It has been well documented that there is a necessity in maintaining sufficient hormonal balances to be both healthy and fertile. When certain hormone levels are not correct, it affects fertility because different hormones interact together during separate phases of the reproductive cycle to ensure that conception can take place. Now, because there are so many things that affect the output of fertility hormones, it is often difficult to pinpoint the cause of an imbalance. These imbalances can originate from simple things like poor diet, stress, vitamin deficiencies, and even body fat content. The first and most basic step to understanding how all of these aspects correlate is to look more closely at which main hormones are involved in fertility and how they are most commonly affected.
Though nearly every hormone in the body has an effect on fertility because the body operates in such an interconnected way, there are main fertility hormones that stand out. The first of these is estrogen, which is commonly known as being predominant in females.
Estrogen has a big job to do because it helps to regulate not only a woman's monthly cycle, but also contributes to bone health and even aids in keeping cholesterol under control. Estrogen is also found in men. High levels in men can cause adverse effects such as enlarged breasts and even infertility.
When there are incorrect levels of estrogen in a woman’s body, there are a multitude of issues that come forward. There can be situations where women with extremely low estrogen levels experience similar side effects to those who are going through menopause. Hot flashes, insomnia, and low libido are a few of those that stand out. By contrast, high estrogen levels can bring with them other unfavorable circumstances such as more severe PMS, menstrual changes, and weight gain.
The levels of estrogen in your body are affected by a variety of different stimuli. Poor diet can be a large contributor to low estrogen. This occurs because if you don’t consume the proper vitamin and mineral requirements, your body will be unable to produce adequate estrogen. Stress is also a large culprit when it comes to fertility hormones.
The hypothalamic-pituitary gonadotropic (HPG) axis is the main driver that dictates fertility hormones released in the body. When the body is under stress, the adrenal glands release the hormone cortisol which is known to compromise the HPG axis.
Stress in relation to the HPG axis is not limited to women by any means as it affects men as well. Dysregulation of the HPG axis can cause men to have lower sperm counts along with decreased libido. This is an issue that affects both sexes.
Adrenal fatigue (AF) takes place when your body is not sufficiently coping with the stress of daily life. The adrenal glands are located above the kidneys and have a large effect on everything from how well your body detoxifies to your blood sugar levels. Not only does AF affect those areas but it can also contribute to lethargy and anxiety because the ongoing demand placed on the adrenal glands can cause them to slow their production of cortisol and become exhausted.
During AF there is often an imbalance in the aspect ratio between progesterone, a powerful sex hormone and steroid, and estrogen. It is common for individuals suffering from AF to have too little progesterone when compared to estrogen or even too little of both. It needs to be noted, however, that this is not always the case. Although common, there is a wide range of results that are found in those suffering from AF and every situation needs to be evaluated with its own medical history.
There is also speculation in the medical community that hormonal imbalances might be linked to genetic predispositions. Because of this, it can be difficult to define exactly what is causing an imbalance of fertility hormones in any particular case. If you are having a difficult time ascertaining what the problems are that you are facing with your hormone balances, consult a professional who can perform testing for further information.
In most cases, when someone is experiencing AF, their bodies will not be focused on reproduction but rather on survival. High levels of stress do not condone themselves to fertility being a top priority. It’s encouraged that you first look at AF recovery before worrying about your fertility. This is especially true if you have experienced multiple miscarriages during the first trimester.
Progesterone is one of the primary precursors of cortisol, the main stress hormone produced by the adrenal glands. When the body is under stress and in a stage of AF, some progesterone is moved from its role in ovulation and the menstrual cycle and diverted to produce cortisol. This reduced progesterone level can cause estrogen dominance, where there is a relatively? high estrogen level compared to progesterone. This imbalance has a counterproductive effect on fertility.
Reduced progesterone is not the only way that individuals are susceptible to exposing to high levels of estrogen, obesity is often another culprit. Estrogen is also produced in adipose tissue. The heavier you are, the more estrogen is made. This goes both ways for men and women alike. Because body fat cells produce and store estrogen, excess weight is directly linked to estrogen dominance. A reaction to this can result in abnormal mood swings and unpredictable cycles, which can both affect fertility.
Sometimes weight is easier to control than other times. During AF, it can be the case that the thyroid gland is affected and doesn’t properly produce enough thyroid hormone. This can cause weight gain to be difficult to control. Although AF can lead to symptoms of low thyroid, these symptoms can also arise from genetic predisposition or other factors. If you think you have a problem with your thyroid that is not linked to AF, contact your doctor so that you can find out exactly what is going on and find a solution.
There is a bit of a silver lining to all of these stark warnings - the fact that a lot of these variables are able to be influenced. The first thing you can do is take steps to lower your stress levels. Stress also increases estrogen in your body. The system through which our bodies process stress is known as the NeuroEndoMetabolic (NEM) Stress Response. The NEM stress response is comprised of a very extensive network that involves neurological responses that eventually convert into hormonal and physical action in the body.
When NEM stress response is triggered by stress, the body loses much of its ability to control different processes that it would normally engage in for proper inflammation counteraction and absorption of precious vitamins. This has adverse effects on both fertility and pregnancy because the imbalance of estrogen and progesterone that are common during high recurrence of NEM can be damaging.
Another negative aspect of stress is that detoxification is slowed or even halted by NEM response. Toxins enter our bodies through a variety of ways. Everything from what you eat to the air you breathe can introduce contaminants that need to be expelled. Whenever the detoxification process is impeded, there will be adverse effects on the body as a whole. If your body cannot expel toxins the way it should, it creates an unhealthy internal environment that is not conducive to fertility hormone balance.
You can take steps to limit the number of toxins that you allow to enter your body by choosing a carefully planned natural diet. This will help ensure that not only does your body more easily detoxify, but that it receives all of the necessary nutrients for hormone production in the first place. A healthy diet can also have a positive impact on your weight which will influence your estrogen levels, helping to improve progesterone/estrogen ratio.
Let’s get back to stress, the biggest issue relating to AF and healthy fertility. While stress cannot be totally eliminated, it can be managed. This is a topic that will vary for each individual but needs to be addressed. Whether it’s going for a walk to calm your mind or removing yourself from negative situations, there is an active role that you can take regarding your stress level. It’s entirely possible to make meaningful changes to your routine that will help you relax and focus on your well-being.
Lowering your stress will not only help you recover from AF, it will also help you boost production of progesterone and return your body to its intended state of natural wellness.
Even though there are things that you might not be able to control due to genetics or other variables, there is always something that you can do to improve your health. Look at this change as a complete mind-body approach. Just because AF may have caused an imbalance in your hormones or caused other adverse issues does not mean that you are helpless. Feel empowered that you can take charge of your situation and move forward with AF recovery.
© Copyright 2017 Michael Lam, M.D. All Rights Reserved.
There is no simple answer for what is the best first step. Look at the different aspects of your stress, diet, and overall health when considering the role that those variables play in your fertility hormones. Everyone has a different baseline along with a plan that will work best for them.