Valentine’s Day is the perfect time to chat about reproductive health. Whether you have baby on your mind, or simply trying to lead a healthy lifestyle, your sex drive has a lot to inform you about your body’s state of health.
Is Stress Killing The Mood?
As we experience stressors from our daily lives, the adrenal glands which are a pair of small glands located above our kidneys, fire off stress hormone cortisol into our bloodstream. The adaptive stress response is called the fight or flight mode, causing the body to mobilize nutrients and resources to cope with the stressor. However, this adaptability doesn’t play in our favour as stressors pile on from the busy modern lifestyle. Our adrenal glands can become overextended by not getting enough nutrients and time spent in the restorative rest and digest mode.
Over time, when too much time is spent in the fight or flight mode, our adrenal glands require nutrients and resources that are required to produce reproductive hormones.
In men: testosterone improves sperm production, sex drive, bone and muscle mass.
In women: estrogen helps with vaginal lubrication, sex drive and bone density.
Cortisol interferes with the healthy production of these hormones because they are made from the same structural makeup that we acquire from healthy fats, with the addition of several vitamins and minerals such as vitamin C. The excess demand for cortisol production depletes the resources for maintaining healthy hormone balance, which can lead to plummeting sex drive for both men and women.
Not convinced? Stress has measurable effects on couples trying to conceive. The National Institute of Health data suggests high levels of salivary stress markers are correlated with a 30% delay in conception. This is because cortisol also steals nutritional building blocks from progesterone, a hormone that is needed to maintain a healthy pregnancy.
Why Reproductive Health Needs To Be On Your Radar — Especially If You Are Waiting To Have Children In The Future
Your reproductive health is a reflection of your vitality. The body is intelligent enough to know when the environment is not ideal to share with a developing human being. Reproductive function becomes affected as it’s not essential for our survival (fending off immediate danger in our environment). While for the majority of time, a couple would focus on avoiding a pregnancy, once the couple decides to start a family, the eager anticipation can quickly turn into frustration if that pregnancy test doesn’t come back positive after a few months.
The time crunch is real, as research data on modern populations suggests that women in their 30s have about a 20% chance of getting pregnant naturally in a given month. By age 40, the chance of pregnancy is about 5% percent in a given month.
If you want to have a healthy pregnancy in the future, it’s important to deal with roadblocks proactively. This will give your future self the best shot at a smooth pregnancy.
Consider discussing these roadblocks with a qualified practitioner:
- Irregular menstrual cycle/PMS
- Low thyroid function
- Adrenal fatigue
- Mood disorders
Nutrients To Consider For Your Reproductive Health And Vitality
- Fish Oil
- A good quality fish oil packs in a potent dose of omega-3 fatty acids. This is a type of fat that the body cannot produce on its own, so we need to get it from cold water fish such as salmon, sardines, anchovies and mackerel. Having enough of omega-3 can help balance reproductive hormones by modulating hormone receptor sensitivity. The modern diet is lacking in omega-3, which can lead to inflammation in the body. Reintroducing the balance helps with cellular repair, and the health of reproductive cell functions.
- Cruciferous Vegetables
- Cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage and brussels sprouts are rich in sulfur, which helps with hormone balance by ridding the body of excess hormones.
- Leafy Greens
- Leafy greens such as kale, collard greens, green leaf lettuce, red leaf lettuce are rich in folate, which not only helps to prevent neural tube defects in a developing fetus, but also participates in red blood cell formation, immune cell formation and detoxification in the liver.
- Selenium is a trace mineral that regulates a woman's thyroid function and protects cells from oxidative stress. A low selenium status is correlated with higher rates of miscarriage. Consider adding a couple of brazil nuts to top up your selenium intake.
- Vitamin D
- Vitamin D participates in immune and inflammatory response modulations in the body. Research suggests that most women don't have enough vitamin D. The World Health Organization suggests Vitamin D supplementation during pregnancy to help reduce the risk of pre-eclampsia, low birthweight and preterm birth.
- Reishi is high in antioxidants and contains plant-based steroids that are similar to the structure of stress and sex hormones, allowing the body to adapt in times of stress and fatigue
Mood Killers To Avoid
- According to American Heart Association, men should have no more than 37.5 grams and Women should have no more than 25 grams per day-the average adult consumes 77g sugar per day. Excess sugar leads to insulin resistance and can create road blocks such as PCOS and endometriosis. This is because insulin is structurally similar to ovarian hormones, which interferes with healthy ovulation. Men are not exempt from this mood killer, as excess sugar can also create hormonal issues and oxidative stress in men.
- Caffeine puts stress on the liver and the nervous system, making the environment less friendly for conception. Excess caffeine is linked to reduced blood flow, because caffeine constricts blood vessels. Studies suggest there’s a dose dependent relationship between caffeine consumption and time takes to conceive. In the studies, researchers found that women who consume more than 7 cups of coffee experience difficulties when trying to conceive. Consider limiting to under 3 cups (about 300mg caffeine per day).
- Phthlates is a chemical that’s used in plastic production to give products structural flexibility. BPA is often used to provide durability. These are just some of the thousands of endocrine-disrupting chemicals that can change our hormonal balance. According to Human Reproduction update in 2017, the modern man has about half of the sperm count as their grandfathers, which can be linked to the endocrine disruptors that we are exposed to regularly in our environment.
Tahlia Sage is the founder of Tahlia Sage Wellness and a partner of Healing House Natural Wellness, and instructor at the Institute of Holistic Nutrition.
Her coaching practice helps clients achieve their wellness goals by embracing functional foods and healthy lifestyle changes. Tahlia’s own health challenges and weight issues prompted her to pursue an education in nutritional science and holistic nutrition. Tahlia empowers her clients to regain balance with easy, concrete steps.
Disclaimer: If you are pregnant or suffer from any illness, please seek advice from your healthcare provider regarding safe exercise practices. This article is for information purposes only.