Gut health is a topic that is seldom discussed when it comes to fertility, but the two are very connected. In fact, the relationship between gut health and fertility is rather complex, thus, it is important to understand the connection when trying to conceive, as a healthy gut can support reproductive health and boost fertility.
There’s no doubt the bacteria in your gut can impact many aspects of the body, when it comes to reproductive health, these bacteria can impact consistency of menstruation and ovulation, the duration of those cycles, and the ability to conceive.
An Overview of Gut Health
Gut health has become a popular expression used by doctors when they are discussing digestive issues. This generic term encompasses everything that happens in the intestines, including the bacteria in the intestines, known as “microflora. In addition, the term gut health also includes digestion and absorption of nutrients, and also the state of the immune system.
This link to the immune system is because the gut contains numerous body immune cells. The presence of good bacteria in the intestines’ microflora, is part of what helps ensure a healthy immune system.
Gut Health and Fertility
In addition to food digestion, absorption and excretion, and regulating the immune system’s efficient operation, it is also a key player in the synthesis and excretion of hormones, which are all controlled by the gut’s microbiome. This impact on hormone functionality consequentially influences fertility. In simple terms, when the health of the gut is compromised, it can directly affect the health of other body systems, including fertility and the body’s ability to get pregnant.
Recent studies have demonstrated how poor gut health can result in an estrogen imbalance, this imbalance, in turn can result in problems with fertility varying from testicular dysfunction to endometriosis and polycystic ovarian syndrome.
The Impact on Fertility
As mentioned, there is a significant link between gut health and hormones and their correlating symptoms, and the hormones produced in the gut and intestines are responsible for regulating everything from metabolism, appetite, mood, and sex drive to more complex systems such as the reproductive cycle. As a result, imbalances in these hormones can cause irregular or absent menstrual cycles, making it difficult to get pregnant. More so, the gut is responsible for estrogen balance in the body. After the body produces and uses estrogen and then must eliminate excess amounts. To expel estrogen from the body, it has to undergo several process stages of detoxification. The gut microbiome comes into play by controlling the last phase of this detoxification process.
Additionally, the colon secretes a beta-glucuronidase enzyme that breaks down estrogen to help the body reabsorb and circulate the hormone. Therefore, if the colon has a higher amount of beta-glucuronidase, there is a greater chance for estrogen dominance, which may lead to irregular menstrual cycles, painful periods, and excessive bleeding.
Obesity is another aspect linked to gut health. When the gut is balanced and working properly, the body uses carbohydrates in food to produce energy. When the gut microbiome is out of balance and is not working properly, there is a higher chance of developing insulin resistance and other metabolic problems that can increase the risk of type 2 diabetes and heart disease.
Additionally, weight can affect the ability to conceive as excess or lower weight can lead to hormonal imbalances, which can make it much more difficult to conceive.
In addition, some studies show that women who are overweight may also have difficulty conceiving because there is a higher risk of endometriosis, which can increase the risk of infertility by making it more difficult for eggs to properly implant in the uterine wall.
Following conception, the bacteria in the gut can be impacted by pregnancy. The gut microbiome can sense the additional stress on the body caused during pregnancy and may respond by producing inflammatory hormones, when not balanced properly, unregulated production of these hormones can lead to miscarriage or toxin buildup from an unbalanced microbiome, can cross the blood-brain barrier into the baby’s placenta which can disrupt their gut colonization process for years to come.
Thus, a healthy gut during pregnancy means that the baby gets the nutrients it needs and has a strong immune system and gut health balance of their own.
All-in-all, having a healthy gut is essential, not only for everyday health, but for maintaining healthy fertility. Problems that can arise from an imbalanced gut microbiome can affect a variety of biological processes which, in turn, can impact fertility and the ability to conceive. Taking measures to ensure a healthy gut microbiome, such as consuming foods high in pre- and probiotics, staying hydrated, reducing artificial sugar and alcohol intake, and identifying if any medications or habits may be contributing to a gut imbalance can be crucial in giving fertility the boost needed to conceive.
For a list of Recipes and Tips to Improve Gut Health for Conception, click here.