Saturday, July 31, 2010

Before I start my day today...

I sit. I think. Im grateful.

What are you grateful for today? What do you have to look forward to for the weekend?

As winter nears an end, our minds may be rather grey. But look at what is to come! Spring! Its just around the corner.

As much as I have embraced winter and its beauty, Im ready for Spring.

I focus on the good, the positive. Focus on your blessings this weekend - and I know your body, heart and soul will love you even more for it.

Enjoy the weekend!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Sunshine... oh how I love thee!

I almost certainly sure that the majority of Melbournians today feel great. Why? Take a look outside! The sun is shining and the sky is blue!

Our bodies are so in tune with nature, and respond rapidly to changes in the environment. This means that we experience lows and highs according to our surroundings. According to Dr. Norman Rosenthal, author of Seasons of the Mind: Why You Get the Winter Blues (Bantam Books), Temperature affects the hypothalamus, that part of the brain that serves as the body's thermostat. Sunlight alters the balance of hormones. Changes in humidity and barometric pressure lead to changes in blood flow and the amount of oxygen reaching the brain.

The elation we experience in Spring, is actually a physiological response to more sunlight. Sun rays on our skin activates Vitamin D, releasing it into the endocrine system, when then sets about releasing hormones. These hormones create more blood, increasing blood pressure, increasing oxygen to the brain... and then what do you know... you feel awesome!

Reality is, it is Melbourne. We can see several seasons in the same hour. So what do we do when the clouds come over and its gloomy out? We can learn from what the sun provides us with (increased oxygen flow), and use this in times when our bodies aren't coping with the surrounding environment. Eating fresh foods, especially colourful vegetables can provide the body with quick boosts of nutrients to do perk us up. Incorporating these in the later winter months may just help us get through the tail end of winter.

So we can learn a few things just by observation. Sunlight is good for us because it makes us happy not only on the outside but the inside too because it increases blood flow and delivers more oxygen. In any case, increasing oxygen flow in the body, will always have a balancing effect. I think I might be onto something - maybe I have found the best anxiety cure of all. Get outside and make your day better. Your body and mind will thank you for it.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

IVF – let’s increase your chances.

This week I got a call from a woman in desperation. She had 24 hours to increase the lining of her endometrium; otherwise her egg transfer would be cancelled.

In any IVF situation, this news isn’t good. To add to her stress, this was to be her very first donor transfer. She had been on IVF for five years without any success. Finally she had gotten a donor, but her chances of transfer were not looking positive. She was at wits end. And to add another layer of complexity - she was also petrified of needles.

For this patient, I had to act fast- making space for her to come in immediately.

Research indicates that acupuncture increases IVF success by up to 70%.* It does so for several reasons. It supports the woman’s body as a unit. For all patients, it is important to get a full case history to diagnose and devise a unique treatment plan. This allows us to treat each person individually, rather than placing them in a category of ‘infertile’. Each body system isn’t disconnected from the next. These systems provide an intricate network to allow the body to function in all areas.
Acupuncture is brilliant for fertility, and IVF support as it increases blood flow to the uterus and ovaries, and therefore assists in thickening the endometrial lining which further aids implantation.

What’s more, by encouraging blood flow to the ovaries, a better ovarian response is seen, which results in more mature and better quality follicles. Remember, it is not necessarily about how many eggs you get; it’s about the quality of the eggs.
Acupuncture also lessens the side effects of hormone treatments and benefits the patient emotionally.

I love treating IVF because I get to see these great changes before my own eyes in the clinic. At my clinic, The Pagoda Tree, I see patients at their wits end, who have had multiple unsuccessful IVF transfers, and then watch them go on to have positive pregnancies. As general procedure, we treat throughout the entire IVF cycle, from start to finish with regular acupuncture to support each phase. The vital times are pre pick up, as well as those leading up to the transfer, including treatment the day of the transfer to encourage implantation.

The patient I wrote about at the start of this blog, called me back the following day, astounded by the transformation of her uterine lining. It had gone from ‘hopeless’ to thick and ready for the transfer in less than 24 hours! I was so pleased to hear how well her had body responded. It was yet another reassurance for me, that time and time again acupuncture delivers amazing transformation in the body, IVF or otherwise. This patient has now re-booked after seeing the benefits of acupuncture in a very short space of time. She put her fear of needles behind her and has now had 2 very relaxing and enjoyable treatments – a far cry from the scary and hopeless experience she was expecting.


Wednesday, July 14, 2010

How much $$ for good health?

I saw a sign today that went along these lines: If you think maintaining good health is costly, think how expensive fixing bad health will be. It got me thinking. The majority of us are in really bad practice of maintaining good health. Sure, we might pop a multi vitamin and visit the gym regularly, but most of us really aren't very assertive when it comes to our bodies and we generally rely on professionals telling us, what is wrong with 'us.' On reflection is seems like a ridiculous concept really, because nobody knows you better than you know yourself. Of course there are so many different forms of health care, and I only practice several integrated methods, but at the end of the day, its important to find what works for you as an individual based on how your body responds and feels.
Im astounded by the amount of patients I treat who think they are 'healthy.' Even as we breathe we inhale toxins, and whilst this is unavoidable, there are so many other harmful things that can be avoided to assist in maintaining better health.

Toxic matter in our bodies is harmful. It affects us right down to a cellular level, stopping our bodies ability to run the way they were made to. We can't live in a bubble, so here are my top 5 things you can do on a regular basis in the quest for better health and preventative measures.

1. Filter your water. We are lucky in that we have clean drinking water readily available. In the purification process, most of the harmful nasties are removed, with the exception of a few, including antibiotics and hormones. This means that they are being 're-fed' to us. I screwed my face up as I wrote that! This leads to a host of issues including infertility and early menstruation in younger girls. Using a water filter, as simple as a bench top purification jug is the best way to treat your water before you drink it. Trust me, over time you will be able to tell the difference.
2. Get more sleep before 12pm. The old adage is true - every hour sleep before midnight is worth two hours after midnight. Your body regenerates whilst you sleep - make sure your getting a good 8 hours.
3. Exercise every other day for at least 30 minutes. It doesn't need to be a full on workout - a brisk walk will do the trick.
4. Have some regular form of treatment, be it acupuncture or osteopathy. Allow a practitioner to support your body in ways you can't do yourself.
5. Eat for better health! Hippocrates said - Let food be thy medicine. This includes keeping refined and processed foods on the low down. Nutritionally they do nothing for your body - but they do clog it up and slow it right down from working properly.

These 5 simple things can make a huge difference as to how healthy we are and how we feel in our skin. I love that our bodies respond well to simple changes – isn’t it awesome?. I also love how our bodies speak to us, and show us when they need more or less of something particular. I really encourage you to begin to listen to what your body is telling you, because at the end of the day, only you know how you feel. This can be the key to enjoying better health.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Post Natal Depression and TCM- A patient’s story to wellness

Since I started ‘Fertile Body, Heart and Soul’ I have had many requests to write about Post Natal Depression (PND). Several times I have attempted to write a about it, however I really struggled to do this. This is because my blog is about my honesty insights and being genuine. I have not suffered from PND. Sure, I have had days where I feel down and out, but I can not begin to even pretend that this comes close to PND.
I didn’t want to write a blog pretending to know how a woman with this illness feels. However what I do know is this - TCM can offer amazing results for depression, especially that which occurs in the pregnancy, pre and post natal period.
I have thought long and hard about how to get the right information into this blog. After a great conversation with a patient last week, it dawned on me; who better to write my blog than somebody who had experienced PND first hand? So I asked her if she would be prepared to write about it for me. When she sent me through what she had written, I felt compelled to get this blog out as soon as possible. She really has a story to tell, and I am certain than many women will be able to relate to her experience as she tells it.
It is understood from a TCM perspective, that post natal depression often follows a traumatic birth, specifically that with significant blood loss. When I asked my patient of her birth and if it was traumatic, this is what she wrote:

I ended up having to be induced due to extremely high blood pressure, swelling and not feeling my baby move as much. I had to be very assertive as to my birth plan on entering hospital following the induction which was my first frustration. After my OB broke my waters, I suddenly had a drip in my arm pumping in hormones to bring on the labour and the contractions started hard and fast. Within about an hour the epidural started to wear off, I was fully dilated and I had an immense feeling of realization that this was it, I could feel my baby’s head and I needed to push. 45 minutes later, I was still pushing but was exhausted. The amount of intense pain I’d experienced that morning had just completely tired me out. I had been in a pain whirlwind. I was still pushing, but did say ‘just pull it out’ the next thing I know, my OB said ‘I’m going to give you a helping hand’, I was so close, but just couldn’t go that last push, so my baby was vacuum extraction. I had two stitches after a small episiotomy. Truth be told, looking back, I was angry with myself for ‘giving in’ at pushing, and not saying ‘no’ to the intervention. Why had I not been fitter to be able to push for longer, why hadn’t I prepared myself properly, why didn’t I say ‘wait, I don’t need help yet’? I probably could have pushed for longer. It left me feeling that for that moment, I was totally out of control. Everything just happened so quickly.

Post Natal Depression for this patient wasn’t immediately diagnosed. I suspect like many instances of PND, questioning of “is this really how I feel or is this normal?” probably played over and over again for her. As a new mother, it’s really difficult to know what is normal and what is not. I wanted to know at what point she realized that she wasn’t coping. Here is what she said:

I once heard someone describe PND as like wearing a veil. I have to say, with the benefit of full recovery and hindsight, I’d have to completely agree. There was no defining moment or realization of it for me. The early months of my motherhood experience were a complete nightmare. My baby was immensely unsettled, cried every waking moment and was generally very difficult. To top it all off I found breast feeding extremely challenging and wasn’t enjoying the experience at all. I remember the incredible amount of guilt I felt, about everything. Not being able to feed properly and having to resort to that terrible ‘devil food’; formula. How could I?! Not being able the settle my own baby; what was wrong with me? Above all I felt frustrated and a failure. Around 5 months after my baby was born, I went to my GP to complain that I was getting headaches every day (I am a migraine sufferer) and that I needed help to manage them. As a very thorough and insightful GP, she took one look at me and said “now tell me what’s really going on”. I burst out crying and couldn’t articulate how I was feeling. Everything was a struggle. Even though I was getting out of bed every day and kept to my routine of showering every morning when my baby had her morning sleep, just getting out of the house, getting the pram out of the boot of the car, putting a wash in the washing machine, tidying up the house, it all filled me with an immense feeling of despair, everything was just too hard. I had no motivation and am normally an extremely positive, energetic and motivated person; I felt gluggy, grey and sluggish. I literally lost my sense of self. That’s the only way to describe it. I hated not working and achieving, I disliked being stuck at home. My mothers group dissolved into nothing and I had no motivation to be the only one to salvage it. I felt alone, bored and fed up.

I am certain that many of you can relate to how this patient was feeling. I know when reading this, I feel a great amount of sympathy for her. At this point in her life, she really was at breaking point.

I started seeing a psychologist who diagnosed PND. I saw her every week, sometimes twice; it assisted, to a point. I put my baby into childcare one day a week a couple of months later as I wanted to get her ready for when I went back to work. During that month, I reached breaking point. The psych sessions weren’t working; I felt progress was slow and if anything I was feeling worse. My psych has since told me that she was thinking of ‘intervening’ in my treatment. As a first resort, she made an appointment for me to go back to my GP to get anti-depressants. I was failing at my own treatment; it was the last option, only option left and I was devastated. I cried through my appointment with my GP, I can’t even remember some of the information she gave me. The next day I took one of the pills. I hated that it had come to this, I was so adamant at the beginning that I didn’t want to take drugs. I immediately felt ill. One day, after lunch with a friend, I had what Oprah would call a ‘lightbulb’ moment. Why the hell had I not considered TCM and called Nat before? She had helped me through my pregnancy, had the advice when I was having problems with my baby…. Maybe she could help or would have some suggestions. I told her on the phone what had happened, where I was up to with my treatment and so on. She freed up an appointment to see me that day. Hurray! I didn’t have to take the drugs, there WAS another option! I almost felt stupid for not thinking about it in the beginning, but it never occurred to me that TCM could successfully treat PND.

TCM works well because it is based on an individual diagnosis. Two women suffering the same western medically diagnosed Post Natal Depression, will most likely be treated differently from a TCM perspective. The diagnosis is derived from symptoms and the patient’s own signs at presentation. This ensures the treatment becomes expressly tailored to each individual.

Seriously, I didn’t actually believe that I would feel any different from having acupuncture and taking the herbs. I am a skeptic, but knowing what my body is like (very sensitive) and how well it responds to TCM and knowing how professional Nat is, I knew I was in good hands, wouldn’t suffer any side effects (unlike the drugs) and that I had nothing to loose. After my first treatment I had the best night’s sleep in months. I actually felt rested. I suddenly started to feel like I was taking control. My decision not to take the anti-depressants and to assert myself in my own direction of TCM was a defining moment, definitely my turning point. I wasn’t going to let it control me or define me. I was taking charge! My psych was very interested in hearing about how I felt after my first treatment under TCM principles, and importantly was supportive and somewhat intrigued. I was definitely well on my way to recovery. I was realistic though, part of my recovery was also about my own attitude and I am a firm believer in the power of positivity (a very hard thing to achieve when you have depression). I thought myself better, fully supported by the herbs and acupuncture. I think I had around 4 treatments in total over about 3 months.

Like everything in life, each woman’s journey is different. Some are quick to feel better and others take a little longer. Support is a huge factor with any form of depression, especially for vulnerable new mothers. For this patient, her turning point was when she felt she had regained her control enough to continue on the path to better health.

My turning point was taking control, deciding that PND wouldn’t get the better of me and feeling really comfortable with my treatment choice.. TCM works for me, always had in the past and definitely did in supporting my recovery from PND.

This patient has offered so much of herself in telling her story. I’m so grateful that she was able to share her journey, because I am absolutely certain than many women will benefit from hearing it. Interestingly, I feel that the woman who will benefit most from reading her story is herself.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

The C word.

Cancer. I know Cancer has touched the lives of many. When I think of cancer, it makes me frustrated. Its such a dark disease. Even the colour of tumors are dark. I admit that it makes me both sad and angry. My family has recently been touched by cancer, with the diagnosis of my father in law. In comparison, his journey so far is shorter than many, but at the same time, if feels like an eternity since he was diagnosed. Cancer isn't my speciality field. I make babies. I rarely treat cancer. However, since the diagnosis of Chris' father, I have been working along side a TCM cancer expert to treat his condition.
I decided early on that it was best that I wasn't my father in law's primary practitioner. Its too close to home, and its very difficult to think objectively when its your own family. So he has been regularly seeing a wonderful practitioner who specialises in cancer treatments. Im happy to stick to fertility. However, what it is allowing me is to see a different side of the field, and use the information he is giving me to more than likely use someday. When that women walks into my clinic facing cancer and the effects on her fertility, I will be grateful for this experience.
I regularly get asked what TCM can offer cancer. The beauty of Chinese Medicine is that is specific to the individual. This is why it works. It doesn't matter where or what the cancer is doing in your body, your diagnosis from the perspective of TCM is the most important aspect of treatment. Western Medicine finds this concept difficult to grasp, and doesn't generally separate conditions according to the patient. I remember one of the earliest cases of cancer I treated was one of the most rewarding. This particular patient was going through chemotherapy. She never lost her hair. She wasn't too unwell either. She attributed this to her ongoing TCM support.
More than likely, TCM will be a support treatment to western therapies for cancer patients. Now more than ever before, research is being preformed on both Chinese Medicine formulations as well as Acupuncture to work out just why it has positive effects on both cancer itself and the support of the patient. Exciting things are to come in this area and what my medicine can offer. Cancer is an inflammatory disease. So therefore treatment, diet and lifestyle changes that are specific to reducing inflammation.
I know I can't cure my father in law (although I don't doubt others both alternative and mainstream medicine can). I do know I can support his body and make it work to the best of its ability. This can only have positive effects on his overall health as well as recovery from chemotherapy. So this is what I will continue to do, because I certainly can't sit back and do nothing. Come to think of it, so far he hasn't lost his hair! I plan to keep it this way.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Our baby is here!

I thought it would be a few more weeks until I would have the pleasure of posting this, but it seems that our little one decided it was time to come into the world on Monday!
If you have been following, you would have seen that I was called out to treat a mother of 31 weeks from pre-eclampsia. Its quite difficult but very possible to treat a mother with pre-eclampsia because the treatment must be conservative. In this case, the mother had been having treatment up until the 15 week mark where we both decided that things looked good. She was to start seeing me again shortly. It seems that baby had different ideas, and so when things failed to remain stable, the decision was made that she was to be born.
I don't have lots of details. I do know that this precious little one was born at 32 weeks, weighing 1.8kg. Both her and mother are doing ok. Im looking forward to meeting her soon. Last time I treated her, I remember my patient saying "I just hope she is 1.8kg like she should be." It seems she was granted her wish, baby was that indeed, which is in itself awesome to say the least.
Whilst no mother ever dreams of having a baby born prematurely, I know she would be also grateful that the baby is ok, and that she did the absolute best she could do.
Congrats sweet girl on the arrival of your precious baby girl!

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Treatment #2! The Pre-Eclampsia Journey

So I've just gotten home for my second visit to the hospital to treat my patient.

It was so lovely to see her, I wish I could just take her hand and tell her everything is going to be ok. Whilst nobody can actually know this for sure, I know that by integrating acupuncture and some herbal medicines to her collective treatments, Im certainly more confident that her body and baby are being supported as best as they can be. It gives me peace of mind, because I too have experienced this first hand. Many memories are being jogged for me as I treat this patient. I too went into early labour with Olivia at 30 weeks. Looking back now, this was one of the most scariest experiences of my life. The lack of connection I felt in my body was incredible. However, following the realisation of disconnection came a massive sense of control. I took control of my body at that point and never looked back. I integrated herbal medicine, acupuncture and most of all plenty of rest and I was able to support Olivia's pregnancy until 40 weeks. It wasn't only physical strength, it was emotional and mental strength that I found. Its sometimes, not until that point of utter dispair that clarity may be seen. I know for me it was a turning point.

For this patient, there are more complications than I experienced. Pre-eclampsia is proving to be putting up a fight. However, today things are looking more stable and she is looking well! I feel honored to be part of this process and trust that we can do great things to see out extra weeks for this pregnancy and beautiful baby inside her

Oh and one more thing! See the flowers I have posted with this blog. They are sitting on my dining table and making me smile. Perhaps next visit I should take some to this patient, I think they would have the same effect! So beautiful.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Day 1, house call.

As I blogged yesterday, I was asked in to help treat a patient who had been hospitalised for Pre-Eclampsia.

Treatment went well and we used points to focus on her presenting symptoms and overall constitution.

At one stage, I had a Doctor come in who was fascinated with what I was doing and how acupuncture works. I was pleased that she was positive about it, because lets face it, acupuncture isn't integrated into main stream medicine much yet. Im certain that the day when acupuncture and herbal medicine is integrated into our medical system, isn't too far away. Many practitioners are certainly starting to see the benefits of integrated medicine, its just a matter of both health systems opening up and allowing each other in. This will happen in my time as a TCM Dr. It has to ,because the results in doing this can be fantastic and give people a new time of health care they deserve.

So we will sit tight and see what the next few days bring. I hope that by adding acupuncture to this patients course of treatment we can achieve a long and healthy pregnancy.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

When duty calls

Tomorrow Im off to do a hospital visit for a patient. She called me yesterday, distressed because she had been admitted to hospital for pre-eclampsia at 31 weeks gestation. Its really scary for any mother to be admitted 9 weeks before their due date. I can totally feel her worry. This was me. I too was admitted to hospital with Olivia at 30 weeks. I can't explain what happened to my world that day, but Im certain time stood still or at least went very slowly. Being in hospital and waiting for the unknown is awful.

But Im confident! Im looking forward to seeing her tomorrow and doing a 'house call.' I know I can use my knowledge to treat her and attempt to get things under control. If your not familiar with what Pre-Eclampsia is, it's the onset of high blood pressure during pregnancy which is serious for both the mother and baby.

So tomorrow I will aim to relax her and bring her body back to a parasympathetic state. This means that all body systems may have the ability to work better. By supporting the Kidneys (most important in treatment of reproductive health) we can also ensure that fluid is moving around the body and not building up. TCM excels in these circumstances as it treats the patient individually, as she presents. The diagnosis distinguished by careful observation of the patient as well as compiling their signs and symptoms. More than likely, the Liver has a strong involvement in high blood pressure. This means that its necessary to sooth the liver energy. Acupuncture has an affect on the endocrine system as well as the immune system, helping to inhibit an improper inflammatory response and prevent an autoimmune attack. Makes sense? Probably not to you but to me, all this means that we can really give the body some necessary support tomorrow and wait to see how the body responds.

Im keen to get in there tomorrow! I will keep you posted with this patients progress. Her situation is certainly on my heart and in my prayers.

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