Four Tips for Improving Male Fertility
Did you know that male fertility issues contribute to up to 50% of all infertility cases1,2? And that there has been an unexplained steep decline in sperm quality over the past few decades1,3,4?
We see so many women in our clinic ready to do anything to achieve a healthy pregnancy. All too often, however, we’re only able to see and treat half the picture, because their partners are not coming in with them. Furthermore, this disconnect can leave women feeling alone and unsupported in their fertility efforts, and men feeling relatively powerless in the process.
In reality, numerous factors within the male body can contribute to fertility issues: hormones, immune system, circulation, and inflammation can all play a significant role. A history of injury to the testes, or even a past head injury, can impact male fertility (any former soccer or football players out there?). And a ton of environmental factors can also contribute, including exposure to pesticides, chemicals and plastic, as well as just stress.
Even when sperm analysis results come back “normal”, there is still work that can be done to optimize all of these factors, and improve the chances of conception. And, let’s be clear, these factors can contribute not only to infertility (inability to get pregnant in the first place), but also to miscarriage – if the DNA of the sperm is damaged.
But, have no fear, Flourish is here to save the day! Here is a quick peek at some of our favorite tips for improving male fertility:
- Cool your junk: Keeping the testes cool is critical to optimizing sperm production. This means keeping laptops and phones away from the crotch, taking standing breaks at work every 30-60 mins, turning off the seat heater in your car, boxers instead of briefs and slacks instead of skinny jeans, and avoiding baths and hot tubs.
- Stop smoking: This includes marijuana, sorry dudes. Smoking either tobacco or cannabis is correlated with decreased fertility5,6,7,8.
- Healthy diet and supplements: Avoid high quantities of processed foods, coffee, red meats, alcohol, and sugar9. Instead, opt for a Mediterranean-style diet10: omega-3 rich foods, lots of fresh organic vegetables and fruit, whole grains, lean meats and seafood. In addition, supplementing vitamins C and E, folate, CoQ10, L-carnitine, zinc and selenium have all been shown to improve sperm analysis numbers11,12,13. But make sure you always choose high quality supplements. Cheap supplements can include additives or even heavy metals that can actually make things worse.
- Get herbs and needles: Regular acupuncture and herbal medicine can make a measurable impact on male fertility14,15,16,17. We work to promote healthy circulation, balance the endocrine system, reduce inflammation in the body, and support healthy lifestyle changes in our male fertility patients. Here at Flourish, we see the best results with weekly acupuncture for at least 3 months (about the length of time of sperm production, from beginning to end), with herbal medicine to support some patients. Semen analysis performed along the way provides a great measuring stick for our progress. And, gentlemen, have no fear: this does not include inserting any needles into your, ahem, sensitive areas!
To schedule an appointment to work on optimizing your fertility, you can book online, via email, or by phone (707-205-1224). Or drop us a note with any questions that you may have about how we can help you.
- 1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4691969/
- 2. https://www.auanet.org/guidelines/male-infertility-optimal-evaluation-best-practice-statement
- 3. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/andr.12149
- 4. https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/0960327117703690
- 5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30916627
- 6. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10815-015-0553-8
- 7. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2090123210000585
- 8. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4814952/
- 9. https://academic.oup.com/humupd/article/23/4/371/3065333
- 10. https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-019-39826-7
- 11. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3739574/
- 12. https://academic.oup.com/humrep/article/23/5/1014/646098
- 13. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5203687/
- 14. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6479084/
- 15. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.3109/01485019708987914
- 16. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/j.1439-0272.2000.tb02862.x
- 17. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0015028205005911
Post-Fire Self Care Tips and Tools
As the fires up in Butte County continue to burn, our community here in Sonoma County is feeling the impacts daily. Not only has the heavy smoke led to several unhealthy air quality days in a row, but it is also triggering the trauma our community experienced last year from the Tubbs Fire. We feel the pain and loss coming up from last year and our team of practitioners here at Flourish Integrative Health has compiled some simple tools and tips for you to take care of yourselves and your families during this trying time. We invite you to continue reading below to learn more.
If you find that you need some additional support, acupuncture is incredibly helpful in addressing stress as well as supporting lung and respiratory health. Additionally, Dr. Jen Riegle, ND is offering nebulized glutathione treatments to support respiratory health and Vitamin B-12 shots to boost immune health.
Respiratory Protector and Stress Soother Tea Recipe for after smoke inhalation
We have been formulating and brewing some delicious tea that will support and fortify your lungs and respiratory system. Rosemary’s Garden in Sebastopol is an excellent place to shop for these ingredients.
It will assist your body to release the highly toxic smoke which we have inevitably inhaled. So make some tea, or batches for others to support healing and soothing those mucous membranes that may be irritated.
It is great for our Fire Fighters, safe for pregnant mamas though you can omit or decrease the licorice if going to take over a longer period of time. Look at the recipe for alterations in pregnancy. Safe for nursing mamas, children, and the elderly. Only avoid if extreme high blood pressure/hypertension.
It also provides nervous system and stress support.
Here is a recipe of dried ingredients to make for 5 gallons of tea. (Double dose if using fresh herbs)
3 parts: Astragalus; 45g: 1 cup
2 parts Marshmallow; 30g: 1/2 cup
1 part Licorice: 15g: 1/4 cup (decrease or omit if pregnant and going to drink over a long period of time, safe for short periods of time: can replace with 1 cup of Nettles)
2 parts Rosehips; 30g: 1/3 cup
Decoct or simmer for 1 hour.
2 parts Mullein: 30g: 2 packed cups
(limit consumption of Mullein with loose stools in Pregnancy)
1 part Scullcap: 15g: 3/4 cup
1 part Chamomile: 15g: 3/4 cup
Let simmer for 20 mins
1/2 part Lemon Balm: 7.5g: 2 Tablespoons
1/2 part Thyme: 7.5g: 2 tbsp
1/4 part Rosemary:4g: 1 Tbsp
Let simmer for 5-10 minutes, turn off. Strain with a cheese cloth to ensure no fine hairs from the mullein get through (put one over strainer) and drink 3x daily.
Give this to your little ones, loved ones, or make it an act of self-care and support your body get back to balance. If making for others or distributing: please label with above precautions for pregnant women and those with hypertension/ high blood pressure.
Thank you to Jen Bredesen, teacher at the California School of Herbal Studies, for bringing her wisdom and love to this formula.
If you are looking for some pre-packaged teas that can provide some respiratory health support, these are a few of our favorites that you can find at Whole Foods, Community Market, Olivers, etc:
Gaia – Sinus Comfort and Bronchial Wellness
Yogi – Breathe Deep and Throat Comfort
Choice – Organic Throat Cozy
Traditional Medicinals – Throat Coat and Breathe Easy
Our friends over at Farmacopia in Santa Rosa are an excellent resource for respiratory and immune support as well.
The Center for Mind-Body Medicine has some wonderful audio recordings to guide you in soft belly breathing and guided imagery to help relieve stress and overwhelm. To access, please click here. If you need additional support with dealing with trauma, please contact NAMI – National Alliance on Mental Health. They offer free support and can link you with a qualified therapist to work with.
Please do not hesitate to reach out with any questions. We are honored and grateful to be a part of this community and our team of practitioners is here to provide you with support as we move through these challenging times. Sending lots of love to all of you out there.
Introducing Zhouie Lee, our new Acupuncturist
“It is with great pleasure that I introduce our new acupuncturist, Zhouie Lee. I am so honored that she has said yes to joining the Flourish team! Like myself, Zhouie comes from a lineage of women healers and has been in the healing field since she was a kid at her mom’s side, assisting births. Please take a moment to read her story below. We are so happy that you are on board, Zhouie, and can’t wait to introduce you to the Flourish community.” –Vladi
Schedule: Zhouie will be there to support you on Mondays and when Vladi is out of town.
In Zhouie’s own words:
My name is Zhouie, and I’m so excited to be joining the team at Flourish Integrative Health as a licensed acupuncturist. My journey to becoming an acupuncturist began while growing up in Bali, Indonesia and assisting my mom, a midwife at home births. While midwifery was not my calling, my love for working with pregnant and birthing women has continued to grow. My goal as a healthcare provider is to empower my patients into building positive and sustainable changes in their own lives. I look forward to meeting each of you soon!”
Zhouie Lee, Licensed Acupuncturist, DACM
Zhouie is a California Licensed Acupuncturist and holds a Doctorate in Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine from the American College of Traditional Chinese Medicine in San Francisco. As a 10 year old, Zhouie began accompanying her mother, a midwife, to home births, and continued to work with her mom as she built Bumi Sehat Foundation in Bali, Indonesia. While Zhouie never developed a calling for midwifery, her many hours sitting with laboring women cultivated a love for the strength of women and the desire to be a part of women’s health care. Over the years, Zhouie continued to work with her mom as she built Bumi Sehat Foundation in Bali, and found herself spending more and more time at Bumi Sehat’s community-style acupuncture clinic.
Thomas Edison once said: “The doctor of the future will give no medicine, but will interest patients in the care of the human frame, in diet, and in the cause and prevention of disease.” While Traditional Chinese Medicine existed long before Edison spoke these words, acupuncture often heals by focusing on rebalancing the body and resolving the root of the issue, rather than treating the superficial symptoms. Zhouie believes that true healing comes from a whole-
body approach that often includes lifestyle modifications and dietary changes, as well as acupuncture and herbal medicine; and a partnership between provider and patient to work together in building positive and sustainable changes in their lives.
As a health care provider, Zhouie is committed to empowering her patients through knowledge about their bodies, and a belief that women’s health should reach far beyond just reproductive and physical health. Zhouie is especially passionate about treating women during pregnancy. Acupuncture is so effective in helping to alleviate morning sickness, physical discomfort, the emotional upheavals that pregnancy hormones and the pressures of carrying new life can bring, and help new moms to rebuild energy and strength after childbirth. Zhouie has also had the privilege of studying closely with Dr. Johnson Chiu, who specializes in the treatment of musculoskeletal injuries and pain.
When not treating patients, you will usually find Zhouie reading in the garden, practicing yoga,
or cooking for her family.
Nurturing the Garden: How Chinese Medicine Can Support Fertility, Pregnancy and Beyond
By Vladi Starkov LAc, DMQ
Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and Ayurveda have longstanding traditions of supporting women in all stages of motherhood: pre-conception care, every phase of pregnancy, and post-partum care. I’d like to share some insights from my clinical practice as well as some time-tested wisdom, to explain how these ancient modalities can supplement and enhance the care provided by an MD or a Licensed Midwife.
Preparing the Garden: Pre-Conception Care
Having worked in the field of fertility for over 6 years, I’ve seen hundreds of couples go through this journey. Some already had exhausted trying naturally and were considering or already in the midst of receiving care from ART (Artificial Reproductive Technologies, such as IVF). While most couples don’t think about getting care until they’ve already been trying, the period of 3-6 months before attempting to get pregnant provides an opportunity to greatly strengthen the odds. That time frame allows the mother to prepare the soil, just like you would tend to a garden bed. Much like you would uproot old weeds growing in a garden, we seek to remove that which might prevent life from coming in: fibroids, cysts, hormone imbalances, endometriosis, PCOS, infections, and anovulation are some of the physical symptoms that can be healed.
To improve the odds of a healthy and successful pregnancy, it’s also essential to look at what’s happening emotionally and energetically: TCM sees the uterus as the second heart, where unresolved emotions and grievances go for long-term storage and can impede pregnancy. This can include unresolved old trauma, previous abortions and miscarriages. The process of clearing out the uterus, or what TCM calls the “Baby Palace” is highly personalized. Depending on a client’s needs, it may include a cleanse, herbs, Medical Qigong (TCM’s energetic system), massage, and acupuncture. However, sometimes we do not have the luxury of spending these months in preparation for conception, so some of these techniques may be used alongside trying naturally or ART methods. It’s important to meet the patient exactly where she is and work with her timeline.
Cultivating the Garden: Support During Pregnancy
TCM and Ayurveda provide specific guidelines for each stage of pregnancy, indicating what herbs and foods to consume or avoid. While I customize this for each patient depending on her constitution as well as what symptoms she might be having, one example is breast-milk composition, baby’s perfect food: it is composed of more fat, then protein, then sugar. This means that it is important to consume foods rich in fat and protein during pregnancy and go with less sugar. This also helps to curb nausea, stabilize blood sugar levels, and prevent pregnancy-diabetes and weight gain.
TCM can be helpful throughout the pregnancy, addressing symptoms like morning sickness and fatigue, hemorrhoids, growing pains, low back pain and high blood pressure. A specific acupuncture point will help turn a breech baby, and others help prepare the body for labor and shorten labor time. This wise and knowledgeable medicine supports the body to heal and create optimal conditions for a growing fetus.
Postpartum Care: Restoring Balance
The first 12 months after childbirth may bring an even more challenging time than pregnancy itself, as the new mom shifts from the experience of pregnancy to the highs of oxytocin bonding with the baby and breastfeeding, as well as the lows of not enough sleep and hormones crashing. This is an especially important time to support the mom with simple self-care practices, acupuncture and herbs. I highly recommend that new moms get 3 weekly treatments, starting at 2 weeks after birth, to improve recovery and bring back energy. Then, monthly treatments for a full year ensure that mama will make time for herself. While sometimes a challenge for new mommies to juggle how to come in after baby arrives, it’s incredibly beneficial: we address issues such as breastfeeding problems, baby blues, balancing self-care, scars from a C-section, recovery from any tearing, issues with hemorrhoids, sexual vitality, fatigue and much more.
As you can see, TCM contains numerous treasures for supporting mamas. Rather than attempting to become an expert yourself while going through the powerful journey of becoming a mother, get in touch with me or find another experienced practitioner who can support you every step of the way. Give yourself the gift of being nurtured as you become a healthy and happy mama!
Vladi Starkov is a Licensed Acupuncturist, Herbalist, and natural health practitioner in Sonoma County who comes from a lineage of women healers in Bulgaria. She holds extensive training in the areas of pain, women’s health, fertility, Ayurveda and psycho-spiritual emotional balance. To learn more about how Flourish Integrative Health can assist you in your journey with IVF and fertility, visit www.flourishintegrativehealth.com, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 707-205-1224.
Join Our 21 Day Fall Cleanse: October 10th – 31st
Fall is a time of transition and the perfect time to purify your body and mind. Experience the benefits of helping your body cleanse with the 21-day Standard Process Purification Program.
This is a semi-structured program that combines eating whole food, drinking nutritious shakes, taking supplements made with whole food ingredients, and light exercise. As included in the program you will also receive 1-Detox Specific Acupuncture Treatment, and 3 weekly Informational Group Calls with Vladi Starkov LAc.
21-Day Cleanse Program Includes:
- The Standard Process Purification Kit, which includes access to a wonderful app and cookbook to help you along your journey
- One Detox specific acupuncture session with Vladi
- 3 Weekly Informational Online Calls with Vladi! You can attend the discussions in real time or download at your convenience
Discussion #1: Layout of the Program
Why a cleanse is important
How the program works
How to use the app
Discussion #2: Emotional Cleansing
Deeper levels of emotional cleansing
Discussion #3: Wrap-Up & Integration
What to do after you purify
Continuing with a healthy lifestyle moving forward
Post-cleanse, patients anecdotally report:
- Increased weight management
- Increased energy & vitality
- Increased fertility
- Better digestion
- Clearer skin
- Shinier hair
- Better sleep
- Clearer thinking
- Better management of challenges related to natural toxin load in the body
Early Bird (sign-up by 9/30!): $395
Sign-up by 10/5: $450
The Program is Valued at: $545
One Size Does Not Fit All Nutrition: A Book Review on The Paleovedic Diet
Here at Flourish Integrative Health, we do not take a “one size fits all approach” to healing but really view each person as a unique ecosystem. This is a big reason why we resonated so deeply with the recently released book, The Palovedic Diet by Akil Palanisamy, M.D., a Harvard trained physician who practices integrative medicine. Dr. Palanisamy’s approach to nutrition arose from his personal experience with healing through a pragmatic, personalized approach to wellness. The Paleovedic Diet combines the ancient Indian system of medicine, which is based on the idea of balance in bodily systems, and another ancient form of nutrition, the Paleolithic diet. The Paleo diet has resurfaced as a more recent diet fad, and Dr. Palanisamy’s interpretation demystifies the modern iteration and shows how the Paleo diet should be combined with your own body’s innate constitution, which is explained through Ayurvedic philosophies and practices.
Dr. Palanisamy does an incredible job writing about these ancient medical and nutrition principles in a very comfortable, conversational tone. Even if you are new to learning about Ayurveda and Paleo, Dr. Palanisamy’s writing style is approachable and enjoyable. After he shares his astounding story of healing through a personalized integrative nutrition based approach, Dr. Palanisamy continues by clarifying the Paleo diet and sharing what our ancestors actually ate (it’s not as meat focused as the modern day trend would have your believe!). After discussing how the Paleo diet should be individualized, highlighting the reasons behind grain and gluten sensitivity, distinguishing between good and harmful fats, Dr. Palanisamy then shares how you can discover your Ayurvedic type and tailor your diet accordingly. Additionally, he does not forget about emphasizing the importance of exercise, sleep, and the mind-body-spirit balance in the wellness journey.
For those looking for specific answers on what to actually eat and what to avoid, Dr. Palanisamy does a very thorough job of highlighting specific foods to include in your diet, both daily and seasonally, as well as foods to avoid. Even better, the end of the book is rich with delicious recipes to aid in the detoxifying process!
There is no one “prescription” for everyone; our journey to health and vitality is a unique as our own fingerprints. At Flourish Integrative Health, we utilize the wisdom of Traditional Chinese Medicine, Ayurveda, and other Eastern Medicine practices to help you discover what your body and spirit needs to fully flourish!
Vladi Starkov is a Licensed Acupuncturist, Herbalist, and natural health practitioner in Sonoma County who comes from a lineage of women healers in Bulgaria. She holds extensive training in the areas of pain, women’s health, fertility, Ayurveda and psycho-spiritual emotional balance. To learn more about how Flourish Integrative Health can assist you in your journey with IVF and fertility, visit www.flourishintegrativehealth.com or call 707-205-1224.
Tuesday Tips: Bone Broth! One of the most mineral-rich foods out there!
Recently, I have been telling all of my patients about bone broth. This golden delicious liquid is chock-full of minerals and has helped several patients heal digestion, support immune system, heal and prevent injury, and recover from illness. I personally prefer Beef Marrow Bone Broth because it feels very nourishing to my body. However, if there are other conditions that are needing more tendon/ ligament support such as tendonitis, joint issues, knee pain, I will sometimes recommend Chicken feet/ necks. Check out all of the minerals that are contained in this delicious liquid. To your health, Vladi
Beef Bone Broth
Several large beef marrow bones, with or without meat attached
1 Tbs. apple cider vinegar or lemon juice
Combine all ingredients in a crockpot and fill with water. Let cook on a low setting for 12-36 hours.
Strain with a colander or sieve, lined with cheesecloth – for a clearer broth.
Enjoy warm or let cool to use in other meals. Keeps in the fridge for several days or freeze indefinitely. I take the fat out once it is solid.
- Soup – Just add vegetables, or meat to broth and heat until warm. Season after cooking with salt and pepper and your favorite spices.
- Cooking Liquid – Use broth in place of water to cook vegetables and meat in a frying pan or pot. Bring broth to a boil, add meat and vegetables, reduce heat and simmer until cooked.
- Gravy – Use to make gravy for vegetables and meat. Add organic butter (2 Tbs.) in a skillet. Whisk in broth and cook. Add salt and pepper to taste.
- Tea – Drink broth like a tea. This is great in the winter or when sick. Fill a thermos and sip throughout the day. The most traditional use for seasoned broth is as a first course, to enhance the digestion of any meal to come.
- Cleanse – Forget about juice, use broth as a liquid cleanse! Mix it up with chicken, beef or pork bone broth, add spice to taste. Yum!
Bone Broth contains lots of nutrients from the cartilage and bone. These include:
- hyaluronic acid
Recipe adapted from Berkeley Nutrition by Stephanie Gruber, Board Certified in Holistic Nutrition
Flourish in Fall with these simple tips
I wanted to take the opportunity and write about staying healthy as the seasons change. As the last few weeks of summer transition into fall, we experience an energetic shift. According to Chinese Medicine, Summer is a time of maximum Yang expansion and fall begins the building of Yin. There is a condensing, a crystalizing, a heavier energy. This is also a time of focus, harvest and bringing together. In Chinese Medicine, the inner microcosm and outer macrocosm are intertwined, and as the inner and outer balance, there is health. When there is disharmony between the inner and outer (for example, you are pushing on a project when what is being called for is patience and waiting), there is dis-ease. Here are some easy tips for matching the energy of the seasonal change:
CARRY LAYERS no matter how warm the days are. Especially keep the neck and low back covered, as these are sensitive to cold and wind.
BEGIN TO MAKE AND DRINK BONE BROTH DAILY. This rich, mineralizing drink will up your immunity, remineralize and rehydrate.
FIND YOUR FAVORITE IMMUNE TONIC AND CONSUME IT DAILY: Some of my favorites are Bone Broth, Elderberry, Reishi, Astragalus, Vit C and Zinc
PULL YOUR ENERGY INWARD: Begin to go to sleep earlier and sleep in if possible. In the great expanse of summer, we sometimes expend a lot of energy. Now is the chance to start consolidating our energy, just like the trees do, by letting go of their leaves.
LET GO: Autumn in Chinese Medicine has a lot to do with letting things fall, fall away, and surrender. As we pull our energy into focus, we let go of anything extraneous. This is a good time to do an internal or external cleanse. You can think about doing a nourishing cleanse of your body; a purge of your closet; a Facebook fast; or any other way of cleansing that feels good for you.
Restore your Spirit in Maui ~ Women’s Wellness Retreat
Women’s Wellness Retreat May 1-7, 2015 | Maui
Yoga, Ayurveda, Chinese Medicine, Visioning, Healthy Eating.
Dreaming of a getaway with plenty of time and space to feel connected, refreshed and inspired?
This Women’s Wellness Retreat was designed for you!
Luxuriate in the warm Hawaiian sun, delight in the delicious tropical ocean breeze, and rejuvenate yourself in the clear, refreshing water of the Pacific. One thing most women have in common regardless of where we are in our life journeys is the need for better self-care. This retreat is your opportunity prioritize your own physical, mental, emotional and spiritual nourishment, by spending an entire week putting your needs first.
October 19-25, 2014 in Luniupoko, Hawaii (near Lahaina)
This retreat is the perfect getaway whether you live in the islands or come from afar. Housed in a breathtaking West Maui Estate with sweeping ocean views and stunning sunsets, you will enjoy: -Daily movement (Yoga or Qigong) adapted for all levels of experience/flexibility -Delicious organic healthy gourmet meals locally sourced as much as possible -Inspiration and instruction for improving your wellbeing from the wise perspectives of Chinese Medicine, Ayurveda, and Holistic Nutrition -3 Gourmet Catered Meals with Ayurvedic principles, and local, fresh, seasonal ingredients -Guided Meditations and tools for developing an effective, ongoing meditation practice -Visioning exercises that will help you transition your dreams and personal transformation goals into reality -Time for introspection and self-care -Opportunities for island exploration through waterfall hikes, shopping excursions and ocean adventures -Hormone Balance & Well Women’s Tips with Vladi -Understanding the Body’s Messages through the Lens of Ayurveda with Danielle -Healthy Gourmet Cooking Class with Fiorella -Small Group Setting which will ensure connection, and attention to individual requests/needs -Private Sessions will be available at discounted rates for those interested in having more one-on-one support – One Round-trip shuttle to the airport More Details: Click Here
Flourish Integrative Health is devoted to helping you achieve vitality and well-being: physically, emotionally, mentally, spiritually. Through the modalities of Chinese Medicine such as Acupuncture, Herbs, Massage, Nutrition and Bio-Energetics, let us support you to achieve radiant health! Just as a plant needs the right ingredients of sunlight, nourishment and proper environment, let us find your unique needs to help you FLOURISH.