A Theme For The Year

According to statistics only 8 percent of people actually keep their New Year’s resolutions. In ancient times Babylonians made promises to their gods at the start of each year that they would return borrowed objects and pay their debts. The Romans began each year by making promises to the god Janus for whom the month of January is named.

It is estimated that around a half of all New Year’s resolutions will be about staying fit and healthy. For others it is about relationships with family and friends or money.

At this time of year my wife and I choose to set a joint theme for the year ahead. In a previous year we declared that we were going visit as many seaside locations as possible. This turned out to be a most enjoyable year with numerous coastal visits,  both home and abroad. This year the theme is ‘simplicity’, allowing us to reflect on the many ways in which we needlessly over-complicate our lives.

Simplicity in the dictionary directs us to the words clarity, coherence and directness. Each of these reminds us that the best way from a to b is a straight line. Whilst there are clearly times where the meandering road has benefits, I am also mindful of the great strength in clarity of purpose. The great traveller will set out on the road equipped  with a clear route plan, but will also make allowance for the unexpected trips and falls he may encounter en-route.

What will you focus on this year? Who will you share it with?

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The Four Pillars of Health

What are the four pillars of health and how can they help us? Dr Rangan Chatterjee, 38, a GP from Oldham, and presenter of the BBC’s ‘Doctor In The House’ series was recently interviewed on the BBC Breakfast TV sofa. He asserted that most GPs these days are too busy to properly investigate complicated medical conditions, and it is therefore much easier to prescribe a pill. As part of his TV experiment Dr Chatterjee was allowed the luxury of spending time with patients in their home environment. As a consequence he was better able to get to the bottom of their medical issues, with some heartwarming outcomes.Four pillars of health

The four pillars he described are:-

  • Eating
  • Moving
  • Sleeping
  • Relaxing

It all sounds too easy, but what can we really learn from this approach? We are bombarded with health messages on a daily basis. Which ones should we really pay attention to? Let us take a look at each pillar in turn.

Nearly every day there is a new story in the media about healthy eating, which frankly can be really confusing. For me the key questions are about how often you eat freshly cooked food? Perhaps convenience wins over quality. Are do you allow adequate time to ‘rest and digest’ at mealtimes?

Have you ever had a conversation with your GP or practice nurse about taking more exercise? What was the outcome? Perhaps you started with good intentions but something more important came along.

four pillars of healthAnd on the topic of rest, the sleep council (http://www.sleepcouncil.org.uk/) notes that ‘nearly half of us are getting just six hours sleep or less a night. And an alarming four out of five people complain of disturbed or inadequate – or ‘toxic’ – sleep’. Go to their website for answers to these and other sleep related issues.

According to an online dictionary, the word relax means ‘to make or become less tense or anxious, to make (a rule or restriction) less strict’. Which rule could you relax? For all you schedulers out there, do you ever pencil in R & R breaks?

Here is a tip to make your four pillars work for you. I like to score each one from one to ten (where ten is perfect), and then write alongside each score one action I can take that will improve my score. Go on and have a go.

Martin Dean is an acupuncturist with over 23 years practice experience who practices in Nottingham. www.acupuncturepaincentre.co.uk

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My Body Has Held Me To Ransom

“I can’t believe my body has held me to ransom for all these years”.

This is a sentiment I have heard expressed in so many ways over the years. As a man it is often difficult to truly appreciate what a woman puts up with each month, particularly when things don’t go smoothly. As an experienced fertility acupuncturist though I have treated many many women with a large variety of menstrual difficulties over the years and I have to say the results are often profound. Of course you don’t have to be trying to get pregnant to get help with your cycle.

So how could acupuncture help? Before starting it is a great idea to seek a medical diagnosis so do have a talk with your GP first in order to rule out anything more serious. On your first visit to an acupuncturist you will be asked a whole lot of detailed questions about your menstrual and general health to establish what is behind your symptoms and how best to move forward.My Body Has Held Me To Ransom

I have come to regard the female menstrual cycle as something which needs to ‘flow’ smoothly. This means for example that the monthly blood flow should be smooth and fluid (so no clots) and free from ‘stop-start’ bleeding. You should be largely pain-free and emotionally consistent for the whole month (so no mood swings or energy drops). Any other symptoms that occur during your menstrual cycle such as bloating (bowels not flowing well) or fluid retention (impeded fluid flow) will be taken into account.

In some of my more poetic moments I am drawn to consider my role as a ‘plumber’, opening taps, removing blockages, turning up the water pressure and improving heat distribution. To translate this into ‘acupuncture speak’, one of the most common diagnoses is ‘Liver Qi Stagnation’ which has amongst its symptoms, moodiness, fluctuation of mental state, a churning feeling in the stomach and feeling ‘wound-up”. Does this sound familiar? Yes we are talking about PMS. Treating acupuncture point ‘Liver 3’ (located on the foot) during the premenstrual phase often produces the most dramatic treatment outcomes. It is like opening a tap.

So go on – get your life back!

Martin Dean

07969 41 31 58

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Charting Your Basal Body Temperature

A Precision Instrument

The female body is a precision instrument, and this is never more crucial than when you are trying to get pregnant. Many years of experience as a fertility acupuncturist tell me that small variations in operating temperature can often affect the chance of a successful outcome. For this reason, charting your basal body temperature or BBT (your body temperature at rest), is a critical fertility sign because it is the only sign that will tell you definitively that you ovulated. It also is the only sign that will let you pinpoint (to as close a degree as possible) when ovulation occurred. All your other signs tell you only that ovulation is approaching. Temperature charting was first identified in the 1930’s by supporters of the rhythm method of contraception.

charting your basal body temperature

Basal Body Temperature Variations Over The Month

After ovulation, the body produces progesterone. Progesterone causes an increase in your body temperature that is observable when you measure your BBT with a special BBT thermometer just upon waking in the morning.

Now take a look at the illustration.  An experienced eye would recognise that the temperature in the first half of the chart is too high and will observe that this person has ovulated early. Higher temperatures can often also lead to poorer egg quality. This is just one possible variation  seen in clinical practice, other examples include temperatures that may be too low or simply unstable.

By asking careful questions the skilled practitioner is able to uncover the reasons for this variation from the norm, and will be able to recommend an appropriate course of  treatment. Continued monitoring of the BBT chart allows for checking of treatment outcomes. It may also allow you to check the effects of lifestyle changes such as reducing stress.

In effect taking your daily temperature can be a useful tool in optimising your fertility. Are you ready to start charting your basal body temperature now?

 How To Take Your Basal Body Temperature

  • Take your temperature before rising in the morning as any activity can raise your BBT.

  • Take your temperature at the same time every morning (if this changes make a note of the time).

  • Take your temperature after at least 3 consecutive hours of sleep

  • Keep your thermometer accessible from your bed so you do not have to get
    up to get it.

  • Use the same thermometer throughout your cycle if possible.

  • Keep a spare thermometer in case one breaks (especially if you are using a glass thermometer).

  • Temperatures can be taken orally or vaginally but must be taken in the same place throughout the cycle since the temperatures of the different parts may vary. Most women prefer to take their temperatures orally and this is usually fine, though some women find that they get a clearer reading by temping vaginally.

  • Record your temperature soon after you take it (or ask your partner to) since most thermometers only store a reading until the next use. If you have to do something else or want to stay in bed, you can record it later.Basal body temperature charting

  • If you must use a heating pad or electric blanket, keep it at the same setting throughout your cycle. Make a note of its use.

  • Take your temperature before doing anything else including eating, drinking or going to the bathroom. If circumstances arise that prevent you from taking your temperature right away, take it as soon as you are able and make a note of the circumstances.

  • Start your chart from the beginning of your cycle, i.e. when you start bleeding.

  • Use a new sheet for each cycle
  • You may like to create your chart online, using websites such as www.fertilityfriend.com

To book an appointment with Martin Dean call 07969413158

 

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How Can Acupuncture Help Fertility

I am asked this question an awful lot –  how can acupuncture help fertility – so I thought I’d take the time to share some answers.

Firstly it is important to say that although acupuncture may on occasion help with infertility, most of the work I do is associated with subfertility. Thus we are looking at ways to improve or boost fertility, which obviously suggests a range of function. When talking to my patients about fertility issues I often refer to the 2012 olympic cycling team and the principle of marginal gains. There was no single aspect of cycling that led to so many medals being won – it was more about the accumulative effect of many small factors.

Can Acupuncture Help Fertility

In the same way, many of my fertility patients come to me with test results that rule out any major factors and yet they are not able to get pregnant. Acupuncture can be used to deal with a number of smaller factors. I often think of it as an ‘enabler’ in the sense that it can often make other treatments work better.

Acording to the British Acupuncture Council  acupuncture can help by regulating fertility hormones, increasing blood flow to the reproductive organs, increasing egg production, normalising prolactin and cortisol levels, and promoting embryo implantation.

Here is an example which illustrates ‘marginal gains’. Jo (not her real name) came to me having been unable to get pregnant after three years trying. She has a stressful job as a school teacher and has difficulty sleeping. She skips breakfast regularly and often reports feeling cold. On examination her lower abdomen was noticeably colder than above her navel. She was also fatigued much of the time, especialy when she was on her period.

I worked with her on these aspects – we were able to demonstrably improve the circulation in her lower abdomen during the first session. Her husband (who was present in the treatment room) was amazed! I was able to help her deal better with her stress, and she gradually began to feel more energised. Four months later she was over the moon to report a positive pregnancy test!

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Is Acupuncture Safe During Pregnancy?

This article was triggered by a recent conversation with a pregnant patient – ‘I was totally unaware that acupuncture could do all these things’ she said to me. I realised that I’d had this conversation many times before. ‘Is acupuncture safe during pregnancy?’ was her next question.

Is acupuncture safe during pregnancy?

Acupuncture Is Safe During Pregnancy If Carried Out By A Competent Acupuncturist

This article is for all those who have yet to ask the question.

Pregnant women are often averse to taking medication for minor ailments – acupuncture can offer a welcome alternative at this time. Many of my patients also remark how supportive they find our discussions in a period of change and anxiety.

There is general agreement that acupuncture is a safe treatment during pregnancy, providing you are treated by a practitioner who is properly trained and registered with a professional body such as the British Acupuncture Council. For example treatment points which have a downward or expulsive nature are avoided at this time, as are points on the abdomen.

In my own practice I see pregnant women with a wide variety of conditions such as nausea and vomiting, acid reflux, anxiety, back pain, symphysys pubis pain, constipation and migraine. For those of you that like to look at the research in these areas, a useful starting point is an article by renowned acupuncturist and former nurse Debra Betts, which can be found at the following website :-

safety of using acupuncture during pregnancy

Acupuncture can also turn breech babies. A long practiced adjunct technique known as moxibustion involves the application of heat to a point on the little toe. According to The British Acupuncture Council, ‘research is currently underway, but previous scientific studies have found promising results for the turning of breech babies; somewhere in the region of 80% success rate’.

Other research has shown that a short course of treatment to prepare the body for labour can reduce the experience of pain and reduce the length of a vaginal delivery. For this I usually recommend three pre-birth sessions from week 36 of pregnancy.

And finally I am often asked to help to induce labour in overdue pregnancies. It should only be used for induction when the mother has passed her due date, and then only with the consent of the obstetric team in charge of the birth. This ensures that all medical factors are taken into account and that the appropriate facilities are in place if the treatment is successful in encouraging the natural process to start. Acupuncture treatment can occasionally have a very rapid effect, but generally speaking it may take at least a few days to work. Acupuncture can also be used to restart labour if it has slowed down or if contractions have stopped.

It is always a pleasure to treat a woman during pregnancy as I feel it is a great opportunity to treat both the mother and her unborn baby. As I often remind my patients, I still only charge for one patient! Please contact me for advice and further information on 07969413158.

For further information you may find the following research summaries helpful.

 

British Acupuncture Council research fact sheets

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Comfortable Needling

People are often put off by the prospect of acupuncture because they think the needles are going to be painful. Is this true?

Comfortable Needling

Comfortable Needling

In fact you may well be confusing these needles with the hollow injection needles we have all experienced at our GP’s surgery. Because acupuncture needles do not need to be hollow they are much finer – around the thickness of a human hair. Go on take a look at one of your’s.

So what does acupuncture treatment actually feel like? I prefer to describe it as ‘not nothing’ but rather as ‘a mild fleeting sensation’. According to the British Acupuncture Council, which has over 3,000 members in the UK, “when the needle is inserted you may feel a tingling sensation or dull ache “. According to ancient Chinese texts, this is analagous to a fish biting on the fisherman’s hook. This process is often described as ‘DeQi’ or ‘obtaining the Qi’. Qi pronounced ‘chee’) is the vital energy which flows in the acupuncture channels, so it could be argued that the experience of obtaining DeQi is an essential part of acupuncture.Comfortable needling

The skilled acupuncturist will combine the use of modern high quality needles with many, many hours of carefully refined practice so that the experience for you, the patient is as easy as possible without compromising the effectiveness of the treatment.

All needles used by British Acupuncture Council registered practitioners are single-use disposable.

And finally, in the words of one of my patients:-

“In my experience acupuncture is a calming painless experience. I hardly feel the needle go in, I don’t even know it is there once in. Occasionally I might feel a tingle but even that is rare. Actually an incidental benefit, is that it forces me to relax and totally switch off for half an hour!” “Once the needle is in place, you cannot feel it, but sometimes have nice, warm, tingling sensations, depending on the points”.

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The Emotional Side of IVF

The emotional side of IVF is often underplayed. As a fertility acupuncturist who works with many couples undergoing IVF, I can easily see why the process is often described as an ’emotional rollercoaster ride’. Much of the brunt of this is carried by the woman as the treatment cycle looms, but it can be challenging for both partners.

The emotional side of IVFWhether you are undergoing your very first cycle or your fifth, you will have invested heavily (both financially and emotionally) and your future is linked intrinsically to the result. On top of this, the drugs you have been prescribed seem to be specifically formulated to take you out of your carefully constructed comfort zone. You feel hot at night and just a little nauseous. Good intentions go to the wall.

There’s also the prospect of injecting yourself with a frighteningly large needle, and making sense of the seemingly impenetrable medical jargon and numbers. Ten follicles, grade B, down-regulation, stimulation, OHSS and so on!

And if all this isn’t enough, you read that stress can negatively affect the outcome of the treatment! What should you do? What can you do?

This is one area where many people have found fertility acupuncture to be a great help. You may have come across some of the recent publicity during acupuncture awareness week, which illustrated the benefit that acupuncture can bring to dealing with stress and improving general well-being (http://www.introducingacupuncture.co.uk). Aside from any direct effects on your fertility (such as regulation of hormones and improving blood flow to your uterus and ovaries), many of my patients undergoing IVF report that it helps them with the side effects of the medication and puts them in a good space mentally. In the words of three of my patients:-

‘I just wanted to say thanks for being the calming influence that you were’.

‘My stress levels reduced quite noticeably which was great. We are expecting twins’.

‘Martin came highly recommended. He treats the ‘whole person’ and I found this way of breaking down a problem into manageable, bite-size pieces, extremely helpful. I actually felt better just from the consultation.  To be ‘listened to’ and ‘understood’ is so refreshing. Thoroughly recommend you give it a try’.

I strongly believe that a key part in the work of any fertility acupuncturist is to be a sympathetic ear. Acupuncture treatment points such as gateway to the heart, greater stream, storehouse, inner frontier and palace of weariness can help you to feel in control and make your IVF cycle something special. And all this is underpinned by individual treatment tailored to your specific needs.

 

Martin Dean, The Acupuncture Fertility Centre

www.acupuncturefertilitycentre.co.uk

Call 07 969 413158 for an appointment.

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Acupuncture To Beat Stress

Acupuncture to beat stress: up to half a million people in the UK experience work-related stress every year, which often results in illness (according to the Health and Safety Executive in 2011). Other factors that affect stress levels include alcohol, smoking, exams, pregnancy, divorce, moving, death in family, lifestyle, drugs, poor nutrition and unemployment.

Symptoms of stress can manifest in a variety of different ways including tiredness or lethargy, or as symptoms such as sore, tight muscles, dull skin, lank hair, or erratic sleep patterns. Mental stress can result in depression, mood swings, anger, frustration, confusion, paranoid behaviour, jealousy or withdrawal.

Acupuncture to beat stress

According to the British Acupuncture Council, acupuncture treatment may specifically benefit anxiety disorders and symptoms of anxiety by

  • acting on areas of the brain known to reduce sensitivity to pain and stress
  • promoting relaxation and deactivating the ‘analytical’ brain, which is responsible for anxiety and worry
  • reducing serum levels of corticosterone and the number of tyrosine hydroxylase-immunoreactive cells
  • reversing stress-induced changes in behaviour and biochemistry, regulating levels of neurotransmitters.

For more information on how acupuncture could help you, please go to the British Acupuncture Council’s factsheet on stress.

As one of my patients remarked recently, ‘I can’t understand how I can be lying here with needles stuck in me, and feel so sleepy’.

 

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Checking Your Three Temperatures

Checking your three temperaturesChecking your three temperatures is a simple and very old way to see how balanced your body is (especially if you are trying to conceive). It is suitable for both you and your partner.

Here’s how to do it. Start off by removing your clothing above the waist so you can access the front of your body (including your lower abdomen) and allow a couple of minutes for your skin to reach  a stable unclothed temperature. Now place your hand in turn on your chest, between your rib-cage and navel, and between your navel and pelvis. Take your time with each. Did you notice any clear differences in temperature between the three areas? This would indicate that some of your body functions are not working harmoniously together.

To give some examples, if your lower area is colder, you may be less able to nurture a pregnancy, your sperm may be sluggish with low motility or you may be experiencing slower bowel movements. If your middle area is too hot, you may be experiencing digestive disturbance (good digestion is necessary in order to provide essential nutrients to your eggs or sperm).

If you think you have a problem with your three temperatures, it would be helpful to have a chat with your local acupuncturist. Of course you don’t have to be trying for a baby to be out of balance.

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Kate Silverton and Motherhood

After four rounds of IVF and the loss of one ovary, 41 year old BBC newsreader Kate Silverton finally got to hold her daughter Clemency last year. The story of her road to motherhood is an inspiration to others.
“There are so many people who think IVF is going to be an easy cure-all. They have no idea what it entails emotionally, physically, financially and statistically.”
“One time, I did a round of IVF and went straight on to report from Afghanistan”.
Read more (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/tvandradio/bbc/9050301/Kate-Silverton-You-cant-beat-the-biological-clock.html)

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The Five Point Fertility Plan

When trying for a baby, we recommend a five point fertility plan to optimise your ‘match fitness’. This includes general health and fitness, stress, reproductive health, psychological and emotional health and nutrition.

  • Why not invest in a pedometer and see if you are doing the recommended 10,000 steps a day.
  • What proportion of your diet is composed of freshly cooked food?
  • Does your main meal have a fair representation of the five colours, red (eg tomatoes), yellow (eg grains, potatoes), white (eg onions garlic), blue (eg fish) and green (eg spinach, broccoli).
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