The Functional Medicine Approach to Pre-Conception & Fertility

Pre-Conception Health & Fertility

Many women don’t realize that it’s important to optimize their health BEFORE they try to get pregnant.

This is because susceptibility of your unborn child to many adult chronic diseases (like type 2 diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, childhood obesity, and even a female fetus’ future ovarian health,  is programmed in utero – i.e. before birth!

This occurs because of factors like undernutrition (in the U.S. also known as being “overfed and undernourished”), oxidative stress and toxin exposure.  Many women don’t realize this.  Often women who have difficulties getting pregnant have missed this health optimization step.  I feel that optimizing one’s health before attempting to get pregnant or looking at this more closely if you have already been trying to conceive, increases the likelihood of conception and healthy pregnancy outcomes for mother and baby.  I believe in whole woman (couple) fertility optimization.  The Functional Medicine “root cause” approach is ideal for this.

Did you know there are additional labs to consider before getting pregnant that your conventional OBGYN may not know about or check?

By looking at Functional Medicine lab testing that details your stress response, gut microbiome health, detox markers, methylation and antioxidant status, we can correct physiological imbalances that could have health implications for you and your child.

Infertility is common and on the rise, in fact one out of 8 couples have trouble getting pregnant, that’s about 6.7 million people. A diagnosis of infertility is usually defined as not being able to become pregnant, after a year of after having regular intercourse for year. Fertility isn’t just a “female issue” in fact only one-third of infertility cases are issues with female fertility alone while another one-third of fertility problems are due to male fertility issues. An additional one-third of the cases are caused by a mix of issues for the couple trying to conceive.

What causes infertility

Most cases of infertility are caused by a wide range of problems that disrupts proper ovulation. Ovulation is the release of the egg from the woman’s ovary (occurring every month) about two weeks before the first day of each menstrual period. Without proper ovulation, a woman will not become pregnant. Ovulation problems are a result of hormone imbalances from a wide variety of causes. Here are some of the addition factors that may cause infertility:

  • Smoking
  • Poor Diet
  • Heavy alcohol use (more than three to four drinks a day).
  • Stress
  • Diabetes
  • Over training
  • Being obese or underweight
  • History STDs, especially ones that cause pelvic inflammatory disease
  • History of endometriosis or PCOS polycystic ovary syndrome
  • Thyroid issues
  • Radiation treatment and/or chemotherapy for cancer
  • Being age 30 or older

The Conventional Approach To Treating Infertility

Conventional treatments for infertility range quite a bit, dealing with both female and male issues. While they can be successful, they are almost always based on prescribing medications or using surgery, and rarely looking at the root causes of infertility.
While these treatments are usually successful what you may not know is that conventional fertility treatments do create higher-risk pregnancies. These treatments many times create a higher risk for both the mother and child compared to a natural pregnancy. While some of these methods may need to be used if natural means aren’t effective, oftentimes, doctors will automatically suggest these higher-risk, more aggressive methods because they are simply not trained in other methods.

child, mother, hand

While many cases of infertility are easily diagnosed, there are also cases of “unexplained infertility”. In fact, approximately 30% of couples can’t find a cause for why they can’t get pregnant. This is most likely linked to the fact that conventional medicine does little to examine the real root causes of infertility. Unfortunately, they also do limited hormone testing, and oftentimes may miss a hormone imbalance (like in the case of thyroid), which is typically part of the infertility equation.

While the conventional treatment approach may result in a pregnancy and shouldn’t be ruled out as a last resort, this treatment approach does nothing to address the major imbalances that cause infertility in the first place. This is concerning because any hormonal imbalances can impact your health long-term, whether or not you are trying to get pregnant, and should be addressed.

The Functional Medicine Approach To Infertility

maternity, mom, baby

The biggest overlooked “root” cause of infertility in America today, is our lifestyle. This includes the toxicity of our food, our water, environment, and other factors that can greatly imbalance your hormones including stress, infections, lack of sleep and overuse of stimulants like caffeine and cigarettes.

We find, that once we upgrade these lifestyle factors, it’s the best way to balance your hormonal health and can increase your fertility. After all your fertility is really based on healthy you are overall. In Functional medicine, balancing these factors that can block fertility are just a normal protocol of our 6 pillars of health, that every functional practitioner includes in all their healing protocols.

Not only are these pillars essential for fertility but they are important for vibrant overall health. What we’ve realized, through current medical studies and advanced medical testing, is that environmental toxins and gut health hugely impact hormone health and fertility. This is why, we work with patients in our programs not only to help them discover which areas need the most care in terms of hormonal health but also how to upgrade the health of their whole bodies, from proper liver detox, make smarter, less toxic food choices (even though they think they are eating healthy), and decrease their toxic load. If hormone replacement is needed, we look at bio-identical hormone replacement that is better adapted in the body and can be tested with blood work to ensure correct dosage.

That’s why at Peace & Calm Health Functional Medicine we follow a functional medicine approach to identify what factors that can be at the root cause of infertility, which are many times the same factors that can harm other areas of your health as well. Together, we can create a custom-tailored protocol to address all the issues that are causing the imbalances, to approach infertility more holistically.

Signs & Symptoms of Hormonal Imbalances

Symptoms of hormone imbalances can manifest in many ways, including:

  • Painful or irregular periods or PMS
  • Unexplained weight gain or weight loss and change in appetite
  • Depression, anxiety or brain fog
  • Fatigue or low energy
  • Insomnia or lack of deep sleep
  • Low libido
  • Digestive issues, skin issues, or vision issues
  • Hair loss and thinning hair

Symptoms of hormonal imbalances can range quite a bit depending on what role that specific hormone plays in balancing your body.

For example, high estrogen levels or storing too much estrogen in the body can contribute to longterm health issues including blood sugar imbalances that may lead to diabetes, unexplained weight gain, changes in appetite, and problems with eyesight.

Some issues associated with hormonal imbalances may include:

  • Estrogen Dominance: disrupted sleep patterns, weight and appetite fluctuations, increased stress and anxiety, and slowed metabolism
  • Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS): infertility, weight gain, acne, abnormal hair growth
  • Low Estrogen: decreased libido, reproductive issues, loss of menstrual regularity, mood changes and hot flashes
  • Hypothyroidism: slowed metabolism and fatigue, weight gain, anxiety, irritability, digestive problems, irregular menstrual cycles
  • Low Testosterone: erectile dysfunction, loss of muscle mass, weight gain, fatigue, low libido and mood issues
  • Grave’s Disease: anxiety, hair loss, weight loss, IBS or digestive issues, irregular sleep and heartbeats
  • Diabetes: weight gain, neuropathy, vision loss, fatigue, trouble breathing, dry mouth, skin issues
  • Overworked Adrenals: muscle aches, fatigue, anxiety and depression, trouble sleeping, brain fog, reproductive challenges

Potential Causes of Hormonal Imbalances

Hormonal imbalances are created by a combination of lifestyle factors — such as diet, exercise, environment, genetics, stress, and exposure to xenotoxins from plastics, makeup, cleaning supplies and even residual pesticides in food. Some of the major causes of hormonal imbalances include:

  • Food allergies & gut flora imbalances: New scientific research shows that the flora in your gut (microbiome) plays a crucial role in hormone regulation and regulating inflammation that is at the root of so many chronic illnesses. If you have IBS, SIBO, leaky gut syndrome or a lack of good gut bacteria residing in your intestines, you’re more susceptible to hormonal imbalances.
  • Weight gain or obesity
  • High levels of inflammation caused by a poor diet and a sedentary lifestyle along with chronic stress
  • Genetic predisposition
  • High levels of toxin exposure including exposure to pesticides, harmful bacteria, parasites, viruses, cigarette smoke (even second-hand), excessive alcohol and other harmful chemicals or compounds like lead and formaldehyde
  • High amounts of stress and regular release of stress hormones like cortisol, paired with a lack of rest and deep sleep

The earlier hormonal imbalances are diagnosed, the sooner you can start addressing them naturally – feel free to schedule a complimentary phone consultation to see what the best next steps are for you.

Take The First Step On Your

Journey With Me

Perhaps you have questions you’d like to ask before you make a decision to become a patient. Schedule a discovery call with Dr. Horton to answer your questions and determine if Peace and Calm Health Functional Medicine is right for you.

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