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Exercise and Fertility

Ovulation is one of the most important factors associated with fertility. Without it, a woman simply isn’t fertile. I received an email last week asking me if I’d write about ovulation and exercise. The sender indicated she had lost her period as a result of exercise and she wanted to know how to keep the balance. Here is what I think.

Several factors will affect, delay or inhibit ovulation:
When the normal rhythm of a woman’s cycle is balanced, she will move through the month without too much discomfort. A period will arrive and last approximately 5-7 days. She will go on to ovulate typically between 12 – 16 days .Following this she can then expect a period around 11 days later. If this pattern is squwiffed, these events can happen (or not happen) at irregular times. Ovulation will be affected by several factors including excess exercise, rapid weight loss, weight gain, stress (emotional, physical or otherwise) and the use of some pharmaceuticals. Illness’ such as poly cystic ovarian syndrome and endometriosis may also effect ovulation. The bottom line is – if your ovulation is affected, there is always a good reason as to why.

When your GP says go…
I find it very interesting that when a women’s menstrual cycle goes missing, many western medical practitioners will get a patient on the merry go round of testing and investigating exactly what’s going on. Sometimes this is necessary but if weight or stress has been the cause, tests may not provide an answer. In cases like this, I am reminded why I love Chinese Medicine so much. CM treats fertility and ovulatory issues well. Very often, there isn’t anything wrong with the body –apart from the fact that it doesn’t have enough energy left over for fertility.

Getting ovulation to co-operate
When it comes to exercise or stress, too much of either will stop the body from ovulating simply because there isn’t enough energy to supply the reproductive organs with what they need. We don’t need to be fertile to survive. If ovulation is being disrupted, and suddenly your periods stop, it’s your body’s way of telling you something isn’t right. There is only one answer in natural fertility; less physical activity, more healthy food. If you ignore this your body will simply not ovulate, and this could have long term repercussions. To sort out these types of issues – the difference between being able to ovulate may be as little as a few kilograms. Weighing 4kg more should be enough to get the plumbing sorted.This goes for overweight women too. 4kg can certainly make a big difference. Calorie intake has an immediate effect on the pituitary hormones acting on the ovaries. Of course, exercise is part of a healthy lifestyle and I encourage everybody to find what works for them. This emailer indicated that she loved to exercise – which is fantastic. Exercise is the best way to move stress hormones through the body as well as giving our muscles and inner workings the attention they need. 1 hour every day is plenty.

Here’s what I do
At The Pagoda Tree we will always incorporate treatment with mapping out a healthy lifestyle plan for patients to follow. Often when the body is really depleted, and even though a patient gains a few kg or sorts out the stress situation, it can be a slow process. By the use of acupuncture and herbal medicine we get things moving again. Treatments are always individual, so they work. This means that two patients may both have missing menstrual cycles, but the treatment for each is totally different as we adjust it accordingly. Somebody who is blood deficient isn’t going to require the same treatment as someone who has stagnation through the reproductive region. Being specific with our treatment works.

And finally. Always, always eat the best that you can
Small factors will also make the difference because when you add up the small things they can equal one big thing. Fresh wholesome food and preferably organic where possible is essential. Getting adequate protein in (not necessarily from meat but from legumes, nuts and pulses) is really important for fertility. Invest in a good quality multi vitamin and fish oil and get stress under control. By adding these small things to your lifestyle you are certainly a step in the right direct to encouraging the body to work to its best ability.

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