Both Nutrition and acupuncture can be used to support couples on their journey to parenthood. When it comes to fertility support it is important to balance the different systems of the body for the best possible outcome. Often hurried lifestyles, coupled with a less than optimal diet can lead to poor hormonal and reproductive capacity. This is often the case for men and well as woman. Here Jon Price from City Springs and I outline some of the ways nutrition and acupuncture can support fertility.
Nutritional Support for Fertility.
Nutrition can be used to help both men and women pre-conceptually. The key is to balance key nutrients to optimise fertility and support a healthy pregnancy. One of the key deficiencies I see in clinic is zinc. This nutrient can be depleted by iron supplementation, excess copper exposure and it is affected by the use of the contraceptive pill. Zinc is often lacking where there are signs of digestive issues, such as bloating, IBS or heartburn. Zinc is vital for conception and a healthy baby. Sometimes digestive issues need to be rectified in order to fully support fertility.
Another issue which has become strikingly common is that of inflammation or an over active immune response resulting in an inability to maintain a pregnancy after conception has occurred. Or perhaps developing antibodies to a partner’s sperm. The frequency of these immune system issues has risen in line with the incidence of auto immune diseases, which are also a result of an over active immune system. These issues require two approaches. Identifying nutrient deficiencies and bringing the immune system back into balance. To do this we need to identify possible immune triggers such as food intolerances. Sometimes simple dietary changes are enough to dampen inflammation and allow a successful pregnancy.
For some women underlying conditions like Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) and fibroids might be impacting on their fertility. Each person is assessed individually and a nutritional programme is devised to address imbalances causing the condition.
For men simple strategies can help improve sperm motility and count. Sperm are very susceptible to oxidative stress caused by smoking, alcohol and a diet without enough anti-oxidant nutrients. Again, zinc is highlighted as an important nutrient to keep sperm healthy. It can help combat oxidative stress improving sperm count and motility. It is also important to support a man’s stress response. High levels of stress will deplete testosterone production which will impact on sperm quantity. Other important nutrients for sperm production include B12, a nutrient which can be deficient where absorption is poor.
Acupuncture for Fertility Support.
Acupuncture has always been an option for helping improve the health of couples wanting a child. Below is a brief outline of the development of acupuncture in relation to fertility health and how this is relevant to patients today.
It begins with the earliest recorded text on acupuncture. The Yellow Emperor’s Inner Classic (the bible and primary text for acupuncturists) introduced the concept of age-related cycles and the principles of female reproductive health over two thousand years ago. It also documented the first treatment principles specific to gynaecology. The generations of prolific practitioners that followed were the first to dedicate texts specifically focusing on ‘women’s health’.
The continued importance of fertility lead to the development of Chinese medical gynaecology as a specialty. The concept of regulating the menstrual cycle to promote fertility has been strongly emphasised for centuries and is still a major consideration for acupuncturists treating women on their fertility journey. Today acupuncture is one of the most popular therapeutic ways of boosting fertility and health to cope during what can be a difficult time.
Currently, research continues to develop and investigate just how acupuncture is able to help. While research is beginning to show the mechanisms of acupuncture and its ability to regulate the body’s metabolic processes it is easier to say that acupuncture helps with stress. Imagine how the body shuts down as stress levels increase. If we can ‘turn down’ or regulate the body’s stress response then much change can occur. This is the fundamental thing to bear in mind when choosing to come for acupuncture.
For those going through assisted reproductive procedures like IVF or ICSI acupuncture is also a popular supportive tool. Acupuncture’s support for the changes the body is going through might make all the difference to how patients cope at this time.
It certainly makes sense to investigate acupuncture’s benefits for fertility issues. As part of an overall review and potential change of lifestyle factors (which obviously includes dietary habits) acupuncture can play an important role.
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