Planning for a baby and growing your family can be one of the most exciting seasons of life. If you’ve been struck by baby fever and are thinking about trying to get pregnant, it’s important to address any obstacles that may make it harder for you to conceive.
And one often-overlooked factor that can negatively affect your fertility and ability to conceive is an invisible, stealthy intruder that can be lurking just about everywhere. This stealthy intruder I’m referring to is a class of compounds known as environmental toxins.
In this blog post, we’ll explore exactly what environmental toxins are, how they exert their health-disrupting effects, the impact they can have on your fertility, and most importantly – what you can do to protect yourself and optimize your fertility to maximize your chances of welcoming your sweet bundle of joy into the world.
What Exactly Are Environmental Toxins?
The term environmental toxins refers to any compound that you may come into contact with that can have a toxic or negative impact on your health. Environmental toxins can be completely natural, or 100% man-made.
There are thousands of different compounds that can technically be classified as an environmental toxin thanks to their ability to disrupt our body’s balance and harm our health.
Just a handful of the serious health concerns that have been linked to heightened or cumulative exposure to environmental toxins includes:1,2,3
- Developmental disorders
- Hormonal imbalances
- Obesity and metabolic issues
- Skin conditions
So how can exposure to environmental toxins possibly cause such serious conditions?
How Environmental Toxins Interfere With Your Health
Your body is actually quite well-adapted to handle a steady influx of potentially harmful compounds. You have all-natural, built-in detoxification pathways (like your digestive system, liver, kidneys, and skin) that are designed to neutralize, package up, and ship out any toxins that make their way into your body.
But if the amount of toxins coming in exceeds your body’s ability to properly detox, these toxic compounds can begin accumulating within your body – creating an imbalance that goes something like this:4
- As toxins accumulate and make their way throughout your body, they begin interfering with your endocrine system – also known as your hormone system.
- Your endocrine system is a complex network of cells, tissues, glands, and chemical messengers (hormones) that your body relies on to communicate and coordinate nearly every function within your body.
- Environmental toxins can act as endocrine disruptors – throwing your endocrine system off balance by mimicking, blocking, or hindering your hormones.
- Your endocrine system mistakenly interprets these environmental toxins as chemical messengers and responds to them – creating a domino effect that throws your whole system out of whack.
And one aspect of your health that can be particularly impacted by endocrine disruptors and an imbalance in your hormones is your fertility and ability to conceive.
Can Toxins Affect Fertility?
The answer to this question is – absolutely. You see, environmental toxins can affect your ability to conceive in a number of ways including:5
- Anovulation or lack of ovulation – meaning your body does not release an egg to be fertilized during your menstrual cycle
- Impaired implantation or interference with the embryo attaching to the wall of the uterus
- Loss of fetal viability or the embryo’s ability to survive – sometimes leading to miscarriage or issues with embryo development
- Decreased sperm count
- Impaired sperm motility and function – meaning sperm are either abnormally shaped or unable to effectively migrate to or penetrate the egg
Now let’s zoom in on some specific environmental toxins that are known to affect fertility.
Types of Environmental Toxins That Can Affect Fertility
There are a variety of environmental toxins that can potentially disrupt your ability to conceive, but some of the most concerning compounds when it comes to fertility include:5,6,7
- Air pollution: Air pollution is a blanket term that can encompass a wide variety of environmental toxins that can include smoke and ash from wildfires, harmful gasses from vehicle emissions, off-gassing from household products, or waste from industrial operations.
- Bisphenol A (BPA): BPA is an industrial chemical primarily used in plastics and is often found in food and beverage containers as well as inside many water supply lines.
- Heavy metals: While elevated exposure to all heavy metals can be an issue, studies have found that in particular, heavy metals such as mercury, cadmium, and lead can be particularly problematic when it comes to fertility.
- Polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs): PBDEs are a class of chemicals that serve as a flame retardant – often added to certain products in order to reduce the chances that the products will catch on fire. These chemicals can be found in products like paints, plastics, foam furniture padding, rugs, curtains, televisions, building materials, and much more.
- Tobacco smoke: Inhaling tobacco smoke – even secondhand – exposes you to multiple fertility-disrupting toxic chemicals and heavy metals.
- Pesticides and herbicides: Exposure to pesticides and herbicides used in agricultural operations can have a significant impact on fertility, with studies finding the compounds dicamba, glyphosate, 2,4-dichlorophenoxyacetic acid, organophosphates, and thiocarbamates to be the most harmful.
- Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs): PCBs are a class of chemicals known for their chemical stability, resistance to extreme pressure and temperature, as well as their electrical insulating properties. While production of PCBs was stopped in the U.S. in the 70s these toxic compounds are still regularly found in older buildings and equipment. And unfortunately, it can take many years for PCBs to naturally break down and degrade – meaning they can persist in the environment for decades.
So how exactly are we all being exposed to these fertility-hindering environmental toxins?
Sources of Environmental Toxins
Environmental toxins are literally everywhere – with the most common and most significant sources of exposure coming from:
- Contaminated tap water: Because water is so great at dissolving substances, it can be chock-full of chemicals, heavy metals, pharmaceuticals, and other environmental toxins.
- Food and beverages: Between the use of fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides; modern food processing; and toxin-laden storage containers, the food and beverages you consume can contain all kinds of toxic compounds.
- Polluted air: The problem with air pollution is it’s nearly impossible to avoid and pollutants can be spread far and wide as they drift through the atmosphere. And what’s worse, studies have found that indoor air can be anywhere from 2 to a mind-blowing 5 times more polluted than outdoor air.
- Toxin-filled personal care and beauty products: The personal care products we slather on our bodies on a daily basis can be harboring dozens of health-disrupting toxins that can penetrate their way directly into your airways and bloodstream.
- Plastic containers and water bottles: Plastic is highly convenient. But our almost constant use of plastic containers means that these toxin-laden plastic molecules can inadvertently make their way into our bodies.
- Household cleaning products and air fresheners: While having a squeaky-clean and fresh-smelling home is certainly satisfying, it can come with a dark side. Many cleaning products and air fresheners contain a potent dose of numerous environmental toxins.
Environmental toxins may be lurking just about everywhere, but that doesn’t mean you’re defenseless against them. Let’s look at some of the best ways to address your environmental toxin exposure so you can support your fertility and maximize your chances of conceiving.
Best Ways to Avoid Environmental Toxins: What to Avoid When Trying to Conceive
When it comes to exposure to environmental toxins, it’s impossible to avoid them altogether. And that’s totally okay – remember your body is well-equipped to handle some level of toxin exposure.
The good news is, making some small shifts can drastically reduce your overall exposure. Some of the most impactful shifts you can implement include:
- Opt for organic food as often as possible
- Prioritize whole foods and minimize highly processed and refined foods
- Filter your drinking water
- Invest in an air filtration system to clean up your indoor air
- Switch to cleaner, less toxic personal care products and household cleaning products
- Avoid plastic when possible (try switching to a glass water bottle and glass food storage containers)
When it comes to environmental toxins, minimizing your exposure is the number one priority. And once you’ve addressed the toxins coming in, it can be helpful to give your body the support it needs to process out any toxins that may have accumulated by enhancing your natural detoxification pathways.
Best Ways to Support Detox for Pregnancy
There are a number of different strategies that you can implement to safely help your body eliminate toxins and promote fertility when trying to conceive. Just a few gentle and safe ways to enhance detoxification include:
- Intravenous (IV) therapy
- Pulsed electromagnetic field therapy (PEMF therapy)
- Massage and lymphatic drainage
- Infrared sauna
- Light and sound therapy
- Electron foot baths
- Meditation and mind-body medicine
- Sunlight and grounding
Because both the process of enhancing detoxification and the process of trying to conceive can be delicate, it can be helpful to obtain the guidance of a professional who can help you create the safest, most effective plan of action.
Trying to Conceive and Optimize Your Well-Being in Phoenix Arizona and Surrounding Areas?
If you’re in Phoenix or the surrounding areas and in the process of trying to conceive, we can help. Here at our state-of-the-art alternative wellness center in Phoenix, Arizona, we have an arsenal of tools to help support your body, mind, and soul to optimize your fertility.
We will do a deep dive into every area of your life – physically, mentally, spiritually, relationally, environmentally, and much much more.
Here at Silver Tree Wellness, we are honored to have our very own fertility and preconception expert. Dr. Kelly Winnett specializes in a holistic, personalized approach to optimizing your health and fertility – maximizing your chances of conceiving and welcoming your bundle of joy into the world. You can learn more about Dr. Kelly by clicking right here.
If you’re ready to take the next step in supporting and optimizing your fertility, please reach out to us to schedule an appointment by calling our office at 602-675-0170 or sending us an email by clicking right here. We would be honored to support you in this beautiful and exciting process!
- Family Cancer Syndromes
- (PDF) Environmental Toxicants and Developmental Disabilities: A Challenge for Psychologists. | published in American Psychologist (researchgate.net)
- Toxic environment and obesity pandemia: Is there a relationship? – PMC (nih.gov)
- Endocrine Disruptors (nih.gov)
- Environmental Toxins and Infertility – PMC (nih.gov)
- Before the beginning: environmental exposures and reproductive and obstetrical outcomes – Fertility and Sterility (fertstert.org)
- Impact of environmental toxin exposure on male fertility potential – Krzastek – Translational Andrology and Urology (amegroups.com)