What does egg quality mean?
Sunny side up? Not quite! When women are born they come with a lifetime’s worth of eggs; around one million at the time of birth. The quality of all those eggs, however, can change over the duration of a woman’s fertile period of her life. A lot of this quality does depend upon elements we can control, like diet and healthy habits. Some affects are out of our control, such as toxic environmental hazards, stresses and pollution.
As we age, so do the stored eggs. Their quality is also dependent upon the woman’s health, hormonal balance, cellular energy, the mitochondria, and, of course, the environment. Eggs lie dormant in the ovaries and get activated by hormones during the monthly cycle. Some may have defects that accumulate during this period of storage. This can cause the embryonic DNA cells to stop dividing before it is able to implant. These are non-effective eggs.
The environment is a controlling factor, both internally and externally, on egg quality. Eggs take 100 days to properly mature, and during this time nutritional deficiencies, toxins and chemicals can play a part in their quality. Premature ovarian aging can be caused by radiation, such as frequent x-rays due to health and physical issues, and frequent air travel, from the x-rays at the air ports. Closer to home, nutritional deficiencies can affect both the way eggs mature, and their quality. Also, which genes are turned on or off during preconception. Food choices can also have a major effect on the age of your cells. Sugar, or glucose, can cause a reaction with your fat and protein molecules chemically causing a process of a break down in the cell, which in turn leads to poor oxygen absorption. So it is reasonable to appreciate that your diet can have an effect on the quality of your eggs.
In a study into the actual damage “fast food”, or over-processed food items loaded with chemicals, preservatives and colorings, does to our cells, the subjects showed increased inflammation and immune responses. This study looked into the Western diet and how it can actually trigger immune responses that make the body’s natural protection turn on to hyper-mode and attack the cells it normally guards from external invaders.
What does this mean? In terms we can understand, it is like an army in our body, constantly vigilant for invading toxins, bad bacteria, viruses, and infections. When we have a flood of toxins from poor nutrition, stress and pollution, our internal armies are overwhelmed and in turn attack the areas they should be protecting, causing the cells to age faster, including stored eggs in women. The anti-inflection mechanisms programmed to protect, clean and restore responds more potently than it should, since everything appears to be invading. This can affect the viability of stored eggs, and that in turn can mean infertility. Low quality eggs have internal defects from problems with their DNA, and that prevents them from producing healthy embryos. Even if fertilization does occur to form an embryo, poor quality eggs can cause issues with the essential cell activity which in turn leads to a higher incidence of miscarriages or birth defects. The better the quality of the eggs, the greater the chances of a healthy pregnancy.
What are some of the signs to look for in egg quality issues?
Egg quality is difficult to actually diagnose. There are, however, known issues that have been identified as having a strong influences which cause poor egg quality. First, age can affect the supply, since the number of eggs become depleted. Quality plays a greater risk in the diminished numbers. At least 10 years before menopause, egg quality begins to decline, so there may be enough hormones to have regular menstrual cycles, but not enough to become pregnant. This is called the oopause, or poor ovarian response. Then there are medical causes for declining egg quality, such as chemotherapy, or smoking, and elevated FSH levels (follicle stimulating hormones) which is produced by the pituitary gland, which can be affected by birth control medication.
Another cause of poor egg quality is the energy stored at the cellular level, the mitochondria. Depleted energy in the egg cells is usually linked to age, and low energy means that the cellular division may be impaired, which can show up during the period between ovulation and implantation, or following implantation. The division can slow or stop, causing the embryonic process to stop. Just because a woman has poor egg quality, does not automatically mean she cannot get pregnant. It just means it is much more difficult, and may not go to full term development.
How can women improve egg quality prior to starting a family?
Start with a cleanse to give the organs and ovaries a chance to make sure all birth control chemicals, artificial food preservatives, colorings, smoke and alcohol and added hormones (in dairy, factory farmed meats, poultry and fish) are out of the equation. Cleanses for preparing for conception should be done over a period of 3 months, and include a variety of herbs and supplements and exclude any potentially harmful substances. It is also advised to change to a specific fertility diet, to assist the successful conception.
Advice from a Naturopath
Here at Metro Integrative we have a number of supportive supplements, such as 7-Keto DHEA, anti-oxidants, vitamins and minerals as well as cleansing herbs, such as milk thistle, burdock, dandelion, licorice, ginger, goldenseal root tincture to aid in fertility. We also have DIM a detox which is a combination of compounds which promote healthy estrogen metabolism and cell cycle activity. The calcium-D-glucarate and targets specific enzyme activity to promote healthy hormone detoxification. Vitex is another We have cleansing herbs, it that may assist in balancing hormones and regulating cycles following ceasing birth control pills (not to be taken if you have any history of depression). Do not attempt to do a fertility cleanse while pregnant or breastfeeding. Another important area to check while keeping in mind that egg quality needs to be as high as possible for a successful conception and pregnancy, is sleep, and sleep quality, since the two are strongly linked in studies. If you are having any difficulties in the sleep department, consider taking melatonin, in low doses to help regulate the sleep hormone.
Come in to discuss your personal needs and we can assist you in planning your journey through a cleanse. We can offer advice for a healthy fertility diet, and how to plan for improved egg quality.
Sally Warren, PhD
Board Certified Traditional Naturopathic Doctor
Metro Integrative Pharmacy
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This information is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions about your medical condition. The information in this article is for educational purposes only.