fertility, pregnancy

Mama: Dispatches from the Frontline of Love

My brilliant friend, Antonella Gambotto-Burke, has just launched her latest collection of interviews and articles titled, Mama: Dispatches from the Frontline of Love.

As many of you know, I have a special interest in using Chinese medicine to optimise male and female reproductive health, and assisting women with pregnancy care, and pre- and post-natal support. So I love to read and learn about everything from personal experiences to birthing traditions to the latest evidence based theories in this area.

Inspired by her own experiences of pregnancy, birth and motherhood, Antonella sought out a wide range of experts in the field to bring us this beautiful collection of interviews, articles and even some pages of motherhood tips.

The book is beautiful to look at. But it’s the information shared within that celebrates motherhood (in its glory and challenges) that is the real treasure here. Inside are interviews with Sheila Kitzinger, Laura Markham, Steve Biddulph and Gabor Maté with a forward by Michel Odent. Antonella and her guests discuss among many topics: difficult births, parenting theories, bonding with a new baby and the experience of fathers.

So in addition to just telling you all about this book, I have two pieces of good news:

  1. Antonella will be speaking in Brisbane at Riverbend Books on Friday 27th June, 6.30pm. Tickets are $10 and you can book here.
  2. You can save $5 on Mama: Dispatches from the Frontline of Love by clicking here (Arbon Publishing) and using this code – SGMama. (This is exclusive to you, The Wellness Ninja readers!)

I’ve already given a copy to a friend just before she gave birth to her beautiful little girl. It was gladly received!

For further information on Chinese Medicine contact Dr Sarah George (Acupuncture).  Sarah is a practitioner of acupuncture (AHPRA registered), massage therapy and natural health at her Broadbeach clinic and is the Chinese Medicine Senior Lecturer at the Endeavour College of Natural Health Gold Coast campus.

acupuncture, pregnancy

Hip (h)op, sore necks and pelvic pain in pregnancy: what do they have in common?

Survived my first (and hopefully only) operation.
Daggy selfy alert! I survived my first (and hopefully only) operation.

The answer is: they sum up where my time went last month.

Yes, I’ve been quiet the last four weeks. And for good reason. But the great news is I’m back on deck and The Wellness Ninja is once again karate chopping out the good news for your health and happiness.

So here’s a recap:

  • Hip (h)op: Well this time last month I was having a hip arthroscopy. With a nicely cleaned-up hip joint, I should be back into the karate, hiking, cycling and diving that I love in around two months. I’m doing very well in my recovery (I was back at work a week later) and will put out a blog on the combination of complementary therapies I’ve engaged to support me in tolerating the most medications I’ve ever taken in my life, healing connective tissue, relieving pain and rehabilitating my dodgy ‘hoppy’ hip.
  • Sore necks: We’re half way through the UWS Traditional Chinese Medicine Masters course semester and so I’ve been beavering away on my assessment pieces. First up, I immersed myself in all of the available research we have on neck pain and acupuncture. My findings? Well, actually no therapies have high-quality research to support their use in neck pain. (And that includes surgery, NSAIDs, chiropractic, massage, yoga and acupuncture.) That’s not much help for people with neck pain. But The Cochrane Review on this topic reports that there is moderate-quality evidence to support the use of acupuncture for chronic mechanical neck pain or neck pain with radicular symptoms. And the chance of serious adverse reactions is low. In my experience neck pain is often treated well with acupuncture, it may be well worth a try for a pain in the neck.
  • Low back and pelvic pain in pregnancy: This was assignment number two’s topic. I’ve written before on the good effect acupuncture has in this area. Last week I read everything that there was to read in English on the treatment of low back and pelvic pain in pregnancy with acupuncture. Safety, for both mother and baby, was carefully assessed in these trials which found that acupuncture does not have a higher rate of serious adverse reactions for the mother or the baby than was experienced in the control groups. A Cochrane Review reports that there is moderate-quality evidence for pain relief and improved functionality with acupuncture treatment for these conditions. But I loved this quote from an editorial in the British Medical Journal:

“Those caring for women with pregnancy related pelvic pain now need to press for increased availability of acupuncture.”

So that’s my month (well not completely – I also devoured series one and two of the TV series ‘Rake‘). I have so many good blog topics in a back log ready to come your way. Stay tuned for some tasty new recipes, some acupuncture stroke rehabilitation research I recently presented at a major hospital, information on an acclaimed new book on motherhood and the scent on some new medicinal aromatherapy oils.

For further information on Chinese Medicine contact Dr Sarah George (Acupuncture).  Sarah is a practitioner of acupuncture (AHPRA registered), massage therapy and natural health at her Broadbeach clinic and is the Chinese Medicine Senior Lecturer at the Endeavour College of Natural Health Gold Coast campus.

acupuncture, fertility, herbal medicine, pregnancy, Traditional Chinese Medicine

The role of change in fertility treatment

My great friend and excellent Chinese medicine practitioner, Peter Kington, has written his piece on ‘change’ for The Health and Happiness Collective blog hop today.

Peter shares his experience about where lifestyle, diet, acupuncture and herbal medicine changes are necessary on the fertility journey. While some of these changes are easier than others, I completely agree with Peter’s ideas here – this is also my experience in helping my fertility patients too. We want to give you the support you need to make changes which will enhance the likelihood of a healthier pregnancy, a healthier baby and to recover better from your birth.

Read Peter’s excellent post: Change and the Fertile Body.

For further information on Chinese Medicine contact Dr Sarah George (Acupuncture).  Sarah is a practitioner of acupuncture (AHPRA registered), massage therapy and natural health at her Broadbeach clinic and is the Chinese Medicine Senior Lecturer at the Endeavour College of Natural Health Gold Coast campus.

acupuncture, herbal medicine, massage, pregnancy, Traditional Chinese Medicine

One week ’til the Christmas break

Woodford Folk Festival 2013-14

Where did 2013 go? Can you believe that it is only a week until Christmas?

I only have one last week of acupuncture and massage appointments in the clinic before I take a short break. My last days are:

  • Thursday, 19th December: 7.30am – 12.30pm
  • Friday, 20th December: 12.30pm – 5pm

I’ll be back at the clinic in the new year on Thursday, 9th January 2014.

Call Acupuncture & Natural Therapies Centre to make an appointment on 07 3844 2217.

Thanks to all of my patients, mentors, friends, family and blog followers for your support this year. It has been a big year of change. And some nicely laid foundations pave the way for a wonderful year of healing in 2014. I’ve already decided to attend two excellent masterclass seminars next year: one on western herbal medicine in pregnancy and another on Chinese herbal medicines for your constitutional type. I’ll also be continuing my Masters in Traditional Chinese Medicine study.

I’m looking forward to recharging at the Woodford Folk Festival over the break – music, dance, good company and food for the soul. More about why I love this festival here.

If I don’t see you before or during the Christmas/New Year break, I wanted to wish you all a very happy and healthy time with friends and family. May 2014 bring plenty of health and happiness to you all. It’s been a pleasure to have been a part of your healing journey this year.

For further information on Chinese Medicine contact Dr Sarah George (Acupuncture).  Sarah is a practitioner of acupuncture (AHPRA registered), massage therapy and natural health at her Broadbeach clinic and is the Chinese Medicine Senior Lecturer at the Endeavour College of Natural Health Gold Coast campus.

Diet, food, herbal medicine, pregnancy, recipe, Traditional Chinese Medicine

Preserved lemons: traditional Chinese use and a recipe

lemons preservedA couple of months ago I put on my very first batch of home made preserved lemons. I did a deal with my parents. They supplied the homegrown organic lemons and two big jars, and I’d do the hard work of slicing, juicing, salting and storing – we’d end up with a big jar of the finished product each.

Well, as it turns out they are as delicious as any I’ve ever bought and well worth the two month wait. I followed the Poh’s Kitchen recipe but I left my lemons in halves split down the middle (as if quartered) but still attached by the rind. I stuffed the salt into the split.

Preserved lemons are often associated with Moroccan cooking, in particular tagines. But they also have been used in parts of Asia.  When I was teaching Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) dietetics class last semester our very traditional Chinese text mentioned the preserved lemon. This salty and sour delicacy was said to be useful for “vomiting and loss of appetite or threatened abortion.” Which makes it a good food for relieving morning sickness. In fact, many women find that lemon or lime juice added to water does ease nausea associated with pregnancy. As for preventing miscarriage, well there are no clinical trials to back up this claim (and if you suspected that your pregnancy was at risk I’d be recommending a medical check up). But this traditional use relates to the the sour flavour which has an astringent, constricting quality and the salty flavour which benefits the Kidneys (the organ in TCM responsible for reproduction and birth, among many other functions). Another text recommends them for Phlegm-Heat disorders including bronchitis and sinusitis and Liver Qi stagnation (if you don’t know what that is click here).

The other interesting thing about Chinese preserved lemons is that they are said to be a specialty of around the city of Nanning in Guangxi province, China. It was in this region that I completed my acupuncture internship at several teaching hospitals. The Zhuang people, an ethnic minority, used preserved lemons in their congee (Chinese rice porridge). Their preserved lemons are stored for far longer (eg. years) and look quite different. Here’s some more information and a recipe. Interestingly, during my studies in Nanning I also learned some traditional medicine techniques of the Zhuang people.

lemons lemons juiced lemons halved

I think they are simply delicious. If you want some recipes that feature preserved lemons as an ingredient, click here.

To book an appointment at the clinic or further information on Chinese Medicine contact Dr Sarah George (Acupuncture).  Sarah is a practitioner of acupuncture (AHPRA registered), massage therapy and natural health.

acupuncture, fertility, pregnancy

Pelvic pain in pregnancy: the latest Cochrane Review findings

acu statue backOne of the things I love most about my job is working with women who are undergoing preconception care, fertility treatment and pregnancy support. So I was absolutely delighted to see this Cochrane Review come out recently in support of acupuncture for pelvic and lower back pain (LBP) in pregnancy. The authors concluded:

“Moderate-quality evidence suggested that acupuncture or exercise, tailored to the stage of pregnancy, significantly reduced evening pelvic pain or lumbo-pelvic pain more than usual care alone, acupuncture was significantly more effective than exercise for reducing evening pelvic pain.”

In my experience, pelvic and lower back pain associated with pregnancy is one of those conditions that frequently responds very well and extremely quickly to acupuncture treatment. However, everyone is unique and depending on the cause of the pain the prognosis may differ from this.

A well-trained acupuncturist with experience in pregnancy acupuncture will select acupuncture points in the local area, and on the legs, maybe the arms or even ears to reduce pains. The points used will be selected to be effective for the individual presentation of pain and low-risk based on the gestational age. The treatment is not only pain-relieving but also very relaxing – something every pregnant lady needs!

And if you want to see a a video of how amazing the whole sperm-meets-egg-pregnancy-baby process is then check this out.

For further information on Chinese Medicine contact Dr Sarah George (Acupuncture).  Sarah is a practitioner of acupuncture (AHPRA registered), massage therapy and natural health at her Broadbeach clinic and is the Chinese Medicine Senior Lecturer at the Endeavour College of Natural Health Gold Coast campus.

fertility, pregnancy, Traditional Chinese Medicine

Listening, thinking and talking about mothers and babies

capers cam 15 mayThe last few weeks have been crammed with several great professional education seminars.

Of note, was the Womens Health Conference held on 20th April 2013. I was privileged to spend the day in the company of a roomful of general practitioners (GPs) as we all learnt from obstetricians, paedatricians, gynaecologists and fertility specialists on topics including:

  • Childbirth and the pelvic floor
  • Prolapse and stress incontinence
  • The role of counselling in infertility
  • Tumour markers
  • Menorrhagia and dysmenorrhoea
  • Anti Mullerian Hormone (AMH)
  • Obesity and pregnancy

This also included several question and answer sessions in small groups with the specialists.  Here is where we got to ask all of those burning questions we store up from practice.  It was a valuable day of adding to my knowledge of obstetrics and gynaecology from a western medical viewpoint.

And next month on Wednesday 15th May, I am excited to say I get to share my Traditional Chinese Medicine knowledge on some of these topics (including acupressure techniques for birth) at the Capers Bookstore Complementary & Alternative Medicine in Pregnancy, Birth & the Early Postnatal Period.  This is a seminar attached to the The Passage to Motherhood Conference that is targeted to midwives , obstetricians, paediatricians, general practitioners, lactation consultants, therapists, nurses, childbirth educators, physiotherapists and doulas.  I’ll be speaking among  brilliant professionals in the obstetrics and birth world including Michel Odent, Thomas Hale, Michael Woolridge, Catherine Watson Genna, Allison Barrett, Sarah Buckley and Rachel Reed. Here is the program. It looks amazing and I’m so pleased to be invited to speak at this great conference again.

For further information on Chinese Medicine contact Dr Sarah George (Acupuncture).  Sarah is a practitioner of acupuncture (AHPRA registered), massage therapy and natural health at her Broadbeach clinic and is the Chinese Medicine Senior Lecturer at the Endeavour College of Natural Health Gold Coast campus.

acupuncture, Diet, fertility, food, herbal medicine, pregnancy, Traditional Chinese Medicine

Nourishing the blood with TCM and whole foods

Blood deficiency (xue xu) is a diagnostic term we use in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) for someone who is showing signs and symptoms of inadequate nourishment of the blood to the body. It is not uncommon for the women I see for pre-conception care, fertility treatment and pregnancy support to have an element of blood deficiency as part of their diagnosis.  Although, blood deficiency is not limited to women in their reproductive years and can also be present in men.

Signs and symptoms may include:

  • lightheaded
  • poor memory
  • mild anxiety
  • difficulty falling asleep
  • pale (face, lips, tongue, nails, eyelids)
  • weak nails
  • hair loss or premature greying
  • low energy
  • blurred vision or floaters in the vision
  • dry eyes, skin and hair
  • tics, tremors and numbness
  • women: light or absent periods (maybe after a history of heavy periods)

A lot of these symptoms are consistent with those of iron deficiency anaemia.  TCM blood deficiency is more than iron deficiency however.  It does describe a condition involving a lack of protein building blocks, vitamin B12, folic acid and other nutrients, but more so, blood deficiency, in its TCM sense, is to do with the whole substance that is blood – that is, there is not enough good quality blood in its entirety to nourish the body.

To correct a blood deficiency, we look for possible causes of the blood deficiency.  The three most common are:

  • excessive bleeding (often menstrual, but not limited to this)
  • poor digestive function (not absorbing nutrients)
  • poor diet which is lacking in nutrition (nothing worth absorbing)

Acupuncture alone cannot nourish the blood but it can improve digestive function to enhance absorption.  Blood is a substance and we need good foods ingested so that we have the building blocks to be absorbed by the body to manufacture it well.  The two best ways to build and nourish blood are:

  • Diet: Plant sources include dark green (purple/red) leafy vegetables, seaweeds, spirulina, sprouts, legumes and whole grains. Richly coloured foods (often red) are valued for building the blood including goji berries (Chinese wolf berries), dried apricots, dark grapes, blackberries, raspberries and black strap molasses.  Additionally, animal sources include organic meat, eggs and liver (although it is not healthy to exceed 300g/week in the long-term) and soups based on meat bone broth. Support your digestive system with lightly cooked and warm foods and add some spices to aid digestion such as ginger, cumin, fennel and cardamom.
  • Herbs & supplements:  To nourish the blood more efficiently an herbal formula may be developed for your individual situation.  This may include herbs such as dong quai (dang gui), rehmannia, withania and nettle leaf.  Supplements may include iron, vitamin B12, folic acid and to enhance iron absorption vitamin C may be also taken.

To book an appointment at the clinic or further information on Chinese Medicine contact Dr Sarah George (Acupuncture).  Sarah is a practitioner of acupuncture (AHPRA registered), massage therapy and natural health.

acupuncture, fertility, herbal medicine, pregnancy

Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS): can natural medicine help?

Here’s a little summary (from my Masters literature review) of what Traditional Chinese and natural medicine has to offer women with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS).

For those wondering what PCOS is, it’s a female reproductive condition which is diagnosed by excluding other diseases, hence it’s known as a syndrome.  To be diagnosed with PCOS according to the Rotterdam criteria, a woman needs to have any two of the following:

  1. Polycystic ovaries (that’s right, ovaries with many cysts on them).  The jury is out on how many cysts constitute PCOS, but they may be arranged in a classic black pearl necklace formation identified by ultrasound.
  2. Androgen excess.  Basically, we are talking about too much free testosterone (but other hormones may be out of balance too – including the LH FSH ratio.)  This hormonal imbalance can lead to symptoms such as hirsutism (an increase in body hair on the face, chest, nipples and lower belly), hair loss/thinning (again in the male pattern) and acne (although this is controversial as to whether it is definitely a part of the syndrome.
  3. Anovulatory menstrual cycles/amenorrhoea.  This means that either you have stopped having periods altogether (and you are not pregnant or menopausal) or that you are not ovulating during your cycle.  Women may also experience longer menstrual cycles.  (35-60 day cycles are common in PCOS).

So, what can be done if you are given this diagnosis from your doctor (aside from or complementary to the common drug protocols – OCP, Clomid, Metformin)?

  • Acupuncture.  Research suggests that acupuncture can be useful in increasing the number of menstrual cycles a woman with PCOS has (that means bringing the length of the cycle down to a healthier range).  Two randomised controlled trials have been undertaken on the topic.  The first double-blind study showed that both the control group and the sham group (who had pretend acupuncture with a special non-needle) both improved on their before trial results.  This suggests that perhaps the sham acupuncture may have worked after all.  (Pretend acupuncture is very difficult to do without making a change to the body.)  The second trial, I think used better acupuncture points (more like what I would use in my clinic), and showed that acupuncture was superior to exercise for PCOS.  The researchers pointed out that doing acupuncture and exercise would be the most beneficial treatment.
  • Paeonia and Licorice.  These herbs have both been shown to be beneficial in women with PCOS.  They have also been studied in Chinese herbal formulas for the condition.
  • Vitamin D.  Have you had your levels checked?  Researchers identified that women with PCOS are often low in Vitamin D.  This has a relationship with calcium in your body and can influence ovulation.  This makes sense from a Chinese medicine point of view as sunlight (one source of Vitamin D that we have) is a source of Yang (the warming, energetic, functional aspect of our body).  A woman needs a peak in Yang to ovulate.  (Anyone who has taken Basal Body Temperature charts knows to look for a peak in body temperature prior to ovulation.)
  • Spearmint Tea.  A month-long study on hirsutism was undertaken with participants drinking 2 cups of spearmint tea each day.  The participants experienced a decrease in androgens and a subjective decrease in male pattern body hair.
  • Weight loss and Insulin management. Most of the studies specify that the treatment is more likely to work in patients with a lower Body Mass Index (BMI) and without insulin resistance.  There are additional dietary, herbal and nutritional interventions that may assist in these areas, so that your PCOS treatment works more efficiently.  These areas can not be overlooked.  It’s suggested that PCOS may be an evolutionary condition allowing a small percentage of women to be able to reproduce in times of starvation (when most other women would experience infertility).

If you have been diagnosed with PCOS, I recommend discussing the condition with not only your doctor but also your acupuncturist or natural medicine practitioner (who has an interest in women’s health).  PCOS if left untreated, may be a risk factor for other metabolic disorders including diabetes and hypertension.  Every woman is different, and PCOS is notorious for presenting in many different ways so an individualised treatment plan is a must.

To book an appointment at the clinic or further information on Chinese Medicine contact Dr Sarah George (Acupuncture).  Sarah is a practitioner of acupuncture (AHPRA registered), massage therapy and natural health.

acupuncture, fertility, pregnancy, Traditional Chinese Medicine

Need a reason to feel brilliant? Just look at how clever your body is.

Recently, I started my Master of Chinese Medicine at the University of Western Sydney, kicking off the study with a Women’s Health unit.  As many of you know, I have a special professional interest in working with women’s health and reproductive medicine (which yes, also includes men’s health – after all it takes those first two cells to tango).  Already I find this subject fascinating with endless possibilities for chinese medicine research.

In giving a talk about the application of acupuncture on pregnancy and birth to a roomfull of midwives (through the lovely people at Capers Bookstore) on Friday, I remembered this wonderful video that was shown to us during the masters workshop on women’s health.

If you are not feeling incredibly clever right now, the mathematician Alexander Tsiaras will leave you with no doubt that the way you were formed in your mother’s womb was nothing short of brilliance.

Enjoy this beautiful presentation.