Rewire your brain for happiness

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A recent research study shows that acupuncture may work by creating long term changes in your brain cells. 

The research carried out by Richard Harris, a neuroscientist at the University of Michigan, compared real acupuncture with placebo acupuncture. 

The researchers were expecting the effects of real acupuncture on the brain to be similar to placebo acupuncture, but more pronounced. 

What he found was that the real acupuncture had a totally different effect on the brain cells. 

While placebo acupuncture simply triggered a short term spike in endorphins (feel good and pain killing chemicals), real acupuncture actually changed the brain cells in the long term so they were more receptive to the endorphins. 

This explains why people experience a lasting sense of wellbeing from having acupuncture. It also explains why cortisol levels are lowered in the long term and not just the short term. 

It also goes some way to explaining why our patients say things like: 

“When I first started acupuncture I had just been diagnosed with fibromyalgia and was at my lowest point both physically and mentally. Both the treatment and personal care that I have received from Gabriella has put me back on the road to well being and health - a place I was scared I would never get to again. I can't believe how well I am feeling now. I didn't realise the power of acupuncture on mind, body and spirit - and will not lose it from my life again.”

- Katy, London NW6

If you’d like to find out if you’re a good fit for our help just email me at:

hello@feat.uk.com

Please include:

- Your phone number
- A good time to reach you

I set aside some time each week to do informal assessments over the phone.

With my 20 years experience in both Neuroscience and Acupuncture, I am often able to see things that your doctor may have missed.

I look forward to talking to you.

Michael Arnold
BSc Neuroscience LicAc.

If IVF hasn't work for you, this might be why

According to data released by the Human Fertilisation and Embryo Authority 75% of all IVF cycles end in failure.

Recent research has shown that prolonged high levels of the stress hormone cortisol are associates with lower pregnancy rates for women having IVF.

The researchers conclude:

"These findings provide preliminary evidence that longer term systemic cortisol may influence reproductive outcomes; and in turn suggests that interventions to reduce cortisol prior to commencing IVF could improve treatment outcomes."

Source: US National Library of Medicine

Average UK couple spends £11,378 on IVF

Recent research commissioned by Fertility Network UK shows that on average couples end up spending £11,378 on IVF, and one in ten couples pay over £30,000. 

NHS funding for IVF is becoming a postcode lottery, with 52% of areas only offering one round of IVF. 

IVF and the NHS: the parents navigating fertility's postcode lottery:

https://www.theguardian.com/money/2014/may/10/ivf-nhs-fertility-postcode-lottery-cut-costs

Our clients see a 77% success rate for women under 40 with unexplained infertility, even if IVF has failed previously. 

Our methods are shown to reduce cortisol levels.

The national average success rate for IVF in the UK is 32%, if you are under 35. If you are between 35 and 37 this falls to 27.3%.

Note: if you have unexplained infertility the IVF success rate is only about 2 - 3 % higher than this. I did some research into this that you can find here.


THIS IS VERY DIFFERENT FROM WHAT MANY ARE TOLD BY THEIR DOCTOR: 

“You have unexplained infertility. IVF has a high chance of working for you.” 

Many of my patients report that their fertility specialist has told them this. But the data does not support this claim. 

Click the button below to find out more:

Average UK couple spends £11,378 on IVF

 

Recent research commissioned by Fertility Network UK shows that on average couples end up spending £11,378 on IVF, and one in ten couples pay over £30,000. 

NHS funding for IVF is becoming a postcode lottery, with 52% of areas only offering one round of IVF. 

IVF and the NHS: the parents navigating fertility's postcode lottery:

https://www.theguardian.com/money/2014/may/10/ivf-nhs-fertility-postcode-lottery-cut-costs

Some IVF clinics in the US offer a 100% refund guarantee plan. 

This means that if after three cycles of IVF you don’t have a baby, you get a full refund. This takes away the financial burden and risk associated with fertility treatment. 

A service like this typically costs $24,000 - $31,000. And you can expect a 58% success rate. 

Our Pregnant in Six Months Programme offers the same guarantee and a 67% success rate for women under 40 with unexplained infertility, for a fraction of this cost. 

The national average success rate for IVF in the UK is 32%, if you are under 35. If you are between 35 and 37 this falls to 27.3%.

Note: if you have unexplained infertility the IVF success rate is only about 2 - 3 % higher than this. I did some research into this that you can find here.


This is very different from what many are told by their doctor: 

“You have unexplained infertility. IVF has a high chance of working for you.” 

Many of my patients report that their fertility specialist has told them this. But the data does not support this claim. 

IVF only 2-3% more successful for unexplained infertility than explained

"You have unexplained infertility. IVF has a high chance of working for you."

Many of my patients report that their fertility specialist has told them this. But the data does not support this claim.

Problem number 1 - no UK data available

According to the Human Fertilisation and Embryo Authority (HFEA), in 2013 in the UK unexplained infertility accounted for 43% of all IVF cycles started and 20% of all ICSI cycles (IVF where the sperm is injected directly into the egg). See the table below (source: "Fertility treatment in 2013: trends and figures", Human Fertilisation and embryo authority, page 14)

In 2013, 49,636 women had a total of 64,600 cycles of IVF or ICSI (Source HFEA). So there are 10s of thousands of of women having IVF for unexplained infertility each year. However the HFEA do not break down success rates for unexplained infertility compared with all other causes of infertility. This in itself is a little odd.

However I managed to find a US website that does provide this comparison.

What I found was surprising.

Yes there is a slight difference between IVF success rates for explained vs unexplained infertility. But that difference is 2-3% across all age groups. 

I'll say that again. Data comparing 190,000 IVF cycles in the US shows that there was only a 2-3% difference in success rate between unexplained infertility and all causes of fertility, including blocked fallopian tubes, endometriosis, hormone imbalances and whole range of other conditions.

The tables below are taken from the Society For Assisted Reproductive Technology in the US:

The first table below shows success rates for all causes of infertility. This data is for women using their own eggs.


This next table (below) shows success rates for fertility "unknown factor" infertility ie. unexplained infertility. Again this data is for women using their own eggs.

The link below is where I got this data. It is a tool provided by the Society For Assisted Reproductive Technology. It contains data from 190384 cycles of IVF performed in the US in 2014. You can compare success rates for different causes of infertility by clicking on the "filter" button in the top right hand corner:

https://www.sartcorsonline.com/rptCSR_PublicMultYear.aspx?ClinicPKID=0#patient-cumulative

These figures are from the US, however we can safely assume, due to the large volume of data, that the percentage difference between unexplained infertility and all other causes in the UK will be roughly similar.

Note: In the USA success rates are higher across the board than in the UK. For UK figures for IVF success rates by age, see below. 

UK national average IVF success rates my age:

(source: "Fertility treatment in 2013: trends and figures", Human Fertilisation and embryo authority, page 29)

Note: Although this data is from 2011 and 2012, these are the latest figures available from the Human Fertilisation and Embryo Authority. This is due to the nine month wait to know the outcome of the IVF cycle and the time taken to verify and prepare the figures, 

British Medical Journal Article - "Are we overusing IVF?"

 
 

"How Long Can You Wait to Have a Baby?"

Millions of women are being told when to get pregnant based on statistics from a time before electricity, antibiotics, or fertility treatment.

Article: "How Long Can You Wait to Have a Baby?"

"Deep anxiety about the ability to have children later in life plagues many women. But the decline in fertility over the course of a woman’s 30s has been oversold. Here’s what the statistics really tell us—and what they don’t."

http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2013/07/how-long-can-you-wait-to-have-a-baby/309374/

Nature stacks the odds by expecting failure

That’s why a turtle lays 100 eggs, knowing only a handful will survive. 

That’s why a tree drops millions of seeds, knowing only a handful will grow into new trees.

That’s why 100 million sperm set out and only one gets to fertilise the egg. 

Most humans stack the odds against themselves by expecting to never fail.

They avoid success by running away from failure.

But you can only embrace success if you expect that mostly you’ll fail. We don’t think of it as a failure when 100 million sperm minus one don’t get to the egg. We call it “The miracle of life” because one sperm made it. 

We don’t call it a failure because JK Rowling got rejected by 50 publishers. We call her the best selling author of all time because one publisher dared to see her potential. 

We don’t call Nelson Mandela a failure because he spent 25 years in prison. We call him a legend because he managed to end years of oppression under apartheid. in fact he said that his time in prison deepened his resolve and his courage to do what he needed to do.

Your story hasn’t finished yet. Like all stories it only makes sense looking backwards. Like that time you looked back on your life and realised that if that dreadful painful thing hadn't happened to you, you wouldn’t be the person you are today. 

Stack the odds - expect failure. But know that it is not who you are. Just as a tree is not a failure because less than 1% of 1% of it’s seeds actually grow into a beautiful oak. 

Right now is merely a stepping stone on your journey. A tiny fraction of who you really are.

Blessings on your journey,

Michael 

The greatest lesson I've learned

When I was 18 my best friend James died. He was one of the best friends I've ever had. 

I remember answering the phone that day. I heard James' girlfriend Mary say to me "Michael, I think you'd better sit down. I've got some bad news". I sat speechless as she told me how he had taken a taxi to Archway bridge and at 4am that morning, jumped off. 

For at least a year I struggled to even take in what had happened. I was in shock. Inside I was pushing down the feelings of loss and grief. Like many people I believed in "negative emotions" and "positive emotions". On a subconscious level, I made a decision not to let myself feel these feelings of enormous sadness. 

But the grief had to come out somehow. It started to manifest as insomnia. I'd wake at 5am every morning feeling exhausted but no longer able to sleep. Endless fatigue plagued me.

Then someone suggested something that would transform my whole experience. 

It was actually my mother who suggested I try acupuncture for the insomnia. I didn't really know much about acupuncture but I thought "Well I guess it's worth a try". I probably would have tried anything just to cure this horrible insomnia. 

On my first acupuncture session with Dave I remember leaving feeling somehow lighter and more alive. Was this real or just placebo? That night I got home and cried for James' death for the very first time. 

Over the next 6 weeks my sleep started to return to normal. I started to feel like myself again. But there was a difference. I actually felt more alive and at peace than ever before. I realised that by avoiding "negative emotions" all my life, I had not only cut myself off from pain, but also from the full extent of the the joy and aliveness that is possible. 

I remember Dave saying to me that sadness is ok. "It's when we push it away that problems arise." 

I decided to do an experiment. One evening while sitting quietly I decided to allow myself to feel what was there. Not to push anything away. I started to feel a deep sadness well up inside me. I allowed it be. It was ok. This was a big surprise. Just sitting immersed in the sadness felt ok. Yes it was sad and painful but it was somehow alright. Suddenly my instinct to push it away kicked in and I was plunged into internal struggle and horrible suffering. Wow, so it was actually the pushing away that was causing the suffering. I once more allowed the feelings to be, and once more I was able to find a peace with them. Sadness yet peace. Simply by allowing. 

This was the most profound learning of my life. What I thought all along was the cause of suffering was not the real cause. That I could "make friends" with my feelings and by doing so allow them to come and go. 

You suffer. You have deep feelings of sadness and frustration. Maybe you feel like you have to "be strong and carry on". Most people probably have no idea what you're going through. 

Try this for an experiment. Find a quite space to yourself, where you know you won't be disturbed. Just allow things to be. Exactly as they are. Whatever you're feeling right now, it’s ok. 

See what happens when the urged to push the feelings away kicks in. The mind might say "Oh this is horrible, I can't take this feeling any more". These thoughts themselves may actually be the cause of suffering. Don't take the minds word for it. Test it out. Can you be at peace with how things are right now? 

There is huge liberation in "allowing". This doesn't mean resignation. It means that things right now (the situation, how you're feeling) are a certain way. In this moment, they cannot be any other way. You can either resist this and create suffering or you can allow and find a peace. 

You might at first find momentary glimpses of what I'm talking about. Gradually these glimpses will join up and form longer stretches. 

This is quite possibly the most healing thing you can ever "do". 

 

Career Woman, Family Woman, Superwoman

Image by hans van den berg - https://www.flickr.com/photos/myimage/4352709047

Image by hans van den berg - https://www.flickr.com/photos/myimage/4352709047

Being a woman in your 30’s and early 40’s is no easy task. You’re trying to make it in your career - arriving at work early and leaving late, and probably earning less than your male colleagues (income equality? what’s that?).

You’re also trying to start a family, without letting on to your boss that you’re going to be going on maternity leave sometime soon. Yes feminism may have made a start but there is still a long way to go in today’s workplace.

Your parter wants a child too and he does his best to be supportive. “Don’t worry. Just try and relax. It’ll happen.” He’s well meaning but he can’t really understand it when you’re period comes again and you sob with frustration and anguish. He’s doing his best but his mind works in a practical, rational manner. He wants to solve the problem but he doesn’t realise that at that moment you just need to be heard and held.

If you’re a man reading this you may have noticed this frustration when you focus on practical solutions. I’ve had to learn the hard way that this is usually not the best way to help my partner when she’s upset.

I have a huge admiration and respect for the woman who come to my clinic. They are doing an incredible job of keeping it all together. Their relationship, their career, their huge desire to have a child that they can’t really talk to anyone about. The sense of isolation and the feeling that nobody really understands what they’re going through.

Imagine if being a great mother got you as much respect and admiration in our society as being a great footballer, or a film star. What greater gift is there to give to a child and yet what a thankless role. Yes society’s values are completely topsy turvy. As the saying goes: “Do not adjust your TV, there is a fault in reality.”

This is all very well you may be saying “but what can I do to help myself in this situation?” The bills still need to get paid and this baby’s not going to make itself. Well very often just to recognise that you are under a lot of conflicting pressures is the arising of a new way of being.

Just to see that this is an extremely difficult situation and that you are doing the best you can. It’s so easy to give yourself a hard time. We do it all the time. “Oh well Suzanne is coping much better. I should be able to manage this.” The hard time that we give ourselves is actually a large part of the pressure we feel. Not to mention a huge cause of strain on the body.

What we don’t realise is that Suzanne is struggling just as hard as you to keep it all together. Struggling to keep up the appearance that everything is just fine and hunky dory. Under the surface is a very different story.

Over the years I’ve treated hundreds of people and I have yet to meet someone who isn’t struggling in some area of their life. We’re all crying put to talk about what is really going on in our life. The hurt, the anguish the pain as well as the joy and the elation.

But as long as we’re burying the pain and the anguish we cannot truly experience the joy and the elation. Feelings just don’t work like that.

As author and researcher Brene Brown says:

"We cannot selectively numb emotions, when we numb the painful emotions, we also numb the positive emotions."

We are so afraid to be vulnerable, even to the people closest to us. Because we think vulnerability is a weakness. But the ability to vulnerable with the people who care about us is actually a huge strength that should be celebrated. Just to be able to say “Look I’m really struggling with this” can be liberating.

I was teaching recently with my new acupuncture students. I had been suffering with back pain all week. It was brought on by the pressure of putting together a programme that I had never taught before. At the start of the class we had a check in to see how everyone was feeling. My aim is to encourage vulnerability but also to practice listening as a skill. When it was my turn to share I realised that the biggest thing on my mind the last few days had been the excruciating back pain.

I realised I needed to talk about it. I got to the bit where I saw that the pain had started when I started the acupuncture school and that it was the anxiety of trying to making it perfect that had brought it on.

Could I really share this? I was meant to be the teacher. Would this make the students doubt my abilities?

“No” I said to myself. “This is exactly what I need to be modeling.”

As soon as I told the whole story I felt a weight lift from my shoulders. I didn’t need to be tough and keep it all under wraps. The students responded well too and they brought a vulnerability into their own sharing. It brought us all closer and helped to gel the group together.

What’s more, the next day my back pain was almost completely gone!

“Through my research, I found that vulnerability is the glue that holds relationships together. It’s the magic sauce.”

- Researcher and author, Brene Brown

How else can we truly be accepted and loved, if we don’t let people see us for who we are. Warts and all.

We don’t have to be a superwoman or a superman to be worthy of being loved. We just need to be ourselves and to allow the people who matter behind the hardened wall of protection.

This is more than just about having a child. This is about being about being a parent who is able to model what vulnerability looks like to their child. Knowing that you are helping to bring a being into the world who has the tools they need to thrive, not just survive.

Here's to allowing yourself to be exactly how you are,

Michael Arnold

How your brain sends "pregnancy lockdown" signals to your body and why it will continue to do so unless you address this problem

With 15 years experience in Neuroscience and natural fertility I have found that there is one area that is consistently overlooked by other fertility professionals.


With 15 years experience in Neuroscience and natural fertility I have found that there is one area that is consistently overlooked by other fertility professionals.

Namely, how your brain sends “pregnancy lockdown” signals to your body and how it will continue to do so unless you address this problem.

During periods of physical or mental stress changes in the brain lead to a chemical called cortisol being released. Increased cortisol levels has been shown to inhibit the burst of follicle stimulating hormone (FSH), which triggers ovulation. This means that if you are stressed for an extended period of time you may not ovulate every month. 

Overproduction of Cortisol due to stress can also leads to increased levels of estrogen. Elevated estrogen is a major cause of symptoms such as Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS), Endometriosis and recurrent miscarriage. 

Cortisol also inhibits Testosterone. In men it is testosterone that stimulates the production of healthy sperm. So reduced testosterone can have huge consequences on sperm count and quality. 

To summarise: release of the stress hormone cortisol, upsets the balance of your fertility hormones and can dramatically reduce your fertility. 

“Several months of trying to conceive passed but no joy…. frustration set in, stress levels rose. I was finding it difficult to cope.”

Does this sound familiar? Many doctors will acknowledge the effects of stress on fertility but they don’t have any answers for it. They’ll most likely say something like “Just go home and relax” 

The link between increased stress and reduced fertility has been established scientifically, as this article shows:

www.theguardian.com/world/2014/mar/24/stress-infertility-women-us-study 

However how do we use this information to help boost fertility? Its all very well saying you need to relax but if it were that easy you probably wouldn't be reading this right now. 

Over the coming blog posts I'll talk about steps you can take to reduce your stress hormones and increase your fertility. 

In the meantime, If you'd like to find out if stress is affecting your fertility you can take this short quiz.


Best wishes, 

Michael Arnold
BSc Neurosci. Lic Ac

Empowered Fertility

Anna was given the wrong fertility advice for her situation. All the medical tests showed that everything was working normally. Yet the doctors advised her to have IVF. Two failed rounds of IVF later she came to my clinic. She was visible traumatised by the experience. Physically and emotionally drained.

After a few sessions of acupuncture her energy started to return and her mood stabilised. After three months of acupuncture she was pregnant naturally. I identified that there was blockage in her energy that was stopping her from getting pregnant.

This is all too common a story. IVF was never intended for use for unexplained infertility. It was meant for couples who had no other options because the fallopian tubes are blocked. Yet these days IVF is routinely used as a first line of treatment for couples where natural methods are often more effective.

For IVF the national average success rate for women aged 35 - 37 is 27.7%. If you have unexplained infertility and you’re under 40 our success rate with acupuncture is 67% within six months. Your GP or your fertility doctor simply won’t know this. As far as they are concerned they are giving you the best advice available to them.

If the only solution you have is a hammer, every problem starts to look like a nail.

Except using IVF for unexplained infertility is more like taking a sledgehammer to crack a walnut. You're likely to miss and end up hurting yourself.

Many times couples tell me how they were pressured into having IVF “even though they couldn’t find anything wrong”.

“I wouldn’t hang around, you’re age isn’t on your side”

Is usually what the doctor will tell them.

Again this advice is well meaning. The doctor is trying to help you in the only way they know how. But when you’re already worried about your fertility declining with age, scaring you into making a rushed decision is not helpful.

What’s more, even if you do decide to go down the IVF route there are things you can do to prepare your body that can significantly increase your chances of success. Acupuncture is one of those, optimum nutrition is another.

A patient summed up the western medical approach well recently when she said.

“In the western medical fertility model, the woman opens her legs and has things done to her.”

Not a very empowering position to be in.

But there is another way. You can take your fertility into your own hands as Anna did. You can get your sanity back and you can allow your body to heal itself naturally. Your body is an amazing thing. It’s evolved over millions of years to be able to heal itself, long before there were any drugs or medications. It just needs some help sometimes.

People have been using acupuncture for thousands of years to return balance and health to the body and mind. Science is only just beginning to catch up. We now know that when you insert a fine needle in certain places in the body, this sends signals to the brain which changes the hormonal balance in the body.

With Five Element Acupuncture we find the “Causative Factor” for that individual. This is is the weak area or “Achilles heel” that’s holding you back. You see, we can only be as strong as the weakest link in the chain. When you find and strengthen the weak area for that person, that’s when things really start to change.

“Acupuncture helped me keep calm and less frustrated. I stopped taking Clomid as it was having too many negative effects on my health, and let the acupuncture take its course. I consider myself very lucky to have conceived after 3 months of acupuncture! I have a wonderful son who is now 3 years old, a truly amazing gift!”
- Amrit Kaur, Personal Trainer

If you’d like to find out if this way of working might be right for you, you can try it out without risking anything financially. Have five sessions of acupuncture and if you’re not feeing significantly more relaxed and energised you can stop treatment and claim a full refund. This means we only take on people we really believe we can help. The first step is to come for a free consultation so we can make a full assessment of your situation. 

I am currently booked up until the middle of May but I’m delighted to be able offer more spaces now with the newest member of our team, Gabriella. Gabriella is a very experience practitioner of 12 years and also teaches at my acupuncture school. She practices from Maida Vale in West London. You can read more about her here:

www.feat.uk.com/gabriella-doran

You can also see her prices and details of how to book a free consultation with her here:

www.feat.uk.com/free-consultation


To an empowered fertility journey,

Michael Arnold
BSc (Neurosci. LicAc. MBAcC)