Inflammation and Your Fertility

Chances are, if you are trying to get pregnant, you have probably had at least one late night google session looking up ways to optimize your fertility. Some of the most common recommendations you have likely seen include: eat a well balanced diet, work on reducing your stress, stop smoking and maybe start taking a prenatal supplement. And although these recommendations are valid and important, there is one big factor that is often never addressed, even though it is one of the single most important factors that has helped my patients get pregnant naturally. Want to know what you're missing? It’s addressing inflammation. So, what is inflammation and what can you do about it today to optimize your chances of natural conception? I am so glad you ask! 

Chronic Inflammation is by far one of the biggest obstacles I see when it comes to getting pregnant naturally. So, is all inflammation bad and how do you know if you have inflammation? 

What is inflammation? 

Inflammation is a natural mechanism our immune system uses to help protect us from infections, irritants and damaged cells. This is a NORMAL process our body uses to respond to foreign invaders and irritants. The problem lies, however, when inflammation becomes chronic. 

Initially, inflammation is beneficial. However, sometimes inflammation can cause further inflammation; it can become self-perpetuating even after the initial cause is gone. In this situation, inflammation can be harmful.

Acute/ temporary inflammation is something that many of us can easily recognize. This occurs rapidly and usually lasts for only a few days. There are 5 main signs associated with acute inflammation: 

  • Redness

  • Warmth 

  • Swelling 

  • Pain

  • Immobility

Chronic inflammation, on the other hand, is similar to acute inflammation in it’s appearance however, it can last for several months and even years. It can result from the failure to eliminate whatever was causing an acute inflammation (persistent infection, toxin or irritant). Over time, this chronic inflammatory trigger can not only cause inflammation to persist, but this inflammatory process can lead the immune system to attack healthy tissue mistaking it for a harmful pathogen or irritant. This is also the reason why autoimmune conditions are so often linked to chronic inflammation. Addressing chronic inflammation can not only prevent further tissue damage, but in many causes it can reverse many of the most common autoimmune conditions.

Chronic Inflammation and Fertility 

Recently, more and more research is linking inflammation as a major contributing factor for  reproductive conditions including polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), endometriosis, pelvic inflammatory disease, and recurrent pregnancy loss. Unfortunately, although research has linked chronic inflammation to infertility, current conventional treatments often do not correctly address inflammation, more importantly, conventional treatments often do not address the common root causes of inflammation. But have no fear, Dr. Zen is here! 

At NMD Wellness of Scottsdale, we specialize in optimizing your fertility naturally. One of the most important ways we have successfully helped couples get pregnant naturally is by addressing their inflammation. So how do you know if you have chronic inflammation and what can you do about it? I’m so glad you asked. 

How do I know if I have inflammation? 

Chronic inflammation can not only cause symptoms of redness and pain, like acute inflammation can but, it can also cause your immune system to overreact and has been associated with: 

  • PCOS 

  • Acne 

  • Depression and Anxiety 

  • Food Sensitivities 

  • Digestive Symptoms (gas, bloating, indigestion, constipation, and/or diarrhea)

  • Diabetes 

  • Brain Fog 

  • Obesity

  • Endometriosis 

  • Heart Disease 

  • Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis/ Grave’s Disease

You can also evaluate for inflammation using certain biomarkers found in your blood.. One of the most common biomarkers your doctor can test for is called erythrocyte sedimentation rate (also known as ESR or “sed rate”). Although this can provide some insight on your inflammatory status, it is generally a non-specific marker for inflammation and is not my personal favorite because it can be influenced by fluctuations in estrogen.. Since ESR can be influenced by estrogen, it is not my preferred testing option, especially when evaluating women in their reproductive years. Another common biomarker that can be ordered is known as C-Reactive Protein, or CRP. CRP is also a general non-specific marker for inflammation however, it is not influenced by hormonal fluctuations and is a more reliable measure of inflammation, especially in women. 

5 of the most common causes of chronic inflammation and how to fix it

  1. Sugar 

    1. Sugar is by far, one of the biggest driver’s of chronic inflammation. In fact, did you know that the average American consumes almost 152 pounds of sugar per year! Sugar not only increases our risk of developing Type II diabetes and insulin resistance, but it directly impacts our inflammatory response. In fact, researchers have found that sugar directly stimulates the liver to produce excess free fatty acids which promote pro inflammatory compounds leading to worsening of inflammation. Committing to eating more vegetables and skipping the fast food and ultra processed foods can be a major step towards reducing your inflammation. 

  2. Lack of Exercise. According to new research, our sedentary lifestyle is now referred to  as the “new smoking” because it appears to attribute to as many, if not more, of our most common health ailments. Lack of daily movement and intentional exercise can lead to chronic inflammation. Shooting for 15-20  minutes of intentional exercise, at least six days a week, can reverse many inflammatory processes. 

  3. Stress. Chronic stress, even at low levels, can negatively impact our cortisol production and in turn, contribute to inflammation. Using breathing techniques, setting appropriate boundaries with work, friends and family as well as using mindfulness intentions can be an easy way to battle the stress of everyday life. 

  4. Environmental Toxins. Many of our most beloved beauty products are not only contributing to inflammation but have been identified to contain hormone disrupting chemicals that can directly impact our fertility. In fact, did you know an average American woman is exposed to over 100 hormone disrupting chemicals before 10am? One easy way to start reducing your chemical exposure is by taking the time to identify which beauty products you own that may be contributing to the most risk. Download Healthy Living app to not only identify toxic chemicals but to help you to find great alternatives that make making the switch easy! 

  5. Poor Sleep. If you are having difficulty falling or staying asleep, chances are it’s contributing to your inflammation. In fact, researchers have found that poor sleep quality was not only associated with an increase in inflammation but it was also associated with hormonal imbalances commonly associated with infertility. Making sleep a priority is a must when it comes to reducing your inflammation and improving your chances of natural conception. Aim to avoid all electronic devices (including your phone and TV) at least 20 minutes before going to bed. Begin to dim your lights about 1 hour before bed to help enforce healthy sleep hygiene. 

About the Author: Meet Dr. ZenAlissia Zenhausern- Pfeiffer, NMD, FABNE, (commonly known by her patients as Dr. Zen), is a licensed naturopathic doctor board certified in naturopathic endocrinology and the founder of NMD Wellness of Scottsdale, a premier naturopathic medical practice that focuses on helping women to take a proactive approach to their hormone and fertility health. Dr. Zen has been featured as a lead expert in Forbes, Shape Magazine, and Instyle and is deeply passionate about bridging the gap between traditional and natural medicine in the world of fertility. She works with a variety of hormone related issues including PCOS, endometriosis and unexplained infertility. Her goal is to help more women get back into the driver’s seat of their own health to make lasting transformational changes to their health to bring more cute and adorable babies into this world. Read More About Dr. Zen...