Archive for July, 2010

The Fertile Soul is coming to Asheville August 20-23, 2010

Thursday, July 29th, 2010

We are very excited to announce The Fertile Soul is coming to Asheville! Here is a quick write up from Randine on the Renewal retreat we have next month but I think she just pulled it right from the website :-/ hah.

“Renewal retreats came about for those who experienced the life altering shifts from the Foundations retreats, and yearned for more. Here we take you into your depths with a revolutionary healing process where mental, emotional and spiritual patterns of obstruction are identified and removed.
Most expressions of infertility are caused by lack of communication between the messages between your brain and the reproductive organs. These physiologic messages, translated into hormonal imbalances or implantation failure, most often originate in subconsciously held patterns of limitation, where our bodies can’t access their full fertile potential. We build on the work begun during the foundations retreat with an updated TCM therapeutic plan, self-inquiry, and meridian movement therapy. Here you access the healer within, and the place where the soul is healed. The result is a renewed receptivity to life.

Location: Lutheridge Retreat Center – Asheville, North Carolina

The Primary/Partner price includes full retreat program tuition, Acupuncture with Treatment Plan, Room/Board on-site, All meals included (Friday dinner through Monday lunch), and Airport Shuttle from Asheville Regional Airport to Lutheridge only.

Commuter price only includes retreat tuition and Acupuncture with Treatment
Plan. It will also include meals on-site at Lutheridge (Friday dinner though Monday lunch). It will NOT include Room/Board at Lutheridge or AirportShuttle to other locations. The Fertile Soul room block will also include Room and Board for Fridayevening through Monday afternoon. Meals will include Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner – with service starting from Friday evening Dinner until the retreat closing with Lunch on Monday. The meeting space will also provide beverages(water and herbal teas) and have snacks available throughout the day. You will receive more information upon your reservation or feel free to contact us at any time!”

More info on Lutheridge Retreat Center:
http://www.llmi.net/lutheridge/default.aspx

The Fertile Soul and Special Workshop with Dr. Randine Lewis in Toronto September 3rd-5th, 2010

Thursday, July 29th, 2010

Special Workshop with Dr. Randine Lewis
September 3rd – September 5th in Toronto

We are very excited to announce The Fertile Soul is coming to Toronto! Register online for this special Fertile Soul Workshop hosted by Dr. Randine Lewis starting Friday, September 3 at the One King West Hotel in Downtown Toronto. This will be considered a “Workshop” only because it will run one day shorter than our usual 4 day Retreats – HOWEVER, we will still have over 20 hours of actual meeting time with Dr. Lewis (only a few hours less than a regular retreat). The retreat material will be identical to our normal retreats and you will not miss any information by attending this Workshop over another Fertile Soul Retreat.
The retreat will begin on Friday evening at 6:00pm with an intoduction to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and an overview of the weekend ahead. This is a great opportunity to meet with Randine and your fellow guests that have been on a similar journey! The Workshop will continue on Saturday and Sunday morning at 8:00am and go throughout the days until 8:00pm. There will be two intermission breaks for Lunch and Dinner on Saturday and Sunday and a few shorter breaks to stretch your legs and get some fresh air throughout the day.

Meals will be entirely on your own during these breaks, but there will be refreshments and snacks available in the meeting space during the day. We recommend that you stay close during these breaks as the schedule is full and we will need to start each session promptly in order to maximize your time with Dr. Lewis. There are restaurants on-site at the One King Hotel and many dining option in the immediate area.

Tuition is $1000 and includes your TCM Diagnosis & Treatment plan (see below). Hotel accommodations are additional (see below).

Your Own TCM Diagnosis & Treatment Plan
Each participant will also receive a full TCM diagnosis and treatment plan through our Phone Consulting Program – appointments with our licensed staff practitioners of traditional Chinese medicine include a full review of your medical, fertility and health histories. Upon receiving your intake forms and photographs of your tongue and face (guidelines are provided for accomplishing this), your practitioner will study them, then contact you to schedule your first appointment. Approximately one-week after your appointment, we will provide you with a written treatment plan that includes your Eastern Medicine diagnosis and explanation of what it means, our recommended treatment objectives, a custom herbal prescription and advice regarding nutritional supplements to address your diagnosis. Your treatment plan may also suggest a limited number of dietary and lifestyle modifications to support you in addressing your imbalances. You fill your herbal prescription through The Fertile Soul store, a recommended pharmacy for pre-made teas and raw herbs, or the Chinese herbal pharmacy of your choice.
This consult program includes:
– A review by one of our licensed acupuncturists of your full health and medical history
– An initial 60-minute phone consultation
– A Chinese medicine diagnosis and detailed written custom treatment plan
– A prescription for an herbal formula developed specifically to address your individual diagnosis (herbs are additional).

HOTEL ACCOMODATIONS
For those who will be traveling to Toronto – The One King West has reserved a room block for The Fertile Soul Workshop guests at a discounted rate! Please call: 1-866-470-5564 or by email at reservations@onekingwest.com. Please refer to The Fertile Soul – Foundations Workshop or Group Code 10H94J in order to receive the special rate of $149 per night (plus hotel taxes and fees).

Additional upcoming pending retreat dates are posted on our website. Questions? Contact Jodie at The Fertile Soul.

PREPARING FOR PREGNANCY

Monday, July 19th, 2010

The Guest is inside you, and also inside me;
You know the sprout is hidden inside the seed.
We are all struggling; none of us has gone far.
Let your arrogance go, and look around inside.
The blue sky opens out farther and farther.
The daily sense of failure goes away,
The damage I have done to myself fades,
A million suns come forward with light,
When I sit firmly in that world.
– Kabir
We at The Fertile Soul wish that every woman who desires to be able to conceive and give birth to a healthy child. It is never too early to adopt a gentle, holistic, natural approach to preparing for the most miraculous event of your life. Making lifestyle choices that reinforce your health at the deepest level can help you avoid unnecessary infertility diagnoses, pregnancy complications and birth trauma.
One way you can help prepare your body is by improving blood flow to the uterus and ovaries. Gentle exercises to open up your body, mind and soul to the life force help you welcome new life into your world, whenever it is time to receive it. Approaching conception consciously and mindfully can help you connect with aspects of the creative life force that you may not yet have experienced.
Learn to check in with yourself. How open and receptive are you? How open and receptive is your world? Write down any feelings–positive or negative–that you may be having regarding trying to conceive. How do you feel about: becoming a parent, being a mom, caring for a child, sharing your spouse, modifying your work load, reducing stress, dealing with your expanding body? If you are ready to start preparing more actively for becoming a parent, the Fertile Soul Conception Journal can help you monitor your menstrual cycle before you begin your attempts.
How are you expressing the role of motherhood in your present world? Motherhood is unconditional love, and you do not need to have biological offspring to practice mothering. Do you experience appreciation for new life in your world? Can you honor someone else’s expanding pregnant belly? Can you honor other forms of new life? Do you have a garden? Do you cook? Do you create art? Do you dance? Do you have pets?
Some of the practical ways we express motherhood help prepare our lives for a new child. One of the most difficult aspects of treating infertility is seeing women limit their lives to fighting for a biological child. The more they struggle to conceive, the further away they get from the inherent creative life force within themselves. As you prepare yourself to bring a child into the world, do not let your life come to a screeching halt.
Take qi gong. Go for walks. Take yoga, Meditate. Honor your close, open relationships. Share your feelings with others.
Play well. Eat well. Try to eliminate alcohol, all forms of prescription and over the counter pharmaceutical drugs, coffee (even decaf, but tea is okay), nicotine, and refined carbohydrates. Stay away from preservatives if you can. Include as much locally-grown organic produce in your diet as is practical. Try to eliminate cow’s milk (goat milk is much easier to digest). Stay away from sugar if you can, although don’t deprive yourself for the purpose of childbearing. This will set up a very negative psychic stressor on you and your future child!
The Fertile Soul conception plan is one of abundance. We encourage you to remain open to the creative life force in every way you can– living, loving, and experiencing the inherent joy of life itself.
Our old ways just don’t work anymore. Forcing a baby into an already too stressed life just doesn’t work – for you, for your future family, and for the future of our planet.
Fertility IS life itself. Work with and connect to that which creates life – in you and in your world. Let your soul be fertile!

FIVE TIPS FOR ENHANCING YOUR FERTILITY

Monday, July 19th, 2010

Whether or not you have wanted children all of your life or have just begun thinking about trying, you can hardly turn on the television or radio without hearing infertility horror stories. Maybe you are focused on your career right now, or haven’t even found your life partner; sometimes, just the ticking of the biological clock causes the desire for parenthood to surface.
Whatever your age whatever your focus, it’s always a good time to look at ways to preserve your fertility. The steps you can take to preserve your fertility also help ensure your hormonal health for the rest of your reproductive life. So, let’s look at some practical tips to preserve your reproductive health.

Eat Organic
Reduce exposure to environmental toxins
Reduce Stress
Adopt a “spleen qi” diet
Develop a fertile attitude

Dietary factors
• Watch your consumption of animal products treated with hormones. Most red meat and dairy products sold at the supermarket have been treated with estrogenic hormones that can induce estrogen-dominant reproductive disorders like endometriosis, fibroids, polycystic ovarian syndrome, low sperm count and poor sperm quality.
• Keep refined carbohydrates and sugars to a minimum, as they can also contribute to unhealthy hormone production.
• Reduce consumption of wheat and low and nonfat cows milk.
• Eat natural and organic products as much as possible. Pesticides used to grow most non-organic produce have hormonal activity which intentionally keeps the pests from reproducing. Unintentionally, they have the same effect on the humans who consume these products.
• Avoid tobacco and the excessive consumption of alcohol, over-the-counter medications, and caffeine, all of which can reduce both male and female fertility.

Plasticizers and body care products
• Try to keep your body care products as natural as possible. Many petroleum-based body care products can introduce chemicals that seep through your skin and interfere with your hormones. Wash with natural soap. Brush your skin to remove impurities. Try to get by without lotions, creams, oils, and synthetic scents.
• Reduce the use of plastic containers for your food and water. Plasticizers, used in food wraps and water bottles, contain chemicals that disrupt the endocrine processes.
• Think about installing a water purifier in your home and carrying your water with you in a safe plastic or metal thermos.

Stress Reduction
• Look at the stressors in your job, your lifestyle and your relationships. Many studies have proven that stress and fertility are inversely related. The higher your stress levels, the more your body tends to maintain a fight-or-flight state. In this state,the adrenal glands produce stress hormones which are antagonistic to reproductive hormones.
• Consider the steps can you take to reduce stress. Can you work fewer hours? Can you make choices to be around people who make you feel good, are supportive and build you up? Is exercise a part of your daily routine? Does your exercise regimen reduce your stress or add to it? If standing in front of a mirror with 30 other people in your muscle pump class doesn’t put you in a state of ease, try yoga, qi gong or meditation.

Fertile Attitude

• Before you decide to procreate, create the life you want. Those who take responsibility for their health and the quality of their lives feel themselves as more fertile than those who feel they are victims of their life circumstances. Fear of becoming pregnant can become a habitual attitude that your cells continue to carry out, even after the fear is gone.
• As Eastern practices encourage, accept yourself as you are, express your emotions as they arise, take charge of the aspects of your life that you can control, let go of the things you can’t control, and come back to the inherent knowledge that you were created to be healthy, whole, and fertile.

Lastly, don’t make a baby into a goal. Goal oriented pursuits put our body into a state of stress which actually works against our fertility. Children don’t necessary come out of our desire; they come out of life’s longing for itself. We are the channels of life’s desire, not the makers.

FERTILITY WISDOM

Monday, July 19th, 2010

Randine Lewis, L.Ac., Ph.D.
www.thefertilesoul.com

Our fertility is declining by an average of 2% per year. Recent statistics show that one in five couples are facing fertility challenges, and the rate is rapidly rising. These unfortunate truths raise a good bit of panic in those who are starting a family. As a result, fertility specialists abound. The multi billion dollar assisted reproductive technology industry is keeping just ahead of the daunting statistics. Did you know, however, that only one-quarter of in-vitro fertilizations end up with a live birth? Did you know that the average cost of one cycle is $12,400, and most insurance companies cover none of it?

I don’t mean to put the grip of fear in you, however. There is no greater fertility killer than fear of infertility. Panic and fear keep us away from our own inner wisdom, where true fertility resides. I teach couples to live more fertilely, take control of their own reproductive process, and ignite the miracle of life itself, as nature’s wisdom intended.

As in nature, mammals in the wild or in captivity do not go into heat when they are over-stressed. Think about your life, right now, as it is. Do you get enough sleep? Do you eat regular, natural foods? Does your present career give you enough time each day to relax, live a balanced and enjoyable life? The fertile soul process seeks to bring those who are seeking to bring forth life back in touch with the inherent fertile conditions through which life is more likely to come, whether you are utilizing Western technological procedures or the old fashioned way.

Applying a few simple lifestyle changes can dramatically improve your fertility, and increase the likelihood of conceiving and carrying a healthy child to term.
The steps you can take to become more fertile also help ensure a healthy pregnancy, postpartum recovery, and your hormonal health for the rest of your reproductive life. So, let’s look at a few practical tips to improve your reproductive health.

Eat organic foods, according to the “Spleen Qi diet”

• Eat natural and organic products as much as possible. Pesticides used to grow most non-organic produce have hormonal activity that intentionally keeps the pests from reproducing. Unintentionally, they have the same effect on the humans who consume these products.
• Watch your consumption of animal products treated with hormones. Most red meat and dairy products sold at the supermarket have been treated with estrogenic hormones that can induce estrogen-dominant reproductive disorders like endometriosis, fibroids, polycystic ovarian syndrome, low sperm count and poor sperm quality.
• Keep refined carbohydrates and sugars to a minimum, as they can also contribute to unhealthy hormone production.
• Reduce consumption of cow’s dairy. Instead try to include healthy dairy sources like whole fat goat yogurt. Excessive consumption of cow’s dairy, especially low and non-fat milk, can interfere with healthy digestion.
• Avoid tobacco and the excessive consumption of alcohol, over-the-counter medications, and caffeine, all of which can reduce both male and female fertility.

Reduce your reliance on “healthcare” products

• Are all the medications in your medicine chest necessary? Anti-inflammatory medications like Advil can reduce chemicals necessary to rupture the follicle at ovulation.
• Pharmaceutical and over the counter medications can keep your body’s natural detoxifying energies busy breaking down the medication, so the liver isn’t free to metabolize your body’s own hormones.
• Antihistamines can reduce the production of healthy cervical fluid which is necessary for transit of sperm into the cervical canal. Antihistamines can also negatively impact seminal fluid as well.
• Hair growth products like Rogaine can negatively impact hormones necessary for healthy sperm formation.
• Try to keep your body care products as natural as possible. Many petroleum-based body care products can introduce chemicals that seep through your skin and interfere with your hormones.

Use fewer plastic containers

• Reduce the use of plastic containers for your food and water. Plasticizers, used in food wraps and water bottles, contain estrogen like chemicals that seep into the product contained in the plastic, and when consumed, can disrupt your endocrine processes.
• Think about installing a water purifier in your home and carrying your water with you in a safe plastic or metal thermos.
• Microwave less. Lightly sautéing your food or eating it fresh is far preferable to warming up pre-prepared foods in plastic microwave containers.

Reduce your stress

• Look at the stressors in your job, your lifestyle and your relationships. Many studies have proven that stress and fertility are inversely related. The higher your stress levels, the more your body tends to maintain a fight-or-flight state. In this state,the adrenal glands produce stress hormones which are antagonistic to reproductive hormones.
• Consider the steps can you take to reduce stress. Can you work fewer hours? Can you make choices to be around people who make you feel good, are supportive and build you up? Is exercise a part of your life? Does your exercise regimen reduce your stress or add to it? If standing in front of a mirror with 30 other people in your muscle pump class doesn’t put you in a state of ease, try yoga, qi gong or meditation.
• How much time to you spend with a laptop computer on your lap, or with a cell phone worn near your waist? Recent studies are showing that airwave electronic products reduce fertility.

Develop a fertile attitude

• Before you decide to procreate, create the life you want. Those who take responsibility for their health and the quality of their lives feel themselves as more fertile than those who feel they are victims of their life circumstances. Fear of becoming pregnant can become a habitual attitude that your cells continue to carry out, even after the fear is gone.
• As Eastern practices encourage, accept yourself as you are, express your emotions as they arise, take charge of the aspects of your life that you can control, let go of the things you can’t control, and come back to the inherent knowledge that you were created to be healthy, and whole.
• View yourself as inherently fertile. See yourself as preparing to open up to life, rather than focusing on what might go wrong. Those who see themselves as infertile, generally become so. Those who anticipate problems usually encounter them. Yet those who embrace life, live according to healthy guidelines, and see themselves as fertile are more likely to find themselves in the place where the miraculous can occur. Live the miracle now.

ARTICLE FOR VOGUE MAGAZINE – Wendy Schmid

Monday, July 19th, 2010

“It’s hard going after what you want all your life—and getting it—and then encountering this kind of resistance in your body when you’re ready to have a child,” says Cindy Weinbrandt, a striking 45-year-old brunette with a girlish, Melanie Griffith-like lilt to her voice. She chuckles half-heartedly at the irony of coming from such a large family and pulls her cashmere wrap closer. Weinbrandt, a former finance executive at a high-tech company and a self-described Type A, set aside children for a dream job that had her jetting between Paris, Italy, London, and Los Angeles 52 weeks of the year. By the time she met and married her husband, she was 41 and unable to get pregnant.
After three unsuccessful in vitro fertilization treatments in just one year, Weinbrandt has found her way to the Lake Austin Spa Resort in Texas. This top-rated spa, normally the site of celebrity-chef-run Culinary Schools and intensive Bikini Boot Camps, is now offering fertility retreats. Fittingly dubbed The Fertile Soul by founder Randine Lewis, Ph.D., the program is derived from the basic principles of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), incorporating acupuncture, herbs, diet, exercise, and healing mind/body therapies. The retreats are in keeping with the current wave of interest in alternative, all-natural infertility treatments, but what makes this program so unique is its intimate, luxury spa setting. As part of the package, Weinbrandt and ten other attendees will receive pampering body massages, soaks, scrubs, and facials during their five-day stay. The premise, one supported by clinical trials, is simple: The more relaxed the women are, the more effective fertility treatments are likely to be.
Since its launch in January, The Fertile Soul retreat has been a sell-out, drawing prominent career women—CEOs, fashion execs, and newscasters among them—from as far away as Zimbabwe. The program’s popularity reflects the continuing trend of postponing motherhood: According to The New England Journal of Medicine, since 1991 first births for women 35 to 39 have increased 36 percent; 70 percent for women 40 to 44. Yet these figures hide the all too familiar reality that getting pregnant later in life can often prove to be an emotionally and physically arduous prospect given that a woman’s fertility starts to decline as early as age 27. For most women over 30 who have tried unsuccessfully to conceive, the common scenario includes a hi-tech, high-cost path of hormonal injections, artificial insemination, and ultimately IVF. Weinbrandt and others in the group spent thousands of dollars on hormones and multiple IVF procedures costing $15,000 to $20,000 a try. Lewis is quietly leading the way to change all that. With a pregnancy success rate of 75 percent at her clinic (far higher than the roughly 20 percent success rate attributed to the more aggressive treatments), and “retreat” babies already being born, Lewis has achieved almost mythic status. One patient, who is due this month, refers to Lewis as “the baby whisperer.”
It helps that Lewis’s own story is both relatable and hope inspiring. In 1991, while pursuing a medical degree Lewis, then 34, was unable to get pregnant with a second child. When colleagues suggested she take Clomid, she balked. “It was unsettling to me that they just automatically pushed me toward this drug,” she says. Out of frustration, she investigated alternatives including TCM, which centers on Qi (pronounced chee), the energy thought to balance all systems within the body. In the case of infertility, TCM therapies such as acupuncture and herbal medicines use the body’s Qi to stimulate the production of the endorphins and hormones critical for everything from the formation of eggs to the ovulation process.
Within three months of following a TCM regime, Lewis was pregnant with her second daughter, Kyra; three years later, at 38, she had her son, Lars. Rather than complete her medical degree, Lewis moved to China to study, and in 1998, opened The Eastern Harmony Clinic in Houston, which specializes in fertility treatments. “In China, all infertility patients are treated with acupuncture and herbs. The belief is that if the body has said ‘no’ to pregnancy, it’s due to an imbalance that can be corrected naturally,” says Lewis, who outlines the model in her book, The Infertility Cure (Little, Brown and Company, 2004).
If anyplace could kick-start the wellness process, it is Lake Austin’s cocoon-like resort. Upon arrival, guests are encouraged to schedule “hammock time.” Hawks circle and dip over the redbud-studded hills that rise up from the lake and ducks roam the property, laying their eggs (a harbinger for what’s to come?) in terraced flowerbeds. The walk to the newly renovated spa is dotted with Indian paintbrush and Bluebonnets and a girl incredulously named Breezy Lake accompanies Weinbrandt to an acupuncture treatment. In a slate-blue spa room, Lewis takes acupuncture needles from her rattan Kate Spade “doctors” bag and places them in Weinbrandt’s forehead, hands, feet, and abdomen. According to TCM, the flow of energy in the body can become excessive, deficient, or blocked, which can interfere with the functioning of certain organ systems. By placing needles in Weinbrandt’s feet, Lewis is tapping into the liver meridian, hoping to free up blocked energy she suspects is contributing to Weinbrandt’s hormonal fluctuations. Lewis also hopes to improve Weinbrandt’s circulation because, “blood flow to the ovaries declines as we age, leading to undernourished follicles that are less capable of producing viable eggs, and acupuncture and acupressure are the only known methods of improving it,” she explains. A small pendant studded with black and white diamonds indicating the delicate balance of Yin and Yang energy encircles her neck and glitters as she speaks. Over the half hour, even Weinbrandt’s toes get warm, indicating the treatment is working. Later, for her spa indulgence of the day, Weinbrandt will receive a warm milk bath and a 90-minute aromatherapy massage—both spiked with the heavenly scent of fig, in honor of the fragrant trees scattered about the property.
The retreats are the first of their kind, but the concept echoes a widespread push to view fertility as a mind/body issue. Myriad studies support the fact that lowering stress can enhance the ability to conceive. But tell any woman who desperately wants to have a baby that she must de-stress in order to do so and it may well put her over the edge. Therein lies the beauty of the spa-based fertility retreat—it offers built-in stress management. A large part of the program is helping attendees overcome the ‘my-body-has-failed-me’ mindset which may actually create more stress within the body. “Infertile women often blame themselves and feel an enormous amount of guilt,” says Alice Domar, Ph.D, assistant professor of obstetrics, gynecology, and reproductive biology at Harvard Medical School and author of Conquering Infertility (Viking/Penguin, 2002). “Getting healthier psychologically and physically is important.” Domar, who is founder and director of the Mind/Body Center for Women’s Health at Boston IVF, says plenty of evidence supports that a mind/body connection may aid in conceiving. Her own study in 2000 indicated that women who did mind/body work (including yoga, meditation, guided imagery, cognitive restructuring, and self-nurturing techniques) over the course of a year had a 55 percent viable pregnancy rate in that time period, while the rate for the control group was just 20 percent (results that have been repeated in later studies).
Stress, however, is by no means the only issue. Other common causes of infertility are premature ovarian failure, problems with ovulation, and issues with the structure of the pelvis, such as fibroids, endometriosis, or blocked tubes, which may require surgery. At least 40 percent of the time, the problem rests with the man (couples retreats are also being held at Lake Austin), and 10 percent of cases are considered unexplainable. Elevated FSH levels (linked to an increased rate of miscarriage) and drops in progesterone (something Weinbrandt was experiencing) can be due to an age-related decline in reproductive function. Western doctors typically cite diminished egg quality as the leading cause of infertility for women over 35. “By 40, egg quality has decreased even if a woman has really taken care of herself,” says Frederick Liccardi, M.D., associate director of reproductive endocrinology at NYU School of Medicine. Lewis agrees that as women age, they produce fewer viable eggs and even those may be less responsive to hormonal stimulation, but she doesn’t buy into the old-egg theory. “With TCM treatment, more hormonal and nutritional fuel and oxygenation get to the follicle during its growth phase and this results in the production of healthy, fertilizable, implantable eggs, “she says.
To pinpoint the underlying imbalance that could be affecting fertility, Lewis evaluates each attendees’ symptoms, hormonal patterns, fertility history, and recent medical work before drawing up an individualized treatment plan. This includes case-specific acupuncture sessions throughout the five days (referrals are given for continued treatment) and a recipe for a blend of herbs to drink daily once the women leave. All the women learn deep-breathing and massage techniques and practice meditation, yoga, NIA, and Qi Gong—which are thought to enhance circulation. Pilates and sit-ups constrict oxygen and blood flow in the abdominal region and are to be avoided, as are caffeine, dairy, sugar, alcohol, wheat, and meats that contain hormones. The goal is to rid the diet of foods that may contribute to erratic hormonal patterns and blood sugar fluctuations, which Lewis says can affect the body’s ability to respond to estrogen and progesterone.
Weinbrandt, who used to drink a pot of coffee every day, believes that changes she made to her diet months prior to the retreat (per Lewis’s book) have improved her egg quality. “My test showed fewer fragmented eggs after I got strict with my diet,” she says. Thomas Ost, an alternative medicine specialist with Reproductive Healthcare Specialists in Pittsburgh, sees similar improvements in his patients. “Dietary changes play a big role in correcting imbalances in the body and many of the women we treat become pregnant without drugs within three to four months,” he says.
It can sound like the stuff of lore, and that can be a problem, suggests Domar. “Women suffering from infertility are highly vulnerable and I fear that they may believe the retreats can do more for them than we actually know they can,” she says. “Yes, I agree with eating healthy, exercising moderately, lowering stress levels, and doing acupuncture. But I look at the data, and there’s never been a study showing that being ‘in balance’ will increase the odds of getting pregnant. There’s just no way to quantify it.”
New research is, however, looking at the variability of results with acupuncture treatments and suggesting that the level of faith a patient has in it, can influence the outcome. Ost thinks that even a placebo effect can be a great thing. “The Western process often leaves women feeling uncared for and un-nurtured. The retreats help them reconnect with themselves and others like them; they leave with tools to work with,” he says.
Months after leaving the comforting idyll of the spa, Weinbrandt, whose grandmother conceived naturally at age 47, is feeling both hopeful and realistic. She’s maintaining basal temperatures better, her once elevated FSH levels have gone down, and she has more energy—all of which she thinks indicate that she’s on the right path. “This has become as much about my health as about trying to have a baby,” she says. “Before I went to the retreat, I was so desperate and anxious, it felt like a last resort. Now I wish it had been my starting point.”