Here's what we cover in this topic:
- Interview with naturopath Naomi Judge about preconception and supplementation.
- Why you need both a doctor and a naturopath.
- That not all practitioners are created equal and what to look for when choosing yours.
- Interview with naturopath Kate Johnston on clinical testing and preconception care.
- The best clinical testing for preconception care to save you time, money and heartache.
- What the MTHFR gene is and how it might affect your pregnancy.
- Interpreting test results - an interview with Dr Sandy Eun
- How to track your periods and fertility with ease and accuracy.
There's only so far you can go on this preconception journey before you really need to get a clear picture of what's going on with your body. Nowadays fertility is becoming more complex and downright difficult to figure out! My chat with naturopath Naomi Judge goes into why it's so important to get your tests done (even if just having a routine checkup) and get to the bottom of anything that may slow down your pregnancy. I encourage you to have a listen, it's only about 25 minutes long and you'll gain a wealth of knowledge. If videos aren't your thing, I've got you covered with this transcript.
Naomi shares a few nuggets of wisdom with me, including:
- The importance of testing your sex hormones early to save time, heartache and money.
- How simple tweaks can reduce your risk of miscarriage, infertility or complications.
- Why having the RIGHT type of vitamins and minerals will impact the health of you and your baby.
- The need for finding a supportive practitioner who knows what to test for.
- The difficulties of going down the IVF route and why it's still a viable option.
- MTHFR and how it affects fertility.
- Why allowing three months to plan for conception is a healthy and realistic time frame.
- What a couple can do to increase healthy conception from a food perspective.
- The importance of reducing toxic load, sugar and inflammatory foods.
- Why women need to focus on preserving their eggs, especially if they're a little older.
Doctors and naturopaths offer different yet complementary services. I really encourage you to work with an open-minded doctor and a great naturopath before, throughout and after your pregnancy. Naturopaths have the knowledge and resources to help you with food, lowered toxic load, menstrual irregularity, infertility and mental support. Doctors (preferably integrative doctors) have the tools for testing, diagnosis, physical examination and deeper clinical analysis. Both are invaluable in helping you with a healthy conception and pregnancy.
Unfortunately, most of us have had experiences with a GP or health practitioner at one point who wasn't entirely present, didn't quite understand what you were telling them or wasn't open to alternative therapies and medicines. Not only is this experience disheartening, it's also concerning… I mean, what have they not picked up that could be impacting various health conditions? The wonderful news is there are so many brilliant, open minded GPs and health practitioners out there.
What to look for in a super hero GP
- Try and find an "Integrative GP/doctor". These guys have the usual qualifications of a doctor, as well as many years experience, but are also further qualified in one or more complementary medicine modalities, such as nutrition, herbal medicine, or naturopathy. This means they can assess and treat patients using a combination of both mainstream and complementary medicine, as appropriate.
- You'll also want someone who is open to collaborative medicine and is willing to work with practitioners from other modalities to help you and your partner find solutions.
Before we dive into clinical testing, have a watch of this chat with Kate Johnston. We cover off:
- The importance of preconception care.
- The DUTCH test as the gold standard.
- Sperm testing and sperm motility.
- Why she always looks at the MTHFR gene.
- The impact of hormones and the best way to test them.
- Why you need a doctor and a naturopath.
- The connection between undiagnosed coeliac disease and infertility.
- Thyroid health and testing.
Medical terminology is completely foreign to the average person… even I, who happily NERDS out on these things, can still get tripped up. Sometimes it can often feel like doctors don't really have the time or patience to explain to us what it's all about. So, I figured it's high-time I found out exactly what tests you need to ask for and what they mean so that you can feel empowered and knowledgeable enough to understand your tests and results, at least the essential bits anyway!
These are some of my favourite tests to give you all the info you need. I've also popped a little note in their for those tests which are best done with an integrative doctor or naturopath. If you can't get these all done, please don't stress. Some are just good to have and others are more important. If you're GP is resistant to certain test… then perhaps it's time to find another who is more aligned with your health focus.
Full Blood Count
It's totally fine to ask your local bulk billing GP to do this test. It's great for looking into your immune system response, potential anemia, energy levels and blood viscosity.
You'll get stats on:
- Red blood cells
- White blood cells
Vitamin and Mineral Testing
Your GP should do this for you without question at least once a year. It'll give you a good understanding of where your health is at.
You'll get stats on:
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin D
- Vitamin A
Iron levels (especially important for vegans and vegos!)
Again, this one is fine to ask your local bulk billing GP to do. This test could indicate iron deficiency anaemia, pernicious anaemia, low energy, adrenal burnout and poor nutrient absorption. This one's a good one for prospective mums because iron can be one of the first things to dip during pregnancy. Make sure you explain to your GP that you want to test your levels because you're looking to fall pregnant.
You'll get stats on:
The thyroid is a gland located in the front of our necks. It's function in the body is to regulate various essential hormonal and metabolic processes. Thyroid dysfunction due to endocrine disruption, stress, poor diet and various other factors can be a huge risk factor for infertility in women.
There are various ways you can be tricked up by either an overactive or underactive thyroid. Raised levels of TRH (thyroid releasing hormone) and decreased levels of T4 may result in excess prolactin and TSH both of which are directly linked to anovulation and/or infertility. Our thyroids also modulate the body's basal metabolic rate, meaning if the body is not capable of maintaining an optimal, stable temperature there may be no opportunity for it to fertilise an egg successfully.
When it comes to getting diagnosed with thyroid dysfunction it can be tricky. Some GP's will only test for thyroid if there is a family history of it. What's more - they tend to only test the thyroid on a very basic level - so just TSH levels. Try and get to an integrative doctor for this one and make sure your doctor tests thoroughly! Just testing TSH will NOT give you a clear picture of your thyroid status.
You need testing on:
- Thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH)
- Free thyroxine (free T4)
- Total or free triiodothyronine (total or free T3)
An integrative doctor or naturopath will also be able to draw conclusions from these comprehensive results and treat you wholistically with diet, stress management, improved liver function, endocrine support and nervous system modulation in order to get your thyroid back to normal.
Salivary Hormone Testing
This test can be ordered by your integrative doctor or naturopath. It's super fantastic for assessing your sex hormones and uncovering any adrenal issues. Every single one of your hormones is crucial to the fertility picture. This is definitely one to invest in if you're struggling to conceive!
You'll get stats on:
Show #87: Dr Carrie Jones on going Dutch on your hormones
Carrie is a Naturopathic Physician with a Master's in Public Health having over 12 years in the field of functional and integrative medicine. She has been the Medical Director for two large integrative clinics in Portland, Oregon and is currently the Medical Director for Precision Analytical, Inc, creators of the most cutting edge hormone test on the market, the DUTCH Test. So, come and listen while Carrie and I discuss the ins and outs of testing, what our results can tell us, how she doesn't believe in Adrenal Fatigue (yes, you heard me right there!) and what it means when your cortisone and cortisol are off-kilter. I love what the Dutch test can offer us, so I was super thrilled to have Carrie join me for a general in-depth hormone chat as well as a deeper look into the capability of the Dutch test.
Hair Tissue Mineral Analysis
Again, another great test carried out by your integrative doctor or naturopath. The hair tissue mineral analysis tests a small chunk of hair near the crown of your head and can reveal any heavy metal toxicity as well as analyse the comparative ratios of nutrients and toxic minerals. So that's copper, lead, zinc chromium, magnesium etc. Oh, and don't worry, you won't lose all of your locks! They only take a very small sample. This one's great if you've been feeling foggy, angry, irritable, experienced unexplained mood swings or chronic illness, had exposure to industry or farming chemicals or lived in a old house while renovating.
Salivary cortisol testing
Much like the salivary hormone testing above, this one is really useful if you're a highly stressed person and you're trying to conceive. It will paint a very clear picture of what your stress hormones are doing. It links back to all I talk about in the >"The SSSH Effect" on the importance of managing stress for optimal health of mum, dad and future bub. You'll get stats on cortisol production throughout the day - ideally you should have higher levels of cortisol in the morning when you're at your most productive and then it should slowly decrease until bedtime before rising again at about 3am.
** Image sourced from www.theissnscoop.com.
For me, this one is a no brainer. If you have an "MTHFR mutation" this means you have a gene which affects how much active folate you have can synthesise and make available for absorption.... And folate is kind essential for pregnancy. I go into this in depth on my podcast and over in the Power Food for Fertility section. This test is often poo-pooed by some GP's but I seriously encourage you to get an integrative doctor or naturopath to test for it, or even do it yourself with a home testing kit. It could potentially save you a world of heartache and confusion over why perhaps you're experiencing miscarriages or just can't fall pregnant.
Full STD checks
Now this one is purely just to be safe. I'm not insinuating anything here. My main thought is that if you have any lingering STD's - genital warts, herpes, chlamydia etc that you're unaware of then you'll want to know because birthing a baby vaginally may not be recommended in these scenarios. So while you're at your GP, why not ask him to do a full STD check?
A NOTE FOR THE MEN
All of the testing above is relevant for both men and women. Both of you need to be in good health to make a healthy baby. However, men should ensure they have specific testing for zinc levels as zinc is directly related to sperm motility, quality and volumes. And we need those swimmers to be in top form! Men should also get their MTHFR gene testing done. Research has shown that when the gene is present in the mum AND dad there is associated risk with recurrent pregnancy loss. So best to know now to avoid the effects of MTHFR mutations down the line.
Get your man on board!
In this episode we discuss fertility and the major factors concerning decline in sperm health and motility, major factors that upset the balance of testosterone and oestrogen in men, health check-up markers men should annually request to check in on their health and a touch of prostate at the end - pun intended 😉 No subject on men's health is taboo in this ep. We discuss everything from drinking, sleeping and morning glory so if you find talking about sexual organs sensitive for you, tune out this week.
It's all well and good to have these tests, but the real point of them is to interpret what they mean for you, and work with your practitioner to develop a treatment plan (if necessary!). But what if your test results are "normal" or still in range but you still feel a bit off? Well, take a listen below with the fabulous Dr Sandy Eun. She'll explain why she took the extra study on to become a functional medicine practitioner and how she interprets tests.
There are a bunch of fabulous apps out there which help you to track your menstrual cycle, fertility, PMS symptoms, digestive systems, sleep and much more. I really encourage you to get tracking with any of the suggested apps below. Not only will it help you to know when the perfect time is to do the deed (which FYI is day 14 of your cycle) it's also just super helpful in understanding your lady parts and how they affect your cycle. The best bit, in my opinion, is that you can share the info with your partner so that he knows when you're good to go and when to expect Cyclone Susan (apologies to Susan's out there!) to enter the room. Get my drift?
My Top Fertility Trackers:
- DAYSY - A fertility calculator that's incredibly accurate. This is especially good if you have a regular cycle.
- Clue - An App that tracks and records various symptoms, feelings and emotions and predicts future cycles.
- Period Tracker - logs your dates and calculates the average of your past 3 months' menstrual cycles to predict the start date of your next period.
- Another slightly more… natural approach - if you're not squeamish, you can try the cervical mucous test. This involves testing your vaginal mucous daily. Changes will indicate various stages of your cycle. A bit gross for some, but hey - it's pretty darn accurate.
Have you heard of phase 2.5 detox and the key role it plays in supporting the healthy removal of used hormones and toxins from our system? In this podcast episode, Dr Kelly Halderman explains what it is and why it is so key - especially for people who live or work in high tox environments or who have detoxification impairment due to illness or (epi)genetics. We also talk about the full detoxification picture, how to optimise detoxification, links between poor detoxification, chronic illness, gall bladder issues, and resistant weight loss.
Naomi Judge is a naturopath passionate about helping women find their best 'normal' possible in her work once clearing the path from all the things that jeopardise optimal health. If you've ever wanted to truly understand detoxification, how to detoxify from different things, how and when detoxification is NOT a good idea and what to do about life events that require an up levelling of detoxification, this episode is for you. We also discuss detoxification pitfalls and when to know you're not on the right track.
This is a cracker of a jam-packed podcast episode where I discuss the relevance of the MTHFR mutation with naturopath Carolyn Ledowsky along with a few other key genes, and why, for people who've hit a real road blog in bettering their health, gene testing can be not only useful but essential - especially in the matters of chronic illness.
My Top Three Takeaways
- Find a great naturopath and GP who are willing to work together to get you in tip-top shape for pregnancy.
- Take the guess work out and start tracking your period using one of the apps above, so that you know exactly when you're fertile.
- Book an appointment to get any relevant testing done so that you have a clear picture of what's happening in your body.