The Art of Mindfulness

While studying my undergraduate, I took a psychology course, which intrigued my thinking style. The course was taught by a professor who studied Shamanism. One of the practices of the Shamans is being “mindful”. What does “mindful” behavior mean?

According to Wikipedia:

Mindfulness (Sanskritsmṛti; also translated as awareness) is a spiritual or psychological faculty that, according to the teaching of the Buddha, is considered to be of great importance in the path to enlightenment. It is one of the seven factors of enlightenment. “Correct” or “right” mindfulness is the seventh element of the noble eightfold path. Mindfulness meditation can also be traced back to the earlier Upanishads, part of Hindu scripture

Why is this important?

The act of being mindful can reduce stress and anxiety simply by concentrating on one task. This simple habit is actually very difficult. We live in a world where employers want “multi-taskers”; we carry computers and cell phones, which require our mind to constantly be working. Our world has been taken over by multi-taskers! So many deaths occur because people are not concentrating on JUST driving.

Does our new technological devices allow us to be mindful? Ever been on a date and noticed your date is trying to have a conversation with you at the same time buy/sell stocks? In the exaggerated caption below, I put “sex” in the center, because most men I talk to say that they think about this several times a day. So, are these men being mindful while they are at work, or are they also thinking about sex?

As a healer, being mindful is extremely important. If I didn’t listen to my patients, I could miss out on important facts about their health. What good of a healer am I if I cannot even give my patient’s 100% of my attention? I’ll admit, it is difficult to do this every day and at times I fail. I still see myself as the student in my psychology class learning about mindfulness and trying to practice the art everyday.

How do you become mindful?

I’ll admit, trying to concentrate on one task is difficult. Every morning I meditate. Out of my entire day, this is the most difficult thing to do because my mind is racing with which patients am I seeing today? Did my daughter take her lunch to school? Did I remember to pay my bills? Did I email my friend back ?

Who doesn’t have a busy schedule, BUT we need to STOP for a minute or few to clear our mind.

Trying to change our ways of everyday life and becoming mindful is not something that happens overnight. It is a process. First, we can start by performing one task “mind-fully” each day. Then gradually start to add more tasks in the day and eventually you will notice that you are able to concentrate on each task throughout the day, giving 100% attention.

One of my favorite quotes which reminds me to be “mindful”

“To dwell in the here and now does not mean you never think about the past or responsibly plan for the future. The idea is simply not to allow yourself to get lost in regrets about the past or worries about the future. If you are firmly grounded in the present moment, the past can be an object of inquiry, the object of your mindfulness and concentration. You can attain many insights by looking into the past. But you are still grounded in the present moment.”

-Thich Nhat Hanh

Vietnamese Zen Buddhist Monk

Resources:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shamanism

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mindfulness

http://www.mindfulnessquotes.org

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thich_Nhat_Hanh

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Sperm Decoded

Everyone knows that it takes two to conceive. Do you know the science of conception? There are many variables to be considered, the egg, the sperm, endometrial lining, the quality of health, etc.

Let’s talk about sperm. There are 3 basic parts of the sperm- head, body, and tail. Each part is crucial for natural conception. An acrosome at the tip of the head produces enzymes that help penetrate the ovum (egg). Remember the Coneheads movie? That’s what you want- a tip for the sperm head rather than a rounded head for ease of penetration. The body contains mitochondria, providing energy to the sperm. The mitochondria are tightly spiraled around the filaments of the tail that helps the sperm to move.

If you thought all sperm look alike, think again. Morphology is the size and shape of the sperm. Normal sperm have oval shaped head with a long tail, and abnormal sperm can be misshaped heads with short tails, therefore inhibiting the ability to penetrate an egg. According to the Strict Krueger Criteria, normal morphology range is 15% or higher of normal sperm.

Motility is very important- there is a need for speed! What is the ability of the sperm to move towards the egg? Samples are considered normal if they are 40% motile or above. Grading is also given to determine the quality of movement:

Grade 1- Immobile

Grade 2- Non-progressive and not moving forward

Grade 3- Moving slowly and perhaps in a curved path

Grade 4- Swimming the strongest and in a straight line

Count is crucial for conception. Though we may think that only one sperm needs to penetrate, we need millions to protect that one soldier to enter the egg. The optimal sperm count is 20 million and above. Anything below is considered infertile. By the time the sperm finds the egg, approximately 40 out of the 20 million may be still alive and surrounding the egg. The egg will choose one and allow it to penetrate it for conception.

Certain nutrients can help with sperm health. For instance, consuming more selenium, vitamin C, folate, zinc, and antioxidants have been researched to improve sperm health. Acupuncture can also help sperm parameters by increasing circulation, decreasing inflammation, and igniting the cell’s mitochondria.

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Getting Quality with Acupuncture & Supplements

Quality over quantity is my motto when it comes to fresh IVF cycles. A number of women have said to me that they want to have many follicles for retrieval. The women go on to explain that they have read blogs and spoke to their friends going through IVF and want more follicles like they have. Isn’t it interesting though that the same women who speak about having more than a dozen follicles, don’t ever tell you that from the 28 eggs retrieved, 12 were healthy, 8 fertilized, and 3 made it to Day 5 blastocyst stage?

Meanwhile, we have patients receiving acupuncture on a regular basis and who adhere to their diet and supplement consumption go on to have 8 mature eggs, 6 fertilize, and 5 that make it to Day 5 blastocyst stage!

How do we get healthy follicles/eggs with acupuncture? Acupuncture has shown to increase blood circulation to the reproductive organs, thereby allowing more nourishment to the ovaries. Think of it this way- If a water hose had a bunch of marbles sitting in it and you tried to water your garden, you would notice that there is not that much water coming out. The plants would probably not do so well without this important resource. If you removed the marbles and used the hose, the water flow would improve and your plants have a better chance of thriving.

I believe there are a number of supplements that can also affect the quality of the eggs and endometrium.

Oligomeric Proanthocyanidins- One of our favorite products is Nutrametrix Isotonix OPC3. The supplement contains Pycnogenol, Grape Seed extract, red wine extract, Bilberry Extract and bioflavonoids. All of these ingredients help your body to produce healthier and stronger cells, providing you with better health. www.nutrametrix.com/mirvana

Methylfolate– This is still folate, just broken down to help the body absorb better. Remember folate is crucial in pregnancy to prevent neural tube defects. I’ve had some patients want to wait to take folate until they are pregnant. Why? I don’t believe that is a smart move. Isn’t it better to have the nutrients already in your blood system so the embryo can have the best chance for survival? Though folate is found in your prenatal, it is recommended you take an additional supplement.

Prenatal vitamins– We can’t keep our Nutrametrix Isotonix Prenatal vitamins on the shelf! They fly off the shelf because of its tasty flavor and ease of use, patients never forget tot take them! Prenatal vitamins have essential vitamins and minerals to support implantation and pregnancy. I would also recommend a prenatal when you are in your 20’s to improve key vitamins and minerals essential for future fertility. Continuing with prenatal also after giving birth is not harmful either and will help from labor recovery.

L- Arginine– This is an amino acid that helps with vasodilation and helps stimulate the release of insulin. Remember, protein is needed for eggs to get QUALITY!

Vitamin D– The active form of Vitamin D (calcitriol) controls genes involved in making estrogen and genes involved with implantation. During pregnancy, Vitamin D helps with immune cells in the uterus helping to fight any harmful infections during the pregnancy.

I always tell my patients it is important that we build a solid foundation before building a house. Think of all of these supplements and acupuncture as being the ingredients for your cement.

Resources:

http://uscfertility.org/fertility-treatments/vitamin-d-fertility/

http://www.cmajopen.ca/content/1/2/E77.full

http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/773342

www.nutrametrix.com/mirvana

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