The Modern Fertility Issue

The declining population growth in the Western world is a topic of concern for many. In this article, we will take a closer look at the reasons behind this trend; and why this is relevant for most of us. Join us as we explore this important issue and delve into the facts and figures behind this phenomenon.As indicated by Our World in Data, the number of children per woman has been decreasing over the years. For example, between the 50s-60s women had 5 to 6 children. While in 2100, it is projected that women will have 2 children . This decline can be attributed to countless factors, including socio-economics and politics (which naturally will continue to have consequences for future generations as well ). However, one of the factors that are contributing to this decline in population in western countries is infertility.

But what is infertility? Infertility is defined as failure to achieve pregnancy in 12 months with regular unprotected sexual intercourse . According to the World Health Organization (aka: WHO), 15 percent of reproductive-age couples are affected by infertility worldwide . In the US, 1 in 8 women aged between 15 and 49 years old seek fertility services . And, to make matters worse, male sperm count was reduced by about 50 percent between 1973 and 2018 . Some are positive because of a recent study that suggests that this decrease might be stabilizing . However, in our opinion, reaching the bottom limit is not a reason to celebrate. We should be striving to get back to our former thriving fertility markers.

Regardless of our opinion, the fact is that there is an increased difficulty to have children nowadays. Therefore, public agencies are alerting on this issue by increasing awareness about how infertility is rising. They have even considered it a matter of public health .

But as individuals, what should we know more about this topic? And, what can we do?

Healthy Endocrine System

Our journey to parenthood begins with puberty. While this phase of our lives has mixed feelings for being good for some and bad for others; one thing is certain: after puberty we become adults. What happens during puberty? Well, during puberty, our bodies go through a transformation from a child’s body to an adult’s body. It is only when we are adults that we can reproduce; in other words, we can have children (at least for a while, before we get too old for that).

So, what is going on in our bodies exactly?

Biologically speaking, during puberty, our bodies are flooded by hormones that stimulate that transition to adulthood. Imagine that hormones are messengers that can reach the whole body; and our cells have little receptors for them to translate the message. The system that regulates hormones is called the endocrine system[1]. And, as you are probably guessing, it controls what messages are being sent. Therefore, it is important that our endocrine system is working properly (which is the same as saying that our hormones should be well balanced). Since the endocrine system is quite complex, we will focus on the major hormones for sake of simplicity.

The Major Hormones

The major hormones that act in men and women are different. In men, testosterone is the major hormone. When looking at the topic of fertility, it is very important for the testes (aka: testicles) to produce sperm[2]. You can imagine that the testosterone message is delivered to specific cells (aka: Sertoli cells) that read the message and begin to induce the production of spermatozoa[3] (aka: the impregnating little swimmers).

In women, estrogen and progesterone are the major hormones; and they are required for the regulation of the menstrual cycle. A quick recap: during the menstrual cycle these two hormones are out of phase. This means that when one is high, the other is usually at lower levels, and vice-versa. So, when estrogen is higher than progesterone, it is promoting the production of the egg. And, when progesterone is higher than estrogen, it is promoting the preparation of the womb for its implantation[4].

From here, there are two possible paths: the egg is not fertilized and the levels of these two hormones go down. And the cycle repeats.  Or, more importantly, the egg is fertilized by one spermatozoid; then the embryo is implanted in the womb; and we have the beginning of a new life. From this stage forward,  the hormone levels in women during pregnancy fluctuate in order to maintain the growth of the fetus. However, one of the most important hormones at this stage is progesterone. If we break down the meaning of the word progesterone it makes sense: “pro” stands for in favor of,  “geste” comes from gestation, and “rone” comes from hormone. In other words, progesterone is the hormone that “ensures” gestation since it is deeply connected with a successful pregnancy, which includes mother and the fetus’ health [5].

Obviously, this is an extremely simplified version of what happens. But it’s enough to understand that anything that can disrupt this balance can cause infertility. In fact, as an example, studies show that reduced progesterone levels threatened miscarriages between 5-13 weeks of gestation .
Despite testosterone, estrogen, and progesterone (being the most well-known hormones) there are other hormones that are contributing to fertility. Today, we will also focus on the hormone IGF-1 (aka: insulin-like growth factor -1) since there are studies linking it to infertility of both sexes. And as you will read ahead, it’s also connected to other indirect fertility issues.
In men, studies show that IGF-1 improves the quality of the sperm (increased volume and motility) . And, in women, studies suggest that it not only promotes oocyte yield (aka: more eggs), but also reduces miscarriages enhancing live births .

So, what can we do to combat infertility?

Infertility is quite complex; and in this “simple” article we can only share so much. As we’re sure you can understand, making a treatment plan for infertility goes beyond a single post; and requires an individualized approach. In this post, we just want to provide you with a bit of information about possible solutions to consider.

Since we have talked about hormones so much, you might be wondering if hormones can be used as treatment. And indeed they can.

As we already explained in our previous articles and lectures, we live in a world full of endocrine disruptors. And our hormones have fallen in the gutter. It’s key to substantially decrease our exposure to these toxins if we want to have a healthy endocrine system. In the meantime, there is plenty that one can do to get hormones back to the proper levels to increase the chances of fertility. As research shows, properly balancing and optimizing the levels of our major hormones can increase ovulation in women and sperm count in men[1] [2] [3].

In the more extreme cases of infertility, to increase the chance of success in IVF (In vitro fertilization), treatments with IGF-1 showed that they can help the maturation of oocytes. This leads to better outcomes for IVF treatments[4]. Interestingly, scientists also found that children that were born from IVF that included IGF-1 treatment, grew taller than those conceived through the natural method[5].

Other categories of treatment include peptide therapy. As a refresher, peptides are smaller proteins that can induce specific responses in our body. To give an example, the peptide Kisspeptin was indicated as a possible therapeutic target to treat infertility[6]. In fact, another study suggests that Kisspeptin could be targeted to treat PCOS to help to normalize hormonal levels[7]. This is just one example. There are many others that can be used to directly (and indirectly) promote fertility.

A simpler way

Although hormone therapies are complex, there are simpler things that we can focus on in the beginning. Yes, you guessed it: our diet. As we have talked about in previous posts, inflammation is an important factor; and it is not an exception in the context of fertility. For example, studies show that inflammation in overweight women is likely to impair ovarian function and oocyte quality[8]. Inflammation in men was associated with more sperm damage[9].  Therefore, we should avoid eating foods that cause inflammation; such as processed foods, gluten and dairy products. This way, we can help our bodies establish balance and the hormonal equilibrium needed to channel resources for fertility.

By reducing inflammation, we also get another fertility promoting side-effect. Lower levels of inflammation promote increased insulin sensitivity; which in turn helps our cells to access more glucose (or energy). Research shows that women with PCOS (a condition that is also associated with increased insulin resistance[10]) who followed a treatment plan for promoting insulin sensitivity were able to normalize the function of their ovaries[11]. Thus, increasing the chances of a successful pregnancy. Adding to that, insulin resistance was also associated with infertility in men[12].

Do you see? It is all connected. That is why, as we mentioned in posts before, changing your diet and adopting a healthier lifestyle can (in this case) reduce your chances of being infertile [13].

Take Action

We should all start with the basics. And the basics are diet and lifestyle changes. If you have questions, please seek a specialist that can guide you. Crafting a detailed and personalized plan for you takes a lot of data; and you should never follow a one-size-fits-all approach. We all have our unique issues and our specific micronutrient deficiencies. Especially when trying to boost fertility, it is key to make sure your body gets all the micronutrients it needs to generate new life.

Beyond that, recent advances in technology have allowed us to get incredible results by combining hormones and peptides (among other therapies). Consult with a specialist if fertility is something you want to optimize.

If you want to learn more about this topic, and even learn about other therapeutic tools we use at BIOHAX to address these issues, click the button below to check this week’s video lecture.

If you want to learn more about this topic, please check this week’s video lecture. Click the button below to watch it.–what-it-does-and-doesnt-do
As always, if you have more questions and need more guidance, we are here for you.
Contact us and one of our team members will provide you with some 1-on-1 support on how you can address some of these issues ASAP.

If you want to learn more about this topic, and even learn about other therapeutic tools we use at BIOHAX to address these issues, click the button below to check this week’s video lecture.


Marcos de Andrade MD, MBA
Chief Executive Officer

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