Friday, January 17, 2014

Why You Shouldn't Take Nutritional Supplements Unsupervised During Infertility Treatment

Did anyone read this recent article in the New York Times? Although nutritional supplements often don't need a prescription and can be bought over-the-counter, it doesn't mean they're harmless.

One area of medicine where nutrtional supplements are often used is infertility. Experts at the Center of Human Reproduction, NY  (in light of the New York Times article) gave their stance on the use of supplements when undergoing infertility treatment.

To read their tips and advice on taking nutritional supplement during infertility treatment click here.

Monday, November 25, 2013

The 250/250 Diet: Created By a Cardiologist, Recommended By a Nurse

The 250/250 health plan isn’t the latest fad diet. Its focus is on helping people develop healthy eating habits and exercise routines rather than encouraging unnatural, extreme dieting and exercise binges. The results won’t necessarily deliver in the first week or month, but the changes in fitness and weight are longer-lasting than your average fad diet.  They’re not just short-term changes designed to make your body drop weight unnaturally fast – they’re positive changes for life.

What is the 250/250 health plan?

The 250/250 health plan is simple: eat a little less, move a little more.
By cutting 250 calories out of your diet and increasing your physical activity to burn 250 calories per day, you can lose one pound of fat per week. The math: you’ll have a daily calorie deficient of 500 calories - which in one week adds up to 3,500 calories.  One pound of fat contains 3,500 calories.

The 250/250 health plan has many benefits. Increasing your exercise:

  • Decreases chances of cardiovascular disease
  • Improves moo
  • Boosts energy
  • Aids weight loss
  • Improves sleeping patterns

Altering your daily calorie intake helps decrease: 
  • High blood pressure
  • Chances of developing type 2 diabetes
  • Chance of stroke
  • High cholesterol

Why is it a safe eating and exercise plan?

Created by cardiologist Dr.Nanette Wenger, many respected cardiologists support the eating and exercise plan advocated by the 250/250 diet. Cardiologists often recommend it for their patients, as it keeps in line with healthy eating and exercise recommendations from the American Heart Association.

The plan encourages healthy eating rather than crash dieting.  Crash dieting may be an initially effective way to lose weight, but many people find themselves with low energy levels because they cut far too many calories. They also may find themselves developing certain nutritional deficiency symptoms, as extreme diets often encourage cutting out whole food groups.  Your body needs a balanced diet with lots of variety  - crash dieting restricts too many food groups, leading to unbearable cravings.

Crash dieting can also cause heart problems. For example, the Atkins diet causes people’s cholesterol levels to rise dramatically, which cardiovascular institutes (like the Florida Cardiovascular Institute, which specializes in treating heart failure and heart attacks) find to be one of the main reasons that their patients develop cardiovascular problems.

Recommended exercises

For exercise, choose an activity that you like doing and that you can access easily.  You’ll need some sort of physical activity on a daily basis, and complicated routines that require lots of equipment usually aren’t the best way to get started. Here are some easy exercises to help you burn off an extra 250 calories every day: 

Walking: A great low-impact activity that you can do anywhere to help you burn calories. Walking for an hour at an average pace of 3.5 miles per hour can burn between 300-600 calories (depending on your weight). Try to incorporate this hour into your daily routine - why not walk to work, take a walk on your lunch break, or take an evening stroll after dinner? All you need is a safe footpath and a pair of comfy shoes. 

Cycling: Another great low-impact physical activity that’s kind to your joints as well as your waistline.  You can burn 300-400 calories when cycling at a moderate pace of 5.5miles per hour (the exact number of calories you’ll burn depends on your body weight). Like with walking, try incorporating cycling into your routine. (And you don’t need a real bike to cycle - gym stationary bikes are just as effective.) 

Swimming: This low-impact physical activity slims and tones all muscle groups. Swimming for 30 minutes at a casual pace will burn – depending on your weight – between 200 and 400 calories per hour.
Another key to keep an exercise routine going is to keep it varied and interesting. Walking, swimming and cycling are just a few examples – find one (or several!) that suit your schedule and interests. If you have an exercise routine that you actually like, it’s far more likely that you’ll be able to keep it up.

Recommended ways to cut down on 250 calories a day

These are ten of the most common and effective small changes you can make.   Don’t worry - you can still eat carbs, have an occasional drink, and enjoy your morning coffee. 

Snacking on energy bars? Although these can seem like a healthy alternative, they weigh in at about 250 calories per bar. Try string cheese as a satisfying alternative – it’s easy, convenient, and only around 60 calories. 

Pumpkin Spice Latte with whipped cream? Relax; I’m not going to recommend giving up your favorite coffee drink.  Just cut the whipped cream and wave goodbye to 70 calories. 

Time to start sharing your dessert.  Sharing (depending on portion size and type) can help cut hundreds of calories. 

Mashed potatoes. My grandma’s special recipe includes butter, cream cheese, a little olive oil and a dash of full-fat cream.  Replace these calorie-packed ingredients with Greek yogurt and a little butter. The yogurt gives the mash a tasty tang, and you can cut up to 400 calories (per serving) in the process. 

 Soup can be a low-cal and nutritious meal. Just be wary of cream-packed soups like clam chowder (around 480 calories per serving). Why not try some minestrone soup instead? Since it’s made from a broth base instead of dairy, it only has around 180 calories per serving.  Bonus: it’s packed full of vegetables! 

Cut your cereal.  There’s a lot of controversy at the moment surrounding the actual health benefits of breakfast cereal.  Reported to be full of sugar, they may not be the healthiest breakfast choice in the morning. However, if you can’t function without your morning cereal, try cutting your cereal serving by one-third. Calories saved: 100. 

Avid cinema fan? One of my favorite treats at the movies is the popcorn. Who wouldn’t love it? First, popped in hot oil; then drenched with butter and salt. The bad news is that jumbo- size movie theater popcorn buckets can contain up to 1,500 calories – split between you and a friend, that’s 750 calories each! The alternative? Order a smaller size – or make your own at home and skip the excess salt and butter.

Use egg whites instead of a whole egg. You’ll save 50-65 calories per egg. 

Choose mustard over mayo on your sandwiches and salads. This will save you around 70-75 calories per serving. 

Partial to a few cookies in the afternoon? Try replacing your 3-4 cookies with fruit. You’ll still satisfy your sugar craving (as well as getting some great fiber, vitamins and minerals along the way) and cut up to 100 calories.

The 250/250 healthy eating and exercise plan is straightforward, simple to follow, and offers a real alternative to unhealthy fad diets that put your health at risk (and may just set you up to gain the weight back). The secret:  start today. Your waistline and your heart will thank you for it.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Fertility Experts Answer Common Questions About DHEA and Infertility

Loved this blog post via blogger NewToIVF.

She and another fertility blogger @ivffervescent  (who had to unfortunately cancel her blog due to privacy issues) teamed up with The Center for Human Reproduction (CHR), a fertility clinic in Manhattan, New York, to answer common Q&As about DHEA supplementation.

The result? A really useful lists of answers about DHEA - straight from the DHEA experts at CHR.

Apparently they're thinking of doing another Q&A next month on a different topic that they'll announce on twitter. Keep an eye on their twitter profile for more details. Their handle is @infertilityny.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Video: Getting Pregnant Over 40

Just a quick video post today with some info for women trying to conceive after they hit 40.

Pregnancy after 40 is getting pretty normal these days. Some women in this age group will sail through their pregnancies without any problems, others may need to see a fertility specialist.

This video is a great overview of pregnancy after 40 - what challenges you may face and when you should see a specialist.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Three Things That Can Make a Cold Take a Turn for the Worse

Woman sneezing from a cold
We all know the dreaded feeling of a cold coming on: the headache, the congestion and the sore, scratchy throat. What some people don’t know, however, is that a common cold that’s left untreated can take a long time to go away. It can also turn into something more. If you’re not taking care of yourself like you should, or you’re hoping the sniffling and coughing will go away on their own, think again. Here are three everyday mistakes people make that can make a common cold drag on or turn it into a full-fledged flu:

1. Refusing to admit that you’re sick.

One of the best things you can do to effectively battle a cold is take care of yourself. This means getting sufficient sleep and eating well so that your body has the energy it needs to recover. For many people, however, personal engagements and work responsibilities make it difficult to slow down. So instead of resting, an individual might try to fight through their symptoms, assuming that over time their cold will go away on its own. What people don’t realize is that the opposite can happen. In fact, over-exerting yourself when your immune system is weak will not only prevent your symptoms from improving – it could make your cold worse. If that happens, you’ll end up out of commission for much longer.

2. Not getting enough fluids.

Aside from getting plenty of rest, the other standard piece of advice for getting over a cold is to load up on liquids. Water, sports drinks and juice play an important part in the healing process – and they help replace the fluids that are lost when you’re sick. Not only can staying hydrated keep your symptoms from getting worse, it can help them get better. Fluids help loosen mucus in the nasal passageways, allowing it to drain more quickly. This means that symptoms of congestion won’t last as long and you’ll start to feel better right away.

3. Succumbing to vices.

While hydration is essential for a swift recovery, drinking the wrong liquids can set you back. Drinking alcohol, for example, can dehydrate your body and inhibit your immune system, making it difficult to get back to health. It can also prevent medications you’re taking from doing their job. Smoking, on the other hand, is bad for the respiratory system, which is usually affected by a cold. Cigarette smoke (even if inhaled second-hand) can cause sinus problems to linger. It can also make it hard for your body’s defense system to fight infection. If you come down with a cold, make the right choice – avoid alcohol and don’t smoke.

What to do when your cold symptoms won’t go away

Most colds will go away on their own within five to ten days, though in some cases certain symptoms can stick around for longer. If you’ve been sick for more than ten days and none of your symptoms show signs of going away, you should schedule a doctor consultation with your family physician or a telehealth service. Without proper treatment a common cold can turn into something more, such as sinusitis, bronchitis or even pneumonia.

Amanda Guerrero
Amanda is a health writer, specializing in healthcare IT, patient engagement and Meaningful Use. She feels strongly about preventative care and empowering patients to make informed decisions based on all available treatment options. Amanda maintains her own health IT-related blog and contributes to websites such as and

Monday, August 5, 2013

Women with High FSH And High AMH Are Twice as Likely To Have Success With IVF

High AMH and High FSH fertility

Over the past couple of months I’ve been listening into Fertility Insights, a live webcast series run by Center for Human Reproduction, a fertility clinic in New York.

It’s a program where fertility doctors and researchers from the Center for Human Reproduction (or CHR) discuss fertility research that affects and interests everyday men and women who struggle with infertility.  The webcast is a breath of fresh air because it covers scientific studies by relating them to issues that real couples and individuals with infertility face.

Their first episode concentrated on discussing recent research that examined the relationship between two blood tests that every women who’s been through infertility treatment is probably familiar with:
  • FSH (follicle-stimulating hormone)
  • AMH (anti- M├╝llerian hormone)
Sufferers of diminished ovarian reserve (or DOA) probably know the high FSH/low AMH combination, which indicates that ovarian function isn’t in optimal health. DOA means that pregnancy chances without fertility treatment are low.

Though this high FSH/low AMH combination is one of the most common presentations amongst women with DOA, AMH and FSH levels can be abnormal in other patterns – such as high FSH and high AMH. This combination is somewhat unusual, and the researchers from CHR took a look at what it means to have hormone levels like this.

CHR’s researchers found that during IVF, these women had 4 times as many eggs retrieved and were nearly twice as likely to get pregnant after IVF.  This is compared to women with other FSH/AMH combinations. 

Although they recognized that this group of women represents a very small percentage of women with infertility, it’s still great news! Specialists are closer to understanding why having a high FSH may not be terrible news for your fertility, if coupled with other factors, such as (in this particular study) a high AMH. 

The study’s results also highlights the importance of not just looking at FSH levels when assessing a woman’s ovarian reserve – your specialist should also measure other hormonal blood tests, such as AMH, and interpret the different levels in relation to each other.

You can find the full study details and results in the Journal of the Endocrine Society . But if I were you and wanted to learn more, I’d just check out the webcast. It’s easier to digest for the non-medically trained and it’s followed by some pretty interesting Q&A session between Dr. Norbert Gleicher, the study’s head researcher, and some actual patients.

Here’s a recording of the webcast. The audio has an echo for the first 4 minutes, but after that it clears up. 

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

How to Avoid Constipation During Pregnancy

pregnancy constipation Hormonal changes during pregnancy can cause a number of uncomfortable side effects – unfortunately one of these side effects is constipation. During their pregnancy women often don’t drink enough water or eat enough fiber to deal with the increasing demands pregnancy puts on their bodies. 

An adequate intake of water and fiber will work hand-in-hand to prevent constipation during pregnancy.
In the past, pregnancy’s gastrointestinal (G.I.) problems were blamed on the proximity of the fetus to the G.I. system. Now we know that the cause is the high fluctuation of hormones: estrogen and progesterone levels are higher, while metilin (a hormone that propels feces through the colon) decreases. Aldosterone levels increase the amount of water absorbed in the colon.

With all these hormonal changes going on, women who aren’t drinking enough water and eating enough fiber will become constipated.

40% of the pregnant population experiences this problem.  The solution isn’t difficult. You just have to be aware of how much water and fiber you need, and be consistent with your intake.


A diet that’s adequate in fiber helps fight constipation by: 

  • Increasing water absorption.
  • Promoting the expansion of bacterial populations
  • Creating bulky stools

According to the USDA’s MyPlate nutrition guide, most women need about 28 grams of fiber per day.  Fiber is classified in a few different ways – the kind of fiber that’s helpful for fighting constipation is called insoluble fiber (non-starch polysaccharide). It can be found in a wide range of foods - so don’t worry, you won’t be stuck for choice.

Fiber is found in: bran, rye bread, brown rice, brown pasta, fruits, vegetables, beans, lentils, nuts and seeds.

It’s recommended - for everyone - that we get around 0.5 ounces of water for every pound of body weight. Naturally, as your body weight increases during pregnancy, so should your water intake. Pregnant women, however, tend to consume significantly lower water than the recommended amount (especially during their first trimester).

Drinking less water than your body needs during pregnancy doesn’t just cause hardened stool and constipation. It also affects your baby - water restriction can cause the amniotic fluid (the fluid surrounding the fetus) to decrease by as much as 8 %. This reduction in fluid reduces the amount of protective cushioning that surrounds your baby.

The Food and Nutrition Board recommends that pregnant women drink at least 102 ounces or 12 glasses of water daily. Seems like a lot?  It is - but you need it. Don’t forget that you can get much of your daily water intake from milk, yogurts, soups, stew, fruits, vegetables and juices.

Also, avoid caffeinated drinks (if you can - pregnancy craving can be difficult). Coffee, tea, hot chocolate, and soft drinks all promote water excretion and can dehydrate you.

A good intake of water and fiber can help prevent or, at least, ease the discomfort of constipation during pregnancy. It reduces the amounts of laxatives you need to use, and lets your body run with its own rhythm.

A final note: some women experience extremely severe constipation during pregnancy, even when their intake of fiber and water is fairly high. If you’re experiencing extreme, unsolvable constipation, you should consult your doctor.