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
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.
Although most fertility treatment focuses on women; at least 1/3 of couples have a male factor contributing to infertility. Newer studies even show that subtle changes in sperm quality—that aren’t detectable by standard testing—can contribute to poor fertilization, abnormal embryo development and even recurrent early pregnancy loss. That’s because the sperm contributes half of the genetic material to the developing embryo as well as factors that contribute to normal fertilization and early development. But they are easily damaged.
Sperm are particularly susceptible to free radical damage—the charged particles that are a normal byproduct of oxygen metabolism. They are so compact, that they contain very low concentrations of the scavengers that neutralize these damaging little sparks of energy. When a free radical encounter DNA—which the mature sperm is loaded with and ready to contribute to the awaiting egg—the genetic material can be damaged; a process called “fragmentation.” Sperm lack the ability to repair this damage when it occurs. As a result, seemingly healthy looking sperm can prevent a pregnancy from getting off to a healthy start.
The good news is that there are steps that men can take to minimize the naturally occurring damage to sperm and markedly improve your chance of having a baby together. Here’s what he can do:
- Avoid exposure to tobacco and other products that promote free radical formation (more about this in future posts).
- Eat foods rich in the following antioxidants:
- β-carotene (i.e., spinach, carrots, tomatoes, cherries, melons, peaches)
- Vitamin C (i.e., citrus fruits, tomatoes, broccoli, cabbage, berries, mangos, pineapples)
- Vitamin E (i.e., peanuts, almonds, soy, olive oil, wheat germ, cereals)
- Zinc (i.e., asparagus, eggs, potatoes, fish)
- Consider a “preconception supplement.”
A recent study confirmed that making these healthy changes can improve pregnancy rate while also reducing the risk of miscarriage. I know when my wife and I were going through fertility treatment; I took the product called Conception XR despite my healthy diet and normal semen analysis. Not only did I feel it was the least I could do but I do believe that it helped us to conceive our daughter.