If you are struggling with infertility or recurrent miscarriage then you likely already know these are complex issues. Finding the underlying cause is no easy task as there can be a wide array of potential causes. Today, we’re going to dive into one of those potential causes…food sensitivities.
Most of us are aware that our diet is important when trying to get pregnant. However, what is less common knowledge is that sometimes the food we eat, even super healthy foods, can actually contribute to infertility and miscarriage.
Yep, that’s right, EVEN healthy foods can do damage if you have a sensitivity to them.
So, let’s start by explaining exactly what a food sensitivity is and is not.
Food Sensitivities Versus Allergies
Food sensitivities are not “allergies”. If you have a food allergy then the reaction is triggered by your immune system. This results in hives, itching, swelling, anaphylaxis (swelling in the throat), etc. Allergies can be, and often are, a true emergency.
On the other hand, food sensitivities have much more broad and vague symptoms and are not an emergency. The reaction in a sensitivity stems from the digestive system and is a result of not being able to digest a particular food. Symptoms can range from gas and bloating to headaches and brain fog.
The reaction may come from preservatives or additives found in the food, a lack of the enzyme(s) necessary to breakdown the food, or damage to the digestive system itself. Whatever the cause, food sensitivities can lead to chronic inflammation, gastrointestinal damage, and the inability to properly absorb nutrients.
The Infertility Connection
You’re probably asking…”what the heck does this have to do with me not being able to get and stay pregnant???”
Well, we’re starting to learn that food sensitivities have a strong connection with both infertility and miscarriage. And, we’ve probably only started to uncover the many ways that reactions to food impact our reproductive ability. But, let’s talk about the ways we do know have a major impact…
Inflammation is a biggie. Food sensitivities create chronic inflammation. This inflammation, if sustained, does damage to the GI tract (known as leaky gut) leading to even more inflammation. This reaction results in a type of white blood cell being released that suppresses the release of two important reproductive hormones, luteinizing hormone (LH) and follicle stimulating hormone (FSH). This hormone imbalance disrupts follicle development and ovulation. A double whammy when trying to get and stay pregnant.
Inflammation resulting from food sensitivities may also lead to inflammation in the fallopian tubes. As you might imagine, this may hinder sperm getting to the egg and the egg from being able to move to the uterus. There is also some evidence that endometriosis may be an autoimmune condition (European countries have already classified it as such) and food sensitivities are known to exacerbate these conditions.
Lastly, inflammation resulting from food sensitivities has been shown to affect sperm. Men following food sensitivity elimination diets have seen an improvement in sperm count, swimming ability, and size/shape.
GI Damage is another contributing factor. As you continue to eat foods that you are sensitive to or intolerant of, this does damage to your GI tract. As the intestinal wall becomes damaged, bacteria and toxins are able to leak through into the bloodstream. This is known as Leaky Gut and as you can imagine, it is bad news! Leaky gut can cause a whole host of health problems, not the least of which is infertility and miscarriage.
Malabsorption is a major complication of food sensitivities. Continued consumption of foods you are sensitive to will inevitably cause inflammation and intestinal damage. Since we absorb virtually all nutrients through the intestinal wall, damage to the intestines will lead to malabsorption. In other words, your body will not get the nutrients it needs for itself, let alone to conceive or develop a baby.
Signs of Food Sensitivities
Like we mentioned earlier, food sensitivities can cause a wide array of symptoms. Here is a list of some common symptoms. If you find yourself shaking your head “yes” to a number of these then it might be time to think about a food sensitivity test.
- Stomach pain or cramping
- Chronic constipation
- Chronic Diarrhea
- Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
- Joint pain
- Eczema or skin rashes
- Frequent headaches
- Chronic fatigue
- Trouble losing weight
- Brain fog
- Trouble focusing
- Menstrual disorders
- Hay fever
- Sinus problems