review your diet and make some suggestions. Addition of ginger and warming Chai herbs such as cinnamon, cloves, and cardamom can help, but some people have to avoid cold foods entirely.
The most easily assimilated foods that are best for digestion are sautéed and stewed. Try to eat a wide variety of healthy nutrient-dense foods, eating vegetables and fruits of all colours of the rainbow, healthy proteins, nuts and seeds, and whole grains.
In TCM it is encouraged that foods that nourish the blood are consumed—this means eating some red meat. You are going to be growing not only a new baby but also a placenta, both of which require lots of blood in order to be healthy. If you eat a plant-based diet, iron supplements as well as dark leafy greens, molasses, beets, dark berries, lentils, chickpeas, beans, tofu, cashew nuts, chia seeds, ground flax seed, hemp seeds, pumpkin seeds, kale, dried apricots, dried figs, raisins, quinoa and fortified breakfast cereal. Eat these iron rich foods with foods that are high in vitamin C such as bell peppers, cabbage, broccoli, brussel sprouts, kiwi fruit, and citrus (if your digestion allows). Avoid drinking black/green tea/coffee/matcha with your meals.
A pregnancy multivitamin with iron taken daily is suggested. Please have your iron, B12, folate, and Thyroid levels checked.
It is best to eat organically if possible.
It is important to avoid the following foods and substances:
- to help your liver detoxify it is best not to overload it with spicy and greasy foods. In TCM this can cause what is called Damp Heat in your body (in Western Medicine Damp Heat = inflammation). From a more modern perspective avoid taking any over the counter medications or recreational drugs, smoking, vaping, and alcohol. Avoid excessive caffeine (one cup of coffee or tea per day is reasonable. Green supplements such as wheat or barley grass, chlorella, or spirulina can help cleanse the liver but start with small amounts as diarrhea and other gastrointestinal problems can occur with too much.
- avoid BPAs: these endocrine disrupters are found in soft plastics such as in the liners of tin cans, water bottles. Do not microwave plastic containers and avoid eating canned foods.
- avoid additives, processed foods, and artificial sweeteners.
- avoid rancid oils. Choose fresh cold pressed mono-unsaturated oils such as extra virgin olive oil, avocado or sesame seed oil. Generally saturated fats are to be avoided—there is contention in the medical literature about the health of coconut oil, which is a saturated fat. If it is to be consumed, it should be in small amounts according to heart health experts. Fatty meats, and excess amounts of dairy should be avoided.
- avoid eating tuna and other bottom feeding fish due to high levels of mercury
- avoid peanuts (aflatoxin)
- avoid reverse osmosis water as this can potentially leech minerals from your body over time
Also avoid foods that can cause inflammation in your body. These vary from person to person but some common culprits include sugar, high-fructose corn syrup, trans fats, polyunsaturated fats, refined carbohydrates (breads, crackers, baked goods, pasta), alcohol, and processed meats. Avoid any foods you are sensitive to as these also cause inflammation. Please note that if you cannot eat dairy you will need to insure you are getting enough calcium in your diet; if you are on a gluten free diet, iron, calcium, folate, vitamin B12, A, D, E, K may be inadequate. It may be advisable to see a nutritionist if you have food sensitivities to insure your diet is okay.
Weight can also play a role in fertility: being in your BMI range is best as both obesity and underweight can be problematic.
If you have been trying to conceive and have been unsuccessful for over 12 months (below age 35) or 6 months (35 and above), it may be wise to have imaging done on your uterus, ovaries, and fallopian tubes for any physical problems such as scarring, cysts, fibroids or abnormalities in your reproductive system. Your levels of FSH, LH, Estrogen, and Progesterone may need to be looked at as well.
We cannot ignore your partner’s health: In the past difficulties in conception were considered to be due to problems in women’s reproductive health. Today we know that men are responsible in 40-50% of cases. If he has problems with sperm production, motility, and difficulty ejaculating, conception may be difficult.
Overexposure to too much heat (tight shorts, or frequent saunas/hot tubes for example), toxins, and chemicals can reduce sperm reduction or function—pesticides, organic solvents, heavy metals, radiation, X-Rays, cannabis, drug and alcohol use, smoking, and obesity all have an effect on sperm. Recently aflatoxin (which can occur in peanuts) has been shown to negatively affect sperm.
Tools to help you conceive:
Ovulation Prediction Kits are easy to use and have helped many women know when their most fertile times are. Other options are taking your resting temperature each morning with a basal thermometer, looking for a temperature increase that denotes ovulation. Ovulation is also accompanied by an increase in libido, and increased vaginal discharge that is the consistency of an uncooked egg white.
Generally your most fertile days are 1-2 days before your ovaries release an egg, and as sperm can live for up to 5 days in your body, conception can occur up to 5 days before ovulation and up to 1 day after.
If you have any questions, please feel free to contact us!