The most important thing you can do for your future child is to prepare your body before getting pregnant by optimizing your egg and sperm health. After all you are creating a new human life. The greatest gift you can give your child is robust health, and this gift starts with the quality of your eggs and sperm at the time of conception.
Exposure to environmental toxins (in the form of industrial chemicals) both in utero and neonatally may dramatically affect adult fertility. Most chemicals used in everyday life do not go through the same checks medicines do. Consequently; poisonous chemicals end up circulating in our environment, food supply, air and water. The strongest evidence of heavy metals and environmental pollution adversely interfering with healthy reproductive function in women has been found for lead. Other compounds that can alter hormone function and result in adverse reproductive health effects include:
- Ovotoxicants: can disrupt or even stop ovulation.
- Endocrine disruptors: can interfere with hormone function and cause endometriosis and PCOS.
- Phthalates: in plastic food containers, cling wrap, medical supplies, vinyl flooring and packaging at high levels have been associated with miscarriage and testicular toxicity. At low levels they disrupt hormonal balance.
- VCH chemicals: used in rubber tires, plastics and pesticides.
- PAH: released from cigarettes, car fumes and road tar
Sperm seems to be more sensitive to heavy metals and industrial pollutants than eggs. Many sperm abnormalities have been linked to these toxins. The majority of these chemicals can be found in the atmosphere, on the ground in cities and in the waterways. They have also been termed “reprotoxicants” for their negative effects on sperm development and maturation. Studies confirm male sperm counts are declining, and environmental factors, such as pesticides, exogenous estrogens (Xenoestrogens), and heavy metals may negatively impact spermatogenesis (formation of sperm).
The top 6 environmental toxins to avoid
1. Pesticides: found on non-organic fruit and vegetables, meat, dairy and unfiltered tap water
2.Formaldehyde: found in air fresheners, deodorants, floor polish, upholstery cleaners
3.Bisphenols: found in plastic containers and can leach into food and water.
4.Organic solvents: petroleum based liquids found in household products, electronics, car repair, health care, photography, agriculture, printing, construction and cosmetics and many more.
Occasional exposure to one or the other toxic chemical is not of concern. What is of concern is accumulation of these chemicals over a long period and having it become one of the common causes of infertility.
2. Don’t drink unfiltered tap water
Our waterways are constantly being polluted by industrial waste and byproducts, pharmaceutical drugs, pesticides and herbicides and commercial cleaning products. There are many companies polluting the water regardless of the country you live in. Either there is no environmental law at all, or there are loop holes in the law or there is no law for the XYZ chemical getting into the water.
Heavy metals are the most common of the reprotoxins reaching our water supply through industrial waste, jet fuel exhaust residue and a variety of other sources.
Pharmaceutical drugs are commonly found in tap water. Because the drugs do not metabolize fully, small quantities are excreted via feces and urine and flushed away. Toilet water is often treated and filtered before being discharged into lakes and rivers thereby re-entering the water supply. The trouble is, many drugs are not filtered out via the regular filtration process. Minute quantities of chemotherapy drugs, contraceptive pills, antidepressants, anxiolitics, anabolic steroids, HRT (hormone replacement therapy), heart drugs etc…Have been found in tap water.
Use a dual filtration system
Buy a dual filtration water system which filters particles smaller than 1 micron (this will filter out the drugs as well as heavy metals). Use the filter in your shower and your kitchen. Shower steam contains the same chemicals which you can end up inhaling and can be absorbed through your skin.
3. Aim to eat an optimal fertility diet
In the first trimester of pregnancy your growing embryo will increase 20 million times. In the first 8 weeks your baby’s organs, hands, fingers, legs, feet, head, eyes, nose, ears etc…are being constructed. To ensure the best possible foundations are laid down during this phase, you want to make sure there are plenty of building blocks in the form of the right nutrients in the right combinations.
What does a fertility diet contain?
An optimal fertility diet is about what to avoid as much as it is about what to include. A fertility diet should be as fresh as possible and organic wherever possible. Key elements are; good quality protein sources (favor vegetable sources of protein) and good fats.
What should you eat?
- Whole grains, nuts, seeds, vegetables and fruit in season, organic where possible.
- Increase your consumption of good fats and avoid dangerous fats. Good fats include; monounsaturated fats in olive oil, polyunsaturated fats in oily fish and nuts and midchain fatty acids found in coconut oil.
- For cooking use clarified butter (ghee) or coconut butter (without flavor) as they do not become unstable when heated.
- For non heated oil requirements (salads etc) use cold pressed olive oil, flaxseed oil and nut oils.
4. Avoid dangerous fats
Did you know – consuming trans fats hidden in foods such as; biscuits, lollies, candy, chocolate, chips, pies, fries, take aways and thousands of other foods may increase your risk of infertility by as much as 70%? Scientists from the Harvard University School of Public Health advise women wanting to get pregnant to avoid all trans fats. The sole purpose of adding trans fats to food is to extend its shelf life. To minimize your consumption of trans fats be diligent about reading the ingredients and avoid the most likely culprits altogether. Trans fats are mostly listed as ‘hydrogenated fat’ or ‘hardened vegetable fat’ or simply ‘vegetable fat’.
5. Minimize animal derived estrogens
Dairy products account on average for 60-70% of estrogens consumed. Humans consume milk from cows in the second half of pregnancy when cows estrogen levels are high. We usually associate dairy and drinking milk with calcium, and never think about what else we may be consuming along with the calcium (and dairy, by the way is not the best source of calcium). Here is a list of hormones which have been found in cows milk:
Prolactin, somatostatin, melatonin, oxytocin, growth hormone, lutenizing releasing hormone, thyroid stimulating hormone, estrogens, progesterone, insulin, corticosteroids and many more. Do you think an excess consumption of all these hormones could disrupt your own hormonal balance?
Consumption of milk has been linked to certain cases of male infertility. Excess estrogen and pesticide exposure has been linked to PCOS and Endometriosis. Studies have found higher concentrations of pesticides in cheese than in non-organically grown fruit and vegetables. The first line of naturopathic treatment recommend for PCOS and Endometriosis is to minimize intake of animal products. Animal products have a high content of hormones, pesticides and herbicides which are known endocrine disruptors. They play havoc with your hormones and this can lead to anovulation.
There is a common misconception that egg and sperm quality can not be improved. In fact, it is possible to improve the quality of your egg and sperm however, it takes 120 days. This is because it takes approximately 120 days for eggs to mature and sperm to develop. During the generation and maturation of gamete cells – sperm and ovum – that form an embryo, everything that you and your partner ingest, inhale or are exposed to will influence the health of your eggs and sperm for better or worse, and the ultimate quality of the genetic building blocks you pass onto your child.
This is why it’s crucial to follow a good preconception plan for a minimum of 4 months before conception. A baby is a 50-50 product of his or her parents – therefore optimizing the quality of eggs and sperm is of paramount importance. Sperm disorders contribute to 40% of infertility cases. Woman who suffer from recurrent miscarriages often have partners with low sperm counts and visually abnormal sperm. Therefore both partners should detox (i recommend Ayurveda Panchkarma process before conception) follow a fertility diet, take preconception supplements and avoid reproductive toxins discussed in this article for minimum of 4 months before conception.
Regardless of whether you are eating organic produce and a healthy diet, you are unlikely to be getting all the nutrients your body needs for optimal fertility from your diet. This is why supplementation is important. Getting pregnant and growing a new human being with your own reserves, requires a surplus of nutrients and energy. In your body’s accounting terms, pregnancy is a luxury, a splurge of energy and nutrients. Some of the key nutrients for fertility are: zinc, selenium, magnesium, calcium, B12, B6, folic acid, vitamin C and omega 3 essential fatty acids.
You may not want to hear this, but these are common causes of infertility. Drinking coffee decreases fertility. A large study found as little as 1 cup of coffee per day increases the risk of not conceiving by 55%. And if you have 2-3 cups per day that risk rises to 100% and continues to increase with an additional cup up to 176%. And did you know that women who drank coffee before and during pregnancy had twice the risk of miscarriage?Alcohol is harmful to men’s sperm and as little as one glass can reduce fertility by 50%!
A study tested the effects of cigarette smoking on semen quality in men and found that sperm motility (ability to propel forward) decreased in light smokers while heavy smoking produced abnormal sperm shape. Scientists have discovered that quitting smoking may increase sperm count in men who quit smoking for 5-15 months by 50% – 800% respectively.
Your level of fertility and the quality of your eggs and sperm is determined by many small but crucial factors. When combined these factors add up to the difference between fertility and infertility. Pregnancy – a creation of a new human being – requires a toxin-free internal and external environment, enormous surplus building blocks in the form of nutrients and good energy reserves.
In addition to this; specific bacteria and viruses can interfere with a growing embryo, resulting in miscarriage or birth malformations. Toxins from the environment, drugs and many commercial cleaning and body care products can disrupt your hormonal balance and lead to infertility. As such you need to be aware of those factors before you embark on this amazing journey.
You need to prepare for your pregnancy as you would for an important trip. Good preparation will not only minimize the chance of complications and heartache down the track, but will also ensure the healthiest baby possible. After all, the greatest gift you can give your child is robust health and the best of your partner and yourself. Even if your only option is IVF – at it should never be the first option dealing with common causes of infertility – it pays to optimize the quality of your eggs and sperm with a good preconception program before you undertake the procedure to maximize the success rate and prepare your body for pregnancy.
Take care of your unborn baby.
The sole purpose of these blogs is to provide information about the tradition of ayurveda. This information is not intended for use in the diagnosis, prevention or cure of any disease. If you have any serious, acute or chronic health concern, please consult a trained doctor/health professional who can fully assess your needs and address them effectively. If you are seeking the medical advice of a trained Ayurvedic expert, call us or e mail.
Dr Unnati Chavda
(Promoting pregnancy wellness)