Authors Posts by Rose Yewchuk BA, MA, HRHP

Rose Yewchuk BA, MA, HRHP

Rose Yewchuk BA, MA, HRHP
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Rose Yewchuk has been teaching workshops on fertility awareness for the past 14 years. She also maintains an Edmonton-based holistic health practice and is a facilitator of the Fertility Awareness Charting Circle.

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Premenstrual symptoms give insights into hormone imbalances

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PMS is often joked about or misunderstood. But, the symptoms that many women experience are no laughing matter. Premenstrual symptoms can be a sign that something is out of balance in the body, as well as a call for greater self-care.

For many women, premenstruation and menstruation are times of heightened sensitivity. Your hearing, eyesight, and senses of taste and smell may actually be keener, making ordinary stimuli more overwhelming. It can help to unplug from the world and give yourself a quiet rest break.

If you think of the premenstrual time as an opportunity for a monthly spa break and reward yourself with baths, massages, a good book, or whatever nourishes you, it can even become something to be appreciated. You may find that your intuition and creativity are heightened at this time. I know a writer who sets aside the premenstrual week for writing and brainstorming, thereby taking advantage of the increased flow of ideas.

“It can help to unplug from the world and give yourself a quiet rest break.”

It can be helpful to keep a record of your premenstrual symptoms. This will allow you to recognize and anticipate your cyclical hormonal patterns. Dr. Guy Abraham identified four different types of PMS, each of which points to a different underlying hormonal profile. It’s also possible to have symptoms from more than one PMS type. In all cases,  Dr. Abraham identified deficiencies of magnesium and vitamin B6. Read on to see if you recognize yourself in any of these profiles:

PMS A – Anxiety

In the week before her period, Aliyah finds herself dealing with uncontrollable mood swings and compulsive behaviours. She often feels anxious, and the smallest things make her angry or irritated. A few times a year, her nervous tension escalates into full blown panic attacks. She is up at nights with insomnia and sometimes, diarrhea.

According to Dr. Katharina Dalton, Aliyah’s PMS-A is related to progesterone deficiency. She can increase her intake of magnesium and B vitamins to help calm her anxiety and nervous tension. Taking beta-carotene, evening primrose oil, and certain herbs throughout the cycle can support her progesterone production. Self-care is especially important for Aliyah: over time, she has learned to be gentle with herself and get extra rest. When she notices her PMS coming on, she adjusts her schedule to avoid things which may trigger anxiety, irritation or panic attacks.

PMS D – Depression

A few days before her period rolls around, Dominique gets depressed, weepy and very emotional. She becomes very thin-skinned and easily moved to tears. She tends to withdraw into herself and she feels much more tired than usual. She has noticed that she becomes uncoordinated and clumsy at that time, and sometimes her joints ache. On her worst months, she feels fearful and paranoid for a few days.

Dominique’s PMS-D is associated with low levels of serotonin, and may be related to high stress levels putting a strain on her adrenal and thyroid glands. In addition to B vitamins and magnesium, she can support her adrenal health with vitamin C, vitamin B5, licorice tea, and Celtic sea salt, and support her thyroid gland with sea vegetables, iodine, and selenium. She can also support her emotional health by setting up comfort measures for her premenstrual time, confiding in a trusted friend, and looking for ways to lighten her load.

PMS C – Cravings

Chris’s PMS-C is all about the cravings: usually for sweets, sometimes for salty foods, and often for alcohol. She has an increased appetite, and she has noticed that she often winds up eating compulsively or going on binges. At these times, Chris’s heart is pounding and she sometimes feels dizzy or on the verge of fainting. Her bowels are upset, premenstrually, and she usually has either diarrhea or constipation.

Chris’s cravings may mean that her adrenal glands are overworked, since cravings are often associated with adrenal stress. Along with taking B vitamins and magnesium, she can support her adrenal health with vitamin C, vitamin B5, licorice tea, and Celtic sea salt. Chromium can help stabilize her blood sugar and reduce her hypoglycemia. She may need to plan ahead to ensure she’s eating balanced meals with a higher portion of protein and can keep healthy snacks on hand to stave off her cravings. Finally, Chris can work to decrease her alcohol and sugar intake, getting emotional support where necessary.

Keep a record of your premenstrual symptoms.”

PMS H: Headache/Heaviness

Helen always knows when she’s going to get her period because her pants get tight from abdominal bloating. Her feet swell, her rings get tight, and her breasts are tender. Helen feels wiped out with fatigue and she is prone to menstrual migraines. She becomes constipated, her joints ache, and she feels uncoordinated and unbalanced. After her period, her weight drops noticeably once the fluid retention lets up.

Helen’s PMS-H is related to stress on her adrenals, liver, and gut, as well as to possible thyroid dysfunction. She can get some relief by decreasing her intake of sugar, salt, caffeine, and alcohol, and eating a balanced whole foods diet. Helen would benefit from comprehensive testing to identify the underlying hormonal imbalances. A skilled health practitioner can assess her for food allergies, gut dysbiosis (imbalance in intestinal bacteria), adrenal insufficiency, and thyroid dysfunction.

PMS Survival Strategies
  • Your menstrual cycle health is a reflection of your overall health and well-being. Taking care of your body, mind, and spirit can make your cycles more enjoyable.
  • Emotional self-care is extremely important. Try journalling, dancing, or talking it out with a friend – whatever works for you to express and move your emotions.
  • A regular exercise routine will improve your circulation, energy, and moods.
  • Limiting refined and artificial sugars will help improve your moods, reduce water retention, and decrease cravings over time.
  • Cutting back on caffeine, alcohol, and nicotine can reduce bloating, fatigue and depression.
  • Limit processed foods and refined flours, and choose whole foods such as fruits and vegetables, meats and fish, whole grains        and legumes.
  • Make sure your diet includes healthy fats and oils, like avocado, olive oil, coconut oil, flax oil, and fish oils. Avoid highly processed trans-fats.
  • A daily multivitamin with vitamin B6, a B complex, magnesium, Vitamin E, and Vitamin C may help reduce many PMS symptoms.
  • Discuss with your physician whether going off the Pill or other birth-control hormones may be an option for you. Some women seem to feel worse on synthetic hormones or feel they contribute to problematic PMS symptoms.
 

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Two simple steps to detoxify your body

Dumbells, tape measure, healthy food and notepad for copy space

As winter turns to spring, it’s traditional to clean house to clear out all the dust and debris that accumulates over the cold months. As you get your house in order, why not do a spring cleansing for your body?

Our bodies have an amazing ability to process and eliminate wastes and toxins. However, sometimes these systems can get overwhelmed, especially in a time when there are so many chemicals in our food, air and water.

“Cosmetics and personal care products can be another culprit of toxic stressors on the body.”

I’m not an advocate of extreme cleanses or fasts, because they can put unnecessary stress on the body. Detoxification can be done slowly and gently if you follow two simple guidelines: reduce the harmful substances you are taking into your body and; support the systems of your body that remove toxins.

Step 1: Reduce the harmful substances you are taking into your body.

A good place to start is by looking at your diet. Artificial sweeteners, hydrogenated oils, trans fatty acids, and refined sugar can all put stress on the liver and slow down detoxification. Cleaning up your diet can make it easier for your liver to get to work on removing stored toxins.

If you despair at the idea of giving up your junk food fix permanently, try simplifying your diet for a short period of time, such as six weeks. It can be easier to take a break from favourite foods if you know it’s on a temporary basis. You can then re-evaluate your diet at the end of the temporary period based on how you feel.

Emphasize whole foods in your diet such as fresh fruit and vegetables, whole grains and legumes, lean meats and fish. Choose organic produce and free-range, organic, antibiotic-free meats wherever possible. You can search online for the ‘Dirty Dozen’ and the ‘Clean Fifteen’ to see which fruits and vegetables are most affected by pesticide spraying, and therefore, most important to buy organic or from small local farmers.

“Be sure to eat plenty of fibre through a good intake of fruits and vegetables.”

When you do your spring housecleaning, take a close look at the ingredients in your cleaning products. Many well-known household products contain hazardous ingredients that can linger in your home and end up accumulating in your body. Cosmetics and personal care products can be another culprit of toxic stressors on the body, especially if they contain petroleum or unspecified fragrances. The book Toxin Toxout has some good advice about what products to avoid.

Mercury fillings can also be a persistent source of long-term toxicity. Have your mercury fillings removed by an experienced dentist, and consider getting a urine test to assess the heavy metal levels in your body.

Step 2: Support the systems of your body that remove toxins.

Many systems of the body do a great job of cleansing and purification, so let’s acknowledge them for their hard work! The liver helps break down chemicals, the bowels and urinary tract excrete wastes, and the skin can get rid of wastes through sweat.

Supporting your liver is an essential part of successful detoxification. Relieve stress on your liver by drinking less alcohol (or cutting out alcohol altogether). Eating bitter greens like dandelion, kale, mustard greens, and arugula can stimulate the liver to produce bile, which helps to break down hormones. Squeezing the juice of half an organic lemon in warm water every morning is another gentle way to stimulate the liver, as is eating a raw carrot in the mornings before breakfast.

Regular bowel movements are extremely important to detoxification – if you’re regularly constipated, take that as a warning sign. Drink the recommended eight or more glasses of water per day, and be sure to eat plenty of fibre through a good intake of fruits and vegetables. Another option to increase your fibre intake is to include psyllium husks, ground flax or chia seeds in your porridge or smoothies. Traditionally fermented foods like sauerkraut, yogurt, and kefir help populate your gut with friendly microorganisms that boost digestion and detoxification.

Baths are not only relaxing and soothing, but great for gently detoxifying through your skin. Epsom salts or baking soda in your bath water help draw the toxins out, and the magnesium in Epsom salts is a natural muscle relaxant. Saunas also stimulate your skin to sweat out toxins. Indulge often if you’re lucky enough to have one in your home, or see if your gym has one you can relax in after a workout. After your bath or sauna, gentle exfoliation with a washcloth or salt scrub helps remove dead skin cells and lets your skin breathe better.

Exercise and movement also play an important role in detoxification. Regular, enjoyable exercise can get your heart rate up, improve circulation, and help you sweat out the bad stuff. So get moving!

Finally, a cautionary note: introduce detoxifying practices very gradually, as the body can easily be overwhelmed by a sudden release of toxins. If you notice flu-like symptoms, diarrhea, or muscle aches, ease off for a few days. Be gentle with yourself, drink plenty of water, and wait until the healing crisis passes.

Detoxifying Essentials

  • Cilantro helps remove mercury from the body. Add it to your cooking or take cilantro drops up to four times per day.
  • Garlic is a great digestive healing agent and antimicrobial. Cook with it to your heart’s content or try garlic capsules.
  • Probiotics help your gut function more effectively, digesting food more thoroughly and making for better elimination of wastes.
  • Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant that helps break down and remove toxins. A good dose for detoxifying is 500-3000 mg/day.
  • Turmeric is very effective for supporting liver function and limiting inflammation. Use it as a spice in your cooking or try capsules.
  • Milk Thistle helps regenerate liver cells and protects the liver from damage.
  • Dandelion root and leaves provide a gentle herbal tonic for the liver.
  • Diindolylmethane (DIM) and Indole-3-Carbinol (I3C) are supplements derived from plants in the cabbage family that help the body break down estrogen-mimicking chemicals.
  • A good multivitamin and multimineral supplement will help cover all the bases needed for optimal detoxification.
 

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Six surprising ways that your gut health can affect your chances of reproduction

Hand on bellyMost people don’t realize that there is a strong connection between gastrointestinal health and fertility. This is because the health of the gut affects the reproductive system in many subtle ways.

The obvious signs of digestive problems include constipation, diarrhea, heartburn or acid reflux, abdominal bloating, sharp or dull abdominal pains, gas, and urinary irritation. But many other symptoms show up when the gut isn’t working properly, including chronic sinus, ear, or vaginal infections; joint pain; headaches; foggy thinking; fatigue; and mood disturbances. All of the systems of the body are interconnected, and subfertility or infertility can definitely be related to gut issues as well.

Here are six ways that gut problems can cause a decline in fertility:

1. Poor nutrient absorption:

If your gut isn’t working properly, then you won’t be able to fully digest your food or absorb all of the nutrients from it. You can end up with nutritional deficiencies because your body can’t fully process the food you’re consuming. This can adversely impact many systems of your body, including your immune system, your liver, and your reproductive system, because of shortages of the trace minerals and vitamins needed to support those intricate processes.

2. Suboptimal hormone production:

A significant part of the body’s hormone production actually happens in the gut. If there are shortages of nutrients due to malabsorption, then the body will be lacking the building blocks needed to make those hormones. Furthermore, if the endocrine cells in the gut are damaged, then they can’t do their job of producing hormones, including reproductive hormones. Moods are also affected since the gut cells manufacture many key neurotransmitters.

3. Toxic buildup:

The digestive system is designed to eliminate wastes fairly quickly, so that they don’t linger in the body. Healthy bowels should move after every meal, so constipation is a cause for concern, particularly if bowel movements aren’t occurring daily. If the gut is sluggish, then the wastes held in the colon for extended periods of time can result in toxins being reabsorbed into the bloodstream. When wastes accumulate without being excreted, this creates a drain on all systems of the body.

4. Leaky gut syndrome:

When healthy, the intestines are coated with a protective mucus membrane that only allows very small pre-digested molecules to pass through the intestinal walls into the bloodstream. When the gut is chronically irritated, as in the case of food allergies or conditions such as celiac disease or inflammatory bowel disease, the protective barrier gets eroded and large food molecules get through to the bloodstream when they shouldn’t.

This can lead to chronic inflammation in and around the gut as the immune system attacks these foreign substances that shouldn’t be passing through to the blood stream. This puts the immune system on a constant state of high alert, which isn’t conducive to fertility, since the body’s resources are diverted away from reproduction to deal with the ongoing threat of invasion, thereby compromising hormone balance and the quality of sperm and egg production.

5. Food allergies or intolerances:

iStock_000015975067LargeIt’s a chicken-or-the-egg situation with food intolerances and a leaky gut, since these conditions are related and can exacerbate one another. Allergic foods contribute to inflammation in the gut, which damages the gut lining and creates those ‘leaks.’ Similarly, a leaky gut causes undigested food molecules to get into the bloodstream, which stimulates the immune system and can create a chronic allergic reaction to that food due to prolonged exposure. Gluten in particular can be correlated with reduced fertility because gluten can suppress thyroid function, and undiagnosed thyroid issues frequently show up in cases of so-called “unexplained” infertility.

6. Dysbiosis:

Did you know that there are 10 times more bacteria in the human body than there are human cells? Our bodies operate in a symbiotic partnership with healthy bacteria. The microflora in the gut can help digest food, synthesize nutrients, break down toxins, improve immune function, and protect us from dangerous or infectious microorganisms. If the healthy bacteria in the gut are compromised or overwhelmed by harmful bacteria, this leads to a state of microbial imbalance or dysbiosis. This imbalance can affect the entire body.

Where reproductive health is concerned, vaginal flora keeps the pH balance in the vagina at a healthy level and helps ward off infections from yeast and other pathogens. Frequent vaginal infections, bladder infections, or cervical inflammation can be a sign that the body’s microbes are out of balance. It’s important for women to address this before giving birth, since recent research shows that a vaginal birth inoculates a baby’s immune system and digestive system with microbes that will affect that child’s health for decades to come.

Recommendations For Gut Health:

Chew every bite of food thoroughly. This pre-digests your food and cues your gut to release the right digestive enzymes to process what you’re eating. It also makes meals a more calming experience.

Drink the recommended eight glasses of water a day. Chlorine is toxic to the healthy bacteria in your gut so if you drink tap water, make sure to filter it.

Follow a nourishing whole foods diet that emphasizes fresh fruit and vegetables, whole grains and legumes, and healthy meats and fish. Choose organic produce and free-range, organic, antibiotic-free meats wherever possible.

Replenish healthy gut bacteria by taking probiotics or eating unpasteurized traditionally fermented foods like sauerkraut, yogurt, kefir, or kombucha.

A hearty daily fibre intake keeps your digestion running smoothly. The proverbial “apple a day” provides soluble fibre, and ground flax or psyllium husk added to smoothies can help cleanse the colon.

Trust your gut and notice your reactions to foods. If something doesn’t sit well with you, pay attention, even if the reaction is subtle.

Often, your allergic foods are the ones that you are addicted to. Do you have a favourite food, something you could never give up and would drive through a snowstorm to get? If so, this could be a red flag for a toxic food addiction.

Remove foods from your diet that harm the gut or feed the bad bacteria. These include anti-nutrients such as refined sugar, refined flours, alcohol, trans fats, caffeine, and artificial sweeteners, and all of your personal allergenic foods.

If you do need to take antibiotics for any reason, be sure to replenish your gut flora by taking probiotics and consuming traditionally fermented foods.

 

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Find out how birth control hormones can damage your fertility

Taking the birth control pill is so common for today’s women that it’s almost a rite of passage, on par with getting a driver’s license or graduating from high school. But most women taking birth control don’t want to prevent pregnancy forever – they just want to delay it until the right time in their lives. Here’s where the problem comes in: although these methods are marketed as safe and reversible, between 16 percent and 44 precent of women will have trouble conceiving after discontinuing birth control hormones.

Pill. Close up of a pill on female tongue.

In my practice, I work with women who are struggling to get their menstrual cycles back to normal after years of taking the pill. With infertility rates in Canada rising, it’s important to look at how these powerful drugs affect a woman’s chances of getting pregnant when she decides she is ready to become a mother.

What is a Contraceptive Endocrine Disruptor (CED)?

There are several categories of hormonal birth control, including birth control pills, the shot, the patch, the vaginal ring, and the hormonal IUD. For simplicity’s sake, I’ll refer to them as Contraceptive Endocrine Disruptors (CEDs), because they all prevent pregnancy by disrupting a woman’s endocrine system in order to stop her from ovulating.

It’s commonly believed that CEDs trick the body into thinking it is pregnant, or that they mimic natural cycles. This isn’t true: the hormonal profile of a woman on CEDs doesn’t resemble pregnancy or any naturally occurring human state. In fact, it would be closest to an artificially-induced chemical menopause.

CEDs use patented synthetic estrins and progestins that behave very differently in the body than a woman’s natural estrogens and progesterone. These unnatural hormones affect the entire body, including the nervous system, cardiovascular health, digestion, blood pressure, bone density, moods, and immunity.

How Contraceptive Endocrine Disruptors (CEDs) affect fertility

After discontinuing CEDs, it takes a while for the synthetic hormones to fully leave the body and for the woman’s endocrine system to resume ovulating. It typically takes between six and 12 months for healthy menstrual cycles to return after stopping birth control pills, although in some women it can take 18 to 24 months or longer. With injectable shots like Depo-Provera or implants such as Norplant, it can take up to three years for healthy cycles to resume.

“It typically takes between six and 12 months for healthy menstrual cycles to return after stopping birth control pills.”

Not all women are affected equally by CEDs. The impact of these drugs on the body depends on many factors, including the type of drug and the dosage, and individual factors such as genetics, diet, supplement use, activity level, and health of the liver and bowel. The women who are most likely to bounce back quickly and see their ovulation return in six months or less are those with robust health who have no previous history of endocrine disorders (such as hypothyroidism or diabetes). Women who started taking hormonal birth control only after they were already reproductively mature, or after a pregnancy, are also less strongly affected.

Are rising rates of CED use connected with rising rates of infertility?

It’s very common for girls in their early teens to start taking CEDs before their menstrual cycles have stabilized and remain on them continuously for a decade or more. In addition, CEDs are increasingly prescribed to treat other health concerns such as acne, PMS, or irregular, painful menstruation.

Most women are not presented with any other treatment or birth control options by their health care providers. They are rarely informed of all the side effects and potential consequences of taking CEDs, and if they can’t tolerate one brand, they are told to switch to a different brand or a different delivery method. In my practice, I often hear women say, “If I’d had any idea of the effects it would have on me, I never would have taken it.”

Meanwhile, up to 15.7 percent of couples in Canada are experiencing infertility, a rate that has almost doubled since 1992 (8.5 percent) and tripled since 1984 (5.4 percent). Although there is some connection to the delayed start of childbearing due to social and economic factors, it’s worth noting that even women in the 18-29 year age range – the peak years of fertility – are showing the same increased infertility rates as their older counterparts.

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Holistic strategies for boosting sperm count

fertility_1Many men don’t give their sperm count a second thought unless they find themselves facing fertility challenges. For couples trying to conceive, those little swimmers play a crucial role. Fertility declines with age in males just as it does in females, but there are fewer heroic medical interventions available to men with fertility issues.

Fortunately, it’s possible to boost sperm production naturally by adjusting diet and lifestyle. Fertility is a reflection of overall health, and from an evolutionary perspective, it makes sense that a healthy body would be a better reproductive unit than an unhealthy one.

The sperm production cycle takes three months to complete, so it takes a minimum of 3-6 months of consistent lifestyle changes in order to naturally affect sperm count. But as the body becomes well-nourished and vitality is restored, virility usually follows suit.

THE FOLLOWING STRATEGIES CAN INCREASE SPERM NUMBERS WHILE IMPROVING OVERALL HEALTH.

FOOD: Eat a healthy diet that emphasizes whole foods such as fruits and vegetables, meats raised without hormones or antibiotics, and naturally fermented foods such as sauerkraut, yogurt, and traditional sourdough breads. Limit sugars, white flour, and refined or processed foods with added chemicals and preservatives. Don’t forget to drink plenty of water!

BAD HABITS: Quit smoking and drinking alcohol. Numerous studies have shown that smoking is correlated with a decrease in semen volume, sperm motility and sperm viability, while embryos fertilized by smokers have a lower implantation rate. Both tobacco and marijuana smoke can harm fertility. Alcohol consumption can also damage sperm, and drinking reduces fertility in men because the stress on the liver increases estrogen levels.

TEMPERATURE: Keep the boys cool. For optimal sperm production, the testes need a temperature about 3 degrees Celsius lower than the core temperature of the body. Consistent exposure to heat, for instance in hot tubs and saunas, can interfere with the scrotum’s natural ability to maintain these necessary lower temperatures. Laptops may cause a similar problem because of the heat of the device on the lap, as well as remaining seated with your legs close together for long periods of time.

ENVIRONMENT: Limit exposure to household and industrial chemicals. Researchers in various countries have pointed to endocrine-disrupting chemicals in the environment, such as those found in pesticides, plastics, defoliants, oils, and cleaning agents. Many of these chemicals mimic estrogen, which is naturally present in the male body in small quantities, but can disrupt testosterone and sperm production when absorbed in larger quantities. Heavy metals, solvents, and certain cosmetics also disrupt the body’s hormone balance. Use protective measures to limit exposure to toxins in the workplace and ensure that chemicals are stored and disposed of correctly. Around the house, try using non-toxic and enzyme-based household cleaners, replacing yard pesticides with organic alternatives, and avoiding plastic food wrap and packaging, especially when heating foods.

CLINICAL: Get screened for underlying endocrine issues, particularly thyroid dysfunction. The thyroid gland regulates the body’s metabolism, and if it’s not functioning correctly, it can throw a whole bunch of the body’s systems off-kilter, including reproduction. Undiagnosed thyroid issues are a major contributor to many unexplained cases of infertility. Thyroid dysfunction can be present even when blood tests are normal, so it’s important to be assessed clinically by a doctor, naturopath or qualified health practitioner who is familiar with thyroid diagnoses.

RADIATION: Keep your cell phone out of your pants. Recent research has shown that exposure to mobile phone radiation reduces sperm mobility and increases the proportion of deformed sperm. To reduce this risk, carry your cell phone in a bag or briefcase. If you need to have your cell phone close at hand, consider an arm holster instead of a belt holster. Use a landline phone where possible and don’t make a habit of sleeping with your cell phone next to your bed, so leave it in another room overnight instead.

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Vitamin D enhances fertility in both men and women

shutterstock_172122569It feels great being out in the summer sunshine, especially after one of Edmonton’s notoriously long winters. The sun’s rays on the skin fill us with warmth and vitality, and the long bright days encourage activity.

The bright sun isn’t just a mood booster – it’s also a vital source of vitamin D. Many people know that vitamin D helps with strong bones, immunity, and even as a cancer preventive, but less well known is its essential role in human fertility.

Having optimal blood levels of vitamin D improves fertility in both women and men while also enhancing the health outcomes of newborn babies. This is a critical health issue in a northern city like Edmonton, where obtaining vitamin D through sunlight exposure is negligible in the wintertime.

Vitamin D’s Role in Fertility

Vitamin D is unique because it can be produced by the skin in response to UVB rays from the sun or ingested in food. It’s important for calcium absorption and bone health, and it also plays a key role in many of the body’s hormone processes.

In men, vitamin D improves semen quality and raises testosterone levels. A recent study found that men who were deficient in vitamin D had fewer motile sperm and a higher rate of sperm abnormalities.

In women and in animal studies, low vitamin D levels have been correlated with impaired fertility and endocrine conditions such as

endometriosis and polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS). The impact on fertility shows up even in cases of assisted reproduction. One study of IVF cycles using donor eggs found dramatic differences in outcomes based on the women’s vitamin D levels. Of those women with adequate vitamin D, 59% gave birth, while only 31% with insufficient vitamin D levels gave birth.

Studies have found higher rates of gestational diabetes, preeclampsia, and preterm birth in pregnant women with low vitamin D levels. All of these conditions, of course, affect the health and well-being of the infant.

 

Challenges for Northern Climates

Here’s where it gets tricky. At Edmonton’s far northern latitude, the sun’s angle is not high enough to produce vitamin D in the skin from October through March. In a 2009 study of patients at three medical practices in Edmonton, blood tests revealed that only 31.75% of people had adequate levels of vitamin D. Unless you’re a snowbird who winters in Arizona, it’s critical to get extra Vitamin D in the winter months when we can’t get it from sunshine.

Dietary Recommendations

vitamin D image-01Vitamin D is found in foods such as butter, beef liver, egg yolks, and certain fatty fish including cod liver oil. It is also added to some fortified juices and cereals.

If you’re not keen on increasing your intake of liver and cod liver oil, consider a good quality vitamin D supplement. The Vitamin D Council suggests that doses of 5,000-10,000 iu per day are appropriate in cases of deficiency. Ask your doctor to test your vitamin D levels before beginning a protocol, and then monitor them every few months so you can see if the supplements are making a difference. Taper off to a maintenance dose once you have reached healthy levels.

If you are wanting to implement a natural fertility protocol, it’s helpful to also take supplements such as beta-carotene, a B-vitamin complex including folic acid, calcium, zinc, and magnesium. Consulting with a holistic practitioner can help you figure out what supplements are suitable for your situation so that you can customize them for your health along with diet and lifestyle changes. It can take 3-6 months to see the effects of a natural supplement protocol on your body, so if you’re trying this approach, be patient and stick with the program for the long term.

Now get outside and get some sun while it lasts!

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