Why Your Gut May Be Causing Infertility
Starting a family should be one of the happiest times of your life. Picking out baby clothes, designing a nursery, and choosing names should be the decisions you’re mulling over. But, the struggles and frustration of infertility can turn this joyous period into a nightmare. Month after month, the anger, bitterness, and sadness get worse as more negative pregnancy tests are tossed in the trash.
Eventually, the mention of friends, co-workers, or celebrities having children becomes too much to bear. It can feel like there’s something wrong with you and you’re suffering alone.
But you’re not. 1 in 8 couples struggles with infertility. And despite the belief that infertility is a life-long sentence, it’s not a permanent condition you’re stuck with. It just means you’ve not conceived after trying for more than 12 months. There’s hope! And chances are high it’s not you– it’s a hormonal imbalance to blame.
Hormones And Fertility
With more research into gut health, there are multiple studies now proving that poor gut health can cause an estrogen imbalance. Having the correct levels of estrogen are critical for getting pregnant; estrogen imbalances are known to cause infertility issues such as endometriosis, polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), and testicular dysfunction.
Why Estrogen Is So Important:
Although estrogen is commonly thought to be a female hormone, it’s also involved in male reproductive health. In females, estrogen plays a vital role in conception. It’s responsible for proper ovulation and thickening of the uterine wall for pregnancy during menstruation.
With too much estrogen, women can experience irregular periods or ovulation can stop. Called, “estrogen dominance,” this condition can lead to infertility issues like endometriosis and PCOS. Too little estrogen is linked to amenorrhea; an abnormal absence of menstruation which causes infertility.
In males, estrogen imbalances can cause all kinds of issues including loss of libido, erectile dysfunction, and spermatogenesis; a decrease in testicular size and sperm production leading to infertility.
Hormones are continually trying to balance within the body and too much or too little of one can cause a domino effect that throws everything askew. And the “forgotten organ,” the gut, is key in keeping your hormones stabilized.
The Gut-Infertility Connection
Your gut microbiome contains trillions of microorganisms. Within this diverse ecosystem in your gut, there is a specific group of gut microbes, called estrobolomes that metabolize estrogen. When these microbes aren’t supported correctly, they can lead to an abnormal increase or decrease of estrogen.
Fixing Gut Bacteria Imbalances:
An imbalance of good and bad bacteria in your gut affects the microbes that keep your hormones in check. The most common causes of gut issues are:
- Chronic stress
- Diets high in sugar, processed foods, and gluten
- Excessive alcohol consumption
- Environmental toxins such as pesticides
- Medication like antibiotics, antacids, and NSAIDs
Gastrointestinal Disorders And Infertility
Infertility can also be caused by malnutrition and chronic inflammation. When your gut isn’t healthy, nutrients and minerals cannot be absorbed properly by your body. When your body doesn’t have enough of the vitamins, nutrients, and minerals it needs, it can’t conceive.
Leaky Gut Syndrome is a common issue causing malnutrition in people suffering infertility. This condition happens when your intestines are chronically inflamed. It causes your protective gut barrier to become damaged and unwanted particles and pathogens leak into your bloodstream. It also leaks the nutrients and minerals you need to be healthy. This can cause autoimmune diseases like Hashimoto’s that create hormone imbalances and infertility.
Other conditions like IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome), and SIBO (small intestinal bacterial overgrowth) are linked with infertility due to chronic inflammation. These inflammatory conditions can lead to Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis which especially affects male fertility.
Healing Your Gut To Start A Family
Changing your eating habits can help your chances at conceiving. A diet with whole, unprocessed foods like healthy fats, protein, vegetables and fruit will help greatly. Polyphenols, a compound found in plants are chock-full of antioxidants that will reduce inflammation and rebalance your gut microbiome. It’s also important to consume prebiotics (garlic, onions, leeks, chicory root, asparagus, bananas) and probiotics (yogurt, kimchi, sauerkraut, kombucha) to keep your gut working optimally
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