Planning for a new baby means big decisions.
(But, we’re not just talking cradles and nursery colors here.)
It’s time to consider your lil’ one’s first home: your body.
Think about it. That tiny human you’re dreaming of is going to develop from your cells. Your cells and genes are being influenced and instructed by the food you eat, the air you breathe and the thoughts you think…today.
Epigenetics is the study of how environmental factors such as nutrition, stress and other influences alter the way genes work in our bodies. It’s like little light switches being turned on or off.
Take your gene expression and overall body functioning to the next level all while getting your body in tip-top shape for baby.
1. Increase Your Fertility with Stress Management
If you’re wanting to conceive, then stress management isn’t a luxury, it’s a necessity.1 Stress can lead to more than just a short temper and a tension headache. Cortisol, the stress hormone, can wreak havoc if left unchecked.2
Prolonged stress can turn on genes that mimic fighting an infection, and this chronic state of inflammation can lead to serious health conditions down the road.
Large amounts of stress can lead to higher and higher concentrations of cortisol in the body which can negatively impact hormones and disrupt ovulation and implantation.3 High cortisol may also contribute to very early pregnancy loss.4
Thankfully, you can work to stop stress and inflammation in its tracks.
Ways to Manage Your Stress
Know what works for you. Does talking a walk in nature help you unwind? Maybe an epsom salt bath with three-five drops of lavender oil while listening to instrumental music is more your style. Or, perhaps you just can’t stop the flood of stress hormones until you’ve laced up your sneakers and hit the pavement a while. Listen to your body and see what fits best for each stressful situation you find yourself in.
Try these other stress management tools:
- Structured Breathing: Breathe in for five counts, out for five counts, hold for 5 seconds. Repeat until you feel more relaxed.
- Exercise: go for a walk, run or jog. It just might reduce your anxiety while increasing your neurons.5
- Yoga: You don’t have to invest in a class, even just light stretching might help.
- Meditation and Prayer: These grounding practices can help bring perspective and peace.
- Music: Maybe it’s spa-like, classical or spiritual in nature.
- Journaling: Write down your thoughts, hopes, fears. See if focusing on the positive while writing in a gratitude journal shifts your emotional state.
- Laughter: Watching a comedy just may reduce your cortisol and enhance your immune system. Laughter is so power that just thinking about laughing really hard can potentially reduce your stress hormones.6
- Massage: It relieves muscle tension can bring an overall sense of well-being.
2. Increase Your Fertility with Sleep
Sleep: it’s where your body synthesizes hormones, grows muscles and repairs tissues. It affects mood, memory and cognition.
Sleep protects your brain. Thanks to the glymphatic system (think the lymphatic system but for your brain), sleep is where your brain repairs and removes toxins.7
Aim for a minimum of 7 hours of sleep each night. Any less than that is a stressor on the body and can send your stress hormone, cortisol, climbing.
Here are some ways to help get more shut-eye:
- Lights Out: Cut out all electronics two hours before bed, or consider wearing blue-blocker glasses to protect your eyes from the melatonin-suppressing light waves.
- Embrace the Dark: Invest in thick, light-blocking curtains. Travel with black electrical tape and cover all those annoying red lights. It can even be used to tape hotel curtains to the wall so none of that parking lot light peeks through.
- ‘Night-’night WiFi: Have trouble putting your phone down the hours before bed? Consider putting it on airplane mode. Without wifi, you may find your digital distractions less enticing.
- Turn the Page: You may want to consider replacing electronics with a book, gratitude journal or magazine.
- Happy Thoughts Only: Avoid reading anything before bed that brings feelings of stress or adds to your to-do list. Your ultimate goal is to quiet your mind. So while that self-improvement book may be informative, if you find yourself with your mind tossing and turning instead of drifting to dreamland once the lights are out, opt for fiction or uplifting stories.
- Turn off the TV: Find that you need the noise of the TV to fall asleep? Audio books are another option. It gives your brain auditory content to hold on to so you don’t drift over to thinking about your to-do list. Many audio book apps even include a sleep timer to shut off automatically while you start snoozing.
3. Increase Your Fertility by Limiting Pesticides
Pesticides: they’re on non-organic fruits and veggies, blanketing sport fields and city parks, in your pet’s shampoo and hanging out in a big plastic container in your neighbor’s garage. Translation: they’re everywhere.
A common pesticide, glyphosate, goes by several brand names including RoundUp and names with the word “weedkiller.”
You can be affected by a pesticide by breathing it, eating it or touching it. Pesticides can negatively affect hormones, respiration, gastrointestinal, neurological functioning and more. Pesticides can accumulate in stored body fat. Breastmilk has been shown to contain pesticides.8
Buying organic fruits and vegetables is a way to limit toxic exposures to pesticides. (If you’re needing to watch your pennies, follow the latest updated “Dirty Dozen” and “Clean 15” from the Environmental Working Group (EWG). This lists produce by the highest level of pesticides present each year. Strawberries nearly always top the list of produce with the most pesticide exposure. Spinach, apples, blueberries, celery, cucumber also frequent the top of the list. If you’re at the store and can’t find the latest list, follow this rule: all leafy greens, berries and thin-skinned produce need to be organic. Thicker-skinned veggies and fruits like bananas and avocado may be safer in a conventional form than the thin-skinned, leafy greens.)
Be sure to wash fruits and vegetables. Using filtered water is another safeguard since tap water can also contain pesticides.
Know even washing and peeling fruits and vegetables cannot remove all of the pesticides,9 thus buying all organic produce may be the best option for the least pesticide exposure.
Limit exposure to lawn care providers spraying glyphosate, near the office and your home as well.
Take your Fertility IQ to the Next Level
Overwhelmed with making your pre-baby, fertility-optimization plan? Learn more at the Functional Fertility Intensive online workshop. Glean wisdom from three experienced functional medicine practitioners focused on women’s health and fertility. Get valuable, actionable items and gain priceless insight for both you and your partner.
Three professionals, one setting, one-fraction of the price for a one-on-one consult is available to you now. Learn more.
Want additional one-on-one support?
Setup a consult with Dr. Emily where you can take a deep-dive into your health history and make a plan on how to best support your body and your unique needs.
1. Look at your calendar. Which day this week is likely to cause the most stress? What stress-reduction activity can you plan to use to unwind that day?
2. Track your hours of sleep each night for the next seven days. How many nights are under 7 hours?
3. Craft the ideal bedtime routine. Does it start with a bubble bath, a cup of chamomile tea and five minutes of journaling? What works for you?
- “Stress reduces conception probabilities across the fertile … – NCBI – NIH.” 5 Aug. 2010, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20688324. Accessed 8 Dec. 2018.
- “How Stress Changes Your Genes | Psychology Today.” 6 Jan. 2015, https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/your-genetic-destiny/201501/how-stress-changes-your-genes-0. Accessed 8 Dec. 2018.
- “Stress and female reproductive function: a study of daily … – NCBI.” https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15368600. Accessed 9 Dec. 2018.
- “Cortisol levels and very early pregnancy loss in humans. – NCBI – NIH.” https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16495411. Accessed 9 Dec. 2018.
- “Physical Exercise Prevents Stress-Induced Activation of Granule ….” 1 May. 2013, http://www.jneurosci.org/content/33/18/7770. Accessed 9 Dec. 2018.
- “Anticipating A Laugh Reduces Our Stress Hormones … – ScienceDaily.” 10 Apr. 2008, https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/04/080407114617.htm. Accessed 9 Dec. 2018.
- “The Neuroprotective Aspects of Sleep – NCBI – NIH.” https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4651462/. Accessed 9 Dec. 2018.
- “Chemical Pesticides and Human Health: The Urgent … – NCBI – NIH.” 18 Jul. 2016, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4947579/. Accessed 9 Dec. 2018.
- “The influence of tomato processing on residues of … – NCBI.” 14 May. 2015, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25965039. Accessed 9 Dec. 2018.