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How a healthy population of gut bacteria can support reproductive health: the blood sugar connection:

By August 20, 2020April 7th, 2021No Comments

It seems like almost every day we are learning more and more about the importance of the GOOD bacteria that live inside our digestive system. Even though these bacteria live within our intestines, they have a positive impact throughout our bodies, on almost every area of our health, including our reproductive health.

Recent research indicates that a healthy population of gut bacteria is critically important in controlling our blood sugar response to a meal, and this is one crucial way that a healthy gut microbiome can promote fertility.

Why is blood sugar balance so important to reproductive health?

When we eat a meal that contains carbohydrates, such as bread, pasta and rice, these they are broken down into glucose and released into the bloodstream (we call this blood sugar).

How our blood sugar responds after a meal depends on the quality and quantity of carbohydrate in that meal – a meal that contains a lot of refined carbohydrates (e.g. white bread) will cause a rapid spike in blood sugar, while a meal that contains a balance of slow-release whole grain carbohydrates (e.g. oats) will result in a much smaller increase in blood sugar levels.

When our diet contains too many refined carbohydrates, we will have high blood sugar levels and also produce large amounts of the hormone insulin to help balance this blood sugar. We know that this combination of high blood glucose and high insulin can impact our reproductive health negatively in a number of ways:

  1. Insulin is a hormone and it can disrupt production of other hormones in the body. In fact, if insulin levels are too high, this can promote testosterone production in women and negatively impact ovulation. This negative impact of insulin is even more pronounced for women with PCOS.
  2. Women who were found to have higher blood sugar levels over a six-month period were only half as likely to get pregnant as those who had low levels of blood sugar over those six months. (1)
  3. High blood glucose and insulin levels over a number of months have been shown to negatively impact egg quality during assisted conception. (2)

How to achieve blood sugar balance

Achieving blood sugar balance is a key aim of any nutritional programme to support fertility, and this can be achieved through a number of straightforward dietary changes:

  1. Avoid refined carbohydrates, such as white rice, bread and pasta, and replace with slow release whole grain carbohydrates, including whole grain brown bread, brown rice, oats and whole grain pasta.
  2. Avoid sugary treats such as chocolate, sweets, biscuits, cakes and soft drinks, and treat them as treats, eating them a maximum of 2-3 times a week.
  3. Eat good quality protein, such as eggs, dairy products, nuts and seeds, chicken, fish or lean red meat, with every meal and snack. Protein helps to stabilise our blood sugar after a meal.
  4. Learn to love your legumes – beans and lentils are a key food to help us achieve blood glucose balance as they release energy in a slow and sustained manner, helping us to avoid blood sugar spikes.

BUT – these dietary changes are really only half of the story when we are trying to achieve good blood sugar balance. Recent research tells us that the good bacteria within our digestive system are just as important as good dietary choices in helping to control our blood sugar and insulin levels after a meal. (3)

Why are gut bacteria so important for blood sugar balance?

A recent study has found that different individuals (even identical twins) can have a very different blood sugar response after identical meals; some individuals will experience blood sugar spikes while others will have a healthy blood sugar response.

The researchers discovered that one of the factors that helped to control this response in individuals was their gut bacteria population. Individuals with a more varied and healthier blood glucose population had healthier blood glucose responses after a meal and, therefore, found it easier to achieve blood sugar balance.

We are still learning about the exact way in which good bacteria support blood glucose balance. However, we know that these good bacteria can slow down our digestive process, ensuring that blood sugar is released more gradually and helping to avoid blood sugar spikes. The good bacteria are also known to produce substances that help our body cope better with blood sugar spikes. (4)

A number of clinical studies have shown that improving levels of gut bacteria by using a probiotic supplement (a capsule that provides a super dose of good bacteria) can reduce blood sugar and insulin levels. (5) So, together with dietary changes, supplementing with a good probiotic supplement is key in helping us achieve blood sugar balance, and this will have a positive knock-on effect on our reproductive health.

References:

(1) Hjollund NHI et al Is glycosylated haemoglobin a marker of fertility? A follow-up study of first pregnancy planners Hum Reprod 1999 14 1472-82
(2) Jinno M et al Advanced glycation end-products accumulation compromises embryonic development and achievement of pregnancy by assisted reproductive technology Hum Reprod 2011 26 (3) 604-10
(3) Berry SE et al Human postprandial responses to food and potential for precision nutrition Nature Medicine 2020 26 963-73
(4) Valdes AM et al Role of Gut Microbiota in Nutrition and Health BMJ 2018 361 2179
(5) Gomes AC et al Gut Microbiota, probiotics and diabetes Nutrition Journal 2014 13 60

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Amy Martin

Marketing Director

Amy is a high achieving individual with a number of marketing awards under her belt, including Young Digital Business Person of the Year 2019. She is a big believer in digital marketing and an expert in executing personalised targeted campaigns. Amy strives to learn from data and campaigns that show return on investment.

Robert Gordon

Managing Director, Gordons Chemists

 

Robert Gordon, director at Gordons Chemist's. Gordons Chemists is a chain of more than 60 pharmacies, located in NI and Scotland. Gordons Chemists is Northern Ireland's largest independent pharmacy chain.

Dr. Debbie Collins

MBBchBAO MRCGP

 

Dr. Debbie Collins MBBchBAO MRCGP, a practicing GP and partner in Belfast. She has a passion for patient education and advocacy. Her special interests are Women's Health and Fertility

Sarah Trimble

Nutritional Therapist

 

Sarah Trimble - a nutritional therapist with a passion for good food instead of fad diets. Sarah has a particular Interest in using the power of nutrition to support hormonal imbalances and reproductive health.

Barbara Scott

Director, Seren Natural Fertility
Chair, Association of Reproductive Reflexologists

 

Barbara Scott is Chair of The Association of Reproductive Reflexologists, founder of Seren Natural Fertility and author of Reflexology for Fertility. In 2017, she was awarded ‘Complementary Therapist of the Year’ by the Federation of Holistic Therapists and has been nominated for several awards within the field of complementary therapy. In 2019 she was awarded the Innovation in Reflexology Award by the Association of Reflexologists.

Barbara speaks and lectures globally on her integrative approach to supporting couples having difficulties conceiving. She has spoken at many of the Fertility Shows and Fertility Fest. Alongside her own busy clinics, she also trains practitioners in providing this integrative, approach to fertility and reproductive healthcare and well-being. The ARR (Association of Reproductive Reflexologists) has trained practitioners globally, from Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Europe, and most areas of the UK.

Her expertise and passion is in advocating a patient-centred and integrative approach to supporting both men and women on their journey to parenthood.

Cindy Charles

Fertility coach and Founder of Fertilelife

 

Cindy Charles- Fertility coach and Founder of Fertilelife. Cindy is a committed advocate of social and personal development. Her own life experiences inspired her fertility support services. Cindy has worked with the Fertility Network UK, and has had the privilege to work as a resident Fertility Coach for the London Women's Clinic on Harley Street. Cindy believes in the importance of nurturing our own fertility.

Dr. Lyuda Shkrobot

MD, MSc Gynecologist, Fertility specialist at unq.life fertility clinic

 

Dr Lyuda has a special interest in reproductive immunology. Dr Shkrobot assisted in establishing the first European Donor Egg programme at Sims, coordinating and liaising with Intersono Clinic in Ukraine Advisors. She is passionate about patient-centred, results-driven care.

Lisa Corcoran

Business Development Executive

 

Lisa has 15 years of commercial business experience. She has proven her capabilities in Investment Property Sales and, Management & Business Development for Technology companies that have provided her with an understanding of different customer needs across several sectors. Lisa appreciates the value of customer education and relationship building in long-lasting partnerships.

Aoibheann Murphy

Chief Financial Officer

 

Having trained with PWC, Aoibheann qualified as a Chartered Accountant in 1997. She subsequently spent eight years working in industry, gaining invaluable experience in many areas In 2005 Aoibheann became MD of Pangur Consulting, providing professional expertise to a broad client base. She is looking forward to the new challenge of Nua Fertility.
 

Share a little about yourself—the things we wouldn’t learn from simply reading your professional bio.

 

What was your journey to parenthood like?

Right craic!
 

Do you prefer podcasts or books? And of the one that you prefer, what is a show or title that you recommend?

I love sport…any sport…and the outdoors. Living in the Barrow valley I get to enjoy swimming and kayaking in the Barrow and exploring the Blackstairs mountains. Since I hung up my soccer boots (the body just couldn’t take it anymore!), I’ve been cycling with my lovely friends in Mount Leinster Wheelers and was chuffed to have completed the Ironman 70.3 triathlon event in Dublin in 2019!
I’m an avid reader…books beat podcasts hands down!...although recently I’ve dabbled with audio books through the library app Borrow Box. “A Little Life” left its mark on me. A harrowing story, definitely not for the faint hearted.
 

If there was just one thing you could impart on women on their journey to parenthood, what would it be?

Don’t be consumed by the roles in your life – parent, partner, employee etc. Parenthood, be it getting there or going through it, will have its tough times. Cherishing yourself as an individual and making time for yourself can help you through those times….it’s good to be a bit selfish!!

Mark Mullins

Director of Sales

 

What was your journey to parenthood like?

To be honest it was very difficult. At the beginning we thought that when we decided that we wanted to start a family Deborah would fall pregnant shortly afterwards like many of her friends. As time went by, we started to suspect something was wrong. After initial tests we found out that I had a low sperm count which meant that we would have to go down the assisted pregnancy route. This took me several months to get my head around as I blamed myself for this. All I wanted was my wife to be able to go through the pregnancy journey. We couldn’t wait to become parents. There were many long and painful nights where I thought this would never happen for us. After several failed attempts we decided to look at further ways of improving our chances. This led us to look at fertility supplements, our diet, exercise. I will never forget when that morning during our Two Week Wait when Deborah woke me up at 5 a.m. to show me those two lines, we had both been yearning for! We are blessed to now have our beautiful daughter.
 

On challenging days, what kept you going? Where did you find inspiration?

My wife was my inspiration. She kept me going through those challenging months and years. She was there to help me deal with everything. The guilt I felt when I saw her having to go through everything.
 

What is your ideal was to relax and unwind?

My latest passion is cooking on my BBQ. I find it so peaceful and I just switch off. It just gives me a bit of alone time which everyone needs.
 

If there was just one thing you could impart on men as they begin trying to become parents, what would it be?

I would highly recommend communicating with friends and family. A problem shared is a problem halved. Failing that there are some really good private Facebook groups for men suffering from infertility. I found this great support through the good and especially the bad times.

Deborah Brock

Founder & CEO of Nua Fertility

 

Deborah has a personal passion for fertility health, supporting people and communities. With over 15 years experience of working in the Non profit and Education sector, I have had the honour of working together with people and communities focusing on their strengths, capacities and assets. With extensive senior management, project management and creative programme development experience.

How did your experience with fertility inspire you to help start Nua Fertility?

My own personal fertility journey opened my eyes to the world of fertility health. Trying for a baby is one of the most exciting yet vulnerable times in your life. It took myself and my husband over three years and the helping hand of science to become a mum.  I have always worked with people and communities and felt my vision for Nua Fertility could genuinely support others who have fertility challenges.

Share a little about yourself—the things we wouldn’t learn from simply reading your professional bio.

I'm am curious person and love all things research. My ideal evening would be reading and exploring scientific journals! I like to think I am a little bit creative and I LOVE paint by numbers! Its probably the only time I slow down, I become immersed in the painting and think of nothing else.

What do you want to tell someone trying to conceive or already pregnant?

Educate yourself! Knowledge is power. The more you inform yourself about your fertility health the more you are empowering yourself with knowledge. Own your journey and take control over your own fertility health.

What’s something you wish someone told you while trying to conceive?

Open up and talk with friends and family. I was surrounded by amazing friends and family but I never opened up. When your struggling to conceive, a non-judgemental ear to listen or a shoulder to cry on is so powerful.