There is nothing more upsetting for a couple who have decided it is time to start a family than to fail to conceive. There are many reasons why conception may be challenging.
In order to optimise the chances of conceiving and having a healthy, successful pregnancy we need to be at our best, physically, nutritionally, and emotionally.
One possible cause of infertility, food allergies, is often overlooked when addressing infertility in both men and women.
Food allergies trigger the immune system and, therefore, increase inflammation and histamine levels.
The hormones involved in the reproductive system are very finely balanced. The presence of inflammation will have an impact on that balance, disrupting the cycle. Histamine has been shown to stimulate ovulation, however, too much will cause the egg to be immature when released.
Inflammation also affects the quality of the mucous in the vagina and around the cervix. The mucous contains a carbohydrate based food to fuel the sperm and is essential in providing an environment that is the correct pH for the sperm. Along with this the fallopian tubes can become damaged affecting the ability to conceive.
The greater part of our immune system, around 65%, is found in the intestinal tract. When our microbiome, the gut bacteria and other microbes, are out of balance, and we have gut dysbiosis, Histamine can be elevated. There may be an excess of histamine producing bacteria, or SIBO (Small intestine bacterial overgrowth), a condition where the bacteria from the large intestine migrate up into the small intestine. SIBO will impair the effectiveness of the enzyme Diamine Oxidase, DAO, which destroys histamine.
When the body is reacting to allergens in food our immune system is over active. A fetus is effectively a foreign body, the immune system perceives it as threat, an invader, and will be triggered to attack. To counteract this, the uterus secretes cells to interrupt this immune response, however, they will be less effective when we have an over-active immune system which is being stimulated by allergies.
In addition, Celiac can trigger what is called Antiphospholipid Syndrome (APS). This is occurs when your immune system mistakenly attacks some of the normal proteins in your blood. During pregnancy APS may result in blood clots forming in the placenta affecting blood flow and nutrients available to the developing baby. This can result in a miscarriage.
In men with celiac it has been found that sperm shape can be altered, causing them to be less mobile and viable.
As mentioned above, food allergies impact the health of our digestive tract. They damage the structure of the gut lining and change the type and number of bacteria present, some of which disrupt or inhibit digestion and absorption.
For some people symptoms such as gas, bloating, diarrhoea or constipation are evident, in others there may be few or no obvious digestive symptoms. In all cases though, they will affect our ability to digest and absorb nutrients from food. In particular B12, fats, and fat soluble vitamins such as A, D and E. It is also important to ensure enough selenium, zinc, folic acid (Vit B9). Talk to your Nutritionist or Naturopathic Doctor about testing for nutrition and advice on any dietary supplements you may require.
Allergy medications are usually anti-histamines. If you are trying to conceive it is important to know that there is a growing amount of evidence to suggest that they reduce fertility and the ability to conceive. A certain amount of histamine is required to ensure that the fetus implants into the uterus.
In addition, some research seems to indicate that anti-histamines reduce blood flow to the embryo. In addition, Research is still being conducted into whether allergy meds are related to birth defects. Some studies suggest there is a link.
Do You Have Food Allergies?
Food allergies can manifest in many ways, and affect almost any system in the body so it not always easy to identify them as causing health issues. Just some of the health concerns that can be triggered by allergies include:
Digestion: Stomach pain, Diarrhoea, Constipation, Gas, Bloating, Canker sores
Skin: Rashes, Eczema, Itching, Dryness, Cracked heels
Pain: Headaches, Muscle or Joint Pain, Cramping, Stiffness
Respiratory: Post nasal drip, Chronic cough, Sore throat, Tonsillitis, Sinus problems, Ear infections
Emotional / Mental Health: Attention Deficit, ADD / ADHD, Memory loss,Depression, Anxiety
Weight gain / loss
Immune system: Frequent Illness, difficulty getting over illness
Hormones: Menstrual cycle disorders, Infertility, Thyroid issues, Fatigue
If you are trying to conceive, it is worth investigating any food allergies that may be holding you back. For both men and women, addressing food allergies in your diet will increase your chances of successful conception and pregnancy.