Trouble Getting Pregnant?
Dr. Osborne: So many women, and men, so so many couples today are out from … They’re trying to get pregnant. They’ve been going at it for six months, a year, longer, and they’re struggling. A lot of women struggle with spontaneous abortion or with miscarriages, and a lot of couples just fail to really, really have a successful go at becoming pregnant or even conceiving in the first place.
There are a lot of reasons for this. One of the biggest one is actually gluten sensitivity. I want to talk about that one because, you know, gluten can cause so many different problems. People just don’t realize how gluten can be so disruptive. But, one of the biggest common causes — as a matter of fact, this was actually studied recently in an endocrinology journal on one of most common causes of what’s called unexplained infertility, meaning the doctors can’t explain why the fertility issue exists — one of the most common causes of this is gluten sensitivity, and I’ll be posting some research up for you as well as we go through tonight, because, again, those of you who are school nerds and like to really, really go back and read the literature and take the studies and print them out and take them to your doctors, you’ll have that information with you as well. As a matter of fact, one of them I’m going to go ahead and post up now on gluten and spontaneous abortion. There you go. So, that should be coming up into the feed.
Now, we’ve got a few more people chiming in. Wow. Serbia. All the way from Serbia. Maja from Serbia. We’ve got another Floridian, Marilyn, all the way from Orlando, Florida, the home of the mouse. Welcome, Maja and Marilyn, to tonight’s episode of Pick Dr. Osborne’s Brain. So, again, we’re talking about gluten and fertility. One of the reasons we know gluten can cause infertility issues … There’s actually several components, but one of them is that gluten actually causes a hormone disruption. So, we can get an actual abnormal production of estrogen, progesterone hormones, that in and of itself can create a fertility issue in women. Now, it can happen in men too, but I’m going to start with women. We’re going to talk about both men and women, but I want to talk about women first. Ladies first, right?
So, gluten can create a hormone disruption that can lead to an ability to maintain a healthy pregnancy, or an inability to actually become pregnant. So, again, progesterone and estrogen are two of the predominant sex steroid hormones that are necessary for viable pregnancy, as well as, there’s another one called follicle stimulating hormone, or FSH, which is produced in the pituitary gland, and there have been studies that show that gluten can disrupt the production of FSH as well. So, there are a number of different studies showing how gluten can affect different hormones in different ways, creating an environment that’s not favorable either, one, for pregnancy, or two, for conception itself, or for carrying to full term. In essence, we see some people that can’t get pregnant at all, and we see some people that get pregnant and then end up having a spontaneous abortion or a miscarriage.
We got Len chiming in all the way from Taiwan. Welcome tonight, Len. Welcome to the Pick Dr. Osborne’s Brain program. So, again, one of the functions or one of the issues with a fertility problem has to do with how gluten can disrupt hormones in and of itself. So, gluten can be a hormone disruptor that can create this kind of problem. Now, I’m going to post some research up for you as well on this topic, because again, it’s an important aspect to what you need to understand. And this one was published in the Journal of Clinical Gastroenterology talking about how gluten contributes to infertility. So, again, in one case, we see infertility meaning incapable of becoming pregnant, in another case, we see spontaneous abortion, which is, again, not the same thing, per se, as infertility. So, two somewhat different mechanisms, and I’ll post that link up for you as well. So there you go.
But, one of the other big, big factors, and I want to really dive into this one deep, is that gluten can actually contribute to severe malnutrition, malabsorption. Especially those that have a diagnosis of celiac disease. Actually, some research studies are now showing that one of the ways to diagnose celiac disease, or what’s called atypical celiac disease, is by identifying women who have had multiple miscarriages or multiple spontaneous abortions, meaning that if you fall into that category, some researchers are now saying you should be automatically screened for celiac disease. In essence, the two go hand-in-hand, and there’s such a high correlation, that you should be screened out if you’ve got that in your history.
One of the reasons why is that gluten can cause malabsorption and digestive disruption. So, think of it as vitamin and mineral deficiencies. Vitamin and mineral deficiencies can create a lot of fertility issues, and some nutrients can actually create, again, an infertility issue. Particularly, let’s talk about a few of the ones that are notorious for doing that. One of the nutrients that can disrupt your ability to get pregnant is zinc. Zinc is necessary for regulating a number of the different hormones involved with gestation, and that’s from the woman’s side. Zinc is also, from the man’s side, is necessary for testosterone formation. So, we can have a testosterone issue in a man, where they’re not producing adequate … Their sperm counts can start to drop as a result of lower testosterone levels, and so that can come with a zinc deficiency. So, zinc is one of those really common causes of what can contribute to infertility as well as, again, in women.
Zinc is also important in men for sperm motility. Sperm motility … I want to talk about another point before I get into that. So, a lot of women have been told it’s their fault. Like, “Okay, it’s your fault that there’s not a pregnancy,” or, “that there’s not a viable pregnancy,” but oftentimes, it’s not the woman’s fault. A lot of times it can be the man’s fault too, meaning it’s the man’s poor nutrition or the man’s lack of good, vibrant health that’s creating the fertility issue, and not necessarily the woman. A lot of times, women are quick to be blamed, and I want to be very, very clear that oftentimes it can be men.
Now, there are three things that can be checked in a man in terms of fertility. Three primary things that can affect it. Number one is sperm counts. So, how much sperm that a man can make in an ejaculate. And if that number’s too low, then it’s harder, obviously, to get pregnant. And zinc can play a role in a man’s capacity to produce adequate sperm. So, the lower your zinc count, the lower quantity of sperm that a man’s going to actually produce.
But, there’s another measure of sperm health called sperm motility. So, sperm motility, M-O-T-I-L-I-T-Y. Motility and zinc. So, zinc is responsibility for the little tail on the back of the sperm that whips like a fin, and it helps propel the sperm toward the egg. And so if there’s a zinc deficiency, that tail won’t whip as strongly. In essence, that man will have a slow or a poor motility, meaning the sperm don’t move very well. So, you know, zinc can affect the sperm in multiple ways. It can create low sperm count, but it can also create weak swimmers, so to speak. So, the sperm can’t make the journey, can’t travel through the journey, because they just don’t have power. They don’t have the kicking power.
Then, there’s another component to healthy sperm or to non-healthy sperm, and that has to do with their ability to survive the trip. So, we’ve got sperm count, then we’ve got sperm motility, then we have sperm viability, which is how well the sperm survive the journey. So, zinc can also affect viability, because zinc drives it. There’s an antioxidant system that protects the sperm from damage, so, when they’re trying to make the journey and they’re trying to swim, they have to have a lot of antioxidant within them to survive that trip, otherwise they die, or the cell lysis too prematurely. And that system is called SOD, superoxide dismutase, and it is zinc dependent.
We need zinc to drive that antioxidant system, to protect the sperm as they’re making the journey. We need zinc for the tail of the sperm so that the sperm can whip with strong swim to get through the journey, and we need zinc for testosterone so that we can get good, viable counts of sperm. So, again, I want to be very, very clear, it’s not always the ladies, and sometimes it’s the fault of the man, and zinc deficiency is one of the more common nutritional deficits that we’ll see creating a fertility issue in men.
Now, another one is coenzyme Q10. You may have heard of CoQ10 before. CoQ10 is also very, very important for viability of sperm and for sperm counts, so, again, very, very important that men be evaluated and we don’t just jump to saying, “Oh, it’s the woman,” and, “It’s her fault that there is not a capacity for a healthy pregnancy.” We got to look at the man, and the quality of his nutrition, the quality of his sperm counts, and his viability and his motility. We have to look at all of those things, because those all play just as equal of a role and just as equal of a factor in this puzzle of fertility.
And again, let’s think about this from the perspective of how many people are actually affected. In the US alone, there’s an estimated 6%-12%. So, 6% as a general rule of thumb are infertile and seek out fertility help, meaning different types of medical help to actually conceive. This is one of the reasons why we see such high rates of multiple children being born, is because so many more people are now going to doctors to get help, in vitro fertilization, et cetera, where we’re seeing more and more multiple births happen as a result of that type of help. But there’s another … So, 6% or so, and they’re an estimate. Somewhere between 6% and 12%, but at least 6% are infertile, and then there’s another up to 12% that maybe they’re not infertile, they can get pregnant, but they can’t carry a pregnancy to term. So, they really, really struggle with keeping a pregnancy to term.
So, I mean, think about that in terms of how many people you know, if it’s as high as 12%, that means if you’re in a room with 12 people, at least one of those people in that room are having this problem or having this issue. That’s how prevalent it is. So, there’s a strong likelihood that you know somebody who’s struggling with this problem. So, again, fertility issues can be caused as a result of gluten sensitivity, and actually many doctors are now saying that, look, if you have a fertility disorder, and again, one of the classifications for infertility is called unexplainable infertility, then you should be screened for gluten sensitivity or celiac disease.
In essence, that’s now being talked about in medical literature, and it’s being now a recommendation for doctors to push forward and investigate. So, if you fall within that category of multiple failures or inability to carry to term multiple times, you probably ought to have your genetics tested for gluten sensitivity. That would be the quickest and easiest thing that you could do right away really quickly, is have your doctor run your HLA-DQ Alpha 1 and Beta 1 genotype pattern to see whether or not gluten sensitivity is an issue with you, because if it is, fertility may be as easy as changing your diet. I’ve actually seen this happen in a number of women, where once we got their diet dialed in, they followed the No Grain No Pain protocols, and lo and behold, guess what happens? Now they can get pregnant, and it’s not miraculous, it’s just simply avoiding foods in the diet that create enough hormone disruption and enough inflammation that make a viable pregnancy very, very challenging and very, very difficult.
So, again, gluten can be a major, major contributing factor here. Now, nutritionally, I’m going to put up a very, very complex looking diagram for you, you can see next to me there. This diagram is, again, it’s very complex looking, but it’s actually very simplistic, in that there are certain nutrients within this diagram — you’ll see the arrows and where the arrows travel — there’s certain nutritional deficiencies that can create infertility for different reasons and different systems. So, for example, vitamin A. Vitamin A deficiency’s necessary for proper egg formation. Vitamin A deficiency can also create an inability for the tubules to be healthy.
In essence, the epithelial cells within a female’s ovarian tubes can be compromised as a result of vitamin A deficiency. So, again, one nutrient, one simple nutrient, right? Can create one type of problem. Another nutrient can create another type of problem, and a lot of people that struggle to get pregnant, a lot of couples that struggle have multiple types of nutritional deficiencies that they’re dealing with. So it’s not just a … Only a vitamin A deficiency, but in some cases, it’s a zinc deficiency, it’s a vitamin A deficiency.
Many of you may recall, I think it was in the 1980s, where folate was being added to bread and cereals and pastas because neural tube defects, which are a form of birth defect, were on the rise. In essence, the problems in the US were so great that the government came in and said, “Look, we need to start adding folate,” and actually they didn’t add folate, they added folic acid which is a synthetic version of folate, to a number of food products to help to reduce the risk of birth defects in babies that were being born, because, again, neural tube defects were a really, really common type of birth defect.
We also had zinc. I mentioned zinc deficiency earlier, but some women will carry a pregnancy even with being zinc deficient, and babies will be born with lower IQs, they’ll be born with higher prevalence toward allergies, they’ll be born with smaller head circumferences, they’ll be born smaller and not to full sizes as a result of something like a zinc deficiency. So, again, some of these nutrients can cause the infertility aspect, but some of them may not be the infertility itself, it may be that they lead to a less-than-desirable outcome of a not-so-healthy child or a not-so-healthy baby. So, very, very important that nutrition be monitored during gestation. If you’re able to get pregnant, you definitely want to ask your OB-GYN to run testing to measure your vitamin and your mineral status, so that if you are low, if you are deficient, you can support that, either with a change in diet, or with a change in supplementation to get your levels to a point where they’re doing better, where they’re higher and you’re capable of not only sustaining the pregnancy, but capable of delivering a healthy baby as opposed to a sick one.
So, again, this diagram, if you want to get access to it, you just have to be a fan of the Dr. Osborne fan page, and you can actually download this diagram. And if any of you are interested in the references, there are about 25 references that go with this diagram. It’s on the other side of the page, which I’m not putting up on the screen, but this diagram comes with about 25 different medical references. So, again, if you’re going in to talk to your doctor, and having an intelligent conversation where you really want to broach the topic of nutrition and fertility, this diagram can really help you get the conversation started without your doctor looking at you like you have horns growing out of your head and saying, “What are you talking about? Nutrition has nothing to do with a viable pregnancy.” It has everything to do a viable pregnancy.
So, again, fertility issues oftentimes can be caused as a result of malnutrition. Gluten can cause that malnutrition, but so can a poor diet, so can a lot of other things. A leaky gut, intestinal infections. There are a number of different things that can contribute to the maldigestion or malabsorption of nutrients, which can, again, can lead to a fertility problem. So, it’s not just gluten, per se, but it’s also, again, the consequence of gluten sensitivity can be malnutrition.
So, again, many women, many men, are unhealthy when they’re going into a relationship, their health is already somewhat compromised, and then they begin to try to have children, and in some cases, look, the body’s an intelligent design, doesn’t allow for a pregnancy because it knows it can’t support a viable pregnancy. So, it would rather not have a pregnancy where a baby has that potential to be born in a damaged way or in a less-than-healthy fashion. So, in some sense, our bodies are intelligent.
Many people … Before investigating this nutrition, I think it’s very, very important to understand, you should investigate nutrition before you investigate fertility treatment options. Because, if you’re going and you’re taking hormones to try to induce a pregnancy or doing things like in vitro, the reality is is not only do you run a higher risk of having multiple babies, but if you’re malnourished and now you’re trying to carry multiple babies, and you’re already malnourished, that’s going to pass through. That’s going to potentially increase the risk. Again, we can’t guarantee the future, but that’s going to increase the risk of potential birth defects and other problems, including developmental problems. Some children are born with developmental delay issues and other things as a result, again, a result of malnutrition during pregnancy.
So, your first step shouldn’t be running to the fertility expert to induce a pregnancy, the first step should be having your nutritional status evaluated appropriately, so that then you can address that and then, if you’re still struggling … Because there are other reasons for fertility problems beyond nutrition and beyond gluten sensitivity. I don’t want to come across as saying that all fertility issues are only gluten and only nutritional deficit problems, because that’s not true either. Some women have abnormally shaped sex organs. Some men have inadequate ejaculate, not because of a malnutrition issue, but because of a genetic defect. So, again, there are other potential issues and reasons why fertility problems can exist, you know, but barring those aren’t the issue, nutrition should always be looked at first, because again, it’s such an important factor and such an important component to not only the conception but also through the gestation and the carrying of the child to fruition and to a healthy outcome, a healthy birth.
And so, this should be the first thing that’s looked at. This should be the first question that’s asked as opposed to, again, to running and trying to intercede. Because again, this is my opinion, and if you’re offended … You know, I’m not really sorry if you’re offended, but the reality is this. If you’re malnourished and you’re trying to have a baby, you’ve got to get yourself right before you’re deciding to bring another child into the world. Because if your health is already compromised and poor, and you’re bringing a baby into the world, it’s going to be a lot harder to take care of that baby. And if your health is compromised, you run a much greater risk of bringing to life another human being whose health is also going to be compromised.
So, again, take care of yours first. It’s the same principle in the airplane. Put your mask on first, you know, before you try to become responsible for another human life. In that way, we can maximize and optimize your outcome as opposed to getting through this and then struggling and really, really having a major, major health issue. So, again, look at the issue as a nutritional issue first, and whether that’s food or whether that’s vitamin and mineral deficits, it should be something that’s investigated and looked at first and foremost.
Now, I’ve seen a couple of other cases, really, really unique things. I think I’ll share a couple of stories with you. I had one woman, I had, she came in to see me. Actually, she had a fluoride toxicity. There was so much fluoride in her city’s drinking water that there was a blue ring around her bathtub. Fluoride can cause a blue ring around the bathtub. There was a faint blue ring around her bathtub as a result of the fluoride toxicity of her water. And it was the fluoride toxicity, for her, that led to thyroid problems. So, this is one of those other issues where if you’ve got low thyroid or not, I mean, gluten induced thyroid dysfunction, that can create an infertility problem too. Hormone disruption. But in this case, in this story, this woman had a fluoride toxicity.
Fluoride interferes with iodine, so what happens when you don’t have adequate … Or, when you have a toxic level of fluoride, and that competes with iodine into your thyroid? So, it actually can cause you to produce a thyroid hormone that doesn’t work as efficiently or effectively. Your body can substitute fluoride for iodine into T4, which is the thyroid hormone, and that can lead to a lot of problems. In this particular incidence, in this case study I had, you know, this woman was able to conceive as soon as we found out about the fluoride levels in her water. We analyzed it, and as soon as we put a specialized type of filter in and we got the fluoride out, she was able to have a health baby.
Again, in that case, it didn’t have anything to do, necessarily, with gluten. It had so much more to do with fluoride toxicity. So, that brings up another point, which is if you’re in a municipality where the water fluoridation is high, where there’s a lot of fluoride being added to the water, you might consider doing a test and measuring the level of fluoride in your water. You might also ask your doctor to perform a type of test called a halide test. Halides are the measure for … It measures iodine, it measures fluoride, and it measures bromine. Those are all considered to be halides, and basically, they’re elements that compete with each other in your body. So, if your fluoride is high and your iodine is low, your body can act as if it’s hypothyroid, and that can create an infertility issue.
If your bromine levels and your fluoride levels are both high, again, that can create a thyroid dysfunction that can contribute to a fertility issue. So, using this type of testing to measure to see whether that’s a problem can sometimes be helpful as well. All right. Looks like … Okay. I’m going to open it up for questions at this point. So, if you’ve got questions that you’d like to ask me tonight about this issue, about any of these components, I’m going to open the field wide open for any question that you might have. Looks like we’ve got Marilyn … Actually, no, Len from Taiwan is chiming in, and we’ve got Susan. You’re welcome, Susan. I appreciate your feedback.
So, we’re going to wait for some of you to post up your questions. Then, tonight’s show’s a little bit more limiting than what we usually have, because fertility, a lot of people get … You know, it’s such a specific topic, so there might not be as many questions as we typically have. But again, if you have a question, feel free to type it in, and I’m going to go ahead and get it answered tonight.
Those of you who also, if there’s a topic that you’d like to see me cover on our Monday night Pick Dr. Osborne’s Brain sessions, I’d love to hear from you. We want to hear what topics you’d like to see covered. We’re in the process of mapping out our next month and picking topics. So, if there’s something you’d like to see us cover, you know, let us know. We want to take care of you and make sure that we get that information covered for you. So, again, if you’ve got questions, go ahead and punch them in. Doesn’t look like we’ve got a ton of questions tonight, so, I’m going to go ahead and just double check. Sometimes they take a little bit of time to push through to me.
Okay. One more study I wanted to show you, as well. Pregnancy complications and gluten sensitivity. So, I’m going to put this up in the feed for you, and again, that way, if you want to go back and print these out, these research studies, you can print them out and you can take them to your doctor, and really begin a meaningful conversation. Because a lot of times, what I’ve seen is people end up coming in to my office wanting nutritional help because their other doctor wouldn’t even have the conversation with them. So, sometimes what helps is just going into the office and being armed with data, being armed with the research that’s going to help you. It’s going to help you. Put that in front of your doctor, and that’ll maybe open up that conversation a little bit more aggressively. I say “aggressively”, I just mean openly, not that you need to get aggressive with your docs.
Okay, it looks like we’re out of questions. We didn’t really have a ton of you asking questions tonight, so, we’ll be back next Monday for another episode of Pick Dr. Osborne’s Brain. And hope you have a wonderful week and we’ll see you then. Take care.