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Infertility is defined as the failure to establish a pregnancy after 12 months of trying to conceive. But, is it really fair for us to confine infertility into such a neatly defined box? Infertility touches every part of your life. It affects the way you feel about yourself, the relationship with your partner, your perspective on life and growing a family…infertility finds a way to creep into your mind, planting seeds of doubt and shame.
An amazing article from American Baby magazine offers up 12 steps to focus attention on your mind and body, bringing a calmer perspective to your life. I’m going to focus on their 12th step: watch your diet, as what you eat and drink plays a critical role in the health of nearly every body system (including reproductive health).
Your gut environment, also known as your microbiome, is make up of microscopic organisms, like bacteria, fungi and viruses. Some of the microbes are beneficial, aiding in food digestion, immune system management and emotional control. But an imbalance of good and bad microbes leads to “leaky gut” syndrome. This means that bad bacteria and undigested proteins leak through junctions in your intestines into the blood stream, triggering an unnecessary immune response. Widespread inflammation is the result, leaving you with fatigue, weight gain, bad skin and, you guessed it, infertility.
Inflammation and Infertility
Study after study also shows us that inflammation is at the root of infertility. Conditions like Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS), pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) and premature ovarian failure have been linked to a widespread and chronic state of inflammation in the body….and all of these conditions have been linked with infertility and adverse pregnancy outcomes.
Widespread inflammation from a leaky gut also promotes weight gain, which compromises your reproductive health in a variety of ways. Excess weight results in hormone imbalance, changing the level of reproductive hormones in your body. Fat cells produce a type of estrogen called estrone. The estrone produced by these fat cells mimics pregnancy, making your body think it is unnecessary for you to continue ovulating.
The Microbiome and Hormone Control
An unbalanced gut not only causes inflammation, but actually impacts your hormone levels. Poor gut health causes poor digestion. This, in turn, affects your hormone levels, as proper essential fatty acid absorption is necessary for adequate hormone production. Poor digestion also allows for build-up of toxic xenoestrogens (excess estrogen that negatively impacts fertility). It also depresses thyroid function, decreasing the amount of thyroid hormone circulating in your body. Hypothyroidism is a well known cause of infertility.
You may also like: Understanding Your Microbiome
You may also like: 5 Signs of Poor Gut Health
So, what can you do?
Supplement with Probiotics
Emerging research is showing us that supplementation with probiotics helps to decrease widespread inflammation, a common cause of infertility and reproductive health issues. Pop a probiotic every day and aim to eat more probiotic foods, like yogurt, kimchi, kefir and kombucha.
Reduce or Eliminate Refined Sugars
Refined sugars are the number one cause of a leaky gut. Sugar feeds the bad gut bacteria, resulting in an unbalanced gut and overcompensated immune response. Significantly reduce your consumption of processed foods and completely eliminate alcohol.
Eat More Fiber
Fiber promotes digestion, and healthy digestion helps to eliminate toxins and excess estrogens from the body. It also promotes healthy hormonal balance and slows that post-meal spike in blood sugar. Read more about fiber and fertility.