Ross J. Barr is a fertility and women’s health expert. He is a registered acupuncturist, trained herbalist and member of the British Acupuncture Council and is known for the results he achieves as much as for his warm, personable approach.
Specialising in five element acupuncture, Barr is regarded as one of the country’s leading and trusted fertility specialists, focusing on male and female infertility and acupuncture in conjunction with IVF, grief and heartbreak. He is also a member of the British Infertility Counselling Association. This month, with Victoria Health he launches his new range of supplements.
Why did you decide to become an acupuncturist?
My Dad died out of the blue when I was 20. My mother, a Glaswegian who drinks and smokes, but also believes in the power of alternative medicine, suggested that my brother and I have some acupuncture. I had never had it before and didn’t realise it was really good for grief and bereavement.
Having treatments made such a fundamental difference to the shock of losing him. I fell in love with it and I suppose one might also say the clichés that I was going to survive, that everything was going to be okay.
Can you explain how acupuncture works?
Acupuncture is the manipulation of chi or if you like, energy. Everyone has an electrical current which passes through their bodies and this current runs through us like a road map or meridians which pass through organs. Acupuncture is the invigoration of that current and it helps to improve the function of organs which might be weak or tired. It’s fine tuning in much the way you might with an instrument. It’s an incredible medical system that means every treatment is tailor-made to the individual’s needs. It is brilliant at treating the root of the problem as well as the manifestation.
Acupuncture works by putting us into a sort of internal holiday state. It’s no coincidence that so many people conceive whilst on holiday. On holiday you are doing everything you may have been doing in this lockdown (resting, not commuting, eating well). People conceive in war zones, but not as many as on holiday.
What has acupuncture taught you about dealing with life?
That there is a big difference between being healthy and being peaceful. Many of us try to be healthy – we will take a HIT class, use a Nutri Bullet, and in the process create a bigger to do list – but that in itself can bring imbalance. There’s no point being really ‘healthy’ if it’s going to rid you of your peace. And it’s such a beautiful feeling being truly peaceful.
Enjoying this peacefulness shows a state of contentment, that you’re not running on too much adrenaline. At the moment, that might mean you don’t think in a catastrophic way when you watch the news. Arguably, the more balanced you are, the less you might watch the news.
The happiest people are those who find balance and peace and adhere to a 80/20 rule. I’ve learned that if I respect health and the basics such as eating 3 meals a day, not drinking excessively, getting to bed early for 80% of the time, the other 20% of the time I can enjoy myself wholeheartedly.
Living healthily for 80% of the time provides a structural robustness so that for 20% of the time you can indulge with gay abandon and it won’t necessarily affect your digestive system.
But increasingly, you have treated clients with fertility issues, why is that?
I’m just a huge fan of babies (LAUGHS). I spoke to my mother recently and she told me that she had five miscarriages and two blood transfusions between having my brother and myself. And another three miscarriages after me. I was really shocked and that is the case for many women.
I didn’t set out to specialise in fertility, but acupuncture is so good at regulating the menstrual cycle and invigorating blood and chi flow, helping with the secretion of fluids and getting you into a good internal space. And I suppose I have become known for helping people to achieve that.
What made you decide to launch your own range?
It was borne from seeing clients’ frustration and anxiety. Nutrition is often the most influential non-genetic factor in fetal development. No matter how relaxed or balanced we are, when you decide to conceive and it doesn’t happen in the first three months, we all slightly lose it. As a result we become vulnerable and impatient. I remember my wife Eva buying supplements and realising there was this exploitation of the most vulnerable because the fertility business is huge, so I took a hard long look.
Many women are made to feel they need to buy more than they actually need as such. Some of the ingredients I’ve come across are so synthetic you might as well eat Lego. Sometimes, the ingredients used are derivatives of petroleum and are so chemically based that the body doesn’t recognise them. People can feel nauseous because the body thinks you are taking a synthetic compound.
With so many products on the market, how is your range different?
The efficacy of my products is down to the combination of high quality ingredients and highly considered formulations. My training as a herbalist has taught me that herbs, minerals and vitamins don’t always mix and you are better to separate them out. Certain things nourish chi, or blood or yin and sometimes ingredients (however natural or good ) can upset the balance of the formula and have an adverse effect on something else.
The quality of the delivery is also paramount. I aim to provide supplemental nutrients in the same form as they would be found in food for optimum absorption and maximum benefits.
The ingredients are not isolated, synthetic chemicals, but are food state nutrients (from plants) that the body will recognise, digest and process as they are intended, thereby reducing toxicity or side effects.
The pills contain everything a woman needs to nourish, fortify and prepare for fertility and conception and ensure she enjoys optimum health right through to the fourth trimester and breastfeeding. Ingredients include Zinc, Vitamin B12, Iron, Magneisum and Selenium, which all contribute to normal cell division. Food state folic acid is absorbed better than chemical folic acid and contributes to internal tissue growth during pregnancy. The difference between the two is around an 80% better absorption rate.
Part of what I do in the clinic is to try to get clients to relax and do less if they could. I wanted clients to know that they could take one pill a day, with or without food, and know that they were getting everything their bodies needed whilst trying to conceive. The pregnancy formula is also good to help nourish the mother with everything she has lost -minerals, vitamins – during her labour.
I formulated some of these supplements a year ago and gave them to clients that I was treating. The feedback was that their hair, nail and skin improved. I could also tell when reading their pulse at the start of an acupuncture session (pulse readings can reveal an organ deficiency) that their body was stronger and healthier.
How long before you are trying to conceive should you take them?
Around three cycles is advised, but when it comes to infertility, the focus is so often on the woman, but I have also formulated a supplement for men, which will hopefully be available within the next few weeks.
For years the focus has been on women, which is ridiculous given statistics suggest that 1 in 3.5 issues of infertility are down to the man. And yet 90% of the focus and pressure is on women. When I meet a couple now, the first thing I do is get the man tested.
Women can sometimes feel resentful if they are the ones having to do everything. It’s also interesting how little information there is to promote sperm quantity and quality. A lot of men believe that if there’s a problem, it’s bad full stop and not much can be done; sadly, there isn’t a lot of education available, but there is far more to it than wearing loose pants and stopping cycling.
My intention is to nourish men at all levels: selenium for healthy sperm and zinc for healthy hormones regulation. In recent years, it’s been proved that sperm quality is fundamental for the development of the foetus and DNA tests have shown that poor sperm quality can be a big factor in miscarriages.
Does you suggest that both partners should take supplements even if they have no reason to feel that they are struggling to conceive?
Yes because the pills are designed to ensure you are in optimum health, but not only for fertility. If you do the groundwork properly it can save a lot of stress later on.
Any other advice?
Ten years ago, it used to be about getting more people to be healthy or exercise or eat better, but now it’s a daily battle to get clients to embrace doing less.
There’s an amazing saying in Chinese medicine which says the best way to stop the baby crying is to treat the mother. And I’m always trying to get women, after labour, to do more for themselves. It’s the best thing you can do for your children.
The Supplements: Ross J Barr