Currently in the US, approximately 700 new chemicals are introduced each year. Most environmental chemicals in our everyday products have entered the marketplace without research or testing into their reproductive or other long-term toxic effects. The chemical companies don’t need lab mice – instead they have us, their unsuspecting consumers!
How do Environmental Toxins Impact Fertility?
This toxic soup we live in negatively impacts egg quality and sperm health in couples of all ages. Poor egg quality in women makes it more difficult for sperm to fertilize the egg and a fertilized egg to implant in the uterine wall. Low sperm count and reduced motility in men lowers the likelihood that sperm will successfully fertilize the egg. The risk of having a baby with birth defects or other health problems increases as a result of lower quality eggs and sperm, and miscarriages due to chromosomal abnormalities are on the rise.
While the human body has intricate detoxification systems for metabolizing and eliminating everyday chemicals, these systems can become overloaded with this constant bombardment. Once this occurs, the toxic chemicals are allowed to accumulate in our tissues, where they begin to cause damage to our cells. As a result, chronic exposure to these environmental toxins can impact not only our fertility but also the health of our baby.
Given the toxic load most of us carry around and the amount of time it takes to reduce this load, we should be thinking about detox before actually trying to get pregnant. We’ve outlined some stages below. These stages can be done at the same time but in the interest of taking baby steps (pun intended), implementing change in stages can be less overwhelming. The reward of detoxing is worth it. Babies today are born pre-polluted. An Environmental Working Group study found 287 different industrial chemicals and pollutants in the umbilical cord blood with 180 of those known to cause cancer in humans and 217 of those toxic to the brain and nervous system.1
Stage 1: Reduce External Sources of Toxins That Cause Chronic Inflammation
When a toxin gets inside your body, it can damage cells. These damaged cells release chemicals such as histamines that cause blood vessels to leak fluid into the tissues, causing swelling. Swelling (also called inflammation) is a normal part of the body’s healing process, and it serves a useful purpose in that it helps isolate the foreign toxin from further contact with body tissues. But, swelling is meant to be only a temporary response, and if the inflammation becomes chronic, it can lead to health problems down the road. In fact, it is now believed that chronic inflammation a root cause of most chronic disease in the body and fertility is no exception. For example, in women, chronic inflammation can result in hormone imbalances that impact ovulation. In men, chronic inflammation and oxidative stress tend to go hand in hand, which negatively impacts sperm health.
Also, some toxins known as endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDC) wreak havoc on the body in a different, sneakier way. Because they are essentially capable of “impersonating” hormones, endocrine-disrupters can confuse systems that rely on our real hormones. EDCs are capable of increasing or decreasing production of certain hormones, converting one hormone into another, blocking the signaling between hormones, telling cells to die prematurely, and clogging organs that produce hormones. Specific to fertility, hormone imbalance due to endocrine disrupters shows up as low sperm count, poor morphology, damaged egg quality, and more.
Avoidance is stage 1 of a fertility detox program. You will not be able to completely avoid all exposure to toxic chemicals, but it is certainly feasible (and important!) to minimize your exposure as much as possible when you are trying-to-conceive, throughout your pregnancy, and while nursing your baby.
Here are a few suggestions for reducing your contact with reproductive toxins:
• Choose organic produce, dairy products, and meats whenever possible. And, if you do eat conventionally grown fruits and vegetables, be sure to wash and peel them.
• Stop eating fast food, a known source of phthalates (a plasticizer used in products such as nail polish. Source: FDA).
• Quit smoking and avoid exposure to second hand smoke.
• Drink filtered water, and consider bathing in filtered water as well.
• Avoid eating fish contaminated with mercury. We recommend Safe Catch Tuna.
• Use only non-toxic cleaning supplies in your home.
• Purchase personal care products that are free of phthalates and parabens.
• Avoid purchasing food and drinks packaged in plastics containing bisphenol A (BPA). Never microwave food in plastic containers.
• Choose non-toxic alternatives to conventional pesticides and herbicides for your lawn and garden.
Stage 2: Manage Internal Sources of Chronic Inflammation with Supplements
High blood sugar and metabolic syndrome not only throw insulin and other hormones out of whack, but also create substantial inflammation. High counts of free radicals in the body are another internal source of inflammation. In both cases, diet focused on increasing nutrition and reducing empty calories is the solution. While diet is key, certain dietary supplements can offer a big assist as well.
• Diet – Follow a Mediterranean style food plan to manage sugar and minimize free radicals. Good carbs like healthy greens are digested slowly and have a more gradual effect on blood sugar and insulin. Avoid fast burning sugars like those that come from processed flour products. Test gluten and dairy as they are known to be inflammatory for many people. And make sure you eat plenty of healthy omega 3 fats and keep omega 6 fats to a minimum.
• Supplements – Consider augmenting your diet with an antioxidant-based prenatal vitamin that offers not only the key vitamins and minerals you and your baby need but also myo-inositol and d-chiro inositol to help manage blood sugar and insulin.
Stage 3: Boost Your Liver to Gently Detox Your Body
Your liver does an amazing amount of work each day:
• Filters nearly 100 gallons of blood that pass through it every day.
• Produces a full quart of bile daily to break down fat and help with food digestion.
• Converts glucose into energy your body can use.
• Detoxifies waste products and pollutants, so your body can get rid of them.
However, once the liver and intestines become overwhelmed, toxins are allowed to build-up and become stored in our tissues where they can cause cellular damage, which can result in a variety of health conditions including reduced fertility and birth defects. Milk thistle (Silybum marinanum) is commonly used to boost the liver’s detox abilities. One of the most well-studied of all medicinal herbs, milk thistle has been scientifically proven to protect and regenerate liver cells, and is commonly used in Europe in the treatment of various liver conditions. As part of a detoxification program, milk thistle can aid the liver in clearing toxins and boost the antioxidant activity of liver cells.
It is very important that you have plenty of antioxidants on board when using a liver detox supplement. Releasing the toxins can make you feel flu-like and the antioxidants in your system will help neutralize the free radicals so they flush from the body.
You have the power to impact not only your health but your baby’s health for the rest of his or her life. Support your body, your immune system and your inflammatory response with these lifestyle strategies.
Our Ultimate Fertility Resource Guide provides the information you need on fertility, tips on how to get pregnant faster, and how to boost fertility through sometimes simple tweaks to your lifestyle and approach. The guide is easy to read and meant for anybody wanting to increase their ability to conceive. It’s a free download and includes coupon codes for essential products. Even free Nightfood Nighttime Ice Cream.
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2 Arafa M, Agarawal A, Majzoub A, Khalafalla K, Alsaid S, Elbardisi H. Efficacy of Antioxidant Supplementation on Conventional and Advanced Sperm Function Tests in Patients With Idiopathic Male infertility. Fertility and Sterility 2019, Volume 112, Issue 3, page e109.