From the moment you announce that you’re ready to start a family, everywhere you turn, you’ll find advice on how to improve your fertility. It’s hard to know what really works and what’s just hype.
We’ve all heard about the benefits of probiotics for gut health, chronic inflammation, mental health, and boosting metabolism… and as it turns out, there’s a lot of evidence to support their ability to improve your fertility and reproductive health, too!
In fact, prebiotics and probiotics just might be a woman’s greatest ally in the quest to conceive. That’s because gut health plays an integral role in preventing infections, improving vaginal health, balancing hormone levels, and much more.
Could something as simple as incorporating more prebiotics and probiotics into your diet really be the answer to your fertility issues? Let’s find out!
Fertility and Gut Health: How They’re Connected
If you’re struggling to conceive or have ever explored a group for fertility support, you are probably painfully aware that hormonal imbalances and fertility issues are at an all-time high in today’s society. It may seem almost too simple that improving your gut health could really be the answer to your dream of starting a family.
The thing is most of us have been neglecting our gut bacteria for decades without even realizing it. We assault them with antibiotics regularly… not just through prescriptions when we’re sick, but also through the antibiotic residue in the meat and dairy products we consume daily.
Toss in today’s high-stress lifestyle and processed fast-food diet, and you’ve got a microbiome that’s struggling in a major way. For women, the lack of healthy gut bacteria plays a major role in fertility. Here’s why:
A healthy microbiome supports hormone balance.
When we think about hormonal imbalances, gut health isn’t typically the first thing that comes to mind, but maybe it should be! The little microbes that live in our gut have important jobs to do, including balancing thyroid hormones and estrogen levels.
Many women who suffer from severe PMS symptoms, irregular menstrual cycles, and irregular ovulation often have too much estrogen in their system. And when there’s excess estrogen in the body, it’s sent to the digestive system for elimination, along with other bodily wastes.
The problem is, if the microbiome is unhealthy, that estrogen (and other excess hormones) could be reabsorbed through the intestinal walls, right back into the body. But when there’s a balance of good bacteria in your gut, excess estrogen is removed as it should be, allowing the body to maintain the proper balance of estrogen for optimal reproductive health.
A healthy gut is essential for reducing vaginal infections.
Many women don’t realize it, but the vagina actually has a microbiome all of its own. And its health is directly impacted by the health of your gut. If one is out of balance, the other will be, too.
When the microbiome in the vagina is healthy, it keeps the area slightly acidic. This kills off yeast and bacteria that could lead to yeast infections, bacterial vaginosis, and similar issues.
Unfortunately, the microbiome of the vagina can be thrown off balance, not only by the overuse of antibiotics but also by the use of prescription hormones, such as birth control pills and fertility drugs. Certain spermicides can also destroy the good bacteria in the vagina.
This leaves the area more susceptible to infections. And, while infections anywhere in the body can have a negative impact on fertility, infections in the vagina and reproductive system are most concerning. Infections in the body trigger an inflammatory and immune response, which creates an inhospitable environment for conception.
A healthy vaginal microbiome increases the likelihood of conception.
As we mentioned above, a healthy microbiome keeps the vagina slightly acidic to prevent infections. But it doesn’t stop there. The vaginal microbiome also plays an intricate role in regulating the pH of the vaginal canal to improve your chances of conceiving.
Sperm actually needs an alkaline environment to survive its trip through the vaginal canal. So, cervical mucus is released into the vagina during ovulation to lower the pH for short periods. If pH levels are out of balance due to an unhealthy vaginal microbiome, this process can’t take place.
A healthy gut supports a healthy weight.
Most fertility experts recommend achieving a healthy weight to optimize fertility. Gut health directly relates to maintaining a healthy weight because a healthy microbiome supports nutrient absorption and metabolism.
When your body is absorbing nutrients optimally, you’ll experience fewer cravings for things like empty carbs, refined sugar, and salt. You’ll also feel more satisfied after you eat and be less likely to overeat.
Not only that but when you’re absorbing nutrients more efficiently, you’ll have more energy, which means you’ll be more active and feel better overall.
How Prebiotics and Probiotics Can Help
Probiotics introduce new healthy bacteria into the gut and prebiotics are the food that those healthy bacteria need to thrive. A healthy gut and vaginal microbiome are key for overall health, including fertility health. Think of it as taking a proactive approach to better reproductive health.
By including prebiotics and probiotics in your daily diet, you are supporting various factors that relate to your ability to conceive. You’ll be taking steps to regulate your menstrual and ovulation cycles, support vaginal health, improve your immune function and lower chronic inflammation, achieve a healthy weight, and support sperm motility.
When you look at the big picture, supporting gut health is key for getting your body to the best possible state for conception and healthy pregnancy. Probiotics can help with fertility by optimizing your gut and vaginal health. It really is that simple!
CREDIT: Nicole McCray