By: Alicia Galvin MEd, RD, LD, CLT, IFNCP

Did you know that only 60% of couples will conceive naturally without medical assistance within the first 6 months of trying? This means that one in every eight couples struggle with infertility issues (1).

Infertility is outlined as the decreased ability, or complete inability, of a couple to conceive a child, more specifically – failure to conceive after a year of regular intercourse without protection. In this current age, if a woman is having irregular, painful or heavy periods, the almost automatic answer is to put her on birth control.

Later, when trying to conceive, if she is having issues then the answer is to put her on fertility drugs. However, neither of these paths addresses the underlying root cause for the imbalances. Most often, infertility has its roots is one or more of the following 4 areas: 

  • digestive function and gut health, 
  • detoxification, 
  • blood sugar and insulin imbalances 
  • adrenal health or stress management.

 Inflammation and oxidative stress also underlie these 4 areas so working holistically to optimize all, will lower overall inflammation in the body, thus maximizing chances of conception. 

So how do you even start? Well the good news is nutrition is the key player because every single area depends on nutrients. Typically when we are formulating a specific plan for you, we will want to first address gut health, detoxification and balancing blood sugar because focusing on these areas will improve egg and sperm quality, balance hormones, increase chances of implantation and embryo development, reduce the risk of miscarriage, and optimize birth outcomes.

But it is not just the woman that needs to put in the work- the male partner needs to as well. According to the American Society of Reproductive Medicine, in 40% of infertility cases it is the make partner who is the cause of or contributes to infertility (2), and semen analysis does not give the whole picture. The cell membranes of sperm are made of polyunsaturated fatty acids which are highly susceptible to oxidation. So if the male partner has chronic stress, infection, is overweight, or drinks this will increase the oxidative stress, or inflammation, in the body which can damage sperm cell membranes. 

So what are some of the things you as a couple can do now?

  1. Change the type and quality of food that is on the end of your fork. Choose organically grown produce (as much as possible, or at least follow the EWG Clean 15 and Dirty Dozen guidelines https://www.ewg.org/foodnews/)  
  2. Choose pasture-raised meats, poultry and eggs
  3. Focus on eating alot of good healthy fat- avocados, nuts, seeds, olives, olive oil, coconut oil, and fatty wild caught fish like salmon (you need to have a cholesterol level high enough to conceive a baby, so don’t shy away from fat) 
  4. Watch the sugar and refined carbohydrate intake. Insulin resistance and pre-diabetes are major causes of infertility! [3]
  5. Achieve a healthy weight- work with one of our RDs to help you develop a specific nutrition plan to achieve your ideal weight and also focus on the specific foods and nutrients that can increase your chances of conceiving [REPAIRVITE]
  6. Make sure your have updated tests to assess thyroid function- this can be a big reason for infertility in both men and women since the thyroid regulates the metabolic system and the reproductive system reciprocally
  7. Clean up your environment- think plastics, pesticides, pollution and personal care products. We can help you in this area (since it can be a bit overwhelming) by guiding you on how to clean up your exposures. Also the EWG has a great Skin Deep database and Guide to Healthy Cleaning here (https://www.ewg.org/skindeep/andhttps://www.ewg.org/guides/cleaners)
  8. SLEEP! Melatonin impacts egg quality and hormone function, so if you are not sleeping, we need to figure out why and help you get more restful sleep
  9. Decrease stress- try deep breathing, using visualization, meditating, engaging in moderate exercise, and practicing gratitude. Chronic stress increases oxidative stress, inflammation, and suppresses the thyroid.  
  10. Take control of your health- sometimes more extensive testing is needed to determine the best, most specific diet and nutrient supplementation regimen for you. Our functionally trained RDs and practitioners are trained to help you do this. 

Don’t try to change everything at once. Pick 1 or 2 areas to focus on and work on that until it becomes more natural to you. Also don’t expect it to all come together immediately- it takes at least 4 months, and usually an average of 4-9 months, to work on the metabolic systems and get them balanced to the point of being able to conceive. But know that you have a great team here who will help you every step of the way…and will also help you through your safe, and happy pregnancy! 

As no one person is the same, we are aware that there is no ‘one size fits all’ treatment when it comes to increasing fertility.

Functional medicine techniques for infertility have proven successful in many cases, however, the broad spectrum of infertility causes means that not every patient will experience immediate results.

Much of this variable relies on the functional health awareness and ‘literacy’ of the parents-to-be in question.(4) 

1) National Fertility Association Statistics: https://resolve.org/infertility-101/what-is-infertility/fast-facts/

2) https://www.asrm.org/globalassets/asrm/asrm-content/news-and-publications/practice-guidelines/for-non-members/diagnostic_evaluation_of_the_infertile_male_a_committee_opinion-noprint.pdf

3) (Diabetes And Infertility Info: https://www.diabetes.co.uk/pregnancy-complications/infertility-in-women.html

4. http://bmjopen.bmj.com/content/4/2/e004180)

 

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