What is Dysbiosis?
Optimal fertility begins with taking care of your microbiota – the trillions of microorganisms that reside in your gut. These microbes have the power to influence inflammation and play a significant role in your reproductive health.
One of the reasons why your gut microbiota is so important for reproductive health is because it can impact metabolic endotoxemia, a condition that can cause difficulty in conceiving and early pregnancy loss. By nurturing a healthy gut microbiota, you can minimize the risk of metabolic endotoxemia. But first, let’s take a closer look at what metabolic endotoxemia is and how it affects fertility
Dysbiosis, or an imbalance in your gut microbiota, can have a negative impact on reproductive health. When your microbiota are out of balance, inflammation and oxidative stress are elevated, which can impair the development of eggs and sperm, as well as pregnancy progression.
Several factors can contribute to dysbiosis, including stress, antibiotic use, consumption of processed foods, low dietary fibre intake, sleep disturbances, and physical inactivity. These factors can disrupt the balance of good and bad microbes in your gut, leading to dysbiosis.
Dysbiosis is a hallmark of several conditions affecting fertility, such as polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), endometriosis, low testosterone in males, estrogen-driven conditions, obesity, and inflammation and oxidative stress, which are seen in unexplained infertility.
By promoting a healthy gut microbiota, you can limit inflammation and oxidative stress and improve your reproductive health. In the following sections, we’ll explore how you can improve your gut microbiota and the impact it can have on your fertility.
Maintaining The Front-Line – The Gut Barrier
The gut barrier plays a critical role in maintaining the health of your digestive system. It acts as a physical barrier between your gut lumen, where food and pathogens transit, and the rest of your body. The gut barrier is made up of different components, including enterocytes, M cells, and Paneth cells, each playing a unique role in maintaining gut health.
Enterocytes are responsible for nutrient absorption, while M cells help to detect foreign particles and pathogens. Paneth cells secrete antimicrobial peptides that protect the gut from harmful bacteria. In addition to these cell types, the gut barrier also includes a layer of mucus in the gut lumen.
The mucus layer is a hydrophobic gel made up of complex carbohydrates, and it becomes thicker from the small to the large intestine. It is critical in preventing harmful bacteria from breaching the gut barrier and causing inflammation. Goblet cells secrete mucins that make up the mucus layer and also secrete bioactive components that help to stabilise the mucins.
In some diseases associated with inflammation, the protective mucus layer can become thinner or even absent in some sections of the gut. This can lead to a breakdown in the gut barrier, allowing harmful bacteria to enter the bloodstream and causing a host of health problems. Therefore, maintaining the integrity of the gut barrier is crucial for maintaining overall gut health.
A Permeable Gut and Its Consequences
The health of our gut is essential for maintaining our overall well-being. Our gut microbiota plays a vital role in extracting energy from food, preventing colonisation by pathogenic microorganisms, and enhancing the integrity of the epithelium, which is the layer of cells that lines the gut. As we continue to discover more about the gut microbiota, we are recognising how essential it is to maintain a healthy and functional gut.
Our gut microbiota comprises at least 1000 different species of known bacteria, which produce short-chain fatty acids, such as acetate, propionate, and butyrate, through bacterial fermentation of undigested dietary carbohydrates. These organic acids are essential signalling molecules that play a significant role in maintaining gut health.
An imbalance in the gut microbiota can weaken the integrity of the gut wall, leading to an increase in inflammation that disrupts the tight junction proteins that hold our gut cells together. This can increase gut permeability, allowing compounds such as LPS (lipopolysaccharide) to cross over into the bloodstream. LPS is a potent driver of inflammation and can lead to metabolic endotoxaemia.
Metabolic endotoxaemia can lead to poor egg and sperm quality, and increased levels of LPS are found in conditions such as PCOS and endometriosis, among others. The disruption of the gut barrier can also negatively impact pregnancy by increasing systemic inflammation and insulin resistance.
Reinforcing the intestinal barrier can reduce metabolic endotoxin levels, thereby improving egg and sperm quality, implantation potential, and pregnancy health. By nurturing our gut microbiota, we can enhance the integrity of our gut and improve our overall well-being
Strengthening the Gut Barrier for Optimal Fertility
A strong gut barrier is essential for maintaining fertility and overall health. It acts as a physical barrier to harmful toxins and pathogens, while allowing beneficial nutrients and microbes to pass through. Unfortunately, many lifestyle factors can weaken the gut barrier, leading to a range of fertility issues.
One effective way to strengthen the gut barrier and promote optimal fertility is by nurturing a diverse and healthy gut microbiota. The gut microbiota is made up of trillions of microorganisms that play a crucial role in digestion, immunity, and overall health.
Fortunately, there are ways to combat dysbiosis and promote microbiome balance, including the use of multi-strain probiotics (NuaBiome has five strains of probiotics). Probiotics are beneficial bacteria that can help restore and maintain a healthy gut microbiome.
One of the best ways to promote a healthy gut microbiota is by consuming fibre (check out our fibre challenge here). Fibre is a type of non-digestible, fermentable carbohydrate that feeds beneficial gut microbes. It can be found in many plant-based foods, such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes.
Consuming fibre has several benefits for fertility and overall health. It helps to increase the production of short-chain fatty acids, such as butyrate, which can strengthen the gut barrier and reduce inflammation. Fibre can also promote weight loss, improve insulin sensitivity, and reduce oxidative stress.
Another way to promote a diverse and healthy gut microbiota is by consuming resistant starch. Resistant starch is a type of starch that resists digestion in the small intestine and reaches the colon, where it is fermented by beneficial gut microbes. Resistant starch can be found in foods such as green bananas, cooked and cooled potatoes, and legumes.
In addition to consuming probiotics, fibre and resistant starch, there are other lifestyle factors that can help to strengthen the gut barrier and promote optimal fertility. These include reducing stress, getting regular exercise, and avoiding the overuse of antibiotics and other medications.
In conclusion, a strong gut barrier is essential for optimal fertility and overall health. By nurturing a diverse and healthy gut microbiota through the consumption of probiotics such as NuaBiome, fibre and resistant starch, and adopting other healthy lifestyle habits, you can promote a strong gut barrier and enhance your fertility potential.