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Welcome to the Healing infertility Podcast. My name is Anabelle Clebenar, registered dietitian, Functional Nutritionist and your new fertility bestie. Today I’m going to talk about the top three functional lab tests that I utilize in my practice, as well as root causes to your fertility struggles. Okay, so first, why do I even use functional lab tests in my practice? When we’re talking about a root cause approach, we’re trying to dig into why you’re experiencing certain symptoms. So if you have irregular cycles, if you have heavy periods, if you’re not ovulating, if you have PCOS, those are all symptoms. And we want to understand why that’s happening in the first place. So, for example, we want to think about are there any nutrient deficiencies that’s causing your body to feel more stress? Are there any imbalances in your gut causing more inflammation that’s impacting your hormone health? Do you have poor metabolic health? These are some of the root causes that we look at when we’re thinking about a functional approach to fertility. So I’m going to talk about just three of the lab tests that I use in my practice, which are the GI Map, which is a comprehensive stool test, the HtMa, the hair tissue mineral analysis, and I’m also going to talk about how I utilize a continuous glucose monitor for monitoring blood sugar and metabolic health.
Now, there’s other labs that I utilize in my practice, like the Dutch hormone test, iodine testing, mycotoxin mold, testing different blood labs for nutrient levels, and assessing iron status and thyroid health. I’m not going to get into all of the different labs that I utilize with my one on one clients, but I am going to zero in on those three labs that I utilize over and over again and I think are the best places to start when we’re thinking about a root cause approach to fertility. So let’s first talk about your gut health, and specifically the GI Map test. So your microbiome is a genetic catalog of microbiota, and it’s composed of 3.3 million genes, and the microbiota are the gut organisms themselves. So these are composed of ten to 100 trillion microbial cells, bacteria, fungi, yeast, and parasites. There is a lot going on in your gut. So our gut is used for a variety of things. It’s mainly for your digestion and absorption of nutrients, but it also plays a huge portion in your immune system and inflammatory responses.
So first, when we’re thinking about digestion and absorption, the food that you eat so I hear this a lot from clients that they’re already eating cleaner, they’re already eating healthy. If you have any dysbiosis or dysfunction in the gut, literally your body is unable to digest and absorb those nutrients from the foods that you’re consuming. So this is why gut health partially one of the reasons why it’s so important. It’s also said that 80% of your immune system is in the gut, and the reason for that is because most of our lymphatic tissue is in the gut lining. So if that becomes inflamed, if your gut is inflamed from Dysbiosis, whether it’s not enough good bacteria or overgrowth of bad bacteria, if you have any parasites, anything that could disrupt your gut microbiome is going to impact your immune system because that lymph becomes inflamed and congested. And when we have inflamed and congested lymph, that impacts our immune system, that impacts how our body is able to heal, and that also will impact inflammatory cascades. So when we have those higher levels of inflammation that then impacts your hormones, that then impacts your reproductive health. As a result, leaky gut is also a big topic and something to consider.
Understanding the Link Between Gut Health, Hormones, and Metabolic Function
So in a typical healthy gut lining, we have these tight junctions. We have these cells that create a very strong barrier so that the things coming through your gut does not go into your bloodstream. When those tight junctions start to separate, it becomes more permeable and that leads to leaky gut syndrome. So things like chronic stress, industrialized gluten or wheat, various other things can impact those tight junctions so that it becomes more permeable and leads to a leaky gut syndrome. The gut also produces certain hormones related to satiety and hunger, like ghrelin and leptin. There’s other hormones that are secreted in the gut like CCK, gastrin, insulin and hormones that regulate hunger, like GLP One and peptide YY. So all of these different hormones that are either produced or regulated through the gut will also impact your metabolic health. Another function of the gut is waste elimination, which is impacted by stress, metabolic health, hydration, gallbladder function.
All of this impacts waste elimination. The third step in estrogen detox or estrogen metabolism is that it’s excreted through the gut. So if you have any constipation or anything that you’re not able to eliminate regularly and normally, that’s going to impact your estrogen levels, which obviously will impact your hormone levels and your ability to conceive. So we’re starting to understand more and more about how the gut impacts our hormone levels, our mood, all these different things. And lots of research coming out about this. When we’re thinking about mood, there’s a certain class of bacterial strains that are called psychobiotics. These actually impact the neurochemicals and neurotransmitters in our brain, like dopamine and serotonin. These are directly related to specific strains in the gut.
So our gut can impact our mood and our brain health, and similarly, our brain impacts our gut health. So this gut brain axis is a huge area as well. When we’re thinking about just overall health, mood, anxiety, stress, all of that plays a role with the gut. And if you’re curious, like, how does the gut actually impact your fertility? When the gut microbiota is imbalanced, it can trigger chronic low grade inflammation, which we talked about throughout the body. And this includes reproductive organs. So inflammation can disrupt hormone production and signaling which can lead to irregular menstrual cycles, ovulation problems, and decreased sperm quality as well. So obviously, there is a lot to talk about. We could do an entire series just on gut health.
The Significance of Gut Health in Fertility
But I wanted to introduce you into why gut health is so important when we’re thinking about functional approaches to fertility. Because as you can listen and hear, it has wide reaching effects. So in my practice, I utilize a test called the GI Map, and this will test for a bunch of different bacterial strains, parasites, worms. It tests immune health in the gut. It’s so comprehensive. And especially if you’re someone that deals with autoimmune diseases. IBS or IBD. Any digestive complaints, brain fog, skin problems like Acne or psoriasis, mood disorders like depression, anxiety, diabetes, weight loss issues and fertility struggles, then you are someone that would benefit from using a GI map to get a deeper look into your gut health and how that’s going to impact all these other symptoms that you’re experiencing.
Okay, so the next test, so to speak, or thing that I utilize in my practice to help get at deeper root causes, is a continuous glucose monitor. So a continuous glucose monitor measures your blood glucose throughout the day. It’s a really cool little device. And if you have diabetes, you probably know what this is. But it’s often used in people with diabetes, either type one or type two diabetes, to monitor their blood sugar throughout the day. More and more people are using this CGM device because blood sugar imbalances are so pervasive in our society. So it’s estimated that 80% of people will experience blood sugar in the prediabetes range for at least one meal per day. So again, even if you’re someone that eats really well and eats healthy and eats clean, it’s more common than we think.
And with diabetes being one of the bigger chronic diseases in our lifetime, it’s just important to monitor this while you’re still young and while you are eating a healthy diet, because you get that feedback and know exactly that what you’re eating is actually doing its job. It is impacting your metabolic health in a good way. A CGM can help you basically refine your diet to a much more specific degree. So I can tell you eat this amount of protein or eat this amount of carbs, but without specific data to your body, you’re just getting generalized information, which is great. But if you’re looking for deeper root causes, if you’re struggling with infertility, it’s time to really get down to the nitty gritty, right? You want to see how your body responds to certain foods. Because if you’re on a blood sugar roller coaster all day long, where your blood sugar is going way up high and then dipping back down low, you are causing more inflammation in the body. It takes a lot of energy for your body to be on that blood sugar roller coaster day after day after day. So I recently hosted a 30 day blood sugar reset program where everyone in the group received a continuous glucose monitor.
Success Stories from the 30-Day Shift Program
We provided them with custom macronutrients, we provided them with meal plans that were blood sugar friendly, and the results were absolutely incredible. So some of the results from the 30 day shift program included improved meal scores, improved daily scores, improved morning fasting glucose, improved average glucose, improved glucose variability, cycles became more regular, decreased feelings of hangriness and moodiness, increased energy levels and weight loss in that 30 day period. One woman in the group got her period naturally for the first time. So she previously had needed to take a medication prescribed by her doctor to induce a period. She was seven months postpartum. Two clients got pregnant, one person lost over 16 pounds, and that person also had their insulin decreased. So they were diabetic and their doctor was able to decrease the amount of insulin that they needed after this 30 day program of using a continuous glucose monitor paired with coaching from me and the meal plans that we had created for the program. So these were some of the findings that we were able to gather from the 30 day shift program.
And as you can see, we had absolutely incredible results. I knew that using a CGM was beneficial, but to be honest, I was really pleasantly surprised to see how quickly those changes impacted people. We also had people reporting that they had more energy, improved mood, weight loss, and this was all, by the way, by increasing their food intake. So I know for a lot of us, we think that we have to be on a 1200 calorie diet, that we need to be keto, all these really extreme things. But when I gave them their macro prescriptions, many of the women were shocked because they were undereating for so long. They didn’t know that they needed to increase the amount of calories that they were eating and increase the amount of protein and carbs and fat that they were eating to actually support their hormone health. So again, I see this time and time again where people cut out gluten, they cut out dairy, they cut out sweets. And yes, sometimes cutting those foods can be helpful for you in the short term.
But long term, if you’re undereating and not supporting your body in a way that promotes good metabolic health and good hormone health, that’s going to create more stress on your body and long term impact hormone health. Okay, so the last test that I want to talk about is the HtMa or hair tissue mineral analysis. And to be honest, this is a newer lab that I’m utilizing in my practice. But because I’ve seen such incredible results by using this test, I think that really everyone needs this in their life. So the hair tissue mineral analysis is a test that analyzes the mineral content and heavy metals in your hair so a hair can represent your tissues. And when we typically test in the blood, your blood can borrow nutrients and minerals from other places so that it remains in homeostasis. But when we use a hair tissue mineral analysis, first of all, you’re cutting your hair. So it’s non invasive.
The Importance of Minerals in Hormone Health and Fertility
You don’t have to go for a blood draw, but it also gives a snapshot of the past three months of your mineral levels. So there are certain macro minerals like sodium, potassium, calcium, and magnesium that often need a lot of support when we’re thinking about our hormone health, because these minerals think of it as like the spark plugs to hormones, to other systems in the body. So there are a number of things, obviously, that can contribute to someone having fertility struggles. And I want to talk about how that relates back to minerals. So, for example, if someone is experiencing recurrent miscarriages, which is due to often sluggish thyroid or low progesterone, research is finding now that proper nutrition has a tremendous impact on pregnant women. So lack of specific vitamins and minerals can not only cause premature births, but can also interfere with a woman’s ability to ovulate and conceive. So we need adequate amounts of and balanced minerals in both men and women. And thyroid specifically is one of the most important factors when we’re thinking about infertility.
It can impact ovulation energy production, immune function, and egg quality in women. So even when we’re thinking about testing the thyroid, how do we go even one level deeper? Why is your thyroid sluggish or not optimal? In a not optimal state, it’s often due to iodine. We need adequate amounts of iodine for thyroid hormone to work. So there are different minerals connected to different parts of the body, so to speak, that we have to look at to understand the deepest root cause of why someone might be struggling with their fertility. Another mineral that I often see depleted in women is magnesium. So we need magnesium again for proper thyroid health. But magnesium also gets depleted because of our stress response. And because so many of us are dealing with chronic stress, I often see magnesium being tanked.
And when magnesium is tanked, that actually causes more stress. It’s kind of like this vicious cycle that’s going on. And due to our food system, to our depleted soils, a lot of our food that typically would have magnesium in it doesn’t have as high magnesium content as a result of mass producing items and factory farming and all of those things, which I’m not going to get into. But just know that magnesium, we don’t get enough of it through our food due to those reasons, and because we don’t have enough, it causes more stress. That stress has an impact on metabolic health, on gut health, on immune health, and so much more. Another mineral that I like to look at specifically for fertility and also metabolic health is potassium. So we talked before about macronutrients and blood sugar balance, but the importance of potassium when it comes to blood sugar is also really important to discuss. So potassium can sensitize our cells to thyroid hormone, which means we need potassium for our cells to receive that thyroid hormone.
And if we don’t have enough, then they become less sensitive to insulin. Potassium also has insulin like effects, so it helps the blood sugar get into the cells. So if glucose can’t get into the cells, whether because you have insulin resistance or a lack of insulin, it ends up hanging out in the blood, creating higher blood sugar levels. And potassium is also involved in the conversion of glucose into glycogen, which is your stored blood sugar. So not having enough glycogen in your liver can mean that our bodies are forced to use alternative fuel sources in between meals, which will raise the risk of blood sugar dips. So we’re just zooming in on a few minerals here to start to give you a picture, an idea of why this is so important. As you can see, our gut impacts our stress, and minerals impact stress, and stress impacts blood sugar, and blood sugar impacts mineral status. All of these things are connected.
That’s because our bodies are not silos. What happens in your reproductive organs is not happening on its own by itself. We have to take a bigger picture and look at the different body systems and how they’re working together to create an environment that is safe and healthy for a baby to grow in. So I hope this podcast episode helped you get a better understanding of some of those functional lab tests that we utilize, and also some of the root causes when we’re thinking about functional fertility and how to approach your fertility from a whole body standpoint. A holistic way that looks at not just what’s going on with your hormone health and ovulation, but also your nutrient status, your gut health, your mineral status, your metabolic health, your nervous system. All of these things play a huge role on your fertility. And that is why you have to be thinking about these deeper root causes when we’re thinking about fertility struggles. So I hope you enjoyed this episode, enjoyed recording it.
I would love to hear your feedback. If you enjoyed this, please share it with a friend, tag me on social media, and I will see you in the next episode. Bye.