“Cracking” the Code on Egg Quality
In the past, a common belief was that age was the only factor which determined your ovarian and egg health. This is an ‘old-school’ belief system, though one that is still believed by some health practitioners today (unfortunately!).
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There are two trains of thought about the number of eggs a woman has – some believe that you are born with a finite amount, while there is research to back the idea that women continue to produce eggs during their reproductive years(1). Regardless of what train of thought you believe, age still plays a major factor in your fertility health. As you, and your ovaries age, the ‘housing’ for your eggs becomes less than optimal. So, protecting the eggs you currently have, as well as encouraging ovarian health through diet, lifestyle modifications, supplements, and increased circulation to the reproductive system, is of the utmost importance.
What does Egg Quality mean?
Egg quality refers to how prepared your eggs are to develop into embryos once they are fertilized. In order to be healthy enough to develop, an eggs needs to have the proper chromosomes and the ability to combine those chromosomes with sperm. Not all eggs are created equally though! Some just don’t have the number of chromosomes necessary to sustain a successful pregnancy. Once fertilized, the egg needs to have enough energy – from mitochondria – to split. The mitochondria contained in your eggs produce less energy as you age, so even if an egg does become fertilized, it may run out of stream before it can divide, resulting in an unsuccessful pregnancy.
How does egg quality affect my fertility?
A whopping 95% of embryo health comes from the egg so, in theory, high quality eggs produce high quality embryos. Embryos must be strong enough to survive the early stages of development in order to have a successful, full-term pregnancy. Poor quality eggs can have a major impact on your fertility – they can make it harder to conceive, and poor quality eggs can mean the difference between carrying your baby to term, or losing it in the first few weeks if it doesn’t implant properly. This all sounds scary, and a little bit overwhelming, but I promise that through nutrition and lifestyle changes, we can improve your chances of getting pregnant, staying pregnant, and having a healthy pregnancy!
What can I do to improve my egg quality?
The cycle of an egg in preparation for ovulation is around 90-120 days. During this period, before an egg reaches full maturation, the eggs are changing and preparing for ovulation. During this time they are affected by both healthy or unhealthy influences. The changes you make today will have a huge impact on preparing your next cycle of eggs, and will help prepare them for fertilization!
There are many contributing factors that affect the health of your ovaries and eggs – environmental factors, hormones in your diet, stress, blood flow, etc. Additionally, having healthy fertility is based on things such as proper circulation, a healthy fertility cycle, balanced hormones, avoidance of environmental toxins, and healthy eggs, just to name a few. These are the factors that you’ll want to focus on with improving the health of your eggs. Let’s take a closer look at each factor, and see how you can make the changes necessary to improve your fertility health.
Blood Flow & Proper Oxygenation
Oxygen rich blood flow to the ovaries is essential for good egg health. Blood flow can decrease from lack of exercise, dehydration, and thick blood. To increase blood flow to the ovaries, I suggest the following:
- Water: Drink at least ½ your bodyweight in ounces of clean, filtered water per day. Do not drink out of plastic water bottles. Purchase a water filter for your home, and then use glass or stainless steel refillable water bottles. The Big Berkey Countertop Filter or the AquaCera HCP Counter-Top Filter System is one of my favorites!
- Exercise: This should be one of the first steps in optimizing fertility and improving uterine health! Walking and yoga are two of the best ways to promote circulation and improve strength and flexibility of the muscles surrounding the uterus. Oxygen rich blood flow to the ovaries is essential for good egg health, so get movin’! Find an activity that you love – yoga, tennis, hiking, anything! – and sweat it out. Regular movement helps to keep your blood oxygenated and flowing. Remember to stay hydrated while exercising, as this too will help with blood flow!
- Fertility Massage: Self Fertility Massage may be one of the easiest, and most cost effective, ways you can improve your uterine health. It can be done from the comfort and privacy of your own home. Self Fertility Massage is a series of massage techniques that are used to help support reproductive health, the menstrual cycle, and your fertility. It helps to increase circulation to the uterus, ovaries, and fallopian tubes, while helping the uterus to rid itself of old stagnant blood and tissues. It increases endorphins which help reduce pain associated with uterine issues, and brings fresh oxygenated blood to the uterus.
- Castor Oil Packs: A castor oil pack is a cloth soaked in castor oil which is placed on the skin to enhance circulation and promote healing of the tissues and organs underneath the skin. A castor oil pack applied over the uterus [in combination with a heat source applied] helps to promote cleansing and increase circulation to the uterine tissues, in order to improve function and health of the uterus. This therapy is complementary to Self Fertility Massage.
Nutrition & Lifestyle
What you eat directly affects not only your well-being, but also your egg quality. To start with, restrict or completely eliminate the following from your diet to protect your egg health:
- Cigarettes and Alcohol
- Sugar & Artificial Sweeteners
- Gluten & Refined Grains
- Non-Organic Animal Products
- Vegetables Oils
- Processed Foods
- Trans Fats
- Genetically Modified Organisms [i.e. GMO corn, soy, wheat, etc.]
Instead, focus on eating real, whole, fresh food that you cook yourself. This will help protect and positively impact your egg health. Try to incorporate the following into your diet:
- Wild Caught Fish & Seafood: salmon, mackerel, herring, halibut, shellfish, oysters, cod, tuna, flounder, sardines, hake, skate, trout, red snapper
- Organic, 100% Grass-fed/Grass-Finished, Pastured: beef, wild game, bison, lamb, pork, pasture-raised: duck, goose, Cornish game hen, pasture-raised, organic chicken and turkey
- Fats & Oils: Grassfed butter or ghee, egg yolks from pastured chickens, animal fats from clean animals (lard, tallow, duck fat, bacon grease, etc), wild caught fatty fish and seafood, raw & unrefined coconut oil, avocados, raw nuts & seeds
- Organic Fruits: Focus on the low-sugar fruits including all kinds of berries, nectarines, plums, apricots, cantaloupe, grapefruit, lemons and limes
- Organic Vegetables: kale, spinach, Swiss chard, lettuces, broccoli, cabbage, kale, turnips, arugula, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, watercress
Get rid of all exposure to toxins in your environment: this includes toxic personal care products, cleaning products, yard fertilizers, etc. By making sure that you’re only using CLEAN products in your environment will reduce your exposure to numerous endocrine disrupting chemicals. Remember that everything you put on your body, you might as well have eaten. The body absorbs everything through your skin, as if you ate it. So check out your shampoo label and see if a third grader can pronounce those ingredients – if not, find a new one. Check out the Environmental Working Group’s website to find the cleanest cosmetics, sunscreens, personal care products, house cleaners, and everything else.
The present world is filled with stress, and unfortunately, that’s non-negotiable. But how you respond and react to stress is entirely in your control! Practice managing your daily stressors with ease. My favorite tools for this are: restorative yoga, long slow walks in nature, hot bath, a massage, whatever else brings your unique soul pleasure! This may be one of the most important things you can do to optimize your health.
Easier said than done: get a good night’s sleep on a regular basis! Consistent, adequate, and unmedicated sleep is critical in improving your egg health, and it’s something that I cannot stress enough. The hormone produced at night in response to complete darkness is melatonin. Melatonin actually PROTECTS egg quality so it’s important to optimize it’s production. In order to do this, get all the electronics out of the bedroom and get off all your devices at least two hours before bedtime. And make you’re sleeping in complete darkness, you shouldn’t be able to see your hand 4 inches from your face.
To ensure your body is capable of doing all of the above, we need to ensure that your body has optimized nutrient levels to promote pregnancy. There a TON of options when it comes to supplements, but I’ve narrowed down my top 5 for you:
- Prenatal + Fish Oil: 1 packet, twice daily with meals. Prenatal Pro™ Essential Packets provide comprehensive, optimal supplementation in convenient packets for women wishing to become pregnant, pregnant women and lactating women. The earlier supplementation begins the better because women need adequate nutrient stores to meet the greater nutrient demands for a growing baby such as calcium, iron and zinc. Nutrient deficiencies are associated with pregnancy complications, low birth weight, and birth defects.
- Vitamin D: 1 capsule daily. Vitamins D and K are essential for optimal bone and arterial health and for maintaining the immune system in proper balance. Studies have shown that Vitamin D works by affecting the lining of the uterus, which then helps embryo implantation.
- Probiotics: 1 capsule daily. Probiotics promote the growth of healthy bacteria, not only in your gut, but also along other mucosal surfaces, like the vagina. When you have a good pH vaginally and it’s inhibiting bad bacteria, you have optimal cervical mucus. When you’re harboring bad bacteria vaginally, it can reduce the cervical mucus so much, you have a lower chance of conceiving.
- CoQ10: 2 capsules in the morning with protein. CoQ10 is necessary for every cell in the body for energy production. The journal Fertility and Sterility has published numerous studies showing CoQ10 to increase ova (egg) and sperm health. It is necessary for sperm motility in semen. It is also an important antioxidant that helps to protect cells from free radical damage, protecting DNA.
- Melatonin : score tablet in half, take 20 minutes before bedtime. Melatonin is also an important antioxidant which acts as an effective scavenger of free radicals and is important for egg quality optimization.
- Inositol: 2 capsules, twice daily. Myo-inositol (MI) and D-chiro-inositol (DCI) – along with alpha lipoic acid, designed to support normal insulin function and cellular metabolism. Inositol, an integral member of the vitamin B family complex is supported by several studies to alleviate symptoms associated with cystic ovaries by improving biochemical parameters surrounding insulin resistance. As an insulin mediator directly involved in the glucose signaling cascade, myo-inositol has been shown to significantly reduce insulin resistance, improve ovarian follicle maturation, restore spontaneous menses, increase ovulation frequency, improve oocyte quality and most markedly impact metabolic factors.
- Maca: 1 capsule, twice daily. Maca is an incredible fertility super food. It helps to support hormone balance, yet it does not contain any hormones itself. It’s able to do this by nourishing and balancing the endocrine system, which is important because because healthy hormonal balance contributes to healthier eggs. Maca is also great for your partner, as it may help to increase seminal volume, sperm count per ejaculation, and sperm motility. Maca also aids the body in times of stress, promoting healthy stress and immune response.
In a nutshell
- Egg quality refers to how prepared your eggs are to develop into embryos once they are fertilized.
- The quantity of your eggs is not the only factor that matters, the quality of your eggs plays a critical role in your fertility health.
- High quality eggs produce high quality embryos, and high quality embryos often result in a full term pregnancy.
- It is possible to improve your egg quality! Eating a nutrient-heavy diet, regular exercise, reducing daily stresses, getting quality sleep, and introducing supplements into your diet can result in healthier eggs.
I’d love to use this space as a forum of sorts, providing inspiration and community among my readers, so … I want to hear from you!
Which train of thought do you believe – are women born with a finite number of eggs? Or do we continually produce them through our reproductive years?
Have you been diagnosed with Egg Quality issues? If yes, were you able to improve your egg quality?
What’s your favorite way to de-stress at the end of the day?
Spread some egg lovin’! Sharing is caring, and I bet the women in your life would love to read this too :).
Looking for more hormone help?
Looking to have a more in-depth conversation about your egg quality? Schedule a consultation with me!