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Using TCM and Western Medicine to Save Lives

How exciting– one of the Nobel prize winners for medicine is a Chinese Medicine practitioner!  Tu Youyou, the first Chinese woman to win a Nobel prize, used ancient Chinese medicine texts to develop an anti-malarial drug that has been used to save millions of lives.  I’ve included some links with more information.
http://www.bbc.com/news/blogschina-blog-34451386
http://www.cnn.com/2015/10/05/world/nobel-prize-medicine/
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Exciting News for Women Who Use Donor Eggs!

A groundbreaking research study from a Spanish fertility clinic shows that a woman using donor eggs will still pass on some of her own DNA to her baby.   This really makes sense from a Chinese medicine perspective too.  The Traditional Chinese medicine wisdom about prenatal development explains how the mother’s traits and experiences during pregnancy will significantly influence the child, similar to how we would describe genetic influence.

I look forward to seeing more on this topic in the future!  Read more here:

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Ginger Chicken Meatballs with Chinese Broccoli

Photo from Bon Appetite website

It’s fall!  Time for pumpkins, winter squash, apple cider, and … cold and flu season.  We’ve been lucky enough to enjoy warm and summery temperatures through September this year, but nonetheless I caught my first cold a few weeks ago.  Whenever I’m sick with a cold I try to focus on eating as well as I possibly can to support my immune system and cut down on phlegm: this means no alcohol, sugar, wheat or dairy until I’m feeling 100% better.  It sounds restrictive but it really does make a huge difference in my recovery!  I stumbled upon this recipe for Ginger Meatballs with Chinese Broccoli and really enjoyed it despite feeling miserable otherwise.  It’s a perfect meal for this time of year with lots of immune support and warming properties from the aromatic broth laden with ginger and garlic.  I made it with bone broth and used a full bunch of chinese broccoli. (I can never resist adding extra veggies!)  Next time I’m going to try adding a can of coconut milk to the broth!

Get the recipe HERE.  Enjoy!

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Thoughts on Postpartum Recovery

Thoughts on Postpartum Recovery

I feel like I’ve been mulling over this post for a long time – basically ever since I gave birth to my daughter seven months ago.  I’ve heard this time in life described as “the longest shortest time” and it is truly an apt description.  The experience of birthing a baby and then caring for a newborn is so intense and all-consuming that for many new moms, prioritizing their own health and well-being tends to be forgotten.  Thankfully, more and more articles like THIS one are being published, drawing attention to the critical need for increased support for women’s health postpartum.

Chinese medicine offers a holistic approach to postpartum recovery, encouraging lots of rest, very minimal physical activity or chores, and a nourishing diet for at least a month (ideally longer) after the birth of a baby.  In many ways, I am still recovering from giving birth, and while I am finally feeling like I’m fully out of the initial postpartum haze, the experience is really fresh in my mind.  So, without further ado … here are my best postpartum recovery tips, as a TCM practitioner and a new mom:

  • After you have your baby, rest as much as you possibly can, for as long as you can (ideally at least a month).  The amount of time you spend resting immediately after birth will make such a big difference in your postpartum recovery overall.  So even though you might be itching to tackle that pile of laundry or get back to running errands, give yourself at least a month to just veg out with your baby. Try to avoid walking up and down stairs too much, or lifting anything heavier than your baby, for as long as you can.  I hung out on the couch or in bed most of the day for at least 5 weeks after I had my daughter.  I didn’t use the stairs at all until she was 3 weeks old.  Enjoy the snuggles, read books, watch netflix, whatever!  The basic gist is: just lay down.
  • If people are offering to help you out, take them up on their offer!  Ask them to bring you a meal, fold laundry, clean your bathroom, hold the baby while you shower, or whatever else needs doing.  If you don’t have much support around you, pay people to do stuff for you if you can make it work with your budget.  Order healthy takeout, pay a housecleaner, hire a postpartum doula to come over a few days a week.  Think of it as an investment in your emotional and physical health, AKA money well spent.
  • It’s okay to have lots of feelings.  There are so many changes happening after you have a baby that it is really normal to feel off-kilter emotionally.  Every single day while my daughter was a newborn brought me a moment of total euphoria, and a moment of being completely overwhelmed, often to the point of tears.  It’s okay.  Feeling sad does not make you a bad mom, but please don’t suffer alone.  Join a new mom’s group, talk about how you’re feeling to your partner or your OB or your friends, and call the PPSM hotline (612-787-PPSM (-7776)) if you think you need to talk to a professional.  Get help if you need it!  Remember that the BEST thing for your baby is to have a mom who is emotionally healthy.  Do whatever you need to do to make that happen.
  • Try to eat well, and do NOT restrict calories.  Regardless of whether or not you are breastfeeding, in those early weeks and months of having a newborn you need a TON of high quality food to fuel you as you recover from childbirth and provide round the clock care to your baby.  During your pregnancy, try to stockpile your freezer with healthy meals, and if people offer to bring you food, take them up on it.  Don’t be scared to request healthy foods, either!  I spent my third trimester filling my freezer with ziploc bags of bone broth and hearty stews.  After our baby was born, we were lucky enough to have lots of generous friends bring us healthy, nourishing meals (mostly soups and stews) for the first 6 weeks postpartum.  Keep your fridge and pantry stocked with nourishing, easy-to-prepare foods such as eggs, avocados, nuts/nut butters, cooked grains, cooked meats, sauerkraut, roasted veggies, etc.  Enlist your partner to take care of this, or have groceries delivered until you feel ready to tackle grocery shopping with baby.
  • Take naps.  This one seems simple but it is so hard to actually do!  Parenting a newborn is truly a 24/7 job, and it’s so important to rest when you can to try to offset the sleep deprivation.  My kid is 7 months old, and I’m still napping every chance I get.  At least once a day, try to lay down and rest for a bit while baby is napping.  Chores can wait, your body needs sleep!
  • Seek help from your providers for any specific issues you’re struggling with postpartum, whether it be stress incontinence, breastfeeding problems, pelvic pain, fatigue, or headaches.  It might be common to experience these symptoms, but that doesn’t make it normal or something that you should just live with.  Reach out to your health care providers and let them know what’s going on.  Most of the problems that crop up postpartum are very treatable (yes, even stress incontinence!) – you just need to take the initiative to pick up the phone and ask for help.
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Summer Coconut Curry

Summer Coconut Curry

I made such a delicious dinner tonight, I just had to post the recipe! I am always on the lookout for delicious recipes that a) make a LOT of food – we love leftovers, b) include lots of veggies, and c) are naturally low in gluten and dairy. Neither my husband nor I have any food allergies, but since we are very flexible about what we eat when we’re at restaurants or friends’ houses, we like to eat very healthfully at home.

Additionally, during the summer I like to try to make meals that showcase all the glorious produce that’s in season at this time, while still following TCM dietary guidelines that advise eating a balance of cooked and raw foods regardless of the season. In the summer, it’s far too easy to fall into a pattern of eating raw or cold foods nonstop: salads, smoothies, ice cream, ice water, etc. Eating exclusively raw/cold foods – even during a heat wave – is excessively taxing on the digestion and slows down our metabolism. For optimal health, it’s best to stick to a balanced diet of having at least two meals of the day be cooked, easily digested and nutritious food. For this curry, I had a bunch of seasonal produce that I wanted to use up – carrots, zucchini, and broccoli, all from the farmers market – so that’s what I used, but feel free to use any combination of veggies that you fancy! Enjoy!

Summer Coconut Curry

2 T coconut oil

1 large yellow onion, diced

5 cloves garlic, minced

2″ knob fresh ginger, peeled and minced

2 thai red chilis (optional)

3 cups chicken stock

1 T hot curry powder

1/2 T ground turmeric

2 T fish sauce (optional)

2 T maple syrup (optional)

2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken breasts

2 cans full-fat coconut milk

8 cups veggies of your choice: I used 4 cups diced yellow zucchini, 2 cups broccoli florets, and 2 cups diced peeled carrots

sea salt, to taste (This will depend on the saltiness of the stock you use – I used 2 teaspoons.)

Juice of a lime

Large handful of fresh cilantro , roughly chopped

Heat coconut oil over medium heat in a large, heavy bottomed soup pot. Add onions and saute until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add garlic, ginger and diced chilis (if using) and continue to saute for a few more minutes, until fragrant. Add stock, chicken breasts, maple syrup, and fish sauce and bring to a boil. Then lower heat to a simmer, and cook for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove breasts from the pot and shred with forks into bite-size pieces. Add chicken back to pot along with veggies and coconut milk. Bring mixture to a boil then lower to medium heat. Cook, stirring frequently, until veggies are tender, about 10 minutes. Taste broth for seasoning and add more salt if needed. Stir in lime juice and cilantro and serve immediately over rice. Enjoy!

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Why You Should Start Coloring Again

Why You Should Start Coloring Again

It’s a beloved childhood pastime, but have you tried coloring as an adult? My husband gave me a beautiful coloring book this year for my birthday (yes, I’m over 30 ;)) and a pack of markers, and it has been such a wonderful activity! I have had issues with insomnia for nearly my entire life, and I have found that I sleep the best when stress and stimuli are low. This means that I’m very sensitive to screens, caffiene, and sugar, especially at nighttime. Too much screentime in particular really seems to affect my sleep, and I’ve noticed that it tends to make me feel anxious too. (Side note: a quick google search demonstrates that I’m not the only one to feel that way!) As a result, I try to be very mindful of sticking to a calm and relaxing nighttime routine, regardless of how busy my day might have been. I keep the book and markers on my nightstand and try to color for a few minutes before I go to bed. It is so relaxing! I stumbled upon this article that helps explain why that is – check it out for more information!

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Mayan Abdominal Massage – Now Available at Fertile Ground!

Mayan Abdominal Massage – Now Available at Fertile Ground!

Have you ever experienced Mayan Abdominal Massage? My first exposure to it was a few years ago, when we started sharing clinic space with the wonderful practitioners from Adagio Holistic Therapies. I started getting monthly Mayan massages, and was blown away by the changes I saw. I felt like I was already in pretty good health, but I noticed significant improvement in my digestion (much more regular) and my periods (much less painful) with regular treatments.

Here at Fertile Ground, we find ourselves recommending Mayan Abdominal Massage to our patients all the time. It’s a great healing modality to enhance fertility, relieve pain and promote optimal fetal positioning during pregnancy, and to help the uterus recover well postpartum. If you’d like to read more about it, click HERE. We are thrilled to have Jennifer Ingvoldstad in the office on Wednesdays at Fertile Ground to offer Mayan Abdominal Massage. To make an appointment with Jen, call the office at 612-823-0012.

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Castor Oil Packs: Why & How

Castor Oil Packs: Why & How

In our practice, castor oil packs are one of the most common self care practices we recommend for women trying to conceive. Castor oil has been revered for its healing properties for thousands of years. The castor seed is native to India, but castor oil has been part of the healing traditions of a variety of different cultures. It can be used internally and topically, although we do NOT recommend ingesting castor oil in any amount. It can cause severe digestive distress! Using castor oil topically is much more gentle, and very rarely causes side effects.

So, why would YOU want to use castor oil? If you are trying to get pregnant, castor oil can be helpful in a couple different ways:

– Castor oil has an anti-inflammatory effect when used topically.

– It promotes lymph circulation. The lymphatic system is an important part of the circulatory and immune systems. It is basically a large drainage system that keeps all our body fluids in balance, and lymph fluid is full of infection-fighting cells to keep our immune system strong. By stimulating lymph circulation, using castor oil packs promotes fertility-friendly detoxification of all our tissues, especially in the pelvis.

– From a TCM perspective, moves qi and blood within the pelvis, helping to treat menstrual cramps, clotted menstrual blood, and constipation.

Doing a castor oil pack can be as simple or as complicated as you would like it to be. Directions on how to do a castor oil pack in the traditional method can be found HERE. Personally, I like to keep things really simple, and offer a less complicated method: just apply a thick layer of cold-pressed, hexane-free castor oil to your lower abdomen (between your belly button and your pubic symphysis). Lay an old hand towel or washcloth over your belly, and then lay a heating pad on top of that. You should be laying down while doing this, and of course feel free to read or watch TV while the pack is on! Leave on for 45-60 minutes, by which point all the castor oil should be absorbed. Castor oil can stain so it’s best to do these packs while you’re wearing pajamas or something similar. This is a very nice nighttime ritual, especially during your period!

You should avoid using castor oil if you are pregnant, breastfeeding, or in your luteal phase if you are actively TTC.

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Essential Supplements for Fertility

Essential Supplements for Fertility

Supplements, especially in the fertility world, seem like a daunting prospect. There are SO MANY out there to choose from, and so much information (that is sometimes conflicting!) that it can seem overwhelming trying to sort out what would be best to take. So what’s our approach? Personally, I like to keep things simple. My main priority when counseling someone about lifestyle changes is to encourage eating well. In a perfect world, an excellent diet is the foundation of health, and supplements are just filling in the gaps. That being said, we don’t live in a perfect world – so some nutrient supplementation is necessary for almost everyone, especially when trying to conceive.

Here are our favorites:

– An excellent prenatal. If you are currently trying to get pregnant, you should be taking a prenatal! Don’t wait until you get a positive pregnancy test to start taking one. Look for a prenatal that is food-based for optimal absorption, they tend to be more expensive than synthetic vitamins but you get what you pay for! Be sure your prenatal includes B vitamins, especially folate, B6, and B12 (especially important if you have been taking hormonal contraceptives, as long term use of those medications can deplete your B vitamin stores) in addition to magnesium, selenium, iodine, vitamins C and E, and zinc.

– Vitamin D. Vitamin D deficiency is SO common in Minnesota, and the vast majority of the population either isn’t supplementing properly or isn’t supplementing at all to begin with. If you are trying to conceive, Vitamin D deficiency is especially problematic as it has been linked to infertility (click HERE to read an abstract of a study on IVF and Vitamin D) in addition to depression, poor bone health, poor immune function, etc. Take Vitamin D with food – ideally containing some form of fat – for optimal absorption.

– Omega-3 Fatty Acids. Omega-3 fatty acids are the building blocks of the brain, help to regulate hormones, and act as an anti-inflammatory within the body. Your body needs tremendous amounts of Omega-3 fatty acids during pregnancy (you are, after all, building a human brain from scratch!) and breastfeeding. Start taking fish oil (look for a high-quality brand that is labelled “molecularly distilled” for purity) as soon as you start TTC, and plan to continue through pregnancy and breastfeeding.

– a probiotic. While probiotic foods (raw saurkraut, lacto-fermented pickles, yogurt, kefir, kombucha) should be a part of your daily diet, it’s almost always beneficial to take a probiotic supplement in addition. Probiotics strengthen digestion, increase absorption of nutrients, and prevent the spread of harmful bacteria and infections by balancing our gut flora. There’s not that much research yet on the link between probiotics and fertility, but since probiotics are so essential for overall good health (which is a major sign of fertility) it would be remiss to not include them on a list of our favorites. Be sure to choose a probiotic that is refrigerated and live, it should clearly list the types and quantities of bacteria on the bottle.

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Greek Chicken and Cauliflower Stew

Greek Chicken and Cauliflower Stew

Here at Fertile Ground, we talk A LOT about food. We all love to cook and love to eat, and food therapy is a big part of our work with our clients, too. It’s fairly common for one of us to finish up talking through dietary recommendations with a client and then get the big question: “But what do I actually eat for dinner tonight?” When you’re changing your diet, every meal can seem like a challenge when you’re not in the rhythm of eating a certain way. So with that in mind, we thought we would start posting recipes on our blog! Most of them will be easy and fast – since we’re all busy and we know you are, too – and ALL of them will be healthy.

First up is this Greek Chicken and Cauliflower Stew from Martha Rose Schulman. I just made this for the first time this week, and as soon as I had a bowl of it I knew that it was a meal that I’d make again and again. It comes together quickly, the ingredient list is simple, and it’s packed with veggies so no need to worry about making a salad or side dish. I usually tinker endlessly with recipes, but this one seems pretty perfect as is. I hope you enjoy it!

Find the recipe HERE.

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