Acupuncturist and Chinese medicine practitioner Peter Kington has built a successful fertility and pregnancy-focused practice, working with couples and individuals experiencing sub-fertility. In this very open conversation with Mason Peter discusses erectile function, semen analysis, reproductive health, male health literacy, lifestyle, emotional, spiritual factors of male preconception, red flags for infertility, and breaking down cultural barriers around the male role in conception.
Living in a world where infertility issues and IVF procedures are increasing, one can find an array of lifestyle, biological, and environmental factors that play a role in both men and women not being as optimally fertile as they could be. But how can we get to the root of what's causing infertility if the right diagnostic tools aren't being used, and the right conversations are not being had? Looking through the holistic lens of Chinese Medicine, Peter explains why male preconception is a vulnerable topic for men to openly discuss, especially when there is an infertility factor present that lies with them. One of the things that stands out about Peter Kington as a practitioner is his approach to diagnosis and his sensitivity to understanding the male psyche. In this insightful conversation, he explains that a good diagnosis is about looking for bits of information that give insight into the patient's mind/body connection and being aware of the cultural narratives around male reproductive function.
"So often I'll be presented with the situation where I'm talking to someone who's probably 33 or 34 years old. You go through everything, they drink moderately, they don't smoke, they don't do drugs, they might have a cup of coffee every day or two. They don't add sugar. They're doing all the right things. From an overall health perspective, they look healthy and okay. But then, when you drill down to the fertility results, they have these terrible outcomes".
- Peter Kington
Mason and Peter Discuss:
Who is Peter Kington?
Peter Kington is a registered Acupuncturist and Chinese medicine practitioner who lives and practices in Brisbane, Australia. Prior to his Chinese medicine career, Peter had a short and unfulfilling career in retail before traveling the world as an international tour director. He graduated from the Australian College of Natural Medicine in 2005 when he also went into full-time practice. Initially, a generalist in his practice, but over time has built a fertility and pregnancy-focused practice that includes working with couples and individuals experiencing sub-fertility. In addition to his Chinese medicine degree, Peter also completed a Master of Reproductive Medicine. Since 2010 Peter has taught many professional development seminars to practitioners in Australia and New Zealand. He also completed a four-part series for eLotus in Los Angeles. Peter has presented papers at AACMAC, Acupuncture New Zealand’s annual conference, the International Integrative Chinese Medicine Conference, and, more recently, the Rothenberg TCM Kongress and a two-part series for ATMS.
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Check Out The Transcript Here:
Mason Taylor: (00:00)
Hey there, welcome.
Peter Kington: (00:02)
Thank you for having me.
Mason Taylor: (00:03)
Absolute pleasure. I am quite humbled having someone of such experience on the podcast, talking to me about... Especially, I'm really excited to go into your style of talking about male preconception, which is obviously such a small aspect of what you understand and know from your expertise. Have your own practise. Nonetheless, it's an area that, just the little that I know about what you know, I just know we are going to be able to go deep into this, beyond the do this, take these herbs, work on testosterone. I just can't wait to dive into this slippery world. I don't know if you want to introduce yourself in any other way that wouldn't have been done to say hello to everybody.
Peter Kington: (00:56)
So, well thank you. My name is Peter Kington. I practise in Brisbane. I've been practising since 2005 in full-time capacity. I've kind of done it all a bit. I've owned a clinic and I had that for many years. That kind of came to an end when the building got sold. I just decided to have a break from being a commercial tenant and rented rooms in another practise. I did that for three years. Then, COVID came along. It would kind of change the landscape a little bit. I think I'd been sort of getting to a point, anyway, where I felt like I wanted to develop a more sustainable way of working and living harmoniously. The risks, I guess, from a business perspective that COVID brought to us all, but had business interests, meant that I thought maybe it's time to do what I've been thinking of for a long time, and that's, relocate my practise to a home base, practise which I did. It's the best thing I've ever done.
Peter Kington: (02:03)
It took a lot of stress out of my life, put a lot of joy back in my work, and I feel like I'm the practitioner I probably thought I was going to be 15 years ago. Didn't kind of get to and weaved around a little bit and got really stressed about that along the way several times. So yeah.
Mason Taylor: (02:25)
I mean being a professional or a business or not, you just mentioned it's probably time for you to live a little bit more sustainably and harmoniously, which is something especially in what you're delivering to people in helping them find harmony in their own bodies. What you can see, even for what I do at times, I've gone, my God, I'm not living sustainably, I'm educating about it, I'm talking about it, but I haven't quite made those leaps. I love hearing that. I've heard a few practitioners say that when this whole thing went down, all of a sudden, it's given that little pop and that capacity to change to go, you know what, I'm going to start actioning that move back into harmony. And then just seeing the blossoming come.
Peter Kington: (03:08)
I'm very mindful of being respectful of that because in this country, and certainly around the world, lots of people have had a very terrible impact from COVID. Here in Queensland, we've been very fortunate. So I'm grateful for that. But I realise in other parts of the country, that hasn't been the case. I certainly know of practitioners that have lost their businesses and their livelihoods because of extended lockdowns. I'm grateful for that, but also just from a personal point of view, being able to work from home, it's meant that I got rid of my car. So, that's one less car on the road. That's one less cost in our lives.
Peter Kington: (03:51)
I've bought a little e-scooter. I don't go anywhere through the week. If I have to go somewhere, I jump on that, scoot off, go and do what I have to do, and then come back. It's actually been really good. It's allowed me to feel a little bit more, I guess like I'm living a little bit more true to the values, like you said, the types of things that Chinese medicine practitioners bang on about. The whole practitioner, heal thyself. Sometimes, the ego can get in the way of that and we don't stop to think about the bigger picture. So yeah, here we are.
Mason Taylor: (04:25)
Here we are. I think holding that space, something emanates from you. Something emanates from a practitioner who is actually evolving along the road, and not just saying stuff.
Peter Kington: (04:36)
Yeah. I used to run two rooms. I ran two rooms originally because I had taken on this commercial space that was a bit more expensive. I was working a lot harder. I did that and I thought this is really good. I'm successful because I'm running two rooms, that's what successful practitioners do, that's what we get told. Then, I started to get really burned out. I figured out that okay I'm running two rooms but I'm actually working a lot harder to run those two rooms. I'm actually not seeing a lot of profitability from a financial perspective, as a result of running those two rooms. I kept perpetuating that myth in my head for a long time, but with this new arrangement, I just had one room. I see one person at a time. I can have a genuine conversation with people. I can do moxibustion with them, do as much of it that I need to do, rather than having to think about the next room that I've got to run to.
Peter Kington: (05:39)
When people are facing distress or discomfort, I can kind of be in that space with them and have them feel like they're heard, as opposed to me kind of looking at them and not registering what they're saying and thinking about a clock. It's taken a lot of that pressure off. At the end of the day, I think the people who come to see me get a better level of care. I can't imagine any circumstances under which I would ever revert back to that old model.
Mason Taylor: (06:05)
No doubt you're getting better results and that it's like everyone going back to slow cooking, slow food, slow living, slow healing.
Peter Kington: (06:16)
I call that the sourdough revolution.
Mason Taylor: (06:18)
Oo, yeah. The sourdough clinic renaissance. Well look, speaking of you speaking of myth, perpetuating myths, I'm going to use that to segue into our conversation around male preconception, because, there obviously are a lot of myths, but even the myth in where you need to start, that was something I'm really interested to talk to you about, what's the context in which we need to be having this conversation before we just start getting to the list of things you need to do to make yourself more potent. Or what's the point of male preconception even? That's probably a myth that the guys don't need to worry about it. That's probably the one to start with.
Peter Kington: (06:57)
Yeah. Men basically have to step up. There's a whole lot of sociocultural reasons why they don't and why they're avoidant around issues of fertility, masculinity and sexuality. They're all kind of intertwined. In this reductionist world of ours, and in a medical system that's reductionist... By the way, I just want to say [inaudible 00:07:26], I'm not an anti-medical person. Nothing I'm saying is meant to be destructive, not destructive but disrespectful to modern medicine. I think it's delivered us lots of many wonderful things. We all have our place on the spectrum of medical care. The medical model is a reductionist model in that it reduces things to a cellular level or two, a blood serum level, or if you've got a problem with your digestive tract you go and see gastroenterologists. If they can't define what's causing your irritable bowel syndrome, then there's a cause for that it excludes the other maybe lifestyle course. Then you get a person like me, you get that kind of holistic umbrella approach or nutritionist or naturopath. We kind of approach the body in a different way.
Peter Kington: (08:12)
I don't tend to think of that male ego, super ego, that gets in the way of lots of things, as being separate from the person that's sitting in front of me. I guess the thing that stops people from being in that space, that point of view, is that they haven't got a framework to process that something might be wrong. They go to a medical path, which is logical because that's what happens. The doctor might send them off to say have a semen analysis, and the semen analysis might come back and say that for the very low sperm count. Immediately, it's been reduced because it's been reduced to a parameter on a semen analysis, which then opens up the door to fertility treatment.
Peter Kington: (09:09)
The outcome of that will often be there's a referral for you to see an IVF specialist with the female partner. The IVF process will say well we'll just do ICSI, which is a particular type of IVF that bypasses male factor infertility and they select sperm and off they go. It bypasses the potential causes for infertility to just provide a treatment solution at the other end. It kind of gives the bloke a free pass, without having to think that the other issues follow the things that might actually be causing that low sperm count. It could be as simple as the diet they have, the stress levels they endure. That kind of thing is not always factored in.
Peter Kington: (09:54)
Where someone like me will instantly go to those types of things. But then, the responsiveness of the client to that is a whole other discussion which we should probably talk about as well, because that's part of the psychology.
Mason Taylor: (10:09)
Well I think that's a great place to start because it's definitely changing a narrative, a cultural narrative. Helping to evolve, it'll move it down the road, rather than going, you should be worried or you should be working, getting to the root cause, as you're saying, I'm sure where you're going to go right now, painting a broader picture that's going to allow that to happen in a more natural way and feel a little bit more empowering, rather than you're doing this wrong. You should be doing it this way.
Peter Kington: (10:42)
There's a couple of scenarios. The most common one is this. Of a morning, I'll wake up and I'll have a look at my work emails. They'll be an inquiry from my website. Often, that inquiry will have been generated at somewhere around 2 AM. It'll say something like hi, my partner and I are about to go down the IVF path and we'd like to discuss the range of options to support what we're going to do. The first thing is that's happened at 2 AM, which means that the person that's been googling at 1:35 AM has been awake. There's obviously something going on that's keeping this person up and it does. Very commonly, these inquiries come in, in the morning, after this overnight thing. Secondly, nearly always, when I say always I mean always women, even if it's the issue is about a name. The initial inquiry will nearly always be from a woman about the other person.
Peter Kington: (11:50)
The process then unfolds. I'll make contact with them. I'll call the person who's made the inquiry. I'll often just ask the questions, especially if the inquiry is about male factor, I'll just say ah so is the male partner on board with this, oh no he doesn't know I've contacted you. That's the third part of this evolving kind of cultural thing that, really what I've seen is, as from the beginning, it's actually a relationship issue, it's a relational issue between them, that this process is unfolding in this way.
Peter Kington: (12:31)
Then, there'll be a little bit of discussion about that. Eventually, it'll get to that point, where you either need to make an appointment, or you need to go off and think about it. Often, they'll go off and think about it and they'll say I'll have a talk to my partner about it. Then it might sit for a day or two or three. And then, there'll be a phone call back, or there'll be an online booking made, and it'll be the person that you've spoken to, but they will almost always be the female half of the relationship, not the male. So then, they'll come, and then quite often, that will filter down to so how can I help you? The response will be well as far as I know, I've got nothing wrong but my partner's got infertility issues. Right? The person that's sitting in front of you is the female part of the couple, for all intents and purposes, doesn't really have anything wrong. Wrong from a medical point of view, not necessarily from a holistic point of view.
Peter Kington: (13:31)
There is that evolving scenario. That's the first kind, I think. The second thing is that if you do happen to get a male, who comes to see you, what you're often confronted with is a really complex dynamic of someone who doesn't really know how to communicate about their body, doesn't really know how to communicate about their health, has a lot of trouble thinking laterally, across the spectrum of health, physical health, mental health, emotional health, social health. They often have trouble kind of thinking laterally rather than in a very linear sense. They themselves will come with a very reductionist way of thinking, which I think is probably a bloke thing, more so. I don't want to get too caught up in the men are from Mars and women are from Venus thing because it's a slippery slope. I think generally men do that, and I think they do that probably for a reason, because it helps them to bypass certain responsibilities along the way sometimes, and I say that as a man.
But then, they'll often come and their ability to communicate about what's actually, they're experiencing or how they're feeling, is often really challenging from a clinical point of view. We're presented with the situation where you'll be talking to someone who's probably 33 or 34 years old. You go through everything. They drink moderately. They don't smoke. They don't do drugs. They might have a cup of coffee every day, or two. They don't add sugar. They're doing all the right things. From an overall health perspective, they look healthy and okay. But then, when you drill down to the fertility results, they have these terrible outcomes.
Peter Kington: (15:31)
Their ability to kind of converse with you in a way that draws together the social, the emotional, the physical, all those types of things, it's often quite difficult. That's your job as a practitioner is to try and pull that together. But, there's a bit of a discord between how the male brain thinks and what it wants at the other end.
Peter Kington: (15:54)
They're the two most probable scenarios that you'll either get an inquiry about a male and you'll end up seeing the female, and to be honest, that's probably 90% of the time. Then, there's another scenario where you might get 9% of the time, where it's a female who inquires about a male, and the male comes. Very, very rarely, you'll then get that 1% where it's a man that actually contacts you for himself.
Mason Taylor: (16:20)
Yeah, I'm aware of the stereotype around that, blokes not wanting to talk about their issues, perhaps not being able to think laterally. But, it kind of amazes me that, that's still that extreme of a percentage that's only 1% of the guy, turning up on his own volition. In that case, would you say being really proactive and vulnerable in that situation?
Peter Kington: (16:52)
First of all, about statistics, that's just my made up statistics about myself [crosstalk 00:16:55] but that's actually probably pretty close to the map, to be honest. Vulnerable, now there's a word. Geez.
Mason Taylor: (17:06)
That's just relevant for me at the moment because I've got such a problem with becoming with my own vulnerability. That's maybe why I'm just putting that word in there.
Peter Kington: (17:17)
No, I think it's a good word. That's actually a really good word, Mason. I think it's probably that fear of... Okay, I remember when I was a kid, I was scared of thunderstorms. There was a reason for that, because our house got struck by lightning. It was very terrifying. I could remember all the smoke filling up the room, and the house shaking. It was a terrible, terrible thing to go through as a small child. For many years, I was quite anxious when thunderstorms come. Anyone who's ever been to Brisbane from October through to about February will know that, that's quite common because we get [inaudible 00:18:01].
Peter Kington: (18:01)
It took me many years to sort of get to a point where I didn't actually get quite anxious. There was a certain vulnerability because I can remember being told by adults are you a man or a mouse? That was a very commonly said thing to me. Are you a man or a mouse? I can remember someone once saying to me, if you don't learn to get over this, how are you ever going to protect your wife when you grow up? Well, I ended up being gay. That was never going to be an issue on that front. In terms of this idea of being the protector. Vulnerability, that's a really good word, because I think a lot of what I see is actually vulnerability that's masked by that socialisation that men have to have all the answers, that men have to be the providers. Here we go back to men are from Mars, and women are from Venus. I think that's actually quite a real thing that a lot of men perceive that they have to be the strong one in the relationship.
Peter Kington: (19:09)
In recent years, I was invited to speak at an acupuncture conference over in New Zealand, in Wellington. I spoke a bit about this. I did some research and there was some really excellent research that came out of the University of New Castle, if I remember correctly, in New South Wales, around the impact of infertility and infertility treatment on men. The general essence of that is it actually deeply impacts men. But they don't express it. The reason they don't express it is if they have a partner who's actually undergoing the treatment, doing the injections in the belly, having the scans, having the anaesthetics to be able to have pick ups and go through all of that sort of thing, they have this feeling that they have to be the strong one. The one that stays to offer comfort when the hormones create an emotional cascade in their partner. So they have to have this strength. They keep having to demonstrate this strength over and over and over again, they don't give themselves that space to be upset, or having to grieve. They often express a very internalised guilt.
Peter Kington: (20:25)
I think the research now that's starting to be done around the impact of infertility on men, does kind of align with the kind of empiric observations that I've made in my practise, and that vulnerability that you talk about. Actually that's a great word because there's this fragility. But, getting them to express that is really, really hard. I have had [inaudible 00:20:53] years that I'm happy to share a few de-identified stories around that. I certainly have had some really interesting clinical experiences around that. Would you like to hear one?
Mason Taylor: (21:04)
Yeah, for sure.
Peter Kington: (21:05)
Mason Taylor: (21:05)
Peter Kington: (21:06)
I actually think it's a really good story. It was many, many years ago. It was probably one of the first men that I ever worked with. We knew that he had a fertility issue. He was the quintessential bloke's bloke. They lived on the margins of Brisbane, in a rural lifestyle kind of environment. I think, from memory, he was a tradie or a labourer or something like that. He worked in a very sort of alpha male type of environment. He had this fertility problem. His wife was coming to see me and she said do you think you can help him? I said it was possible. He just wouldn't come. The only way that she could get him to come and see me, was on the pretence that he had a sore elbow. So he was going to come and see me for the sore elbow. She hoped that if he came and saw me enough times for the elbow and I could help his elbow, he might develop the confidence to then have a conversation with me about his fertility. We might be able to kind of give it what we do and help that.
Peter Kington: (22:21)
I was quite inexperienced with this at the time. This was many years ago. I had probably only been practising for a year or two, maybe three. I hadn't had any of the experiences that I have now. He did come. We did the elbow. There was genuinely a problem with his elbow. It's not like we were just making that up. There was an actually issue there. True to how she thought it might be, the conversation started to kind of drift a little bit towards the fertility reading, we got talking about that.
Peter Kington: (22:53)
He eventually agreed to taking some herbs. So, I gave him some herbs based on what I thought was going on with him. One day, he came in and he sat down, and I could tell that there was something. We'd sort of built a rapport at this point. One thing that happens, I often find, with men is they don't engage with the ideas. They don't look at you. Chinese medicine, the eyes that we look to the soul that's the heart. It's the shen. It's a way of being able to sort of get a snapshot into the connectedness between one's spiritual and emotional self and the piece of the self. We'll often avert their eyes. They'll kind of look at you but just slightly just off to your side, to the temple. They don't quite give you the gaze all the time.
Peter Kington: (23:42)
He kind of used to do that. We got to a good point where we were having this good rapport. He came in on this day and he couldn't quite fix my gaze. He sat down. He used to wear this kind of cowboy hat sort of thing. He took it off and he set it down. He is just sort of sitting there and his eyes are fixed to the floor. He just wasn't communicating and it was really weird. Eventually, I said is everything alright? He went quiet. He said can I ask you a question, and I went, sure. He said I'm just wondering, and then he paused. This is a long time ago and I still remember this conversation really clearly, how it unfolded. I'm just wondering, and he paused. Uh, and he paused. I've got a little one and I'm really worried that because it's little, it's not going in far enough. Maybe that's why we can't have a baby.
Peter Kington: (24:54)
It set me back because the anxiety and the stress that this man carried. It was obviously something that he had thought about a lot for his life. He was obviously aware that, for whatever reason that, in his mind, what he had was not enough. It was inadequate. Then, they got to this point. There's this infertility issue and maybe that's the reason why.
Peter Kington: (25:29)
From my point of view as a practitioner, I needed to have sufficient knowledge to be able to have a conversation with him about the difference between how sperm works, how the penis works, and how the testes work. They're all very inter-related but different things. At the other end of it, I would assure him and reassure him that, so long as there was adequate penetration, that's all they needed to do. At the next point, it was the sperm that then did the next thing, carried their way through, and there's this interaction in the female reproductive tract that helps to facilitate that.
Peter Kington: (26:11)
This may be probably one of the very first times I realised this really low bar that men have about their bodies and health literacy. Having a realistic understanding of their body and how it works. I've had many, many instances since then, perhaps not to that extreme way, but certainly in terms of having conversations with people about their fertility, what they know about themselves, and how little they sometimes know.
Peter Kington: (26:47)
Another example is often people don't realise that what a man ejaculates is not necessarily a sign of their fertility, because the semen is the carrier. It's the agent. It's the sperm that live inside the semen, which you can't see, which are naked to the eye. That's what actually is the fertile component. Without being too visual and too crass, but I think we're among friends here so we can at least have a conversation, and you can delete me out if you want, if you need to.
Mason Taylor: (27:25)
If you learned the things that have been asked on this podcast.
Peter Kington: (27:33)
I'm sure. There's a point in most males' lives, when they figure out that if they touch that thing enough it's going to do what we call ejaculate. That's masturbation. It's usually done in privacy. It's usually done in the shadows of the night. It's usually done in the confines of the shower, while your parents are making dinner, or whatever. It starts at a very young age. It becomes something that males do, however frequently, or infrequently, I don't know. It certainly happens. I think that sets up a real domino effect about how men relate to their bodies because culturally, I think at least in our culture, it still seems to be something to be embarrassed about, ashamed of. Men don't certainly go out with their male friends, sit down, and say, hey by the way, when you ejaculate, how much do you produce? You know I like this look there's nothing conversation.
Peter Kington: (28:35)
I know because of my female friends and my clients, who've said to me at times that they often talk with their girl friends, or class of girl friends, about what their menstrual experience is like, about [inaudible 00:28:45]. There's a little less of a to do around that. Women are possibly a little more comfortable discussing those types of things. Then you get this other thing that gets set up, where you've got these young men that figure this stuff out. I guess these days with the internet they can find that a lot more, a lot younger, unlike when I was their age. I had to go to the school library and try to look things up in an encyclopaedia. They would kind of figure these things out. They would have to experience and then they would attach to that experience the sensation it gave them, the physical sensation of orgasm and release. They would not really have any other parameter until perhaps they're starting to look at porn, which then gives them a very unhealthy and unrealistic metric because there's a reason that they're via porn stars. It's not because they're actually representing the average.
Mason Taylor: (29:43)
It's just the way that it's edited. It's unfortunate. Anyway, sorry. Go on.
Peter Kington: (29:52)
Well, I'll come back to that because I've got a good story about that. Then, they get to this point in their life where they become sexually active with a partner, or partners, girlfriends and boyfriends, or whatever else they're doing throughout their life. They get to this point where suddenly they're being asked to be a parent. They've never really had to think too deeply between that first orgasm when they were 12, and the one that matters most, when they're 32. There's a real golf in there. Porn stars, fun fact, I read this not so long ago, that heterosexual porn recruiters actively recruit ugly men with small penises because they want the focus, the market is to be heterosexual men, who aspire towards the women in the video. If you want to be in the gay porn industry, you have to have a big phallus and look good, because they're appealing to gay men and they sense a desperation towards that.
Mason Taylor: (31:02)
The nuance of the gay porn industry, heterosexual, whatever. When you think that you're a teenager, you just stumble into it and start making these judgements on reality, and then you start hearing the stories of the way that the industry works and the way it works on psychology and the way they cut it. The order that they do the scenes in. Everything that goes into it, the injections that they do for the men.
Peter Kington: (31:33)
You mean saline injections.
Mason Taylor: (31:35)
Yep. You go oh my God, it's obvious now. It's so fabricated. It's so fabricated and you don't think of it when you're a little kid.
Peter Kington: (31:48)
I remember the first time I heard about a fluffer. We probably should explain to people what a fluffer is in case they don't know. A fluffer is the person who's employed to keep a man erect. They fondle them. They keep them kind of going. I think in this day and age, they probably also use a lot of Cialis and Viagra medication now, because filming days for porn stars are long, long days. They start really early and they go really late. They have to kind of keep going, and going, and going. From a Chinese medicine point of view, it's appalling because it depletes the gene, which is the Chinese way of accounting for the semen and the sperm.
Peter Kington: (32:43)
I remember the first sort of documentary about the porn industry, and it was on Netflix or one of those things, and I was watching it. You're right, the stuff they do have fabricated. It's basically just acting. Most of the time, it's bad acting because people in it aren't really actors, they're there because of their body. It's not because [inaudible 00:33:16].
Mason Taylor: (33:16)
When it gets to this point where, because obviously you have a lot of men, who are infertile, or they're wanting to get their chances of making sure they can save during IVF. They want them to be better. I'm assuming what you're talking about, this barrier to engaging this conversation, also applies to any man who's going we're planning to conceive and I just want to ensure that I'm as healthy as possible. I've got the healthiest gene possible to contribute, to bring in this baby into the world. Is that the first barrier, the fact that there's something there. We don't talk about the insecurities about our size, insecurities about how much cum we are producing, the way we curve to the left, that we think we have funny looking pubes, whatever it is. That you're too big or whatever it is. Is it a barrier in what that's representing is we're not able to actually engage with that part of our body and therefore get into a place where we can potentially aid our fertility or become fertile.
Peter Kington: (34:27)
Good question. My conversations have involved very little to do with the anatomy of that person. I always ask the question has the doctor ever examined your genitals, because it's not really within my remit to do that. I'm not trained to, and that's really out of my scope of practise. I'm not qualified to examine someone's testes, for example, to see whether they are of an appropriate size, which can be an indicator of various genetic conditions. If males don't develop through puberty and the genitals don't evolve, they can have under-sized testes, which are often infertile. It's not my place to do that, but I will always ask the question about whether they've ever had a physical examination. I can tell you that almost always they never have. Even if they've been, with their partner, to an IVF doctor. IVF doctors are trained in female health and they do IVF as some sort of specialty.
Peter Kington: (35:42)
Over the years, there's been a couple of doctors I knew here in Brisbane that would have a look at the bloke's business. But by and large, that never happens. That's actually another massive problem, because women are used to having their genitals inspected because they go for their pap smear. They have to do that. Where men, unless there's a problem, it's not likely that a doctor's going to say hey pull your pants down, I want to have a look and see what's going on down there. It just doesn't figure into the Medicare seven minute increment. It's just not something that happens.
Peter Kington: (36:18)
I will ask that question. I do ask questions about erectile function. I ask questions whether a man has trouble achieving an erection. I ask questions whether they have trouble sustaining the erection during intercourse. I will ask questions of whether they have trouble losing the erection, whether the erection is painful, or whether they experience pain with or after ejaculation. I'll ask those questions. From a Chinese medicine point of view, that tells me something. Also, from a red flag point of view, that would be, if there were things that came up in there, they would be red flags to me, that I might say hey probably you should talk to your doctor about this because you know x y z.
Peter Kington: (37:10)
I don't ever ask questions about genital size. I don't ask them to trace it on a piece of paper and show it to me, or anything like that. That's not really appropriate. I do quite a bit, especially if men experience erectile function issues, that I kind of want to drill into that, to find out whether it's emotional or organic-
Mason Taylor: (37:34)
Peter Kington: (37:34)
In nature. I do want to find out, and this is always the case, usually, eventually it will become both. If a guy regularly is okay and performs to achieve erections and maintain them through to orgasm, and then they lose the erection after orgasm, which is normal, and that's what they're used to, and then all of a sudden, at one point, they have trouble with an erection just on a one-off, that could often just be enough to plant a seed of concern in the mind. So the next time they have to, there's this dark voice that talks in the back of their head that says what if that happens again. It almost becomes self-fulfilling.
Peter Kington: (38:27)
The other thing that I've learned over the years is when a couple is actively trying, if they know they have to have intercourse at certain time, and female partner comes from work and say by the way, we're going to have sex tonight because I'm surging, I'm ovulating, and he just really had a big day at work, he's really tired and he's not feeling the love, he's got to somehow manage to conjure up the energy to have an erection and have intercourse, that could be really hard. I've had many conversations with frustrated partners who've said well that's another chance we've lost this month because he wasn't interested in having sex. There's this pattern that then comes in about the pressure of conception.
Peter Kington: (39:15)
I think a part of it is that men are driven quite differently around this than women, because women feel the surge in the hormones. They know when the oestrogen is arising. They know they might be experiencing extra cervical mucus. They'll be feeling aroused perhaps which is what happens prior to ovulation because it's nature's way of saying you're ready, where men are wired differently. Sure, men can be fertile whenever because that's how men are designed. But if they are not feeling like they're just in that right space to be able to jump to attention, have an erection, and have intercourse at that precise moment, it sets up this real anxiety cascade. This stress response is often a really big cause of erectile dysfunction in men.
Peter Kington: (40:15)
There's always an organic possibility as well, which could be related to low testosterone. An anecdotal wave, and by the way if it's just anecdotal, if people have a concern about this, they really do need to go to a doctor and get this tested properly. The old joke about morning wood, morning erections that men will wake up with an erection, and when they don't, that can sometimes be an indication that their testosterone is low. Typically, it should be higher in the morning, after a night of sleep. So that can be an indicator, which would be something that someone should go off and get tested via blood. That's the only way of finding that out.
Peter Kington: (40:58)
Certainly that cycle of emotional impact, either through the pathway of just like a performance anxiety because of some triggering event, or outside of that, just the time of work, or there's been a global pandemic and your business has died, or there's all these other things that can happen which will trigger this emotional kind of cascade which can cause that to happen as a consequence. It's a really hard thing for men to process because when you're a teenager, the wind can change direction. That all just happens spontaneously and it's natural that as men age, the stimuli takes more stimulus to achieve. It takes more stimulus to sustain. That's just part of the natural ageing process. No one should feel shame or guilt about that. When there is a window of opportunity for a couple to conceive and there's this call, that can be a real problem because it sets up this cascade.
Mason Taylor: (42:03)
We were talking earlier about living in balance or in harmony, and making those changes, because when you're not living sustainably, I just think it reflects there in that, where we as men or as a society, don't put this erectile health as just a general health ed indicator. In Chinese medicine, it's such a huge thing that, even if you're not trying to get pregnant, there's a general awareness that if you are having a little bit of erectile dysfunction, if you're not feeling like you have a libido, it's an immediate red flag. You can start to get into a bit of harmony here and have a new, better foundation for health. That definitely doesn't happen in the worst and that we get to that point where we want to get pregnant. It's like this has been building up, most of the time it's out of the emotional pressure of the situation or it's been building up a long time. Now you want to very quickly be healthy and in harmony when it might take a little bit of a lifestyle journey as well. It's, I imagine, is a pickle clinically.
Peter Kington: (43:10)
Yeah, it is, because we've been acculturated to have had [inaudible 00:43:15]. Have erectile dysfunction, take Viagra. That's it.
Mason Taylor: (43:22)
For you, obviously, ideal for men to come and find you and not just have a pill, and hit me up in the morning. For your ideal for men in preparing for conception, getting themselves high libido, possibly greater quality sperm, a capacity to really contribute to that inoculation, make beautiful, strongest child possible, what are your ideals? What do you want to see men doing? Whether that's lifestyle or emotional or spiritual?
Peter Kington: (44:05)
I might just talk a bit generally. I think this probably scope here first to how long we talk about the aspects of this from more of a treatment type of thing we haven't really touched on in terms of a clinical setting. We could talk about that at some point with a bit more discussion about how sperm are made and how the physiology of it all happens. That's actually a really interesting discussion because I think men need to understand the physiology of their reproduction to understand sometimes how the intervention can help them.
Mason Taylor: (44:45)
Peter Kington: (44:45)
Okay. Having conversation, you and I sometime maybe around the physiological aspect and the time that into, say Chinese medicine treatment and what would happen in a clinical situation, would be in terms of probing the health of sperm. Generally speaking, the whole thing about Chinese medicine is it's predicated on a Chinese medicine diagnosis. So, the Chinese medicine diagnosis is not a biomedical diagnosis and that's the most important thing for anyone to remember.
Peter Kington: (45:15)
You'll go to a doctor and they'll do a semen analysis and they'll say to you, based on these parameters you're not going to conceive, naturally. So, you've got subfertility. There's your diagnosis. It's actually quite a meaningless diagnosis because there are a myriad of parameters on a semen analysis. There are seven main ones they use. It's the volume of the semen. It's the colour. It's the scarcity of it. It's the number of sperm. It's the motility of the sperm. It's the morphology of the sperm. That's six, I'm sure there's another one somewhere. There's all these measures right. Some men might be below in one measure. More likely, most men will be below in multiple measures on the analysis. When you say subfertile, it's quite meaningless because it doesn't really clarify what that means in the first instance.
Peter Kington: (46:14)
Be that as it may, someone comes and you go through the Chinese medicine framework, as a practitioner, and you ask questions, and I guess I've developed my own way of doing that after my many years of doing that, and learning lots of stuff about sperm and how it all works. You just look at the person. That's the first thing, just sitting and pointing towards the wall where my client would normally sit. You look at them. If you see someone who's got boobies and a bit of a belly, straight away you ask yourself, there could be some sort of hormonal imbalance going on there, either low testosterone or excessive amounts of oestrogen, which men in their system. There could be something going on there. Or you look at them and they are very ruddy in the face and they've got greasy skin and sort of slimy hair, or that tells me something from a Chinese medicine point of view. Or you look at them and they are pale, they're thin and that tells me something different from a Chinese medicine point of view.
Peter Kington: (47:15)
Really, the diagnosis that sits on a semen analysis is just another piece of information from a Chinese medicine point of view. It's not a be all and end all. It just tells us how that person's health dynamic is impacting that particular measure. I discounted this initially because from a Chinese medicine point of view, we have actually no way of a system. Classically, in the texts that talks about the practitioner tasting the semen. Be that as it may, it's not going to happen in 21st century Australia.
Mason Taylor: (47:57)
That'll be very edgy at the moment, won't it.
Peter Kington: (48:00)
That would be a brave practitioner that would do that.
Mason Taylor: (48:04)
Alright, requirements. Glasses of pineapple juice before coming.
Peter Kington: (48:12)
That's the first. The classics used to talk about sniffing it. I mean all these things are predicated on a man giving a sample. That's just not going to happen because you're going to end up in jail, or you're going to be de-registered, because someone is going to think that's got some sort of ejaculate fetish. Did you like how I was polite when I said that?
Mason Taylor: (48:33)
Peter Kington: (48:39)
Maintaining a certain level of professionalism here. If you don't have the semen analysis to guide you, you don't know that. So it's useful. I'm not saying it's not. As a practitioner, you need to understand that. That's the sort of thing we might talk about some other time as well, because there's a whole sort of framework around that I've worked out over the years. You've got the semen analysis and it tells you something. You're only interested in that within the context of the person. If the person sitting in front of you is clearly 20 kilogrammes overweight, slightly short of breath, and got greasy skin and red complexion, that's going to tell me something. If the person sitting in front of you is lethally thin, pale, doesn't sleep, highly wired, very anxious, and has five cups of double shots of coffee a day, and they've also got lowsy sperm, that's going to tell me something different.
Peter Kington: (49:37)
The way I treat that man is going to be completely different than the way I treat the other one. Whereas bio-medically speaking, they'll go and have ICSI, which is where they get them to ejaculate in a cup, they put it under a microscope. They examine it and they actually choose the best sperm that they can find by visual inspection. They eject that into the egg. I'm not putting that down because that's clever medicine. It doesn't really go to the issues of why that man has got a low sperm count. It might be that it's just genetic. It could just be a genetic thing in which case, nothing is really going to change that. It's just the way that he was born.
Peter Kington: (50:22)
If it's because he has three chicken rolls and meat pie for lunch every day, and a highly sugar lated in ice coffee on his way to work every morning and he's up until 11 o'clock at night, watching porn and masturbating, and doing all of these other things that we can work through and try to repair and replace with other activities that are more nourishing and sustaining. Then, there's a real place for that intervention to take place, over a period of time, because sperm don't just improve overnight. You don't come from one acupuncture session and suddenly you've got a splendid number of sperm at your disposal. The lifecycle of the sperm is at least three months. Mason, the sperm you're making right this second, you will ejaculate in 91 days time. Set your clock to it.
Mason Taylor: (51:14)
Peter Kington: (51:18)
Three months. It's a three month life cycle. That's just producing that. Realistically, it's actually longer than that. You've got to think of this as a change in life over a significant period of time, if you're wanting to have a really deep impact on improving your overall vitality over the sperm.
Mason Taylor: (51:42)
As you say that, vitality of the sperm, one of the happy accidents, what happens there is you get a bunch of vitality as well and a bunch of healthy, happy sperm. Happy man.
Peter Kington: (51:54)
Yes, that's true. One of the great incongruities of working with men is that a man like you, I'm looking at you because we're talking over Zoom, who looks young, virile and healthy, and actually looks a picture of health, can come in and hand you a semen analysis that is actually completely the opposite. That's actually one of the really hard things to reconcile. If a woman comes to see you and says I've got heavy menstrual loss, I have huge clogs, massive pain and the menstrual blood is purple, and then you ask the questions and you find out that she drinks a lot of coffee, drinks a lot of alcohol, has a really high stress life, does all these things, for a Chinese medicine point of view, you can actually draw a line between those things and bring them together and provide a very clear diagnostic that provides a clear treatment path.
Peter Kington: (52:54)
Men have this very unusual thing where they will come and often their sperm health will be quite different from their physical health. That's the great challenge. That's what I was saying about sometime we should talk about the physiology of that. I've got this working theory that thinks of the sperm, when you think about it, testes are outside of the body. Tissue wise, the testes are the same tissue in men as ovaries in women. They call them amogalus anatomical structures. There's all these things. Men and women are basically the same thing. It's just that men have a Y chromosome and women have two X's. Men are XY. Women are XX.
Peter Kington: (53:42)
That different chromosome is what gives men a penis and testes and gives us hairy chests, facial hair, and deep voices in puberty. That's why women develop breasts and the female form. Part of that is the testes sit outside of the body. Because they sit outside of the body, if we were hunters and gatherers in the bush, our testes would hang free and they would sit ideally at around 35 Degree Celsius, the temperature inside the testes would be 35 degrees. That's the optimal temperature for making sperm. For women, the optimal abdominal temperature, core temperature, is around 36.2 or 36.3 degrees. So it's significantly warmer. Ovaries need a lot more warmth. Testes need a cooler external environment. Each, there's blood flow that carries nutrients and hormones, and helps to regulate the temperature of thermodynamics and keep it at this consistent temperature.
Peter Kington: (54:47)
When we think about men, we have to think about the testes as almost like a micro environment. I think that's why it is that you can have a healthy specimen as a person, but you can have unhealthy testicular outcomes because of this micro environment that's been compromised. Your job as a practitioner is to figure out what's going that's causing that and trying to rectify that. That's where some of those lifestyle things like not wearing tight underpants for instance. I'm wearing jeans right now. Well these jeans are pulling my go nads right up against my body. Fortunately, I don't need them to make babies with but you know they're pulling them up against my body. They're going to be keep them warmer than they ideally should be.
Peter Kington: (55:35)
Spa baths is a classic example. Men go in and have a soak in a spa or a jacuzzi at this time, that's probably set at probably 38 or 40 Degree Celsius to keep it warm but you're frying your balls while you're in there. Oops I said it. My professional video slipped.
Mason Taylor: (55:49)
I knew I'd get you eventually.
Peter Kington: (55:54)
I nearly said something else. There's this micro environment. I think that's a really big part of what a good practitioner needs to be able to do. A lot of the education I've done over the years with teaching practitioners, I've run these professional development seminars over about 10 years, has been about trying to teach practitioners about how the male bits work because in our study, we almost do none of that. We get taught how the female reproductive system works but very little is given to us about the way the male reproductive system works. A lot of my professional drive has been trying to help practitioners to understand this a bit better and find a framework to work within that wall. That way they can help clients.
Mason Taylor: (56:44)
I think when we first spoke, when you brought that up, it's like how there's so many oestrogen mimicking herbs established within Western Herbalism over decades and decades for women's fertility, [inaudible 00:57:04] etc. about when Stephen Buhner came along. He was like there's no androgenic herbs documented of being used in clinic whatsoever. We now understand women's preconception needs or fertility needs. There's not much going on for male fertility herbalism. I guess it kind of speaks to what you're saying. We've got to head off soon. I really can't wait to go into how the male bits work and continue to get that education out there. It's not just engagement, just getting that male engagement to begin with, not just having nothing wrong with you. It's her that needs to be worked on. Creating enough of a vulnerability. That's where this whole conversation needs to be starting.
Peter Kington: (58:01)
Yeah. Just as an example, lets just say that somebody has a low sperm count.
Mason Taylor: (58:08)
Peter Kington: (58:10)
I will ask them how often they ejaculate. I never ask how often do you have sex because my experience is that most men are not truthful about the difference between how much they ejaculate and how much of that is actually related to penetrative intercourse in the guise of trying to conceive. If you've got a low sperm count, there's this idea about if you've got a normal sperm count or a healthy sperm count, whatever that is, let's say a couple of hundred million sperm, it's healthy to regularly ejaculate. What that does is, the way that the male physiology works that there are actually sperm always sitting in the background in reserve. That's why men can have multiple ejaculations in a day and be fertile, unlike women who ovulate once a month. Once that ovulation passes, they're not fertile until the next time they ovulate.
Peter Kington: (59:13)
Men and women are wired differently. That's all well and good. If you're 25 years old and you've got a good healthy sperm count, it's actually not bad for you to be ejaculating fairly frequently. The general rule of thumb I say to my clients is every three days, every four days because what it does is it allows you to ejaculate, it gets rid of the sperm, and then it creates a fresh palette in that micro environment for the testes to recruit more sperm, to bringing forward ready for the next ejaculation. You're getting a good kind of replenishment for healthy sperm.
Peter Kington: (59:54)
If you've got a low sperm count and you're not following that sort of framework, and you actually masturbate twice a day, morning and night, and you're doing that every day, and then in the middle of that you're having a bit of sex because it's hey presto time, we've got to have a baby, it's highly likely that you actually don't have the physical capacity to produce enough sperm based on your numbers to be ejaculating viable sperm. This semen analysis is a useless tool but it's actually quite a good tool because we can see on the numbers what someone is producing. It allows someone like me to give someone like you, or someone else, the advice that might be so how many times are you ejaculating? When you get to that point in conversation, and you might find out that it's seven or nine times a week, there's probably a conversation that needs to be had about okay we might need to pull that back for these reasons.
Peter Kington: (01:00:59)
I've always found that if you could give a reason that's rooted in some sort of systemic, scientific methodology, men will listen to that. As opposed to, it's just because your genes going to be really badly affecting, which means something to me as Chinese Medicine Practitioner, that means nothing to the average person. From a professional point of view, being able to think and speak in two languages is really important. From a client's point of view, you just need to be able to give them manageable and bits of advice that they can enact.
Peter Kington: (01:01:41)
I do genuinely find, if you say to men, look I think you're ejaculating too much, let's try and keep it to no more than three times a week or once every 3 or 4 days, and you can explain to them why that's the thing, they'll genuinely try that. I'm also interested in why somebody needs to feel the need to masturbate 10 times a week because they think that actually says something as well. If it's a stress mechanism or if whatever that might be, I think that's an interesting insight as well. I'm always interested to find that out because it's just another piece of evidence for my diagnosis to help me to understand the connection between that person's mind and their body.
Mason Taylor: (01:02:26)
I mean it's fascinating and I always love this topic. I love talking about male preconception, infertility. I know we've got a lot of women that listen to this podcast. We've got more and more men. I know every time we talk about male sexual health, the feedback is just so positive. The guy's loving it. The wider female audience is eating it up, eating the topic up. I think that's a beautiful thing as well, is having women becoming just as engaged with this conversation, just as much as men becoming engaged in this conversation. Say vice versa, when we talk about women's fertility on this podcast and saying boys, you better be listening to his.
Peter Kington: (01:03:21)
The message though is if you've got a son, you need to talk to your son from a young age and demystify his reproductive function because it will make it a whole lot easier for him as he gets older if he can talk about his penis and his testes and his ejaculate and not feel awkward about that. It's rare I think in this world to find a man who can do that. I think that's the key to it. I think the key to it is for us all to better understand, be more health literate. I think the key to it is to be confident enough to be able to have conversations with your children, whether male or female, about how their bodies work.
Peter Kington: (01:04:13)
I remember once I got into a conversation with somebody. I didn't like it because it was getting towards rape blame. I just sat there, and I'm not a violent person, I'm a pacifist completely, I've never punched a person in my life, I've never hit someone in my life either, but I remember sitting there and thinking if I could just grab you right now and put your head through the wall of wood. Man was basically blaming, this wasn't to do with work, this was a social situation, blaming this woman for getting pregnant. I just sat there and I looked at him. I said you know what if you didn't ejaculate inside her, she wouldn't have been pregnant. Every unwanted pregnancy out there is actually because some bloke ejaculated. If you didn't want that baby, you shouldn't have done it in the first place. That's opening a whole other can, right on the clock.
Mason Taylor: (01:05:12)
It kind of sits in that same world. It reflects from not taking responsibility for your part to play in conception and fertility on that side of things. That same cultural narrative can then lead to the emergence of I'm not taking responsibility for the fact that there's a pregnancy here. Anyway, not a nice conversation and not a nice man, but nonetheless.
Peter Kington: (01:05:40)
It's that thing. The lack of awareness of consequence. You can bring it back to your word vulnerability. It is his ego driven attitude towards that was masking invulnerability and a sense of responsibility. But he didn't think of it like that. He was far too engaged in blaming her for not being careful enough. That's one of my bandwagons.
Mason Taylor: (01:06:15)
I definitely see how that is perpetuated, not as extreme as that obviously, but you can see how, when it comes to the act of getting pregnant, that the entire onus is put upon the woman. Even, she's pregnant. It's just the little simple things. I remember saying when we were pregnant, and having people say well she was pregnant, and I say I had a lot to do with that as well. I feel quite involved, not to take away from the reality that Taney was actually holding the child and underwent that huge process. I physically didn't. Nonetheless, having that conversation did allow me to engage. I got to engage with my responsibility of preconception via my engagement during the pregnancy. I get to take on responsibility as well. Ultimately, be a little bit more connected. Hopefully, feel a little bit more vulnerability around the process. Hopefully, become a better dad because of it, be connected to my child. It's like a domino effect.
Peter Kington: (01:07:23)
Mason Taylor: (01:07:25)
Verse that's her. That's her responsibility. I'm aware of the time. We've gone over.
Peter Kington: (01:07:32)
Mason Taylor: (01:07:33)
I'm really appreciative to you and really looking forward to having you back on so we can really get into it. I know we said sink our teeth into it but no that's not quite the same.
Mason Taylor: (01:07:47)
Best place for people to get onto your work and use your clinic. Are you open for clients at the moment?
Peter Kington: (01:07:55)
Yeah, I'm just about to go on holidays but I suspect this won't be broadcast until after I come back. I'm always, always willing to hear from people. They can find me on the web by my name, which is PeterKington.com.au
Mason Taylor: (01:08:10)
Beautiful. Thank you so much for coming on. It's been a really great chat.
Peter Kington: (01:08:13)