The rapid decline in fertility we are currently witnessing is predicted to result in most couples needing to resort to assisted reproduction by 2045. The steep drop in sperm levels alone is predicted to result in a median sperm count of zero by 2045 unless there is a change in this downward trajectory. This is only twenty four years in the future. What is the cause of this exponential decline in fertility? According to Professor Shanna Swann and other researchers in this field, exposure to hormone disrupting chemicals in our food and environment is the number one driver of this alarming health trend, predominantly due to exposure to the chemicals found in plastics, flame retardants, cosmetics, fragrances and pesticides.
While these chemicals have a major effect on fertility, they are also primary drivers for many other reproductive health conditions that I frequently see in my clinic, such as heavy, painful menstruation, endometriosis, fibroids, repeated miscarriages, lowered libido and stamina and hormonally driven cancers. Reproductive function is one key marker of our overall well being, so while a lowered fertility rate may be beneficial in terms of planetary overpopulation, it is still a huge concern in terms of reflecting an overall deterioration in health and the resulting health burden this places on our societies.
So how do we decrease our exposure to these toxic chemicals, and why are they in our food and environments anyway? This is after all not a new issue - awareness of the impact of such chemicals was first noted in the 1970's when fishermen noticed the sexual and behavioural changes in fish found in a lake contaminated with industrial waste from a nearby factory. The fish exhibited showed signs of profound hormonal imbalances including having both male and female genitalia, previously male fish changing physiologically to have functioning female reproductive systems and male fish exhibiting female behaviour traits. The health implications of these studies were described in 1997 in the excellent book Feminisation of Nature by Deborah Cadbury.
However, since that time little has been done to restrict the use of these harmful chemicals. There have been some changes in terms of specific chemicals such as bisphenol A (BPA) and phthalates from soft plastics, however these have often been substituted for other chemicals that are still unproven in terms of safety. Disruptive chemicals in pesticides are still allowed to be used in New Zealand and in many countries that we source food from.
How to avoid endocrine disrupting chemicals
There are important ways that we can reduce our exposure to these pervasive chemicals and shift these current trends. We can also support our body to detoxify and eliminate these chemicals and shift the way we metabolise them to make them less harmful to our body. This is a big aspect of holistic health care that I support my clients with, particularly when focusing on preconception and fertility, menstrual concerns and general toxicity issues. Exposure to these chemicals in utero through the mother can cause the most damage as the developing baby is particularly sensitive to these chemicals, so taking special care to reduce exposure before and after conception is hugely important for our children's health, as well as supporting detoxification of existing body stores of these chemicals in the mother and father prior to conception.
Reduce your exposure to these endocrine disrupting chemicals in the following ways:
A natural approach to lowering chemical burden
Alongside minimising exposure, supporting our ability to deal with exposure to these and other chemicals is an important aspect of natural healthcare, as these chemicals impact not only on fertility but can also drive a number of chronic health complaints.
Optimising daily detoxification and enhancing healthy gut function are some of the key considerations that can support our ability to deal with endocrine disrupting chemicals. There are many ways we can enhance these vital body functions naturally. Healthy gut bacteria have the capacity to detoxify and prevent tissue damage from many toxins that we are exposed to in our food and environment. Feeding our gut bacteria with good amounts of fibre rich plant food increases levels of beneficial bacteria. Eating plant foods with minimal washing straight from the garden is a great way to introduce beneficial bacteria into the gut, as is eating unpasteurised fermented foods such as sauerkraut, miso, kombucha and yoghurt. Increasing our digestive fire is an important part of our first line of defense in the gut, killing off detrimental bacteria and cultivating our beneficial lactic acid loving bacteria.
We can also support the detoxification of synthetic hormone disruptors through the liver by emphasising particular foods in the diet such as the brassica family vegetables including broccoli, broccoli sprouts, Brussels sprouts, kale and rocket. These vegetables all contain specific constituents that aid the detoxification of these chemicals and can shift our metabolism of them down less hazardous pathways in the body. Including this family of vegetables regularly in the diet can offer significant support for reducing the impact of chemical hormonal disruptors.
There are many ways to reduce our exposure to and the impact of these damaging chemicals by adopting a natural approach. In this way, we can reverse the current decline in fertility and optimise our well being.
ThetaHealer, Naturopath, Ayurvedic Practitioner, Wholefood Cook and Mother.