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Just like brushing your teeth, flossing, and rinsing with mouthwash are an important part of your oral hygiene routine, establishing proper sleep hygiene is vital to your well-being. The National Sleep Foundation spearheaded a worldwide study that took place over a two-year time period that established new guidelines for sleep recommendations. They take into account variability among individuals, some of whom require more sleep and some whom require less sleep. A summary of the recommendations can be found here. (more…)

When trying to conceive, it’s important to prepare your body by cleaning up your diet and dropping some unhealthy habits. This isn’t always easy, but it it’s definitely worth making some sacrifices in order to have a healthy pregnancy. Here are a few key chemicals to start with that will impact your journey in a beneficial way.

Caffeine

While trying to get pregnant, it’s worth limiting your daily lattes. Research shows that the more coffee a woman drinks the less fertile she becomes. Unfortunately switching to decaf doesn’t seem to help, largely due to the acidity of the coffee itself and the chemicals used to remove the caffeine from the coffee.

Don’t forget that many sodas also contain caffeine! Limiting caffeine is especially important during the first trimester of a pregnancy. This is when vital body systems, such as the nervous and the cardiovascular system, start to form. Studies have shown that in women who drink more than 200 mg of caffeine per day, are more likely to suffer from miscarriages.

High Mercury Fish

Most physicians recommend cutting down your intake of high-mercury fish about three months before you and your partner are actively trying to conceive. High mercury fishes include swordfish, marlin, ahi, and bigeye tuna. However, this rule is also applicable for your male partners.

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Since mercury can take up to a year for your body to clear, it can harm a developing fetus’s brain and central nervous system. Both males and females with high levels of mercury in the blood have been reported to have fertility issues. However, if you absolutely cannot forgo your weekly sushi fix, make sure that you opt for safer, low-mercury fish sources such as shrimp, trout, oysters, salmon, tilapia, and squid.

Alcohol

Research on alcohol and fertility is a bit of a mixed bag. Some studies have found no link between moderate drinking and fertility issues. But some show that even low levels of alcohol can cut fertility by as much as one-half. For example, one large study concluded that women who had fewer than five drinks a week were twice as likely to get pregnant in a given six-month period compared to women who drank more.

Another study demonstrated that men who drank alcohol regularly took twice as long to get their partners pregnant as men who didn’t drink at all. In both sexes, the more alcohol consumed, the less likely conception is. Most studies agree: high alcohol intake significantly impairs fertility.

Alcohol is one of the most common factors affecting fertility in men. It is toxic to sperm, and overuse can reduce sperm quality, increase abnormal sperm, and lower motility. Men who drink have been shown to have lower sperm counts and lower testosterone than teetotalers, as well as decreased libido and increased risk of erectile dysfunction (ED). In women, alcohol can be a risk factor for ovulatory infertility.

As there is no agreed upon safe amount of alcohol, it’s better to be safe and simply avoid drinking it altogether when you are actively trying to conceive.

Vitamin A

When it comes to Vitamin A you just need to be careful about what type and how much you are consuming. In fact, most PreNatal Vitamins contain Vitamin A, you just need to make sure you find a good one with a good amount!

Vitamin A comes in two forms: preformed, otherwise known as retinol or retinoids, and provitamin A carotenoids. Preformed is found in animal products such as liver, eggs, and milk. This is used by the body in its pure form. The body converts carotenoids into vitamin A. Cartotenoids can be found in plants, such as fruits and vegetables. Pregnant women require about 2,565 international units of vitamin A per day. The average person’s diet provides a lot of Vitamin A.

That is why it’s important for pregnant women to watch their preformed Vitamin A intake because it’s easy to get too much of it. High doses of preformed Vitamin A has been linked to liver toxicity and birth defects. However, you can intake as much carotenoids in the form of fruit and vegetables only, without harm to your fetus.

Smoking

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Women and men who are trying to conceive have a much harder time if one or both are smokers, even through IVF or IUI treatments. Studies have shown that males who smoke cigarettes tend to have lower sperm counts, more sperm abnormalities and less motile sperm than males who don’t smoke cigarettes. It has also been linked to a greater degree of genetic abnormalities in newborns, and also linked to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.

Everyone knows smoking has no merits; it’s better to just quit the habit. We know how extremely difficult this can be. Acupuncture is actually really helpful, and you can read more about it here.

Bisphenol-A (BPA)

This prevalently talked about chemical is commonly found in plastic products, the lining of cans, and even coated on paper receipts! According to the Environmental Working Group, BPA is listed as one of the top endocrine disrupters because of its ability to mimic estrogen, thus linking it problems with fertility, obesity, heart disease, and even cancer. There is a vast body of research showing that regular exposure to BPA leads to diminished fertility in both men and women. Fortunately, because health concerns over toxicity have become more publicized, many plastic manufacturers have taken steps to reduce its use and are labeling their “BPA Free” products. But that doesn’t mean your not still being exposed. Opt for fresh foods instead of canned and just start saying no to paper receipts. When buying any plastic food containers, make sure to avoid those labeled as “PC” (Polycarbonate) or recycling label #7.

 

It’s the coldest winter that New York has seen for a while, which makes it a very dry and trying time for our skin. Many of us have to deal with itchy, dry, cracked, and chaffing skin through the cold seasons, and this year is no exception! And for those with chronic skin issue such as eczema, psoriasis, rosacea, and dermatitis-  these winter months can make it worse. (more…)

It’s been a long, long winter. Spring may have technically sprung, but most of us aren’t feeling very excited about it with the continued cold and dreary weather. We all secretly wished for the unusually warm winter of last year, but Mother Nature was in a different mood and the lingering cold has followed a rough patch of storms, hurricanes and blizzards. (more…)

We’ve been talking about sex quite a bit lately at the Yinova Center, with our director Jill Blakeway’s recent release of her second book Sex Again. In her comprehensive look at libido, Jill writes about how to rebuild the connection with our sexuality and desire from within ourselves and our relationship.

Since this week brings the big day for celebrating love and sex, I think it is an opportune time to share some recommendations for some specific libido boosting foods.

In Chinese medicine we always look to the internal organs when something is lacking. Sexual drive is connected to the energy of our kidneys, and the balance of yin and yang energies. Though generally lack of yang is focused on for sexual vitality, it is both the yin and yang that must be in equilibrium for one to have the motivation to pursue sex (yang) plus the ability to receive it (yin). However, this equilibrium is not meant to be rigid. As Jill writes, “ You’re aiming for a dynamic balance, not a fixed point and not a precisely even split. For most people, the sweet spot is where either yin or yang is predominant – but only slightly.”

To help nourish both the yin and yang aspect, here are a few suggestions for aphrodisiac foods and spices, whether for this Valentine’s Day or any day really!

Oysters – As the most highly prized of aphrodisiacs, these succulent yin nourishing creatures (they do come from the sea after all) are also high in vitamin B12 and protein.

Walnuts – Likely due to their kidney yang enhancing ability, an old Chinese folk remedy for impotence was to eat 20 walnuts a day for a month.

Chives – Their warm and pungent flavor is tonifying to the kidneys and specifically to sexual function. They also improve qi circulation, which is a huge benefit to your nether regions.

Apples – The legendary symbols of temptation, apples are cooling and moistening thus contribute to kidney yin.

Chestnuts – This deliciously meaty nut is both nourishing to the energy of the kidneys and helps stimulate the liver out of stagnation (because we all have stuck energy in there).

Lamb – Typically raised with far fewer antibiotics and allowed to graze on grass, this is an excellent choice for red meat lovers, especially for its kidney warming qualities.

Cucumber – This suggestive yin nourishing vegetable boasts the ability to cleanse the blood and purify skin.

Shrimp – Tasty, decorative and easy to prepare, shrimp has a warming and yang enhancing nature (inquire about allergies before offering this crustacean to any new lover).

Eggs – As a blood and yin tonic, eggs are also ascending in nature and have been used in the prevention of miscarriage.

Lentil – This little legume increases the vitality of the kidneys and is stimulating to the adrenal system.

Ginger – Dried ginger is said to direct the properties of foods and herbs to the lower region and sexual organs, making it an excellent spice accompaniment to your amorous meal.

String bean – This sweet flavored yin nourishing vegetable has known uses in the treatment of involuntary seminal emission.

Some delicious and sinful recipes utilizing the above ingredients can be found on Epicurious.com. One in particular caught my eye and may find its way to my table and my love’s lips soon…

Bon appetit!

Did you know January is Apple and Apricot month? I personally am a big fan of devoting each month to the celebration of food. Coming off of a holiday season filled with indulgences of all kinds, it’s a good opportunity to highlight some delicious fruits that will benefit your healthy New Year’s eating habits.

Apples have long held the title of a super healthy food. An apple a day keeps the doctor away, right?! This is likely due to the fact that apples strongly support digestion and are very cleansing for the liver. The pectin contained in apples can remove residues of mercury, lead, radiation, and cholesterol.

Now in eastern nutrition we look beyond the level of vitamins and minerals, to the energetic properties of foods. It’s the same approach we have with Chinese Herbal medicine, as food is essentially the greatest medicine.

Both apples and apricots are very moistening by nature. They benefit dryness by nourishing the Yin fluids of the body, particularly of the lungs. How appropriate for this time of year! I’ve been seeing so many of my patients suffering from the dryness of winter lately, with symptoms of dry cough, scratchy throat, inflamed sinuses, constant thirst, nosebleeds, and itchy skin. All of these issues are related to the lungs, and can benefit from the hydrating and moistening qualities that both apples and apricots offer.

Since it is winter, I tend to recommend against consuming too much fruit, as it’s energetically cold by nature. My previous blog post talks about what the best foods are to eat during the cold months. Because of that, I like to have my fruits cooked or baked. Here is a recipe for a pie that I like to make with these two super moistening fruits. It’s so delicious! I made it for my grandmother, whom I consider the greatest baker, and she loved it.

That’s a good gauge I’d say!

Whole Wheat Apricot and Apple Pie

For pastry dough

  • 1 1/3 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/3 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 7 tbsp chilled butter cut into cubes
  • 1 egg, plus 1 egg yolk
  • a few drops of vanilla extract

For the filling

  • 3 apples
  • 10 fresh apricots, pitted, and halved or quartered
  • 3 tbsp butter
  • 2 tbsp light brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp water
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 2 tbsp superfine sugar
  1. For the pastry dough combine flour, sugar, and butter in a bowl and work it together with your fingers till the mixture is sandy. Add egg plus extra egg yolk and vanilla and keep mixing till you have a smooth ball of dough. Flatten and wrap in plastic wrap to refrigerate for 30 minutes.
  2. Peel and core the apples and cut them into chunks. Add 1.5 Tbsp of the butter to a pan with the apples, brown sugar and water. Cover the pan with a lid and cook at medium heat for 15-20 minutes. The apples should looked a bit golden and collapse. Remove from heat and stir in the cinnamon, squishing the apples into a puree with your spoon.
  3. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Using a little extra flour, roll out your pastry dough onto a sheet of parchment paper to a 12-13 inch circle. With the parchment paper flip the dough into a ungreased 9 ½ inch springform or pie pan. Carefully peel the parchment off the dough and press the pastry onto the bottom of the pan.
  4. Spread the apple puree over the bottom and add the apricots on top. Sprinkle with the superfine sugar and dot with broken up pieces of the rest of the butter. Fold the pastry dough edge in over some of the filling so its wrapped in. Bake for 40 minutes or until the apricots look a bit brown and the pastry looks crisp. Enjoy!

* Recipe is adapted from Apples for Jam by Tessa Kiros

We are coming into the time of winter and today marks the change with the Winter Solstice. The days feel very short, and the darkness of night is arriving so soon. It’s a time of slowing down and going inward, in order to preserve energy and seek warmth.

In Chinese medicine winter is associated with the element of Water, which relates to the kidneys and bladder. It is not uncommon that at this time weaknesses in those organs manifest. For instance, adrenal function will be tested this time of year and for many working long stressful days energy reserves will feel diminished. Here are some other typical manifestations of kidney qi depletion: asthma, weakness in the low back or knees, loose stools, increased urination, water retention, and lowered libido.

What we eat during the winter can offer deep nourishment. Since the kidneys are seen as the storehouse of energy and vitality of the body, the foods we eat during winter should emphasis salty and bitter flavors because of their ability to help sink and center, therefore increasing our capacity for storage. Paul Pitchford, author of Healing with Whole Foods, also talks about how such foods can cool the surface of the body by driving warmth into a deeper level so we the feel cold less. Bitter foods such as quinoa, watercress, endive, celery, turnip, escarole, rye, and alfalfa should be included regularly in meals.

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With salty foods there is caution of not overindulging as that begins to deplete the kidneys more. The typical American diet is heavily salty, though not from the beneficial sources of salt such as seaweeds, miso, sardines, millet and barley.

Warming foods overall are best to focus on, while stepping back from the many overly cold foods not as appropriate this time of year. I always recommend for my patients to cut back on salads, sushi, iced drinks, and dairy in general, as they are all energetically cold and use up too much energy to metabolize.

Here are some beneficial warming foods and spices appropriate for nourishment in the winter:

  • Walnuts
  • Clove
  • Ginger
  • Cinnamon bark
  • Black beans
  • Onion/leek/scallion/garlic/chive
  • Lamb
  • Chicken
  • Salmon
  • Trout
  • Mussels
  • Fennel
  • Sweet potato
  • Royal Jelly & Bee Pollen
  • Almonds
  • Chestnuts
  • Micro algae – Spirulina, Chlorella, Wild Blue Green Algae
  • Lentils
  • Mushrooms
  • Brown rice
  • Oats
  • Turmeric

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Focus on simple, well cooked meals to encourage easy digestion, such as soups and stews. It’s natural to want to hibernate so spend more time cooking at home rather than eating out. That’s also the best way to ensure that good things go into your body. If you’re a carnivore like I am, remember that only organic hormone free meat is worth eating, anything else isn’t nourishing but can be rather toxic.

One of my favorite winter meals is a good old fashion shepherds pie. It’s both hardy and warming, and also simple to prepare. Looking to get started with a recipe? Here is my go-to recipe from epicurious.com.

Perhaps you’ve heard an acupuncturist speak of the system of meridians on the body and how they plan to use points along them to address certain issues at hand. To give a simple visual, I like to imagine the meridians as rivers. They course the lengths of the body, branching with siphons and into reservoirs of potent energy, all flowing outward – to the far reaches of toes, to fingertips, to the top of the head. Each of these channels correspond to an organ system which has a dynamic host of functions. (more…)

Stir-fries have become a favorite dish of mine since they are not only quick and easy, which works well with a busy schedule, but provide a multitude of variations in ingredients. This recipe came together one day as a result of using leftover veggies found in my fridge and some additions I thought would be yummy. Now I must add that I was a bit of a latecomer to the Quinoa craze and this dish was my first real attempt at cooking and incorporating it into a meal.

I was inspired to finally try quinoa because of the many wonderful health benefits I’d been hearing and reading about it. Likewise, I’d gotten a bit weary of using rice as the go-to grain, mainly due to the inflated feeling it left after consumption. Out of curiosity, I did some research on the nutritional content of quinoa compared to brown rice and found that quinoa doubles the protein and mineral content of rice. It also excels as a super food by providing a source of complete protein (all 9 amino acids needed by the body) and a gluten-free, low calorie grain (though its actually a seed!).

Knowing that my boyfriend will not willingly eat something “super healthy” I had to make sure the quinoa stir-fry was deliciously deceptive. Well the plan worked because since that night I first cooked it, we both fell in love with this delicious and versatile seed! I’ve since made several variations of the recipe, but this original one is my favorite as it is both light & filling, and provides a wide variety of flavors and nutrients from the various veggies. The cherry tomatoes added at the very end gives a fresh burst of sweetness!

This recipe can be modified to suit any vegetables you like, and can be made vegetarian/vegan by removing the chicken.

Ingredients:

3/4 cup quinoa, rinsed

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 medium yellow onion, chopped

1 small yellow squash, sliced

1 small zucchini, sliced

1 cup chopped baby bella mushrooms, sliced

1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved

1 cup snow peas

1 medium size skinless chicken breast (about 4-6 ounces)

salt and pepper to taste

Instructions:

Place the quinoa into a small pot with 1 1/4 cup water and 1/4 teaspoon of salt if desired. I use my favorite Eastern European seasoning, Vegeta. Bring to a boil then cover, reducing the heat to a low simmer. Allow to cook for 15 minutes then remove from heat and let stand with cover on for another 5. Fluff with a fork.

In the meantime, slice chicken breast into strips and season with some salt and pepper. Add to large skillet over medium high heat with 1tbsp olive oil. Cook, stirring occasionally for 8-10 minutes till cooked through and a little bit browned. Transfer to a plate and set aside.

Add chopped onions to the pan and cook until softened, about 3-4 min. Add mushrooms, squash, and zucchini with additional 1tbsp olive oil. Cook, stirring often till veggies have soften slightly, about 8 minutes. I like to cover the skillet with a lid and the veggies sweat for a few minutes as well to speed up softening.

Add snow peas and cook for another 2-3 minutes till they turn a very bright green.

Reduce heat to medium low and add chicken back to the pan. Stir.

Take the cooked quinoa and carefully add it into your chicken veggie mix, (your skillet may be very full like mine) stir together well, until heated through, about 1-2 minutes. Remove from heat.

Add the halved cherry tomatoes and give everything one more good stir.

Serve warm and enjoy!

I like to top off my plate with another favorite seasoning, , which adds a lovely bit of crunch and saltiness from toasted sesame seeds, sea salt and sea vegetables.
Happy eating!

Here Yinova Acupuncturist Klara Kadar shares how she’s doing at the end of the first week of our annual month-long Yinova Cleanse.


Its day 5 of my colon cleanse, the last day for liquids only. Today is the first I can say I feel really good and knowing this part is about to end is fueling my energy. As is knowing I will eat a delicious home cooked meal tomorrow! I’m feeling pretty accomplished as I’ve overcome many urges and cravings for the things I used to love consuming. Like cheeseburgers and cappuccinos.

 

 

The first few days were difficult for me. There were many things I gave up for this cleanse but I believe the most pronounced discomforts were because of the withdrawal from coffee and wheat. I had headaches, dizziness, fatigue, and just a general feeling of malaise. My colleagues even noticed my more irritable mood. I was frustrated at myself for feeling awful and not having an easier time with this cleanse, as I’d had in years past. But I also felt comforted in the collective support that we have at the Yinova Center, and recognized that many of us were suffering in our own ways in the cleansing process. I made it through these past days knowing it would get better because it always does, and keeping my will strong with the knowledge that I am caring for my body by letting it rest and detoxify.
cleanse, wellness nyc

 

Today I looked in the mirror and noticed how much my complexion has cleared and that the whites of my eyes are brighter. My energy may be more on the mellow side but I am honestly enjoying the slowing down that cleansing brings with more meditative activities I love like knitting and writing… And with planning my many deliciously healthy meals to come as I continue the next three weeks of the cleansing process.

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