Although infertility seems to be a topic no one wants to talk about or admit to talking about, we should definitely be spending more time talking about it since according to the U.S Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an estimated 7.4 million adults between the ages of 15-44 struggle with becoming or staying pregnant. That’s 12% of all women in the US! Not only is that a huge number but studies have shown that infertility rates are actually on the rise in both men and women. When it comes to men, studies have shown that the average concentration of sperm has decreased by 52.8% over the last 50 years! So what is contributing to this significant increase of infertility? Some of the lifestyle contributing factors include nutritional changes, environmental exposures including pesticides, exogenous estrogens, heavy metals as well as stress. Some of the biochemical factors involved in infertility include oxidative stress, hormone imbalances as well as inflammation. More and more studies are indicating that our general health including oxidative stress levels have actually become a leading cause of male and female infertility.
So what is oxidative stress? Oxidative stress is the imbalance between the production of free radicals (which are produced as by- products in the body) and the body’s ability to counteract or detoxify their harmful effects. Our body is able to neutralize these harmful free radical with the use of antioxidants. This is one reason I strongly encourage my patients to take antioxidants as part of their pre-natal care. There has been growing evidence that indicates that oxidative stress can negatively impact sperm including altering the membrane fluidity (think mutated swimmers) as well as alters membrane permeability (can’t properly implant).
When reviewing a couple’s oxidative stress levels, I take into consideration the following, as all of these can increase oxidative stress levels:
- Poor nutrition (Diet/Lifestyle)
- Inflammatory Conditions
- Metabolic Syndromes
- Anxiety/ Depression
- Poor Immune Function
- Brain Fog/ Decreased Cognition
So now that you know what oxidative stress is and what symptoms it may be related to, how do we neutralize or detoxify our bodies of free radicals?
Ways to Reduce Oxidative Stress Naturally: Supplements
- Vitamin E and C (often included in a comprehensive prenatal vitamin)
- Green Tea Polyphenols
- Milk Thistle
- Fish OIls (look for about 2,000mg EPA and DHA per day)
Ways to Reduce Oxidative Stress Naturally: Lifestyle
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Exercise – 30 mins a day at least 5 days a week.
- Eat a low- glycemic Mediterranean diet
- Increase your intake of plant foods and food- based antioxidants. The following foods are great antioxidants as well as aromatase inhibitors, which means they help improve the production of estrogen and testosterone.
- Grapes, Green Tea, Tumeric, Collards, non- GMO soy.
As you can see there are many ways botanicals, vitamins, minerals and foods can help reduce oxidative stress reducing one important aspect of infertility. Make sure you are receiving proper guidance by your integrative health-care provider to help you improve your fertility, naturally.