Holistic Fertility with Dr. Burns: Podcast Episode #195
Welcome. You’re listening to Ask the Doulas, a podcast where we talk to experts from all over the country about topics related to pregnancy, birth, postpartum, and early parenting. Let’s chat!
Kristin: Hello, hello! This is Kristin with Ask the Doulas, and I am so excited to chat with Dr. Christina Burns today. Dr. Burns is a doctor of Eastern medicine, an herbalist with specialization in women’s health and fertility. She began her career at the age of 19 when she began studying nutrition and herbal medicine. Her studies included a year spent in China, India, and Nepal, where she learned mindfulness and Eastern medicine from monks in remote areas. Dr. Burns collaborated with physicians in underserved regions and women’s hospitals. Over the next nine years, she achieved degrees in acupuncture, herbal medicine, nutrition, and spiritual coaching. Since returning to North America, she’s founded a wellness institute in New York City that is focused on helping women achieve their optimal health goals through natural medicine practices. So happy to have you hear, Dr. Burns, and I am excited to get into so many topics related to holistic fertility. I’m also thrilled to hear more about your book, The Ultimate Fertility Guidebook.
Dr. Burns: Oh, thank you so much. I’m so excited to be here.
Kristin: So let’s get into a bit about challenges related to fertility and the modern woman.
Dr. Burns: All right, let’s do it. My favorite topic.
Kristin: So what are your tips and findings? I feel like more and more of my doula clients are struggling with fertility, whether it’s secondary infertility and they had no issues with their first child, or they have been trying and planning, maybe delayed having children. And so I would love to hear your thoughts on this.
Dr. Burns: You know, it’s multifaceted because we have this modern lifestyle where we’re exposed to more toxins. We’re rushing around all the time, which is affecting our hormones. We definitely are delaying childbearing, so we can’t deny that age is a factor. In fact, if I talk to my fertility doctor colleague, they will say that it’s the sort of major underlying factor of the rates of infertility going up. And I don’t believe that most people are infertile, by the way. I think it’s a horrible word, and I think that there are very few people that are actually infertile. I think there’s a sort of subfertility situation going on where women’s hormones are underperforming. Maybe their stress levels are too high. Maybe they’re eating too much processed food. Maybe the hormone went to sleep after a traumatic birth or something. There’s so many factors. But I think that in general, the major things that I see and that I’ve outlined in my book are age, toxic exposure, overly busy lifestyle, a diet laden with kind of processed foods and toxic foods and exposure to toxins in our environment, and a general issue with the quality of our food.
Kristin: Makes sense. So it’s a mixture, it sounds like, of age, stress, and diet, and also, again, all of the pesticides and chemicals in the foods that we eat?
Dr. Burns: Yeah, and you know, our exposure in our environment, too, right? Depending on – I live in New York City, so there’s a lot of exposure there. I notice a big difference when I’m in the countryside versus when I’m in New York City just in terms of the way that I feel. And then there’s stuff that we’re using in our homes. Cleaning products and such. People are spending maybe too much time in a hair salon or a nail salon. So it’s coming at us from different angles, but I would say by and large, most of it is coming through our food, and that is something that we can control. Like, if you live in a city, you can’t control the air quality, but you can control what you’re putting in your mouth.
Kristin: Yes, makes sense. And so I noticed when I was looking into your website, Dr. Burns, that you also have some food based products. Junk juice and some different customized plans, whether it’s fertility focused or just different individualized needs.
Dr. Burns: Absolutely. I try to take a very multidisciplinary approach. So diet and lifestyle. What kind of exercise is good for you? What’s not so good for fertility? And it will differ from person to person. What kind of foods are good or not as good for different profiles? Like, somebody with endometriosis may be different from somebody with PCOS, may be different from somebody with advanced maternal age or anemia. So everybody’s case and situation is a little bit different in terms of what their lifestyle protocol would be. And then there’s the natural medicine. Like, acupuncture has been amazing to improve fertility. Though I can’t treat people around the world with acupuncture; I can do so with the recommendations that I just mentioned and with herbal medicine, and that’s what Junk Juice is. Junk Juice is Eastern medicine kind of modernized. And the reason why it’s called Junk Juice is because traditionally, Chinese or Eastern medicine herbal tea looks very murky. It’s this brown, gross liquid. Yeah. And it’s so amazing for fertility, for hormones, for postpartum, to prevent miscarriage during pregnancy. But it’s gross most of the time. Most people are like, oh, my God, what is this stuff? So I called it Junk Juice to make light of it. And I also produce it in capsules just in case somebody can’t handle the flavor. But Junk Juice is, I would say, one of the most magical gifts for women’s health and I think generally health for all things, because I treat everything with it. I treat kids’ stuff. I treat problems during pregnancy. I treat fertility. I treat immune disorders. And you notice a difference so quickly, and it’s just incredible. So this is something that I can prescribe and send around the country or the world, and that’s something that I’ve focused a lot of my energy on in the last few years.
Kristin: I love it. So as far as the institute, Naturna Institute, do you – you do in person in New York as far as acupuncture services for our listeners who live local to your area, but then it seems like you can work with anyone anywhere in the world virtually?
Dr. Burns: Yes, and that was actually – COVID was a dark era for us, but something that was birthed out of COVID was that people got a lot more comfortable doing consultations and things over Zoom. And so during that era when a lot of my international patients were no longer coming to New York, I started doing more consultations via Zoom. And it’s been going well. And with the herbal medicine, for the most part, unless the country has some crazy customs policy, we’re able to send it to most places. And so it’s been great to maintain that connection more beyond New York with my patients and with anybody who needs help.
Kristin: Beautiful. So what are your top tips for our listeners who are preparing for their first pregnancy and really want to get their diet in line, reduce any toxins, and set themselves up for success before going through any fertility challenges?
Dr. Burns: So I would say the first tip I would give is to have white space in your day. And white space is time that’s just not filled with doing something. And that could be five minutes between appointments or between meetings at work or what have you where you just allow yourself five minutes to, like, regroup, or maybe 10 or 15 minutes, and you’re not just spending that time plugged into your phone, answering a bunch of texts, answering emails. So I believe that one of the issues with fertility is that we are in fight or flight response all the time, and that’s usually, I would say, in modern day, from being too plugged in and from rushing around. We just don’t allow ourselves any downtime. And so I’m a fan of white space to basically down regulate the nervous system and put your hormones back in check. If you’re in fight or flight response, meaning, like, you’re pumping out cortisol because you’re rushing from here to there, you’re kind of always on, then your ovaries can go to sleep. They can just be underfunctioning. And so to kind of get those ovaries and get that uterus getting more circulation, we want to be able to switch from our sympathetic go-go-go fight or flight mode to our parasympathetic rest and digest, feed and breed mode. So that would be a number one. You need some space in your day. Every day, and some time to wind down at night. It doesn’t have to be that much time. If you don’t have a lot of that, then I would definitely integrate some meditation, even five minutes, just to kind of help your body down regulate the nervous response. So that’s the nervous system.
Kristin: Okay. We teach HypnoBirthing, and it’s so mind-body focused and really touches on a lot of those – the time to have affirmations and repetition with the soundtrack that they listen to. And so I’m a big fan of taking that time and getting into some sort of pregnancy practice.
Dr. Burns: Oh, totally. I love that you call it pregnancy practice. And it’s interesting. Like, when I’m helping people prepare for their birth, I’m often telling them to do the same thing. Like, unplug. It’s kind of – I’ve noticed that there’s a difference in labor and delivery whether you’re kind of wound up going into your birth or whether you’ve been able to kind of chill out. And I even notice this with my – for the birth of my first child. I was really tense going into the birth and my contractions were really close together and horrible and not productive, and then when I was having my second and third and I allowed myself a little bit of space to kind of wind down a little bit more and I really made that a priority, my births were easy peasy. And I’m not saying that it applies to everyone, but it sounds like this is part of what you do with the HypnoBirthing and other things.
Kristin: Yes, and as a doula, I agree. When you’re tense and have the flight or fight, it’s fear, tension, pain. And so it’s all about relaxing and opening up to the process and focusing on your breaths. So I love that even preconception, beginning some positive habits to carry along during pregnancy, and certainly early parenting, it’s also very beneficial.
Dr. Burns: Oh, definitely. I mean, I look at the fertility journey as an opportunity to make the changes that you’ve been resisting making. You know that things are out of balance in your life. You’re not making the changes. You’re just kind of plugging away. And then you get hit with a fertility challenge, or you’re preparing for baby. Most of the time, it’s you get hit with a fertility challenge, and it’s a huge slap in the face, and you’re like, oh, my God, I’ll do anything to get this baby. And that’s when it’s an opportune time to make the changes that you haven’t made space to make. And I think in modern day lifestyle, a lot of type A personalities and being plugged in so much of the time, the thing that we resist most is slowing down a little bit.
Kristin: Yes. So true. So I would love to hear your thoughts on the partner’s role in fertility and some positive steps the partner can make.
Dr. Burns: Oh, interesting. I laugh because the partners are so resistant to playing a role a lot of the time. And it actually is a source of a lot of fighting among couples because the female in the relationship will be changing her diet and adjusting everything and turning her life upside down to get the baby, and the man is like, la, la, la, drinking his beer, and kind of going on, life as usual. So for the men, I mean, I would like it if they would participate somewhat in just reducing the amount of inflammatory and acidic things they’re taking in. So if they’re drinking a whole bunch of coffee in a day, a few cups of coffee – reduce that to one. If you’re having five drinks a day, reduce that, too. You know, avoiding BPA in cans and containers and excess exposure to toxins. It’s easy enough to kind of get the men taking a vitamin once in a while. Like, even getting men on, like, a multivitamin. They’re not going to do as many as women would do. Getting them on maybe a basic one or some minerals, depending on if they have a sperm issue or not. And with men, it’s also keeping your testicles cool. So not wearing super tight underwear, not going on bike rides, in saunas, in hot tubs, taking hot baths, not having your cell phone in your pocket, not having your laptop on your lap. So basically, don’t cook your testicles, on the male side. And you know, with them, I’ll usually prescribe the female a fertility-friendly diet, one that’s rich in iron and folate and things that are really important for conception. Reducing packaged foods so we’re not having spikes in insulin. Reducing refined carbohydrates, inflammatory foods to kind of calm down the system, calm the waters. Now, I wish that men would participate more in that, but they often don’t. So if you are a female listening to this and your man is not really being proactive, that is extremely typical, and if you can at least get him on a multivitamin and maybe boozing a bit less and drinking less coffee and keeping his testicles cool, that is a win.
Kristin: Okay, very helpful. Thank you for sharing. So I’d love to hear more about The Ultimate Fertility Guidebook and your process in creating this because it sounds like you are so busy. I mean, you’re a mom of three and have a thriving business. So what led you to create this guidebook?
Dr. Burns: I wanted to have a resource that went beyond the sort of walls of my clinic or Zoom. There’s only so many people that I can see one on one and help, so The Ultimate Fertility Guidebook was – I wanted it to be like a gift to a larger audience to get some answers for things that they’re not getting answers to. I have so many women come to see me that are struggling with fertility. Their fertility clinic doesn’t teach them about nutrition, doesn’t tell them what exercise to do or not do, doesn’t tell them what supplements to take, and doesn’t tell them anything about natural medicine, and they kind of feel, like, lost and without direction. And there’s so much you can do to take the reins with your fertility. And so I basically just listened to my patients over the last 20 years and took note of common questions and created a book to be an answer to all of that. I outline how your hormones work at the beginning, so those basics. The common causes of fertility challenges. And then I go into what I call the culprit. So inflammation, stress hormone, toxins, and spikes in blood sugar that I believe underlie a lot of fertility challenges. And then I go into a full kind of lifestyle program. So a preconception cleansing program where I tell you what to take out of the diet to kind of clean your body and what supplements to take, what natural medicine to integrate, how to eat according to the phases of your cycle to optimize your hormones. What exercise to do and not do; how to integrate mindfulness and all of that. So I kind of just tried to put everything, my entire brain and all my experience over the years, into a resource that you can buy inexpensively online and be able to refer to it.
Kristin: That’s amazing. Love it. So how can our listeners find your book?
Dr. Burns: Well, my book is pretty much in all the places where you usually buy books, so Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Walmart, Target. And you can go and get it in a bookstore, too, if you happen to be near one. It’s also available through my clinic, naturnalife.com. Yeah, that’s pretty much it. It’s found, you know, online or in bookstores, and it’s a hefty book. So, you know, be ready for 300 pages of goodness. But I tried to make it very user-friendly and very readable. I’m told that it’s very approachable and it’s not a boring, clinical book. So I tried to make it even a little bit laugh-worthy for a very sensitive topic.
Kristin: Excellent. And I know you’re on social, so you have various ways that our listeners can find Naturna Institute, as well, and Junk Juice?
Dr. Burns: Yes, so I have my professional one, which is @naturna_life. There’s me personally that I post a lot of videos and tips about random things, @drchristinaburns. And then there’s @junkjuicemagic. So I can be found there. I also have a fertility podcast is somebody wanted to kind of dive in deeper into topics about how to optimize your fertility. It’s called Fertility in Focus on Apple and Spotify.
Kristin: Excellent. So any final tips for our listeners, Dr. Burns?
Dr. Burns: Sure. Yeah. I feel bad because I didn’t get to all my tips. So I would say there’s the integrate the white space, honor your diet. There’s try to trust the process because a lot of the time, we want this now, and there’s nothing wrong with your fertility; it just doesn’t happen exactly when we want it. Sometimes it’s just like your body needs to get to a certain level of balance or nutrition before it will conceive. And just trust that you’re on the right track, that you’re taking action, and that it will come. And don’t over-exercise, I would say, but don’t under-exercise, either. You want to move your body. You just don’t want to try to become, like, the fittest person during your fertility process. We don’t want to lose too much body fat; otherwise, we don’t produce hormones. So we don’t want to become too lean or be doing really hardcore workouts when we’re trying to get pregnant. Mindfulness is very helpful. Supplements; some of my favorite ones are omega 3, magnesium, vitamin D, methylfolate, CoQ10, and Junk Juice, which, you know, you can do through my service or consult a knowledgeable Eastern medicine practitioner through the association called ABORM, the American Board of Oriental Reproductive Medicine. You can find it at aborm.org, and it will list qualified practitioners in your area.
Kristin: Oh, what a helpful resource. Thank you very much.
Dr. Burns: It’s a pleasure.
Kristin: And as far as the final takeaway, I know you covered a lot about minerals, but any tips for new parents? We touched a bit on pregnancy, but really to focus on the depletion and imbalance after having a baby?
Dr. Burns: Yes, I love that you asked this because one of the questions that I often ask when somebody is struggling with secondary infertility was how was your last pregnancy and birth, right? And so my answer to that is to honor a postpartum program of sorts, and I assume that you would be able to be very helpful in this area. But postpartum, I don’t like somebody having a bunch of cold smoothies and salads and things. In Eastern medicine, you’re supposed to have a lot of cooked, nourishing foods. You’re not supposed to go out with wet hair in the cold or in general, not go out much in the first 40 days. To be cooking really nourishing, slow-cooked foods and broth in that first part, and this is one that you won’t find in books like The First 40 Days, but to not overschedule yourself when you’ve just had a baby. Like, I see these women struggling with postpartum depression, and it’s generally ones that were really plugged in right after they had a baby, especially – like, I’ve had a lot of patients with postpartum psychosis, oddly, in the last couple years where you have a more severe mentally, and the common thread that I’ve found amongst a lot of them was that they were planning somebody’s party right after they had a baby or, you know, they were traveling right after they had baby. They were just doing a lot. They were still working; they just had a baby. So please honor that time postpartum going into the birth, after the birth. Honor it with food; honor it with rest; honor it with mental space. And that generally will lead to an easier time conceiving your next and your next after that because you will have sort of brought back the nourishment and strength in your body needed to conceive again.
Kristin: Excellent. Thank you so much for sharing all of your wisdom! I could chat with you forever. We’ll have to have you back on in the future.
Dr. Burns: It was so fun. Thank you for having this amazing podcast and for helping women along this journey.
Kristin: Thanks: Take care, Dr. Burns.
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