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Pregnancy is a time full of joy and happiness, where you should be looking forward to what the future will bring. However, these days it has become a more frustrating and intensive process that can lead to hopelessness. With today’s fertility obstacles, it can even lead to viewing pregnancy as a feat rather than a natural part of life.  There are many ways we can support ourselves and our ability to conceive, however, first, we must understand the reasons why it has become such a challenge for so many.

1. Diet

Eating a well-balanced diet rich in nutrients such as antioxidants, trace minerals, and vitamins will improve your body’s ability to maintain a neutral terrain. This is an ideal internal environment for your body which in turn, will allow for conception to occur while supporting reproductive function. 

Unfortunately, these days, the quality of food has decreased immensely.

This can be for many reasons, including chemical fertilizers (together with new “cheaper” varieties of crops), longer storage times, long-distance transport, food additives, and heavy metals that are added to speed up the production of food and beverages. This can change the composition of food that may be “branded” as healthy, making it not so healthy at all. Therefore, it is vital to read labels on food, choose organic or free-range, and limit additives or processing. Also, when possible, always buy from local farmer’s markets!

A study of dietary changes during pregnancy showed that women frequently make changes to reduce intake of compounds that could harm their pregnancy, but are less likely to increase their intake of foods that provide key nutrients. 

Nutrients. 2018 Aug. 10(8): 1032

Let’s Also Go Over Some Helpful Tips to Remember When Trying to Conceive

Avoid processed, heavy, greasy foods. It takes time and energy for the digestive system to process these types of food. This can cause organ fatigue and also interfere with our ability to produce “good gut flora” in our digestive system. Our gut microbiome not only supports the female reproductive system but houses the majority of our immune function. 

Include nutrient-rich foods. Organic free-range chicken and fresh-caught fish (2-3 x each week), kale, collard greens, broccoli, blueberries, pomegranate, cherries, yams, brown rice, quinoa, barley, buckwheat, millet, organic steel-cut oatmeal, nuts, avocados, legumes, wheatgrass, chia seeds, maca, acai, goji berries, and spirulina are all excellent food sources. 

Warm-up your diet!  In traditional Chinese medicine, it is strongly believed that warm/hot foods and beverages strengthen our vital energy or qi as well as blood in order to enhance the ability to conceive. They also believe that this will improve blood flow to the lower abdominal area where our reproductive organs lie and enhance fertility. 

Eat with positivity and gratitude with every single bite. If you are eating and are angry, worried, depressed, or fearful, it can manifest in certain digestive organs and inhibit the body’s ability to properly breakdown, absorb, and utilize food. For instance, if you are worried about what you are going to say to your boss about an issue at work while you are eating, this negative emotion may affect the spleen and stomach. These two organs play a major role in turning digested food into proper nutrients. Therefore, while you eat – focus on what gives you joy and happiness and allow yourself to slow down.

2. Stress 

Stress is very rarely touched in the western medicinal world, but it is vital to be able to understand and recognize how it affects each system and organ function in our body. Not only does Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) believe that emotions are the catalyst for energetic disturbances,  it proposes this is why illness occurs in the first place. Thus, emotions can also reduce a woman’s ability to conceive.  

When we have negative stress in our lives, it can interfere with our parasympathetic nervous system, whose role is to relax our body and allow for proper organ restoration and regeneration (rest and digest). When this happens, our sympathetic response (fight or flight) takes over and can impede immune response, organ function, and in turn, affect not only our reproductive organs but also affect gynecological terrain. This can affect ovulation and cortisol levels, impeding embryo implantation, testosterone levels, and sperm production.

Therefore, it is vital to lower levels of stress and it can be done doing some of these things listed below: 

Stretching. Stretching increases the release of endorphins and the blood flow to the muscles. Muscles are controlled by the nervous system, influencing our stress or relaxation. Stretching can activate the parasympathetic nervous system, promoting relaxation. 

Meditation techniques. Mindfulness and guided- or affirmation-meditation are wonderful ways to set the stage for a relaxing day. It can also promote a peaceful night of rest by allowing you to focus on the present moment, rather than on worries from earlier in the day. When we clear our mind we not only de-activate the sympathetic nervous system from taking over our body but also allow the subconscious to take over more easily and guide us into a peaceful state. 

Breathing techniques. When your breathing is normal (ideally it is shown you should breathe lightly, in a calm fashion, and only through the nose, not mouth), you have better oxygenation of tissues and organs, including your brain. There are several techniques you can practice like the Buteyko method, 4-7-8 breath method, and diaphragmatic breathing. 

Biofeedback/Neurofeedback. Biofeedback is a mind-body technique that involves using either visual or auditory feedback to learn how to better control involuntary bodily functions. This may include such things as heart rate, muscle tension, blood flow, pain perception, and blood pressure. Therefore, learning how to control one’s response to stress will improve mental and emotional function and can be carried out for years moving forward. 

3. Environmental Toxins

Over the past several years, there has been increasing evidence that shows long-term, low-level exposure to a mixture of everyday substances present in our environment may produce issues in fertility. This can range from impaired egg production to repeat miscarriage, sperm abnormalities, and decreased sperm counts. Many of these chemicals or solvents are called endocrine-disruptors. Endocrine disruptors are a class of more than 1,200 chemicals that can mimic or block hormones including estrogen, the primary female sex hormone involved in a pregnancy.

Some examples of chemicals that affect the female and male hormones include phthalates, dioxin, lead, glycol ethers, and Nonylpheno to name a few. The scary thing is that many of these chemicals can be found in everyday household products. For instance, Dioxin, which is rarely listed on ingredient labels, is a petroleum-derived contaminant formed in the manufacturing of shampoos, body wash, children’s bath products, and other types of cosmetics. It has also been listed as a possible carcinogen by the International Agency for Research on Cancer. 

Do your research! Anytime you are using cosmetic products, sunscreens, household cleaning agents, laundry detergents, and sprays for home or lawn read the labeling. A good rule of thumb is, the more ingredients listed, the more toxic the product usually is. If you are unfamiliar with the chemicals or ingredients on the labeling, there are several websites (including InnovativeMedicine.com), that have tested and researched the quality of products and whether they may affect a person’s health and/or toxicity. 

4. Male Infertility

Until recently, male fertility was often overlooked when a female was struggling to conceive. Today, both researchers and practitioners have realized that the male plays just as big of a role in procreation as females, therefore just as much testing, lifestyle changes, and education has been focused on the male as their female counterparts. Many easy lifestyle changes and adjustments can be made in a male’s life (please see numbers 1-3 above) to assist with fertility.  

However, in TCM it is often thought that males who have weak kidney or liver energy – as well as an overall low vital force – struggle with fertility the most. Some symptoms of kidney weakness and deficiency include frequent urination, aching of the back and legs, and impotence. Symptoms of liver stagnation or weakness include digestive issues (bloating, poor appetite, constipation, nausea, gallstones, liver pain, elevated cholesterol, yellow sclera), as well as muscular issues (consistent sore, stiff or arthritic joints, tendon or ligament issues). 

Kidney weakness on a physical level can come from exhausted filtration of toxins like metals (mercury, lead, cadmium, antimony, arsenic), genetic predisposition, or chronic illness or infection. On an emotional level, the kidneys are associated with fear. Males that tend to be fearful of changes in life, how others perceive them or surround themselves in unstable living conditions tend to put more stress on the kidneys and dampen their energy. The kidneys can be supported via dietary suggestions like black beans, walnuts, black sesame, mushrooms, water chestnuts, seaweed, blackberries, black tea, psoralia root, lotus seed, horsetail tea, asparagus. In addition,  consider reducing things like cheese, salt, high meat consumption, and sugars. Supplements that also support the drainage of kidneys in a natural biological way will also support proper detoxification and terrain of kidneys. 

Studies show there are a number of risk factors that could potentially influence sperm quality that includes lifestyle factors such as cigarette smoking, alcohol intake, use of illicit drugs, obesity, psychological stress, diet, and even caffeine intake.

The liver has over seven functions in our system and the filtration of toxins is the most commonly known job of this extraordinary organ. Therefore, when a male has increased use of medication, poor diet, exposure to toxins, chronic infection, or increased allergies, this causes stagnation or blockage on a physical level. On an emotional level, the liver is associated with anger, frustration, and irritability. Males who have short tempers, tend to get frustrated or angry easily or go in and out of mood swings often tend to have stagnant or blocked liver energy. Foods to support the liver include bitter greens, warm cooked vegetables, broccoli, cucumber, melons, dandelion, garlic, turmeric, lemon water, artichoke leaf, milk thistle, and apple cider vinegar. 

Energetically the kidneys and liver can be supported with proper energy techniques like ACMOS (a unique and individualized technique implemented to balance energy), acupuncture, or reiki. On an emotional level, techniques like neuro- or biofeedback, EFT, NET, meditation, or daily affirmations can assist with lowering levels of anger, frustration, and fear.  

5. Poor Elimination or Inability to Detox Correctly 

Detoxification is performed in the body by three major organs: the liver, the intestines, and the kidneys. The biggest detoxing organ is the liver, which filtrates unwanted cells and toxins from the blood. The liver transforms any leftover byproducts or chemicals that are more challenging to be broken down into something called bile salts.  The intestines allow us to excrete any toxins on a daily basis, (which is why it is critical to go to the bathroom at least once or twice each day)! The kidney plays a bit of a smaller role of filtrating toxins through tiny tubules or blood filters, which allows excretion through the urine. Therefore, the health of the liver, intestines, and kidneys (as well as your lymphatic system) are all vital for detoxification. 

Accumulations of environmental chemicals from cleaning products, cosmetics, flame retardants, plastics, toxic pesticides, chemical fertilizing agents, air and water pollutants, and synthetic medications are just some of the major toxins that build up in our bodies. They reduce the ability of our vital organs and detoxification pathways to slow down physically and energetically. Furthermore, any genetic predisposition, chronic infection, or increase in age can make this process more difficult. 

Although there are numerous ways to detoxify one’s body, it should always be tailored to the individual to achieve the best results. However, there are some tips and rules of thumb anyone can use. 

  1. Since detoxification is a complicated process, repeated or habitual practices are the only real way to clear the body of toxins. The promotion of liver and intestinal health (check out this article, “The 7 Best Probiotics: A Clinical-Based Product Review“), as well as the avoidance of as many chemicals as possible, is also essential and should become a lifelong process.
  2. Reminder! Diet, Diet, Diet. Eating organic, non-GMO, antibiotic-free and free-range products should always be a top priority. There are hundreds of diet guidelines, trends, and recommendations that can be found nowadays. It is best to find out what area of the body is struggling the most (i.e. if a standard blood test reveals you have elevated liver enzymes and low hormonal levels, it would be best to choose foods to support the liver which is listed in point 4 above). Do not pick a dietary trend that you think may help you. Do your research, get a proper physical or examination with blood work and take it from there! 
  3. Easy, non-invasive ways to stimulate your lymphatic system will always move things along quicker. These include rebounding, dry brushing, mild sauna usage, juicing (ie: celery is fantastic for the gut and production of good gut flora as well as carrot juice), fasting once a week, colonics and gentle massage can go a long way. 

There are ways to take control of your path toward pregnancy by revitalizing your whole-body health. Focusing on your diet, reducing your exposure to environmental toxins (both physical and emotional), and optimizing your internal systems, are all ways you can change the dialogue about your fertility. With these steps, you can make your path toward pregnancy feel like a natural process instead of a challenging one. 

Disclaimer: The statements made in this article have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. Any products or treatments mentioned are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. Please consult a licensed medical practitioner for medical advice.

At Innovative Medicine, we believe in transparency. We want you to know that we may participate in affiliate advertising programs pertaining to products mentioned herein.

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Meet the Author

Caitlin Policastro, NP

Caitlin Policastro, BSN, MSN (ANP/GNP) attended the University of Pittsburgh for her undergraduate degree in nursing ten years ago. Shortly thereafter, while working in the ICU at Memorial Sloan Kettering Center, she enrolled at Hunter College for her Master's degree in Adult/Geriatric Health in Nursing. While achieving her Master's degree, she transferred to the Hospital for Special Surgery to work beside world renowned orthopedic surgeons in the post-operative unit for four years. Upon completion of her Master's program, she knew she had a strong calling for integrative medicine after witnessing so many of her patients experience chronic health issues with no reprieve from allopathic medicine. Caitlin has been with the New York Center for Innovative Medicine for five years and is trained in ACMOS, Neural therapy, oxidative therapies, BAH evaluation, physical therapies and more. Over the past several years, she has worked and trained with renowned biological dentists, ND's, osteopaths and MD's and continues to expand her knowledge to integrate the most effective and therapeutic techniques for the center.
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