The first in a five-part series about fertility and the endocrine system.
Part 1: Intro to the Endocrine System
Fertility struggles are tough physically, mentally and emotionally. Even if IVF takes the first time and boom, you’re pregnant, fertility journeys are a rollercoaster. Months, and sometimes years, of multiple rounds of fertility treatments, miscarriage and disappointment is just plain exhausting. It can feel like your body’s failed you. At least, that’s how I felt while struggling through miscarriage after miscarriage. I remember thinking, isn’t my body just supposed to do this pregnancy thing? Why doesn’t it work right?
I felt betrayed. Seeing pregnant people or babies made me feel slighted.
And I know I’m not alone. The heart wrenching effects of the inability to conceive or the devastation of miscarriage is real. 1 in 10 people struggle with fertility issues. And there’s not one reason for infertility; there can be many things that play into it for both women and men, but there is hope.
One factor that can play a role in increasing your chances of a healthy, viable pregnancy is balancing your body through lifestyle and nutrition. And because that’s one area we have control over, we’re going to focus this five part blog series on that.
Difficulty of conceiving can be a result of unbalanced hormones. The endocrine system is in charge of all things hormones. It’s an incredible system made up of the thyroid gland, adrenal glands, pancreas, ovaries, testicles, pituitary gland, and parathyroid gland. These different glands produce hormones that regulate metabolism, control development and growth, govern sexual function, reproduction, sleep, heart rate, temperature regulation, digestion and mood. And that’s just the top of the list. There’s so many things hormones play a part in, we’re going to focus on the parts that play a role in getting pregnant.
Different hormones act on glands and organs and tell them how to function; it’s a way for the body to communicate. If communication is off (just as in any relationship), it can affect how the whole system works. If you took a biology class, you may recall learning that hormone imbalance can affect fertility, particularly in women. Eating correctly, exercising, and limiting hormone disruptors can help the endocrine system to function in balance, hopefully creating an environment that’s more open to conceive. For example, the rise in foods in the last 100 years have spiked in refined sugars, artificial colors, genetically modified ingredients, and fast packaged foods with preservatives. These are not whole foods and they work against balance in your body.
Hormone or endocrine disruptors are the different things (mostly chemicals) that affect how hormones work in synthesis in the body. They can be found in quite a few everyday items: plastics, cleaning products, chemicals, cosmetics, soy isolates (soymilk, soy cheese, or soy fillers in foods—fermented soy is fine). Sugars, simple carbohydrates, caffeine, and alcohol are also things to avoid for a balanced body with limited endocrine disruptors. Thankfully, there are quite a few ways to limit endocrine disruptors in your environment.
This might mean you need to change your shampoo choice, lotion or makeup. Avoid ingredients like: Parabens, phthalates, synthetic colors, fragrances and sodium Lauryl Sulfates. There are a good amount of brands that don’t carry these chemicals. Be sure to always look at the ingredients on the back of the bottle, just because it says “paraben-free” or “all natural,” doesn’t mean it’s free from the other harmful chemicals out there.
Limit storing food in plastic containers or drinking out of plastic bottles and straws. Instead, use glass or stainless steel containers and drinking cups or bottles.
Whether you love to clean or hate it, for most of us, there’s no way around it. Cleaning is part of our lives. Many cleaners contain toxic ingredients that can seep into your skin or be inhaled into your lungs. There are some great cleaners out there. Seventh Generation, Mrs. Meyers, or the all amazing, super cheap, vinegar are just a few that work well.. I’ve also cleaned with simply water and a few drops of essential oils; if there’s anything that makes cleaning more enjoyable—it’s aromatherapy while doing it.
Unfortunately, it’s next to impossible to avoid these endocrine disruptors entirely. Don’t make yourself crazy trying–do the best you can and do one thing at a time.
The endocrine system is incredibly important to your overall health and especially your fertility health. Be aware of the ways to take care of your endocrine system by first, understanding its importance and limiting the things that disrupt its natural way of working within your body. The next three blog posts focus on the importance of movement and what to eat in order to bring this amazing system back to the balance it was intended to be.
We’re so thankful that you’ve allowed us to be a part of your fertility journey. Not only do we want to give you all the best endocrine, nutrition and fertility advice– we are rooting for you in every way!