Infertility can be a lonely, painful process that’s difficult to talk about, let alone solve. Traditional medicine can offer a variety of options, but functional medicine expert Dr. Hyman takes a more proactive approach through diet, exercise, stress management and supplements. If you’re coping with infertility, consider Dr. Hyman’s seven strategies for helping to reverse infertility naturally and improve your overall health.
Lisa desperately wanted children. After failing treatment with the best infertility specialists in her region, she came to see me. Her doctors told her she had PCOS, which is primarily caused by prediabetes. After numerous treatments, including pills, shots, hormone cocktails and multiple in vitro fertilization (IVF) attempts at $15,000 a pop, there was still no baby for Lisa.
The problem is that Lisa’s doctors weren’t treating the right problem. Her problem wasn’t her ovaries. It was her diet.
I help people reverse infertility naturally by looking at the underlying causes and correcting them. By addressing and modifying lifestyle factors such as nutrition, weight, exercise, psychological stress, as well as environmental and occupational exposures, I have helped my patients achieve a healthy pregnancy and baby.
Lisa and I worked together to completely change her diet from processed to whole, fresh, real foods. In addition, she started exercising daily, and began taking nutritional supplements that support normal blood sugar metabolism. 3 months later, Lisa got pregnant naturally.
Lisa’s struggle with infertility is not unique. Unfortunately, today one in seven couples suffer from infertility, which researchers define as the diminished ability or the inability to conceive and have offspring, or more specifically, failure to conceive after a year of regular intercourse without contraception.
Infertility rates have increased in the past few decades. Why? While there are no easy answers, I don’t think it’s coincidence that infertility has increased just like diabetes and obesity have. What’s the common factor? Excess sugar and subsequent belly fat that lead to hormonal imbalances and eventual infertility.
A diet heavy in sugar and refined carbohydrates increases insulin levels to create organ fat and belly fat, and ultimately prediabetes. This leads to hormonal imbalances which in women manifest as polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS). Research shows that PCOS affects up to 8-12 percent of all women (that’s about the same percentage as couples that suffer from infertility). PCOS symptoms can vary but include irregular or heavy periods, acne, facial hair, scalp hair loss, increased belly fat, and increased levels of testosterone.
In men, hormonal imbalances lead to lower testosterone, and other unwanted consequences such as large bellies, breasts (or man boobs), low sperm count, and decreased sex drive.
In addition to impacting infertility, insulin also drives more inflammation and oxidative stress, and myriad downstream effects including high blood pressure, high cholesterol, low HDL, high triglycerides, poor sex drive, infertility, thickening of the blood, and increased risk of cancer, Alzheimer’s and depression.
A Change in Diet and Lifestyle Can Improve Hormone Imbalances and Fertility
The good news? You can implement some powerful lifestyle strategies to reverse prediabetes, balance your hormones and reverse infertility naturally.. While I recommend that you work with a functional medicine doctor to address and correct these problems, here are seven strategies that can help anyone (female and male) balance hormones, reverse infertility and attain good health.
1. Eat a low-glycemic diet
I recommend a high-fat, low-sugar diet to reverse infertility. Replace processed and sugary foods with a low-sugar diet that includes plenty of good fats and lean animal protein.
Work with a practitioner to make sure you are getting the right nutrients. Some nutrients like L-carnitine, vitamins C and E, N-acetylcysteine, zinc and coenzyme Q10 can increase male fertility four-fold. Other good nutrients to reduce infertility include vitamin D, fish oil and B vitamins.
3. Heal your gut.
Researchers are discovering that an unhealthy gut microbiome can contribute to obesity, PCOS, hormonal imbalances and many other health problems. Incorporate gut-supporting foods like fermented foods, as well as fiber and probiotics into your daily diet. Additionally, if you suspect gut issues like leaky gut or IBS, work with a functional medicine practitioner to correct them.
4. Work out on a regular basis.
Studies show increased physical activity and other lifestyle modifications have an important effect on managing PCOS. Regular exercise can help balance hormones, reduce sugar cravings, and otherwise improve fertility. If you are new to exercise, start slowly and build up to regular physical activity every week.
5. Manage stress
Stress has so many negative effects on our bodies, including insulin resistance, diminished sex drive and infertility. Try yoga, meditation or just taking long nature walks.
6. Get good sleep.
Studies show that poor sleep can diminish women’s health and wellbeing, ultimately contributing to infertility. Aim for eight hours of quality, uninterrupted sleep every night.
7. Reduce exposure to environmental toxins.
Studies show that environmental chemicals can knock hormones out of balance and contribute to infertility. You may not even realize all the chemicals that you are exposed to. For example, plastic water bottles and containers tend to release toxic chemicals, including phthalates and bisphenol A, both of which have been linked to hormonal disorders and infertility. Choose glass or clear, hard, durable plastic containers (versus soft, opaque, thin, easily bendable plastic). Check out the Environmental Working Group’s page to learn more about reducing chemical exposure.
When many patients struggling with infertility initially visit me, they feel hopeless. Yet through the power of functional medicine, we can better pinpoint the root cause of infertility and eventually reverse infertility naturally. A change in diet and lifestyle can positively impact so many aspects of your health, including your ability to have a healthy pregnancy!
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