By Dr. Chantell Groenewald M. Tech Hom (UJ)
What is infertility.
Infertility is defined as not conceiving or carrying an infant full term after having regular unprotected sex for at least 12 months. According to Parent24, an estimated 15-20% of couples in South Africa struggle with infertility.
Causes of infertility in women:
Age: A women’s peak fertility years is in her 20’s, thereafter fertility decreases proportionately with an estimated third of women struggling with infertility by their 30’s;
Hormonal dysregulation: This includes female health issues such as polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) and endometriosis;
Structural issues: An inverted uterus, uterine fibroids (myomas), fibrotic adhesions following pelvic inflammatory disease or endometriosis and blocked fallopian tubes;
Chronic disorders: Including eating disorders, sexually transmitted diseases, hyper-or hypo-functioning of the thyroid gland, tumours, candida overgrowth, certain auto immune conditions such as lupus and celiac’s disease, diabetes and hyperprolactinemia (over production of the hormone prolactin which stimulates breastmilk production);
Primary ovarian insufficiency: Commonly referred to as early menopause, when a woman stops ovulating and menstruating before the age of 40;
Diet and lifestyle factors: Smoking, being underweight, overweight or obese and alcohol use.
Many of the above-mentioned conditions are as a result of inflammation, hormonal dysregulation and a dysregulation of our body’s natural physiology. This can be as a result of diet and lifestyle, genetics and environmental factors to name a few. We all have a genetic makeup that predisposes us to certain health issues, whether these issues can take root depends on the soil in which it is planted. A healthy neighbourhood is less conducive to chronic illness.
Factors that play a crucial role in creating a neighbourhood conducive to conceiving include:
Diet: ‘Let food be they medicine, and medicine be they food’ Hippocrates. We are what we eat, and if you are net getting in essential nutrients through your diet to promote and maintain a healthy body, then you will not have the necessary building blocks to create an environment conducive to conceiving and carrying a pregnancy full term. If you have known nutritional deficiencies, then a supplement may be beneficial granted your body is able to assimilate and absorb these nutrients.
Heal your gut: An unhealthy gut is a preventable source of inflammation. This is probably the single most important factor to address in the treatment of infertility in the absence of any structural or functional causes for not being able to conceive. Inflammation is associated with and promotes chronic disease and does not create a favourable neighbourhood for fertility.
Support the liver: Our liver is responsible for metabolizing our oestrogen. A liver that is struggling with phase I and II detoxification of the liver will lead to unhealthy forms of oestrogen being reabsorbed and causing an oestrogen dominance which will hinder fertility.
B-vitamin’s and folate to support methylation: Methylation is a chemical reaction that happens in each of our cells and impacts how a protein functions in our bodies. A study conducted in the USA found that up to 60% of adults had a gene mutation that negatively affected their methylation. B vitamin’s as well as methylated folate plays a crucial role in the methylation process which is important for oestrogen metabolism.
Adrenal Health. The adrenal glands secrete a hormone called cortisol which plays a crucial role in regulation many functions in our bodies, including hormone production. During periods of high stress cortisol supresses hormone production to favour the fight or flight response. When stress becomes chronic and a state of adrenal fatigue ensues then our body uses DHAE to favour the production of cortisol rather than oestrogen and progesterone which negatively impacts female health and wellness.
Infertility is becoming a growing problem which some researchers attribute to our poor quality of life, high stress levels and poor nutrition. Healing your gut, managing inflammation as well as stress and incorporating enough nutrition rich food into your diet plays a key role in promoting healthy hormone levels and conceiving
“Parenting begins the moment you make any conscious effort to care for your own health in preparation for enhancing your child’s conception.” Carista Luminare-Rosen