Fertility and Naturopathic Treatments. Research supports how to increase fertility naturally in women using herbal medicine, acupuncture, nutritional supplements, dietary changes, natural hormones, and other integrative naturopathic therapies.
As a licensed Naturopathic Physician practicing in Vancouver, I understand the impact of infertility in this city. Infertility in Greater Vancouver affects approximately 10-15% of reproductive-aged couples. It is defined as the failure to conceive (regardless of cause) after 1 year of unprotected intercourse. Infertility is caused by male and/or female factors. Male and female factors each account for approximately 35% of cases, while another 20% of cases are believed to have multiple causes involving both the man and the woman.
Causes of infertility in women
The failure to ovulate is the most common infertility problem I see as a Naturopath. This problem most often involves dysfunction of the hormonal feedback system that links the hypothalamus and pituitary glands in the brain with the ovaries. This is commonly seen in women who have a history of irregular menstrual cycles that fluctuate from 35 days to 2-5 months, sometimes associated with a history of dysfunctional uterine bleeding or prolonged periods of breakthrough bleeding.
Some of women I have treated have symptoms of excess testosterone, such as acne, facial hair, and baldness. Obesity is also a frequent factor. I find many of these women have polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), a complex syndrome that involves problems with blood sugar and insulin regulation as well as the ovulation problems – I have been very encouraged with how well naturopathic medicine works for treating infertility in women with PCOS. Additional causes of female infertility include problems with the structure or function of the cervix, which account for 5-10% of infertility in women, and problems with the uterus, which account for 2-5%. Smoking, marijuana use, alcohol abuse, and extreme weight loss or gain are each associated with increased risk of infertility in women.
Commonly overlooked factors that decrease women’s fertility
Although rarely addressed by conventional practitioners, a number of other factors are important underlying causes of infertility. Here are the additional factors that I address as a Naturopathic physician in my Vancouver practice:
- Stress has been found to significantly reduce the probability of conception.
- Environmental pollutants such as heavy metals and endocrine disrupting chemicals can compromise the tightly regulated hormonal systems.
- Nutritional deficiencies: Essential fatty acids, certain vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients like flavonoids are essential for normal ovulation and a healthy reproductive system. Women who have increased intake of iron and multivitamins have increased fertility.
- Poor diet: Studies have shown that certain dietary factors are linked to infertility. Diets higher in trans-fats, animal protein, and glycemic load are associated with decreased fertility, while diets higher in mono-unsaturated fats and vegetable protein, and lower in glycemic load, are associated with increased fertility.
- Immune dysfunction: Women who suffer from autoimmune disorders, asthma, and other diseases characterized by body-wide inflammation often have trouble conceiving.
- Medications, such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, like Tylenol and Aleve.
The Naturopathic Medical approach to increasing fertility
As a Naturopath, addressing these underlying conditions is part of my natural approach to assessing and treating infertility. Diet and lifestyle issues are primary, and therefore many Naturopathic infertility treatments involve adjusting a patient’s lifestyle choices and diet to optimize fertility. Supplementation with certain nutrients and herbal medicines are also commonly used. For example, in addition to testing for and treating nutrient deficiencies, I often incorporate botanical medicines into women’s infertility treatment plans. These may include herbs known to relax the tissues, increase blood and lymph flow to and from the reproductive organs, alter hormone function, stimulate circulation, decrease congestion in the pelvic region, and increase resistance to stress.
Acupuncture is another excellent natural option that I use for improving women’s reproductive health and has been found to be helpful for enhancing fertility. Studies indicate that acupuncture may improve ovulation, help regulate function of the nervous, hormonal, and immune systems, increase ovarian and uterine blood flow, improve metabolism, and help with depression, anxiety and stress.
In addition to offering the natural treatments mentioned above, I also spend more time and effort providing support to my patients, including emotional support. I encourage patience since conception can take time and it’s easy for women with fertility issues to become discouraged.
When it comes to fertility, there are many factors that can influence a woman’s ability to become pregnant that are not addressed within the conventional medical system. As a Naturopath I am happy to offer my time, support, and knowledge to help increase fertility naturally in women using food, medicinal plants, nutrients, and natural hormones which help optimize the body’s interconnected systems involved in reproduction, including the hormonal, immune, and nervous systems.
If you want to take a more natural and holistic approach to your fertility problems, feel free to contact me, I’m here to help.