I recently read about a new fertility treatment being pioneered in Britain which works on the premise that some failed pregnancies may result from an immune response mounted to destroy the embryo as if it was an invading pathogen. The treatment involves pumping women’s bodies with a mixture of egg yolk and soya oil (which has been likened to receiving an injection of mayonnaise!) which inhibits the mother’s Natural Killer cells effectively restraining the body’s immune response. Alongside flooding the bloodstream with fatty acids women are recommended to take steroids to further inhibit the immune response and also blood thinners to prevent clots which can impede embryo implantation.
The treatment is controversial given the current lack of clinically-controlled randomised studies proving its effect but high-profile fertility experts Zita West and Dr George Ndukwe are convinced by it and in the past two years have helped 50 women embrace motherhood using this treatment. However, alongside the treatment, Zita West recommends acupuncture, supplements and dietary and lifestyle changes and it is possible that it is these factors which are bringing about the successful pregnancy.
It is clearly a very interesting and exciting new area and more research is needed but even if it can help just a handful of women have a child then I would say it’s worth its weight in mayonnaise!
As a lover of learning all things hormone related I recently came across “seed cycling” and thought I would share this interesting concept… as women we all know the woes of a menstrual cramp, mood swings and for some of us less fortunate PMS, low energy, back ache, irregular cycles and uterine fibroids – all of which simply boil down to hormonal imbalances (in particular an imbalance between the hormones progesterone and oestrogen). Seed cycling is all about correcting this imbalance by supporting the production of the right hormones at the right times in the cycle. To understand how this works you need to know two things:
1) Oestrogen levels increase during the first part of our cycle whereas progesterone levels increase during the last part of our cycle whilst oestrogen levels are slowing declining.
2) Hormones are balanced by lignans (which bind up excess hormones) and essential fatty acids (which support hormone production).
Different seeds contain different types and amounts of lignans and essential fatty acids and therefore different seeds will influence how our body binds excess hormones and which hormones are being produced. It is best to have flax and pumpkin seeds during the first part (day 1-14) and sesame and sunflower seeds during the second part (day 15-menstruation). Naturopathic doctor Kristy Vermeulen (author of Happy Hormones) recommends 1 tablespoon of both flax and pumpkin or sesame and sunflower daily. According to the research on seed cycling, marked improvements in menstrual related symptoms are noticed after about 3 months so it does take a while – but given all of the amazing nutritious value and health benefits of seeds why not give it a try!
If you want to learn more I have pasted a useful link to a guide below:
Edamame, soya milk, soya yoghurt, tempeh…the options to add soya in to our diets have become endless. Even if we are not consciously choosing to eat soya it has become a cheap “bulk out” invisible ingredient in many foods, from roast chicken to breakfast cereals. Often hailed as a superfood I decided to embrace the trend and enthusiastically poured soya milk on my muesli each morning for a week. About three days into that week I noticed I was spotting (as I am currently on the pill I should not expect any such spotting between my pill free weeks). As lovely as my GP is, and typical of GPs, she neglected to ask anything at all about my recent diet changes when we discussed the possible causes. Not convinced by any of my GPs explanations I racked my brain as to what could have triggered it. It was like a light bulb moment. I put my google doctor hat on and began researching soya’s link to spotting and was shocked at the clear link I found. My realisation that soya had caused the spotting was both an uplifting and a frustrating moment. I was uplifted to see such a direct effect between diet and symptoms, strengthening my firm belief that diet should be first point addressed with almost every health complaint, but it also highlighted our healthcare system’s poor understanding and neglect of diet when discussing symptoms. If medical students were taught anything substantial about food’s powerful influence on hormones then perhaps my GP might have questioned any recent diet changes.
So why did soya it lead to spotting…? Soya products contain large concentrations of phyto-oestrogens called isoflavones. These phyto-oestrogens powerfully mimic the hormone oestrogen in the body, either having a agonistic (stimulatory) or antagonistic (inhibitory) effect. Research has shown that two glasses of soya milk a day over the course of a month provides enough phyto-oestrogens to significantly alter the timing of a woman’s menstrual cycle. A Swiss report on the issue reported that 100mg of isoflavones taken by an adult women provides the oestrogenic equivalent of a contraceptive pill. This fact has led to the shocking estimation (based on an infant’s smaller body mass) that infants who are fed soya formula receive the oestrogenic equivalent of at least 5 contraceptive pills per day.
As well as unbalancing our oestrogen levels there is also concern that phyto-oestrogens might adversely impact our thyroid health, cognitive function, mineral absorption, contribute to some cancers and also lower sperm count and mobility. However, it is important to note that findings have been mixed and are often limited to animal studies only.
Although the research remains inconclusive it is clear that the potential adverse health effects should be more balanced against the health benefit claims so that us ladies can make a more informed decision before opting for that soya latte. So perhaps it is best to be a little more cautious with our soya intake until there is more information available, particularly if you suffer from any hormonal imbalances or are noticing any irregularities with your cycle. There are now so many brilliant dairy alternatives to try instead – I am a huge fan of almond milk and also the divine coyo coconut yoghurt (try it topped with nuts and blueberries and popped in the freezer for about half an hour before!)