Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Black Chicken Soup for Fertility

I've found a number of recipes for Black-Chicken Soup, also called Silkie or Silkey Chicken. These can be found in the frozen sections of some grocery stores or in Chinese Food stores. The name comes from the fact that the meat of this chicken is dark gray or black. It has been used traditionally for supporting the kidneys, as a post-menstural tonic, for recovery after delivery, and to support fertility.

Here's a link to one of the better recipes available on-line.

The Ultimate Kidney Tonic- Black Soup

The ingredients:

1 Whole Black Chicken- called Silky Chicken or Silkie Chicken (found at Asian grocery stores)
1.5-2cups Black Beans - Huge amount of protein, good for kidneys
Kombu Seaweed - minerals and alkaline
Rice noodles or Bean Threads - wheat free noodles, clears body heat
Tamari (premium soy sauce) - adds fermented food to diet
1 can Vegetable Stock - vegetables
1/8 cup olive oil
4 tbl minced garlic
Sea Salt
Large Crockpot

and the herbs to add (available from Chinese herb stores, online, or from your acupuncturist)
30g He Shou Wu- Kidney and blood builder
30g Shu Di Huang - Rehmannia Prepared - Kidney and blood builder
20g Gou Qi Zi - Goji berries - antioxidant, blood builder
10g Shan Zha - Hawthorn Berry - helps the properties of the soup move through normally
10g Chen Pi - Citrus Peel - allows all the building properties not cause constipation.

The link provides detailed instructions on making this (a 4-6 hour process), but it can also be made more quickly as a regular chicken soup. Soak the beans overnight with the seaweed. Change the water (keeping the seaweed) and cook the beans for one hour. Prepare the chicken and stock as you normally would, adding the herbs one hour before the end. The Goji berries can be added free, but the other herbs should be bagged so they can be removed before serving. Add the noodles last and enjoy as a healthy and tasty treat.

Byron Russell

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Daily Sex Improves Male Fertility

In my fertility practice it is very common that only the wife of the couple comes in for treatment. Often I never see the husband. This reflects the fact that there remains in our culture a sense that fertility issues are a woman's problem. However, current estimates suggest that 30% of fertility problems result from male factor infertility issues, including problems with repeated miscarriage. An additional 30% of couples show problems for both partners. So, there is good reason for evaluation and treatment to include the male partner for any couple experiencing problems. This is becoming a bigger issue as human male sperm counts continue to decline, an issue that has been well-documented and well-publicized over the past few years and is a factor of increasing concern.

A study presented at the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology looked at the effect of regular ejaculation on sperm quality, specifically DNA damage.
The study was conducted with 118 male test subjects; all of whom had a history of infertility. Infertility includes such conditions as damaged sperm, repeated miscarriages and recurrent failure of in vitro fertilization. Samples from all 118 test subjects showed over 15% of their sperm showed DNA damage.

The test was very simple: for a week each man was required to ejaculate daily. At the end of the week, a sperm test sample was provided for clinical review. The results showed that DNA damage was reduced in a whopping 81% of the men; by any standard that is a very significant change.

Nineteen percent of the test subjects actually showed increased damage to the DNA in the sperm. The study concludes that the 19% that showed increased DNA damage most likely had underlying problems that were not “treatable” with the ejaculation method.

The results here are a little mixed, showing improvements in DNA quality for most (81%) of the men. One item to note is that the testing period was only one week long. The effects of daily ejaculation over a longer period of time are not addressed in this study, and Chinese Medicine would expect a decline in fertility over the long-term for most men due to over-taxing the Kidney Jing (or vital essence).

The traditional Western medical advice has been for men to refrain from ejaculation from 3-7 days before their partner's ovulation time. A number of research studies are showing that this is not true and that more frequent sex during the fertile window can improve the chances of pregnancy.

Chinese Medicine makes a prescription for ejaculation based on a person's age and state of health - particularly the state of the Kidney Jing. For a healthy man in his mid-30's, the number tends to be 3-4 times a week. I see great variation in my patients, from those who ejaculate 5-6 times a day, to those who ejaculate 1-2 times a month. This reflects differences in basic constitution as well as current health and it is not helpful to state a single number that is right for all men or all situations. For instance, one of my patients who ejaculated multiple times a day had problems with insomnia and migraine headaches if he cut back on that number. I've had other patients who experienced sore throats and frequent colds with increased sexual activity beyond a couple times a month. So, it is important to evaluate your state of health and how sexual activity plays into that. Remember also that there is a very long tradition in Chinese Medicine for maximizing virility and fertility into old age. This was a very important issue in Chinese culture and many treatments were developed to address this issue.

When fertility is the goal, we want to maximize the health of the Kidney Jing and the quality of the sperm. Acupuncture has been shown to do that when low sperm quality is an issue. Herbs like Huang Qi have been shown to improve specific factors like sperm motility. Another possible approach that is recommended in Taoist texts is frequent sexual activity without ejaculation. This has a strong effect on increasing testosterone levels, and higher testosterone levels have been linked with higher quality sperm. In a general sense, balancing the body and improving general health reduces demands on the vital (or constitutional) essence, leaving more body resources for creating healthy sperm.

Lastly, here is a look at current research from the World Health Organization (WHO), via the Oxford Journals on sperm quality parameters for fertility.

semen volume, 1.5 ml (1.4–1.7);
total sperm number, 39 million per ejaculate (33–46);
sperm concentration,
15 million per ml (12–16);
vitality, 58% live (55–63);
progressive motility, 32% (31–34);
total (progressive + non-progressive) motility, 40% (38–42);
morphologically normal forms, 4.0% (3.0–4.0)

These numbers came from a study of men whose partners became pregnant in 12 months or less.

Byron Russell

Friday, December 11, 2009

Timing Your Fertility

Here are some tips from FertilityFriend on the timing and frequency of sexual intercourse in promoting pregnancy. This is an update on what was generally recommended in the past, particularly regarding the frequency of intercourse.

The Fertile Window

Sperm may last up to 5 days in cervical fluid and the egg may last up to 1 day after ovulation -- but these are the extremes. Intercourse during the two days prior to ovulation and on the ovulation day is more likely to produce a pregnancy.

Your fertile window is made up of the days in your menstrual cycle when pregnancy is possible. The length of this fertile phase is determined by the maximum life span of your partner's sperm and your egg. Sperm can survive a maximum of five days in fertile cervical fluid and your ovum can survive for up to one day. Your theoretical fertile window is thus six days long, comprised of the five days before ovulation and the day of ovulation. You only have a chance to conceive when you have intercourse on these days. This means that pregnancy is technically possible from intercourse on any of these six days. The likelihood of actually becoming pregnant, however, is dramatically increased when you have intercourse in the three days immediately leading up to and including ovulation. This makes a practical fertile window of just three days.

Frequency of Intercourse --

In the past it was suggested that the male refrain from ejaculation for 3 days prior to intercourse, giving the sperm cells a chance to mature in the epididymis, and giving the semen volume and sperm count time to build. But, this is no longer thought to be true. Frequent intercourse during the fertile window produces a higher chance of pregnancy.

There has been some speculation that couples who are trying to conceive should reduce the frequency of sexual intercourse during the fertile window to increase sperm supply. This is not true for most couples. While couples with known male factor issues should consult their doctor for the best intercourse strategy, couples with normal fertility and no known sperm issues should not reduce the frequency of intercourse in the fertile window. Your probability of conception is increased when you have intercourse multiple times in your fertile window. While it is true that sperm concentrations decrease slightly with increasing intercourse frequency, frequent intercourse is still more likely to result in conception than infrequent intercourse for couples with no male factor fertility issues. Each additional act of intercourse within your fertile window increases your probability of conception for that cycle.

Byron Russell