Fertility in women is typically defined by a menstrual cycle which includes the follicular and luteal phases, ovulation, menses and healthy production of the female reproductive hormones follicular stimulating hormone (FSH), luteinizing hormone (LH), oestrogen and progesterone. In theory, if the menstrual cycle is operating correctly and there aren’t any reproductive conditions such as Poly Cystic Ovaries, Endometriosis, unexplained infertility or age-related egg health issues then a woman should be able to conceive.
Hormone balancing: to help with having a healthy menstrual cycle, we need make sure hormones are balanced. That includes thyroid and stress hormones as well as our sex hormones. Hormones interplay with each other, If one hormone is dysregulated, it can affect all the others too.
Stress: One of the most common contributing causes of hormone dysregulation, is stress. If we are stressed, we will produce more cortisol. Cortisol is produced in our adrenals, where some of our sex hormones are made too (although predominantly in our reproductive organs). When we have high levels of cortisol, our bodies will automatically prioritise bringing down the cortisol over making sufficient sex hormones. If this system becomes continually dysregulated, it can cause anovulation.
Stress management: to help support your sex hormones, stress management techniques will be helpful. Meditation, walks in nature, eating 3 balanced meals a day, low sugar diet, low alcohol and sleep hygiene will all support your stress response. (See Stress).
Diet: blood sugar balancing helps support healthy reproduction by supporting our internal stress responses. High insulin levels are indicated in fertility issues, and also in PCOS (see Polycystic Ovaries). Keep your blood sugars balanced by ensuring to have a healthy source of protein and fat with each meal such as organic chicken or fish, avocado, nuts and seeds. Also, make sure you keep sugar to a minimum and opt for healthy snacks such as carrots and hummus rather than chocolate.
Key nutrients for a healthy reproductive system:
Magnesium: is a crucial nutrient for the reproductive cycle. It helps to regulate blood pressure, blood sugar levels, promotes healthy fallopian tubes and also helps to produce progesterone – a very important hormone for fertility and egg plantation. Spinach, legumes, nuts seeds and wholegrains are good sources of magnesium.
Zinc: is another mineral which plays an important part in reproductive health (also for sperm quality and production). With veganism and vegetarianism on the rise, zinc levels can easily become depleted, as the soil quality in which vegetarian sources of zinc grow are becoming diminished. Zinc is also needed for thyroid health, it helps with the conversion of T4 to T3. As discussed above, our thyroid hormones interact with our sex hormones, so the healthier our thyroid, the healthier our reproductive system. Zinc also helps the pituitary gland to release follicle stimulating hormone, which is needed for ovulation. Organic meat and shellfish, legumes and pumpkin seeds are food sources of zinc.
B6: can help with the production of progesterone, as well as regulate testosterone and DHT. It is typically combined with magnesium as a soothing PMS aid, and low serum levels of B6 have been associated with decreased probability of conception and can contribute to the risk of early pregnancy loss in some people. Organic poultry, fish, oats and bananas are good sources of B6.
Iron: adequate iron levels are very important during pregnancy as deficiency is common. Low levels of iron in women have also been implicated in fertility issues historically. Heme iron (the most bioavailable form of iron) is found in red meats and liver whereas non heme iron is found in beans, lentils, spinach and nuts and seeds. It is best to have vitamin C with your non-heme iron to increase it’s absorption, so squeeze some fresh lemon over the top of your green veggies.
Folate: folic acid, the synthetic form of folate, is typically given to women wanting to conceive due to low folate levels being indicated in neural tube birth defects. Folate is also essential for DNA synthesis and repair, and deficiency results in macrocytic anaemia. Broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, kale, chickpeas and kidney beans are all good food sources of folate.
Egg quality: suboptimal levels of CoQ10 has been associated with decline egg quality as we age. Therefore considering a supplement of CoQ10 could be helpful for improving egg quality prior to conception.
Hormone investigation: if you would like to get a good understanding of your hormones then the DUTCH test with Cycle Mapping offers a comprehensive analysis of your sex hormones every day throughout your cycle. This will help you to understand which elements are compromised and need more support.
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Please note that the information contained within this website does not and should not replace medical advice, and is not intended to treat or diagnose. We always recommend you consult with your doctor. Our Nutritional Therapy team is highly trained and we offer one to one Nutritional Therapy Consultations, which are designed to be complementary to any medical treatment from a functional medicine approach, as well as offering a preventative & optimal health focus.