Natural Solutions to Infertility, PCOS and Female Hormone Imbalances –
Are you looming for Natural Solutions to Infertility, PCOS and Female Hormone Imbalances?
This is a guest post from my friend, functional medicine doctor, Dr. Justin Marchegiani
Natural Solutions to Infertility, PCOS and Female Hormone Imbalances
If you’re a female and suffering from infertility or other hormonal symptoms, this is a strong sign your body is out of balance and at some level unhealthy. Fertility is a natural bi-product of health, with out it, our species wouldn’t be here today. I urge every woman to dig a little bit deeper into what’s driving their infertility and or female hormone imbalances.
Just 30-40 years ago women would routinely get pregnant on their honey moon. Today women are spending upwards of 15,000$ per IVF treatment some needing multiple treatments to conceive.
It is possible to mimic your hormones with Follistim, Lupron, Clomid to manipulate your brain into thinking that you are healthy enough to get pregnant. Your body is wise, and is not letting you have a child for a reason; it knows the hormonal environment is not optimal to produce a healthy baby.
The hidden chemical stressors in our body can activate certain genes epigenetically. When these genes are activated it predispose yourself and your child to auto-immune/chronic inflammatory conditions like asthma, heart disease allergies and learning disorders (1, 2, 3).
When we look at the underlying cause of infertility, 40% are on the woman’s side, 40% are on the man’s side and 20% are unknown.
Both men and women should adhere to similar dietary and lifestyle principles to help support and nourish their body. A diet that is nutrient dense, anti-inflammatory and low in toxins is essential for optimal health and for growing a baby.
Women who are trying to get pregnant need to make sure that diet has adequate fat for the formation of their soon to be child’s nervous system, adequate meal timing to stabilize blood sugar and the avoidance of all toxins from pesticides, grains and refined foods.
If you are trying to get pregnant you need to form a cohesive team with your partner. There needs to be a combined effort of the couple engaging in health sustaining habits. Just because the female grows the child inside of her body, the quality of the sperm and the support regarding nutrition and lifestyle habits are just as important.
As long as your partners sperm count, motility and morphology have been assessed and there are no issues regarding the females reproductive anatomy; then you are a great candidate to start a natural female hormone balancing program.
There maybe be 5% of women that need IVF treatment to conceive. I personally would recommend it last. The natural hormone balancing, diet and lifestyle programs can work over 90% of the time. IVF may help you get pregnant, but does nothing to ensure a healthy pregnancy and optimal health for you child.
According to research as well as my clinical experience, women that have IVF or go into a pregnancy unhealthy to begin with, tend to suffer from more hormonal related issues post pregnancy, have a more difficult time losing weight and have an increase risk for postpartum depression (4).
To All Men Out There:
Sperm counts have been dropping over the last 40 years significantly and so have the references ranges regarding what normal may be. Due to this drop in the reference range I urge men to be in the top 25% of the range to ensure adequate health. Consider anything in the middle of the range inadequate to standards just 30-40 years ago. (5)
The Two Phases of Your Cycle:
The first half of your cycle is the Follicular Phase. This is where estrogen predominates. The second half of your cycle is the Luteal Phase. This is where progesterone predominates.
The Domino Effect Of Healthy Hormones and Pregnancy:
Step 1: Progesterone and estrogen drop at the end of the cycle which signals bleeding or your period. The sloughing off at your endometrial lining is important to reset your body so it has a chance for pregnancy next time it ovulates.
Step 2: The bleeding that occurs during your period stimulates FSH, that’s a brain hormone. FSH stands for Follicle Stimulating Hormone which stimulates the follicle to start growing.
Step 3: As the follicle starts growing, it starts stimulating estrogen to increase. As estrogen increases, it starts to thicken the endometrial lining. Estrogen stimulates growth, which is needed for the uterine lining.
Step 4: As estrogen reaches its peak around day 12-13 of your cycle ideally, it stimulates an increase in LH (Luteinizing Hormone).
Step 5: When LH increases, it stimulates progesterone to increase around day 15 of your cycle.
Step 6: The rise of progesterone which was preceded by a rise in estrogen signals ovulation. This where you can get pregnant, it’s only about a 3 day window. Progesterone causes the uterine tissues to mature (to grow up), which provides the right environment for the egg to implant into it.
Step 7 (optional): The egg is ejected into the Fallopian tube where it has the potential to come in contact with sperm as the egg makes it’ way down to the uterus.
Step 8 (optional): The fertilized egg in-beds itself into the uterine lining as the corpus luteum (the scar from where the egg formed in the ovary) stimulates progesterone through the production of HCG.
Step 9: Progesterone and estrogen drop out around day 27-28 of the cycle which then signals menstruation (your period). The whole process then repeats itself again.
Fun Fact: HCG is what is typically tested to confirm pregnancy. Elevated HCG will get you a positive on your home pregnancy pee test.
Problems In The Luteal Phase:
The Luteal Phase needs to be at least 12-15 days long to ensure there is enough time for adequate progesterone to be made. If progesterone levels falls off early in the Luteal Phase (symbolized by the red lines above) it’s because of stress. Stress comes in physical, chemical, and emotional factors. Essentially, progesterone, your pro- gestational hormone that holds the egg in place actually can get converted downstream in the cortisol.
With chronic stress we see progesterone falling out early in the cycle which can make it very difficult to sustain a pregnancy. This progesterone deficit makes it very difficult for the egg to stay implanted, and will eventually slough off causing a potential thicker period that particular month, or maybe even no period at all. Low progesterone over time can cause your cycle to be anovulatory (no period), or you may have even been told you have premature ovarian failure.
Throughout our cycle on average we have 22-25 times more progesterone than estrogen. This is normal, healthy balance. When stress occurs and progesterone gets converted downstream, we start seeing a state of what’s called estrogen dominance. We start seeing excess thickening of the uterine lining. Women may notice fibroids, endometriosis and fibrocystic breasts.
This hormone imbalances may manifest themselves at the end of your cycle as PMS, headaches, fatigue, migraines, breast tenderness and uterine pain. All these symptoms are primarily driven by a state of estrogen dominance.
PCOS (Poly cystic ovarian syndrome) occurs when androgen’s in the female cycle become elevated. As androgen’s elevate in the cycle it throws off the upstream brain hormones, so communication from the brain to the ovaries becomes disconnected (6)
One of the most important triggers of PCOS are chronic ups and down in blood sugar (reactive hypoglycemia) or insulin resistance. The elevation in insulin up-regulates certain enzymes in the body (17-20 lyase) which can accelerate the conversion of female hormones to male hormones (testosterone). That’s why its common to see acne, abnormal hair growth and ovarian cysts as a byproduct (7, 8).
Whats The Deal With Birth Control Pills?
When we take birth control pills, we shut down the upstream signalling to our brain known as the HPG axis (Hypothalamus, Pituitary, Gonadal Axis- see picture below). FSH and LH essentially are the conductor of this beautiful hormonal orchestra. In this orchestra we have the strings, the flutes, all the different instruments you can imagine. If the conductor of the orchestra goes on vacation it’s very easy for this beautiful music to sound like noise.
As we now take this analogy back to hormone land, as hormonal imbalances occur due to physical, chemical and emotional stressors it essentially mugs the conductor. It knocks the conductor off the stand and the hormones start to go awry.
Women who take BCP do see a benefit. Their hormones may stabilize which may help their mood, PMS and skin issues in the short term. The ups and downs of the hormones in the cycle have been some what leveled out by this artificial yet steady bombardment of hormones.
The symptom relief experience from BCP’s are real. There are ways to produce the same results if not better through natural hormone balancing protocols that address the underlying cause of the issues. When the underlying cause is addressed there is less chance of the typical side effects of BCP’s including weight gain, blood clots, increased risk of a breast cancer and potential difficulty conceiving down the road.
Women who were on oral contraceptive birth control pills may experience a few months of being infertile while the synthetic hormones work their way out of their body. Women who were on the Depo shot on the other hand, can experience infertility between six months to a year.
~Dr. Lauren Streicher of Gynecologic Specialists of Northwestern
If you are using a BCP’s to prevent pregnancy there are other natural non-hormonal methods out there. My favorite is the rhythm method (If you are in a stable long term relationship). Other methods can be used including a non-hormonal IUD (ParaGard). This can be used in conjunction with a diaphragm and or a condom for extra security. If your hormones are stable, there is only a small window in your cycle where pregnancy can occur so make sure proper precautions are made.
What You Need To Do!
If you are struggling with hormonal related symptoms and are looking to get pregnant there are some action items you should make asap!
Step 1: Make the right diet and lifestyle changes to stabilize your hormones and blood sugar for success.
Step 2: Avoid common toxins that may come from pesticides in your food, chemicals in your makeups and hygiene products. The toxins in these products are xeno-estrogen’s in nature and can mimics the hormone estrogen. Most women are already in a state of estrogen dominance and this bombardment off additional synthetic estrogen only makes the problem worse.
Step 3: Get assessed! If you are not assessing you are guessing! If you are having hormonal issues and you want to get pregnant you need to see where the root of your hormonal issues are coming from.
Are the hormonal imbalances coming from a thyroid issue, adrenal issue, female hormone issue or chronic infection? It may even be a combination of all of them like I see with most patients.
Make sure to contact Dr. Justin to get answers about your hormone imbalances.
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