Adrenal Recovery is Necessary for a Healthy Pregnancy
Many women have problems with fertility. Although there may be many reasons for this problem to manifest, one that is often overlooked is Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome (AFS). Very often, seemingly healthy women (i.e. women showing no reproductive issues) just cannot get pregnant, no matter how hard they try. Yet they find themselves in stressful situations, whether it is at the office or in the home environment. In many cases, adrenal recovery not only solves the problem of fertility, but also leads to a much healthier, happier, and productive life.
Adrenal Recovery: What is Adrenal Fatigue?
In a nutshell, adrenal fatigue is a dysfunction in the body’s automatic response to stress. Under normal conditions, your body, more specifically your adrenal glands, produce cortisol when you are under any kind of stress. During this time, the production of other hormones is curbed and bodily functions not considered essential to life are also either reduced or stop altogether. Menstrual cycles can become irregular, or stop from time to time.
The Impact of Adrenal Fatigue on Pregnancy
Two hormones are essential in order for a woman’s reproductive cycle to work correctly. These are estrogen and progesterone.
Under normal conditions, estrogen levels slowly rise after menstruation, peaking at ovulation, when the eggs are ripe for fertilization. This is usually around the fourteenth day of the menstrual cycle. The estrogen levels then start dropping, while the progesterone levels steadily rise up to about the twentieth day. If fertilization has not occurred, progesterone starts dropping once more while the estrogen levels again rise, repeating the cycle.
As long as this balance between your estrogen and progesterone is kept, your menstrual cycle will commence as normal, and pregnancy can ensue. If fertilization occurs, then progesterone levels will continue to increase. It will be produced by the corpus luteum and eventually the placenta.
The problem arises when the estrogen hormone becomes dominant, however, as progesterone is needed to ensure a healthy pregnancy. The reasons for estrogen dominance and insufficient progesterone can be ascribed to many factors, and one of these is adrenal fatigue.
Adrenal Fatigue as a Cause of Estrogen Dominance
When talking about adrenal recovery and an estrogen imbalance, it does not necessarily mean that the body produces more estrogen. It means that less progesterone is available. Therefore, when looking at the ratio between these two hormones, it is skewed in favor of estrogen. This leads to the question, how does this happen?
Your body makes pregnenolone, which could be considered the mother hormone, from cholesterol. In turn, progesterone is made from pregnenolone and is the precursor hormone to cortisol. Therefore, when you are in a stressful period, the progesterone is shunted towards to cortisol, meaning less of this hormone is available for other functions, leading to an imbalance in the body’s estrogen and progesterone levels. As progesterone levels drop, estrogen levels become more dominant. It then becomes more difficult to not only conceive but also maintain a pregnancy.
Impact of Lower Progesterone Levels on Fertility
One of the main functions of progesterone is to support the embryo during pregnancy. A decrease in this hormone often results in miscarriage – especially during the first trimester.
Progesterone’s main functions are included among the following:
- Maintains the lining of your uterus so that a fertilized egg can attach itself
- Sees to the survival of the embryo
- Prevents your body from rejecting the fetus
- Helps with the embryo’s development throughout the pregnancy
- Helps with the embryo’s bone formation
- Plays a role in blood clotting
Thus, when your progesterone levels are low, it severely impacts your ability to achieve and sustain a pregnancy.
Common Symptoms of Lowered Progesterone Levels
- Recurrent miscarriages
- Periods stop
- No ovulation takes place
- Occurrence of endometriosis
- Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (POS)
- Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS)
- Water retention
- Low thyroid function
- Facial hair
- Swollen breasts
- Heart palpitations
- Bone loss
- Vaginal dryness
Natural Adrenal Recovery
If your low progesterone is a result of adrenal fatigue, it is then necessary to start at the root and resolve said adrenals. However, adrenal fatigue is a process. You do not wake up one morning and ‘have adrenal fatigue’. It is something brought on over a long period of time. Most common causes are diet, lifestyle, and various environmental factors. Although you may not be able to change most of your environmental factors, you can indeed change your lifestyle and diet and in the process improve your reproductive hormone balance.
Lifestyle Changes for Adrenal Recovery
Although reducing your stress may be the obvious solution, it is difficult to do so due to the hectic life we lead and the demands of work. It is, therefore, necessary that we do what we can to decrease our stress during our spare time. This includes eating regularly, trying to get enough sleep (eight hours a night is recommended), and/or taking short power naps of about thirty minutes during the day.
Additionally, exercise is important. This does not necessarily mean joining a gym! Gentle exercise is key, such as walking, slow cycling, or yoga. Also take some time out to do the fun stuff, whether it is going to watch a movie or a dinner with friends.
Environmental factors such as herbicides and pollution all play a role in the manifestation of adrenal fatigue. Although you cannot do much about most of the exterior factors, you can do something about it in your home.
All electrical gadgetry emits electrical currents that impact your adrenal health. In order to minimize the extent, do not sleep against a wall that has electric conduits, do not work on your personal computer for too long a stretch at a time, turn off all plugs when electric appliances are not in use, and keep all electronics or electrical devices out of your bedroom. This includes your cellphone and cellphone charger. These electrical emissions prevent your body’s melatonin levels from rising. Your brain needs elevated levels of this hormone at night in order to induce sleep.
Your body repairs itself during the night while you sleep. Having these electrical emissions around you at that time puts stress on your body – something you do not need while your body tries to recuperate.
Your Diet and Adrenal Recovery
When it comes to diet, one that includes plenty of fresh fruits, green leafy vegetables, and lean protein is best. Stay away from processed foods, fast foods, and sugary foods.
Because those who suffer from adrenal fatigue usually have shortages of certain vitamins and minerals, supplements are a great idea.
Supplements that may aid in adrenal recovery include:
The B vitamins
These vitamins play a role in cell metabolization, boosting energy levels and reducing fatigue. They also help with the production of the enzymes that help with cellular respiration, the breaking down of fats, and the maintenance of red blood cells. Lowered levels of vitamins B6 and B12 are linked to depression, memory loss, and anemia.
Although excess vitamin B12 is disposed of in your urine, it may result in a few side effects. These include optic nerve damage (in people who are not healthy) and a negative interaction with certain medications. Excessive, prolonged doses of vitamin B6 are linked to neuropathic nerve damage, gastrointestinal problems, and skin problems.
It is best to see your healthcare professional for correct doses when considering these supplements:
Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant necessary for the production of cortisol (and other hormones) in the adrenal glands. It protects the body from free radicals and boosts the immune system.
Too much vitamin C may result in gut problems such as diarrhea, kidney stones, vomiting, stomach cramps and bloating, heartburn, and headaches.
Magnesium helps maintain energy. Too little magnesium results in symptoms that include depression and general fatigue. Magnesium can be taken orally or by means of a magnesium spray or an Epsom salts (a form of magnesium) bath. The latter two allow for magnesium absorption through the skin. Too much magnesium results in digestive problems.
There are many herbal supplements that help with various systems in the body and stimulate hormone production. As with any form of medication, whether alternative or conventional, please make sure you have the guidance of a qualified medical healthcare expert before embarking on a course of treatment, as each has its own set of pros and cons.
No person’s reason for adrenal fatigue, or the stage of adrenal fatigue, is the same. Therefore, neither are their symptoms, medications, supplements, or herbal remedies for adrenal recovery the same. Before embarking on any form of treatment, make sure you seek the guidance of a qualified healthcare professional to ensure you get the treatment that is right for your specific needs.
© Copyright 2017 Michael Lam, M.D. All Rights Reserved.
Dr. Lam’s Key Questions
Does my adrenal health affect my fertility?
Although infertility has many causes, adrenal health is most certainly one of them. So yes, it may affect your fertility, as adrenal fatigue has a direct influence on hormone production and hormonal imbalance.
Can my adrenals heal?
Your adrenal problems took a long time in manifesting. Adrenal health can be restored, but it is usually a long process, depending on your stage of adrenal fatigue. You will, however, have to be prepared to make certain lifestyle and dietary changes.
I am trying to conceive and have been diagnosed with PCOS. Does this have anything to do with adrenal fatigue?
PCOS is one of the symptoms of adrenal fatigue. Although adrenal fatigue may not be the direct cause of your PCOS, it most definitely plays a role.