Autumn is upon us and as you enjoy the low autumn sun think of what is going on around you in nature. The sap is returning to the roots of plants and tress, leaves are turning colour, some into vibrant reds and oranges, and falling, seeds are drying out and the grass is becoming lighter in colour and drier. This is a time for harvest. Gather the food you want to take with you into winter, but also gather your thoughts and plans and dreams. Give thanks for all that has been bestowed upon you. Use this autumn as a time for transformation, a time for letting go for what is no longer serving you, a time to value and then reassess boundaries. What plans do you need to action now before the cold winter arrives and you need to hibernate and conserve your energies?
In Chinese Medicine, autumn relates to the Metal element and to the Lungs and Large Intestine. The dryness of autumn can affect the Lungs and Large Intestine causing sore throats and coughs and constipation. Dryness affects the skin and lips. The Lungs in Chinese Medicine are responsible for keeping our immunity strong. We need to be able to fight off those colds and infections quickly. Keep the lungs moistened with lots of warm drinks, especially liquorice, mint, lemon and ginger.
Move from raw foods, salads and fruit, to warming foods – stews, casseroles, compotes and soups. Try stir-frying, baking and roasting. Eat in season if you can and in particular include orange foods – sweet potatoes, squashes and pumpkin, carrots, and orange peppers. Add protective, purifying and pungent foods to the diet- onion, garlic, chive, turnip, ginger, radish, daikon root; dark leafy greens, such as kale, broccoli, chard, and spinach; seaweeds and fibre; oats, rice, amaranth, quinoa.
Try this delicious recipe for autumn butternut squash soup.
1 sweet onion, chopped
2 ribs celery
2 cloves garlic
1 large butternut squash, peeled, seeded and sliced
1 large green apple
2 tsp or so butter or coconut oil
3 cups (less for thicker soup) vegetable or chicken stock
In a large saucepan, melt butter or coconut oil and add onion, carrot, garlic and celery. Cook 5-10 minutes, until onions are slightly caramelized (add stock to prevent sticking if necessary). Add squash and apples and stock, cook till tender, about 15-20 minutes. Add spices to taste: salt, pepper, cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger. Pour into blender and puree till smooth. Top with yogurt or toasted nuts if desired.
Exercise is another way to strengthen the lung energy. Consider exercise which focuses on the breathe – yoga or Tai chi. Bring your awareness to your breathe when walking or relaxing- just count the breaths as they move in and out of your body. Counting breaths can be used as a meditation tool and can calm the mind. Try it. When another thought pops into your head and takes you away from counting the breaths, start from 1 again. Even experienced Buddhists admit they seldom get past 5 or 6!
Nearly 200,000 people will be laid low by a migraine today. Most will take a prescribed pill to manage the pain. But over time migraine meds can cause more headaches than they prevent. There is another way to manage migraines. Traditional acupuncture rapidly relieves pain and other migraine symptoms and can keep them under control for weeks. As well as balancing all your body’s functions to help your body heal itself, traditional acupuncture treats physical and emotional factors equally. A fully qualified traditional acupuncturist will tailor each treatment to suit your unique symptoms and lifestyle, they don’t use off-the-page points-prescriptions. Don’t just take our word for it, try traditional acupuncture for yourself and let us know how it works for you.
The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) recommends acupuncture to manage migraines:
NICE also warns that the overuse of migraine medication can cause secondary headaches:
Here is what Penny, one of our patient’s had to say about her treatment.
Caitlin has helped me with migraine and chronic neck pain. After four months of treatment my headaches are much less frequent and rarely turn to migraine. The neck pain has eased considerably, and my energy levels are higher than they have been for many years. It is a painless relaxing treatment in a warm welcoming space.
Professor Robert Winston, who helped pioneer IVF for childless people in the UK has written a new book and an article in the Daily Mail, in which he strongly criticises the money making machine that IVF has become. He questions whether IVF is the right step for many people seeking to conceive and feels they may be rushed into it and encouraged to have costly private treatments that may be unnecessary.
Although Professor Winston also questions whether support services including acupuncture have been robustly researched, I share some of his concerns that people can be rushed into IVF. We see too many women who have have not been investigated fully. We see men whom after one sperm analysis are told they have a sperm issue and require ICSI with IVF. We see many couples who have conceived before and either already have a child or have suffered miscarriage so we know they are capable of achieving pregnancy. Seldom is a full investigation offered. This means that issues such as those highlighted in the article such as having a fibroid that may preclude conception are missed. Lifestyle advice is seldom given to either men or women and we know so much can be changed with diet, weight loss, alcohol use etc.
As the waiting list for NHS IVF has shortened, many people we see can feel rushed into IVF. There is no ‘inbetween’. We used to see more women being offered interventions such as monitored cycles to check whether ovulation was taking place, clomiphene (‘clomid’) to induce ovulation and IUI. Some couples may have only been trying to conceive for 6-12 months before being referred for IVF. Although we do not want couples who will be found to have underlying fertility issues to wait longer than necessary, there is a balance to be had in giving a couple time enough to get pregnant. One couple we saw told us they had been trying to get pregnant for 18 months. Upon further questioning we worked out that as they both worked away, they had only really had ‘babymaking’ sex during her fertile time, twice within that time. With a few tweaks to their schedules, they managed to get pregnant within two months, avoiding the IVF that they had already been recommended.
Part of what we offer to those trying to get pregnant, is the space to talk through their fertility. We ask about lifestyle, diet and ways of eating, supplements, how do people relax, stress levels and so forth. This is because acupuncture is a holistic medicine and we cannot judge a person only on their sperm analysis or their record of conceiving. We need to look at the bigger picture. So although IVF is a wonderful treatment for some, it is not the only way forward for those who are struggling to conceive and I hope that mainstream fertility services will, as Professor Winston argues, move towards more individualised fertility planning with more treatment options than just IVF.
I have just booked my ticket for this year’s Fertility Show at London Olympia in November. It’s a bargain at £11 for the day and only £1 for each seminar you wish to get to. I’ve booked myself a full day of seminars with a bit of time to nosy around the stalls and chat to people in the world of fertility. The seminars that I’m interested in are about immunology and IVF, recurrent miscarriage, reduced ovarian reserve and new techniques in IVF. Leeds RMU consultant Adam Balen is talking about PCOS too.
Last year’s show was excellent. I met Geeta from CREATE fertility who convinced me of the merits of mild and natural IVF and learned about a host of great resources and services such as inofolic for women with PCOS.
If anyone is trying to get pregnant, naturally or with IVF, a few hours at this show can equip you with lots of knowledge.
We are really excited that we are starting to stock products from Neal’s Yard Organic in the clinic. Many of you will know them by their gorgeous and iconic dark blue glass bottles. We have always loved their products – their geranium and orange handwash has long been one of my favourite treats. Neal’s Yard Organics is based on ethical principles that we are keen to support. A family business, set up in 1981, they still grow many of their own plants and herbs on their farm in Dorset. All the products are organic and are recognised by The Soil Association. They have never tested on animals and they were the first health and beauty company to be awarded 100/100 for ethics in the Ethical Company Organisations’ Ethical Awards. Neal’s Yard believe that real beauty comes from the inside first, and as we believe that acupuncture helps to create balance and promotes well-being, we see a relationship with Neal’s Yard as a perfect fit.
We have a small choice of products in clinic that you are welcome to sniff and try out. We also have catalogues that you can flick through to choose how you may wish to treat yourself or your friend’s or family. You can place an order directly with Caitlin and have it delivered either straight to you or to us here in clinic for you to collect. Or if you would prefer to order online directly, please do so here.
And please do let us know what products you love. We will be building up our stock and want it to reflect what we think our patients will love best.