How Methylation, Homocysteine and Nutrients Affect Your Fertility
Please read Part 1 of this blog as well if you or someone you know if having fertility issues. In summary of Part 1 - Optimal hormone production and timing is critical to have assessed and corrected as a foundation to any fertility treatment. In today's blog we will dive into another important aspect: Methylation and Nutrient Levels. Methylation is a term that describes a process that is constantly occurring millions of times per minute throughout your body when a methyl group is added in the place of a hydrogen atom. Adding a methyl group could then in turn lead to numerous outcomes but the big picture is that it is constantly making, maintaining and repairing your DNA. If this is not happening optimally for the reasons we will discuss shortly, risks of almost every modern disease process go up significantly. Epigenetic signaling could potentially trigger mutations in genetic codes, autoimmune diseases, cancer cell proliferation secondary to altered ability to keep oxidative stress minimized and so on. When it comes to fertility, nutritional status and particular nutrients are vital to not only conceiving but optimal maternal and fetal health.
MTHFR, Homocysteine, and Folic Acid
MTHFR is a hot topic. I won't rewrite my former blog but please have this gene checked by your PCP. Even if you have only one mutation request a follow up fasting serum homocysteine level. A mutation in the MTHFR gene can significantly affect methylation and homocysteine can build up in the blood. Elevated homocysteine has been proven to increase the risk of a cardiovascular event which is an inflammatory process. Any chronic inflammatory process is not good for you or your potential baby and could compromise a healthy pregnancy. Direct links have been found between elevated homocysteine and miscarriages. Dysfunction in this area is also commonly behind low thyroid function (hypothyroidism) which is also linked to difficulty maintaining a healthy pregnancy.
This same methylation pathway significantly affects folate and B12 metabolism. If these pathways are malfunctioning because of mutations and/or toxic burden then inactive forms of folate (i.e. folic acid) could potentially prove harmful and no amount of inactive B12 (cyanocobalamin) will improve a B12 deficiency.
As you can see above, nutrients like B12 and folate are critical in healthy conception and healthy babies. Folate deficiencies have been implicated in neural tube defects for decades but just in recent years has genetic testing proved that a significant portion of the population will have an even more significant problem with folate metabolism with MTHFR gene mutations. If you or someone in your family has one or two gene mutations then please find a medical provider who is well versed in this area and will watch your fasting serum homocysteine levels closely (optimal is thought to be <7 at this time) and will recommend a solid prenatal vitamin pack that contains active B12 and folate and optimal EPA/DHA (omega 3s). Here is the one I recommend from Orthomolecular below. Contact me if you need access to order it through our website.
Does the Male Partner's Health Matter In Fertility?
Of course! More than most of us even realize! Women usually take all the blame on themselves when conception becomes difficult but very commonly it is not their fault at all. If males are not healthy internally then their sperm will not be either and this means that they will not have the count, motility or structure in order to even reach the female's egg or penetrate it. Poor diets high in processed grains and a lack of phytonutrient dense vegetables promote weak sperm. Add on top of that high stress, lack of sleep, and lack of exercise and you have a recipe for infertility from the male's side. Take a look at this nutrient wheel for Male Fertility.
Men, take the lead on this one and get your self checked out by a local functional medicine provider who can look at your nutrient levels and talk with you about any lifestyle modifications that will improve your overall health and your fertility. Get on a good multi-vitamin daily and help your wife with making healthy food choices. Let me know if you want to stop wasting money on over-the-counter one-a-day vitamins and I can point you to some solid options that will actually benefit your body. Here is my current favorite foundational multivitamin pack for men. You can get it shipped to you from our online Orthomolecular store if you are interested. Email me for details.
Testing recommendations for any fertility case
- MTHFR - this can be drawn by your PCP
- Fasting Homocysteine Level - Always get this if you have had any trouble with miscarriages or if you have a MTHFR gene mutation
- Organic Acid Testing - This will give you a very good glimpse at nutrient needs and let you know if your MTHFR gene mutation is significantly affecting your methylation status. This test is used by most Functional Medicine providers because it gives so much information into your health.
- Routine Labs plus thorough thyroid panel - to screen for anemia, liver, kidney, electrolyte or thyroid imbalances.
- Thyroid labs (minimal) - TSH, Free T3, Free T4, Rev T3, Anti-thyroglobulin antibodies and Thyroid Peroxidase Antibodies (TPO)
- Month long salivary hormone panel - See part 1 of this blog
- Adrenal Stress Profile - Source of many hormonal imbalances and fertility problems
- GI Pathogen Testing - BioHealth and Diagnostic Solutions offer great stool testing
- The health of your gut is vital and must be part of any long term health support
Links for Further Self Study
Please email us with any questions or comments. This is in no way a comprehensive blog on the topic but tries to cover big things that are easily overlooked. Let us know if there is another aspect to this that you would like us to blog on.