Season 2 Episode 7:
Energy Medicine: Fertility and the Science of Acupuncture
with Michelle Shapiro RD and Jill Blakeway, DACM, LAc
In this episode, Michelle and Jill Blakeway, founder of the Yinova Center, explore the fascinating realm of energy medicine. Discover natural ways to support fertility, gain insights into how the mind influences the body’s healing process, and learn about the latest scientific advances in acupuncture!
- Barriers to alternative healing methods
- Chronic disease as a breakdown in body communication
- Strategies for supporting fertility and overcoming infertility diagnoses
- The transformative power of acupuncture in restoring body communication
- Harnessing the mind’s influence on the body’s healing process
- Integrating ancient healing practices with functional nutrition
- Gaining a Traditional Chinese Medicine perspective on cancer
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Functional nutrition conference 2023
(10:15) Barriers to alternative healing methods
(14:18) Chronic disease as an error in body communication
(17:54) How acupuncture can restore communication in the body (+ new scientific evidence of
(23:59) The power of the mind over the body
(28:07) Integrating ancient healing into functional nutrition
(32:59) How to support fertility by increasing stress resilience
(37:42) Conceiving after an “infertility” diagnosis
(41:45) A Traditional Chinese Medicine perspective on cancer
Intro to Jill Blakeway and Energy Medicine
Hello, Miss Jill Blakeway. I am so excited to have you here.
Michelle, I'm so happy to be with you. Thank you for inviting me.
So Jill, do you know, I don't even know if you know this, but you did a talk for a speaker series that we were both a part of called bio hack the world. And this was way before COVID. This was many years ago. And I was like breath, I was like breathtaking by you.
I was like, this, I was like, I want to hear everything Jill has to say. I soaked up your book, energy medicine. I just, I find your approach to healing as being so authentic and effective. And for that reason, I am double triple excited to have you here today.
Well, thank you. I do remember that event because it was one of my last events before we all shut down for COVID when I was on my book tour for Energy Medicine. Yeah. And then we did everything on Zoom from there on in. Yeah.
And you're actually, I just learned about you for moments ago, you're actually able to see your patients over zoom in the work that you're doing.
Yes, I am. The Yinova team are all in our yoga centers. We have three centers in New York. And I am doing a lot of the initial consultations and treatment planning and health coaching and fertility coaching and things like that. So I stayed on Zoom, and the team went back to the office, it was I think everybody decided it was a more productive use of my time I can I can get to a lot of people doing it virtually, and then hand them on to the team with a good treatment plan. So yeah, I am working and loving it. Absolutely loving it. I was just telling you before we went on air that I love my job. I've been doing it for 25 years, and I consider myself so blessed that I still find it really interesting. I love helping people on their health journeys and designing prompts so that they can help heal themselves. So it's really very, very satisfying.
Michelle Shapiro RD
have to toot your horn. You're not only, you don't only love what you do. You're incredibly good at it. So can you tell us also more kind of what your journey's been like to be in the specific position of healing that you're in, how, what kind of healing you do.
And how you prompt, I love this, this idea of you prompting others to have the ability to heal themselves. So tell us about your journey a little bit, Jill. And I want to hear a lot more about it, but start us off with kind of your professional journey and, and personal journey into where you are now.
Yeah, so I came upon Chinese medicine out of need, which I think was true for a lot of practitioners of Chinese medicine of my generation. So I had interstitial cystitis and nobody could solve it. And an acupuncturist sorted it out. I'd been on antibiotics on and off for like two years and they sorted it out in three weeks. And I was so impressed that I fell down the rabbit hole.
You know, it was my first exposure to the fact form of medicine from a completely different frame of reference that was both ancient and yet really relevant to modern life. And I say that because Chinese medicine is based on the idea of Qi and Qi can sound incredibly esoteric but what Qi is is it's your body's ability to behave intelligently and coherently given change.
Yeah and so all day our body is handling things. It's thyroid and digesting lunch and regulating your heart beats and it's just doing all of that without you ever having to think about it, which is a blessing. If you had to remember to put into your Google Cal, oh, I must ovulate next Tuesday and things like that, chaos, chaos would ensue.
So your body very smartly keeps your mind out of it, which means that at a cellular level, you have a form of consciousness. Every cell understands what it is and who it is and what it should do given a prompt. And that consciousness fascinates me.
Now, if you accept that your body is constantly trying to move you back to balance homeostasis, given whatever's happening during the day, then it's possible to design prompts to help that. And acupuncture is one of those prompts. It was designed over thousands of years to prompt your body to self-regulate. And it's extraordinarily effective. But other things can be a prompt too, words, energy healing, all sorts of things.
And although these things sound very out there, they're not at all when you understand that your body is an intelligent consciousness that is working constantly to kind of create balance. So that was my journey. I fell down this rabbit hole and I fell in love with this beautiful medicine.
Michelle Shapiro Rd
And this idea of consciousness, I think is a little bit counter to what people's model of medicine is in our country, of course, right? So our, our modern medicine model is that there's kind of, we have these organs and then they break and then you kind of have to fix them. This idea of a prompt even, I think is really powerful for people to hear the idea that you don't really induce healing by fixing things. You're inducing healing by facilitating that prompting process. So I think that was probably so revolutionary while you were in this too.
Barriers to Alternative Healing Methods
And why I think it's so confusing for people to understand what acupuncture is within the Western medicine model because we're always looking like, where's the randomized controlled trial? What do you think the limitation is for people to understand energy medicine or acupuncture and we'll define terms within this model?
Well, I think things are much better than they used to be. Acupuncturists have got better at communicating. Doctors have become more open. Most of our referrals, you know, have come from doctors. And that wasn't true 25 years ago when I started my career. I was like their guilty little secret. They didn't dare tell their doctor that they were seeing an acupuncturist. And now doctors send them to us. So, and I love Western medicine. I'm not one of those alternative practitioners that says my way or the highway kind of thing.
And here's what I see as the power of Western medicine, conventional biomedicine, is that they do cut you up into systems. They sort of segment and that allows them to target and to be very precise diagnostically. And that's all really, really helpful. And enormous strides have been made.
But you're right, it is a little mechanistic with systems that have specific functions and therefore can malfunction. And truthfully, that's only part of the picture. So I always think we fit together really nicely because Western medicine is utterly precise in its diagnostics, yay. And then we wind it back and see the whole picture because of course you're not separate systems in your body. You are a variety of systems that are communicating and synchronizing and coordinating.
And a lot of chronic diseases, which is actually, diseases that conventional biomedicine struggles with the most. A lot of chronic diseases are really diseases of poor communication and coordination. And that is an area where Chinese medicine is really valuable. So autoimmune diseases, hormone imbalances, a lot of the sort of chronic headaches, chronic pain are not, you can't target one system. And we have a method of diagnosis, which is pattern diagnosis.
So no symptom makes sense to us as practitioners of Chinese medicine, except in the context of the symptoms around it. And so we're seeing pattern. And that makes us of value in a health journey, I think. And it makes us fit together really well with doctors. And we, you know, but we work really well with people's doctors. And it's powerful when we all get our egos out of the way and we're all less dogmatic. And we just put the patient first and think what will work for this patient.
There’s enormous power in that. And in fact, my first book that I wrote a long time ago, now it came out in 2009, making babies, I wrote it with a doctor a reproductive endocrinologist, and we really Michelle just sat down and said, what's best for the patient here. And we argued a joke between us, you know, so an enormous fibroid isn't going to magically disappear with acupuncture, and it may need surgery, you know, and that's by far the best route for someone. And so that's kind of how I work. And I think we all work together very well.
Michelle Shapiro RD
I do too. And I'm a functional dietitian. So I believe in both Eastern and Western and just being the bridge between and taking the best from both worlds. And I know you're very integrative in that way too. And I think you're very able to see kind of the val- I love that you can see the value in both systems. I think that's real.
Chronic Disease as a Breakdown in Body Communication
Strategies for supporting fertility and overcoming infertility diagnoses
And there is so much value in both, of course, this idea of the body being disconnected or saying that chronic illness is a connection issue. I have to ask you to elaborate more because it's so important. Tell us about that and what is the connection error and why does that happen?
Jill Blakeway (09:33.094)
Yes, well, I think of your Qi as a bit like the operating system in a computer. Yeah, it's it's coordinating everything. And over time, there are areas that in Chinese medicine, we would call stagnation, which really is areas of extra efforting. It suddenly becomes hard to do something that should have been smooth. And so to give you a practical example, I do a lot of fertility work and the reproductive cycle is extraordinary. Yeah.
So people's periods and their hormonal exchanges around that require a lot of ease in communication. Yeah, your body goes through a cycle every month where you know your estrogen goes up, it helps to build a lining. Now that lining is only really available for implantation for about 24 hours. So we need that to all coordinate with an embryo that arrives at the correct time.
And you can imagine I often get patients who are suffering from what's called unexplained infertility, which is actually, it's a better diagnosis, actually people get very depressed about it because it sounds like we have no idea what's wrong with you, but it's better than them finding something. And often what I find is they just have small things that wouldn't make them infertile, but they're ganging up on them. And they're often timing and coordination.
Sometimes people have the fertile cervical mucus at the wrong time, not when they're ovulating. Now we are extraordinary as women in so much as we produce mucus that is the same pH as semen just around ovulation. The rest of the time we're more acidic to protect the vagina. That's clever. Now if your system just gets a little off, you may have an estrogen spike a little earlier and you're producing the mucus at the wrong time and there’s no available cervical mucus to take care of the sperm at the correct time.
And that's just an example of something that, you know, the patient would probably be told, we have no idea why you're not getting pregnant, because it's so subtle. And that's the area I live in. And so when I see a new patient, I'm literally looking for imbalance all over the place. And I always tell my staff this, but I've solved more people's infertility issues by handling their digestion, that I could possibly tell you, or their diet or something.
And so taking that broad look when nobody, when the precision of Western medicine hasn't been able to come up with anything is actually really helpful. And that's what I mean by coordination really.
Michelle Shapiro RD
Yeah. So it's, I almost have this vision of a human body that has different meridians and it's like lit up basically. And that's kind of what your chi is. It's how all those meridian, which I also am probably thinking of an actual diagram I've seen in traditional Chinese medicine work, but it's, that's the kind of you can almost in Western medicine, I'm picturing like you see the organ systems.
And if we put almost like a film on top of it and drew little connections between all of those organ systems and between our brain and our thoughts and everything, that's kind of that, that next layer that exists.
And this connection, the chi and this energy exchange between our body, are you saying it can also be influenced by self talk? Are you saying it can be influenced by things that are not just, you know, organ damage? Tell us more of what, what can sever that connection over time? What can positively influence that connection over time? Tell us about that.
How Acupuncture Works to Restore Communication in the Body
Well, as you can imagine, the tighter you run, the harder it is for your body to create a coherent system of communication. And we all run kind of tight. And one of the first things I do with my patients is teach them to breathe, moving their diaphragm, to create a bit of space for coherent communication to happen, which sounds really simple, but it's really profound. And I start every session by creating space in the body, relieving tension, using the breath
Yeah, and so that is my approach is I'm trying to set up the conditions where people can return to a coherent communication system from the top of their head to the tip of their toes. And I'm looking for areas of extra efforting because of tightness really or inflammation or stagnant fluids. You know, you think of all the things that would make it harder for your body to have what would normally be its conditioned response.
But you mentioned something really interesting which is the meridians and when I was writing Energy Medicine I you know I obviously know Chinese medicine works from my own experience but we've made some real strides in understanding how it works and one of the things that I looked at was a lot of research into the acupuncture points themselves.
And if I take you back to when you were an embryo, which you don't remember, before you had a brain and a central nervous system, before you had a cardiovascular system, you were communicating internally in order to produce the next bit of you. And it's actually one of those things we take for granted because everybody's been in embryo, but it's hugely sophisticated and how it's done is it's done by electromagnetically because you don't have the normal systems for communication as an embryo, which is normally the blood on the nervous system.
And so you create these little nodes, you have one at your elbow, for example, and then that buds off the forearm when a signal changes the polarity. And you can go online on YouTube and look at a video from Tufts called Electric Frog Face, which shows a frog embryo developing, and it's just like lightning going across its face as it activates these nodes. Yeah, and that's how we construct ourselves, which is deeply intelligent.
Now it turns out that those nodes are in the same place as the major acupuncture points and we've known for a long time Michelle that the acupuncture points are slightly more electroconductive than the tissue around them and by slightly I mean about 20% more and that research was done at the University of Vermont by a woman called Dr. Langavan and she recorded the pull force of a needle.
When we do acupuncture at the correct point, it grabs the needle a little bit and it's harder to pull out. It's about 20% harder to pull out. And what she found was that when we twirl acupuncture needles in this electroconductive tissue, the fibers, the tissue winds around like spaghetti on a fork kind of thing. And as it stretches, it becomes more electroconductive.
So the Chinese didn't necessarily at that time know these were, embryological nodes of extra electro-conductive tissue at all. They did it by trial and error. Yeah, but that's what they are. And so, and likewise, you mentioned the meridians and the meridians are really follow the path of what's called the facial planes in anatomy. So fascia, you know, surrounds all your organs and all your muscles and it creates a sort of waterproof barrier.
Now interestingly it has a lot of collagen in it which has a lot of water in it which makes it electroconductive. So the fascia is a little bit more electroconductive than the tissue around it. Now I think when the Chinese thousands of years ago were coming up with meridians they didn't necessarily understand the piezoelectric nature of the fascia at all but they found communication channels.
And so we're a lot further towards understanding what acupuncture does. You know, the acupuncture points tend to be areas that are slightly more electroconductive than the area around them. And it transmits information electromagnetically through the fascial planes.
And that would be that diagram that you were talking about with all the acupuncture points on and the meridians, which can look a little sort of out there, but you can see there is reasoning behind it and these days some solid science that explains it. Which was fun for me to write about because when I went to grad school to learn Chinese medicine we didn't we didn't know this yeah and now we do and so so fun.
Michelle Shapiro RD
I remember when I first went to acupuncture, the acupuncture said, we know it works, but we're not sure why it works, but we do know it works. And that was kind of the level, you know, 10, 15 years ago. And now you're like, we kind of know why it works now actually. Okay. We have that explanation. That's amazing.
So when you think of it, and I'm so glad we do, when you think of energy, Jill, are you thinking of kind of a combination? Again, I'm always trying to put it into very layman tangible words. It's actually a combination of electromagnetic currents and energy.
Harnessing the Power of the Mind on the the Body’s Healing Process
And then is there like a woo component of it? And when I say that, is there like a soul component of it? Is there a spiritual component? I know you don't have to answer this in any way. I'm just curious what your take is on that.
Yes, I think a part of our mechanistic view of the body is we separated everything. You have a mind quite separate and a body and then a spirit sort of thing. But really you're not three separate beings in one. You're one, one whole coherent person. And so yes, I think that's where the soul comes in. There's a lot of don't know there, isn't there? Whether our souls recycle, which I often lean into to be honest. But I don't know. I don't know.
But what we do know is that your body can hear you. And you know, if I told you right now, or the people listening at home, imagine that you are sucking a lemon, a slice of lemon. I bet your mouth is watering, isn't it? Yeah. Yeah, because your body can hear you. Now there is no lemon. It's not a physiological reaction to lemon. It is you with a sense memory of what lemon feels like and your body starts to prepare to deal with lemon sort of thing.
Now you can imagine that if you spend all day thinking a disaster is about to happen at any moment, which I mean to be honest we've all lived through a lot recently so we can be forgiven for waiting for the next shoot to drop at all times, you can imagine that your body starts to prepare and I often see this in my fertility patients. We're sort of evolutionarily programmed to have less babies in times of war and famine.
And we fake war and famine pretty well between intense diet regimens and fasting and things like that and this tension about what happens next. And then people become less fertile. Yeah, not infertile. (People still have babies in concentration camps and things like that) But we're less fertile. And that's smart. You know, that's a body being smart.
And so your spirit, your purpose isn't separate from your body. And once you realize that, you can start to integrate everything into a whole as you sort of address life. And one of the things I've done during this time, Michelle, is I've run my practice, which has 50 staff through a global pandemic, like lots of people. Yeah. We’re a hands-on industry. I mean, it was, you know, a bit of a nightmare and yet here we all are. And I didn't have to lose staff or anything, you know, we just hunkered down.
But one of the things I realized is that Chinese medicine has some lessons for us here. It's based on Daoism. And the idea behind Daoism is that life moves. Life is change, yeah? And we either expand with it or contract against it. We get resistant to change. And that creates tension and then lack of coherence. And so very early on in the pandemic, I decided I was going to serenity my prayer, serenity prayer my way through this thing.
And I can't control a global pandemic. Yeah, I can't do anything about that. So I'm not going to waste bandwidth on it or give my body that message that everything's hopeless. I'm just going to focus on day by day what I can change. And that actually really helped me. And that's true of your body too.
Every day you make decisions which affect your body and create change. Plus, change is just part of your life. Yeah, if you look back over your life, it's just constant change, actually. And we're royal against it, but you know, what if that's just life? Life is movement, life is vibration, life is information, and it just keeps changing. And here we are, and we're a very finely tuned instrument that is designed to meet change at any point. And so that's kind of how I see it. It's a big old serenity prayer.
Integrating Ancient Healing Practices with Functional Nutrition
Michelle Shapiro RD
I love it. I love, that's the whole game. TCM is a big old serenity prayer. I love that. That's, that's, that's awesome. I, I, when I, I recently had an Ayurvedic medical doctor on who is trained in both Ayurveda, Dr. Bhaswati Battacharya. And we were talking a lot about how Ayurveda has like a word that comes to mind often in, in explaining his movement. And I think of it's, it's interesting how momentum and change and movement come up in both practices.
And, you know, systems. And I'm sure a lot of, there's a lot of other similarities, although they are whole in their entity, but the idea of heat and the idea of energy and the idea of stagnation and the idea of blockages, a lot of these things come together.
And what I love so much that I'm a functional dietitian. So basically a lot of what we're doing in functional dietetics is so backed up with these ideas. And I'm like, okay, good, we're, we're kind of, it verifies the own work that we're doing because I'm like, Oh, good, it's backed up in TCM and Ayurveda. This is great. Like the, the OGs, you know, and this is trans, I think a functional nutrition as translatable, you know, integrative, uh, method that it's like, you can think of it in a more Western model, but it's like translating that information into a model that people can understand within scope, kind of.
And so it's, it's always like, there's so much focus on the liver and digestion. When you talk to any functional dietitian about fertility, just like you, Jill, we're going straight for the gut and straight for the liver, we're like, what is going on? Where's that, you know, kind of exchange.
And I think that the added layer of, of course, you can target through diet and nutrition and supplements and all of these amazing things functional dieticians do. But I think that this component of communication from energy medicine is really profound too. I think that that's something that we still are missing if we're only thinking of functional nutrition kind of within the, the more, like you said, fragmented realm, which it shouldn't be because functional nutrition is supposed to be root cause and looking at, you know, the whole self. But I like that. What you're saying substantiates what we're doing. That makes me very happy. Yeah. Yeah.
It is a relatively new part of medicine, functional medicine. I have welcomed it hugely because I think it is the step forward to solving that problem of, okay, we have these really precise diagnostics because we're honing in, but how do we account for a whole body communicating internally? And I think functional medicine and functional dietetics is moving towards addressing what is a really complicated issue, actually.
And so we’re in the early stages of this and you're a pioneer yeah and we are coming up with ways of understanding and languaging that idea and we have some resources in Chinese medicine that can help because we do patent diagnosis and so we have some resources that we should all pull and help each other. But I think functional medicine was a huge step forward in medicine and I'm looking forward to seeing where that goes.
Michelle Shapiro RD
I am too. And again, where I see kind of a concern for me in functional medicine or functional nutrition is if we rely too much on testing, because there's all these fancy tests you can get, obviously, in functional medicine, I'm like, no, you're missing the whole thing. The whole thing is the person still. You have to go back. You always have to walk it back. And I think when you walk it back far enough, you probably end up with TCM or Ayurveda. I think that's the farthest you can walk back, because you're talking about interactions with each other and the universe.
Well, testing is really important, but it's a snapshot at any given moment and it changes. Yeah? And so what we're developing and Chinese medicine has a system for is how to account for that change.
You know, hormone testing is notoriously imprecise because it takes a snapshot on a day in your cycle and then it can change. And so we do serial hormone testing as you know and you know, try and get, we plot things on graphs and things, but what we're really looking at is the fluidity in the body when it comes to change.
So I think as long as you understand your test is a snapshot and some of them are more concrete than others. Hormones being a particular example of something that changes really regularly, some forms of blood test not so much. I think testing is valuable once you understand its limitations and account for them.
Fertility and Reproductive Support through Energy Medicine
Michelle Shapiro RD
So I have an example of one of my best friends had - her AMH dropped really rapidly at one point and then it came back up to the level it was before and kind of the messaging she was getting from doctors were unexplained infertility, like you said. And in addition, we're kind of like, this is it now, you know, now you're infertile, now you're in this new stage and not acknowledging that change and that flow and that things of course can change.
And for her it was so disheartening and I said, it's one freaking lab test one time and then, you know, it came back up what she was really, really happy about. And I think that that's really important too. I do, you know, infertility is a huge part of the work, the amazing work that you do.
And I think something that I want to kind of quiet the diet on when it comes to infertility is we often hear people say, hey, if you're stressed or anxious, you're almost causing your own infertility. And I think it's such a negative message for people to say, just calm down. And if you, if you meditate more, can we speak into that a little bit more from what you’ve seen and experienced?
Oh, yes. Yeah. Yes. Yes. Yes. I'm glad you brought this up because my patients get stressed about being stressed, which has to be unhelpful, doesn't it? Because they've read, you know, if you're stressed, you won't get pregnant. And the first thing I always reassure people is stressed out people get pregnant the whole time. Nobody in New York would reproduce, honestly, or hardly anyone if you had to be completely zen in order to have a baby.
And so don't get stressed about being stressed, but think about the effect of stress on your body and then how to relieve it. And the problem isn't that people suffer stressful events. It's that people don't know how to come back to center. Yes, so something happens in your day, it derails you. And six hours later, you're at home trying to cook dinner pouring yourself a glass of wine because your shoulders are up by your ears.
You're designed to have a reaction to stress in order to meet something and deal with it. You're not designed to just carry it with you forever. And that, if you can imagine, all that tension gets in the way of your body communicating. And so I spend a lot of time giving my patients practical exercises to do to come back to center. And I describe it like this to them.
during the day, life happens. You get resistant to life moving sometimes, yeah, because not everything that happens in the day we like. And you get tighter and tighter and more and more contracted. And we have to look for ways of expanding again. And to be honest, at the end of my day, if I've been seeing patients on Zoom, I'm tight, yeah, because I've been focusing really hard in order not to miss anything. I literally just stretch my arms out.
I start to think expand back into the universe and off Zoom kind of thing. And so I think once you recognize what stress does and tightness that tension gets in the way of communication, you can let pressure off the pressure cooker, which is really what's needed. We don't have to hermetically seal you against stress at all times, because that's impossible, I think for most people.
Michelle Shapiro RD
It's, and sure as in New York, as we've said, it's double impossible. It's so, so not a thing in New York. And I, this is another really fun aspect of functional nutrition. The most, but like, if you love it, you love it. And it just, it is what it is. It's, for me, it gives me more life force than it takes away, which is like a balance that we need to know about.
I think what's so amazing about functional nutrition, again, in, in the context of what we're saying, not that functional nutrition is so amazing, but in the context of what we're saying is that when we think of stress, we think of the HPA axis, we think of how stress impacts you from the top down. And we kind of substantiate this idea that it's not that this mental stress is just like you said, happening where your head is cut off from the rest of your body, like your head is connected to the rest of your body.
So if you have stress in your head, you're going to have stress in your whole body and thinking about kind of what we get depleted in and stress. And I'm sure you do a lot of work with minerals and things like that too, because you need that replenishment.
I think just people hearing the message that the answer to is not calm down or de-stress yourself. The answer to unexplained infertility is not calm down. It's certainly not something that's people's faults by any means, and it certainly doesn't help to hear that. And I think people boxing themselves into I am infertile now, I think that can be a trap for people too, to feel like, have you seen that in your practice? Also, where people feel, I'm sure it's an extremely emotional journey, and they feel helpless. Tell me about that experience.
The Journey to Conception after Fertility Struggles
Well, it's incredibly painful to be trying to get pregnant and not, you know, just not happening. And here's one of the pressures of this. I think even if you have a really difficult diagnosis, you can kind of make your peace with it. But infertility is very unsatisfying like that. Do you know what I mean? You just don't know what's gonna happen next month. And I remember once a patient of mine saying, Jill, I'd be so much saner through this if I knew it was all going to be all right in the end. And I was like, yes, that's it.
It's living with the unknown, which let's face it is what freaks human beings out. Me too, yeah? I mean, that's why we're scared of death. You know, that we're scared of something happening that we don't understand and what that means. And so not being able to get pregnant is painful because you have to keep resurrecting your hope and moving forward even though nothing has worked.
Now I, who have a lot of experience, can tell you that most people end up with a baby. You know, not all thanks to me by any means, but thanks to God, modern technology, great doctors, people like us, nutritionists, you know, people we solve the problem almost invariably these days. And the only people I see struggle are people who start trying really quite late in their forties and don't have time to sort everything out. And even then there are, you know, there’s donor eggs, there are possibilities and things like that.
So I see my job as keeping people's head in the game and trying to keep them steady. So I don't, you know, I don't do anything that provokes a swing of emotion myself. You know, I don't say things like, oh I think you might have a baby this month, or you might get pregnant this month, or I just keep it level and I try and teach the patients that this isn’t a monthly pass/fail test, you know where you failed every month and you have to start from scratch. This is a fertility journey now.
So I'm very careful with patients that I set short-term goals. Obviously if they're trying to get pregnant their goal is to have a healthy baby but I set short-term goals so we can measure the efficacy of treatment and we can show both me as a practitioner and them as the patient that we're making progress. Yeah but it isn't just some kind of out-of-control amorphous thing where we're just doing things and we don't know what's working.
So I use Chinese herbs, which are very phenomenally powerful and smart. It's a system of herbology that's really smart. And I just tinker with people's cycles. And I always tell my patients this, herbs are subtle, but that is their strength when it comes to hormones. Yeah, because when we give pharmaceutical hormones, we knock out something else in the feedback system almost invariably. Whereas just nuging people back into balance, which is what we do with herbs, works really, really well.
So I might set some goals like no PMS, no mid-cycle spotting, a thicker uterine lining, you know, more fertile cervical mucus, and then we measure them and make progress. And if I do that, and that's how I've, you know, for practices, we all practice that way, we just navigate people with data as we collect it towards their goal. And almost always, if we deal with all the silly little things, the big thing, which is the pregnancy in this case, looks after itself.
Michelle Shapiro RD
Absolutely. That's really, and I think it's a really hopeful message for people. And I also like that. You're, again, you're able to substantiate it scientifically and through anecdotal experience. Like you've worked with thousands of people. So of course you've seen it. Like, of course you've seen this work so much.
And I think for people to even introduce the idea of some level of hope around it and to not feel so stuck in even a mindset around it, which I know can happen a lot in doctors appointments is, is so profound on a physical plane. I mean, that in and of itself can be really truly healing, just that kind of shift in that.
I know, like you said, this unknown idea of unexplained infertility, which sounds like the scariest thing, because it's like two words that you don't like. And both of them are like together. It's like a really, really hard thing. And kind of taking the diagnosis out of it and just understanding the environment with which the body lives is so helpful for people, I think.
Gaining a Traditional Chinese Medicine perspective on cancer
This idea also, I love that you were talking about medications. I think of medications versus supplements versus herbs as being a difference in ways of force. Like it's the difference in kind of what the prompt is, like you said before, that creates the stream.
But if you introduce things with more force, you're going to get the same force back in whatever way. And our body is very physics interrelated in that way too, because our body is a body of, like we have to oblige by the laws of nature also, like that's just how our bodies work too. Can you tell us also about this idea of force, because I know that that's something that you can definitely speak into. I think it's so interesting.
Yes, well, what you're really saying is that bodies are kind of subtle and some of our solutions can be quite sledgehammer-y. Now, sometimes you need a sledgehammer-y solution, yeah? If you have a cancerous tumor, it makes sense to cut it out. It just does, you know? And remove, but if we say take cancer as an example, because I treat a lot of patients who are having cancer treatment.
Here's how Chinese medicine sees cancer at its broadest sort of high level view, is that it's a trifecta, it's like the perfect storm in some ways. And so we would say that in order for someone to develop a cancerous tumor, they need to have some sort of stagnation. Yeah, a body with good flow is moving debris out of the way. So it's an area of poor communication. And I'm going to tell you a story that illustrates it in a minute. So that's the first thing.
The second thing is there is some sort of toxicity. Now this can be external toxins, you know, like estrogen mimicking chemicals, for instance, in breast cancer, or it can be internal toxicity. And I have a patient at the moment who was diagnosed with breast cancer and I was telling her that I often see in cancer patients that they've suffered something diminishing that has affected their status or shrunk their view of themselves. And she then told me, oh my goodness, yeah, I had this horrible time at work and that's when it all started. So that's an example of internal toxicity.
And the other thing is we would call it chi deficiency, lack of function. Your body clears up cancerous cells the whole time. We're not cancer-free. Your body has a system, your immune system is clearing things up, which is why immunotherapy is coming to the fore in cancer treatment now.
And so in order for a cancer to develop, we'd say there is a lack of flow and communication, a toxicity be that toxic emotions or toxic pollution, and an inability to clean up. That's a very sort of high level view. But it takes into account your whole being.
And so when I have a cancer patient, and we don't treat cancer directly, I think it's best treated by an oncologist. I want my patients to have the best of all possible worlds. I don't want dogma where we're rejecting things that can be helpful to have some kind of belief system or magical thinking that's not helpful. So I help people on their journeys.
And one of the things we do is we look at that how to stop this stagnation and tightness, how to get rid of all sorts of toxicity in your life in the broadest possible sense and how to support your body to clean up itself and help the treatments, which is so interesting.
Now I have a really cool story there that I can't tell you the bits of this are still confidential because this hasn't been released to the public, but one of the major cancer hospitals in the US looked at distance healing on cancer cells in the lab, which is a remarkably “woo” thing for a cancer hospital to do. So I was kind of amazed that they'd embarked on this.
And here's what they found. They got Petri dishes full of cancerous cells, different cancers, and 40 of them were of two different types of control and 20 of them were worked on. And on the 20 that were worked on, the cells came together and then made 36 identifiable genetic changes that meant that it had gone into senescence, the cell had reversed the cancer.
And here's what I thought was important. Obviously the scientists studying that thought the data was important because it is, yeah, and the identifiable genetic changes. But what's really important, I think, Michelle, is that the cancerous cells move together in the Petri dish because our cells self-regulate. And if you think what cancer is, it's really like a narcissistic cell that has forgotten it has neighbors and is living in community. It just takes off and tries to run the show.
When these cells were reminded, this time by a prompt from an energy worker, but when these cells were reminded of who they are in relation to each other, they actually regulated each other is what I think happened. That gives us some thought about how we should be training cancer patients because back in the day when I started out, we had cancer patients visualizing Pac-Men eating up their cancer. Maybe we shouldn't be treating it like war, we should be treating it like a communication breakdown and encouraging coherence other than more warfare.
Michelle Shapiro RD
I love this freaking story, Jill. I'm so moved by the story. When you say they did distant healing, what was the actual intervention in the cells? What were they physically doing? How, what was the intervention?
In my book in chapter four of Energy Medicine, I tell a story about a professor at City University who discovered a rather out there healing technique and decided to test it in the lab, and which in itself was kind of wild. And they gave mice cancer. These are mice that are specially bred to have cancer. I know this is sad for the mice, yeah, but actually I have to tell you that these mice have a happy ending, these particular mice, but I just tell you that so you don't feel too sad.
So they give the mice cancer and then they did the technique and it almost always reversed the cancer in the mice. They got, they looked a lot sicker for a moment and then they got better. And here's what's interesting, when they re-injected them with cancer, they could no longer get it, their immune systems had changed and they couldn't give them the cancer anymore (in this case it was Breast Cancer).
Now that professor's name is Dr. Bill Bankston. And I did his course and I know Bill well and I have really leaned into him because he's a wise person. And it was his technique that was used, not him doing it, it was someone who studied with him. And the initial trials were done with the healer being 2,500 miles away, which provokes a lot of scientific question. And they've repeated this 18 times with the same results!
So this is clearly, it's an anomalous result, but it's real. And now we have to work out why. Yeah, it's replicable, but we, you know, there are big questions. What is the transmission wave from the healer to the cells? You know, what happens when the wave meets the cell electromagnetically? There's a lot of questions.
And I think this is probably going to be my next book, to be honest, because I think I'm going to go on this journey to try and ask the right questions, you know, such as I can, or find people who know the right questions and then try to answer them. Because that brings us into this idea that we affect each other. Yeah, which we do kind of know, but it starts to measure the way we affect each other, which I'm very interested in.
Michelle Shapiro RD
It's fascinating. And I, I think again, you know, we're talking about energy within the body and the chi within the body. And then when you were talking about the narcissistic, hilarious cancer cell, I just think that's like an amazing reference. I was thinking about how we also, what we don't understand is that we are connected to one another through energy, just as much as our internal environment is connected to itself.
And this is, you know, my clients have laughed before because it might take me three or four months to start talking about food with them because I'm like, I got to get your social situation, your work situation. I got to know what's going on in your, in your outside of yourself community for me to understand the internal environment that's even occurring.
Daoism and our Collective Consciousness
So this, this idea of energy between people, if I have the, the vision of what you've laid out, which is the connection component, can you tell me how do we impact each other from an energetic perspective? And we know work stress can lead to chronic illness, but can you draw a more scientific picture of that for us?
Yes, yes and no, there are still some questions that I think, you know, good science is all about asking the right question, I think. So I don't think we have all the answers. But at the University of Connecticut, and I wrote about this in energy medicine, they put two people in separate MRIs. And when one thought healing thoughts about the other, their brainwaves synced up on MRI. Now they were in different rooms and that's, that's wild.
But it's also something that we instinctively know is probably right because I don't know how many times you've thought about someone and then have them text you. But it happens a lot, does it not?
I mean for me it's often a patient I haven't seen for like a decade and I think about them out of nowhere and sure enough they're on my schedule the next week. I somehow heard them. So I'm really interested in how we communicate non-verbally and sort of what would loosely be called energetically with each other.
In Energy Medicine I also wrote about some really interesting studies at Princeton in the engineering department where they had a student, a grad student, who wanted to create a machine that could be moved by the human mind and Dr. Jean, who was the dean at that point of engineering at Princeton, didn't think for a moment that she'd pull it off but he thought it was an interesting intellectual exercise for a grad student to you know break it down and see.
Well she did pull it off! And to cut a long story very short, thanks to decaying atomic material, she created a random number generator that spat out random numbers. And what they found was that when people focused on the machine with the same emotion, not really on the machine, but focused together with the same general emotion, the machine came into order, the numbers became less random. And the more people, the less random it became.
And so to give you an example, on September the 11th, by that time Princeton had set up a lab to look at this called the Pear Lab and they had computers at universities all over the world spitting back random numbers to Princeton for them to monitor what happens as the world changes.
And on September the 11th they all came into line all over the world as we all stopped what we were doing and looked in the same direction. And that is kind of extraordinary. Now, something that I still have questions about is that they started to come into order before it happened, about four hours before.
And I don't know, yes, I think we need to talk to some physicists about this. This may be about the nonlinear nature of time at that level. It may be that this had already started in so much as the people with the malevolent intent were already on their way to the airport, you know, that could be part of it.
I don't know the answer to that, but that was, that's part of the data is that they started to come into line before those planes hit the Twin Towers and the Pentagon. And then they were very in line. And then they dropped away in other parts of the world. And we all stayed somewhat connected in New York, because of course it was very real for us at the time. I lived in New York during that time.
Michelle Shapiro RD
Yep. I lived in New York too.
So here's what we know. We can measure the effect of our consciousnesses integrating. But I'm not sure we understand completely the wave. There must be an informational carrier wave of some sort. And I've talked to a lot of scientists about it, and there are lots of theories, torsion, scalar waves, all sorts of things, but I think that’s our next frontier.
You know, we have to be able to identify and measure the way information is carried. But there is no doubt that we affect each other and we know it. It makes sense to us. You know, we've all had the experience if you walk into a room where there's been an argument, you can feel it, can't you? Even though everybody may be looking normal, you feel the tension in the air.
Likewise, if you walk into a temple or a church or a mosque, they often feel extraordinarily peaceful. And I think that's thousands of years of people being on their best behavior while you know communing with their maker, or their higher power, yeah? And you start to feel it in the building. And so we have more questions than answers but I think we're on our way to identifying the right questions to ask so we can answer them and find information that I think will change us.
How the Pandemic Affected our Collective Energy
And I think the pandemic made us somewhat isolated and we saw people suffer, didn't we? We're calibrating, you made this point in your question, but we're calibrating each other just like those cancer cells were calibrating other cells.
And Chinese medicine has always had a method of explaining this, which is that the Qi that is the intelligence that flows through your body and creates coherent communication, is part of something bigger called the Dao, which is our collective consciousness that we emerged from.
And so I often teach my patients a little bit about Daoism because it's a very useful philosophy. It's not really a religion, Daoism. It's more of a philosophy, although you can make anything into a religion and people have rituals around it. But really it's the idea that we're all a coherent organism. That we’re all meant to be here and we're part of a very complex matrix. Too hard to understand matrix.
Lao Tzu said the Dao that can be spoken of is not the not the real Dao, meaning this is beyond our ability to comprehend but we're all connected in this soup that we live in, in this complex matrix of connection that we're moving in and every thought we have, every feeling, every decision we make moves the Dao a little bit and everybody else moves with it. Which is why it's impossible to imagine when you do that on any scale. But I do think it's a helpful philosophy for people who are looking to change their health.
Michelle Shapiro RD
I think so too. And I think it's a warm feeling. I have such gooey feelings from every time you talk Jill, I just am like, Oh, you give me such chills. You really do. But it's, it's, it's, um, I think for people, which is why I also, I would say that the biggest risk for health ails besides the actual virus during COVID was the loneliness component of it, which is that we just felt so severed from each other.
And I will say I have my clients are like weekly for five years kind of clients. I'm a very long term, like, with you and it with you the whole time. I've never seen health issues like this in my clients. So I know their bodies like this is not and it's not just from a vaccine like some people want. It was the loneliness, and it was the fear and it was the disconnection.
And I was like, this is causing such profound impacts where I know some of my clients, you know, I was like with your doctor's advice, like, please at least go for walks outside or at least try to connect with people because it was like the chi of the world was just down. Like it felt, it really felt like that. And it's so, it's, it's so tangible and so obvious.
Our work with clients, like you said, we learn, I learned from my clients much more than I teach. You know, I'm, I'm learning through their experience when you sit with someone and you sit in that soup, like you said, of their lives and their experience. I've never seen such a drastic shift as I did during the isolation of COVID. That was so palpable for people. It really, and I'm sure you experienced that with your patients as well.
Yes, there are a lot of mental health suffering. After the pandemic, when we first opened our Yinova Centers again, we realized that our patients were unused to dealing with people anymore. And so we never judge our patients by their worst day. We’ve all had our worst day. We've all been less good versions of ourselves. I sort of hate the sort of sanctimoniousness that happens online where people look down on people because they yelled and screamed. People are suffering.
But what we noticed is that people were much more yell-y and impatient and unreasonable. And it's so much so that I had to teach my front desk conflict resolution, which they'd never needed before. But people couldn't get the appointment at the time they wanted. They would go bananas. And they were just out of practice in social interaction, I think.
And I remember saying to my husband, because the Yinova team worked all the way through this, we just pivoted to virtual, and then we went back into the Center as soon as we could. And I said, I wonder why our team aren't like this. Yeah. And my husband said to me, he's the Chief Clinic Director at Yinova, Noah, he said, it's because we've spent the pandemic looking outwards.
People have been torturing themselves with their own heads. Whereas we've been listening to people's problems all day and looking outwards and it's actually been really healthy for us. And you know people who didn't have you know the luck of being in a profession where they could just turn their attention outwards were left to deal with their own heads in isolation and I have enormous compassion for the fact that when they finally rejoined the world they weren't great at it and we're noticing people getting better now.
We Become the Energy we Put Out Into the World
They are the sweetest people. Once I started to see the world that we live in as this matrix of connection I realized, Michelle, that we all have a responsibility to put into the Dao something positive. And that more importantly actually what you put out comes back to you.
And we all know people who create their own worst fears, or we may be people who have created their own worst fears. I have at times. We know someone who thinks everybody doesn't like them and then becomes so prickly, but guess what? They don't get positive feedback from people. You know, it's just life. And so it's a lot of responsibility, but it's also very liberating to think, oh, there's this plasticity to my relationship with the world I live in. And the thing that makes the difference is what I put out.
And I have got quieter over the years. I'm careful about what I put out at this point you know I used to do social media like everybody and then I realized that you know nobody needs to see my avocado toast. We don't have to be forcing everybody to listen to us at all times, actually.
We should be thinking about the space we're in as we communicate. And these days, if I do an interview like I'm doing with you, I don't prepare as in think about what I'm going to say. But I do grab myself before I talk to you and open up and become expansive. Yeah, rather than shut down. And that is how I approach all public speaking, is I get grounded and then open and then I assume that the words will come.
I always say to people, inspiration is called after the in-breath for a reason. If you relax, you have access to so much information in the Dao that you just need to be fully focused. Which is why instantly when a good idea has come, everybody has the same idea and then they sue each other for plagiarism, It's because they're not plagiarizing each other. They've taken it from the Dao. It's in the Zeitgeist.
Eating with Intention vs. Intuitive Eating
Michelle Shapiro RD
Absolutely. Jill, I have to ask you about something. So a big part of this podcast, Quiet the Diet, is about obviously trying to quiet down external voices around diet, culture around starving our bodies, then accessing our own intuition around food.
What makes my podcast a little bit different than others is that we can get ideas that feel morally good, like intuitive eating, but that those also need to be coming from a place of intuition if we're implementing them too.
Where do you see, I don't know how familiar you are with intuitive eating or this idea that kind of all foods fit and that we should relieve that kind of mental pressure around food. Where do you see that coming into play?
Again, I'm critical of both in that I believe that the person has to come up with the idea themselves. So if a practitioner is telling them you can eat any food and you can't want to lose weight and you can't, I believe there's still a limitation from a connection perspective there. Can you speak into that? Because I think I'd love to hear your opinion on this too.
Well, first and foremost, and I say this, as someone who has treated bodies hands on all this time, people come in different shapes and sizes, and they just do and the sooner we just all accept that and see the beauty in our differences. I think the healthier we are, I think there's a sort of homogenized kind of view of what beauty is, that is very limiting. And you know, we can't, and it creates the kind of world where people have, you know, have lots of surgeries or punish their body in all sorts of ways because it isn't the shape that they've been told bodies are supposed to be.
And as someone who just deals with bodies, we're all you know, we're we come in different shapes and sizes. I also treat a lot of the most beautiful people in the world, you know, celebrities and actors and things. And I have to tell you, they're all worried about their bodies and self conscious and have bits of them they don't like so clearly something has gone wrong in the messaging we are receiving particularly women but men as well, about our bodies and what is acceptable and what is beautiful and what is not beautiful and and it affects us deeply. All of us.
And we get these messages from our photoshopped advertisements. You'll notice that you know, we show stretch marks and things with Photoshop and default. And that cage if they wish I'm real buddies. Yeah, we are real, that we all have. Yeah, I bet even the people you think are the most beautiful people in the world are actually photoshopped by the time you see them. And in fact, they are gorgeous. But so are we all so are we all precious, precious riverbeds? So I start there.
And then I think food food has energetic components. So if I if we take corn, for instance, corn is such it's both healthy for you when it has been taking in the sun, and it's passing on that energy. To you, yeah, it's most unhealthy or more unhealthy when it's been flattened and excluded and, and processed into a conflict. Yeah, and different food has different energy in Chinese dietetics.
So, for example, you know, root vegetables, pull up all the minerals from the earth. And that's why they, you know, we use them to keep us going in the winter. Yeah, I grow carrots, I plant them in the summer, and then I collect them, and they keep for so long. And they've taken up all the sort of minerals from the earth. There is evidence there is research that shows that animals that die in terror, pass on some of that to you. Yeah. And they're, they're less good for you than animals that have been treated with love and kindness, it turns out because you are absorbing the stress hormones.
And so I think we need to be a lot more intentional about how our food gets to us. That's part of intuitive eating, and then, you know, really thinking about what your body needs, just like take, and that's really about presents, you can't be you. You can, you can have heard you've read all the books you like, and they're all helpful.
But at some point, you just need to get present and say, Do I really want this cookie now? Or am I just stuffing down my feelings, and we've all done it? I'm a big comfort eater, personally. Absolutely. And so to me, that's what Intuitive Eating is it's taking into account the journey the food has had to to reach you, and then treating it getting present enough to know what it is you want, I think and accepting your body as just your body.
Michelle Shapiro RD
Yeah, I think that's the components of body positive and intuitive eating that are for me, undeniably true, like no one will ever be able to tell me otherwise. Is that we are all worthy of love and that we can all access love and deserve it. And that there's no inherent moral difference between any person based on their body size. I have to laugh every time I say that because it's such a ridiculous notion.
And then the part of it that feels like a disconnect, like you said, is the, we have to take food in the context of life force, in the context of the connection it had before it got to us and the pathways of how it got to us. And we can't only, again, this idea that our minds and our body are not even connected, but the same thing, right? They're all, it's all one thing.
If we say, hey, you can eat things just to appease the emotional part, you're still viewing the body from a dichotomous way. You're actually still not appreciating that. The food impacts you physically and mentally and energetically at the same time. So you landed, I think everyone lands same place, which is that, of course, we should not be restricting food and create fear and starvation and eating disorders around food.
And at the same time, what we eat is energy that we're into. It's not only just calories, it's not only just carbs. We're taking in connection. We're taking in energy. We're taking in a story of where the food's been from. And it is the literal thing that gives us life. So it is obviously important how much life is in food.
You express that so beautifully. Michelle, you did. And that's exactly how I see it. Thank you for putting words on that. That was beautiful. Thank you.
Michelle Shapiro RD
Thank you. I do a lot of this work in sessions where, you know, we're not talking about calculations in sessions. I'm like, let's sit and look at a blueberry and talk about how did this amazing specific blueberry end up in your hand? How did this one blueberry, like what was the journey? And especially, you know, in the United States, like food comes from everywhere. Like we majorly import from other parts of the country and other parts of the world, you know, for food. So it always has a story in this journey.
And appreciating that I think is so important for people as opposed to, like you said, creating that presence as opposed to still putting it into a different framework of, this is gonna make me feel emotionally better and I can't restrict this because it'll, it's okay to also say no to things that are taking away energy from you as opposed to giving you energy. I think that's okay. And that's part of, I'm sure the Dao and, it's like there's toxin, like you said, toxin build up and we need to filter out those toxins. So that's all very important too.
Jill, thank you for this interview. I can't wait to re listen to it and just be in the feelings. I just want to feel things. I just thought I feel so high energy from you. Jill, where can people find you? I know I'm going to of course put links for you Nova right in the show notes and where people can work with you. But if they want to get energy medicine, if they want to access you and your amazing team of 50, Jill, how do they get to you? What should they do? How do they find you?
The Yinova team are all in the offices. We have three offices in New York: One in Brooklyn, one on the Upper East Side and our original one in downtown in Flatiron and you can just go to yinovacenter.com. I stopped seeing new patients and I started again during the pandemic. I hadn't stopped seeing new patients for a decade. So I'm still doing it because I'm learning. You mentioned how much we learn from our patients, I'm learning a ton.
And I really appreciated being able to be of service during this time, rather than just be lost in my head. It's therapeutic for me to go to work too. And I have a lot of knowledge that I've accumulated over the years. So I'm enjoying sharing it. So people can just go to yinovacenter.com and book online with me or the team virtually or in person with the team. And that's the best way to find me. I simplified everything over the years. So following Yinova Center is the best way to find out.
Michelle Shapiro RD
I love that. And Jill, we're so happy to have you back as a practitioner because I know that you had taken, you were doing a lot of research and travel and you were taking on very, very few patients. So this is what a joy to have you back. This is so wonderful.
I just I had so many old patients that I didn't take on any new ones, you know, and so I was just growing old with my patients, which is kind of fun. My fertility patients became my menopause patients. So we were just going through our transitions together, but now it's I'm back and I'm taking care of anyone who wants to see me for the foreseeable future.
At some point, I'm going to make a documentary series about this subject actually, and then I'll be out for a little while, but for the next few months, I am at your layover and happy to help in any way I can with people. And I'm enjoying meeting people from all over the world, which I you know, I used to see people in person and now I can move around the world during the day on Zoom.
I go from the Gulf states to Paris to New York, and it's really fun to meet people and understand their experience and how it's affecting their health. So I have a I have a lovely job and I'm lucky and the Innova team are happy goodhearted team and we're right here for you.