Chinese Medicine and Acupuncture for Infertility
Today fertility issues affect nearly one in seven couples in North America. Various reproductive societies and organizations state that a couple is considered infertile when pregnancy has not occurred after one year of coitus without contraception. Our reproductive systems are not comprised of isolated organs and hormones instead an orchestration of events that creates a harmonious environment for the development of life. Thus the causes of this problem are generally wide ranging and rarely isolated. It is a fact that a couple’s diagnosis of infertility is 50% due to the male and 50% due to the female.
I do not have a personal story to tell you regarding the pain and heartache I’ve personally felt because I’ve gone through this problem in my life. However, being a health practitioner, one that has devoted his life to the healing and helping of others, I understand and empathize. I know firsthand in my personal practice over the past nine years the insatiable thirst of couples who wish to have a family yet experience hardships. For partners, infertility can be disturbing, but for a female it can be devastating. It equates to being told that your body has failed its very existence.
My Chinese Medicine and Acupuncture training and experience has given me a unique perspective regarding infertility. Please review the following to better understand the diagnosis and treatment options of infertility with acupuncture and traditional chinese medicine (TCM).
Traditional Chinese Medicine draws its philosophy and treatment protocols from the recognition that the malfunction of the reproductive system is due to an imbalance; this includes the emotional and physical state of the body. Rather than looking at infertility simply as a problem with an ovary or a hormone level, TCM looks to restore the homeostasis within the network of organs, hormones and energy systems in order to prepare the body to perform what it is inherently programmed to do; conceive a child every time sperm meets an egg.
As a licensed acupuncturist in Toronto, Ontario and during my initial evaluation/assessment with potential clients, I ask a range of questions about menstruation, diet, stress levels, exercise patterns, sleep habits and so on. I will also read your pulse and look at your tongue to determine the internal state of your organ systems. These findings provide me with an understanding of your imbalance. In TCM, the organ systems that are generally associated with infertility include; deficiency or excess of kidney, liver, heart and spleen organ systems.
Kidney: The kidney system governs reproduction, development and growth. They are responsible for bone and teeth formation. The internal emotion of fear is detrimental to the kidneys. Stimulating the kidney system also restores normal levels of FSH. Chinese medicine considers the kidneys the root of all organ systems.
Liver: The liver system includes the storage, filtration and distribution of blood, the smooth flow of Qi (vital energy pronounced “chee”) metabolism of hormones and ovulation. The liver is integral in reproduction because of its role during menstruation. The emotion associated with liver symptoms is anger.
Heart: The chinese medicine concept of the heart incorporates the mind, spirit and circulatory system. The main symptom noted in clinical practice includes lack of sleep, emotional upsets and uterine dysfunctions.
Spleen: In TCM, the spleen system, governs the transformation of the food we consume into QI, blood and other types of hormones ie. progesterone, thyroid hormone. It is also responsible for the transportation of nutrients throughout the body along with regulating metabolism. The emotion associated with the spleen is worry.
During an initial assessment and subsequent re-evaluations throughout the treatment process, your acupuncturist will determine which organ systems need to be addressed in order to bring balance to your reproductive organs. I personally practice traditional chinese acupuncture which involves inserting very thin stainless steel disposable needles into specific points throughout the body. The insertions of the needles cause an array of responses that include exciting electrical pathways, stimulating neurological transmission and regulating hormone levels.
Neurological theory notes that inserting needles at specific acupuncture points stimulate the nervous system and create a micro-electric current. This current causes a release of prostaglandins in the bloodstream which then send messages to the hypothalamus that controls all hormonal activity. When the hypothalamus receives this message, neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin cause the conversion and release of GnRH, which directly act on the pituitary gland. The pituitary gland controls ovary, adrenal and thyroid glands and also produces FSH and LH. These hormones are very critical and intimately involved in ovulation and pregnancy. Research also state that stimulating the pituitary gland improve volume, concentration and motility of sperm.
In both eastern and western medicines, herbs were the first medicines available. Herbs were used by the Chinese, Greek and Egyptian civilizations dating back to 200-300 B.C. Traditional Chinese Herbs are usually incorporated on a daily basis during the treatment process. Western medicine intervention and drugs try to chemically provide substitutes for the body’s natural hormones whereas Chinese herbs help the body produce the proper levels of hormones. Herbs work on the ovulation phase, stimulate the uterus, increase egg production, produce adequate progesterone levels and so on. Chinese herbs also assist in reducing the excess and increasing the deficiency of the organ systems particularly involved in the your case.
Meditation, Diet and Lifestyle
Various dietary and lifestyle habits may have a negative impact on your overall health. When we’re looking to create an optimum environment in your body to create and sustain life, then all of your nutritional habits and lifestyle routines must be addressed. Coffee, alcohol, nicotine, sweets, chemicals, stress and other stimulants of our affluent lifestyle in western societies can have a deep impact in our reproductive states. Making the necessary changes as to what, when and how we consume foods, incorporating consistent forms of exercise and other personal care techniques that include regular massage can work wonders in improving your fertility.
Stress is an integral obstacle to keep under control when dealing with your infertility. Healthy amounts of stress are essential for your mind and body to function efficiently, however when in excess can result in weakened immune system, insomnia, palpitations, nervousness, hormonal imbalances and chronic diseases. Various techniques like Qi Gong breathing and mindful meditation practices focus on resolving disturbing emotions and highly toxic stress levels.
In my private practice, I teach and encourage meditation and breathing practices while my clients are receiving acupuncture treatments. Since there is no separation between the body, mind and spirit I find through clinical experience that combining these modalities tremendously add to the efficacy of this therapy.
If you have any questions or concerns regarding your health, I encourage you to contact me at my office at Yonge Finch Chiropractic and Health Centre at 416-218-8870.
To your health,
Shant Filo D.Ac
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