As a fertility specialist, many of my patients come to me already taking multiple herbal supplements or have questions about a specific “cocktail” that will enhance their fertility. My blanket statement to patients and friends, is to use extreme caution.
Nearly 2/3rds of American adults take dietary supplements. I am a big believer in optimizing your fertility naturally (hence a dedicated blogger!), but I think that ensuring your safety is even more important.
Before you take a supplement, make sure you understand why you are taking it and what you hope it will achieve. Consider talking to your healthcare provider about potential interactions between any supplements and your existing prescription medications. Next, speak up if you are start noticing any side effects.
If a supplements makes claims that sound too good to be true; they usually are. In a recently published analysis, nearly 80% of the supplements tested did not contain the primary ingredient listed on the label. As a mother and physician, it’s so disappointing to read how much the supplement industry can take advantage of vulnerable populations. I recommend that you consider using supplements that are sponsored by USP. Supplements that have a USP logo on them are subjected to higher quality control. Another great resource is ConsumerLab.com; the routinely test products that they purchase from store shelves and reveal who passed and who failed.
I plan to evaluate the evidence behind commonly recommended supplements often encouraged to boost fertility in future posts. In the meantime, stay healthy and be safe!
I want to thank everyone for the overwhelming support for my first blog post. Several of you have contacted me for more details about safe cosmetics. I obtained my information from the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics. I strongly encourage you to use this website- it’s a great resource to be an informed consumer and an advocate for safer products!
What I love about their website is that they list safer alternatives to choose based on the beauty product that you may need. I haven’t had the opportunity to try all the companies listed, but I plan to use this website from now on to help me find safer products moving forward. Many of the companies are smaller companies and I think it’s a great to support their dedication to keeping their consumers healthy.
I urge you to look at the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics website for full information, but here is a quick summary of safer cosmetic product choices to make at the time of this posting. I love that these companies are transparent in what is and isn’t in their products since current regulations do not require them to do so. I am not sponsored by any of these companies and have no financial interest in their success. I’m just a fan that recommends them to my patients:
You don’t need to throw out all your makeup and personal care products at home today. But I do urge you to start questioning what IS in the things that you expose yourself to every day through makeup. Specifically, look for chemicals listed in each of the Red Lists, and try to avoid them whenever possible.
Things that you can do:
- Simplify your routine. Use fewer products. Choose products with simpler ingredient lists. Avoid fragrances.
- Consider making some personal care products yourself so you know exactly what is and isn’t in them. Disclaimer: I’ve never done this myself but would love to learn if you have some experience with this!
- Research the products yourself. The beauty industry is mostly unregulated. It’s up to you to keep your body safe. Consider trying an app like:
These will help you shop clean.
One of the first research projects I did on the impact that lifestyle can have on fertility showed that women exposed to a handful of common chemicals classified as EDCs (endocrine disrupting chemicals) go through menopause earlier than women who have less exposure. It gained a lot of media attention because several of the toxic chemicals I found in my study are common in makeup products. A more recent study highlighted the continued importance of addressing this issue in women’s health and prompted this post.
This group evaluated the top beauty brands for each type of makeup and found 1322 ingredients. They then went on to summarize the evidence suggesting the association between each of these chemicals and menopause. Most of the chemicals they found are absorbed through the skin, meaning that all these chemicals are entering our bodies each day. Although the group admits there aren’t enough studies to show a direct link between cosmetics use and menopause, I think it’s enough to have me question what I’m being exposed to on a daily basis and how it’s going to impact my health.
Even though you may be far from menopause, I think it is still important for you to consider how chemicals that you’re exposed to can be impacting your ovaries. Women who go through menopause early are likely to have a shorter fertility window, meaning that they may use up their eggs at a faster rate than someone else their age. In the fertility world, this can translate to women who respond less to medications or are less successful with their use of assisted reproductive technology compared to others their age.
As a woman, as a mother, and as a fertility specialist, my first response to learning how many chemicals we are exposed to daily was disbelief: Why aren’t we protected as consumers from these potentially toxic chemicals? Why are they still exposing people to these toxic chemicals? Although the Food and Drug Administration monitors the chemicals that go into food and drugs, cosmetics are not subjected to the same regulation. Here are a few things that we can do to protect ourselves by limiting the numbers of chemicals we are exposed to daily.
Take home points:
- Women are exposed to 1000s of toxic environmental chemicals each day.
- Some of the chemicals found in makeup have been linked to health problems, including earlier menopause
- Physicians and patients need to do a better job learning about the risks to their health so that they can make more informed choices in selecting their personal care products
- What you can do:
- Limit the number of personal care products you use. For example, try to limit to one type of shampoo to minimize the exposure to multiple chemicals.
- Avoid any personal care items that have fragrances or scents.
- Read labels and support companies that disclose what their ingredients are and support their efforts to remove those that are not necessary or are suspected to be unsafe.
- Be an informed consumer: know what you are being exposed to. Here is a list of great resources.
One of the most important aspects of boosting your chances of becoming pregnant is to optimize blood flow to your pelvis–this is true for both men and women! For women, this is even more important since pregnancy can exacerbate blood pressure problems dramatically. Rather than resort to medications, here’s a great nutritional tip. Introduce 30 grams of ground flax seed into your daily diet–that’s about a 1/4 cup. You can add this to salads, soups, cereals, smoothies or just about anything. Studies now show that this simple intervention can reduce your blood pressure more effectively than many of the popular–and much more expensive–medications. For those of us that love the science and want to see the proof, watch this brief video with links to the supporting studies: http://nutritionfacts.org/video/flax-seeds-for-hypertension/
Hi everyone! Thanks for your patience as we update the blog!
I am very excited to be part of the fertility team at Conceptions Reproductive Associates! I’m thrilled to be joining this blog and for the opportunity to write about my personal interest of optimizing fertility using lifestyle changes.
Dr. Greene has a loyal following with his blog. I plan to stay true to his original blog style and hope to share with you all my enthusiasm for enhancing our fertility. My blog posts are meant to inform and will be my personal opinion. I hope to share with you my interpretation of the existing evidence and provide the same type of advice I would share in a conversation with a close friend or family member.
I first became interested in the impact of the environment on our health because of research that I conducted at Washington University in St Louis, where I found that exposure to a handful of common chemicals in our environment was associated with earlier menopause. At the University of Colorado, I received several grants to support further studies of how exposure to plastics can change the way our ovaries work and can impact the development of early pregnancies. I also serve on an advisory board for agencies that help advocate for reproductive health, such as the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry and Pediatric Environmental Health Specialty Unit.
As a physician mom, I understand how challenging the process of trying to conceive can be. In my free time, I love going on adventures in the mountains with my family, gourmet cooking, and distance running.
I look forward to your feedback on our new & improved website! I would also love to find out specific topics that you are interested in learning more about. I want to make this blog YOUR go-to source for enhancing fertility.
One of the emerging therapies in advanced reproductive techniques involves combining the parts of a healthy egg donor to rejuvenate or correct deficiencies in a woman’s own egg. When a sperm is then added, the resulting person can actually contain the DNA of three people rather than two. Although this technology is currently not available for use in the USA–the first babies have been born in England through this technique. Interestingly, there were 17 babies born in the USA using this technique more than a decade and a half ago. This procedure was then banned due to potential health concerns in the children that resulted. We now have a follow up report on these original children who are now teenagers. Most importantly, this update is reassuring that although caution is recommended, this procedure does seem safe and reasonable for continued investigation.
The impact of lifestyle upon male fertility is very difficult to study and therefore rarely gets much scrutiny. In previous posts, I have referenced studies on how healthy sleep and melatonin levels impact egg quality. Now we have a new study that found that men that sleep less than 6 hours per night or more than 9 hours per night seem less fertile than those within the 6 to 9 hour time range. Although further research would be needed to confirm the validity of this study, it could be that sleep is impacting your ability to conceive with your partner.