A caution for over the counter pain relief users

by Charmaine Dennis, FGHG Naturopath and Director

New research is suggesting that Ibuprofen (the pain-relieving NSAIDs sold as Neurofen, Advil, Motrin etc) may negatively affect testicular health and fertility.

When researchers realised the impact on pregnant women (including more than double risk of miscarriage) and the testicles and heart of her male offspring (to be avoided in pregnancy!), they were interested to see if there were implications for men taking it regularly too.

In this new study of 31 men, 14 were given the recommended dose of ibuprofen (600mg 2 x day) for 14 days and 17 given placebo. The men in the study group showed an imbalance of hormones producing a compensated hypogonadism, a condition normally seen in elderly men and associated with impaired fertility, depression and increased risk for cardiovascular events, including heart failure and stroke.

While researchers thought it likely reversible with short-term use, they said they fear effects on the testicals could be permanent for long-term users. Given the trends for unmonitored use of ibuprofen amongst weekend warriors and high performance athletes, this needs research needs careful attention.

As spermatogenesis turns over sperm every 70 days, it seems senisble to consider likley negative impact if men are taking it in the 3 months prior to conceiving too. This is the preconception health care period where our naturopaths and acupuncturists help to support optimal health and investigate all likely contributing factors to fertility.

If you need other ways of finding anti-inflammatory pain relief, come and talk to us. Across our modalities on offer, there is much we can do to get you back on a path to pain-free wellness and optimal fertility too.

It is also important to note, there is evidence that other medications are also harmful to the male reproductive system and fertility, including testosterone, opioids, antidepressants, antipsychotics, immune modulators and even the over-the-counter antacid cimetidine. My rule of thumb is – if a medication or any substance is known to be problematic for pregnant women and their developing babies (especially teratogenic substances) it is important to consider if it is a factor in the health of developing sperm too. It can take time for research on medication to catch up to these things and common sense is required at times.

There is no doubt that medication is of course absolutly necessary in some cases – and sometimes other approaches are worth considering too. Let us know if you are wondering if we can help with any of your health concerns. We probably can! And we will always be in contact with your doctor when needed for your best health and fertility outcomes.

Charmaine Dennis (FGHG director and Naturopath)


CharmaineDENNISC1Charmaine Dennis is a naturopath, fertility and health expert, mentor, writer, mother, and businesswoman. She is the founding director of Fertile Ground Health Group, co-creator of the Be Fertile relaxation CD series and co-author of The Breakfast Project, among other health inspired projects. Her greatest gift and inspiration is making health, wellbeing, and passionate living accessible, inspiring and achievable for everyone. Charmaine’s naturopathic career has followed a special interest in working with couples with infertility requiring IVF support since 1999.  She has assisted many in realising their dreams to conceive healthy, beautiful babies in collaboration with GPs and fertility specialists, acupuncturists and other health modalities.

Acupuncture to help you quit

Acupuncture for Improving Sperm Quality

by Ashley Gordon, FGHG acupuncturist

Do you hate smoking and can’t stop? Found a reason to quit, but you just can’t find the will-power to make it happen? Keep reading and see if Acupuncture could be the helping hand you need…

Like many addictions, what can start off as innocent frolic with fun, can often end up being an extremely difficult habit to kick. Smoking, being the most common of addictions, means that if you are wanting to quit, then you are not alone. Exhausted all of the popular means of trying to end your relationship with cigarettes but to still no success? Then if you haven’t tried Acupuncture, then you are not yet out of options!

In this scenario, we will utilise specific acupuncture points, some relating to your bodily organ functions which may assist you in stopping smoking, but many linked with very important detoxification points in your ear. This is a very popular method among us acupuncturists in addressing the withdrawal/detoxification process in efforts of doing everything in our power to bring you closer to your goal of a cigarette-free life.

Note that this is not a miracle cure and no acupuncturist will claim to help you stop smoking if you don’t want to do it. A “can-do” attitude is THE most important part of this process. Getting over the everyday mental struggle is where the initial steps of this process lie. It’s a team effort, so if you aren’t willing to be a team player, then this may not be for you. Alternatively, if you are on board and want to end your toxic relationship with cigarettes, then the sky is the limit! In my time working at Windana Drug and Alcohol Recovery centre, I have seen the difference it makes when you have the support to take positive action, set clear intentions and be held accountable.

This study suggests that acupuncture may help motivated smokers to reduce their smoking or even quit smoking completely.*1 While systematic reviews of data remain inconclusive, I have seen so much benefit for acupuncture to help people stay motivated, on track and supported in their attempt to quit for good. Along with reducing taste and desire, acupuncture supports the body back to good health and vitality in a myriad of other ways, helping you to feel good while your body detoxifies from each cigarette you have smoked in the past

Apart from potentially saying “adios” to these unwanted friends, here are some added benefits of the process:

#1 – Ever heard of Acupressure? Simple to do and you can do it anywhere!! A great technique to help manage cravings – just by massaging your ears… if you are massaging your ears, you can’t possibly be having a cigarette in your hand!

#2 – Acupuncture has been shown to reduce taste for tabacco and the desire to smoke *2

#3 – Not only can acupuncture support your body through the quit smoking process, it may also be helping your organs detoxify simultaneously – it is one thing to treat the symptoms, but why not call in the cavalry to increase your chance of success…

#4 – As there are no medicines, sprays, gums, patches, tablets or pills as part of this process (unless, of course, you chose natural herbal medicine as an additional support), this is an ALL NATURAL approach to ridding yourself of cigarettes.

So if this article speaks to you and you feel as if now is the time to initiate the change you have been wanting to see in your life, then you have nothing to lose by integrating Acupuncture into your quit-smoking campaign… we are waiting for you!

What can you expect?

Overcoming the obstacle of quitting smoking, not only requires determination, but also a high frequency of treatments. Once the cravings start to back off, so does the need for treatment. Of course, every scenario is different and the plan is tailored to each individual’s needs, however, the general plan will look something like this:

Stage One: 3 x treatments in the first 3 days – generally consecutive

Stage Two: 2-3 x treatments per week for 3 weeks, progress depending

Stage Three: 1-2 x treatments per week or fortnight for 3 months, progress depending

As previously mentioned, every plan is different and tailored to the progress and individual needs of the patient. The initial goal of Stage One is to decrease and manage the cravings and potentially the taste of the cigarettes. Following that, in Stage Two, we aim to address decreasing the habit of smoking in everyday-life, and maintaining a ‘no cigarette life’ is the aim of Stage Three. Ensuring that you are supported throughout every stage of your journey is our highest priority, so if you know that now is the right time to give smoking the heave-ho, don’t go it alone. Take the first step by booking in for your initial acupuncture session today.



*1. “Effects of acupuncture on smoking cessation or reduction for motivated smokers”, Preventitive Medicine, Vol. 26, Issue 2, March 1997, p208-214, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9085389

*2. “Effect of Acupuncture on Smoking Cessation or Reduction: An 8-Month and 5-Year Follow-up Study”, Preventative Medicine, Vol.33, Issue 5, Nov 2001, p364-372, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11676576



Ash-Gordon-colourAshley Gordon is a compassionate, caring and nurturing practitioner with an ear for listening to help people move through their healing. He has a passion for assisting others with the power of Chinese medicine and is dedicated to continued personal learning and education of others. Ashley uses acupuncture and Chinese medicine to treat a wide of range of conditions, but has a special interest in treating pregnancy, fertility issues in both men and women, conditions relating to women’s health and digestive problems.

How acupuncture helps PCOS

Written by Merna El Chaaban, FGHG acupuncturist

Do you have polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS)? Or have you recently been diagnosed with PCOS and are confused with what that means?

You’re not on your own. PCOS affects 12-20% (1) of women and for many cases women remain undiagnosed.

What is PCOS?
Many women will have polycystic ovaries (PCO) identified on an ultrasound but not all will have PCOS.

You may be asking yourself “what is the difference between PCO and PCOS?”

Many women may just have polycystic ovaries and have no other symptoms of the disorder. Though a pelvic ultrasound may reveal 12 or more cysts on one or both ovaries, women with PCO can ovulate and don’t have the other symptoms that go with the syndrome, PCOS.

PCOS is a common hormonal condition. There are a number of symptoms that the syndrome is based on, which can include:

  • Increased androgens, which may result in increased hair growth, acne or increased blood testosterone levels
  • Insulin resistance meaning your body struggles with regulating your blood glucose levels. This can lead to weight gain or women struggling to lose weight and keep it off.

Having PCOS may also mean that you do not ovulate and your periods may be irregular or absent. Some women only have one period a year, and in some cases it is not until women start to try to conceive that they begin questioning why things are not going to plan. It may simply be because they are not releasing an egg and ovulating regularly.

What can be done to help PCOS?
If you are trying to conceive it is important to understand that having PCOS doesn’t mean that you will not be able to conceive and have a healthy pregnancy. There are a number of ways you can help your body and manage your condition. This includes lifestyle and dietary changes.

One of the most common patterns of PCOS in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is phlegm and dampness. From a TCM perspective this describes the cysts and symptoms present which can include being tired, difficulty losing weight, heaviness, bloating, swelling and fluid retention in feet and ankles, slow metabolism, dizziness and poor appetite. Your acupuncturist will ask about your symptoms in detail.

The TCM diagnosis always takes into consideration the symptoms that manifest in every individual, as we understand that not everyone is the same and this is why TCM can be a great way to tailor each treatment to every individual person. What works for one person may not work for another and no two people are the same.

Now that you have this information, what can you do? Here is how acupuncture may be able to help:

1. It is a great way to naturally regulate your hormones (2)

2. Can induce ovulation by selecting specific points along the body which have a direct effect on the uterus and ovaries (2)

3. Assists in reducing your cravings, i.e. If your blood glucose levels drop throughout the day it can result in sweet cravings (3)

4. Supports metabolism and regulating your appetite. If you have a lack of an appetite this can affect your weight management as your metabolism maybe sluggish. When you have an appetite this is a great way to know your body is on track (4)

5: Chinese herbal medicine generally complements the use of acupuncture, a great way to support your body in targeting all your individual symptoms.

What to expect with acupunture treatments

When you see your highly qualified acupuncturist, a thorough assessment and TCM diagnosis will be prepared for you. In accordance with research based treatment guidelines, weekly acupuncture sessions may be needed as part of your treatment plan.

You should allow yourself a period of up to three months or more to help regulate your body. Remember that this condition has probably been years in the making and hormonal conditions cannot be regulated overnight, however, you may start noticing improvements right away.

The main role of Acupuncture is to encourage blood flow through the uterus and ovaries (5). This is performed by placing needles along different points in the body that correspond to different channels and organs. Your body responds to the stimulation of the points. In some cases there maybe blockages that need to be released.

Acupuncture for PCOS is generally placed in the abdominal region as well as hands and legs. Depending on your symptoms and where you are in your cycle these points may vary.

Understanding and listening to your body is vital for a good outcome. Your body is your most important asset. At times your body sends you signals that something isn’t right and when you have a better understanding of your condition, things start to make more sense and you can begin to relate the symptoms that you have been experiencing to your diagnosis of PCOS. Your acupuncturist will help to explain what is happening for you and provide you with tools to support your health outside the treatment room. Remember that although it can take a while, acupuncture can help to shift the hormonal imbalance underlying PCOS, so the sooner you can begin your commitment to the treatment the sooner you can reap the benefits.

Merna El Chaaban, FGHG acupuncturist

Merna colour

Merna is an experienced acupuncturist and traditional Chinese herbal medicine practitioner. She has developed a passion for treating women’s health and fertility as well as supporting women during pregnancy. Merna aspires to assisting women and men of all ages by providing healthcare advice to people seeking a holistic approach and acknowledges that your body is your most important asset. She is committed to supporting you through the journey of life.


(1)Boyle J, Teede H J, 2012,Polycystic ovary syndrome An update, https://www.racgp.org.au/afp/2012/october/polycystic-ovary-syndrome/,RACGP Volume 41, No.10 October2012,Pages 752-756.

(2)Huang ST, Chen AP, 2008,Traditional Chinese medicine and infertility. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18460933,Curr Opin Obstet Gynecol, PubMed.

(3)Stener-Victorin E, Kokosar M, Maliqueo M, Sazonova A, Johan Behre C, Hojlund K, Benrick A, Tivesten A, Ohlsson C,2015,Repeated Acupuncture Treatments Increases Whole Body Glucose Uptake and Decrease Circulating Testosterone in Women with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome

http://press.endocrine.org/doi/abs/10.1210/endo-meetings.2015.RE.7.THR-099,Endocrine Society

(4)[ Zhou JY, Zhang XY, Yu ML, Lu SF, Chen X,2016,Effect of Transcutaneuos Acupoint Electrostimulation on Serum Sex Hormone Levels and Expression of Ovarian Steroid Hormone Metabolic Enzymes in Polycystic Ovary Syndrome Rats],https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27141614,Zhen Ci Yan Jiu, PubMed

(5)Johansson J1, Redman L, Veldhuis PP, Sazonova A, Labrie F, Holm G, Johannsson G, Stener-Victorin E., 2013,Acupuncture for ovulation induction in polycystic ovary syndrome: a randomized controlled trial,Am J Physiol Endocrinol Metab, PubMed

Mind Body Connection: An Osteopathic Perspective

by Bryden McGregor, FGHG Osteopath

The mind body connection has really caught my interest lately. It’s something that is poorly understood but can have a profound effect on your health. Take depression as an example. There are signs that most people can automatically identify with like hopelessness, sadness and anxiety, but depression can also cause unexplained physical symptoms or worsen the symptoms you already have, like pain. The two are closely linked and simply put, pain can be depressing and depression causes and intensifies pain.

In fact, vague aches and pains are often the presenting symptoms of depression, highlighting the mind-body connection. These symptoms can include back pain, gastrointestinal problems, chronic joint pain, limb pain, tiredness, sleep disturbances, psychomotor activity changes and appetite changes. Psychoneuroimmunology is what scientists are now calling the field that explains how our mind, our brain and other systems in the body all interact to have an impact on our health. Thanks to developments in MRI technology particularly over the last 5-10 years, we can actually look at what’s going on in the brain while it’s happening and see the connection between mind and body.

How the stress response works

The mind-body connection can be clearly seen when we look at the stress response (fight or flight). The stress response developed to help us deal with danger, like when a Saber tooth tiger is chasing you. When the stress response is triggered a lot of physiological processes are set off to help your body cope with the situation. Once we are stressed glucocorticoids are released to help mobilise energy, inhibit storage of energy and suppresses immune function. Adrenaline is released, increasing blood pressure, heart rate, and respiratory rate. Extra blood is pumped to the muscles so you can get away from those shiny teeth. Sugars and fats pump into the bloodstream, your metabolic rate goes up, you start to feel hot and you sweat. Blood is diverted away from the skin and away from the gut due to adrenaline’s vasoconstrictor action, so your gastrointestinal system slows down. Your blood thickens and will clot faster than normal, which could be the difference between life and death if the tiger gets a hold of you. Your immune system is activated by pumping out inflammatory chemicals, so there is a short-term burst in immunity but long term is suppressed. And you become very focused.

The problem with the stress response

Unfortunately as smart as our bodies are, we do have to consider the fact that the evolution of technology and consciousness is far faster than that of physical adaptation. Adaptations are said to accomplish a goal, however the adaptation does not have to be, nor is it in many, many situations, optimal. We activate this stress response all the time through our modern lives, by anticipating future events or replaying past events, or by becoming overly angry and reactive to normal day to day events. We end up over activating this pathway, which can have a long-term cumulative effect that’s called allostatic load. Heart disease, diabetes, ulcers and growth problems for example, can then ensue.

In the brain, chronic stress will decrease glucose delivery to the hippocampus (limbic system: emotion, memory) and cortex (neocortex and prefrontal cortex: cognitive region) to probably divert it to the more reflexive brain regions (reptilian brain: survival). These effects are measurable not just in terms of physiological, metabolic effects and immune effects but also to the very DNA. The acceleration of the rate of ageing of the DNA can be seen, which is measured by the telomeres – little caps on the end of your chromosomes.

How to reverse the effects of the stress response

A chronically activated stress response is really how we accelerate the progression of chronic illness and the effects are also observable in the brain. Thankfully these changes seem to be able to be reversed. Meditation is fantastic, as is exercise, counselling, diet and manual body therapies. A combined approach is ideal, but exercise and osteopathy are two powerful treatments to get started on.

  1. Exercise

Exercise appears to have a similar action to an antidepressant, by acting on particular neurotransmitter systems in the brain and helping patients with depression to re-establish positive behaviours. 150 minutes a week of moderate-intensity activity or 75 minutes a week of vigorous-intensity activity is all that is needed. After just 25 minutes, your mood improves, you are less stressed, you have more energy – and you’ll be more motivated to exercise again tomorrow. A bad mood no longer becomes a barrier to exercise; it is the very reason to exercise.

  1. Osteopathy

An Osteopath is obviously not a psychologist, however depression has important physiological and anatomical components. Many physicians consider patients to be in remission when their acute emotional symptoms have abated, but residual symptoms—including physical symptoms—are very common and increase the likelihood of relapse.

Psychiatrists and primary care physicians are now beginning to recognise that even though symptom domains in the areas of motivation and physical illness are frequently part of depression, they are often ignored in the assessment of depression and subsequently, in the treatment goals. Often, pain is not included in the treatment goals because it is interpreted as a sign of a somatic illness. Pain and depression share common pathways in the limbic (emotional) region of the brain according to some research. In fact, the same chemical messengers control pain and mood. Many people suffering from depression never get help because they don’t realise that pain may be a symptom of depression. The importance of understanding the physical symptoms of depression is that treating depression can help with the pain – and treating pain can help with depression.

Osteopathic manipulative treatment (OMT) has been shown to improve cardiac indices, increase lymph flow rates through the thoracic duct, and decrease sympathetic tone in postoperative patients and those in intensive care. Another study has looked at how OMT can increase secretory IgA which provides our first line of defence against bacteria, food residue, fungus, parasites and viruses. A fancy way of saying there’s indications we can help with stress and actually improve immune function.

Osteopathy can also help to reduce some of the strains and stressors placed on your body in order to bring you back to equilibrium. Either through the postural compensations brought about from depression or through treating the pain-causing tissues that can lead to depression.

Posturally, there is often a shortening of the abdominal muscles and a tightening of the diaphragmatic arch which pulls the chest down and forward, limiting its ability to expand during breathing. Combined with medial rotation of the shoulders and internal rotation of the arms resulting in a increased kyphosis (mid back curve) that further restricts breathing. Without the support of the thoracic region, the head and neck will often move forward and down and further into collapse. Which can lead to follow on affects in the lower body. Through exercise prescription and treatment we can help resolve some of these extra stressors.

So yes Osteopathy can make a huge difference to your health and wellbeing, however, if we keep being overstimulated physically, psychologically or through anticipation (literally worrying ourselves sick) it will only offer short term relief. This short term relief however in the long term is not to be underestimated as it opens the gateways for new insights.


Bryden_colour-march-2017Bryden McGregor, FGHG Osteopath

Bryden is passionate about restoring movement and function to help people achieve their optimal health. Through effective assessment, diagnosis and treatment, Bryden is able to guide an individual to a better understanding of their body and provide symptomatic relief. He uses a range of techniques including manipulation, massage, dry needling and stretching, as well as patient education and exercise prescription. He has a keen interest in treating a wide variety of musculoskeletal conditions affecting people of all ages, including pregnant women and babies.

Is smoking really that bad for my fertility?

By Charmaine Dennis, Naturopath.

The hard facts about the effects of smoking on your fertility might be difficult to hear. If you are a smoker your brain will have been rewired to demand the reward that nicotine gives. Over time, this becomes a powerful force that is very difficult to resist. Research indicates that simply stopping is merely abstaining from addiction and the real key to recovery is to replace the addiction with a fulfilling life that includes:

  1. The right balance of support from home and community
  2. Motivation from purpose and a desire to be healthy

If you are trying to conceive you may already be thinking about quitting cigarettes and you may well have that sense of purpose, that desire to be healthy and that support from home and community already on your side. Either way we hope to inspire you and arm you with knowledge on how to prepare for successful smoking cessation. Your future baby will thank you!

Are you ready? Here are the hard facts…

Female smokers: 1-4

  • Take longer to conceive
  • Are twice as likely as non-smokers to be infertile (60% increased risk of infertility)
  • Have an increased risk of miscarriage and ectopic pregnancy (with the risk increasing with each cigarette smoked: there is a 1% increase in risk per cigarette smoked per day)
  • Are more likely to suffer implantation failure in IVF and poorer embryo quality
  • During pregnancy are more likely to develop complications such as birth defects, low birth weight, placenta praevia, placental abruption, premature labour and eclampsia (a life-threatening pregnancy condition)
  • Will reach menopause ~ 2 years earlier (or for passive smokers: 1 year early); not ideal when you are trying to conceive!
  • Increase the DNA (genetic) damage in the egg

Interesting fact: smoking is associated with a thicker zona pellucida (the outer shell of the egg).5 This is the outer layer that the sperm must penetrate in order to fertilise the egg and thus the thicker it is the more difficulty the sperm will have, thus making it less likely that conception will occur. It is the same impact for active and passive smoking.

Male smokers are more likely to have;

  • Impotence and erectile dysfunction (not helpful when you are trying to conceive!)5
  • Poorer sperm health (on all semen parameters including numbers, motility and morphology)6
  • Increased DNA (genetic) damage in the sperm7

We also know that even if a woman doesn’t smoke but her male partner or sperm donor does, she is much less likely to conceive naturally or with IVF, and is more likely to miscarry.8-10 Passive smoking or exposure to second hand smoke (work or home) has also been shown to increase the risk of miscarriage, stillbirth and ectopic pregnancy (i.e. passive smoking is only slightly less harmful than active smoking).9, 1

If you do manage to beat the odds and conceive, if either parent is a smoker at the time of conception, it is likely to substantially affect the health and wellbeing of your baby with increased risk of;

  • Small babies (and all the associated health complications)11
  • Asthma, decreased lung function12
  • SIDS13
  • Birth defects (e.g. cleft lip and/or palate)14
  • Leukaemia and cancer later in life15, 1
  • An increased risk of neurological and behavioural issues e.g. attention deficit disorders, impulsivitiy, etc.16
  • Increased risk of smoking as an adult (double the risk)17
  • Increased risk of most psychiatric disorders during adulthood18
  • For female babies; smoking impacts the development of their ovaries 1

It is good to know that most of the effects of smoking on your fertility will be reversed one year after quitting and you will experience improvement every week that goes by without a cigarette. The effects of passive smoking are not much different to actively smoking yourself so it is a good idea to remove yourself from any smoky environments and encourage your smoking partner to quit. The benefits to fertility start immediately.1

 Do I have to give up completely or is the occasional cigarette ok?

To achieve the best impact on your fertility you do need to quit completely.19 Having the occasional one or two cigarettes often leads to an increase in cravings and stronger withdrawal symptoms and makes it more difficult to quit entirely. Also, as mentioned previously, the risk of miscarriage and/or ectopic pregnancy increases with every single cigarette you smoke. If you also consider the harmful chemicals entering your body with each cigarette you smoke (lead, cyanide, nicotine etc.) and the impact this has in reducing the oxygen supply to the eggs and sperm, then the sooner this exposure is ceased the better all round.

I know I have to quit but I’m struggling

Having said all of that, if you are a smoker, giving up is not easy! It is certainly much easier if you know why you are doing it and you have a goal to achieve – a healthy happy bubba.

What will support your intention to give up the smokes for good?

Helpful hints to give up those cigarettes for good

  1. WHEN – Identify when you are likely to have a cigarette or feel like a cigarette
  2. WHY – Consider why you feel like smoking at those times
  3. HOW – Think about how you can avoid those scenarios/situations or put in place alternative options. How can you distract yourself from the moment of smoking and then replace smoking with an alternative positive action: glass of water, a walk, anything but a cigarette.
  4. WHAT – what will you replace it with that provides a sense of purpose and fulfilment to motivate you? What will motivate you to be healthy? Could it be a new hobby or passion, hanging out with non-smoker friends, exercise, dancing, the thought of making your child?…

For example, if you only tend to smoke when you drink alcohol, then avoiding the alcohol is a good start. Or if you know that you smoke when you are stressed, focusing on stress management techniques and treatment will help make it easier.  If it is certain people or situations that weaken your will power, it might be good to avoid them for a while until you get the cravings under control and can easily say no.

We had one patient who realised that she only really smoked to escape from work. Having a cigarette break was a way for her to get out of the office and away from a job she hated. After making this realisation she began looking for another job and fortunately was lucky to find one that she enjoyed relatively quickly. She had stopped smoking for good by the end of the first week at her new job.

However, not everyone will find quitting smoking as easy as finding a new job (and looking for a new job isn’t necessarily easy either). If you are struggling to give up then go to the experts. Good and proven options for support in quitting smoking include:

  • Quit Line
  • Acupuncture
  • Naturopathy
  • Hypnotherapy
  • Nutrition
  • Counselling
  • Along with a useful website, Quit Line also has a free app (MyQuitBuddy) you can download that helps support you in your journey towards a smoke-free life.20 You can program the app so that it sends you alerts during your “danger times” that remind you of why you need to quit.  It also helps you set realistic goals as well as gain support from others. It can be a useful addition to your quit smoking program.



Charmaine Dennis is a naturopath, fertility and health expert, mentor, writer, mother, and businesswoman. She is the founding director of Fertile Ground Health Group, co- creator of the Be Fertile relaxation CD series and co-author of The Breakfast Project, among other health inspired projects. Her greatest gift and inspiration is making health, wellbeing, and passionate living accessible, inspiring and achievable for everyone. 


Making friends with Stress

We have long been told that stress is our enemy and should be controlled, reduced, relaxed and avoided as much as possible…  however some research now suggests that we need to re-frame this stress in a more positive way. It seems that stress may only be bad for us if we believe that to be the case! Psychologist Kelly McGonigal suggests that we embrace stress. Instead of being concerned with levels of stress we are under we can change our minds about stress and it’s effect on us. When we experience sweaty palms and pounding heart, instead of feeling worried about it, she encourages us to think that these signs show our body is preparing to meet this challenge and view it as a positive that we’re energised and ready. It is important to recognise that your faster beating heart is getting more oxygen to your brain so you can think clearly and effectively and watch how your body is getting ready for action. The research showed that when our heart was pounding under the usual stress response our blood vessels constrict in an unhealthy way but amazingly when our heart pounds but we view this as helpful our blood vessels stay relaxed. These physiological changes in our body happen because of our thoughts about the stress and whether we accept stress as helpful or reject stress as a poison.

Kelly McGonigal goes on to explain that one effect of stress is to make us more social by the release of the hormone oxytocin often called the cuddle hormone. This hormone makes us more compassionate and caring and makes us seek support from others. In times of stress this hormone is pumped out alongside adrenalin and oxytocin’s job as an anti-inflammatory is to protect us and our cardiovascular system from the effects of stress. In fact it can even repair our heart from damage and strengthens our heart which is fascinating that a stress hormone can do the opposite of what we previously thought. The stress response actually has a built in mechanism for stress resilience. Isn’t it great that by reaching out to others we recover from stress faster!

So today give attention to the stress feelings in your body and when you’re feeling in overwhelm or stressed out use the magical intervention of connecting with those around you. Look people in the eye, touch them, talk and ask for help when needed. The flip side is that if you see others in distress offering a helping hand also creates resilience in you to stressful events.

For more on this approach to stress listen to Dr Kelly McGonigal’s Ted talk. It is fascinating!


Gina Fox FGHG naturopathGina Fox is a naturopath with over 12 years’ experience. She is highly skilled in providing naturopathic care for women’s health issues, pre-conception health, infertility, IVF support, pregnancy care and through menopause. Gina loves to help couples achieve full-term pregnancies and give birth to beautiful healthy babies. She excels at addressing underlying stressors while couples achieve their optimal fertility. Her own meditation practice led her to become a meditation instructor and co-develop the Be Fertile series of guided relaxation CDs for women around conception, IVF and pregnancy support.

PCOS: end of the road diagnosis or is there hope for your fertility?

PCOS is a condition that affects a woman’s health and her fertility and it is a condition that I have been fortunate enough to see quite frequently in practice as a naturopath. I must say I enjoy treating women with PCOS as I tend to find that this condition responds well to natural treatments. There are so many women I have seen who have been told that they will be unlikely to fall pregnant naturally, however, I find that once we can re-establish a more regular cycle and thus “restart” ovulation, many women go on to conceive naturally. There is certainly nothing more rewarding than helping a woman achieve her dream of having a healthy baby.

Initially naturopathic treatment focuses on re-establishing a regular menstrual cycle and although this can take a few months I have seen women conceive on that “first” cycle where ovulation has resumed. Whilst there is ongoing debate world-wide regarding the clinical diagnosis of this condition it is agreed that PCOS involves hormonal imbalances which are associated with a woman not ovulating regularly. If you don’t know when and if you are ovulating this can certainly make it more difficult to get pregnant. One of the important factors affecting the hormone balance in PCOS is blood sugar levels and what is often referred to as insulin resistance.

Weight management, sugar balance and exercise are key. And while all of those things can feel onerous, you might be surprised how effective small changes in these areas can be for your fertility.


“I often find in practice that women are surprised at some of the simple measures they can do that can result in weight loss sufficient to re-establish ovulation.”


How do blood sugar levels affect my fertility?

Up to 10% of women with PCOS have diabetes and those women with PCOS who are not diabetic have an increased risk of developing diabetes at some point in their lives. It is also thought that 50-70% of women with PCOS have what is known as “insulin resistance”, which refers to the body’s inability to respond properly to the hormone insulin. Insulin performs the essential role of helping to move glucose out of the blood and into the body’s cells where it can be utilised for energy. It can be very harmful to the body if too much glucose stays in the blood instead of being moved into the cells. In insulin resistance, the normal response to insulin is not occurring, and so as a result the pancreas (which produces insulin) pumps out more and more insulin, resulting in higher levels of insulin or what is commonly referred to as “hyperinsulinaemia”.

Hyperinsulinaemia has a direct effect on the ovaries causing them to produce more “androgens” (“male” hormones including testosterone) which may be associated with symptoms such as acne, excess hair growth (e.g. above the lip, jawline, chest or back) and irregular periods (due to irregular ovulation). However, I usually find that women do not often experience all of these symptoms, although the irregular periods and thus difficulty conceiving are very common.

In essence then, blood sugar levels are an important component of PCOS for many women and most importantly, can have a direct effect on hormonal balance and ovulation. Thus learning how to support a healthy blood sugar balance and improving your body’s ability to respond to insulin are important factors in trying to minimise the hormonal imbalances associated with PCOS. Supporting a healthy blood sugar balance may help improve your chances of ovulating more regularly and thus improve your chances of getting pregnant. I do see this time and time again in practice; simple dietary and lifestyle strategies combined with naturopathic support can help improve a woman’s blood sugar balance and improve her chances of ovulation and conception.

What can you do to support a healthy blood sugar balance?

1. Maintain a healthy weight and waist circumference measurement. If you are overweight your body tends to produce more hormones in its fat cells and this adds more of a burden on the already existing hormonal imbalance. It is also important that you are not underweight either as your body will “shut down” ovulation if it thinks it does not have enough fat stores to support a pregnancy. A healthy waist circumference is just as important. Use the guidelines below to see if you fall into the healthy or unhealthy range and if you do, make a time to talk to your naturopath about what positive changes you can make to help.

I have seen many women struggle with weight loss and despite trying many different “fad” diets, are unable to achieve weight loss that they can maintain long-term. Even a loss of 5% of your body weight can help improve your hormonal balance, restart ovulation and improve your chances of getting pregnant.

A. Healthy body weight = Body Mass Index (BMI) of 20-25.

You can calculate your BMI by dividing your weight (in kgs) by your height (in metres) squared.

For example: if your height is 165cm and your weight is 71kg your BMI would be: 26.1 i.e. overweight range.

There are a number of online calculators that will calculate this simply and easily by entering just your height and weight.

B. Healthy waist circumference: <80cm (women) and <94cm (men).

To check your waist circumference, take the measurement against your bare skin and approximately halfway between your lowest rib and the top of your hipbone. This may be in line with your belly button or it may not.

NB: Normal weight and thin women can also have PCOS and are just as likely to experience insulin resistance and while weight loss in these instances is not the goa,l blood sugar and ovulation regulation remain key factors. Every patient has different needs and weight is only one piece of the puzzle. Your naturopath can help you determine the right path for you.

2. Eat small meals more frequently

Try to eat something every 3-4 hours i.e. breakfast, midmorning snack, lunch, midafternoon snack and dinner. Although eating more often may seem odd, you are not actually increasing the total amount of food you are eating for the day; rather, you are eating the same quantity but just dividing it up into more meals throughout the day. However, the type of food you eat is very important.

3. Aim to avoid sugar as much as possible

Read labels and check ingredient lists; you will be surprised at how much sugar is in cereals, sauces, yoghurts, peanut butter and processed foods. Avoid snacking on dried fruit and choose protein-rich snacks such as raw nuts (e.g. walnuts, almonds) instead. If you feel like you are “addicted” to sugar and can’t imagine how you could cope without it, consider Sarah Wilson’s 8 week “I Quit Sugar” plan. I have seen many women find this approach inspiring, easy to follow, fun even and there are some great, yummy recipes in there to help keep you going!


“I have seen a lot of women move from craving sugar daily to not missing it at all. You will be surprised at how much better your body, mind and emotions can work without it.”


4. Try to have some kind of protein at each snack/meal

Protein-rich foods include fish, chicken, tofu, meat, soy, dairy (e.g. milk, yoghurt, cheese), nuts, turkey and egg. Snacks may consist of a handful of almonds and pumpkin seeds OR some plain unsweetened yoghurt mixed with frozen berries/fresh fruit and ground nuts/seeds OR sliced apple with almond nut butter. Often making these changes involves working out a plan with your naturopath however, some of my favourite cookbooks which follow these principles are listed below.

Be inspired by:

1. Jennie Brand-Miller “The Low GI Guide to Managing PCOS”.

2. Dr Kate Marsh, Jennie Brand-Miller and Prof Robert Moses “Bump to Baby Diet”

3. Michael Moore “Blood Sugar” (this book if for the “foodies” and is written by a chef who has diabetes. Personally, I use this cookbook a lot as I find the flavours and combinations delicious and easy to prepare).

5. Exercise regularly

Ahhhh!!! We all know we should exercise regularly, right? But did you know that regular exercise can not only help reduce weight and relieve stress, but it can also have a positive effect on your blood sugar balance. Overweight women with PCOS generally need to exercise more and be more careful with their diet in order to lose weight, compared to women without PCOS. However,


“the combined benefits obtained with regular exercise mean that even if you are seeing a gradual reduction in weight, ovulation can resume fairly quickly. So get moving!”


Aim for at least 30 minutes a day and include some form of weight-bearing exercise (e.g. weights, walking, jogging, running, dancing etc) at least 3 times a week. Also increase your incidental exercise as much as possible – take the stairs, ride to the shops etc. Ask yourself “can I do this and move at the same time?”. Move whenever you can. Look for every opportunity to get on your feet and get moving!

Irregular periods may also be related to low body weight (or body fat content) as your body needs a certain amount of fat to produce hormones. Discuss your individual exercise requirements with your naturopath if your body weight is below normal.

6. Consider supportive treatments such as supplements and herbs

There are various nutrients (e.g. Chromium, B vitamins, Magnesium) that are required for blood sugar metabolism and may be useful to help assist in supporting healthy blood sugar control. Speak to your naturopath about your individual requirements to help tailor a treatment plan for you. Well prescribed individualised herbal medicine approaches are also very effective. Of course Acupuncture is a great support in regulating cycles, managing stress and increasing energy.

As you can see there are a lot of steps you can take to help in the management of PCOS. I have seen many women conceive naturally when they are well supported with this information including a return of regular periods. A check-up with your naturopath can help you to identify the most important factors for you to focus on and the good news is that a lot of these guidelines are great for your general health as well. Start making positive changes for your health today!

Tina Jenkins, FGHG Naturopath.


Tina Jenkins NaturopathTina Jenkins has always had a special interest in helping couples with fertility problems and has particular success in treating women with PCOS, irregular and/or absent periods as well as problems with ovulation. Tina has also assisted numerous parents regarding children’s health care problems and as a mother herself, has experienced firsthand the many benefits natural health care can bring to young children.

For more information about Tina check out her profile. To make an appointment with Tina or any of our naturopaths to discuss what more can be done to support your fertility issues, please telephone 9419 9988.



Many couples suffer their fertility issues in shamed silence. Please share this article far and wide – you never know who you may be helping in their time of need.

Essentials of sleep

Written by Gina Fox and Milly Dabrowski

The beginning or end of daylight savings is a good reminder of the importance of sleep – it highlights the impact that a small change to our sleep routine can have on how well rested we feel. Hands up anyone who doesn’t feel pretty tired now and then, if not every day? Read on for our top tips on improving sleep and a unique approach to resetting your body clock!

Doing a bit of research recently, we were astounded at the number of studies there are about sleep and health. Did you know that poor sleep or insufficient sleep is implicated in many aspects of our health including high blood pressure, obesity, stress, mood disorders, diabetes and hormone imbalance? Having enough sleep also helps us to think clearly and make good decisions and a recent study has even suggested that chronic lack of sleep may even damage brain cell neurons.

We know we are getting enough sleep when we can wake up naturally without an alarm clock (unless you wake wired and anxious at 4 or 5 am when that is more likely to be a sign that our stress hormone cortisol is overworked and you need to de-stress).

Resting really does restore and refresh us, lifting our mood, giving us energy to enjoy our day and ensuring our immune function is ready for action. In terms of our fertility lack of sleep can affect hormone regulation and commonly affects libido and sexual function, as well as leading to lifestyle factors that can have a negative impact including overuse of caffeine and other stimulants. So the knock-on effect of chronic poor sleep is that our food choices, willpower and resolve to exercise and be healthy will also suffer.

“… it is very often simple lifestyle measures that make a difference to their capacity for sleeping well.”

While it is a natural and everyday part of life, many people suffer terribly with their sleep – often unnecessarily. Many times we have encountered people in clinic who complain of insomnia and it is very often simple lifestyle measures that make a difference to their capacity for sleeping well. If you are struggling with sleep the first thing to check is your caffeine intake. If you are sleeping badly, drinking coffee only makes matters worse by impacting the sleep ahead of you – we like to say it is making you use tomorrow’s energy today. So drink no more than one coffee per day prior to midday and only drink herbal teas and water after that time. This also includes caffeine loaded soft drinks (which nobody should be drinking at all anyway!). It is also a good idea to keep black tea to a minimum of one or two a day and again not close to bed-time.

Other things that can impact on your sleep (and their remedies) include:

Big meals late at night. Try eating a big breakfast, smaller lunch and a light, early dinner for ultimate digestive peace while you sleep.

Alcohol. Aim for at least 2-3 alcohol free days per week and limit your intake to 1-2 standard drinks and plenty of water if you do drink.

Unstable blood sugars making you wake up feeling hungry. Ensure you eat enough protein – a hand size portion with each meal as well as some nuts and seeds or yogurt for a snack will help keep you balanced. A dessertspoon of full fat yogurt right before bed will keep you going overnight.

Stress. A simple meditation practice will make a difference. Just ten minutes (perhaps at the end of the day) to sit quietly or practice some deep breathing has been shown to greatly decrease stress levels. Guided relaxations make it even easier and can be downloaded on to any device so you can practice anywhere, anytime.

Snoring/sleep apnoea. If you or your partner are snoring, neither of you is sleeping well. Many lifestyle factors can contribute to sleep apnoea but getting a sleep check and addressing this issue can be life and relationship changing for many people.

Restlessness. Cramping, restlessness and discomfort can be helped by a 5 minute routine of pre-bed stretching. If your bed or pillows are old you may need to replace them – pillows in particular should be replaced at least every 3-5 years and all bedding should be aired regularly. Try increasing foods in your diet that are high in magnesium such as nuts and seeds, beans and lentils, whole grains, avocados and green leafy vegies. Or regularly treat yourself to a nightime bath with a cup of Epsom salts and some lavender oil.

Children! If your kids sleep better, so will you. Consider how stimulated your children are. Are they watching television or playing computer games at night. Do you kids watch more than an hour or so of TV per day? Are they using up their excess energy by being active enough? A simple wind-down routine at the end of the day can make a huge difference. Try a chamomile tea or warm milk drink (perhaps sweetened with a little honey) close to bedtime. Couple this with low lighting, perhaps soothing music, no TV and all other devices off. A bath with a little lavender oil is also very calming. If they wake in the night, try a drop or two of rescue remedy (on wrists or temples for babies) and quiet music to soothe back to sleep.

Reset your bio-rhythms

In this age of electronic gadgets, devices, ubiquitous bright lighting, busy work and social lives, etc. we can lose connection with our natural body clock – known as circadian rhythms. Try this lovely, simple exercise for three consecutive days.

Resetting your body clock can be done relatively easily by following these simple steps:

  1. Eat an early dinner – at least prior to nightfall (dark)
  2. Put yourself in a position where you can see the sun setting. You don’t need to be outside or even watch the entire sunset. Just sit quietly for a few minutes and observe the changing light as day becomes night. This is an ideal time to practice mindfulness – just being in the moment.
  3. Keep any lighting very low (candles are ideal or use dimmers or low lamps) and plan to be in bed not long after dark or at least by 8.30pm at the latest.
  4. Go to bed in a room that is as dark as possible. Absolute darkness is an important hormone regulator during sleep and any light can interrupt this natural process (some research suggests it can even affect ovulation). Set your alarm for sunrise the following morning. Don’t worry about the time or the fact that it might be quite early to go to bed – it doesn’t matter if you don’t go to sleep straight away. Don’t turn on any lights, don’t read, check your phone, watch TV or otherwise allow yourself to be stimulated. Just lie in bed resting until you fall asleep. Most people are more tired than they realize and without constant stimulation will actually fall asleep more easily than they expect. (In fact, many people say they can’t meditate because they just fall asleep – if that is you, try meditating now and you’ll be asleep in no time!)
  5. When your alarm goes off, be sure to get up straight away, don’t be tempted to snooze on. Open the curtains or go outside so you can see the sun rising. Again, you don’t need to watch the whole thing, though it is a lovely way to start the day, just take 10-15 minutes to be mindful and observe the changing light and sounds as the whole world wakes up around you. This process of observing the changing light is something we evolved doing – electronic light is a relatively new phenomena (historically speaking) and it has drastically interrupted our hormonal and other physiological cues.
  6. Follow this process for three days in a row. After this time you should find you are more aware of your end of day tiredness, more able to respond to your sleepiness signals, able to fall asleep more easily when you go to bed and also to wake more easily, feeling more refreshed. You can repeat this any time you find yourself feeling stressed or when your sleep rhythms go awry. It is also a really helpful practice to reset your body clock after returning from travel – coupled with long walks outdoors this is one of the best cures for jet lag

For ongoing sleep health make the bedroom a technology-free zone especially no charging of your phone by your bed – keep it at least a metre away from you if you must have it in the room. Be brave and have a technology clear out. In addition no more emailing or social media an hour before bed. Learn how to relax with music, a chat, a cup of herbal tea or a good book instead. That way you will be ready for sleep. If you want to be on top of your game and not undermine your ability to make good decisions then, like most of us, you need 7 to 8 hours sleep each night. A good night’s sleep is a great prescription for good health.

If you are still struggling, there are many great herbal and nutritional supports that can help and acupuncture has much to offer as well. Call 9419 9988 to make a time to see one of our expert practitioners.

The Melbourne Acupuncture Multibed Project (MAMP)

The Melbourne Acupuncture Multi-Bed Project draws on international trends which make acupuncture more accessible, convenient and cost effective. Specialising in fertility, IVF support and pregnancy, the Multi-Bed Project is a unique approach to this specialist area, providing Melbourne with the highest quality natural medicine health care with some of the most experienced practitioners in this field.

Our Multi-bed Project is one space with three beds divided by screens and curtains for privacy, with one practitioner attending to multiple beds. Each patient listens to guided meditation or relaxation music on individual headphones for increased privacy, efficacy and depth of relaxation.

Multi-Bed appointments are suitable for:

  • Repeat visits
  • IVF pre/post transfers
  • Labour Induction
  • Morning sickness
  • Birth preparation
  • Hormone/menstrual cycle regulation
  • Men’s fertility
  • Patients with time constraints

All patients require an initial consultation when attending FGHG for the first time. You may require a number of one-to-one sessions before an appropriate plan can be put in place for multi-bed attendance. Some exceptions will be possible for IVF and induction patients. Chat with your practitioner about your eligibility for the multi-bed.

What to expect at your multi-bed acupuncture experience:

  1. Present to reception at FGHG as usual on arrival. You will be asked to pay for your appointment before your treatment so you are able to simply leave when you are finished.
  2. You will be directed to the waiting area in Suite 2 where your practitioner will collect you. You should not be kept waiting long.
  3. You will be shown to your bed. While you are waiting, remove any tight jeans, stockings, socks and shoes, coats, etc. and lie down on the bed. Use the towels and blankets provided to stay warm while you wait. Your treatment has begun so take some deep breaths and start to relax. Your practitioner will check your multibed plan (determined at the time of your last long consultation with your primary practitioner)
  4. Your practitioner will come in and have a brief chat with you and may perform channel palpation, pulse and tongue diagnosis to help guide the treatment for the day. You will notice there is much less talking and an atmosphere of quiet in the multibed. This is to both protect your and other patient’s privacy as well as maintaining a deeply relaxing environment. We don’t encourage lots of discussion in the multibed so if new issues have arisen or you haven’t been to the multibed within the last month, you will need a long consultation with your primary practitioner to make a new plan for your multibed consultations.
  5. Once needles are in, you will be provided with wheat bags and covers as usual. You will also receive headphones with an ipod and your choice of appropriate meditations or music to listen to while you rest with your needles. We have found that patients find the guided meditations especially helpful to their relaxation and studies show that both increased relaxation and meditation are beneficial to almost all conditions. The headphones also provide privacy so that while you are resting you are not able to hear the conversation of treatments happening around you.
  6. Remember your multibed appointment happens in a shared space so there will be noises from other patients having their treatments. Call out to your practitioner for help adjusting your headsets if you are having trouble screening external sounds.
  7. At the end of your treatment, needles are removed and your practitioner will leave you to get up and dress and then you can simply leave.

Appointment scheduling. It is important that you book review sessions with your primary acupuncturist as indicated in your long consultations with them. This review will determine the treatment plan that your pracitioner will be following in your multi-bed consultations. Most importantly it provides an opportunity to report any changes or to talk about other issues that may present in the meantime.

If you are unclear about your appointment schedule, please email your primary practitioner or telephone reception to clarify. You should have approximately 3-6 multi-bed appointments followed by one long consult with your primary practitioner. All other appointment conditions apply as usual, including the 24-hour cancellation fee.

We look forward to welcoming you to the Melbourne Acupuncture Multibed Project. For more information check out our website or call our helpful reception team on 9419 9988.