Jodie Peacock |

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What does your AMH level really tell you?

AMH (Anti-mullerian hormone)

AMH is a marker that is tested to assess your ovarian reserve. AMH is hormone that is produced by cells in your ovarian follicles called granulosa cells. The production of AMH is at its peak in the early stages of egg development before an egg reaches about 4mm in diameter. It is also thought to be secreted by eggs that haven’t started the development process. Since follicles are continually developing in the ovaries the amount of AMH is generally pretty consistent, so it can be measured at any time during you cycle. The AMH blood level is thought to reflect the amount of your egg supply or “ovarian reserve.”

 

AMH secretion: image sourced from https://www.drmalpani.com/knowledge-center/articles/

 

How does aging impact AMH?

As we age the level of AMH in the blood decreases likely indicating the declining number of follicles that remain in the ovaries. In women with PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome) who have high numbers of follicles developing we can see a higher the normal AMH levels

When does AMH level become more relevant to your fertility?

Your AMH level generally won’t be tested until you begin discussing the option of IVF treatment. A study by Dr. Sherbahn looking at AMH levels and IVF success rates found that generally women with a higher AMH level will have a better response to ovarian stimulants and a higher number of eggs retrieved. This resulted in less cancelled cycles, higher pregnancy rates, more embryos being frozen and more live births. Dr Sherbahn found that a low AMH score on its own in women under the age of 35 was not predictive of poor IVF outcomes.

What AMH doesn’t tell you is about the quality of eggs. For you to have a successful pregnancy you really just need one healthy egg. So even if your AMH level is low this doesn’t mean that you won’t or can’t get pregnant.
There are several dietary and lifestyle changes you can make to improve your egg quality which will be especially important if you do have a low AMH value.

3 Easy to add foods that will increase your fertility naturally

1. Spirulina

Spirulina is commonly referred to as blue-green algae. It is an exceptionally nutrient dense plant food source, and it has been shown to be excellent for supporting healthy fertility and pregnancy.
The protein in spirulina is a high-quality protein, superior to most other plant proteins. It contains 60-70 percent protein, which is around three times higher than beef, and is in a highly digestible form.
It is available in tablet or powder form. The powder can be added to soups or smoothies.

2. Berries

Berries including strawberries, blueberries, blackberries and raspberries are an important part of the fertility diet because they provide considerable amounts of antioxidants. Antioxidants are used in the body to protect cells from damage. Antioxidants help to protect your fertility by defending the eggs and sperm from DNA damage and helping to keep tissues of the reproductive system healthy. Berries are great in smoothies, by themselves, on top of salads and as a quick snack. It is important to buy berries organic, as they are heavily sprayed with pesticides when grown conventionally.

 

3. Raw Pumpkin seeds

Raw pumpkin seeds are a high source of zinc, a mineral that is essential for fertility particularly male fertility. In North America zinc deficiency is a very common mineral deficiency and can result in infertility. Zinc is important for sperm health, testosterone levels, the immune system, and healthy DNA.

Pumpkin seeds are a source of phytosterols that help support the immune system and healthy cholesterol levels. Pumpkin seeds are also a source of protein, magnesium, manganese and copper which all play an important role in optimizing your health. Pumpkin seeds help to protect sperm and eggs from chromosomal damage which will increase fertility naturally. To help increase natural fertility, eating 1 tablespoon of pumpkin seeds daily will play a significant role. The seeds can be eaten on their own or added to salads, pastas and many other dishes.

Please let me know what topics you would like to have included in future blog posts.

3 ways to reduce the impact of stress on egg quality


Have you been thinking you would like to start a family? Or maybe you already have one child and are thinking about having another. If you are then please read this post.

Our current generation of children is the first on record that isn’t expected to have a longer life expectancy then their parents. For me as a practicing Naturopathic doctor who focuses on preventative health care this is a very scary statistic.

The good news is however if you spend 90 days or 3 months before you conceive improving your health, hormonal balance and the environment that your egg develops in, this can have a dramatic impact on the life long health of your future baby.

The development cycle for your eggs takes about 90 days, which is why it takes at least this long to have a positive impact on improving your egg quality. This is going to be important for you if you are conceiving naturally as well as if you are using assisted reproduction techniques such as IVF or IUI’s.

How do stress levels impact your egg quality?

When your body is on high alert all the time due to a higher stress load this can become a chronic concern. It can have a negative impact on your health as well as have a direct impact on the health of your eggs and your future babies. When you are under chronic stress your body will over or under produce a hormone called cortisol.  Below is graph showing a normal cortisol rhythm.

Dysregulated cortisol can contribute to several physical symptoms including:

·       Headaches

·       Low energy- this good present as generalize fatigue through out the day or as a midafternoon dip in energy

·       Poor digestion-which could manifest as constipation or irritable bowel syndrome

·       PMS (pre-menstrual syndrome)

·       Short/ long or irregular menstrual cycle

·       Heavy periods

·       Anxiety

·       Poor sleep quality a cardinal sleep pattern is early morning waking between 3-5am

·       Irritability

With regards to having a healthy baby the way high stress can have an impact is through a process called pregnenolone or progesterone steal. Where essentially the more cortisol your body needs to make the less progesterone it has. If you have low progesterone this can lead to your body not being able to maintain a pregnancy because there is isn’t enough time for implantation before the progesterone drops leading to early miscarriages.

The high cortisol from stress can also promote more inflammation in the body and if you have a condition such as PCOS or endometriosis this can actually make the symptoms significantly worse. So for a patient with PCOS this could be a contributor to anovulation. With endometriosis it can lead to tissue becoming more engorged which can lead to more pain and in some cases further growth of the endometrial tissue.

Here are 3 strategies that you can use to help regulate your cortisol to reduce the negative effects listed above.

1.      Exercise– I find for me exercise is my major stress reliever. I also find for a lot of people exercise is the first thing that drops out of their schedule when they get too busy when really it should be the last.

The act of exercising for up to 60 minutes will actual help lower and regulate your cortisol levels. The exercise does not need to be of high intensity it could be walking, yoga, swimming, weight training or dancing really anything that gets your body moving that you enjoy. If you can get your body moving for at least 20 minutes every day this will have a significant impact on regulating cortisol. On the flip side if you enjoy high intensity exercise preforming some type of HIIT or Tabata style training can have a significant impact on increasing growth hormone. This can lead to improvements in regulation of various other hormones.

One thing that is important to keep in mind is that the exercise routine you choose should not add extra stress into your life. For example if you have to race across town after leaving work early to fight traffic to get to your yoga class this is likely not the best choice for you. It may be better to choose a yoga video and do it at home or find a studio that is close to work or home.

2.      Consistent schedule– Your body thrives on routine. In order for our hormones to work effectively it is much easier if you can go to bed and get up at the same time everyday. If it is possible to also exercise and eat at around the same times. When your body knows consistently what to expect this takes the pressure off and allows the adrenal gland to start to cycle cortisol properly again. Now I understand that life happens and this is possible for everyone but the more consistent you can be the easier it is for your body to know what to expect. Based on your job again this could be extremely difficult for example if you work shift work with rotating days and nights or if you have to travel often for work in different time zones. If this is the case for you I am not suggesting you quit your job but just do your best to be regularly implement other stress reducing techniques.

 3.      Diaphragm breathing or yoga breathing. When you engage the diagram the muscle between your stomach or abdomen and your lungs in breathing that actually takes you out of your stress nervous system and puts you back in your relaxation nervous system.

 To engage your diaphragm

Step 1 Sit or stand comfortably either with your feet planted on the ground or sitting on the floor

Step 2 Place one hand over your chest and second over you stomach

Step 3 Inhale deeply through your nose so that you feel the hand over your stomach move up and then down as you exhale.

Step 4 Repeat this at least 10 times

If you have never done breathing exercises before having something to cue you throughout the day is helpful. One easy place to start is taking 10 deep breaths before each meal and bedtime this will ensure you check in with your breathing at least 4 times per day. Some women will find it helpful to focus on this breathing when they are actively feeling stressed or irritable to help move them out of that frame of mind.  This is literally something you can do anytime and anywhere so there is really no excuse for not implementing this on a daily basis.

In the Enhance Fertility Bootcamp program you will learn several other important factors that will have a big impact on your egg quality as well as the health of your future baby.