Essential steps to having babies
Global fertility groups, including the World Health Organisation experts on infertility and the United Nations General Assembly, may have concluded that wanting a baby is a human rights issue. Hence, nations must do their best to provide access to infertility treatment to any deserving individual or couple.
These groups also recommend that individuals or couples desiring to have babies need to ensure that their body systems are clean enough to go through the process of conception. This means that those who are obese or overweight need to lose five per cent of their body weight, at least, before attempting to have a baby through the use of lifestyle changes and dietary modifications.
Also, these experts have advocated using available facilities that can help in this process and the removal of body toxins before conception. In other words, a couple planning to have a baby should treat their body the way they would handle their home when expecting a distinguished guest.
We now know that infertility is an alarming modern epidemic affecting more couples than ever. One out of six couples today experience difficulty in getting pregnant. What was once a woman’s problem is now known to affect men equally. The natural approach to treating infertility solves the causes of infertility, by addressing all body systems, rather than just focusing solely on the reproductive system.
Many couples that can’t become pregnant suffer from a combination of sub-clinical conditions. These conditions can’t cause infertility on their own, but, in combination, they can substantially reduce a couple’s chances of conception. For example, gluten intolerance alone cannot create infertility, but the resulting inflammation in the gut can minimise your capacity to absorb nutrients in the body and lead to deficiencies in the nutrients you need for optimal sperm, egg and hormone production and healthy pregnancy.
Exposure to heavy metals, radiation and toxic chemicals in some foods, drugs and other products can damage the DNA. Recent nutrigenomic (a study of the effects of nutrients on gene expression) research suggests what can influence our gene structure and expression.
Minimise your exposure to toxic chemicals
Exposure to environmental toxins (in the form of industrial chemicals) in the uterus and during the neonatal period may dramatically affect adult fertility. Most chemicals used daily do not go through the same checks that medicines do. Consequently, poisonous chemicals end up circulating in our environment, food supply, air and water.
The most substantial evidence of heavy metals and environmental pollution adversely interfering with healthy reproductive function in women is the lead metal. Other compounds that can alter hormone function and result in adverse reproductive health effects include:
Ovotoxicants can disrupt the process or even stop ovulation.
Endocrine disruptors can interfere with hormone function and cause endometriosis and PCOS (polycystic ovarian disease). The endocrine disruptors include heavy metals present in the body gotten from the consumption of large fish and stockfish.
Phthalates in plastic food containers, IV bags, medical supplies, vinyl flooring and packaging at high levels cause miscarriage and testicular toxicity. At low levels, they disrupt hormonal balance.
Polyvinyl chloride (PVC) chemicals used in rubber tires, plastics, and pesticides are dangerous, just as PAH (Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbon): released from cigarettes, car fumes and road tar.
Men are seriously affected
Sperm seems to be more sensitive to heavy metals and industrial pollutants than eggs. Many sperm abnormalities are due to these toxins. The majority of these chemicals can be found in the atmosphere, on the ground in cities and the waterways. They have also been termed ‘reproductive toxicants’ because of their harmful effects on sperm development and maturation.
Studies have confirmed that male sperm counts are declining and environmental factors, such as pesticides, exogenous estrogens (Xenoestrogens) and heavy metals may negatively impact spermatogenesis (formation of sperm).
The top six environmental toxins to avoid:
Pesticides found on non-organic fruit and vegetables, meat, dairy and unfiltered tap water; formaldehyde found in air fresheners, deodorants, floor polish, upholstery cleaners; bisphenols found in plastic containers and can leach into food and water.
Organic solvents include petroleum-based liquids found in household products, electronics, car repair, health care, photography, agriculture, printing, construction, and cosmetics.
Others include dry-cleaning chemicals, paint fumes and many more. Occasional exposure to one or two toxic chemicals is not of great concern. What is of interest is the accumulation of these substances over an extended period.
Don’t drink unfiltered tap water
Our waterways are polluted continuously by industrial waste and byproducts, pharmaceutical drugs, pesticides, herbicides and commercial cleaning products. Many companies are contaminating the waterways, regardless of the country you live in. It is either there is no environmental law at all or there are loopholes in the law, or there is no law for the XYZ chemical getting into the water.
Heavy metals are the most common of the reproductive toxins reaching our water supply through industrial waste, jet fuel exhaust residue and a variety of other sources.
Tap water contains pharmaceutical drugs. About 74 per cent of the United States’ population takes prescription drugs. Because the drugs do not metabolise fully, small quantities are excreted via faeces and urine and flushed away. The toilet water is treated and filtered before being discharged into lakes and rivers, thereby re-entering the water supply. The trouble is, many drugs are not filtered out via the regular filtration process. Minute quantities of chemotherapy drugs, contraceptive pills, antidepressants, anxiolytics, anabolic steroids, HRT (hormone replacement therapy), heart drugs, etc, have been found in tap water.
Use a dual filtration system
Buy a double filtration water system that filters particles smaller than 1 micron (this will filter out the drugs and heavy metals).
Use the filter in your shower and your kitchen
Shower steam contains the same chemicals, which you can end up inhaling and absorbed through your skin.
Aim to eat an optimal fertility diet
In the first trimester of pregnancy, your growing embryo will increase 20 million times. In the first eight weeks, your baby’s organs, hands, fingers, legs, feet, head, eyes, nose, ears, etc, are being constructed. To ensure that the best foundations are laid down during this phase, you want to make sure there are plenty of building blocks in the form of the right nutrients in the right combinations.
What does a fertility diet contain?
An optimal fertility diet is about what to avoid as much as it is about what to include. A fertility diet should be as fresh as possible and organic wherever possible. Essential elements are good quality protein sources (favour vegetable sources of protein) and good fats.
What should you eat?
Organic meat in small quantities, game, small deep-sea fish like sardines and red snapper, organic legumes home cooked (not canned).
Whole grains, nuts, seeds, vegetables steamed not raw, a minimal amount of fruits and not after 4 pm., organic where possible.
Increase your consumption of good fats and avoid dangerous fats. Good fats include monounsaturated fats in olive oil, polyunsaturated fats in oily fish and nuts and midchain fatty acids found in coconut oil.
For cooking, use clarified butter (ghee) or coconut butter (without flavor) as they do not become unstable when heated.
For non-heated oil requirements (salads etc.) use cold pressed olive oil, flaxseed oil, and nut oils.
Avoid dangerous fats
Did you know that consuming trans fats hidden in foods, such as doughnuts, biscuits, lollies, candy, chocolate, chips, pies, fries and thousands of other foods may increase your risk of infertility by as much as 70 per cent? Scientists from the Harvard University School of Public Health advise women wanting to get pregnant to avoid all trans fats.
The sole purpose of adding trans fats to food is to extend its shelf life. To minimise your consumption of trans fats be diligent about reading the ingredients and avoid the most likely culprits altogether. Trans fats are mostly listed as’ hydrogenated fat’ or ‘hardened vegetable fat’ or simply ‘vegetable fat.’
Minimise animal-derived estrogens
Dairy products account on average for 60-70 per cent of estrogens consumed. Humans consume milk from cows in the second half of pregnancy when the cow’s estrogen levels are high. We usually associate dairy and drinking milk with calcium, and never think about what else we may be consuming along with the calcium (and dairy, by the way, is not the best source of calcium). Here is a list of hormones found in cows’ milk:
Prolactin, Somatostatin, Melatonin, Oxytocin, Growth hormone, Luteinizing releasing hormone, Thyroid stimulating hormone, Estrogens, Progesterone, Insulin, Corticosteroids and many more.
To be continued
Professor of Anatomy/Consultant Reproductive Endocrinologist