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  • Writer's pictureClaire Norton MBaCC

Toxins and Infertility: What You Need to Know, a Fertility Acupuncturists Top Tips

Updated: May 19, 2023

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Toxins are all around us, inside our homes, in the foods we eat and in our environment. They are substances that can cause harm to living organisms.


They can be found in various forms, including chemicals, pollutants, heavy metals, pesticides, and even certain everyday personal care products. Toxins can enter our bodies through ingestion, inhalation, or absorption through the skin, and they can accumulate over time.


As a fertility acupuncturist, my aim is to support couples by making informed decisions and getting the best outcome of their fertility treatment. This post was created to make you aware of the hidden dangers in toxins that you may be exposure to on a daily basis so that you can make informed choices for your fertility.


The Impact on Fertility:


A growing number of studies have demonstrated a link between toxins and fertility issues. Both men and women can be affected, experiencing challenges in conceiving or maintaining a healthy pregnancy.


Here are some key ways that toxins can impact fertility:


1. Disruption of Hormonal Balance:

Toxins, such as endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs), can interfere with the delicate hormonal balance essential for reproductive health. EDCs mimic or block hormones, leading to irregularities in ovulation, menstruation, sperm production, and hormone levels critical for successful conception.


Our exposure to endocrine disruptors can undoubtedly problematic, but did you know your grandmothers exposure to specific environmental toxins could be affecting your health years later? There's actually a transgenerational link between a toxin exposure (dioxin) of the grandmother and the grandchildren developing endometriosis and adenomyosis from the grandmothers exposure. This demonstrates the far reaching implications of toxin exposure.


2. Impaired Sperm Quality:


Toxic substances can negatively affect sperm quality, including count, motility, and morphology. Environmental pollutants like heavy metals, pesticides, and industrial chemicals have been associated with reduced sperm quality, which can reduce the chances of fertilization.


Several studies have concluded that exposure to phthalates BPA and micro plastics (such as those in plastic bottles and fragrances), can lead to reduced sperm count and poor motility and sperm morphology in men.


Numerous studies have highlighted a drop in sperm count, motility, and morphology among males in several regions worldwide. The increasing prevalence of EDCs in the environment, coupled with the growing incidence of male reproductive disorders and infertility, raises the possibility that EDCs could be a contributing factor to the decline in male reproductive health.


3. Ovarian Dysfunction:


Toxins can harm the ovaries, affecting egg quality and maturation. Exposure to certain chemicals may accelerate the decline in ovarian reserve, leading to diminished egg quantity and quality. This can make it more challenging to achieve a successful pregnancy, especially as women age.


High levels of BPA have been associated to female infertility. Studies have demonstrated that in an ART setting, high levels of BPA exposure have been shown to have reduced the number of oocytes retrieved, fertilised and implanted


In a 2021 study using IVF. There was an association found between PFOA levels and a reduction in the total number of oocytes and mature eggs retrieved, as well as a decrease in embryonic quality.Several studies have also reported an association between higher plasma levels of certain PFAS in women and longer time to pregnancy and reduced fertility.


4. Pregnancy Complications:


Toxins can also increase the risk of pregnancy complications, such as miscarriages, preterm birth, and birth defects. These harmful substances can disrupt the development of the fetus, affecting its growth and overall health.


Endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) are substances that interfere with the normal functioning of hormones in the body, often by mimicking or blocking their actions.These chemicals can mimic or block the actions of hormones, and can be found in a wide range of everyday products, from food and cosmetics to plastics and cleaning supplies. Unfortunately, exposure to EDCs has been linked to various health concerns, including fertility issues.


It's important to be aware of these sources and to try to limit your exposure to these chemicals as much as possible especially if you are pregnant or trying to conceive. Complete avoidance is unrealistic, by making smart swaps, you can significantly reduce your exposure.


My top tips to reduce your exposure to toxins and endocrine disruptors


  • Avoid pesticides and choose organic foods where possible, this is especially important for those listed on the EWG's 'dirty dozen list'. Research has shown that increased consumption of organic foods is associated with lower levels of pesticides in urine, improved fertility and birth outcomes, decreased BMI, and a lower risk of developing Type 2 diabetes. If organic is unavailable to you, consider 'the clean 15' which is a list of 15 vegetables that have been tested to show really low or no presence of pesticides. You could also consider a baking soda soak and wash for those not on the list.

  • Avoid non-stick cookware, these coatings can contain PFOA, PFOS and similar compounds which have been linked to adverse health and fertility outcomes. Instead choose cast iron pans, stainless steel, ceramic and glass.

  • Reduce tinned food, opt for glass or cartons for your pantry items.

  • Swap all plastic containers and bottles for stainless steel or glass, especially those heated and that contain food/ drink to be consumed.

  • Opt for personal care products that are free of fragrance, parabens and other EDCs. It can be really tricky to identify these chemicals on the label, a great free resource is to use the ‘think dirty’ app or EWG skin deep cosmetic database to find out just how toxic your skincare may be.

  • Use natural, non toxic cleaning products.

  • Consider using silicone menstrual products as a less toxic alternative to conventional tampons and sanitary towels.

  • Remove shoes when entering your home, wearing shoes tracks toxins and endocrine disrupting chemicals such as asphalt road residue and pesticides into your home, in addition to bacteria fecal matter picked up from the floor of public toilets (which is just gross).

  • Filter your water in a stainless steel tank (instead of a plastic jug due to BPA leaching mentioned above), you can add a filter directly to your tap to have the clean benefits of instant clean water. This is suited if you are handy or know a good plumber!


Conclusion:


Understanding the impact of toxins on fertility is crucial for individuals and couples planning to conceive. By recognising the potential dangers and taking proactive steps to reduce toxin exposure, you can safeguard your reproductive health. Prioritising a healthy lifestyle, making informed choices about the products you use, and minimising exposure to harmful substances can all contribute to optimising your chances of achieving a successful pregnancy. Remember, knowledge is power, and by taking control of your environment, you can protect your fertility and lay the foundation for a healthy future.



Other posts that may interest you: All about BPA, including my easy swaps you can make today to reduce your exposure


Resources



Harley KG, Berger KP, Kogut K, Parra K, Lustig RH, Greenspan LC, Calafat AM, Ye X, Eskenazi B. Association of phthalates, parabens and phenols found in personal care products with pubertal timing in girls and boys. Hum Reprod. 2019 Jan 1;34(1):109-117. doi: 10.1093/humrep/dey337. PMID: 30517665; PMCID: PMC6295961.


Chiang C, Mahalingam S, Flaws JA. Environmental Contaminants Affecting Fertility and Somatic Health. Semin Reprod Med. 2017 May;35(3):241-249. doi: 10.1055/s-0037-1603569. Epub 2017 Jun 28. PMID: 28658707; PMCID: PMC6425478.



Khasin LG, Della Rosa J, Petersen N, Moeller J, Kriegsfeld LJ, Lishko PV. The Impact of Di-2-Ethylhexyl Phthalate on Sperm Fertility. Front Cell Dev Biol. 2020 Jun 30;8:426. doi: 10.3389/fcell.2020.00426. PMID: 32695775; PMCID: PMC7338605.


Mei, Y. , Rongshuang, M. , Ruizhi, Z. , Hongyuan, H. , Qiyue, T. , & Shuhua, Z. (2019). Effects of dimethyl phthalate (DMP) on serum sex hormone levels and apoptosis in C57 female mice. International Journal of Endocrinology and Metabolism, 17(2), e82882. 10.5812/ijem.82882 [PMC free article] [PubMed] [CrossRef] [Google Scholar]


Papadopoulou, E., et al., Diet as a Source of Exposure to Environmental Contaminants for Pregnant Women and Children from Six European Countries. Environmental Health Perspectives, 2019; 127(10). DOI: https://doi.org/10.1289/EHP5324 . Available at: https://ehp.niehs.nih.gov/doi/full/10.1289/EHP5324 .


Chiu, Y.H., et al., Association Between Pesticide Residue Intake from Consumption of Fruits and Vegetables and Pregnancy Outcomes Among Women Undergoing Infertility Treatment With Assistance Reproductive Technology. JAMA Internal Medicine, 2018. DOI: 10.1001/amainternmed.2017.5038. Available at: http://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamainternalmedicine/article-abstract/2659557


Mok-Lin E, Ehrlich S, Williams PL, et al. Urinary bisphenol A concentrations and ovarian response among women undergoing IVF. Int J Androl. 2010;33(2):385-393. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2605.2009.01014.x


Ehrlich S, Williams PL, Missmer SA, et al. Urinary bisphenol A concentrations and implantation failure among women undergoing in vitro fertilization. Environ Health Perspect. 2012;120(7):978-983. doi:10.1289/ehp.1104307

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