Working with couples to improve fertility is easily one of the more rewarding aspects of our practice. This is largely because it is essentially whole body healthcare. When working with couples on their fertility journey, we are not just looking at hormones and how they can be more balanced for ovulation & implantation. We take into account all that could be influencing hormones, the health of your egg and sperm cells and your whole body health. We consider what is influencing mood, digestion, inflammation, appetite, skin rashes, fatigue, sleep disturbances, etc. You see, its whole body care with a deep understanding that a healthy body is a fertile body.
One body system we always assess when supporting preconception and fertility in couples is digestion. This is largely because our gut health is responsible for so much.
Digestive function can influence:
How well nutrients are absorbed
How efficiently our bodies make and eliminate hormones
How well our body makes new cells (and when we’re talking about making cells to make a human, that’s a big deal!)
Neurotransmitter production including the feel good chemical, serotonin
Immune health (over 70% of our immune system is in the gut)
How do you know if there is an imbalance in your digestion? Some common symptoms we see include:
Undigested food in stool
Abdominal pain or intestinal cramping
Let’s get into the details now. Below are 3 more specific ways gut health can influence fertility and more importantly healthy, optimized fertilization, implantation, pregnancy and fetal health.
Microbiome: A healthy amount of beneficial gut bacteria are crucial to maintaining hormone balance. A beautiful example here is with the very popular hormone: estrogen. Estrogen is metabolized and eliminated in the body by beneficial gut bacteria. If there is an imbalance in the microbiome then estrogen might be continuously recycled leading to symptoms of estrogen dominance (elevated estrogen levels resulting in increased tissue growth, inflammation, pain, and menstrual cramping). For patient’s suffering from constipation, working on balancing the microbiome & estrogen metabolism is very important for hormonal health and fertility.
Enzymes: This one is HUGE! So many factors are influencing very complex digestive functions within all 25 feet of intestines, as well as the stomach, esophagus and oral mucosa (all part of our digestive system). We need healthy enzyme secretion from various abdominal organs to properly break down, digest, and absorb our food. Digestive enzyme secretion can be inhibited by stress, bacterial or parasitic overgrowth, blood sugar imbalances, adrenal insufficiency and impaired liver or gallbladder function.
Digestive tip: One of our favorite methods of boosting digestive enzyme production and secretion in our patients is via coaching them on strategies to allow eating in a relaxed digestive state.
Try this: before your take your first bite of dinner tonight, pause and take 3 calm breaths as you smell your food. This will signal your nervous system to “rest and digest”. When we rest, we can better digest!
Cellular health: When we eat food (especially nutrient rich food like vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, etc.) nutrients are absorbed from the intestines into our bloodstream and are delivered to specific organs that require those nutrients to function (that’s a very simplified version of digestion). For optimizing fertility, it is beneficial to ensure the absorption of nutrients into the body, especially when considering how our cells are made.
Our favorite example here involves the nutrient folate. Folate is abundant in dark leafy green vegetables, legumes, nuts and seeds. Folate is the building block for making DNA which is found in high amounts in egg and sperm cells as DNA is cellular coding for creating a fetus. Folate deficiency could interrupt DNA production resulting in miscarriage, or neural tube and other developmental defects in the fetus. If there is inflammation in the gut and more cellular energy is being diverted there (rebuilding cells for the digestive system also requires a lot of folate) then there is less usable folate for egg and sperm generation.
Knowing the right foods and supplements for your body is key to supporting cellular nutrients. AND, ensuring optimal digestion to deliver nutrients to the best places in the body is next-level healthcare.
Improving digestion in couples along their fertility journey is incredible preventative healthcare. By improving your and your partner’s health and nutrient status, we’re directly enhancing the potential for health for that future babe of yours.
All the best to you,
Dr. Stang & Dr. Curtiss