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The importance of Hormone Balance for Your Fertility Health

(Part 1)

We are constantly on the go in this modern world. In terms of productivity, it’s a great thing to have mobile gadgets that enable us to work anywhere and anytime, but in the process, it’s too easy to forget about a more important aspect of life: our health, and how it affects our reproductive capabilities.

One major thing that affects our fertility is hormonal balance, a critical factor in getting pregnant and carrying a healthy foetus to term. If you never had symptoms of hormonal imbalance, it does not mean you are not experiencing it now, as the onset of hormonal imbalance happens gradually. Stress, poor diet and constant exposure to manufactured chemical particles all play a role in throwing our organs into whack, and these are long-term issues.

To improve, it is essential that you take the time to change your lifestyle and your mindset on health, as that is the only way to maintain a healthy hormone balance.

Types of hormones: natural and synthetic

Here’s a breakdown on the types of hormones you should know about:

Steroid hormones – The body produces natural hormones known as steroid hormones. There are five categories of steroid hormones: androgen, oestrogen, progestin, mineralocorticoids and glucocorticoids.

Androgen and oestrogen play a role in sexual development and function; progestin moderates your menstrual cycle and pregnancy; mineralocorticoids regulates kidney functions; and glucocorticoids influence carbohydrate, protein and lipid metabolism, as well as the capacity to cope with stress.

Bioidentical hormones – Bioidentical hormones are copies of steroid hormones. Bioidentical hormones are derived from plants, minerals or animal sources and are considered natural because of this.

These are commonly used for hormone replacement therapy (HRT), birth control and artificial reproductive technology (ART). Hormones like estrone, estradiol, DHEA and progesterone are currently approved by the FDA in the United States. However, bioidentical hormones are not approved in some countries.

Synthetic hormones – These are synthetic hormones produced in a lab, and are patented medications. These types of hormones have a similar effect to our own endogenous hormones. They are also used for hormone replacement therapy (HRT) and artificial reproductive technology (ART). Birth control is the most common use of synthetic hormones.

What causes hormonal imbalance?

Daily stress increases levels of stress hormones such as cortisol, which inhibits the body’s main sex hormones known as gonadotropin releasing hormone (GnRH).

Subsequently, this suppresses ovulation, sexual activity and sperm count. Chronic stress may lower libido, cause adrenal fatigue, thyroid problems and decrease fertility health.

If you are not taking proper care of your diet and ensuring that you are getting the right amounts of vitamin, mineral and fluid levels, your body cannot function properly.

In addition, if you are eating foods that are unhealthy, full of preservatives, dyes and other man-made processed chemicals, you may be causing damage to your endocrine glands, which is closely connected to hormonal balance.

You also need clean filtered drinking water to sustain fluid levels and flush toxins. Xenohormones are man-made chemicals that have the ability to interfere with the natural functions and development of the body. They are absorbed into our bodies via ingestion, inhalation and direct skin contact.

All xenohormones are endocrine disruptors. They interrupt the way natural hormones are produced, metabolised and eliminated, as they mimic our natural hormones and can block other hormones from binding to receptor sites. Common sources of xenohormones include:

• Non-organic meats

• Birth control (pills, shots, rings and implants)

• Solvents and adhesives like paint, nail polish and household cleaners

• Plastics

• Pesticides, herbicides and fungicides

• Emulsifiers in soap and cosmetics

• Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) from industrial waste

Smoking, drugs, regular overconsumption of alcohol, obesity and stress can be major causes of hormonal imbalance in the body, which leads to infertility issues.

Scientists are studying the connections between genetic predisposition and hormonal imbalance. What they do know so far is that there are genetic links to obesity, diabetes, autoimmune disease and cardiovascular disease which may cause hormonal imbalances.

Body fat cells produce and store oestrogen. Women who do not have adequate amounts of body fat may have menstrual cycle irregularities and infertility problems. But those with high body fat, a BMI of 30 and greater, may have elevated levels of oestrogen, and that also contributes to infertility. This is known as oestrogen dominance.

For men, obesity lowers testosterone levels, affecting the function of the testes. The sperm of obese men are often abnormal, increasing the risk for miscarriage and chromosomal defects in a developing embryo. Obese men also often have sexual dysfunction.

Though rare, a tumour in one of the endocrine glands can impair the proper release of hormones. Pituitary tumours are the most common type of tumour that causes hormonal imbalance, even if it is benign.

In short, the endocrine system and the hormones they produce and secrete play a significant role not only in the health of the entire body, but in our ability to achieve and sustain pregnancy.

If our hormones are out of sync, then our reproductive system will not be able to function properly.

In the second part of this topic, we will discuss the types of hormones in the body that are important for fertility health, and know how to detect symptoms of imbalance. Always consult a professional if you have any medical concerns.

By Datuk Dr Nor Ashikin Mokhtar

Published on March 6, 2016, Star Newspaper

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