Couples living with infertility often face very high levels of stress, and this stress can be extremely hard on specific organs in the body – namely the adrenals. Chronic high levels of stress can overwork the adrenal glands and over time, this adds up, leading to lowered adrenal gland function.
Our modern lives are fast paced. Let’s face it, we carry on our shoulders a variety of expectations from ourselves and others that we feel we need to meet daily and, as a result, we overexert ourselves. Lifestyle plus the intense emotion around infertility and the level of care being offered, coupled with physical bodily injury (from surgery, illness, accidents, extreme weight gain or loss, excessive exercise, etc.) and being exposed to environmental toxins all takes a toll on our adrenal health and the body’s ability to react in a healthy way to stress. The toll may result in adrenal fatigue.
The adrenal glands are instrumental in keeping the body fertile and are important for managing stress. Adrenal health impacts hormone balance, thyroid health and immune system health, which are each key players for healthy fertility.
I encourage you to take the time to read two very detailed articles to learn how stress impacts fertility health, plus how adrenal gland health is impacted by stress and in turn impacts fertility. These articles are: Stress and Your Fertility and Is My Adrenal Health Affecting My Fertility? The authors lay the foundation for the physical reaction that happens within the body when chronic stress is experienced. There are a variety of stress management and natural adrenal support health tips there.
Healthy Adrenal Glands for Optimal Fertility
How can we help the body react to stress in a healthy way and enhance adrenal health?
Eat right, exercise, create a stress management plan and consider taking adaptogen herbs. Let me share a bit more…
1. Eat Right! Eat Clean!
Well-nourished bodies handle stress better than malnourished bodies. Clean eating means filling your plate with real, fresh whole foods – eating a variety of fruits, vegetables and whole grains, moderate amounts of lean, organic meats and seafood, dairy, nuts/seeds and healthy fats. Eating clean also means limiting processed foods, salt, added sugar and saturated fats.
A nutrient-dense way of eating, the Fertility Diet, fuels the systems of the body. Eating according to our Fertility Diet guidelines will help to ensure you are getting a variety of whole foods that the body needs for fuel and optimal health. Avoid foods that are low in nutrients and high in ingredients that cause inflammation and free radical formation, stress body systems, and decrease reproductive health.
2. Exercise Daily!
Get in some moderate exercise – walking, jogging, swimming, bike riding, Fertility Yoga – for at least 30 minutes per day. In relation to fertility and adrenal health, daily exercise oxygenates the blood by increasing circulation within the body and reproductive system and enhances the release of endorphins that make us feel better. Endorphin release provides stress relief and helps to improve one’s outlook on life. Daily exercise is a great way to support detoxification and weight management as well.
3. Create a Stress Management Plan
Stress is the #1 reason for adrenal fatigue. Ask yourself, “Do I have a way of managing stress right now?” Examples are – reading a book to escape for an hour, or taking a long bath, calling a trusted friend, etc. These offer short-term stress relief, which is necessary, but consider also learning a practice (or several) that will provide the deep level of relaxation and emotional healing required to quiet down stress hormones.
For those facing infertility stress, I find tips in the following articles to be extremely helpful:
4. Consider Adaptogen Herbs
Herbs identified as adaptogens restore balance within the body by helping it adapt to stress. Ethnobotanist and Herbalist David Winston shares, “They increase the body’s resistance to physical, biological, emotional and environmental stressors and promote normal physiologic function.” Here are three herbal supplements I find excellent for supporting adrenal gland health:
- Adrenal Strength – a supplement that contains medicinal mushrooms and three adaptogen herbs for adrenal health – Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera), Schisandra (Schisandra chinensis) and Astragalus (Astragalus membranaceus). Adrenal Strength provides key nutrients shown to help strengthen the adrenal glands and the immune and endocrine (hormonal) systems.
- Maca (Lepidium meyenii) – supports a healthy stress response in the body. Maca is a nutrient-rich fertility superfood that is nourishing to the endocrine and immune systems.
- Shatavari (Asparagus racemosa) – an Ayurvedic herb that protects the body from the impact of stress, which makes it a useful tool for people with stress-induced infertility.
Continuing Adrenal Health Support Into Pregnancy
The best way to minimize stress and support adrenal health in pregnancy is to take good care of yourself by continuing to:
- eat as well as you did in preparation for your pregnancy
- drink plenty of fluids – teas and water
- stay physically active as much as you can, especially early on in pregnancy
- rest and sleep as much as you possibly can
Simplify your routines and accept help from friends and family when they offer it. Energy levels wax and wane throughout pregnancy and there is no harm in letting others handle stressful situations during this time. The herbs* and Adrenal Strength mentioned in section 4 above, are not recommended for use in pregnancy.
Click this link for Pregnancy Health Resources and for access to our complete library of articles on pregnancy health.
Closing thoughts to ponder…
The bottom line is this: Each and every person is affected by stress emotionally and in their everyday lives in a different way. One person’s heavy or chronic stress may seem mild to another. It is important to diligently work to manage and lower your stress levels every day by revisiting your reactions to stress and by nourishing your body with nutritious foods, adequate rest and scheduled time to immerse yourself in stress lowering activities.
“No one can create anger or stress within you. Only you can do that by virtue of how you process your world.” ~ Dr. Wayne Dyer
*Research points to Maca (Lepidium meyenii) being safe for continued use in pregnancy. This is based on observations of it being eaten daily by indigenous Andean peoples, including pregnant and lactating women amongst the population. Unfortunately, there is not enough clinical evidence to show it is safe for use in pregnancy or during lactation as a dietary supplement.
- Barton-Schuster, D. (n.d.). Is My Adrenal Health Affecting My Fertility? Retrieved from: http://natural-fertility-info.com/is-my-adrenal-health-affecting-my-fertility.html
- Harms, R. (2004). Mayo Clinic guide to a healthy pregnancy. New York: Harper Resource.
- Winston, D., & Maimes, S. (2007). Adaptogens: Herbs for strength, stamina, and stress relief. Rochester, Vt.: Healing Arts Press.