Season 1, Episode 3
Boosting Fertility Using Chinese Medicine with Dr. Hamid Montakab
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Welcome to Conscious Fertility, the show that listens to all of your fertility questions so that you can move from fear and suffering to peace of mind and joy. My name is Lorne Brown. I’m a doctor of traditional Chinese medicine and a clinical hypnotherapist. I’m on a mission to explore all the paths to peak fertility and joyful living. It’s time to learn how to be and receive so that you can create life on purpose.
I have with us today Dr. Hamid Montakab. He is a trained medical doctor, and he’s also a trained classical Chinese medicine practitioner. He’s a lecturer and an author. He’s written several books. The most recent one is Acupuncture for Treating the Hidden Roots of Disease, the Mind and the Motions in Chinese Medicine. Today we’re going to talk about the Chinese concept, or understanding of reproduction around fertility. And I thought Dr. Hamid would be great to talk to you about this, because you’re trained as a classical Chinese medicine practitioner, you’re a physician, you’ve delivered lots of babies, and our audience are wondering ways to optimize their fertility, and reach that peak fertility potential both from a mind body perspective. And my understanding, practicing in the fertility area of Chinese medicine, is that our goal has always been to get parents as healthy as possible at the time of conception so they have the best chance of having a healthy child. Can you share with us the Chinese ideas about conception?
Thank you Lorne. Coming back to Chinese concepts about conception and birth, it was a very important point. You mention Chinese belief systems that the families and especially men should have a lot of offspring, with the idea that their lineage should continue. So they have given a lot of importance to all the elements of conception as witnessed by all the texts and writings that we have about midwifery and about how to follow a pregnancy from the moment of conception, and even choosing the best moment of conception.
Now coming back to the basic premise, basically conception after the basic instinct of survival, and the need to survive and the need to maintain life. The next instinct which we share with all life forms in a sense is the instinct of procreation, that means creation and continuation of the species. Once these two have been satisfied, in Chinese medicine, we talk about five instincts and then there are the others, and in humans, then it takes also the form of self-fulfillment, the basic need to fulfill our life destiny.
Now coming back to the Chinese understanding, the moment of conception is a very precious moment, where three types of energies have to meet in order to create life. The first principle, I will spare you the Chinese names, is referred to as the source energy, and the source energy is a term which is sometimes vague. We have to relate it to maybe the principle of life or creation. You can call it the principle of God or divine intervention. Today, science does not have an explanation for this source of energy. We know how life is formed or produced but we cannot create it, so far. The second energy, which they refer to as the essence of the parents is today we can really say this is the genetic transmission. And it is actually quite amazing that we are talking about two and a half to 3000 years ago, 25 centuries ago, when these concepts were formulated. At that time they had no way of having any scientific understanding, so it was very intuitive.
Today, science has demonstrated a lot of the Chinese concepts, and about genetics, we know that since the 50s the genetic code of the DNA was unraveled, and it was believed that it transmitted all the information of the parents. Later, they discovered, and this is only a few decades later, another segment on the DNA helix, which at the time I studied medicine, we used to call the nonsense segments. That means they did not have any translation. It was discovered that these segments that today they have given the name of epigenetics are actually fundamental in the presentation of the DNA. That means that we believed in the 50s or 60s that all diseases and all pathologies, everything was transmitted through the DNA. And today it’s been demonstrated that only 20% of the information on the DNA is obligatory. That means maybe your eye color, your skin color, your blood type, et cetera, but that a lot of the patterns are optional. This is very valuable.
I want to ask, so just to bring that into our discussion, so you’re saying then you’re not your gene, you are what you express when you talk about the epigenetics. And in Chinese medicine the concept we call prenatal Jing or pre-essence would be your genetics and then your postnatal Jing, your epigenetics, what you express, is your epigenetic postnatal Jing. And so you’re sharing, you said about 20% of that is set, your eye color, hair color, the rest though, our environment impacts. So we have an opportunity here, through diet, through lifestyle, through our thinking, to impact how our genes are expressed, which changes how we are expressed. Basically you’re not the hardware, or the hardware can perform differently based on the software you are running.
That’s very well put. Exactly. Epigenetic transmission, which interestingly the Chinese gave it the name ancestral energy, which at the beginning could be confusing, but actually it is also transmitted, is defined as the influence of the environment as you mentioned, lifestyle, the food, exercise, et cetera, and there is importantly the thoughts, the belief systems and the thoughts. And at this point I will come back to it because it creates what we call a lot of obstacles to many functions and actions later because of our faulty belief mechanisms. I call them toxic beliefs, or some people call them shadows. Coming back to this, we have a lot of information in the classical texts about how pregnant women should behave during, the Chinese call it, the lunar month’s pregnancy, for each month there were instructions given and a lot of the instructions actually involve psychological states. The pregnant woman should follow these rules.
We are today in a very interesting paradox. When I was a resident in gynecology and obstetrics, infertility was basically usually found that, out of 10 couples, eight infertility problems were due to the female pathology. And this was in the 70s. Now it’s now demonstrated statistically that 50% is due to the male, which means that in less than a century, male fertility has gone down. And this was seen in nature, in nature, for example, they observed that fertility rate in lizards, in reptiles, in frogs, et cetera, was going down and there were more and more abnormal male forms. And of course there are a lot of explanations why fertility has gone down worldwide, and from all the toxins that we have in the soil, in the water and the radiation, we even have insomnia as one of the causes, et cetera. We can make a long list of factors which may influence fertility.
Interestingly, at the same time, we have multiplied the population of the earth more than seven times. At the turn of the century, last century, it was about over one billion. Today we are close to eight billion. So we see that there is this paradox. So where infertility manifests most, is in more advanced, industrialized countries where there’s overpopulation, so we can actually impute the habitats and environment and lifestyle on that. At the time I was in gynecology and obstetrics, we did not hear of fertility clinics. Today you almost have a fertility clinic on every street corner, showing that it’s becoming a problem. I’ll come back to this again to mention that we actually have things that we can do, and which are at our level of influence.
Another more important factor which I have to underline is when Chinese mention the importance of the environment and lifestyle. In the lifestyle is included the psycho-emotional balance, and this is one of the, let’s say, strong aspects of Chinese medicine, is that our mental states and psychological states are part of the equation of our health, and they play very important role, something which western medicine sort of has accepted without really the psychosomatic medicine. Although it is a specialty, it still is debated. It’s still debated, do emotions affect our physical health? Rather they believe that the emotions are byproducts of chemical disbalances of the body, which the pharmaceutical societies are trying to rebalance by offering chemical medications to supplement. This point is very important, I find, and therefore the belief systems that people have and the belief systems, and what we call disturbing belief mechanisms, are going to be a very important factor in fertility. And this is something where, individually, we can act on.
And this is that part around our conscious fertility is working on our beliefs, our programs, on so many levels. On one level, your actions are always going to be congruent with your programs, your beliefs, which are often unconscious. You’re not totally aware of these programs. So your habits become your destiny. And so this is why working on your beliefs and programs are important. And then the aspect you’re talking about, the mind body connection here is when we have good thoughts, we get good hormones, the serotonin, the dopamine, the oxytocin, they have a good impact on ourselves, on our body. And when we have stressful thoughts, fearful thoughts, and the body goes into alarm, we have the stress hormones, and those stress hormones, the cortisol, the adrenaline, if they’re chronic, they lead to inflammation in the body, and throw our hormones, including our sex hormones that we need for reproduction, out of balance, and just, in general, hormones and inflammation in the body causes what I term as inflammaging, accelerated biological aging, which leads to premature degenerative diseases and I often say premature fertility decline. So I’m very glad that you’re going to talk about this belief aspect and the mind-body connection, because this is in the realm that we can, as individuals, work on ourselves to shift.
Exactly. The relation between our mind and our chemistry, today is obvious, and the Chinese described this agency goal and they even classified the causes of disease into three categories. The external causes, which are basically, we can say, the climates. And then the internals cause. And then they put a third category of what they call mixed causes. Now the internal causes are only the emotions, which means that they put aside emotions, and emotions are basically not only feelings but it’s also how we think, because the emotions are the result of our thoughts. Now one of the things we also have to understand is that by emphasizing some of the negative things and by emphasizing what produces fear and anxiety, we create inflammation, as you mentioned, and therefore all the stress hormones, or survival hormones, are going to be produced. And we know that fertility is not compatible with the presence of survival hormones, because when you are in a state of survival you don’t think about procreation. So the hormones which are produced are actually against that.
And one of the things on an individual basis that we can propose to do is to bring the body back to a state of calmness, and we talked about this point. First of all, what is very interesting is that in the Chinese acupuncture tradition, they establish connections in the organs that we don’t actually have anatomically. Western anatomy does not recognize a lot of those connections. Furthermore, the heart in the Chinese system is not what the western medicine refers to as the heart pump. The heart pump is a function. But the heart in Chinese medicine was considered to be the seat of our emotions, and also emotional balance and integration. And in the acupuncture tradition they had developed or described a channel which is directly connecting the heart with the uterus, the uterus representing the procreative systems, both in men women. The bao, which is the envelope, is not limited to the female uterus, it also contains the concept of the procreative energies in men. And the connection between the heart and the uterus signified that our emotions are directly affecting the capacity to procreate.
I found that so fascinating, because only 2000 plus years ago was the concept of the Bao Mai, this connection between the heart and the uterus. So the emotions, your emotional state and your uterus was understood in Chinese medicine. And it’s only recently we understand how, as you just mentioned, the stress hormones are counterproductive for reproduction. Survival takes a priority over digestion and reproduction. And so again, why so many Chinese medicine practitioners focus on your emotional wellbeing, because in that paradigm there is a system showing how your emotions can directly impact your reproduction. Thanks for bringing that up.
Now coming back to the concept of assisted conception, I have noticed so many of our patients who were seeking help for conception, and they couldn’t because they would go running from one fertility clinic to another, with hormonal dosage, hormonal injections, and then measuring the temperature, and having intercourse at a very particular given time. It creates a very artificial and stressful situation.
It becomes that vicious cycle, because the stress leads to… There’s infertility which leads to stress, which negatively impacts your fertility, and it’s that vicious cycle. And when you start doing techniques, I think you’re sharing your IVF, there’s so many appointments, you’re seeing your herbalist, your acupuncturist, it just becomes a stressful way of doing things. Now there’s a different way to do that. You can still go and be proactive to reach your peak potential, but again it’s coming back to that state of mind.
Exactly, what I mentioned as toxic thoughts, or toxic beliefs. I have dozens of examples of couples who tried for years and without success, and finally gave up. And when they gave up, and decided, “Now we don’t want to have children, we give up the concept, and let’s go on vacation, or let’s…” I have a particular couple, relatives of mine, who decided, “All the money we are spending on this, we are going to build a tennis court in our garden.” And once they gave up, they got pregnant.
And I want to hear what you’re thinking around this. Because again, tying this into consciousness. With our podcast, our tagline is, “To receive life on purpose,” and our whole idea is about surrendering into the moment. And when you surrender, there’s no longer resistance. When you’re fighting and trying hard, there’s a form of resistance, and the more resistance you have, just like on an electrical wire, and when there’s resistance on the wire, the energy, the electricity doesn’t flow as well, if you remove the resistance, the energy flows. There’s two ways to do this. You can be brought to your knees into surrender, you just give up. When people give up, it’s not taken lightly. They’ve been brought to their knees, and they have to give up to survive, that’s their survival mechanism, and they go into surrender. And in that, they have that sense of relief, because they’re no longer trying, and now flow and receptivity happens, like you shared, when they gave up and said, “I’m going to build a tennis court, I’m not going to try anymore,” they’re no longer attached to that, “I got to have a baby.” They surrender, the resistance is dropped. It feels like a sense of relief in the body, and now they’re receptive and they have flow again.
Or what I like in your book and the courses you had on Healthy Seminars, your acupuncture tapping technique, there’s EFT and then you have a really cool Chinese medicine approach to it, to help people work with these toxic beliefs or toxic thoughts. And so there is a proactive way to do it, so you don’t have to be brought to your knees. I said a lot there, but I’m wondering if that’s what you’re subscribing to when you say when people give up, the baby happens. Is that a form of that consciousness work where they get into that state of surrender which allows flow and receptivity to happen?
Exactly. This acceptance and status of surrender is the hardest part involving all processes, especially in pathology. This is a point that we always emphasize in serious diseases, in serious conditions where obviously people go through all the phases, what we call also dealing with unpleasant situations, or sometimes even a very fearful situation. They go to all the emotional range before they get to the point, as you said, either they’re forced to their knees, or they have an internal let go, acceptance. In that moment, I call it the moment of grace, something can happen, healing can take place. So this is something which is possible. We observe it all the time.
And especially with fertility, it is also, we are talking to lay people, so I cannot be talking about specific points and techniques, but already the mental process which is involved, they can practice, which means first of all to examine, let’s say the two paradigms. On one hand, the desire for having a child, for creating family and descendants, is inborn in all life forms. It is, as I said, an instinct. But besides that, in humans it can take a different form because humans are more evolved and we have what we call self fulfillment. Is it part of that? So the question is why I want a child. And the second question is, what is preventing it? And this is where we can actually act on it. As I said, the environment, and we have a lot of negative factors in the food and water, and this and that, and hormones and our lifestyle. For example, I find a lot of what, in Chinese medicine we talk about the equilibrium of blood. Blood is one of the five substances which plays a very important role in fertility. And sometimes we see simply by tonifying the blood in many of our patients, they have been able to bear children.
We should clarify for the audience. So blood xue, I apologize for my pronunciation, but xue it translates in English as blood, but it goes beyond what we think from the western paradigm of blood. This blood is what gives you good vision. Your hair grows, your nails grow, your skin is supple and your uterus lining becomes great, and you can conceive. So the Chinese concept of blood, when we say tonifying blood, it’s not this western concept of blood, the term is xue, and the loose translation is blood.
Don’t go for blood transfusion, it’s not going to help. So obviously this is directly also the consequence of diet. And we see for example in a lot of western diets, where people go for vegetarian or vegan diets, are sometimes missing the fundamental elements to supplement blood. Now you can always say that, you take an example, India, which is primarily a vegetarian country, they’re the second most populated nation in the world. But I have lived in India and, I promise you, their way of cooking is different. Vegetarian, there’s vegetarian and vegetarian, and the way they prepare the beans and everything is different here, in the west, when you cook soya beans or whatever, it often actually gives you bloating and you don’t digest it because it’s not done in the traditional way. But I don’t want to do a course on diet. But just to mention that there are things in our environment and our lifestyle that we can modify.
But it’s very difficult today to start modifying the world. Activists, they go and demonstrate in the street, but that’s not going to change the world. The change has to come from inside. Now the change that we can do on our level is to examine, as I said, the toxic beliefs, the toxic thoughts. And I’ve seen with couples, I have often seen interviews to see, beside their desire for having a child, what is on the other side, the fears involved. And there are a lot of fears. Today, bringing a child into the world in an advanced society is costly. I have my nephew who just had a child, before even the child was born, they were creating a trust for him to be able to send him to university. So these are stressful points. And then what is going to happen to us when the child is born? Who’s going to take care when we still have to work? These are considerations which were not in the old days when you were living in a big family with grandmother and grandfather present in the house, somebody was taking care of the baby. Today, it’s becoming a stressful point.
Plus the stress of all the diseases. Shall I do this? Shall I vaccinate, shall I not vaccinate? Is he going to get this? Is he going to get that? In the olden days, we didn’t have these fears, children came naturally. Plus, today we are planning them. I see the young couples in our family, or in friends, they have to plan if, “We’re going to have the child in this month, this year, and then we take the holidays here, and there.” Bringing a child into the world is not like planning your holidays, or buying an airplane ticket. There are a lot of factors involved. So with couples, they make a list of all the fears. Also, a major fear which I find is that you will become, from a woman, you turn into a mother, from a man, you turn into a father, which means that you are going to fundamentally change your social role. And that can be very fearful for some people when they think about, “How am I going to manage this and that?” So that’s a stress which you want to avoid. Now, talking about it and finding solutions for these, is going to reduce the weight of what we call the toxic load.
Let’s talk a bit about that, because as I always say to our listeners and when I see patients in my clinic, we don’t want to tell you all the stressful things and add to your stress, that would be cruel if we didn’t have a method, a tool, simple tools to help you transform those fears into hope, into excitement. I wanted to talk a little bit about some of the energy psychology tools out there. One of them is like EFT. I use many energy psychology tools in my practice, and I enjoy and like using the EFT with my patients. And in your book, and in your courses that you’ve taught, you have a tapping technique as well, which really is really into the Chinese acupuncture traditions.
I guess the question I have is, looking at EFT, because it’s what the public knows a lot about, why those points that they’re tapping? Do you remember what kind of points those are? Whether they were in the sinew channels, you remember they tap around the eye, near kidney 27, some of these points. Can you comment a bit about why… Maybe we need to give it a pause here, and I’m just going to introduce EFT, emotional freedom technique, very minimally here, and feel free to jump in.
Basically, in a nutshell, the emotional freedom technique, it’s a form of exposure therapy. You’re bringing up the fear, then there’s a little bit of cognitive restructuring, you’re accepting yourself with that fear. And then there’s a somatic release where you’re tapping on acupuncture points. So call it acupressure, you’re tapping on these points, and there’s research showing this has worked with posttraumatic stress disorder, testing, anxiety, eating disorders. Can you explain a bit why this technique works? Because you described this so well in your book as well, about getting rid of these toxic, or not getting rid of, transforming these toxic beliefs and thoughts. And this is one of the techniques you use.
Before actually explaining why these techniques work, we have to understand where our belief mechanisms come from. We are programmed, conditioned, even before birth, by the thought patterns of our parents, especially the mother. And then after births, we are constantly conditioned by the family, and then the society. And it’s established today that if we have our mind, our thoughts, if we say that the work of the mind is 100, we only have 10% of that which is coming from our own, 90% is conditioned. So we see that actually we are primarily conditioned. I don’t want to use the word robots, but in our thinking and beliefs, we are conditioned. And out of this 100, we have only 2% of what we call individualism. That means free will.
So what we are actually trying to do through these techniques is EFT, or our technique we call the PAT technique, which is psychology and acupuncture technique, which is basically very similar, we are trying to implement a different thought to a pattern of thinking that we have been conditioned with. Fears, today we have so many fears, are being sustained by constant news and input from the media, et cetera. And the fears, are they grounded? Even if they are, to what degree are they grounded? But the fear impact is there, it’s in me. So can I counterbalance this fear by a suggestion that I can make to myself? In a way, EFT or PAT, or any of these cognitive behavior therapies, is aiming at changing the mental patterns. And by changing the mental pattern, we are changing the emotional responses, and as a result, we change the hormones in the body.
Going back to our earlier example, we’re having a software update. So the programs that you’re sharing, the programs and beliefs we inherited before birth, and there’s research on this now, how trauma is passed down generationally, part of our survival mechanism, we see that, and you’re sharing how you inherit this, and then you’re bathed in it still through your parents and the environment you grow into. And then you start to live based on these programs. And if these programs are no longer serving you, then there are techniques like EFT, like your patting technique, tapping energy psychology, cognitive behavior techniques to change those programs. And then, when your program changes, your behavior changes. And as we said at the very beginning, or earlier on, when you change the software, you get more out of your hardware. And in this case your hormones will change, as in, rather than the stress hormones that lead to inflammation and constriction, and long term they can become chronic and lead to disease, you’re having these hormones that turn on genes for longevity, health and reproduction.
Exactly. A technique like EFT is a very easy technique. You can even download it from the internet and practice it. The basic premise of all these techniques is self-suggestion. Self-suggestion is very similar to self-hypnosis. In the hypnotic process, what we are doing is we are actually changing one information or one belief by another one. Usually, for example, somebody who’s dependent on tobacco smoking, under hypnosis, it can be suggested to the person that, “Actually you hate tobacco and when you smoke it, you’re going to feel nauseous,” et cetera. So naturally you eliminate that toxic behavior. So the same, but we don’t have to go to somebody, we can do it ourselves.
There are methods, basically we teach our patients to put themselves in an alpha state. Alpha state is a mindset where the mind is much slower, it’s a state that we usually go to when we do meditation. It’s just slowing down the brain waves, and the brain becomes more receptive. And here we are going to make suggestions. And the suggestion in the techniques that we’re offering is combined with a physical stimulation. The acupuncture points, obviously, they’re going to enhance this effect. You don’t have to use those points. I mean, for people who are not familiar, they can also simply touch a part of the body or tap a part of the body, in the sense that you are combining a thought pattern with a physical action, and that reinforces the information that you are setting in.
And I know you’ll appreciate this, because, again, Dr. Montakab is both a trained medical doctor and a classical Chinese medicine practitioner, that in the EFT research they have shown that not only do people have that emotional change, they subjectively feel differently, but they have done some studies where they look at cortisol levels, they see those drop, they’re looking at the amygdala and they’re seeing a shift there, they’re seeing changes in the hippocampus. So again, the brain changes, and also changes in some gene expression. So it’s not only, “I feel differently when I tap,” like a placebo idea, they are actually seeing physical changes hormonally and in the brain, and epigenetic changes. So this is exciting that these simple techniques, as you said, you can download some of these techniques off the internet like EFT, or in your book acupuncture for treating the hidden roots of disease, you go into your technique, they’re available for this self-suggestion, self-hypnosis approach, which is all the goal here of conscious fertility, to help you empower yourself to live and receive life on purpose.
I think basically we have spoken about the possibility of individual work that couples can do, first of all, to examine their obstacles, and what I call the toxic beliefs, how to supplement and change them by bringing a opposite belief. Just pay attention, the opposite belief should not contain negative words like, “I don’t want” or, “I am not,” because the subconscious doesn’t understand the negative aspect. They understand the message. So always find a positive sentence. “I am,” make it in the present, once again, the time sequence, past, present, and future, the subconscious has difficulty. Subconscious is in the moment. So you want to affirm the message at the moment. So that is, I would say, a very important thing. It’s also something that you can do on your own. It’s important to do it regularly. It’s not once a month that you’re going to change a lifetime habit. It has to be done every day, several times a day.
These are methods which are very quick sometimes. It’s every time you catch yourself with that negative thought or stressful thought, which puts you in the stressful mode right away, come back with the antidote, repeat the antidote a few times. And always by calming the mind. If for example, a fearful thought comes, it has happened to me, I’m driving a car, and all a sudden there’s a thought of accident or whatever, at that time, pull over, find a place to stop, close your eyes, and slow down the mind and visualize the positive, erase the negative image right away when you can catch it, because then this negative image has its consequences. And to end, what I would say, please remember, infertility, like any other pathology, is not a pathology, it’s not a disease, it’s not an infliction, it’s not a punishment. It’s a challenge.
When we look at all our conditions as challenges, we start seeing the positive aspects. “What is it going to bring to me? How am I going to grow through it?” And remember that as humans, we have, in a way, the instinct of self fulfillment. In human progression, this is the ultimate stage that we are all aspiring to. We are aspiring to grow and we can only grow through the challenges that we are set in life. And this could be a challenge. So look at it as that, and then it also changes its dynamics.
I want to thank you Dr. Hamid Montakab, again. It’s so nice to have somebody trained in two paradigms like yourself. Call you Doctor 2.0. You’re trained as a medical doctor, and as a classical Chinese medicine practitioner. He has a book for practitioners called Acupuncture for Treating the Hidden Roots of Disease, the Mind and the Emotions in Chinese Medicine, as well as courses on Healthy Seminars. And I do enjoy our conversations about classical Chinese medicine and consciousness. And so again, thank you for sharing with us today some of your thoughts and ideas around conscious fertility.
Thank you so much for tuning into another episode of Conscious Fertility, the show that helps you receive life on purpose. Please take a moment to subscribe to the show, and join the community of women on their path to peak fertility, and choose to live consciously on purpose.
I would love to continue this conversation with you, so please direct message me on Instagram at Dr. Lorne Brown, that’s D-R Lorne Brown. Or visit my website, lornebrown.com. Until the next episode, stay curious, and for a few moments, bring your awareness to your heart center, and breathe.
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