Functional Medicine For Fertility Issues

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Functional medicine is a systems-based approach to fertility that addresses nutritional, lifestyle and psychological aspects to correct root-cause imbalances and prevent or drastically reduce infertility.

Functional medicine has proven especially successful at improving male fertility, as 33% of fertility issues are caused by inadequate quality sperm – and this issue can be easily and cost effectively corrected!

1. Stress

Stress is a normal response to the demands of daily life and can have both positive and negative effects on mental and physical wellbeing. Unfortunately, when left unchecked for an extended period, stress may lead to health complications.

Researchers have discovered that stress can negatively impact ovulation and fertility by elevating cortisol, a hormone known to suppress reproductive hormones. This may explain why some women who have been trying to conceive for some time don’t succeed in becoming pregnant.

Unfortunately, we still lack a comprehensive understanding of how and why stress can impact fertility. Studies on this subject are scarce and inconsistent, leaving us with an incomplete picture of how stress affects conception rates.

Stress can lead to unhealthy behaviours and lifestyle choices such as smoking or eating foods high in sugar and fat. These bad habits may negatively impact reproductive health in various ways, including blocking fallopian tubes and damaging eggs.

Stress can also lead to depression and anxiety, particularly if you’re facing infertility treatment with difficulty conceiving. These feelings of distress may become even more intense during infertility treatment if you’re struggling with conception.

Although these symptoms can be distressing to deal with, they could also be indicative of more serious underlying issues such as diabetes or thyroid disease. Therefore, if you’re struggling to manage stress effectively, it’s wise to seek medical assistance and connect with support groups or other resources for assistance.

Stress can have an adverse effect on fertility, but it’s possible to overcome. Many couples have seen success after reducing their stress levels.

2. Nutrition

Nutrition plays a significant role in fertility, with either an advantageous or detrimental effect on your ability to conceive. Your body requires certain nutrients for healthy growth and function, which are typically found in fruits, vegetables, proteins and other foods; alternatively you may take supplements which you may find at your local health food store or online.

Your diet should be composed of a wide range of fresh, organic and whole foods to maintain a healthy weight and provide your body with all the necessary nutrients for fertility.

It is essential to make sure you get enough folic acid, which is necessary for healthy neural tube development. You can get this important nutrient from dark leafy green vegetables and fortified grains.

Studies have consistently demonstrated that eating a nutritious diet can significantly boost your chances of becoming pregnant. These diets emphasize macronutrient choices (fats, proteins and carbohydrates) while including an array of fresh fruits and vegetables in their meals.

Recent research demonstrated that a diet high in folic acid, vitamin B12 and vitamin D improved fertility outcomes for women trying to conceive with assisted reproductive technologies. However, it was unclear whether compliance with the diet had any influence on outcomes.

Many women struggle with their diet, so working with a registered dietitian is essential. They can create an individualized plan tailored for your specific situation that includes the right foods. For instance, those suffering from PCOS might want to reduce processed carbs and increase whole grain consumption such as quinoa, farro or whole wheat bread which helps regulate insulin levels and boost fertility.

3. Hormones

Hormones play an essential role in many aspects of your life, from fertility to overall health and wellbeing. When they’re out of balance, it can have detrimental effects on the body.

One of the most influential hormones for fertility is testosterone. Low levels of this hormone can lead to infertility, sperm issues and poor ovulation rates. Testing regularly and monitoring your hormone levels will enable you to identify if there are any issues with conception.

By choosing the correct diet to enhance fertility, you may help to prevent or reduce hormonal imbalances. Foods like chia seeds, flaxseed and walnuts are high in omega-3 fatty acids which have been known to enhance ovulation and egg production. Furthermore, turmeric and cinnamon may assist with ovulation by stabilizing blood sugar levels and encouraging egg maturation.

Prolactin, another key hormone in fertility, plays an important role. If prolactin levels are too high, your cycle may become irregular and you won’t be able to ovulate.

4. Exercise

Exercising regularly has been proven to keep you healthy, improve cardiovascular health, aid weight loss and reduce the risk of heart disease. It also aids stress management while strengthening bones and muscles – an invaluable asset when trying to conceive.

Studies have indicated that high levels of intense exercise, such as running or weight training, may negatively impact fertility. This is likely because it throws off your menstrual cycle and could lead to infertility.

However, it doesn’t have to be either/or. A wealth of research suggests that light-intensity exercise like your daily morning run or lunch hour at the gym can actually benefit fertility for most women.

If you are having difficulty conceiving or have had difficulties in the past, consult your doctor about how much exercise is appropriate for you. It is recommended that you complete 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity and strength exercises targeting all major muscle groups on at least two days a week.

If you are overweight, losing even 10% of your body weight can improve fertility by decreasing hormones that interfere with natural menstruation and sperm production. And remember to eat a nutritious diet for optimal fertility as well!

Acupuncture is another treatment that may improve fertility, as it increases blood flow to the ovaries and reproductive organs. Furthermore, acupuncture helps regulate the function of both your immune system and hormones – both essential for ovulation and pregnancy.

5. Sleep

Sleep is the most crucial element of fertility, and getting enough quality sleep will help you have a healthy, successful pregnancy. Your brain’s glymphatic system, which eliminates waste from the central nervous system while you’re asleep, works overtime so your neurons can reorganize themselves for optimal functioning while you rest.

On a typical night of sleep, there are four stages called REM and NREM. In the REM stage, your eyes dart back and forth behind your lids while muscles relax and you dream. This phase lasts around 90 minutes.

The NREM stage, on the other hand, lasts longer and includes deep and restful sleep. This period is divided into three stretches of about 30 minutes each.

Studies have demonstrated that women who struggle to sleep or snore poorly tend to experience fertility issues such as low sperm counts, difficulty conceiving and inefficient ovulation.

Men can experience fertility issues if they don’t get enough sleep or their patterns of sleeping are inconsistent. A study revealed that men who slept less than six hours or more than nine had a 42% reduction in their likelihood of becoming pregnant.

Research suggests sleep may play an important role in fertility by controlling various hormones such as cortisol and testosterone. It could also be connected to the HPA axis, which manages stress responses.

For more information or if you would like to discuss treatment and management with Dr Stavy then please contact us via