In the past, a common belief was that the only factor which determines ovarian and egg health was age. Based on new studies, we now know that this may not be true.
There are many factors that can have an impact on the health of the ovaries and eggs including environmental factors, hormones in the diet, and stress, just to name a few.
In addition, having healthy fertility is based on many additional aspects to consider, including:
- Proper circulation
- A healthy fertility cycle
- Balanced hormones
- Healthy eggs
Why Is Egg Health Important?
Egg health is one of the cornerstones of healthy fertility. The health of your eggs (ova) can affect whether or not fertilization and implantation will occur as well as the viability of a pregnancy. In the past, it has been thought that we are born with all of the eggs cells we will have for the rest of our lives, hence the reason age can have such an impact on egg health. Egg cells are some of the only cells in the body that do not regenerate… or at least that has been the belief up until now. Recent research has brought up some promising new views on egg production – women may actually produce eggs throughout the reproductive years. Led by Dr. Jonathan Tilly of Massachusetts General Hospital, a group of scientists found stem cells within adult mice and human ovaries that produce new egg cells. (Nature Medicine, 2012).
Regardless of this study’s finding, age still had an impact on the new eggs since the ovaries continued to age, causing the “housing” for the eggs to be less than optimal. Protecting the eggs you currently have as well as encouraging ovarian health through diet, herbs, supplements, and increased circulation to the reproductive system is of the utmost importance.
90 Days: The Cycle of an Egg
Many women who are having trouble getting pregnant have been told by their doctors that their eggs are not healthy, or that their eggs are “old”. The options usually given to these women include using an egg donor, IVF, or adoption. But what most women don’t know is that there are things you can do to help support the health of the ovaries and eggs, but it must be done for at least 90 days to have an impact.
During the cycle of an egg’s journey towards ovulation, there is a window of opportunity, a period of time, when certain factors can affect the health of the eggs that are preparing for ovulation.
The cycle of an egg in preparation for ovulation is around 90 days.
During this 90-day period before an egg reaches full maturation, the eggs are changing and preparing for ovulation. At this time, they are affected by both healthy or unhealthy influences. Contributing factors to egg health are:
- Blood Flow
- Proper oxygenation
- Hormonal Balance
- Nutritional intake
Blood Flow and Proper Oxygenation
Oxygen-rich blood flow to the ovaries is essential for good egg health. Researcher Jonathan Van Blerkom of the Department of Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology at the University of Colorado Boulder examined several studies to conclude that “Findings from several studies indicate that embryos with the highest implantation potential originate from follicles that are well-vascularized and oxygenated.” Blood flow can decrease from lack of exercise, dehydration, and thick blood. To increase blood flow to the ovaries, follow these suggestions:
Get at least 8 8oz. glasses of pure water every day
Dehydration can cause your blood to become thick and decrease circulation in the body, as well as many other issues. Make sure to drink purified water that is NOT bottled in plastic. An easy way to get a head start every morning, is to put a quart of water next to your bed when you go to sleep. You can then drink a quart of water upon rising and you are half way done with your water intake for the day.
Find something to do that includes movement, such as tennis, walking, running, dancing, or fertility yoga. Exercise increases the blood flow in the body, brings fresh blood to all of the cells, and helps to oxygenate the blood.
Get Abdominal or Fertility Massage
One of the best therapies for increasing blood flow to the reproductive system is by massaging your uterus and ovaries. Massage helps to bring fresh, oxygenated blood to the ovaries and removes old stagnant blood. You can have a massage therapist perform abdomen massage or find a therapist who specializes in fertility or Maya abdominal massage. You can also learn how to apply Self Fertility Massage™ and do it in the comfort of your own home. It is best done starting the day after your period has ended and continued all month long, practicing at least 4 times a week. If you are currently trying to conceive, perform the massage techniques from the day after your period has ended up until ovulation.
Hormonal balance is essential for proper egg health. Due to environmental factors, stress, and modern diets, more and more women are becoming hormonally imbalanced. If hormonal balance is off, the eggs may not respond, the fertility cycle gets out of balance, and ovulation may not occur. An intricate hormonal symphony is at play every month in preparation and fulfillment of the fertility cycle. But there is good news; balancing your hormones is possible. Here are some ways to help balance your hormones and nourish the endocrine system.
- Cleanse the system of excess hormones
- Use the fertility superfood Maca
- Reduce exposure to xenohormones
- If your FSH levels are high, the herb Vitex has been shown to help support normal hormone levels
During this window of opportunity, what you are eating can also impact the health of your ovaries and eggs either positively or negatively. It’s up to you. The types of nutrients your eggs depend on are found in a diet dense in nutrition. Check out the Nutrient Dense Fertility Diet for a complete guide about eating for fertility and egg health. Here are some quick food suggestions for supporting egg health:
Top foods for egg health
Dietary and lifestyle habits that may damage egg health
Get The Egg Health 90 Day Checklist
Learn which steps to take to help support your egg health in this easy to follow checklist and email series.
- Learn how to support egg health
- Get a checklist of all the steps to take for the biggest impact
- Begin to incorporate antioxidants for egg health and fertility
- And so much more…
Take a Multivitamin
A major key to supporting egg health and preparing the uterine lining is to take a preconception-specific or prenatal multivitamin. Making sure your body has all of the nutrients necessary is a lot easier when you are taking a multivitamin. My favorites are the 100% Whole food Fertile Woman One Daily Multi for preconception health and the prenatal multivitamin Baby and Me from Mega Food. Synthetic multivitamins won’t have the same effect as multivitamins made from whole foods. It is also a great idea to begin taking a multivitamin specific for fertility health, in preparation for pregnancy, since there are specific nutrients needed by the embryo/fetus before pregnancy can even be detected.
Antioxidants are one of the most important components to having healthy fertility that every woman needs to focus on, especially if you are wanting to support your egg health. Antioxidants help to protect the eggs from free radical damage. Free radicals are able to damage cellular health including the cell’s DNA, this could have an effect on the ability to get pregnant, sustain a healthy pregnancy and may increase the chances of possible birth defects. The ovum (egg) is one of the longest living cells in your body; as the years pass your eggs become exposed and vulnerable to free radicals on a daily basis. This adds up. We created Fertilica Choice Antioxidants to help you get the most important antioxidants for fertility, daily. This blend is great for both men and women and should be a part of everyone’s health program, especially for egg health.
Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10)
In addition to taking an antioxidant supplement blend, studies have shown that CoQ10 Ubiquinol supplementation improves egg health and fertilization rates, especially in women over 35.
In the journal Fertility and Sterility, Reproductive Endocrinology & Infertility Specialist Dr. Yaakov Bentoz, along with fellow researchers, has published research explaining the importance of supplementing antioxidants and “mitochondrial nutrients” like CoQ10. In summary, they share what we know to be true, that oocytes form in each female ovary when she is a fetus in her mother’s womb. These oocytes remain her entire fertile life – some will grow to be ovulated, others will not – all of them being exposed to free-radicals and aging as the woman ages.
Bentov et al., share that “Aging and age-related pathologies are frequently associated with loss of mitochondrial function mainly due to the accumulation of mtDNA [mitochondrial DNA] mutations and deletions.”
As the cells age, they have less energy and oxidative stress causes them to lose their ability to function properly. This results in increased risk for mtDNA mutations, in turn increasing risk for miscarriage, or children being born with birth defects (the various forms of aneuploidy and trisomies are examples). As a result, Bentov et al. “… believe that supplementing the diets of older women with mitochondrial nutrients may result in an improvement of oocyte and embryo quality, and subsequently, better pregnancy outcome.”
There are two forms of CoQ10 (coenzyme Q10), ubiquinone and Ubiquinol. CoQ10 starts off as ubiquinone and then is converted within the cell to the more powerful Ubiquinol. As a woman ages, her body’s ability to convert ubiquinone to Ubiquinol declines. Most all CoQ10 supplements available are in the form of ubiquinone. Ubiquinol is different in that it is the most biologically active form of CoQ10 and does not need to be converted by the body. Ubiquinol is eight times more potent than ubiquinone. For women over the age of 35, CoQ10 Ubiquinol supplementation alongside an antioxidant blend may greatly help to improve egg health over a few months’ time.
L-arginine is an amino acid that has been shown in studies to increase ovarian response, endometrial receptivity, and pregnancy rates in IVF patients who supplemented with large doses of L-arginine. (Published in Human Reproduction 1999).
Fertility superfoods are nutrient-dense foods that help to nourish the body with vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. One of my favorite ways to take fertility superfoods is to put them in fertility smoothies.
Maca is an incredible fertility super food. It helps to balance the hormones, but does not contain any hormones itself. It is able to do this by nourishing and balancing the endocrine system. This is essential in preparing for pregnancy and IVF because healthy hormonal balance greatly contributes to healthier eggs.
Royal Jelly is a fertility superfood which may help to increase egg quality and quantity. Royal Jelly is the food that only the queen bee eats. What makes a queen bee the queen is eating royal jelly exclusively. She was an ordinary bee and then she was chosen and fed royal jelly and became the queen bee who lays up to 2000 eggs a day. It should be taken for at least three months before natural conception or IVF procedures begin.
Royal jelly is the Queen bee’s equivalent of hormonal stimulation. Take daily for best results. Caution: If you are allergic or think you are allergic to bees or bee products, do not take royal jelly.
FertiliGreens is a nutrient rich green powder. It contains antioxidants, minerals, and proteins that help to alkalize the body and nourish your eggs. Take two teaspoons of the powder daily.
We live in a fast-paced world, and being a woman today has many blessings, one of them being a professional life, but are we constantly trying to hurry up and rush things in order to meet all of our commitments?
Reproductive Endocrinologist Dr. Allen Morgan and Fertility Specialist Dr. Douglas Rabin discovered that “stress also has a detrimental impact on fertility. Women who are constantly under stress produce prolactin, cortisol, and other hormones, which can interfere with or even block regular ovulation.”
The types of stress they are talking about range from traumatic, to less cataclysmic but still upsetting situations, such as an ongoing conflict at work.
So, if you are trying to improve your egg health, reducing your stress levels should be a major focus in your life. How can this be achieved? Well, first it needs to become a priority. Book some quiet time in your calendar for yourself. During your “quiet time” you could:
- Go for a walk
- Take a bubble bath (my favorite)
- Cuddle up with a good book
- Get a professional massage or reflexology treatment
- Drink some relaxing herbal tea, such as chamomile, kava kava, or peppermint
- Practice meditation
- Go to therapy/psychotherapy
- See an NLP (Neuro-linguistic Programming) coach
The results of an influential randomized, controlled trial by Professor Sarah L. Berga of the Department of Gynecology and Obstetrics, Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia, concluded,
“A staggering 80% of the women who received CBT [Cognitive Behavior Therapy] started to ovulate again, as opposed to only 25% of those randomised to observation”
Study details shared at the 22nd-annual European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology Conference: 16 women with amenorrhea (absent periods) for 16 months prior to the 20-week trial were placed into one of two groups (random placement) – the first participating in CBT, the second receiving no treatment at all.
You could also create a ‘stress support system’ for yourself so you have a go-to plan when things get stressful. Try to have these habits already in practice so stress will not affect you as much when it does happen. My current ‘stress support system’ is daily meditation, weekly acupuncture, deep breathing and EFT as needed. There are many options to choose from; make yourself a priority and create a plan for yourself you can put into practice right away.
Supporting egg health is important for every woman who is preparing for conception, especially as we get older. There are many things you can do to help support and protect your egg health, but they must done consistently on a daily basis for at least 90 days to have the best effect. Here is a quick summary of how to support and protect egg health:
1. Increase circulation to the reproductive system with massage, exercise and drinking water.
2. Encourage hormone balance.
3. Eat a nutrient dense diet and use supporting supplements such as antioxidants, a multivitamin, L-arginine and fertility superfoods.
4. Create a ‘stress support system’ to help you reduce stress and have a healthier response when stressful situations happen.
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