FIVE WAYS TO IMPROVE YOUR FERTILITY
It’s an aspect of our health that most of us take for granted: Have sex, get pregnant. In reality even minor stressors can throw your body out of balance. If you’re trying to conceive, these simple changes to your health can help improve and protect your fertility.
1. Manage your stress.
By far one of the most important factors in “unexplained infertility” cases (which make up abut 30-40% of all infertility cases in the US), stress management is one of the most crucial aspects of increasing your chances of conception (and maintaining a healthy pregnancy) — no matter what age you are. Chronic stress can wreak major havoc on the endocrine system. Long term overwhelm of the adrenal glands (which excrete cortisol, the stress hormone, in addition to several other hormones that directly affect fertility) causes dis-regulation of many reproductive hormones. The body favors the survival mechanism, which “shunts away” hormones from the reproductive system in an attempt to maintain homeostasis (balance) in the body.
That being said, managing stress in today’s fast-paced, overscheduled society is far from easy. But you MUST make it your priority not only to improve your chances of conception, but also for long-term health and well-being. The effects of chronic stress are extremely destructive and far-reaching. Stop multitasking, say no more, set healthy boundaries, get outside, do yoga, spend time with your family, cook a healthy meal – relaxation means something different to most people, but do what you are doing with intention and focus. This way you can truly enjoy want you are doing and truly reap the benefits.
2. Eat less red meat and increase your intake of “whole foods”.
In a large-scale study of women who had infertility issues researchers found that increased consumption of animal protein, by even just one serving daily, resulted in a 32% increase in ovulatory infertility. Additionally, it was concluded that women who consumed more plant proteins had a 50% decrease in their risk of ovulatory infertility.
Consuming whole foods also plays a vital role. What are whole foods? Whole foods are foods that look the same in nature as in your grocery store – vegetables, fruits, proteins. A low glycemic load, such as those created by slow-burning carbohydrates and whole grain diets, appears to protect fertility. Women with high glycemic loads, which results from diets high in processed and refined foods, had nearly twice the risk of ovulatory infertility as women with low glycemic diets.
Consuming healthy fats is also essential. In a recent study, every 2 percent increase in calories consumed via unhealthy trans-fats increased the risk of ovulatory infertility by more than 70%. This was especially true when these trans-fats replaced fertility-friendly monounsaturated fats.
3. Lay off the alcohol and coffee.
A growing body of research has linked alcohol consumption with decreased fertility. Alcohol can change the way a woman’s body metabolizes estrogen. This can causeestrogen levels to rise in the blood and interfere with implantation, although pouring an occasional glass of Malbec with your dinner is unlikely to harm fertility.
You should also consider cutting back on caffeine while you try to conceive and during your pregnancy. Although studies have shown mixed results, research suggests that caffeine affects female hormone levels and may therefore negatively affect fertility. The bottom line: If you’re thinking about getting pregnant, use the opportunity to cut coffee out entirely or limit your daily coffee fix to 200 mg of caffeine per day. (That’s about one to two 6 oz (small) cups of coffee per day).
4. Steer clear of toxins in your food and cosmetics.
Many pesticides and herbicides decrease male fertility and also female fertility by inhibiting ovarian function and disrupting the menstrual cycle. Most studies to date deal with the correlation between occupational exposure hazards and diminished fertility. However, a study published in the March 2015 issue of Human Reproduction was the first to demonstrate how pesticide-laden (conventionally grown) fruits and vegetables can significantly decrease sperm count. The study revealed that men who ate the most pesticide-treated foods not only had a lower sperm count but also lower-quality sperm. Therefore, if you’re trying to conceive it’s vital to eat as many organic fruits and vegetables as possible, and wash those with residues carefully. If you are unfamiliar with which conventionally grown fruits and vegetables are grown with the highest amount of pesticides check out the Dirty Dozen list. If you can’t afford to buy all organic, make sure you at least stay clear of those on the list.
So many of our patients suffer from infertility, hormone imbalances, anxiety, autoimmune disorders, and so on. Most, if not all, of these conditions have in some way or another been linked (at least in part) to long-term toxic exposure. While we can’t control our environment entirely, we can control what we put in (see paragraph above) and onto our bodies. Our skin is our largest organ and we absorb up to 60% of everything we rub and slather onto it. These often toxic (and undisclosed) ingredients seep directly into our tissues and bloodstream, disrupting our endocrine system and overloading our liver and kidneys. We may think we need to compromise beauty for health but this is not true.
With a definitive mission to bring only the absolute safest beauty products to our patients, Denver Holistic Medicine has recently started carrying Beautycounter brand cosmetic products. Beautycounter was founded to bring safe products into the hands of all. Plain and simple. But what stuck out to us about this company, and why we ultimately made the decision to offer it to our patients, is that the company operates with complete transparency. All product’s ingredients are listed on the packaging, we know where they come from, where the products are manufactured — simply everything. You know what you are getting: high-quality, luxurious skin and beauty products that are effective and SAFE for your entire family. From basic skin care products such as cleansers and lotions to a kids line, as well as an entire cosmetic line with lip colors, mascara and foundation. There is no need to compromise anymore. The company has chosen to ban over 1,500 health-disrupting chemicals from their products. Again, the FDA only bans 11. Enough said.
Bottom line, no matter what you eat or put into your body, do so with the utmost consideration and care.
5. Track your menstrual cycle.
A normal menstrual cycle lasts about 24 to 35 days (start counting on the first day of your period). If your cycle is noticeably longer it’s likely that you may be ovulating less frequently. When you’re ready to conceive find your fertile window, during which you should have intercourse every other day (this allows sperm count to regenerate its maximum level).
A woman’s fertile days are usually her day of ovulation, as well as about 4-5 days leading up to ovulation. Once you have ovulated, you’ll need to wait until your next fertile window the following month. But don’t assume that you automatically ovulate on day 14 of your cycle: a study from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences found that ovulation varies dramatically from woman to woman, occurring as early as day 6 and as late as day 21 of a cycle. How can you determine when you’re ovulating? Urine- or saliva-based ovulation test kits are available over the counter; both types check for the presence of hormones that indicate ovulation is about to occur. Noting daily changes in your basal body temperature, cervical position and cervical mucus is an inexpensive, non-invasive, yet highly effective, way to track your cycle and ovulation.
If you need help getting started tracking your cycle or making sense of your findings, please call us to set up an appointment – Dr. Simone Sturm can coach you in-depth on how to track your chart correctly so that you can benefit the most and get the information to help you maximize your fertility.