Water – The Carrier of Vibration

November 21st, 2011

Hydrogen, the simplest element and the first in the period table, was the most abundant element formed during the big bang. Hydrogen coalesced into stars, which then fused into helium. Hydrogen was named for its ability to form water.

H2O. Two atoms of the first element, and one of that which infuses us with qi.

Chinese medicine ascribes great value to the element water, the most abundant element in life. Our bodies are composed of about 80% water. Embryos are approximately 99% water. If we die of old age, we will probably be about 70% water. Water is depleted as we age. The reproductive system belongs to the element water, that which gives rise to life. Water governs the process of growth, maturation and decline. It oversees hormonal functioning. It is responsible for water balance of the kidneys and urinary bladder. Water produces the will to survive, and the instinct of fear. Water also governs the ears and sound, the carrier of vibration, and our potential to bring forth life. Energetically, that which gives rise to water thrives in stillness, and requires deep restoration.

Water is depleted by fear, overwork, exhaustion, and overstimulation.  It is restored by relaxation, quiet, meditation, and by having a deep sense of knowing who we are. It is nourished by conserving our reserves; and not squandering them by the demands of life.

In Eastern thought, the sound Om connects us to the original vibration of creation. When we allow ourselves to deeply touch into our depths, we often find fear of the unknown, of our own origin. But when we allow ourselves not to run into the demands of life and face our own origin, our own fears, the result is a courageous wisdom that allows us to live from the strength of water’s greatest virtue – the spirit of water or zhi. The Chinese character for zhi is ? Zhi – A shoot emerging from the depths of the heart, or an inner direction that develops like an emerging plant, lifting up from the underground. Zhi describes the deepest aspect of who we are, that which provides us a rooted direction in life. It is our deepest remembering of who we really are.

We have access to recognize the spark of the divine within, through which life arises. The power of water is the place between stillness and life, where our deepest wisdom resides, giving rise to an instinctual power that ignites the flame of organic processes.

The characteristic of water is to seek the depths, always penetrating into the unfathomable origin. Consider this yourself. Can you rise above your deepest fears by penetrating into your own depths:

What vibration are you emitting? Is it in resonance with your deepest self? Can you find the courage to touch into your own subconscious mind? Can you dare to come into your greatest wisdom, found in stillness that brings forth the miraculous potential of how your highest vibration may be made manifest? This is where creation is expressed. This is fertility. This is your birthright.

Expanded: Microcosmic Orbit Breathing Process

October 20th, 2011

We emphasize the Microcosmic Orbit breathing process for enhanced reproductive health.

A full breath triggers the respiratory center in the medulla to activate peptides and endorphins, the initiators of your hormonal system, These peptides are released into the central nervous system and circulate throughout the body. The microcosmic orbit activates the respiratory center, circulating its messages of relaxation and receptivity throughout the entire body, most notably the HPO axis. Perform this breathing exercise any chance you have.  As you become experienced, the microcosmic breath should begin to flow as a single movement, and will be done effortlessly.

The Original MCO Breath

  1. Place tongue on the roof of mouth, behind the front teeth.
  2. Inhale through the nose and down the center of the body, through the lungs down the rib cage, expanding the belly fully.
  3. Feel a pool of energy form in your uterine/ovarian area (the dan tien).
  4. As you are nearing the end of the inhalation, draw the energy down the pelvis to the pelvic floor muscles surrounding the vagina or the perineum.
  5. Release, and as you exhale, let the belly fall back in, and send the energy from the coccyx up the spine to the top of the head, down the forehead, and out the nose.

When you are comfortable with the MCO breathing process, you can enhance its effects with three areas of focus.

1.       With your attention on the womb area, focus on what this original, creative energy feels like. Open up to your original qi; that which has been present before you were even born. Feel its infinite potential to create. Spend a few minutes with your awareness on this area.

2.      As you inhale, expand the feeling of an open heart, bringing the immensity of your heart’s energy down to the dan tien. With each exhalation, feel as if you are pulling down any excess unwanted energy to the base of the perineum for release as you exhale up the spine. Spend a few minutes focusing on release.

3.       Between exhalation and inhalation, notice the area between and behind the center of your eyebrows. This is the energetic area where perception of your environment is translated into chemical messages that orchestrate the entire endocrine cascade. Spend a few minutes becoming aware of the sensation of miraculous potential, as your perception of your world turns into a hormonal message.

Allow yourself to make this breathing meditation your very own. Some days you might be more drawn to focus on the womb, and your own infinite potential. Other days you might need to spend more time releasing. There also might be more of a call to a particular area of the body – the head, the heart, or the pelvis. Make this process come alive for you.

After a Long Hard Winter…

April 5th, 2011

After a long and hard winter, signs of spring are finally beginning to appear. The days are getting longer and warmer, the crocuses and daisies are beginning to appear, even the air has that ineffable quality that smells of spring. In Chinese medicine, spring is a time of rebirth, growth, and renewed hope. I find these early months of spring, the time when spring and winter are almost inseparable, to be the most profound. This is the time when just the smallest bit of light begins to come out of the darkness. The dormancy that winter demands is just starting to put forth its renewed energy. The idea of spring has come, but it has not fully manifested.  This is the time of spring when all the contemplation of winter begins to turn outward and manifest in small ways. This is the time when our plans just begin to take form, but before they have fully solidified. This is the time of fertility. While spring may be a time of fertility, fertility is not just about having babies. Fertility is about bringing forth the new. It is about change and reemergence. It is about thawing that which was frozen to allow life to enter in whatever form it may choose to take. Fertility is also creativity because we have not yet become firmly attached to our new ideas. Fertility may look like a new hobby (or the emergence of an old beloved hobby). But I think the true nature of fertility is bringing forth the essence of our true self and sharing it with the world. When we do this, our fertility manifests in our life in ways that we never even imagined it could, just as the earth emerges renewed in its own unique way each spring.

from: Theresa Hall

A Muslim Perspective – TFS Retreat Experience

January 21st, 2011

This is a chapter of a (future) book from one of our Guests… a beautiful perspective from a Retreat with Dr. Lewis:

Korma: Hot and Spicy Enlightenment

Some Steps to Help you Institute a Meditation/Quiet Time Practice

December 9th, 2010

Schedule your quiet time into your daily life. It is easy to invent reasons why you can’t take 10 minutes out of our day, but if you already have it built in, then there are no excuses!

Make sure your area for quiet time is free of distractions. Make sure the phone is on silent mode. If you have pets/roommates/a partner/kids that could interrupt quiet time, then close the door to the room, and ask them not to interrupt (please). You may want to listen to soothing music. I use Dr. Jeffrey Thompson’s brain wave CD’s. You can check him out here. I use the Alpha or Theta Wave CD’s for meditation.

Remember that meditation is not about emptying your mind of thoughts. This is pretty impossible! Rather, it is about being conscious of the thoughts, rather than getting caught up in the mind’s wheel. You know how sometimes you just zone out and the brain is running like a hamster on a wheel? Well, this might happen while you are meditating. This is okay. The important thing is to realize that you zoned and pull yourself back to your breath. And then when it happens the next time, just pull yourself back again. And remember to be gentle with yourself! You are not “messing up” by getting caught in thought. Instead, be glad that you were aware of it.

One meditation instructor said that all you have to do to meditate is to make that space for meditation and sit. This is so true. There are so many ways to meditate. It’s all about finding what is right for you. All methods start with deep belly breathing. You may find it helpful to have your hand on your lower abdomen so you can feel its rise and fall. You may want to close your eyes, or you may want to leave them open. You may want to sit comfortably, or lie down. Here are a couple of methods that work for me:

1. Focus on the in and out of your breath. When a thought enters your mind, acknowledge it and let it become raindrops that fall into a pristine pool of water. Or you might want to envision your thought becomes part of a waterfall. Use whatever water analogy works for you.
2. Another way is to do a yogic breath called the ujjayi breath. It sounds a bit like the ocean. I like to use this breath because since it is audible, it is impossible not to focus on it. The noise also tends to drown my thoughts. How do you do it? Purse your lips and pretend you are sucking on a straw. Do you feel how the back of your throat closes slightly? Next close your mouth and breathe through your nose, but keep the same slight tightness in the back of the throat. It may take a little practice, but once you get it, you’ve got it. Here is a link to a video of the ujjayi breath.

So the main lesson to take away from this is to do what feels right for you, and to not be hard on yourself when you get caught up in your thoughts. Just keep shining that light of awareness on your thoughts, and you are doing great!

Liz Roseman, L.Ac.

Enjoying Your Herbs

August 19th, 2010

It is my strong belief that herbs are an unparalleled way to get our bodies and spirits into better balance.  That being said, I think that how we take our herbs – our relationship with the herbal tea itself – can help this transformation happen faster (or not).

I will explain by using an analogy. 

Imagine a big bowl of nutritious, hearty, vegetable soup.  Only you don’t like veggies.  You eat the soup because you know it’s good for you.  You don’t savor the different textures and flavors of the vegetables.  You choke it down as quickly as you can so you can get its nutrients.

Now imagine that same bowl of soup.  Only this time you love vegetables – all vegetables – but this soup is specifically made from the veggies that are your absolute favorites.  You bring your nose close to the soup and take a deep inhale, savoring its aroma.  You look at the soup, enjoying its variety of colors.  You are so excited to eat this soup, not only because it has your favorite vegetables, but also because you know it is so good for you.  You put your spoon in and take your first bite of soup. It is even more delicious than you anticipated!  You take your next bite, and really savor and enjoy that bite as well.  You take your time with the soup, appreciating each bite.  You also reflect on the nutrition this soup is bringing to your body.

So I pose this question: which way do you think you will absorb the most nutrients from the soup?  Which way of eating will benefit you the most?  I would bet that the second way of eating would yield more nutrients for your body, not to mention a more enjoyable eating experience.

Are you the person that holds their nose closed and dutifully chugs down her herbs every morning and night?  Or are you the one who looks forward to her daily herbs?  The one who spends 10 minutes sipping the herbs and reflecting on the herbs’ healing powers?  Do you thank the herbs for their gift?  Do you thank yourself for taking your herbs?  I strongly believe that gratitude and presence greatly increase our enjoyment of the world.

If you are the person who chokes down her herbs, are you interested in trying to form a better relationship with your herbs?  Maybe even growing to enjoy this integral part of your day?  Perhaps you could look up the names of the herbs in your formulas.  Read about what they are doing for you, and meditate on this as you drink them.  Maybe you’re a visual person, and would resonate with looking up pictures of the herbs.  Try to find whatever it is (for you) that brings consciousness to taking your herbs.

And don’t worry – if you still can’t form a relationship with your herbs, if you still chug them with your nose held closed – you will still get benefits from them.  They are just that powerful.

Liz Roseman, L.Ac.

10 Ways TCM Enhances Fertility

July 26th, 2010

Studies consistently demonstrate acupuncture’s benefit for a range of fertility-related issues. In one landmark study, pregnancy rates were 43% with acupuncture and 26% without it.

 1.     Improves ovarian response – better egg production.

2.     Increases ovarian and uterine blood flow – better ovarian response.

3.     Helps prepare the uterine lining – increased implantation rates.

4.     Improves sperm count, motility, and morphology.

5.     Lessens the side effects of hormone treatments.

6.     Regulates hormones of the hypothalamus, pituitary, and gonads.

7.     Decreases reproductive immunologic reactions.

8.     Decreases uterine contractility at implantation.

9.     Resolves stress to promote relaxation.

10.  Reduces the incidence of miscarriage.

Chinese medical therapies consist of acupuncture, herbal medicine (with your doctor’s concurrence), nutritional and dietary modifications, and exercises to increase pelvic circulation.

High FSH, Low AMH Values

June 30th, 2010

Kirsten McIntyre’s Story

High FSH

June 18th, 2010

“High FSH”…“Poor Responder”…“Old Eggs”…“Advanced Maternal Age”…“Donor Egg Candidate” …

These are the most devastating reproductive diagnoses a woman can receive. The majorities of my patients who have high FSH, are over 35 years of age, and have been labeled this way. Yet, nobody starts out with these diagnoses. Most women end up with these labels after years of failed reproductive treatments.

Laura had been given each of these diagnoses from her reproductive endocrinologist, and has just given birth to her son, whom she conceived naturally.  44 year old Kathleen was told she would never become a mother unless she used a younger woman’s donated eggs. Her doctor was wrong. When her reproductive system was nurtured and cared for naturally, she conceived her healthy daughter on her own.

Last week a reporter queried me on a quote a reproductive endocrinologist gave her:

“2/3 of women over the age of 35 require medical intervention in order to conceive.”

These attitudes are not only wrong, they are downright harmful. Keep in mind there is a large financial incentive for you to believe these demoralizing prognoses – reproductive medicine is an ever growing multi billion dollar per year cash industry, whose financial rewards grow exponentially when you submit to the belief that your only chance of becoming a parent is through medical intervention. They make no money when you conceive on your own. They make maximum profit when multiple women are involved in helping you achieve a pregnancy at all costs.

Certainly, some women do require medical intervention. Yet, it should not be offered as a blanket solution to all infertility problems. It is accepted medical tradition that the simplest, least aggressive, and most cost effective treatments should always be exhausted first. Yet most women who ask their doctors “Is there anything I can do to improve my reproductive status?” are told definitively “No, you are simply too old.”  Since most insurance companies don’t cover infertility treatment, and since there is an automatic medicolegal defense against litigation (“You came to me infertile, what’s the damage?”), Western reproductive specialists feel safer in offering a more aggressive approach, and we capitulate to their treatments because we are in a state of panic.

Medical charts abound with these types of unsettling comments: “Mrs. Nesbitt is a three time clomid failure.”  “Ms. Callahan is a poor responder to maximum stimulation, and an IVF failure. Recommend donor.” Then they come to me as a last resort, hopeless, and depleted – financially and spiritually. They don’t feel good about themselves, their bodies, or their lives.

My intention is not to bash reproductive medicine, but to put it in its proper perspective. Yes, we hear of reproductive successes when ‘infertile’ celebrities end up with a couple of offspring in toe, most often the result of someone else’s eggs. Yet, month after month, and year after year, I pick up the pieces of broken lives, broken promises, and broken dreams. And the stories don’t ever change. The histories begin with unexplained infertility after one year of unprotected intercourse, and end up with “IVF failure, recommend donor.” Every time.

I propose that reproductive medicine more often than not fails us! Yet we are the ones who are conditioned to feel that it’s our fault when their drugs don’t work on us.

Reproductive medicine has one thing to offer women to help them conceive – that single drug is the all powerful, commanding hormone, FSH. And if you have any of those dreaded reproductive diagnoses listed above, FSH will cease to be effective in your body.

And you know the old adage, “If all you have is a hammer, the whole world looks like a nail.” When you are no longer the perfect nail, they try to bend and straighten and flatten you with the only tool they have.

There is another option that has been grossly overlooked. The reason it is overlooked is that physicians do not learn anything about reproductive health when they study medicine. In medical school, we were trained to treat disease. And infertility is not a disease. It is an epidemic of ignorance. We have not been taught how to care for our own reproductive systems.

Let’s pretend for a minute that there are no such things as hammers and nails. Consider the possibility that we have all of our fertility solutions within our very makeup. Ovarian health depends upon three factors – nutritional status, blood flow, and the balance of reproductive hormones with stress hormones.

1)      Nutritional status – the reproductive system, like the rest of our body, has certain nutritional requirements. Most of my patients are asked to avoid sugar, wheat, and dairy. They take nutritional supplements specific to their TCM pattern of imbalance. Most women with high FSH or poor ovarian reserve take supergreens like wheatgrass, royal jelly, and Co-Enzyme Q-10, to name a few.

2)      Blood flow – a woman of age 40 typically has five times less blood flow to her ovaries than a woman of age 20. This dramatically impedes the attention that the ovary requires during the follicles’ all important growth phase, the 90 day process before ovulation in which the quality of the egg is determined. The follicles insist upon adequate oxygenation and circulation to function efficiently (i.e., with a healthy egg, capable of fertilization and implantation.) I teach women exercises which redirect the circulation to the ovaries. And, as always, their bodies respond.

3)      Hormonal balance – the endocrine system is a delicate interplay of the reproductive hormones, stress hormones, and emotions, in symphony with each other. This system operates via feedback, which means that anytime you introduce an outside hormone into its influence, it shuts that system down. Synthetic hormones can’t cure hormonal imbalances, they can only override them. The endocrine system is the most sensitive bodily system which requires the perfect balancing act of multiple factors, inside and out. Like all other mammals, our bodies do not want us pregnant when our endocrine systems are stressed. At our retreats, we employ natural techniques to rebalance the hormones. These methods gently encourage the reproductive system to operate efficiently, while reducing the internal stress response. When we abide by nature’s own directives, an internal order awakens inside, and automatically knows the rules.

Like Laura and Kathleen, when we pay attention to these three factors, our reproductive systems respond beautifully, as if this is what they were waiting for all along.

Christine, age 33, was given the diagnosis of premature ovarian failure when her FSH was found to be marginally elevated. Her doctor put her on three cycles of clomid, an anti-estrogen drug which raises FSH, and her body did all it could to save her – her reproductive system completely shut down in response to the clomid (don’t ever take clomid if your FSH is elevated, even borderline). She quit menstruating, her FSH rose ever higher, and she was left with two options – donor egg or adoption.

Christine didn’t blame her doctor for giving her the wrong medicine, she did what most all infertility patients do, quietly suffer alone in agonizing despair. Then she heard about my retreats, and something within her said, “this makes sense.” Christine came to two retreats, a few months apart. After one month of natural treatment of diet, nutritional supplementation, ovarian exercises, acupuncture and herbs, her period returned. Christine went back to her infertility specialist and asked her if there was any hope for her. Her doctor told her if she conceived on her own, she would “eat her shoe.” During Christine’s second retreat, she looked me in the eye with severe intensity and begged, “Do you think there might be hope?” I looked back with the same intensity in my gaze, said, “Yes, Christine. There is hope.” She believed me. More importantly, she believed in herself, and her body’s ability to heal herself. She had one more period. That is, until she conceived, naturally, with their first miracle child. And, as far as I know, no shoes were ingested.

Listen to your own internal wisdom. Do you want a child, any child, at all costs, or can you allow yourself the gift of reclaiming your reproductive, physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health.

AMH – What Does It Really Mean? (Part 1)

June 18th, 2010

Markers of Ovarian Reserve Viewed Through the Lens of Chinese Medicine
Randine Lewis, Ph.D., L.Ac.

Estradiol                                 FSH – Follicle Stimulating Hormone

Inhibin B                                AMH – Antimullerian Hormone

“Ovarian reserve” testing can be intimidating and daunting. The results often feel like a fertility death sentence. When viewed through the eyes of Chinese medicine, however, these laboratory markers of ovarian potential can actually make diagnostic sense, and help determine the best natural therapeutic course for you.

It will be helpful to understand a little reproductive physiology first.

Brain Hormones:

The pituitary gland, which sits behind your eyebrows, emits FSH (follicle stimulating hormone) in response to messages translated by the hypothalamus, which secretes Gonadotropic releasing hormone (GnRH) in response to the hormone levels in your blood, and your emotional response to your environment. This hormonal command post, like all of the hormones in your body, responds to internal chemical messages conveyed through the blood, and emotional interpretations of your external environment.

These external and internal messages determine how the pituitary hormones interact with and are able to communicate with your ovaries, and how the ovarian output communicates back to the hypothalamus and pituitary gland.

Ovarian Hormones:

Activin and Inhibin B are protein complexes within the ovarian follicule. Activin enhances FSH secretion, cellular proliferation and plays a role in menstrual regulation. Inhibin B, on the other hand, down regulates and inhibits GnRH from the hypothalamus, and FSH secretion from the pituitary gland.

When the system is in sync, the hypothalamus secretes GnRH to trigger the pituitary gland to release small amounts of FSH during the last few days of the previous menstrual cycle, which rise until the beginning of the next follicular phase. FSH recruits Graafian (or antral) follicles, which have been growing within the ovary for the better part of a year.  Around three months before these follicles are ovulated, they enter the tonic growth phase, where protein synthesis occurs.             Follicles that have interacted optimally with the internal environment have the potential to become dominant follicles, primed by FSH. They then secrete estrogen, and express LH receptors, which allow the chosen dominant follicle to mature and become capable of ovulation.

Higher levels of Inhibin B indicate that the ovarian follicle is doing its job of putting out adequate estradiol. Inhibin B provides negative feedback to the hypothalamus and pituitary gland to let them know to turn down the GnRH and FSH, as output is sufficient.

The High FSH Craze

Within the last ten to 15 years, reproductive medicine has been making quite a fuss over high FSH levels. Chinese medicine doesn’t focus so much on the unqualified meaning of laboratory values like Western medicine does; we view lab results energetically according to what is behind them, rather than providing meaning to the absolute numerical value.

The body energetically views the ovaries as “essence”, an elemental potential, like the primordial follicles within them. Follicles are only potential until they begin to interact with their internal environment, which is responding to cues coming from our interpretation of our external environment. All of this is subject to change, when we change our internal environment, and our response to our external environment. FSH, on the other hand, is viewed as “heat”, which activates the potential of the ovaries’ essence in the form of eggs, and resulting blood levels of estradiol (or yin). When the essence is adequate, it doesn’t require much heat to ignite the ovaries. When the essence is weak (due to stress, lack of restoration, follicular malnourishment, and the demands of life), it takes more heat to induce the necessary ovarian response, indicative of present ovarian health.

To put it simply and in energetic terms, those who have high FSH and low estradiol levels generally have too much heat, in relation to the underlying essence capable of responding to FSH stimulation. Although optimal FSH values are seen as <10, The Fertile Soul Retreat process has helped women whose FSH values are well over 100 conceive naturally. First, however, we have had to energetically reduce their heat, and maximize their essence, which allows the FSH to activate healthy follicles.

Although Western medicine views the reproductive system as an ever-deteriorating disease process waiting for intervention, Chinese medicine employs a different lens. We view the body/mind/spirit as an ever adaptive system, which, when given appropriate environmental cues, has a miraculous ability to manifest its highest potential.

The Low AMH Frenzy

As if high FSH values, and low estradiol/inhibin-b levels weren’t enough to convince you of your need for drastic intervention and donor eggs, the newest craze in ovarian reserve testing is a hormone known as Anti-Mullerian Hormone or AMH.

Again, some reproductive physiology will be helpful to make sense of this hormone.

During embryonic development, male testes produce AMH, to inhibit the expression of Mullerian ducts, which become female sexual organs. In the presence of AMH, the primordial urogenital ridge bears Wolfian expressions of prostate, testes and vas deferens, rather than the female Mullerian expressions of fallopian tubes, uterus and vagina. We could look at Anti-Mullerian Hormone as a “holding back” hormone. After birth, AMH becomes expressed by females, within the granulosa cells of the ovary, where it inhibits the responsiveness of growing follicles to FSH. Since human beings aren’t made to raise litters, the body’s internal wisdom does not allow the recruitment of all of the primordial follicles, as only one dominant follicle is chosen for ovulation during each menstrual cycle. If FSH is viewed has heat, and estradiol is viewed as yin, AMH is viewed as the “essence potential”, or the ability to hold back the ovarian essence from interacting with the pituitary gland’s igniting fire. The greater the body’s ability to hold back ovarian essence, the easier it is for the FSH igniting potential to activate a response in the form of a healthy egg and its resulting estradiol levels. Therefore, higher AMH values are indicative of a greater abundance of interactive follicles. The “normal” values of AMH are between 0-6 ug/L. The closer you are to 6, the greater the force behind the dam. Once again, The Fertile Soul Retreat Process has helped women whose AMH values were zero conceive naturally. How does this work?

cont’d below with Part 2…