Underlying Hormonal Imbalances that Contribute to Infertility
...and Natural Solutions
Many couples are devastated by an inability to conceive a natural pregnancy. Fertility difficulties can be caused by several factors, but one main reason for infertility is an underlying hormonal imbalance.
Our reproductive system relies on proper hormonal balance to function properly in order to conceive and sustain a healthy pregnancy. Hormones are coordinated by the endocrine system in the body and are intricately connected. Hormones can be influenced by vitamin and mineral levels, stress, immune deficiencies, and exposure to environmental toxins.
In today’s society, we are increasingly exposed to human-made chemicals called “xenohormones” that disrupt our endocrine (hormone) system. Xenohormones have the ability to alter hormonal balance by mimicking natural hormones and interfering with the natural hormone functioning of our bodies. The most common xenohormones are called “xenoestrogens”, which are environmental estrogens that mimic human estrogen, and cause an excess amount of estrogen in women’s bodies. This additional estrogen is associated with conditions such as endometriosis and polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), as well as other hormone-related health problems that affect fertility. Xenoestrogens mainly come from the plastic industry, pesticides, car exhaust, paint fumes, hormonal birth control methods, and conventional household cleaners and cosmetics. Over the years, these environmental toxins accumulate in our bodies and can cause several health issues, including hormone imbalances.
In addition to environmental pollutants, many hormonal imbalances are a reflection of lifestyle choices. Many people eat poorly, use various medications, are sedentary, and consume too much sugar, alcohol, and caffeine—all of which add a toxic load and affect our hormones, and as a result, affect our reproductive—and overall—health.
Testing for Abnormal Hormone Levels
If you are having trouble conceiving, female saliva hormone testing is one option. Saliva samples are collected throughout one monthly cycle to help determine problems with progesterone, testosterone, early ovulation, lack of ovulation (anovulation), and more. Hormones are produced by the hypothalamus, pituitary gland, adrenal glands, thyroid gland, pancreas, ovaries and testes. If one of these does not function properly, a domino effect occurs that impairs all aspects of health, including fertility.
It is also worthwhile to have a few other simple blood tests performed including thyroid function tests (an undiagnosed hypothyroid condition can affect sex hormone levels which contributes to infertility) and blood sugar levels (there can be a level of insulin resistance associated with high carbohydrate diets that can negatively impact hormones and be associated with conditions such as endometriosis and PCOS. Well-regulated blood sugar levels promote healthy hormone balance).
Herbal Medicines and Acupuncture for Infertility
There is an increasing body of scientific evidence to support the use of naturopathic integrative therapies such as nutritional supplements (vitamins and minerals), botanical (herbal) medicines, and acupuncture to aid with fertility in both men and women. Natural therapies are also safe and effective in combination with medical fertility treatments such as IUI and IVF.
Natural treatments require thorough assessments to address the specific needs of each patient. For instance, different individuals benefit from synergistic blends of vitamins and minerals such as vitamins C, D, E, B, selenium, CoQ10, and zinc. Glutathione and lipoic acid are important antioxidants and supplement considerations for some individuals, as are royal jelly and bee propolis.
Acupuncture is an integrative infertility treatment that has the most scientific evidence in support of its effectiveness. Well-known fertility herbs such as red raspberry leaf are also beneficial for fertility, as well as during pregnancy as a uterine tonic. Maca is another hormone balancing herb and endocrine tonic that aids fertility and has other vitality promoting properties. Other helpful herbs include red clover and stinging nettle. For men, panax ginseng has promising research.
Some Basics for Restoring Hormonal Balance
Eating a variety of nutrient-dense whole foods, exercising regularly, ensuring adequate sleep, implementing stress management techniques, and avoiding harmful substances are the foundation for maintaining and restoring hormonal balance.
Here are a few general diet and lifestyle guidelines to begin rebalancing your hormones and increasing your fertility:
● Remove caffeine, alcohol, processed and packaged foods, and sugar from your diet. Only consume whole foods—eat a variety of fresh vegetables and fruits, raw nuts and seeds, and whole grains like quinoa, buckwheat, and millet.
● Avoid GMO foods such as soy and corn. These have been altered from their natural state and contain estrogen-mimicking properties. Choose organic which is non-GMO, has less pesticides, herbicides, and hormones.
● Include fertility “power” fruits and vegetables such as berries, broccoli, brussel sprouts, cabbage, spinach and kale. The antioxidants in these foods protect eggs and sperm from DNA damage. They are hormone-cleansing and packed with nutrients.
● Consume adequate amounts of protein from a variety of animal sources, beans and legumes. Many women suffer from low iron and lack the essential amino acids which are the building blocks for all cells in the body, which have a direct impact on fertility. Choose meat that is grass-fed and is organic or free-range.
● Increase healthy fats in the diet especially from sources like extra-virgin coconut and olive oils, avocados, and nuts and seeds. Essential fatty acids, such as omega 3 fatty acids, are extremely important for regulating hormone production and function. They aid fertility by increasing cervical mucous, promoting ovulation and nourishing the uterus.
● Drink enough water for optimal hydration and to remove toxins. Be sure to drink clean, filtered water such as reverse osmosis or distilled. Drink from glass or stainless steel.
● Limit exposure to conventional household cleaning agents and cosmetic products. Consider a liver cleanse (prior to conception) to eliminate toxins from your body.
● Address your stress. Continuous stress impacts hormone levels by boosting stress hormones such as cortisol. High cortisol levels inhibit sex hormones and suppress ovulation and sperm count. Make a concrete plan to reduce stress.
● Aim to exercise for approximately 30minutes, 5 days per week. Regular, moderate exercise increases circulation, helps the body cope with stress, and promotes regular detoxification of excess hormones and toxins in the body.
● Adequate sleep is essential to produce and regulate hormones such as adrenaline, cortisol and insulin. Lack of sleep impairs functioning of these hormones and interferes with conception.
Dr. Bartolini is a Naturopathic doctor with clinic locations in Oakville and Toronto. To book an appointment, contact firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information, please visit www.doctorbartolini.com