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The Gut-Brain Connection and Fertility

The Gut-Brain Connection and Fertility

Were you aware you have two brains? In addition to the brain within your cranium, you have what is called an Enteric brain. Technically, it is known as the Enteric Nervous system, which consists of sheaths of neurons (millions!) embedded in the wall of the long tube of the gut, otherwise known as the “alimentary canal” (extending from the esophagus to the anus).

This second brain has a lot to do with your mood. Its neuron transmitters are found throughout the alimentary canal, being constantly stimulated and sending signals to the brain to regulate functions and emotions in the body.

Understanding Neurotransmitters

Neurotransmitters are the body’s chemical messengers. They work to boost and balance signals in the brain and keep the brain functioning. They help manage automatic responses such as breathing and heart rate. They also have psychological functions that impact your ability to learn and manage your mood, fear, pleasure, and happiness.

Have you ever experienced “butterflies in your stomach”? Or has someone ever suggested to you, “Go with your gut”? That’s because you are getting signals from your second brain, your gut. 

If your digestive system is impaired by; Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), leaky gut, diverticulosis/diverticulitis, Crohn’s disease, chronic constipation, or Small intestine bacterial overgrowth (SIBO), it can affect your bodies ability to make the neurotransmitters that help you stay calm. 

When your body is feeling constant stress and anxiety, it will signal the neurotransmitter to trigger your “fight or flight” response. Your fight or flight response is important in situations of danger. However, when you are under constant stress, this can cause a spike in cortisol levels. 

When your body is in a constant state of cortisol production, it takes away from the production of reproductive hormones necessary for conception, such as estrogens, progesterone, and testosterone. Whether you are male or female, overproducing cortisol can affect your ability to reproduce.

This is why it’s so important to focus on your digestion and gut health! When you can receive the proper signals from your neurotransmitters, they act within the nervous system to deliver messages between the alimentary tract and the brain. 

Neurotransmitters that play the biggest role in emotions and sleep:

GABA (Gamma Amino Butyric Acid) is an important neurotransmitter that contributes to vision and motor control. It also plays a role in regulating anxiety. 

Serotonin plays an important role in regulating and modulating mood, sleep, anxiety, sexuality, and appetite. 90% of this neurotransmitter is made in the small intestines.

Dopamine: Commonly known as the feel-good neurotransmitter, dopamine is involved in reward, motivation, and addictions. There are several types of addictive drugs that increase dopamine levels in the brain. This chemical messenger also plays an important role in the coordination of body movements. 

Norepinephrine: This naturally occurring chemical is a neurotransmitter that plays an important role in alertness and is involved in the body’s “fight or flight” response.  Its role is to help mobilize the body and brain to take action in times of danger or stress. Levels of this neurotransmitter are typically lowest during sleep and highest during times of stress. 

Neurotransmitters act in specific ways, but they can also be affected by diseases, drugs, or even the actions of other chemical messengers. Drugs that can influence neurotransmission include medications used to treat depression and anxiety, such as SSRIs, tricyclic antidepressants, benzodiazepines, and illicit drugs such as marijuana.

How to support your second brain 

  1. Strive for a diversity of foods in your diet
  2. Drink at least 64 oz of  fresh, purified water daily
  3. Avoid or limit sweets in your diet
  4. Eat organic fresh fruits and vegetables daily
  5. Aim to consume 30 grams of fiber each day
  6. Choose grass-fed, non-hormone meats, poultry, fish, and eggs  for protein, unless following a plant-based diet
  7. Choose healthy fats such as; avocados, nuts, seeds, nut oils, goat or sheep cheeses, or vegan cheese
  8. Avoid the use of alcohol, smoking, and drugs
  9. Avoid the foods that cause sensitivity or allergic reactions
  10. Utilize Vagus NerveRegulation to help with calming the mind
  11. Begin a guided meditation practice

Your gut does more than digest, absorb, and excrete food. Your gut influences the health of every system in your body. It’s responsible for proper immune function, how you think and feel, how you synthesize and secrete hormones, and influences your fertility.

When your gut isn’t functioning properly, other body systems suffer immensely. 

Understanding the gut-fertility connection is essential to understanding your fertility struggles. If you’ve been dealing with unexplained infertility, turn your attention to the likely culprit – your gut. 

Gut Health: A Common Misconception

Many people don’t recognize the signs of poor gut health. The symptoms of poor gut health go beyond gas, bloating, or stomach pain. Although these common symptoms can indicate gut dysfunction, there are many other symptoms associated with the gut, most of which you may not realize. 

Symptoms of Poor Gut Health 

  • Allergies: seasonal allergies and food allergies
  • Frequent colds and flu
  • Constant hunger or cravings, especially for carbohydrates/sugar
  • Headaches
  • Brain fog and diminished memory
  • Skin issues including eczema, acne, or rosacea
  • Joint and muscle pain
  • Depression and/or anxiety
  • Autoimmune diseases, including Hashimoto’s thyroiditis
  • Chronic fatigue
  • Chronic yeast infections
  • Sinus congestion
  • Anemia
  • Unexplained infertility

Gut Health and Fertility – The Research

1 – Research shows that women with recurrent pregnancy loss show a higher prevalence of undiagnosed gut disorders.

2 In one study, researchers found Celiac disease, an autoimmune disease related to the gut, to be more prevalent in women with unexplained infertility. 

3 – In a preliminary study researchers found that infertile women had different gut microbiome compositions compared with fertile women, indicating the gut microbiome may play a role in fertility. 

If you are unsure of the root of your stress, what your cortisol levels are measuring, or why you are unable to conceive, a Fertility assessment with Shelly could give you the answers that you’re looking for. Shelly can help you make the changes necessary to promote proper gut health and encourage fertility.

Fertility or Functional Medicine Assessment

Offer expires March 15th, 2022

About Shelly Tompkins

Shelly Tompkins, L.Ac, C.F.M.P is a renowned women’s health, fertility & wellness expert and licensed acupuncturist, herbalist and functional medicine practitioner in private practice in San Diego, CA. She has extensive training and experience and has been in private practice for over 33 years and also taught at Pacific College of Oriental Medicine for 24 of those years. Shelly has worked with thousands of women, from puberty through senior years, to find answers and solutions to their overall health and hormone imbalances and more.

Her practice includes the use of laboratory testing to be able to find the answers to many of the health issues experienced in women and men. Through these labs, health history, and other tests, the assessments not only give answers, but ways to treat the body as a whole, so it works in its best capacity for healing.

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