Much of modern psychiatry is about using medications to try to normalize brain chemistry as a tool to help resolve mood disorders. Having been involved in considerable research on how hormonal shifts can cause changes in brain chemistry–I am always interested in trying to help my patients understand what may occur and what they may be able to do to take preventive actions. Here is a study that suggests that using a dietary supplement containing tryptophan (2 grams) and tyrosine (10 grams) may prevent postpartum blues without changing breast milk contents. Better still, this might interrupt the spiral to postpartum depression! Check out this link and then talk with your doctor before starting any program.
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/
Here’s another fascinating study for women with PCOS; 1500 mg of the potent antioxidant from red wine can reduce testosterone levels by nearly 25%. This can not only improve egg quality and pregnancy rates but also reduce other symptoms of PCOS as well!
The problem of iodine insufficiency during pregnancy has troubled me for years. So much so that I spoke at length about this in pregnancy book that I wrote as well as the fertility book. Now there is a very brief video made by Dr. Michael Greger that explains this problem more articulately than I ever did with simple recommendations—check your prenatal vitamin! Only about half contain this nutrient that is so important for your baby to build a healthy brain. http://nutritionfacts.org/video/iodine-supplements-before-during-and-after-pregnancy/?utm_source=NutritionFacts.org&utm_campaign=94b0f568b9-RSS_VIDEO_WEEKLY&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_40f9e497d1-94b0f568b9-23307533
Coffee has remained a matter of debate and controversy for some time in the fertility world. Initially it was thought to promote miscarriages and reduce uterine blood flow. Newer data is suggesting that it can reduce the risk of diabetes and may actually promote arterial blood flow. Until more information is obtained or you have been specifically advised by your provider to abstain from coffee; practice moderation or consider tea! Here’s a great video to bolster your confidence. http://nutritionfacts.org/video/coffee-and-artery-function/
One of the most challenging problems to diagnose and treat for couples trying to conceive is the problem of recurrent early pregnancy loss (REPL). As fertility specialists, we spend a tremendous amount of time and energy making sure that we control all of the variables that might improve the chances that a pregnancy gets a healthy start. New evidence shows that women can—and should—make some simple changes in their lifestyle to also improve their chances for a successful outcome.
A study presented at the 2015 meeting of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine recently highlighted the potential impact of a chemical called phthalates on the pregnancies of women going through IVF. This was part of a study called the EARTH study; an investigation on how environmental and lifestyle can impact reproductive health. They measured phthalate levels in the urine of about 250 women going through fertility treatment and then followed these levels in nearly 300 pregnancies. What they found was that women going through fertility treatment that had higher levels of this chemical in their body had a much higher chance of miscarrying then the fertility patients with lower levels. In fact, their risk could be as much as three to four times higher—depending upon their level of exposure.
An important aspect of modern research is to pose the question of “why?” In this case, the question would be “why would phthalates increase the risk of miscarriage.” The answer to that question is by interfering with the ability of ovary to support the development of the early pregnancy. Specifically, after an egg is released from the ovary; the cells that remain at the site of the egg’s origin form a hormone producing unit called a corpus luteum (CL). The function of this CL is to help get the pregnancy off to a strong start until the placenta is large enough to take over hormone production. In 2014 a well designed study found that phthalates directly interfere with the ability of the CL to perform this critical role.
A recent multi-centered clinical study found that women pursuing Advanced Reproductive Treatments (ART) like IVF had lower levels of phthalate in their body than infertility patients pursuing other forms of treatment. The believed explanation for this finding was that patients undergoing IVF may pursue healthier lifestyle choices. For instance, it is estimated that at least 90% of the phthalates in our bodies are due to dietary intake. By reducing processed foods and decreasing consumption of animal fats, phthalate levels fall rapidly. In fact, our bodies are able to eliminate phthalates after only 6 to 12 hours. So it is only through the continued exposure that these chemicals persist in the bloodstream. So by making better choices, patients may be able to reduce their risk of miscarriage by 75%.
Here are some easy steps that you can take to begin reducing your phthalate level today:
- Only use nail polishes that are phthalate free—most add a phthalate called DBP to reduce chipping
- Don’t microwave or cook your food in plastic containers or use plastic utensils to eat hot foods—heat leaches this chemical out of the plastics and into food—the easiest pathway into your body
- Avoid plastic bottles—seek out glass or metal instead. When you must use plastic seek out bottles with the #2, #4 and #5 in the recycle triangle
- Avoid perfumes and scented products—phthalates (DEP) are used to prolong fragrances
- Don’t use air fresheners—most contain phthalates
- Avoid vinyl containing products—many products like lawn furniture, rain coats or shower curtains can not only release phthalates that can be inhaled but they can also be absorbed through the skin as well.
Studies show that during the average pregnancy in the US, women will consume between 12 and 14 lbs of food additives. This will include more than 4,500 different flavorings, additives, preservatives, pesticides and herbicides that are deliberately added to what they’re consuming. Although we have regulatory agencies that are supposed to insure the safety of what we are exposed to in our diet, most of these have been placed in a category of “generally recognized as safe” or GRAS. As this blog and my books reveal, there is growing data demonstrating how unsafe many of these hormone-disrupting chemicals can be. More surprising to me is that while it is assumed that these chemicals are safe until studies show otherwise; many people demand proof that organic products offer an advantage. On this too, the data is becoming increasingly clear.
In March of 2008, a comprehensive review of the published research comparing the nutritional content of organic foods to those produced through conventional farming techniques. This paper included 97 research studies that compared the nutrient content of 236 paired items. The organic foods were superior in 145 (61%) of the comparisons; while the conventionally farmed foods were superior in 87 (37%). In 2% there was no difference. Specifically, the organically grown foods tend to be higher in vitamins, minerals and anti-oxidant content whereas the conventionally grown foods tended to be higher in protein, nitrogen and sugar content. This means that the organic foods are healthier while the others are more calorie-dense. By switching to organic products you can reduce your exposure to hormone disrupting chemicals by about 90% while supporting beneficial practices for the environment.
Over the past several years, the purchase of organic products has gone up by over 30%. As a result, their cost has come down and their availability has increased. That doesn’t mean that it doesn’t cost a bit more. Here are some steps that you can take if you’re on a more limited budget:
- Consider re-directing some of the money that you spend on vitamins/supplements toward organic food purchases. There is less of a need to “supplement” a healthy diet.
- Be selectively organic. Some foods are more prone to contamination from conventional farming than others. Here are the foods that you simply can’t clean away the toxins from: apples, cherries, peaches, raspberries, bell peppers, grapes, pears, spinach, celery, nectarines, potatoes and strawberries.
- Pay attention to your method of cooking. If you’re grilling at high temperatures, deep-frying in oils or micro-waving your food in plastics then you’re introducing all sorts of toxins that aren’t necessary.
- Reduce your consumption of animal products. Many of the toxins that animals are exposed to are stored in their fats. By consuming meat, fish or poultry you’re getting a concentrated dose of what that animal was exposed to during its life. By lowering your portion size and choosing leaner options you’re be reducing your chemical burden.
A recent survey estimated that nearly half of the US adult population (~114 million people) regularly takes dietary supplements. In fact, last year Consumer Reports estimated that our passion for these products costs us over $15 billion; more than $150 per person and that didn’t even include the amount that we spend on vitamins. Unfortunately, emerging information shows that we’re often not getting what we’ve paid for, or worse, we can be taking in products that can actually impair our health.
In this consumer driven market, products tend to target the most popular problems or conditions including infertility and pregnancy. Unfortunately the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have identified a growing trend of tainted products. Many have been found to be contaminated with toxic plant material, poisonous heavy metals and bacteria that can create various illnesses. Worse still, the supplements that have been confirmed to be problematic are believed to be a small fraction of the growing problem. How did we get to this point? It dates back to the 1994 Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act (DSHEA) under which vitamins, minerals, botanical products, amino acids and tissue extracts were all classified as “dietary supplements.” According to this regulation these products are presumed to be safe and can be marketed to consumers with no pre-release testing and very little oversight. The end result has been a growing list of consumer complaints, possible health complications, and uninvestigated claims of efficacy.
In reality, anything that promotes health can also have adverse effects. This is as true for supplements as it is for medications. That’s why as more of these products target men/women wanting to conceive or women that are already pregnant it is important to be your own advocate; both as a consumer and as a patient. Especially since a growing number of supplements are tainted with impurities and unlisted ingredients.
In 2007 the US FDA published a report titled “Survey Data on Lead in Women’s and Children’s Vitamins.” I find it disturbing that the investigators concluded that of the 324 products tested they contained levels of impurities that were considered “safe/tolerable exposures.” Yet, they all tested positive for lead! As a healthcare provider and patient advocate I’m outraged People shouldn’t unknowingly purchase and consume products that introduce toxins into their body. Fortunately there are steps that you can take to protect yourself and your family:
• Go organic—A growing number of studies show that organically produced products are higher in health promoting vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. By choosing organic products when you can, you’ll decrease your need to supplement your healthy diet.
• Be an informed consumer—Since most supplement manufacturers don’t voluntarily hire agencies to monitor the quality of their product, investigate the quality of the ones you are using. Independent agencies like Consumer Lab test and report on the quality of many supplements.
• Notify your healthcare provider of everything that you’re taking—A growing number of products have been found to be deliberately tainted with active ingredients including prescription medications not approved for use in the United States. Therefore it is important that your doctor know about everything that you’re taking in case you develop a reaction to your supplement or experience an adverse response due to how it interacts with your other medications.
• Periodically re-evaluate your needs—Most dietary supplements have not been well tested despite the claims to the contrary. I recommend that my patients reconsider each product that they’re using at least once a year by asking themselves two questions. First, why did I start this? Second, is it meeting or exceeding my expectations? If you’re not satisfied with these answers discontinue anything that isn’t specifically recommended by your healthcare provider.
by Lindsay Brin
“For years, yoga has played an important role in my life. It not only helps me manage the stressful life of a fertility specialist but also assisted my wife and me in having our daughter. Since it’s much more difficult to design research studies to prove the benefits of yoga; I thought I’d share another compelling story with you by introducing you to a friend of mine, Lindsay Brin.
Lindsay is a fitness and nutrition expert as well as a former NFL cheerleader. For over 15 years, she’s been helping women achieve the balance of both healthy mind and body. For the last few years however, she has focused more specifically on helping women with infertility as well as during their pregnancy. She has done this through her books, videos, DVD’s and her website. But even more convincing has been her willingness to share her own experience as a successful fertility patient as well. ” Robert Greene, MD, FACOG
In August 2007 I went through my 3rd IVF. I knew I had the best doctor and it looked like the odds were on my side. But still I could not get over the emotional & physical turmoil of infertility. Why does my sister-in-law hold hands with her husband and get pregnant? Why did we increase my Gonal? Why did I fill my bladder too much before ET? How does my husband put up with me right now? Why? Why? Why?
Then I realized I was only in control of one thing, my body. I couldn’t control the situation I was put in but it was time to take control of my attitude, emotional well-being, stress and physical body.
Having been a pre/post-natal fitness expert for several years I knew the incredible benefits of exercise and yoga. So why didn’t I apply them through my 1st IVF? Well, I’m not really sure. All I know is I was an emotional wreck, 10 pounds heavier and cranky!
But if you’re like me, by the 2nd IVF I was willing to do anything and everything to improve my chances! I added acupuncture, read Dr. Greene’s book, Perfect Hormone Balance for Fertility and got back to my daily exercise regime which included yoga. And we did better this time around…but miscarried at 6.5 weeks.
This brings us back to August 2007 when I got the best news ever! Betas 32 @ 11dpo and 130 @ 13 dpo! I believe that was always the plan but again I could only control 1 aspect of the situation: my body.
Yoga is known for stress relief of infertility and increased blood flow to the uterus. So of course it’s beneficial! But if increasing your chances isn’t enough motivation please listen to me when I say that feeling better about yourself is the reason you should try it!
Yoga is a series of postures and exercises that promote control of your body, spiritual well-being and a connection with your body. You can use safe yoga postures to build strength and flexibility along with relaxation to develop or enhance calmness and confidence.
Here are some known fertility yoga poses.
- Start in butterfly, sitting with bottoms of feet touching and knees bent;
- Twisting butterfly, first place your right hand on the outside of your left knee and look over you left shoulder as you twist, switch sides;
- Goddess pose, lie on the ground with bottom of feet still touching;
- Butterfly rest, from goddess pose pull your feet towards your center, knees still bent in butterfly, look to the right for 5 breathes, look to the left for 5 breathes;
- Bridge pose-place feet on the ground about 12-18 inches form buttocks, place hands on the ground at your sides, lift your hips and do a series of pelvic circles;
- Savasana- corpse pose, lie with feet falling open and hands to your sides, breathe so deeply the back of your rib cage expands into the floor, relax until the point your feel your limbs getting heavy.
Now I am blessed to be pregnant with baby #2 after IVF #4. And the only thing that keeps the swelling away and the energy high is exercise and yoga! I do my prenatal DVDs which have both exercise and yoga on them (although I have to mute myself). So once you do get pregnant continue your yoga program to benefit your body and your baby!
If you’d like to know more about my fertility journey please visit my blog www.lindsaybrin.com. You’ll also get to see the good, the bad and the ugly of getting rid of the fertility lbs. and pregnancy weight gain!