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  • Writer's pictureIsobel Austin-Little


Updated: May 7

Surprise, surprise, gut health is not just about pooping (although that is also very important).

The gut health-fertility

We are learning more and more about this incredible organ, all its inhabitants, and how it controls everything from our mood to our cravings, digestion, sleep, the ability to fight infection, fertility and so much more. Your gut is home to so many vital functions, including healthy hormones and fertility, that if someone tells you the two are not linked…..walk away!

Before I jump into some of the links between gut health and fertility, it is important to touch on inflammation and why reducing inflammation is a primary focus when working with couples on their fertility journey. For some clients, inflammation is very obvious in terms of the symptoms they experience, but for others, it is not. You may think "I do not experience constipation or diarrhoea, so my gut must be fine". However, inflammation in the gut can be experienced in many different ways, like eczema, heightened anxiety or depression, fatigue, not to mention hormone imbalances, as well as infertility. So, let me walk you through why it is so important our gut health is thriving and the fertility link.

The gut and healthy hormones.

The gut plays a vital role in oestrogen metabolism. I am sure you know estrogen's role in a healthy menstrual cycle. It's part of incredible processes in the menstrual cycle, follicular phase, and the egg's priming before it is released at ovulation. It is also essential for growing a healthy uterine lining, which is necessary for a full-term pregnancy. Like all things in the body, balance is key. Too little oestrogen for women can result in irregular periods and prevent ovulation from taking place (impacting fertility). Too much estrogen can drive oestrogen-dominant conditions like Endometriosis, which can also affect a successful conception. Estrogen is also essential from a male perspective, playing a role in male libido as well as impacting reproductive organs, spermatogenesis, etc.  It was only last week that Naturopathic doctor, Lara Briden posted about the discovery of a male "gut–germline axis," where disrupted gut microbiomes in male mice increase their offspring’s risk of low birth weight, stunted growth, and premature death. So a healthy gut matters beyond pregnancy too, and it is not just about the female. 

What has the gut got to do with this? Well, the presence of a specific enzyme called beta-glucuronidase can impair oestrogen metabolism, reactivating unactivated estrogen and sending it back into the bloodstream, causing estrogen excess and all the symptoms that come with it. Women and men need healthy estrobolome for healthy hormones, and if there is dysbiosis in th gut, it is hard for hormones to be balanced.

The gut and neurotransmitter production.

If you wonder where that feel-good neurotransmitter serotonin is made, the answer is largely in the gut. Yes,  90% of serotonin is produced by your gut bugs.  So, when inflammation and dysbiosis are present, and serotonin levels are low, you can imagine how that might affect your mood and how you feel daily. We also know about the bidirectional relationship between the gut and the brain, the gut-brain axis as it is termed. This highway of continuous communication between the brain and the gut is essential in stress management and mental health. Stress can impact the composition of the gut, impairing all the areas above and below. Cortisol, the hormone released during stressful periods, can also disrupt hormone production and the delicate interplay of hormones that govern the menstrual cycle. Stress can also impact sperm quality and increase sperm DNA fragmentation.  

Serotonin is also involved in sleep and peristalsis, which is the muscular movement that pushes food through the digestive tract. A disrupted balance of bacteria can also impact these essential bodily functions, such as how you feel and your ability to function daily, as well as healthy hormones.

The gut and the immune system.

70% of the immune system resides in the gut lining. There are more immune cells living in your gut lining than circulating in your bloodstream, and this is important because the gut is the first point of contact with the outside world and the food and drink we consume. We need a robust gut to absorb nutrients and water from food. When there is inflammation or damage to the gut, it not only affects nutrient absorbtion but also allows pathogens from the environment and the foods we eat to enter the bloodstream. 

Chronic inflammation can decrease progesterone levels, affecting implantation and/or recurrent loss, poor sperm quality and even antibodies.

The gut and nutrient absorption.

To digest and absorb the nutrients from our foods, we need optimised digestive processes, such as adequate enzyme production and HCL secretion, which help break down the food. We need peristalsis - the muscular movement that pushes food through the GI tract to work well to prevent food from lingering around and causing not-so-nice symptoms. The right gut bugs need to be present in the gut to absorb some of these crucial nutrients, too, and imbalances in the gut can contribute to nutrient deficiencies, particularly some of those essential fertility nutrients like B vitamins and iron. We also need a happy gut to effectively eliminate waste from the body; if you are not going to the loo daily, that will also drive a hormone imbalance.

So, you can now see just how many ways the gut is linked to fertility. If you're looking to balance your hormones and reduce PMS or prepare for trying for a baby, then I recommend you start paying particular attention to your gut with the foods you eat and the lifestyle you live. As I always say to clients, we need to continuously work on supporting our guts because of all it is exposed to, and we can do this with our daily food choices. You will feel better, have more energy, and have better hormones, and hopefully, get you one step closer to having that baby.

If you would like to discuss how you can work with me, please get in touch here or book a free 20-minute intro call.


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