Updated: Jan 21
Digestion is important to the health of every system in your body, including your reproductive system. Approximately 70% of your immune system is located in your gut and your immune system plays an important role in your ability to get pregnant and to maintain a pregnancy. For some people improving gut health may be the missing link in unexplained infertility.
How does digestion impact fertility?
A healthy digestive system breaks down the food that you eat, absorbs nutrients and eliminates toxins that can affect fertility. A healthy digestive system ensures you are absorbing crucial nutrients for reproductive health. Even if you have a very healthy diet if you are not absorbing the nutrients from your food properly, you will have nutritional deficiencies which can lead to mineral imbalances and hormone imbalances (due to the poor absorption of fats).
Poor digestion can lead to poor liver health which can decrease the ability to eliminate harmful xenoestrogens and excess estrogen that can cause hormone imbalances. It can also lead to low thyroid function as beneficial gut bacteria are involved in the conversion of T4 to T3 for thyroid hormone synthesis.
Here are some of the most common signs of poor digestive function although many non-digestive symptoms can also be linked:
Bloating, gas, heartburn, stomach pain, nausea, diarrhoea, constipation, greasy stools (a sign of poor fat absorption) skin problems, fatigue, yeast infections, leaky gut, gallbladder problems.
The importance of gut bacteria
The digestive system is home to over 500 different species of beneficial microbes. A healthy balance of bacteria is important for proper gut function. Some of the things that cause an imbalance in gut bacteria over time include a poor diet full of sugar and processed foods, a lack of fibre, antibiotic use, contraceptive pill use and other medications.
Immune related fertility issues
Poor digestion is connected to immune related fertility issues as intestinal permeability (leaky gut) can be the root cause of auto immune conditions and allergy reactions.
If you have leaky gut (permeable gut wall) toxins and undigested foods are allowed to pass through the gut wall in to the bloodstream. This creates inflammation and sends alert messages to the immune system. If this happens every time you eat a food you are intolerant to your immune systems becomes over reactive (reacting to substances that wouldn’t normally be harmful). It is challenging for fertility to thrive in this environment.
Foreign bodies in the bloodstream from undigested foods and wastes cause confusion to the immune system. As a result of complex mechanisms, a confused, overreactive immune system may start to attack itself causing damage to body tissues. This is how auto immune conditions occur.
How to support your gut
Consider working with a practitioner to Investigate and remove foods that you are intolerant to help take some pressure off the immune system. There are many options in NZ for food intolerance testing.
Reduce or eliminate inflammatory foods such as gluten (which has been linked to fertility problems) sugar, processed foods and alcohol.
Take a probiotic each day. My favourite is the Megasporebiotic from Microbiome Labs as I have had good results in clinic with clients with auto immune conditions and allergies. It is a spore forming probiotic that helps to heal intestinal permeability and support the immune system.
Fermented foods - for a diverse range of naturally occurring beneficial bacteria. Good examples are home-made probiotic yoghurt, kefir, sauerkraut, kombucha. For a sauerkraut recipe click here.
Bone broth - to support detoxification and to help heal and seal the gut lining. Click here for a recipe.
Eat prebiotic foods to feed our beneficial bacteria. Prebiotic foods are non-digestible fibre foods that pass though the stomach and small intestines without being broken down by stomach acid and enzymes. As prebiotic foods are unable to be broken down, they reach the colon where they feed our beneficial gut bacteria. They are fuel for our beneficial bacteria to thrive on. Some of the best prebiotic foods to include in your diet are: Chicory root, unripe banana, onions, garlic, asparagus, dandelion greens and Jerusalem artichoke.
A tablespoon of apple cider vinegar in water before meals and first thing in morning. This encourages the production of stomach acid, which helps the body to digest and absorb proteins better. Apple cider vinegar also helps to cleanse the liver. Lemon juice in warm water is another good alternative.
Take a digestive enzyme with meals if you have any absorption issues such as inflammatory bowel, Celiac disease or poor digestion in general.
L- Glutamine is an amino acid that promotes the regeneration and repair to the cells of the intestinal lining. It coats the intestinal lining to help re-establish the integrity of the intestinal lining to stop toxins and undigested foods getting in to the blood stream. It is best to work with a practitioner to find the right dosage for you.
Practice mindful eating to give your digestive system the best chance to digest the food. Where possible sit at the dinner time in a relaxed state and chew your food at least 15 – 20 times. Take the time to taste and the smell of the food which helps to stimulate digestive juices. Never eat on the run as this will lead to food that is not chewed properly putting extra strain on your digestive system.
If you need further assistance feel free to contact me by phone or email or take advantage of my FREE 15-minute discovery session. You can book this online by clicking here
This is a great chance for us to have a chat about your situation and how I can help you.