Fight Oxidative Stress

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Fight Oxidative Stress
The effects of alcohol, smoking and pollutants on women’s fertility
We all know that the excessive intake of alcohol, smoking and environmental pollutants are bad for our health, but can they negatively impact a woman’s chances of getting pregnant? The answer is a resounding (and unsurprising) yes! Here’s why – Firstly, as toxicants, they cause our bodies to produce Reactive Oxygen Species or ROS, which are highly-reactive ions and molecules that contain oxygen. ROS are a lot like free radicals, and they are both known to wreak havoc in our bodies by damaging proteins and impairing their function.
Usually, our bodies are able to neutralise the harmful effects of ROS and free radicals with antioxidants. However, when an imbalance in the production of ROS and free radicals occurs, our bodies are unable to cope. As a result, our bodies undergo what’s called – oxidative stress. Oxidative stress is a physiological condition that’s linked to a variety of health issues, including neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease; cancer; heart problems; blood vessel, gut and vision disorders; lung conditions; chronic fatigue syndrome; kidney, autoimmune, arthritis and inflammatory disease; diabetes; pancreatitis and more.
There is also mounting evidence on the negative effects of oxidative stress on male subfertility, including decreased sperm motility and numbers. And now, findings indicate that oxidative stress can increase the risk for female infertility, as well as delaying pregnancies and lowering pregnancy rates. It can even lead to pregnancy complications like preeclampsia and even miscarriage.
While the field is currently understudied and there is so much more to discover, there is no denying that it is crucial for us to gain a better understanding of how to combat oxidative stress. “If we can identify factors that can be modified to decrease oxidative stress in women, it may be an inexpensive and non-invasive treatment for infertility,” states a study called The Impact of oxidative stress on female fertility by Elizabeth H. Ruder, Terryl J. Hartman, and Marlene B. Goldmanc.
But does this mean we have to play the waiting game for more research to be conducted on the subject? While it may be a few years time before scientists can identify the factors that can be modified to fight oxidative stress, there are steps you can take right now.
We know that oxidation occurs when we’re exposed to toxins, chemicals and stress. Therefore, it would be highly beneficial for you to minimise your exposure to triggers that are present in your lifestyle, foods and environment. Numerous studies have also shown the benefits of a healthy and varied diet, which is supplemented with multivitamins and antioxidants.
In addition, you can maintain your reproductive health by limiting caffeine and alcohol intake, quitting cigarettes, getting adequate exercise, learning ways to manage daily stress and maintaining a healthy body weight. By taking these steps and making crucial lifestyle changes, you can significantly enhance your fertility and boost your chances of conception. Not sure where to begin? Don’t hesitate to speak to a healthcare professional to get on the right track.

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Food for Pregnancy

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Some of you may have known that one of my interest in the field of Fertility is the impact of Nutrition on Fertility & Pregnancy.

Some of the research work which I am involved in surrounds this unique aspect of Fertility.

Recently, I was invited to speak to a group of O& G and Paediatric doctors on this topic. The most interesting thing is that I was asked to speak on a platform erected on a beach and my dress code was white and a flower in my hair!!!! So, the picture above was definitely NOT a singing contest but a actual scientific lecture.

I had lots of fun researching for the talk and here is some of the interesting findings I wish to share about Nutrition and Pregnancy:

The Importance of Nutrition
Lessons from the Dutch Famine Birth Cohort Study

In this post, I’ll discuss another topic related to fertility and nutrition – the findings of the Dutch Famine Birth Cohort Study. Prior to the study, very little was known about the role and effects of a maternal diet on a baby’s health. However, using the medical records collected during the famine, scientists have been able to measure the adverse effects of fetal malnutrition.

 

Background of the Study

The Dutch famine of 1944, also known as “Hunger winter,” was a famine that took place in the Nazi-occupied part of the Netherlands. Affecting some 4.5 million people, the famine was caused by the shortage of food supplies in the Netherlands towards the end of World War II. Although the Allied Forces had liberated the south, their efforts to free the western parts of the Netherlands were repeatedly thwarted, worsening the situation.

This was followed by the Nazi embargo on all food transport to western Netherlands and the onset of an unusually early and harsh winter. During the period, which lasted until the Allies liberated the area in May 1945, rations were as low as 400-800 calories a day. This is less than a quarter of the recommended adult caloric intake. Though estimations vary, as many as 22,000 people are believed to have died due to the famine.

 

The findings

The Dutch Famine Birth Cohort Study was conducted by the departments of Clinical Epidemiology and Biostatistics, Gynecology and Obstetrics and Internal Medicine of the Academic Medical Centre in Amsterdam, in collaboration with the MRC Environmental Epidemiology Unit of the University of Southampton in Britain. They based their study on the antenatal and maternity records of babies born at the Wilhelmina Gasthuis in Amsterdam between November 1943 and February 1947. The first results of the study were published in 1976 and the study is still ongoing.

Here is a summary of some of their findings:

  1. The children of pregnant women exposed to famine were more susceptible to diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular disease, microalbuminuria and other health problems.
  2. The children were smaller and their children were also thought to also be smaller than average.
  3. Early gestation appeared to be the most vulnerable period.
  4. Children affected in the second trimester of their mother’s pregnancy had an increased incidence of schizophrenia and neurological defects.
  5. Famine exposure in utero causes transgenerational effects.
  6. The effects of famine varied according to its timing during gestation, especially during critical periods of organ and tissue development.
  7. Undernutrition during any period of gestation is associated with reduced glucose tolerance and raised insulin concentrations at age 50 and 58.
  8. People exposed to famine in mid gestation had an increased prevalence of obstructive airways disease.

The most well-known survivor of the Dutch famine is perhaps Audrey Hepburn. Often admired for her gamine figure, Hepburn spent her childhood in the Netherlands during the famine. Throughout her life, she suffered from a series of health problems, including anemia, respiratory illnesses, edema and clinical depression, which were attributed to the malnutrition suffered in her early years.

 

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Conclusion
The Dutch famine study has shown us that poor maternal nutrition during gestation can have detrimental effects on the health of children and even subsequent generations. Therefore, we cannot ignore the importance of maternal nutrition during pregnancy, especially in preventing chronic degenerative diseases in future generations. We must also be wary of the possible detrimental consequences of undernourishment in mothers due to unbalanced diets, rigorous fasting and severe morning sickness, especially during the first trimester.