Hormones 101: how modern life is wreaking havoc for conception
So we know conceptually that our modern environment isnt great for our health and for conception, but, in order to get ahead of this, its important to understand exactly how and why this is affecting us.
It is the first step to fighting back…
So, how is modern life really causing us problems with conception?
Let's start with hormones, one of nature’s most potent forces, and really the foundation for keeping our bodies working on every level.
As a society we now face more problems than ever with:
Weight and bloating (no matter what you seem to do you just can’t shift it)
Mood and stress levels: anxiety, trouble sleeping, short temper/feeling low
Poor digestive health (specifically gut health)
Allergies, intolerances and generalised inflammation
Irregular periods and conditions like PCOS and Endometriosis
Declining sperm count (yes boys - this is for you too)
If so - it's time to read on….
One of the fundamental drivers behind a lot of these issues is the fact that our hormones are more out of balance than ever before. What a lot of people don't realise, is that in many cases this is caused by the way we now live our lives.
Your hormones are the foundation of everything (not just reproduction) and are delicately balanced. They signal the body to react. When one is significantly pushed off course (too much or too little produced), it can have a cascading and knock on effect which can be very damaging not only for your health overall but crucially it can make conception much more challenging.
Dr Alan Christianson dedicates an entire book to the subject of hormonal imbalance (or Endocrine Disruption) entitled ‘the adrenal reset diet’. He looks at the issue primarily through the lens of weight loss, but within this, there are important broader messages related to how fundamental and interlinked our hormones are to every aspect of our health and functionality. Most crucially how modern life is disrupting this:
‘Our world has gotten more toxic, a lot noisier and faster paced - food has more sugar, less fibre and many more chemicals...we spend less time in sunlight and we sleep less. We take more medications, feel less certain of our financial futures and have fewer friends’.
What he’s essentially saying is that your body responds to these modern day ‘stressors’ and tries to correct for this. The result is an over compensation; often over-producing certain hormones (think cortisol, estrogen, testosterone etc). Which then has its own set of knock on consequences; essentially pushing your body out of balance and leading to all kind of problems - weight gain being just one potential symptom.
THE PRICE WE PAY:
There are a whole raft of health issues associated with your hormones being out of balance, but from a conception perspective, the most common (but certainly not only) conditions linked to endocrine disruption and infertility are Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome and Endometriosis plus ‘unexplained infertility’ (ie. when the doctors can't find an obvious reason but where something is clearly not in line), which has been rapidly on the rise.
In fact PCOS now affects as many as one in five women with half not even realising they are affected!
And I was one of them.
Some PCOS symptoms to watch out for: (worth noting you may get some/few or all of these symptoms - I had barely any symptoms for example)
Irregular periods (long or sporadic cycles) or no periods at all
Developing facial or body hair around your late teens or early 20s
Issues with weight (gain)
Endometriosis (often associated with high estrogen levels) is essentially where tissue you have in your womb (endometrial lining) develops elsewhere in the body causing inflammation and scar tissue. It now impacts as many as 176 million women globally and takes on average six years to diagnose! Once again it is a condition a lot of women don't even realise they have.
- Painful, heavy or irregular periods
- Pain during and/or after sex
- Painful or bloody bowel movements
- Pelvic Pain
- Chronic Fatigue
So what really causes all of this and what can you do about it??
In order to tackle the symptoms of hormonal imbalance we need to really understand what causes it in the first place. As usual there are many causes but let's take a look at some of the main culprits and what you can do about them. Click each link to find out more:
Alcohol and Caffeine
Lifestyle, sleep and exercise
Getting any of these significantly wrong is surprisingly easy to do in this day and age, but, unchecked a build up of these is going to cause you issues sooner or later.
You probably have a sense of what might be hitting you - so take the time and dig in to the issues and links above and have a think - be honest with yourself. It may be predominantly one, but in reality it is likely to be a combination of all. Try and make changes where you can - honestly, I know myself that every little helps. Click here for the ways I changed my own lifestyle to counteract this. Would love to hear your story and help if and where I can.
This article is for informational purposes only. This article is not, nor is it intended to be, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment and should never be relied upon for specific medical advice. The information on this website has been developed following years of personal research and from referenced and sourced medical research. Before making any changes we strongly recommend you consult a healthcare professional before you begin.