Common Root Causes
There are many different faces to PCOS with each woman experiencing her own unique profile. Irregularity of menses, elevated luteinizing hormone (LH) to follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) ratios, facial acne and hair growth, thyroid hormone imbalances, insulin resistance and/or elevated homocysteine levels can all be part of the PCOS patient’s profile. Ovulation is thwarted by higher levels of circulating androgens and testosterone with insufficient production of estrogen and progesterone by the ovaries.
We have successfully treated PCOS imbalances by using both Western and Eastern medical approaches including acupuncture, herbs, lifestyle changes and key supplements.
If you have been diagnosed with "luteal phase defect" this simply means your levels of progesterone hormone is either too low or unstable during the luteal phase of your cycle when it should be higher. A shorter luteal phase (10 days or less after ovulation), premenstrual spotting and drops in your basal body temperature (BBT) can indicate low or unstable progesterone levels. Measuring the stability of your luteal phase can also be checked using diagnostic testing in the clinic.
Acupuncture protocols are relied on to balance reproductive hormones and ensure a stable luteal phase and menstrual cycl. Other natural strategies can include bio-identical progesterone creams, Chinese and Western herbal tinctures and teas, as well as nutritional supplements. Dietary nutrition is also very important. Always ensure you have adequate levels of vitamin B6 and magnesium. Foods like egg yolks, nuts and seeds, green leafy veggies and legumes are chalk full of these nutrients.
A woman's fallopian tubes are very narrow and tiny so blockage in one or both can easily happen. Endometriosis, adhesions or scar tissue following pelvic surgery or infection can cause local inflammation which needs to be resolved before tube patency and function is restored.
In our clinic, techniques are employed to assist in the dissolution of adhesions using anti-inflammatory therapies (diet, herbs and supplements) as well as increase pelvic blood flow (massage, castor oil paks, acupuncture) to encourage healing
Constitutional homeopathic approaches have also proven very effective in re-opening fallopian tubes. Homeopathy, like acupuncture, considers a person’s mind, body and spirit in choice of treatment strategy. By stimulating an energetic shift, homeopathy not only resets a person’s outlook on life but propels the reopening of physical blockages including fallopian tubes.
Typically, women with endometriosis have a history of painful menses and/ or pelvic pain with sexual intercourse. Some women do not have any symptoms. This condition occurs when the uterine lining (endometrium) grows in excess outside of the uterus. Significant inflammation can ensue in the reproductive organs and ligaments to cause adhesions and scar tissue. The immune system can be triggered to also interfere with fertilization and implantation.
Endometriosis represents “an estrogen dominant state” (ie. higher estrogen levels as compared to progesterone) causing excessive growth of the uterine lining. In traditional chinese medicine (TCM) endometriosis is a pattern of blood stasis. Acupuncture can assist in rebalancing hormones and moving Qi (pronounced “chi”) and blood to re-establish a healthy womb.
Other natural approaches to moderate estrogen levels include dietary strategies such as including more dietary fibre and foods high in phytoestrogens, liver detoxification, supplementation, castor oil paks and exercise.
With miscarriage, either there was an issue with the embryo itself or the embryo’s environment could not support its healthy development (eg. too thin a uterine lining).
Naturopathic medicine is at its best searching for obvious and not so obvious root causes. Many possibilities exist starting with insufficient nutrition: a nutrient deficiency like folic acid or zinc can terminate a pregnancy. Vitamin C and bioflavonoids are also critical for strengthening the lining of the womb so that the embryo can attach and stay attached. In addition to key vitamins and minerals, hormones like progesterone need to be high enough to maintain a pregnancy; ensure you are supplementing appropriately (for eg. B6 and magnesium) and eating the right foods to increase progesterone levels.
A pregnancy can also be threatened by the presence of circulating antibodies in women with autoimmune conditions (eg. ANA or anti-phospholipid antibodies). Other immune function disturbances, like increased natural killer (NK) cell levels, can cause poor conception rates or miscarriages. Normally, NK cells are used to protect your body against invading viruses and cancer cells. In early pregnancy, these same cells may wrongly attack a developing embryo by mistaking it for a pathogen.
In our clinic, diet and supplements boost the body’s nutrition ensuring it has what it needs to produce not only a nurturing environment but also a healthy embryo. Selecting the right herbs and acupuncture protocols for your specific imbalances can help to moderate immune system function. Finally, constitutional homeopathy lowers stress and an overactive sympathetic nervous system to increase your chances of conception with a new start.
Fertility can be impacted by the mother's immune system directly (the mother's antibodies attack the growing embryo) or indirectly (the mother's autoimmune condition interferes with some aspect of the reproductive process). From your immune system's point of view, a developing embryo or sperm cell is foreign or 'non-self'. However, to ensure mankind's survival, our body's immune cells are normally programmed to ignore a growing embryo and sperm cell. This normal and healthy immune response is managed by a special type of immune cell called TH2 that make sure the embryo / fetus is not attacked during pregnancy. However, a predominance of TH1 immune cells (vs. TH2) can initiate an abnormal immune response leading to birth defects or the loss of the fetus or impact the health and motility of any circulating sperm.
A woman's autoimmune condition can interfere with nutrient absorption (eg. celiac disease), blood clotting ability (eg. antiphospholipid antibodies in blood clotting disorders and lupus), her menstrual cycle (eg. diabetes) and timing of ovulation (eg. hypothyroidism). Some of the underlying causes of hypothyroidism – like pituitary disorders – can interfere with fertility. Antinuclear antibodies (ANAs) have been associated with infertility and can be present in SLE, Sjogren's and Raynaud's syndromes.
Premature ovarian insufficiency, endometriosis and PCOS include autoimmune components. Cases of unexplained infertility may actually involve unchecked inflammation or circulating antibodies against hormones, clotting factors or the reproductive organs.
A family or personal history of eczema, asthma or an autoimmune condition catches the attention of naturopathic medicine. Strategies are employed to moderate immune response and reduce associated chronic inflammation. Botanicals, drainage techniques and targeted probiotics can assist in reducing TH1 dominance while the identification and removal of food antigens can work towards rebalancing immune function.
There can be large inter- and intra-cycle variability in FSH levels with every woman being different. Understanding a woman's base estrogen levels in addition to FSH helps to assess the vitality of a woman's ovaries.
Traditionally, a slightly high Day 3 FSH level (>10 IU/L) suggests issues with egg quality and ovarian response. Other signs to look for are more irregular periods, shorter menses (where your cycle is consistently shorter by 3-4 days each month), night sweats or hot flashes. As the ovaries become less responsive, more FSH is released from the pituitary as part of a negative feedback loop for detected low estrogen levels. In contrast, a low FSH value suggests a healthy response by the ovaries to stimulatory hormones from your brain's hypothalamus and pituitary glands.
With more women seeking pregnancy over the age of thirty-five, it is important to optimize ovarian health and thus fertility sooner than later for a healthy pregnancy and child.
To encourage healthy eggs and conception, we focus on boosting your body's antioxidant levels using food and supplements. Higher antioxidant levels will support mitochondrial function, reduce oxidative stress and thus damage to your eggs' genetic DNA. Constitutional acupuncture, techniques to moderate stress hormones as well as herbal tonics are employed to support continued healthy functioning of reproductive organs and hormones.
If left untreated, infections can sometimes interfere with fertility. For example, an ongoing bacterial infection such as bacterial vaginosis can change the acidity of vaginal secretions decreasing chances of conception by making it harder for sperm to reach the egg. A chronic chlamydia infection can cause scar tissue and adhesions to form in the fallopian tubes blocking migration of the egg and sperm.
Natural approaches include healthy fats, botanicals, probiotics and hydrotherapy to boost immunity, promote healing and reduce inflammation. Acupuncture and frequent castor oil pak application will also increase pelvic blood flow to bring healing nutrients, friendly bacteria and immune cells to assist in removing scar tissue.
While a woman is born with all the eggs she will ever have, men produce sperm on a continual basis; a man’s living / working environment over the last three months (the time it takes to develop and transport a sperm cell) is very important to a man’s fertility. Sperm quality is a contributing factor for 40% of couples trying to get pregnant. Motility, speed of forward progression, the number of sperm, and the shape and size of sperm can all impact the chances of conception.
Worldwide studies confirm negative trending in the average male's sperm counts as a result of increasing environmental toxicity. Chronic exposure to pesticides, exogenous estrogens and heavy metals in a man's life can definitely impact his ability to make healthy sperm. In our clinic, "toxic load" is considered with other diagnostics should a man present with poor sperm quality or counts. Oral chelating agents, infrared sauna and liver detoxification assist in cleansing the body of toxins and heavy metals. Targeted nutritional therapies also help to increase sperm counts and motility by reducing oxidative stress during spermatogenesis.
Anti-sperm antibodies can be found in either the man or woman's body and are a source of infertility. In males, a historic vasectomy is the common reason for his own immune system's generation of anti-sperm antibodies. These antibodies interfere with sperm motility and/or ability to penetrate the woman's egg. Sometimes in both sexes, IgG food sensitivities can trigger the immune system to mistakenly view sperm cells as pathogens and generate antibodies. Strategies to moderate immune system response and remove antigenic triggers can help in restoring fertility.
In approximately 40% of couples attempting to conceive usual allopathic protocols cannot identify a reason for fertility issues. All diagnostics suggest normalcy: appropriate hormone levels, open fallopian tubes, healthy ovaries and uterus. Yet, a couple's efforts to become pregnant continue to be fruitless.
Perhaps not so obvious causes for fertility issues are undetected food sensitivities, TCM patterns of Qi or blood stagnation, nutrient deficiencies or toxicity from accumulated heavy metals, pesticides or toxins. Looking deeper for nutrient absorption issues (eg. latent celiac disease) or an elevated toxic load (eg. exposure to lead, mercury or radiation) are some of the ways we can identify and remedy apparent cases of infertility.
Because naturopathic medicine considers the whole person (body, mind and spirit) in its treatment strategies, multi-factorial sources of infertility are jointly addressed with positive outcomes. In our clinic, we encourage patients to take small steps to improving diet, lifestyle and spiritual health so that the culmination of many small adjustments rewards one with a healthy conception and pregnancy.