Five Ways Your Digestion Could be Affecting Your Fertility

Many of us are familiar with the idea that pregnancy can affect our digestion (hello morning sickness and constipation!), but what does digestion have to do with fertility before pregnancy even begins? The answer is LOTS! Our digestive system is where we absorb nutrients, eliminate toxins, recycle hormones, and support our immune system.
If your digestive system is off, you’re not setting yourself up for optimal fertility. Here are just some of the ways that your digestion could be affecting your fertility:

  1. Low stomach acid: characterized often by bloating and reflux (yes, it can be the same symptoms as high stomach acid!), low stomach acid affects our absorption of nutrients. In particular concern to fertility, we need adequate stomach acid levels to absorb iron and vitamin B12 – both of which are essential in the development of healthy eggs and regular ovulation.
  2. Constipation: when our bowels aren’t moving, fecal matter sits in our colon longer, which lets our bodies reabsorb things that are meant to be eliminated (think toxins, “bad” hormones, and water!). When this happens, not only does it imbalance hormones, but it also creates local inflammation (more on this later when we chat about leaky gut).
  3. Diarrhea: while you don’t want your ingested foods to be sticking around too long, you do need it to move through your digestive system at a healthy enough pace so that your body can actually absorb what it needs to. When the gut gets irritated, it can spasm and push things through at a much higher transit time than it’s supposed to, robbing us of the precious nutrients we get from our foods and supplements.
  4. Food Sensitivities: if our body’s immune system is reacting to foods it shouldn’t, it creates local inflammation and can lead to Leaky Gut. This is where the lining of our digestive system gets weak and things are able to pass through to our body that aren’t supposed to. This can lead to our immune cells getting confused and having difficulty identifying “self” from “threat”: autoimmunity in a nutshell. In addition, this can interfere with a process call methylation, which converts inactive folic acid to folate, which is absolutely essential for healthy fetal development. Your Naturopathic Doctor can order a simple blood test to check over 200 foods for sensitivities.
  5. Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO): when there’s an overgrowth of bacteria where it’s not supposed to be, it can cause any or all of the above concerns. Even if we can symptomatically and temporarily control the digestive concerns, unless the underlying cause (which may or may not be SIBO) is addressed, fertility will still be compromised. Have a read through Dr. Amanda’s article about SIBO for more information!
So what can be done to help support your fertility through digestion? Start with some simple things:
  • Start your day with warm lemon water: this helps encourage adequate and healthy stomach acid levels and contains vitamin C which can help iron get absorbed
  • Ensure proper fiber intake: regulating bowel movements is key and certain fiber (like ground flaxseed) can even bind to excess hormones specifically to help eliminate them from your system
  • Take a good quality prenatal: high quality prenatal multivitamins (like Pre Natal SAP by NFH) will contain methylated forms of vitamins B12 and folate – the active forms, which makes it more likely your body can absorb and use it.
Above all, always treating the root cause of what is going on is the most important part. We want to figure out why your digestive system isn’t acting how we’d expect it to, rather than just forcing it to do what we want it to. Always talk to your Naturopathic Doctor to find out what the best steps are for you to optimize your digestion and therefore your fertility!

Reminder!

Always check with your Naturopathic Doctor before making any major dietary or supplementation changes to make sure they are the safest and most effective choices for you.

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