What You Can Do About This
Whenever a patient tells me that she’s been given the above label, diagnosis, I simply want to scream. In most cases, this is a lazy dismissal. In rare cases, it is possibly true. There is always a reason for everything, and doctors need to be more responsible in instances where they decide to use this label.
In Chinese medicine, as well as Functional Medicine, everything has a “root cause”. Including infertility, cancer, and other modern diseases. The purpose of medicine is to determine “why”, not just “what”. In the case of infertility, where patients spend thousands of dollars to try to conceive, they deserve to know the truth if ART (IVF/IUI) is not successful. Most IUI cases I see are not successful. I wonder why… And often the first round of IVF does not take. This is curious. While I completely understand the desire to conceive at all costs, IVF should not be the first choice. It is highly possible for couples to conceive naturally, with the help of acupuncture, nutrition, lifestyle changes, and Chinese medicine. IVF should be your last resort. IUI is only effective in 10-20% of cases, and the peak IUI effect is 3-4 cycles max. I see patients who have undergone 7-8 cycles of IUI with no success. Typically this is with same sex couples. And some patients in their 40s who have also done 7 cycles of IVF with no success.
The issue in many cases is male factor infertility. Yet often the male partners are told that their sperm is “okay”. When I review a semen analysis, most are not “okay”, in fact, barely passable these days. While 50% motility, morphology was standard 10 years ago, today I typically see 5% or even lower. The chances here are slim to none. However, male factor can easily be treated with acupuncture, Chinese medicine, and the right nutrition and supplement regimen. In fact, when I treat both partners, the success rate both naturally and with IVF is exponentially higher! Many times the couples do not have to consider IVF. They get pregnant naturally, and within a matter of 3-6 months. It typically takes 90 days to improve both egg and sperm quality so I always ask that you make at least a 90-day commitment. Generally giving it 6 months is ideal.
Some of the causes of “unexplained infertility” might be due to:
- Male factor
- An undiagnosed autoimmune condition like autoimmune thyroid or Hashimoto’s
A genetic mutation called MTHFR, which can cause both implantation failure and early miscarriage
- Low Vitamin D
- Excessive weight in both partners or just the woman
- Excessive stress, “Type A” personality
- Fatigue and living an on-the-go/never stopping lifestyle
- Chronic inflammatory conditions including PCOS, endometriosis, gut issues
- Poor nutrition and environmental toxicity
- Hormone imbalance, a short luteal phase or other menstrual abnormality
- Lack of sleep, exhaustion, adrenal burnout
- A history of birth control pills
- Depression, anxiety
- Excessive alcohol or marijuana use
- Obsessing over conception
- Some medications
Doctors might easily give you one of the reasons but frequently they say they do not know! So what can you do about this? You can ask to have some important blood work done to rule out MTHFR, have a complete thyroid panel done, including thyroid antibodies (do not accept just TSH—it’s useless!). Have your Vitamin D level checked. Consult with an Acupuncturist trained in Functional Medicine (like me!) who can order some of this testing if your MD refuses. In CA, Acupuncturists are considered primary care and we can order blood chemistry and imaging. Your partner’s blood chemistry is also important–I typically now only treat both partners.
Do not despair! I have treated so many couples over the years with great success.
Sharon Pruss, L.Ac.
Dignity & Vanity
It’s not often that I feel compelled to put pen to paper or in this case, dictate a blog article to Siri, but I’ve had some observations this week that I’d like to share.
In my patients, I’ve noticed, particularly but not exclusively with aging, a loss or possible loss of dignity. This generally accompanies loss. Loss of hair with aging or chemo, loss of bowel or bladder control, loss of sensation in limbs, loss of balance, loss of facial and muscle tone.
I just find myself feeling so compassionate towards my patients around this issue. I tell them to be compassionate with themselves, to allow their bodies to age or heal or whatever is called for. But I know this is not easy. I know it’s not easy for my 90 something dad who lost his vision to not know how he looks, if his socks match, if his face looks shaven. He’s a guy who was always interested in clothes and dressing “nice”. I have to remind him of how nicely he still dresses, despite the fact that he himself cannot see this. Or my patient who is wobbling because he has lost sensation in his legs and feet. Or the patient who has just had a bad bout of shingles and has the facial scars to prove it. Vanity. These things tug at my heart. It’s where the healer in me comes out.
Do we have to feel a loss of dignity with loss? Or can we be kinder to ourselves as we would to another person? Something to consider.
You Don’t Need To Suffer With Burning Mouth Syndrome!
Burning mouth syndrome (BMS) or glossodynia, is described as a sudden facial and oral pain characterized as burning, scalding, tingling, or numbness. Often pain increases throughout the day, and can last for months or even years. It is a complex condition with many possible root causes, which often means that diagnosis remains challenging. Therapeutics are equally difficult. Symptom relief and pain management for BMS can be VERY frustrating!
Like many complex but common syndromes, there’s not much traditional (classic) western medicine can do. Many people seek out the care of a dentist or an internist, yet these doctors don’t seem to really understand. They mostly prescribe medications to provide temporary relief, such as lidocane sprays, other topical, drugs for nerve pain, or antidepressants. Some will refer to a psychiatrist, thinking that the symptoms are “imagined”. Many syndromes, which present as a set of symptoms, are often regarded as “less real” than something that can be SEEN, such as lesions on the tongue. Diagnosis in such cases is based on what the patient reports that he or she is experiencing, unfortunately.
With BMS, sometimes there is no obvious visible sign of abnormality. Often the tip and sides of the tongue will appear red, which is still considered “normal” in traditional medicine. In TCM, the tongue is an “indicator light” which can provide valuable information about the overall state of your health.
In Functional Medicine, we don’t just observe what has manifested visibly, but how the body FUNCTIONS and performs. Pain is one way to measure the health and function of the body, long before obvious changes occur on a cellular, tissue, organ, and structural level.
Let’s face it: BMS symptoms are real, and the pain is real. Certainly stress can play a role in BMS, since the body and mind are intimately interconnected. Remember, Functional medicine and functional acupuncture are about being proactive in treating chronic or “idiopathic” conditions, rather than WAITING for lesions to occur in the first place!
The symptoms of BMS often appear suddenly, and are often linked to:
- Autoimmune disease
- Poor gut health
- Nutritional deficiencies
- Food intolerances
- Hormonal changes, such as those seen in menopause
- The aftermath of some viruses
- Side effects from certain dental procedures
- Side effects from certain medications (some of which may be prescribed to treat)
- Stress, either prolonged or sudden onset due to a stressful period or traumatic event
From a classical (traditional) medical perspective, when symptoms arise to a condition such as diabetes or side effects from chemotherapy, BMS is considered a secondary condition, and treating the primary disorder is the main objective. Primary (or idiopathic) BMS isn’t a result of an underlying condition. Symptoms are often unexplained and appear suddenly from “nowhere.” However, this is just a starting point at Blossom Health. There may be some “detective work” involved in getting relief from burning mouth syndrome, but there IS hope!
From an FM perspective, we consider nutritional deficiencies, food intolerances, and hormone imbalances, which are often the “root cause” of the pain and burning sensations in BMS.
Stress, both in the form of mental and emotional stress as well as physical stresses in the form of illness or poor diet, can create nutritional deficiencies, which can contribute to the pain of BMS. My strategy for treating BMS often includes regular acupuncture, Chinese herbal formulas, and certain supplements like Alpha Lipoic Acid, B12, probiotics, D3 and others.
Fortunately, BMS is starting to become noticed in the mainstream as a “real” condition. Studies are showing that acupuncture can provide relief for mouth and tongue pain, and can help regulate blood flow to affected areas, which provides significant symptom relief in many cases. Acupuncture is a strong part of my toolkit here at Blossom Health in Lexington.
I also take gut health into consideration, as often the root cause of burning mouth syndrome is linked to poor diet and poor gut health. Although acupuncture and supplements are very helpful, it’s important that patients be “on board” with making dietary and lifestyle changes in order to ensure a successful outcome.
My approach: to combine traditional acupuncture with Functional Medicine to provide relief for burning mouth syndrome.
Sharon Pruss, L.Ac.