One in six couples have difficulty conceiving...
Even more struggle with PMS!
When I was apprenticing with a midwife, I was surprised by how many women would come in to see her because they had been trying to get pregnant without any success. And the numbers of miscarriages were much higher than I could ever have guessed. I knew some people didn't have it so easy when trying to achieve or sustain a pregnancy, but I had no idea that so many couples struggled with this.
I have combined my passion for reproductive wellness with my expertise in preventative nutrition to help my clients optimize fertility and increase their chances of giving birth to a robust and brainy baby. Read on to learn 3 factors that affect hormonal harmony.
1. A low fat diet: Our brain is approximately 60% fat. We need good quality fats to support its functioning. Our bodies' production of hormones, especially the reproductive ones, is directed mainly by the brain (particularly the hypothalamus and pituitary). The bottom line is that we need fat to make hormones. Cholesterol is the precursor to many of the sex hormones we need for healthy menstrual cycles and reproduction. Check out this diagram:
Cholesterol is only found in animal products, so make sure you are eating the cleanest sources of animal products. Non-pastured and non-organic animal products are chock full of hormones, pesticides, GMO's and other funky business that have been shown in scientific studies to derail hormone balance.
2. The Expression of Your Genes: We are born with the genes we will have for life, but we have the ability to control whether those genes are expressed in certain ways. This is what the field of epigenetics studies. This emerging field is vast and complicated to understand, so I'll keep it simple.
While there certainly are dozens of genes that affect fertility, there are also dozens more ways these genes can be expressed. The scary thing is that the way the genes are expressed can be passed on to future generations! I'll only go into one specific gene here, as this one is becoming quite the hot topic lately, although this is only one tiny piece of a very large and complex puzzle, which is what I specialize in (read more about it here).
MTHFR is an enzyme produced by the body, made by the gene of the same name, Methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase. This is just one enzyme in a whole pathway of enzymatic and genetic importance, the methylation pathway.
Having a polymorphism (a "mutation" of sorts) in this gene could potentially cause serious physical or mental health imbalances of various types (I could go on for days about them but don't want to lose your interest). In the case of fertility, it means that the folic acid that we are advised to take during our reproductive years (and that is added to many of our foods) isn't being used by the body. The MTHFR enzyme (along with a few other enzymes that may be less well-known but even more important) plays a part in taking synthetic folic acid and turning it into a form of folate that our bodies need for many functions, three of which are:
- Making and repairing DNA
- Preventing miscarriage
- Preventing birth and developmental problems our children
Yes, that's right - the folic acid that is pressed upon us is not the form that our bodies can immediately use, like the folate in green veggies and other whole foods (*stay tuned for my "Does Your Prenatal Vitamin Make the Cut?" download!). If you are like roughly 40+% of the population, your MTHFR gene is not "up to snuff," when it comes to converting folic acid into folate. This causes a double-ended problem. Firstly, the unmetabolized folic acid builds up in the body because it isn't being used (which causes a whole 'nuther set of problems), and secondly, the body becomes deficient in the folate that is needed to achieve and sustain a healthy pregnancy.
As I already mentioned, there are many other genes that can affect your ability to get or stay pregnant. There are genes that are responsible for making hormones, transporting hormones, and degrading hormones, and if there are polymorphisms in these genes, or the genes that interact with them, then there could very likely be hormonal imbalances (by the way, the same is true for neurotransmitters as it is for hormones).
In my fertility optimization consulting practice, I offer clients a genetic test that provides the raw data of your genetic profile. I've had over 6 years of research in the field of epigenetics and am able to interpret the raw data to help clients make sense of the results and instruct them on ways to compensate for genetic variants that affect fertility and health. One thing to note is that just because someone has certain genetic polymorphisms does not mean that he or she is doomed to have them express. Our diets and lifestyles determine roughly 80% of that.
3. Liver overburdened with toxins: Our livers have many functions aside from filtering toxins, and when they become overworked from chemicals, processed food, toxic body care products, pesticides, chemicals in plastics (xenoestrogens and bisphenols like BPA) and over-use of alcohol, they don't do a very good job of estrogen removal and hormone regulation. This is where hormone levels get really out of whack and things like endometriosis and infertility occur (and make PMS feel like a cakewalk).
On a completely related note, we have genes that determine our bodies' ability to detoxify, so going back to the epigenetics topic, these are also factors I look at when someone comes to me with hormonal imbalance.
A lifestyle that is mainly composed of clean food (mostly organic and unprocessed), natural body care products, and a healthy everyday environment can keep your liver and the expression of genes in favor of hormonal health and balanced reproductive functioning.
For more information or to schedule a free 15 minute consult with me, please feel free to call me at (717) 575-9616 or email me at JaclynDowns@GetBalancedWellness.com
Here's to hormonal balance and a life free of PMS!