Are hand sterilizers making you “sterile?” The impact of triclosan on ovarian health

At a recent trip to Target, I realized just how many things are labeled as “antibacterial.” But what is antibacterial, anyways? And why do we need it?

“Somehow, through marketing or misinformation, we’ve been led to believe that if we get rid of bacteria, we’ll improve our lives and our health. In fact, the opposite is probably true” –Dr. Martin Blaser  In fact, to date, there is no evidence that washing your body and home with antibacterial products does any good compared to old fashioned soap, water, and scrubbing!

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Triclosan is an anti-bacterial compound added to personal care products like soaps but it is also added to plastics found in toys and medical devices. Triclosan is so common that the majority of people in the US population are exposed to this chemical; triclosan exposure is real and widespread.

Breaking news this week reveals that triclosan may target the ovary and make it harder for a woman to conceive.  This group investigated whether ovarian reserve, a marker of how many eggs a woman has and how she might respond to fertility treatment, was different in women with high levels of exposure compared to those with lower levels of exposure. They found that antral follicle count, a marker of ovarian reserve, decreased as the triclosan levels increased. Perhaps even more concerning was that this relationship became even stronger in lean and young women, suggesting that this may contribute to reduced natural fertility and could lead to a need for fertility treatment at a younger age.

Other studies have found similar concerning results: women with higher levels of triclosan exposure take longer to conceive when compared to women with lower levels of this chemical. Triclosan is also associated with lower oocyte yield in couples undergoing IVF. Similarly, triclosan has been found to disrupt implantation of a pregnancy and alter placental function, leading to pregnancy complications in animal models.

The good news is that the FDA is banning the use of triclosan in antibacterial soaps, effective next month (September 2017). Way to go FDA! Thank you! Unfortunately, manufacturers can still add this chemical to dish soaps and toothpaste.

What you can do:

  • Reduce your exposure. Avoid purchasing anything labeled “antibacterial”.
  • Use bar soap and water, instead of hand-sanitizers.
  • Avoid toothpastes that include triclosan, such as Colgate Toothpaste
  • Read here if you want to learn more about triclosan and how to reduce your exposure

 

 

Be Kind to Yourself

One of the best parts of my job, is getting to know individuals and hearing their “story.” I love learning about occupations, interests, and their goals for a family. I spend a lot of time listening to my patients so that I can fully grasp all that my patients have been through leading up to their visit with me.

I have to be honest: I’m saddened by how hard my patients are on themselves. There is so much unnecessary blame and justifying in fertility. For example, a common thing I hear can be something like the following: “I love coffee, but after trying to conceive for so long I gave it up. I miss it but I’m willing to give up anything in order to prove that I’m ready for a family.” Does this sound familiar to you? First off, you can drink coffee. Secondly, please try to be kind to yourself.

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Research suggests that kindness and mindfulness will not only help you cope with fertility struggles, but may even improve your outcomes. Unfortunately, this important step is often overlooked in many fertility clinics. I try to address the potential benefits these practices may have with my patients.

As a self-diagnosed perfectionist, I will be the first to admit that I have very high expectations that I set for myself. When I fail to meet a certain goal that I’ve set for myself as a physician or a mom, I beat myself up about it. My advice to you: try kindness instead. Pretend a friend told you the exact same story. How would you react to your friends’ tribulations?

Life is stressful and that won’t change, even once you get pregnant. We can’t control the stressors in our life but we CAN control how we react to them. So please, consider being kind to yourselves and help me support you through this fertility journey.

Common chemicals in shaving cream and soaps tied to poor semen quality

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Men are often unaware of how their personal care products may be limiting their fertility potential. Several studies have focused in on a common ingredient called parabens. This is a commonly used preservative in shaving creams, soaps and cosmetics–and is known by a variety of names including “methyl-parabens and propyl-parabens.”

Another study has now found that this chemical can not only disrupt healthy hormone levels but actually contribute to potential sperm damage. Specifically, they found a higher incidence of sperm with abnormal shapes (called teratospermia”) as well as a higher incidence of sperm DNA damage.

Since shaving involves scraping the skin–this daily activity provides a very unhealthy opportunity to absorb this hormone-disruptor. So consider switching to products that are “parabens-free” or certified organic.

Coffee, Tea and Fertility: time to re-evaluate an outdated concept

Coffee

As both a physician and researcher, I have come to realize that it is much more difficult to dispel a popular belief that is wrong than it is to prove a new finding. A classic example is the popular notion that coffee and tea are harmful for women trying to conceive. Both are drinks created from small trees/shrubs—coffee is made from the seed (not bean) of the plant Cofea Arabica whereas tea is made from the leaves of the plant Camellia sinensis. Interesting, both are now known to have a growing number of health benefits. In fact, both—when served unsweetened—regularly appear after water as the “second healthiest beverage” to consume in moderate quantities of 3 to 4 cups per day.

Both coffee and tea contain various plant produced antioxidants as well as health promoting polyphenols and flavonoids. Coffee has been shown to reduce the risk of diabetes and tea is linked to a reduced risk of heart disease. Both are linked to a longer life expectancy. In fact, in 2016 the Nurses Health Study demonstrated that moderate coffee consumption may even protect DNA—potentially slowing the effects of aging and possibly even optimizing fertility. So where does the negative reputation of these beverages come from? I link this myth to obsolete observational studies and the concerns that they raised about caffeine consumption.

Here’s what the current information shows:

 

Bottom line is that these low calorie, plant based beverages may have some health and fertility boosting benefits. Any risk from them is not associated with mild to moderate daily consumption.

Stay informed,

~Robert

Robert Greene, MD, FACOG

Conceptions Reproductive Associates of Colorado

Metformin and Fertility Treatment: the expanding uses for an age-old drug

We all get excited about new things. But most people remain skeptical when you suggest that something old may be better. In fact, what if something VERY old may be one of the hottest developments in a high tech field like fertility treatment? That’s what has been quietly happening with the medication known as metformin.

Galego officianalis

Metformin has been used since the time of the pharaohs (around 1500 B.C.E.) but it was extracted from the plant Galega officinalis (see image). From then until the discovery of insulin; this was the primary treatment for diabetes. Unfortunately, like many plant extracts there were many other compounds present as well—some with serious and/or troubling side effects. The modern synthesized version of metformin has been purified making it safer and easier to study.

 

The best known use of metformin in reproductive medicine is in the treatment of women with polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS). But we’re now learning that there are many other ways that his modern version of an herbal remedy can help improve the outcome of fertility treatment. Although I’m not a fan of lists, the complexity of this treatment is beyond a simple blog post. So here is what you may want to consider when planning your treatment with your doctor:

 

 

In summary, pregnancy is a very multifaceted process. Sometimes, we still have a lot to learn about something that has been around for a long time.

Excited to Join the Team!

I’m THRILLED to report that I have officially started accepting new patients at Conceptions!

If you have read the blog before, you may have already caught on to my passion for enhancing fertility through diet & lifestyle changes. If you are new to the blog, welcome!

I joined the field of reproductive endocrinology & infertility because of my love for science and applying the newest findings to clinical medicine. I joined Conceptions because I have the opportunity to practice individualized medicine and boutique-style care in one of the best IVF labs in the country.

I cherish the relationships that I develop with my patients and their families. In fact, I provide my patients with my direct email information and I welcome them to contact me directly with any questions or concerns. I enjoy having open discussions with patients about options and alternatives. I encourage my patients to choose the treatment best suited for their individual family.

As a physician and a mom, I get it. I understand how stressful it is to balance work and life. I also understand how challenging it can be as a patient. By offering to meet with patients online via WebEx or Skype, my goal is to make the process of obtaining care as easy and stress-free as possible.

Fertility is a challenging and complex life event. I’m here to help by discussing all your options, encouraging you and your family to optimize your health, and cheering for you along the way of any treatment you may need. I look forward to meeting you and your family!

Joyfully Assisting the LGBT Community in achieving their reproductive goals

Pride 2017

As Denver celebrates Pride Week; we wanted to reach out and extend our gratitude to our LGBT patients for accepting our invitation to help them create the family of their dreams. We realize that you haven’t always received compassionate care from the medical community and that you—like everyone else—want building your family to be as exciting and as efficient as possible. In fact, some of you have traveled to us from other states and even across oceans seeking such a setting. We’re proud that you chose us. Here’s to all of you!

In deepest gratitude,

The TEAM at Conceptions Reproductive Associates of Colorado