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.
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.