WHAT IS STRESS?
A brief over view of the HPA axis/stress system.
Increased levels of glucocorticoids (cortisol and aldosterone) in response to stress, over activation of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis (HPA axis) and sympathetic nervous system dominance can inhibit reproduction as a mechanism to ‘protect self’. Your body simply won’t put preference to grow and nourish another human being, if its priority is to protect itself, which is the mechanism it’s in when stressed – fight or flight mode (sympathetic nervous system dominance).
How stress affects your reproductive hormones:
Further to this, continuous maternal exposure to stress whilst pregnant, or exogenous glucocorticoids (steroidal drugs) can result in permanent damage to the HPA axis and stress-related behaviours of the offspring, as glucocorticoids are vital for normal brain development.
EXPLAINING THE FEMALE HORMONES DURING MENSTRUATION.
During menstruation, oestrogen drops, & in response the hypothalamus release GnRH, which signals the pituitary to release FSH, which initiates follicular growth in the ovary.
Hypothalamus releases gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) & in response, the pituitary releases luteinising hormone (LH) and follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) to signal the ovaries.
In response, the ovaries release oestrogen and progesterone, which signal back to the hypothalamus, like a feedback loop.
While the follicles are developing, it stimulates the endometrium to develop/proliferate.
The rise in oestrogen in the follicular phase causes changes in the cervical mucous to make it a sticky ‘egg-white’ consistency, Oestrogen continues to rise whilst the ovum (egg) develops in the (most mature) follicle.
The rise in oestrogen triggers the hypothalamus to secrete GnRH, which stimulates the release of LH and FSH, which in turn stimulates the release of the ovum. This is when ovulation occurs.
Once ovulation occurs, FSH levels sharply drop and LH slowly declines.
The Luteal phase follows after ovulation, by which the corpus luteum (which is stimulated by LH) secretes larger quantities of progesterone, followed by constant levels of oestrogen.
Progesterone influences the endometrium (which started to develop under the influence of oestrogen) to develop blood vessels and glandular structures that are able to nourish a developing embryo (if fertilised).
If fertilisation doesn’t occur, the corpus luteum regresses after approx. 14 days, which leads to a decline in the hormones and the endometrium sheds (menstruation).
Once oestrogen levels reach a low enough point, the hypothalamus secretes GnRH, and the cycle starts again.
If your cycle is irregular, and you think stress may be effecting your hormones, then get in contact with me for a Naturopathy appointment in Melbourne or Bright.
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SO...you're thinking of trying to conceive?
You've probably been told by someone that you need to take at least a Folate supplement at the very minimum for pre-conception care. Well they'd be right, but there's also many other vitamins, minerals and nutrients that are of utter importance in the health of both mother and baby when it comes to pre-conception and pregnancy care.
Before we get into it, if you're thinking of trying for a baby, or perhaps you've just come off the oral contraceptive pill or other forms of contraception, and are looking at what you need to do next for preconception care - please book a Nutritional or Naturopathic appointment with me prior to just going to Chemist Warehouse and choosing any off-the-shelf pre-conception supplement - NEWS FLASH - they're oftne not high enough in the nutrient you're requiring, or they're in a poorly absorbable form - NOT WHAT YOU WANT!
Now, lets get into it.
Folate (also known as Vitamin B9) is an essential nutrient required for DNA replication, growth and the development of the fetus and the formation of the neural tube.
Deficiencies are associated with congenital abnormailities such as orofacial clefts, Anencephaly & Spina Bifida.
FORMS OF FOLATE:
Folate is the form of folate naturally found in foods such as leafy green vegetables, eggs, legumes, liver and citrus fruits.
Folic Acid is the synthetic form of folate, that's often in fortified foods or supplements.
*NEITHER of these forms of folate are metabolically active, meaning that they must go through processing in the body, to be able to actually have an action.
Both of these forms of folate need to be metabolized in the body by a process called Methylation; the end result of which is the most active form of folate: 5-Methyltetrahydrofolate (5-MTHF).
In this process of methylation, we require enzymes to change folate or folic acid into THF; the enyzyme Methylenetetrahydrofolate-Reductase is the enzyme that allows this process to happen.
It's quite common for this process not to be able to occur in many individuals, due to genetic polymorphisms in the MTHFR genotype. This ultimately results in the inability to convert INACTIVE Folate to ACTIVE Folate (5-MTHF).
However, this entire process occurs in the digestive system, before moving onto the liver, and out into the bloodstream. Not only is this conversion of inactive to active folate a very slow process, if the health and function of the digestive system and the liver aren't working (let alone Genetic polymorphysms in MTHFR genes) at their best capacity, this process is slowed down even further.
Ultimately, the result is reduced levels of active folate; which can actually worsens when high doses of inactive folate is prescribed.
If a MTHFR dysfunction is prevalent, the treatment is usually folic acid; however this completely defeats the purpose as it's not able to be metabolized into its active form - only to result in an excess of inactive folate sitting in the blood stream rendered completely useless, and even potentially able to cause immune dysfunction amongst other health concerns!
So how do we combat this?
Well, considering the above discussion, as well as recent research, it just makes sense to only take the active form of folate, 5-MTHF. It's the most bio-available (meaning it will be the best absorbed and utilized by the body), avoids any genetic defects in the MTHFR gene, and prevents any detrimental health defects resulting from a build up of in-active folate in the body.
If you're thinking of trying to conceive, a minimum of 3 months pre-conception care for the female, and minimum of 4 months for the male should be implemented.
Please contact me for any questions in regards to folate supplementation, pregnancy or pre-conception care for both males and females.
The Natural Nutritionist - Sandringham, Melbourne.
Ph: 0407 736 463
BRIGHT, NORTH EAST VIC BOOKINGS:
Bright Allied Health, Bright, Victoria.
Ph: (03) 5750 1965
Naturopath, Nutritionist & Yoga Teacher
BHSc Naturopathy, Advn Dip Nutritional Medicine, RYT200