Monday, April 28, 2014

Fertility: Women's Health

   Infertility is defined as 1 year of regular unprotected intercourse not resulting in conception. Female infertility issues are related to age, genetics, psychological health, hormonal balance, mechanical factors, and can often be unexplained.  Nearly 11% of women in the United States are found infertile. Risk factors for infertility include age, smoking, alcohol abuse, insufficient exercise, being under/over weight, stress, poor diet, hormonal changes, and sexually transmitted diseases. 

In the West, it is common to use surgery to remove fibroids, adhesions, or endometrial tissue from the abdominal-pelvic cavity (endometriosis) to assist in fertility. Surgeries are also performed to unblock fallopian tubes, or to open the vaginal canal to allow full penetration. And, fertility medication is the main method of care for ovulation and hormonal disorders related to infertility, such as polycystic ovarian syndrome (probably the most common hormone related infertility issue in women). However, there are many safe and natural ways of promoting fertility that do not require surgery or medication. These include common daily lifestyle choices, such as exercise/rest, proper nutritional support, and practices that calm the heart and promote peace of mind. Herbs and other natural healing agents are wonderful supplements to any holistic treatment. They provide powerful healing properties without the side effects. However, natural remedies treat symptoms not causes, and are to be used as supportive supplementation during ongoing holistic treatment of dis-ease, not as a cure-all.

The number one cause for infertility is unexplained. What this means is, while there are several physical reasons why someone would have trouble getting pregnant, the root reason why most women cannot get pregnant is not physical at all. When we take the whole person into consideration, physical disfunction is but one of 3 main foundations in their overall health. When it comes to fertility, any emotional, mental or spiritual reason to conceive can trump the physical likelihood of pregnancy. Our beliefs about childbirth and raising children, ranging from financial support to emotional stability, all influence the body's ability to conceive. Wether you think you might be a bad parent, or are double minded about wether or not you are meant to bear a child, you are sending messages to your body that can create physical symptoms of your belief. Karmic or spiritual beliefs can also influence fertility, such as past life karma, or current life purpose. Believe it or not, your beliefs are a choice, and you are free to adopt new one's that support you optimum health and happiness.

The tricky part about fertility is that it usually takes two people (unless your going the In Vitro route) coming together with a similar goal to reach conception. So, now there are two minds and hearts involved in the process that need to get clear on their intention and beliefs about having a child. Getting in touch with your heart-felt passion and desire to bring a child into the world, especially if you have been trying religiously for some time to conceive, can be a very healing and fertile emotional environment to act from.

If you are taking birth control, consider the fact that it can take up to 1 year to get pregnant once you stop taking the pill, and sometimes longer. Although, this isn't always the case, it is good to keep it in mind if you're wanting to have children by a certain age. Also, long term use, or frequently going on-and-off birth control pills, IUD's, or other contraceptives can increase your risk for infertility. So, while emotional and spiritual health play a large role in fertility, physicality still plays it's part and needs to be respected.

Below are some general nutritional guidelines to promote fertility, but they are not meant to diagnose, treat or cure any specific health issues, and should be discussed with you primary care provider before use. 

Nutritional Support:
s    *Cleansing the body from 1-2 weeks on raw and steamed veggies to increase ovulation and bring the body into balance for natural reproductive health. 
s   * Clean water to insure adequate hydration, as well as minimal exposure to harmful toxins. 
s    *A balanced diet with plenty of whole grains and legumes, a variety of vegetables and fruits, minimal meat and dairy, and avoid all processed foods and sugars for general health.
s    *Eating foods rich in flavonols, especially kaemforol for fertility support.
s    *Increasing oxygenation of cells with alkaline and chlorophyll rich foods (or supplementation with liquid chlorophyll) can combat the symptoms of aging that affect the health of the uterus.
s    *Preparing the body with reserves of iron, magnesium, B12, zinc, and vitamin D from natural sources, including sun exposure and whole foods. Supplementation can be used as needed to reach daily preventative doses.
s    *Eliminating free-radicals and boosting immunity with foods high in antioxidants to prevent cell damage.
s    *Consuming essential fatty acids from cold-pressed and unrefined flax, chia, pumpkin seeds, or primrose oil ,as well as whole grains and dark leafy vegetables for fertile cervical mucous and uterine health.

Vitamin & Mineral Support
·      *Iron- 18mg during pre-conception, and 27mg daily upon conception and throughout pregnancy from whole food sources.  Supplementation is advised if sufficient iron isn’t found in the diet to form red blood cells, balance ovulation, and prevent anemia due to lactation and pregnancy.  May be taken with vitamin-C.  Iron deficiency can reduce fertility up to 50%.
·      *Calcium-1,200mg daily from whole foods, unless supplementation is required to obtain a preventative dose for bone, teeth, muscle, blood, and nerve health.
·      *Magnesium-750mg daily taken on an empty stomach or at bedtime to prevent diabetic related infertility, assist calcium absorption, and for healthy teeth, bone, blood, muscles, and nerves. 
·      *Zinc- 15-24mg daily taken with meals from whole food sources (may use supplementation to obtain a preventative dose ) to support egg cell development, prevent miscarriages, assist in vitamin A metabolism, and immune, nervous, and reproductive system health.
·     *Vitamin A- 30,000 IU for up to 2 weeks during pre-conception, and 900 IU throughout pregnancy from carotenoids (not the synthetic versions) to assist in calcium absorption, prevent birth defects, and promote immunity and antioxidant benefits. (over 10,000 IU during pregnancy can increase the chances of birth defects).
·      *B6- 100-200mg (with a B-complex) during pre-conception, and 10-30mg daily upon conception and throughout pregnancy from whole foods and supplements to produce progesterone, lengthen luteal phase (time between menstruation and ovulation), and combat insulin resistance in women with diabetic related infertility.
·      *B12- 50mg daily (with a B-complex) can be taken with calcium, and not to be taken at the same time as vitamin-C rich foods or supplements. Needed for blood health, nervous system function, and to activate folate in the body.
·      *Folic Acid- (with a B-complex) 800mcg from whole food sources to prevent miscarriage, fallopian tube defects, and birth defects. If taking supplements, only 400mcg would be advised.
·      *Vitamin C- 50-100mg taken every 4 hours, up to 600-1,000mg daily to increase fertility and iron absorption, transport calcium, folic acid metabolism, (not too be used in excess as this can dry up cervical fluid which prevents sperm from reaching the egg), and support a healthy luteal phase.
·      *Vitamin D- 20-30 minutes of direct sun daily (60% of skin exposed), to increase calcium absorption, assist in disease prevention, bone health, immunity, and insulin secretion.  If supplementation is required, 60-80mcg would be a preventative dose. Vitamin A and K are needed for balance of this vitamin.
·      *Vitamin E- 200 IU daily taken with other fat soluble vitamins to aid in blood health and sugar balance, increase calcium and vitamin A absorption, as well as immunity and antioxidants (for toxins stored in fats).
·      *Coenzyme Q10- 50-1,200mg from whole food sources for DNA health of older cells in age related infertility (women over 30).  May be used as a supplement as needed.
·      *L-Arginine- 500-2,00mg daily for 1-3 months prior to conception for increased blood flow to the uterus, to support embryo attachment to the uterine wall, and to build a healthy uterine environment.
·      *DHEA- 25mg 3x daily 3-6 months prior to conception to improve egg quality in women over 35. Not to be continued during pregnancy. Wild yam and soy are converted to DHEA in a lab and are not known to boost DHEA in the body when used as whole foods. DHEA is also not yet approved as a therapy for infertility, yet has been found helpful in some cases for age related infertility.
·      *Omega 3 essential fatty acids- 4g daily during pre-conception and throughout pregnancy for improved blood flow to the uterus and anti-inflammatory action.

Other Supportive Nutrition for Pre-conception
\    *Bee Propolis- for those who suffer with endometriosis for anti-inflammatory benefits.
\    *Asparagus root- used as a restorative tonic for fertility and reproductive health. Needs further study for safety during pregnancy, and to determine dosage.
\    *Ashwagandha- used for immunity and antioxidant benefits, hormone function, and stress relief.

Top Food Sources
v Flanonols, Kaempferol- raw kale, raw endive, raw arugula
v Iron- clams, organic raw tofu, baked potato skins
v Calcium- organic plain, non-fat yogurt
v Magnesium- spinach, Swiss chard, navy beans
v Zinc-beef, shiitake mushrooms, dark turkey meat
v Vitamin A- carrots, butternut squash, sweet potato
v B6- raw peppers, salmon, cooked spinach, raw garlic
v B12- clams, salmon, beef, tuna, plain nonfat yogurt
v Folic acid- cooked asparagus and spinach
v Vitamin C- raw bell peppers, guava, kiwi, strawberries
v Vitamin D- salmon
v Vitamin E- wheat germ oil, sunflower seeds, almonds
v Co Q10- tuna, salmon, vegetable oils
v L-Arginine- sesame seeds, cooked spinach, organic raw tofu
v Omega 3- salmon, flax oil, chia seeds

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