Are You Too Sick To Get Pregnant? Gut Health And Its Relationship To Infertility

Whether you are having trouble getting pregnant, or have had one or more miscarriages, you are not alone. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), about 10 percent of women (6.1 million) in the United States ages 15-44 have difficulty getting pregnant or staying pregnant. Currently, to treat infertility, medications are used to boost ovulation or adjust hormone levels. There is intrauterine insemination, commonly known as artificial insemination, where the woman is injected with specially prepared sperm. There is also assisted reproductive technology (ART). ART works by removing eggs from a woman’s body and then mixing them with sperm to make embryos. The embryos are then put back in the woman’s body.

Now, I would like to talk about an alternative approach. Let us not focus on just trying to get pregnant, but getting the body healthy enough to become pregnant. It is one thing to get pregnant. It is another to achieve a healthy pregnancy and a give birth to a healthy baby. Standard treatments are not addressing the overall health of the mother. This information is also applicable for women who are either planning to carry a child in the future or want to achieve good overall health and weight loss goals.

Before becoming pregnant, you must first address and restore the integrity and function of your health and immune system. This seems to be missing in standard care. When a woman gets pregnant and is also suffering with leaky gut, sugar balancing issues, multiple food allergies or intolerances, or toxicity, she is putting her baby at risk of developing autism, eczema, asthma and food allergies. Pregnancy is stressful enough on the body and if you do not begin the process in optimal condition, it will take a toll on your health and your baby’s health. In my practice, my primary goal is to address the overall health of the woman and determine if she is healthy enough to become pregnant. If a mother is having health challenges, chances are, she will pass them on to her child.

There are several conditions that can decrease the woman’s ability to become pregnant, including digestive problems, immune disorders, adrenal fatigue, blood sugar problems, food allergies, chronic inflammation, hormonal imbalances, nutritional deficiencies and toxicity.

The first place I like to begin, before I address anything else, is in the digestive system. In simple terms, the digestive system works as follows: we eat (good diet or bad diet), digest (complete or incomplete), then we eliminate (good evacuation or bad evacuation) or assimilate (good absorption or poor absorption). The gut is commonly referred to as the “Second Brain” because the enteric nervous system is a collection of neurons in the gastrointestinal tract (GI) that constitutes the “brain of the gut” and can function independently of the nervous system. This system controls the motility, exocrine and endocrine secretions and microcirculation of the GI tract. It is also involved in regulating immune and inflammatory processes. Hippocrates has also said that all disease begins in the gut. About 70 to 80 percent of the body’s immune system is found in the digestive tract.

Poor digestive health that involves acid reflux, bloating, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) or constipation is an extremely common and overlooked condition in this country that affects about 70 million Americans. This accounts for billions of dollars in annual sales of over-the-counter digestive aids that only provide temporary relief. Unresolved or ignored digestive problems lead to worse problems down the road. With any health condition, including pregnancy, it is important to restore gut health.

When trying to achieve pregnancy, focus cannot be solely on the ovaries, the fallopian tubes or other parts of the reproductive system. Because “every system affects every other system,” the body must be considered as a whole. Infertility is oftentimes a side-effect of something else. For example poor gut health leads to blood sugar problems, and that leads to constipation. With constipation, the body cannot eliminate unneeded hormones, and estrogen accumulates. Food not digested properly due to lack of hydrochloric acid (HCL) results in putrefied, fermented food that becomes rancid in the stomach. Low HCL results in the gallbladder’s reduced ability to secrete bile for the emulsification of fats. Low gallbladder function causes a sluggish liver, and it cannot efficiently detoxify the body of hormones, toxins and other metabolites. When the gallbladder malfunctions, there is no signal to the pancreas to secrete digestive enzymes. Therefore poorly digested food moves to the intestines. Rotting food in the intestines causes inflammation, infection and intestinal permeability, also known as “leaky gut.” This prolonged stress exhausts the adrenals, and weak adrenals adversely affect the thyroid. This progression continues until the underlying problem is corrected.

A healthy GI tract does not allow the absorption of bacteria, harmful foods or undigested food particles into the bloodstream. Chronic inflammation brought on by poor diet, poor blood sugar control and chronic stress leads to harmful substances and undigested food being dumped into the bloodstream. Again, this is leaky gut. These harmful particles are misidentified as foreign invaders or antigens that are attacked by the immune system. A stressed immune system leads to other health problems that in turn can result in infertility.

The proper care of the gut requires the supervision of a qualified healthcare professional. To repair the gut, the first step is the elimination of foods that create chronic immune responses. These are most commonly gluten, dairy, eggs, corn, soy and yeast.

A healthcare professional would help determine which foods to remove from the diet. Other nutritional strategies include: the removal of inappropriate organisms such as bacteria, parasites, fungus and yeast, replacement of digestive enzymes, HCL, bile and fiber, to thoroughly digest proteins, fats and essential nutrients, re-populate with ample probiotics to replace an overabundance of bad bacteria with good bacteria, and supporting regeneration and healing of the gastrointestinal mucosa.

The repair of a broken down gut is not easy and it takes time. But it is well worth the effort. It is important to restore gut function whether or not one plans a pregnancy.

For those women who plan to get pregnant or are trying to get pregnant, just remember that the improvement of your overall health will benefit the health of your child. Other body organs may still need evaluation, such as the liver, kidneys, thyroid and adrenals, but many of these issues cannot be resolved until the gut is first examined.

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