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A Personal Encounter of Understanding – The Mind-Body-Gut Connection (and why you should care)

By May 21, 2021No Comments
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Written by Caroline Tanner, Avocado Fertility

Many people, including the medical professionals we so often turn to in times of a fertility crisis, do not link the importance of the mind-body connection with fertility and the vital role of the gut within this.

As somebody who has experienced years of impaired fertility and numerous rounds of IVF, I’ve been exposed to both ends of the spectrum: fertility consultants who don’t even mention the impact of diet and supplements as a fundamental part of fertility health and one, (yes, just the one) who raised it within our very first consultation, alongside an army of leaflets about what I should and shouldn’t be eating and why. I should add that this consultant was responsible for my only successful round of IVF.

As a Fertility Mindset and Breath Coach, I am more than aware of the senselessness in attempting to ‘eat yourself pregnant’ if you have unresolved trauma, are in a constant state of anxiety or completely disassociated from your body due to the adverse impact of a fertility journey. Likewise, focusing on your mindset as a way to support conception, to only inflame your body through nutrient-lack foods isn’t too helpful either. There has to be a whole body approach, as after all, the mind, body and gut don’t operate in isolation.

The gut is the gateway to the mind-body connection. The all-important Vagus Nerve facilitates messages between the gut and the brain, and vice versa. Often referred to as the ‘second brain,’ thanks to the Enteric Nervous Systems (ENS), the gut is responsible for the discharging of hormones and chemical messages to the rest of the body. Anyone on a fertility journey knows the importance of balanced hormones for conception, but are rarely advised of the role of the mind-body-gut connection to support this.

Cortisol is a primary hormone. Many people have an idea that stress causes raised cortisol levels and that this isn’t good for the body, but few people realise how this can impair fertility. As a fertility specialist, I have made it my mission to raise awareness of this and how the impact of a difficult fertility journey itself can cause or exacerbate stress levels, impacting further on pregnancy success rates. Protracted periods of stress and trauma dysregulate the nervous system and prevent it going into a parasympathetic state, or simply put: ‘rest, digest and repair.’ Prevention of entering into a parasympathetic state means a person will be dominantly within the ‘fight or flight’ (sympathetic) nervous system state, and this is not conducive to conception. If your body thinks a bear is constantly chasing you, it will not want you to get pregnant, so will make subtle changes to ensure this doesn’t happen.

The dysregulation of the nervous system, as explained above, can also be triggered by a bad diet. Sugar, processed food and too many refined carbs can all lead to gut inflammation, which then raises cortisol levels and tips us into a dominant fight or flight state. Even some foods we believe are good for us can cause inflammation, which is why it can be useful to identify any food intolerances. I’m not a nutritionist, but through my own research and my affiliation with Nua Fertility I know that the more we learn to listen to the messages of our body, the better we become at understanding its nutritional needs. This also transfers to understanding the needs of the body in terms of emotional healing and balancing, which is the focus of the work I do with clients.

 The important message here is balance. We need balance within the mind, the body and the gut to support the fundamental mind-body-gut integration as a whole. Through mindset work, breath work, appropriate nutrition and gut friendly targeted fertility supplements, such as NuaBiome Women, a person’s chances of conception are enhanced.

About Caroline:

Caroline Tanner, of Avocado Fertility, is a Fertility Mindset and Breath Coach and Reiki Therapist. She is also a NuaBiome Women consumer and brand affiliate.

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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.