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Effective Ways to Manage Stress While Trying to Conceive

Fertility, Mental Health, PrenatalJodie Tatlock
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The psychological stress of dealing with trouble conceiving and undergoing assisted reproductive therapies (ART) has been shown to be equivalent to that of someone with a chronic serious illness such as cancer, cardiovascular disease or HIV. Unfortunately, that chronic stress has also been shown to shunt blood away from pelvic organs. Although this cannot be directly correlated to lower chances of successful pregnancies, adequate blood flow is important to ensure egg quality and proper nourishment of the endometrial lining for implantation. Suggesting chronic stress could be a contributing factor to infertility. This provides an unfortunate burden on those trying to conceive as it may generate more stress over the expectation that they must manage stress.

Stress management is a foundational piece of treatment within the realm of holistic and natural approaches to care for patients struggling to conceive. Which is why we are sharing with you stress management strategies that have been shown to be effective at helping cope and manage the inevitable stress and pain of struggling to conceive. 

Mind-Body Medicine

Mind-body medicine is the practice of connecting how emotional, social, spiritual, experiential and behavioral factors can directly manifest as physical health conditions. By connecting and healing the experience of the mind it contributes to healing the physical manifestations of pain both physical and emotional.

There are a variety of different types of mind-body medicine, mindfulness-based meditation and guided imagery are two types which have been shown in the literature to help reduce stress, symptoms of depression and anxiety, and help improve conception outcomes.

Meditation can be difficult. It is likely you have had an experience with meditation which may or may not have resonated with you. However, it is by its nature a practice. There is no wrong or right way to meditate. Your practice can shift every day, having good and difficult days. In its essence, it is the practice of being with what comes up that day. It can be helpful to practice meditation in a counseling session or an acupuncture session to help draw awareness to any areas in which you may desire some guidance or understanding. Guided meditations can be helpful for beginners as it helps you gain a better understanding of the intentions of the practice. We have listed a couple of conception based meditation resources:

Expectful: Guided meditations geared for different stages of your journey. They have specific meditations to help cultivate self-compassion, strengthen the connection with your partner, sit with vulnerability or when you just desire moments of stillness. They offer a 14-day free trial, the subscription is $9.99/month.

Circle and Bloom: Guided meditations for specific days in your cycle and specific to your journey through ART (i.e natural cycle, IVF, IUI etc). You can purchase specific guides ranging from $10-60. The cycle guides specific to ART treatments tend to be around $60. They offer a free fertility meditation program (link here) which provides you with ten minute daily meditations. 

Insight Meditation Timer : This app provides thousands of guided meditations, timed music, discussion groups and meditations specific to different topics or emotions. This app provides a unique social integration, allowing you to create a profile and connect with others using the app. After each session it provides you with how many people were mediating with you. Full access to the app is available for $2.99/month.

Working with your naturopathic doctor or mind-body practitioner can be a great way to identify a practice that resonates with you.

Acupuncture

Acupuncture has been widely accepted in fertility based therapy for its beneficial effects on improving implantation rates in artificial reproductive treatments such as IVF and IUI. It has also recently been shown to help improve ovarian reserve (amount of follicles in ovaries) and egg quality (important in healthy viable pregnancies). It is effective at modulating reproductive hormones to regulate and promote healthy menstrual cycles. Furthermore, acupuncture has also been shown to be helpful in reducing stress and decreasing symptoms of anxiety and depression. Acupuncture is a safe and effective treatment to minimize stress while having additional reproductive health benefits physiologically. As mentioned above acupuncture treatments can be combined with a guided meditation practice or counseling.

Counseling

The experience of infertility presents itself with a whole new realm of emotional, spiritual, mental and behavioral challenges. It is important to your healing and well being that these experiences and the pain be acknowledged. Although it is difficult and painful, the root of healing the pain is to be with it. Working with a counselor can help to provide you with tools and coping strategies to work with these emotions. Working with your struggle can help to provide you with the strength to accept it, and grow through it. It also provides a safe space to feel heard and understood. 

-The JTND team

 

References:

Mind-body interventions:

Grossman, P., Niemann, L., Schmidt, S. and Walach, H. (2010). Mindfulness-based stress reduction and health benefits: a meta-analysis. Focus on Alternative and Complementary Therapies, 8(4), pp.500-500.

Stress and Infertility:

Domar A, Zuttermeister P, Friedman R. The psychological impact of infertility: a comparison with patients with other medical conditions. Journal of Psychosomatic Obstetrics and Gynecology. 1993; 14 Supple: 45-52.

Lozano D, Frydman N, LevaillantJ, Fay S, Frydman R, Fanchin R. The 3D vascular status of the follicle after HCG administration is qualitatively rather than quantitatively associated with its reproductive competence. Human Reproduction. 2006;22(4): 1095-1099.

Acupuncture:

Manheimer, E., Zhang, G., Udoff, L., Haramati, A., Langenberg, P., Berman, B. and Bouter, L. (2008). Effects of acupuncture on rates of pregnancy and live birth among women undergoing in vitro fertilization: systematic review and meta-analysis. BMJ, 336(7643), pp.545-549.

http://www.zhaiclinic.com/files/Press-dataFile-31.pdf

Save Your Skin & Your Hormones This Winter

Fertility, Period, Hormone HealthJodie Tatlock

Save Your Skin & Your Hormones This Winter

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This mid-winter deep freeze has us dreaming of warmer days and dewier skin. As the temperature drops the air becomes significantly drier. Combine that with the constant transition from the cool exterior air to warm stale air of the indoors, our skin carries the burden. Given that most Canadians are reaching for a moisturizer to combat dry skin, we thought we would share with you a few of our considerations when purchasing skin care products.

Our skin is our largest organ. It is capable of both detoxification and absorption. As we apply our moisturizers it is important to be mindful that the ingredients of those products are being absorbed into our skin, our bloodstream, and ultimately circulating in our bodies. Some of the chemicals in our skin and body care products can have a significant impact on our hormones. These chemicals are referred to as endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs). EDCs are chemicals and substances that interfere with our bodies’ natural hormone function. EDCs are commonly found in our skin creams and body care products.

The FDA has approved these chemicals on the basis that the levels in which they exist are minimal enough to suggest they do not have a negative impact on health. However, regardless of what they consider minimal exposure in one product, we think it is important to consider the overall toxic burden. The chemicals may exist in small amounts, but given we are exposed to various different products daily, this small amount begins to accumulate. Also taking into account the toxic burden of our exposure from our environment alone. We feel it wise to take action to control for our exposure when we can. The products we willingly put on our skin being a good place to start.

We have listed a couple of ingredients and words to look for on your skin care product labels. We have also shared our favorite natural and hormone safe alternatives!

 Phthalates

Phthalates are chemicals used to help soften plastics. They are commonly used in skin care products as moisturizing agents. They promote the absorption of a product (and it’s chemicals) into the skin.

Phthalates have been linked to obesity, thyroid, and immune system irregularities. They have been shown to affect the male reproductive system potentially causing birth defects in the reproductive organs, lowering sperm counts, and causing decreased sperm motility. 

Phthalates are most commonly found in fragrance. The word fragrance or parfum is most often considered proprietary, resulting in a loophole allowing companies to leave out the list of chemicals used to formulate the fragrance. Fragrance can sometimes be a combination of hundreds of chemicals. Furthermore, the word natural is not regulated either. Meaning a company can list natural fragrance on their label without having to include the list of chemicals used. Look for products scented with pure essential oils, this guarantees a singular clean ingredient.

Parabens

Parabens are commonly found in cosmetics and skin/body care products. They have been shown to act as estrogen mimetics, meaning they can mimic the action of estrogen in the body. There is evidence demonstrating their inhibitory effect on androgenic hormones such as testosterone and DHEA and their capacity to damage cell DNA leading to genetic mutations. The parabens most commonly used are methyl and propylparaben. Opt for paraben free products.

We encourage you to download the Skindeep or Thinkdirty app, both are available on your smartphone. They have been formulated to identify chemicals in cosmetics, skin care, and household products. They rank the product's safety based on the chemicals they contain. They provide information about the chemicals present in the products and their impact on your health. They empower you to be mindful of your daily toxic exposure and help guide you toward cleaner, safer products.

Here is a list of our favourite natural moisturizers:

Jojoba oil

Coconut oil. Coconut oil is not effective for everyone. Sometimes it can have a drying effect. If that is the case for your skin, try adding vitamin e. We suggest purchasing an oil-based vitamin e capsule. Break open the capsule and add it to your coconut/carrier oil. This is one of our favorite wrinkle fighters too, you can apply the coconut+ vit E mixture all over your face, or just the vitamin e on its own to the wrinkles!

*Be sure to consult a naturopathic doctor prior to supplementing with vitamin E internally.

The Honest Company Face & Body Lotions. 

Pure Shea Butter or Cocoa Butter

Your local health food store or farmer’s market may also have locally made moisturizers with all natural ingredients. If you are looking for a winter DIY and would like to make your own moisturizer, this is our favourite recipe:

  1.  1/2 cup shea butter or cocoa butter
  2.  2 tbsps or nourishing oil such as : jojoba, avocado, almond oil, coconut or olive oil 
  3.  10 drops of lavender essential oil (optional)*
  4.  5 drops of rosemary essential oil (optional)*
  5.  Melt the shea butter or cocoa butter in a double boiler (or a glass bowl over a pot), and add in the 2   tbsps of oil, mix until equally combined. 
  6.  Take off of the heat and allow the mixture to cool. ~ 15-20 in the fridge. 
  7.  Add in the EOs when the mixture is solid, but not FIRM. Once thoroughly mixed scoop into a glass   jar and store at room temperature.

In health,

The JTND team

Guest Blogger Brandon Basque, Fitness and Weight Lifting Expert.

Jodie Tatlock
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As we get back into the swing of routine and begin to incorporate some potential new fitness goals, we thought it fitting to introduce our guest blogger Brandon Basque. He is a  personal trainer, with a special interest in bodybuilding at the competitive level. This is an area of fitness in which we see the importance of proper nutrition and supplementation to maintain healthy hormone levels.  Having both experience and passion driving him to help others succeed in this sport we have invited him to share some strategies. He has compiled a list of ways to ensure maximum training results while maintaining healthy hormonal balance in those who are weightlifting either competitively or recreationally.

-The JTND Team

Saving your hormones while crushing your fitness goals.

Bodybuilding and weightlifting tend to have polarized views on the internet. The volume of information is overwhelming. Although it is incredible we are able to access information and educate ourselves in a variety of different subjects, it is important to discuss or consult with an expert in the field to navigate misinformation. Hormonal burnout is common among weightlifters and those who train at a full-time level (4-5 days a week). It Is also something that does not seem to be discussed frequently among this population. I believe that training hard should not result in a disruption of your hormones. Hormone imbalances can lead to disrupted sleep, changes in mood (i.e irritability and inconsistency), inability to lose weight and fatigue. I have compiled a list of strategies to help you get the most out of your training efforts while maintaining healthy hormone levels.

1. Make sure you are eating enough and properly. It is important to consume nutrient-dense foods, as well as consuming enough of these foods. After intense exercise, you need nutrients to fuel your recovery process. You need to take your body out of the fight or flight response of intense exercise and replenish! Protein is important. Quality carbohydrates are just as important! Protein and carbohydrates provide the building blocks for hormone production. They are also important to replenish glycogen (the storage form of glucose—used as energy for the cells) and lower cortisol levels post exercise.

2. Consider taking an adaptogen. Adaptogens are a group of medicinal herbs that help the body modulate the stress response. If you are increasing your intensity in the gym or working a bit harder than usual, you might want to consider speaking to your health care professional about beginning one of these herbs. They can help support your body as it adapts to the new workload. By supporting the stress response in the body they help to ensure hormones like testosterone, cortisol, DHEA are balanced and not hanging too low.

3. Make sleep your top priority. Most of your hormones are synthesized while you are sleeping! The majority of cell turnover and recovery occurs while you sleep. Experts agree that people training or exercising at high intensity require more hours of sleep compared to individuals who do not exercise. You should be aiming for a minimum 8 hours. Skip the next episode and get your zzz’s!

4. Rest days. A mistake I often see people make is going all out 7 days a week, 2-3 hours a day! If that is you, stop right away! You can only handle so much before things go haywire hormonally. Your muscles and central nervous system also need a break. 4-5 days a week, 45 minutes to an hour is more than enough!

My ultimate goal is to optimize you. Nutrition, training, and supplements are my passion. I want to help people achieve their fitness goals as fast as possible through the above-listed variables. You can reach me by email at brandonscullyfitness@gmail.com or DM on Instagram "@brandonbeefit". Thank you for reading.

-Brandon Basque