With spring just around the corner there’s no better time to hit the reset button on your health. Since spring resembles a time of change and new growth, knowing what you can do to influence your fertility is important if you are planning for a little one in the near future.
We often think of the basics when it comes to preparing for pregnancy, such as eating healthier, exercising, and taking prenatal vitamins, but tend to forget about the things that affect us in a more silent way. For example, you may recognize that the McDonald’s hamburger in front of you might not be the best choice for your fertility, but did you consider the perfume that you are wearing? How about your water bottle? Or the cleaner you use in your shower?
The reality is that we are all exposed to toxins on a daily basis through the food we eat, the water we drink, the air we breathe, and the products we come in contact with. Many chemicals act as potent “endocrine disruptors”, meaning that they have the potential to interfere with our hormones. In the realm of fertility, this equates to the development of certain medical conditions that can make it more difficult to conceive, including PCOS, endometriosis, uterine fibroids, thyroid problems, and autoimmune disorders. Toxins can accelerate the aging of eggs and can impair the development of healthy sperm, which increases the risk of miscarriage, chromosomal abnormalities, and birth defects.
Since we live in a world with more toxins and chemicals than ever before, taking measures to reduce your exposure can do wonders for your fertility.
Here are the most common toxins that you should be on your radar:
1. Bisphenol-A (BPA). BPA is commonly found in plastics for food and drinks, such as in water bottles, Tupperware containers, plastic wrap, and pre-packaged foods. It makes up the lining of cans and is also a main component of thermal cash register receipts and even toilet paper! Several studies have linked high BPA exposure to the development of PCOS, recurrent miscarriage, and low sperm count in men. It has the ability to alter our DNA and has been shown to influence egg development, resulting in fewer and poorer quality eggs.
2. Parabens. Parabens are widely used as a preservative in the cosmetic and fragrance industry. In fact, it is estimated that women are exposed to at least 50 mg of parabens a day through their cosmetics alone! They are also found in many personal care products, including shampoos, body lotions, toothpaste, deodorant, and sunscreens. From a fertility perspective, parabens are harmful because they are xenoestrogens, meaning that they can mimic the effect of estrogen in the body and cause imbalances. Parabens have been associated with fertility problems in both men and women, birth defects, and even reproductive cancers.
3. Phthalates. Phthalates are commonly added into plastics to make them more flexible. They are found in several household products, including soaps, detergents, shower curtains, food containers, and toys. When the word “fragrance” appears on a product label – as in perfumes, candles, and lotions – you can probably guarantee that phthalates are within in it. Many studies have linked phthalate exposure to infertility in both men and women, as they can result in hormone disruption, affect egg and sperm quality, and may cause recurrent miscarriage
4. Organophosphates. Organophoshates are primarily found in insecticides, pesticides, and herbicides in addition to ‘flame retardant’ furniture in the home. They are commonly used in the textile industry during the manufacturing of dyes, varnishes, and adhesives. Organophosphate residues can be found on our produce and in our drinking water. Several studies have shown that these chemicals can not only affect the functioning of our hormones but may also impair the quality of our eggs and sperm
5. Dioxins. Dioxins are produced as a byproduct of many industrial processes, most commonly in the manufacturing of paper and plastics. They are released into the environment in large amounts and can easily accumulate in the body of humans and animals. For this reason they can be found in foods such as dairy products, meat, fish, and shellfish. Dioxins are implicated in many types of cancer and have a direct link with infertility.
While it is not possible to completely eliminate our exposure to toxins, we can certainly take measures to lessen our exposure and the burden that they have on the body. Stay tuned for Part 2 of this article in the upcoming weeks for simple ways in which you can start eliminating your exposure in preparation for conception.