Optimising Your Gut Health for Pregnancy Success!

Our friends at The IVF Project wrote a great article on the link between gut health and fertility. Creating a fertile gut is essential for baby making and a healthy pregnancy so we are lucky to be able to share this post with you here (reposted with permission from The IVF Project). Enjoy!

Factors affecting fertility include poor quality eggs and sperm, weight, sleep, metabolic elements, hormone balance and environmental exposures.

Did you know that these are all influenced by what is happening in your gut?

Our gut is the most important immune organ in our body. It is home to over 2kg of microbes that regulate lots of processes in the body. They talk to our brain, our muscles and can influence egg and sperm quality.

The genetic material of our gut microbiome is more than 100 times ours so our complexity is not because we are human, but more likely because of the component of us that isn’t human.

Having lots of different, beneficial populations living in our gut is associated with positive benefits for health and fertility. In contrast, when the populations in the gut are not as diverse or are out of balance, there are negative consequences for health and fertility. Read on to find out how our gut microbiota can be nurtured to enhance your fertility.

Why Does Gut Health Matter?

Imbalances in our gut microbiota that lead to dysbiosis are associated with:
reduced testosterone concentrations in males
metabolic disturbances, cysts and high testosterone in PCOS
estrogen driven endometriosis
increased inflammation and oxidative stress as seen in unexplained infertility and male factor infertility.

What is the Role of our Gut Microbiota?

Our microbiota play a key role in extracting nutrients and energy from food, they influence how well our immune system works, they can protect us against bad bacteria and viruses and they can influence the strength of our gut barrier. A healthy, diverse gut microbiota is essential for a functional gut and fertility.

Diversity Dampens Inflammation

A diverse microbiota will ensure our immune system is working properly. Poor gut health is associated with an increase in microbiota that promote inflammation in the gut, which can then enter our bloodstream, impacting egg and sperm quality.

Inflammation, and the resolution of inflammation, is usually a tightly regulated process if you gut is in good health. Controlled inflammation is essential for the repair of tissues, immune protection and even the process of implantation.

While acute inflammation is a normal, healthy response to short-term stress or injury, chronic low-grade inflammation promotes infertility.

Low diversity in your gut microbiota drives inflammation, which is not good news for fertility. Inflammation damages your gut lining and can lead to elevated levels of inflammation in your circulation. This then can cause damage to your developing eggs and sperm.

Reducing inflammation is a proven strategy for enhancing your fertility. If your lifestyle nurtures a diverse microbiota you will keep inflammation in check and optimise your egg and sperm health.

Extract More Antioxidants and Energy

We started to understand more about our gut microbiota in 2006 when Jeffery Gordon (the father of the microbiome) demonstrated that the gut microbiota could control weight. He transferred the gut microbiota from obese mice to lean mice. The lean mice then put on body weight and increased fat mass despite consuming less food!

In humans, differences in microbiota composition and diversity are observed between obese and lean individuals, showing that the gut microbiota plays a role. If you have been on antibiotics, this strips out your gut bacteria. With the changes in your gut populations you may have noticed that your health is not as optimal as it usually is or that you have put on weight despite a similar diet. Improving the diversity of your gut microbiota can help get you back on track.

With a diverse gut microbiota we are able to activate polyphenols and other antioxidant compounds in the food we eat. Having a diverse, fertile gut means you may extract more essential nutrients from your food for optimising egg and sperm development.

Boost Mental Health

There are lines of communication between our gut and our brain. Over 16 years ago a study in mice showed that when mice were exposed to stress, the magnitude of their physiological response was dependent upon their gut microbiota.
Certain strains of bacteria have been shown to reduced anxiety- and depression-like behaviour and the gut microbiome can shape how our brain functions, even altering neurotransmitter production.

Anxiety and depression are common in women and men dealing with infertility. An imbalance, or dysbiosis, of the populations living in the gut can impact our brain and our behaviour. Nurturing our gut microbiome for enhanced diversity can provide many benefits for your mental wellbeing.

Have you head the term “Food and Mood” or “Move for Your Mood”? What we eat and how we move our bodies are key regulators of promoting a diverse microbiota for better mental health.  Looking to build resilience? Want to reduce the anxiety and stress around trying to conceive? Optimal nutrition to fuel your gut diversity and the ideal exercise prescription are essential tools for pregnancy success.

Reduce Toxin Exposure

Our fertility can be affected by certain chemicals. For example, exposure to Bisphenol A or BPA reduces egg and sperm quality and may account for 20% of unexplained infertility.

BPA can be rapidly broken down in the gastrointestinal tract by certain microbes. If you are lacking these microbes, or their populations are small, your absorption of BPA will be greater, leading to more endocrine disruption.

Having a diverse gut microbiota appears to be protective against certain chemicals that damage fertility. Greater gut diversity means less absorption of these harmful chemicals.

Ways to Nurture your Microbiota

In working with our clients for pregnancy success we have a focus on proven strategies that will improve gut diversity as it is central to fertility.

Shaping a fertile gut microbiota depends on the availability of microbiota-accessible carbohydrates that are found in dietary fibre. Prebiotics are an important type of fibre. They are nondigestible, fermentable foods and you may already eat them every day. Prebiotic fibre has distinct physical and chemical properties which interact with the microbiota of your gut to benefit fertility.

Our microbiota thrives on prebiotic fibre and one of the reasons why, is that it enables them to make the short-chain fatty acid butyrate.

Butyrate is incredibly potent at dampening inflammation, strengthening the gut barrier, regulating metabolism, optimising brain health and regulating immune function. The mechanisms of action of butyrate are incredibly beneficial for fertility as they dampen processes we know compromise egg and sperm quality and the progression of a healthy pregnancy.

Getting a variety of fibre in your day is a promising strategy for weight management, reducing the risk of metabolic disease and improving your reproductive health!

Keep up the intake of fresh, wholefoods that are packed with prebiotic fibre. If you can't seem to get enough variety in your day, you are trying to conceive, or you just can't get organised for a veggie laden meal, then top up your diet with the proven mix of prebiotic fibres and Omega-3 in Fertile Gut.

Want to Improve Your Gut Health for Pregnancy Success?

Investing in developing the best quality eggs and sperm will give you the best chance of success. Prebiotic fibre in your diet is an essential piece of the fertility puzzle. If you want to find out more about what is living in your gut and how to optimise this to get pregnant sooner, talk to our friends at The IVF Project who will help you on your journey!