For those individuals planning a family, having a safe pregnancy and healthy children are paramount. And yet, we live in a toxic environment, more laden with chemicals and pollution than ever before. We see a rise in infertility as well as an increase in childhood disease. There are more children with autism than ever before (one in fifty; or 2 percent). There is a massive rise in childhood obesity and childhood diabetes. The incidence of childhood cancers and autoimmune disorders are also higher than 50 years ago.
So, what can a couple do to maximize their chance for a healthy well-adjusted child without physical, psychological, or emotional issues? What can they do to enhance their child’s ability to learn and grow?
For years, we have debated the relative importance of nature vs nurture but now science has explained how nurture affects our DNA. Our DNA, our genetics is important but it is only a small part of the determinants of health. The environment affects the DNA through epigenetics. Molecules bind to the DNA and either cause a gene to be turned on or off. So, our health is the product of both our DNA and our environment.
What is the environment? What has the ability to change our DNA expression?
We are learning that almost anything can modify our DNA. Food, contaminated water, toxins, thoughts and emotional traumas, vitamins and minerals all have the ability to affect enzyme function, energy production, DNA expression and more.
The placenta is more a sieve than a filter. Studies on cord bloods (the blood in the umbilical cord at birth) identify an average of over 300 toxins at the time of a baby’s birth in the USA. During our lifetime, we are exposed to many chemicals and they are often stored in our bodies — in our fat cells. During pregnancy, these chemicals may mobilize from the fat cells into the blood stream and down to the placenta; And, therefore into our baby.
Many women try to diet and lose weight in preparation for a pregnancy. They fear weight gain in pregnancy and want to get healthy preconception. As fertility doctors, we know that women in the ideal weight category have better fertility potential than those women who are under- or overweight. We typically recommend better diets and weight loss prior to conception.
On the one hand, weight loss may enhance a woman’s ability to ovulate which improves her fertility. And yet, weight loss is associated with the release of toxins from fat cells into the blood stream. This means recent weight loss just prior to conception may increase fetal exposure to toxins, especially endocrine disruptors and persistent organic pollutants (POPs) that hide in fat cells. This means the best time to lose weight is probably more than 90 days before trying to conceive.
How do we better excrete these toxins? If we assume our bodies are all loaded with toxins, is there nothing we can do?
Detoxification can be done naturally and again should probably be undertaken more than three (3) months before planning a conception. First and foremost, maintaining good hydration and adequate blood flow to the kidneys is essential as is adequate fiber and water/hydration to ensure no constipation. Regular elimination of the bowels promotes the excretion of toxins and better overall health.
Detox pathways in the liver can be enhanced by proper nutrition. To eliminate toxins and chemicals and also our own endogenous hormones so that we have optimal levels of hormones in our bodies, requires detoxification/enzymatic pathways. Vitamins and minerals are crucial cofactors for the enzymes that process and neutralize and excrete chemical and hormones.
Attention to our nutrition then is fundamental to ensuring a lower toxic load. Cruciferous vegetables are important nutrients. A diet laden with fruits and vegetables is essential.
However, much of our produce from conventional industrial farms are loaded with chemicals and pesticides. So trying to purchase organic produce will be better for you, especially for the fruits and vegetables on The Environmental Group’s Dirty Dozen List of produce laden with pesticides (https://www.ewg.org/foodnews/dirty-dozen.php).
By taking control and planning and managing your diet and weight loss before conception and during pregnancy, you are likely to increase the likelihood you’ll conceive, have an easier, healthier pregnancy and a healthier baby!