Preconception Cleansing: Why, When and How to Cleanse before Conception
Pregnancy is a period where correct and adequate nutrients are vital for life- literally. We know that the health of what we grow depends heavily on the soil that we grow it in. The womb is the soil and the sperm and eggs are the seeds. A soil’s fertility to produce good crops is likened to the health of the womb, sperm and eggs to produce a healthy baby.
Our bodies resembling the health of our soil today are depleted of vital nutrients and toxic from our modern day lifestyle . We have been carrying around years and years of toxins allowing for proper rest and regeneration. In this day and age, where couples are delaying pregnancy, this also means that there is more time for toxin exposure and for toxic build up, a common contributing factor to difficulties in conception. It is also clear that many health problems begin long before birth due to toxic exposure in the womb through something called the maternal-fetal transfer. The time prior to conception is the best time to improve your health in order to optimize fertility and to start you and your baby off with a strong foundation.
Our Toxic Status
A 2009 study by the Environmental Working Group identified 232 different industrial compounds and pollutants in the cord blood of 10 infants. The concentration of these chemicals in our babies and their exposure to it have consequences in their development, and future health. We also know that the earlier the exposure to toxins, the greater the impact on the baby. At the same time, the same toxins that inhibit and potentially even harm your baby may also inhibit fertility which gives us another important reason to detox prior to conception. 1 in 6 couples in Hong Kong find it difficult to conceive and so cleansing should be the first step when looking at solutions to a challenging conception.
When to Detox
The time prior to conception is the last chance you have to cleanse for a long time. Cleansing is not suggested during pregnancy and breastfeeding since the toxins released can be passed onto the baby. An ideal time to detox is at least 9 months before attempting to conceive. Generally, a 6 month detoxification is best to allow for the slow and steady break down of toxins, but also to give the necessary time for your body to eliminate them from the body once the toxins have been released from the cells. After the 6 month detox ends, it is preferable to leave 3 months between the end of the detox and the start of trying in case there are any toxic remnants left in the body. These will either be taken back up by your fat cells and organs or ideally, it would be eventually eliminated. The goal is to ensure a body that is free from toxins as much as possible and a body that is working at its optimal to give and to receive. Men are not exempt from this process as the health of the sperm is just as important as the health of the womb and egg. The detoxification process done together as a couple can be a good way to start this partnership into parenthood, signaling the importance of both partners in this journey of conception and raising a child.
How to Detox For Fertility
A fertility cleanse should be focused on the reproductive system, specifically the uterus, ovaries and the liver. The liver helps to filter toxins from the body including excess hormones. If there is an estrogen dominance due to an imbalance of hormone production, it is the liver’s job to remove it from the system. In short, your fertility cleanse will also directly focus on rebalancing hormones which is extremely important for a successful conception.
Different toxic chemicals will require different nutrients and methods to break them down. Heavy metals, BPA and endocrine disruptors, non heavy metal toxins, all require a different approach and it is best to work with an integrative-functional medicine physician to help you appropriately and effectively detoxify.
What remains the same regardless of the toxic chemical is the method of elimination. Below are some helpful ‘first steps’ when implementing your fertility cleanse.
1. Identify and minimize the exposure
You will be surprised at all the different types of places you are exposed to chemical toxins. More than just from our food, water and air, chemicals are also found in our beauty products and household cleaning items. Finding cleaner alternatives to these will greatly help lessen the load on your body. Besides, continually exposing yourself to these toxins whilst trying to eliminate them works against the purpose, so identifying then minimizing the exposure should also be your first step.
2. Include binders
Once your body breaks down the toxins it is important to use binders to bind to the toxins so it does not go through a recirculation cycle in your body. Binders like charcoal, chlorella, silica, apple pectin and zeolite clay are all very useful in binding to various different toxins. Different ‘binders’ are more useful in binding to specific toxins so it may be worthwhile to get a heavy metal test to see where you may need extra support.
3. Optimize GI tract and urinary tract
Once the toxins are bound it is crucial that it is quickly and effectively eliminated from the body either through faeces or urine. If these organs are not working optimally, there is danger in the toxins re-circulating in the body causing more damage. Soluble fibre, bitters and magnesium can assist in more regular bowel movements. Hydration and unsweetened cranberry juice can also be helpful in flushing water soluble toxins out via the urinary tract.
4. Sweat it out
Our skin is the largest organ and although there are controversial findings about sweating being a good form of detoxification, there is an interesting study published in the Journal of Environmental and Public Health¹ showing those with high levels of heavy metals, particularly arsenic, lead, mercury and cadmium, excreted higher levels of these toxins in their sweet compared to plasma and urine concentrations. Whereas those with ‘moderate’ or ‘low’ levels have miniscule amounts released in their sweat. No matter what, it doesn’t hurt to sweat out toxins, as miniscule of an amount of not. Far infrared sauna is a common tool used to enhance sweating and can be complementary to your regular exercise routine.
5. Enhance with supplements
Using herbs and nutritional supplements to support the body’s own natural detoxification process can make a tremendous difference in a fertility cleanse. Commonly used and generally safe supplements that support natural detoxification include:
Milk Thistle : One of the most well-studied of all medicinal herbs, milk thistle has been used to protect and regenerate liver cells. As part of a detoxification program, milk thistle can aid the liver in clearing toxins.
Dandelion :Dandelion has a historical use as a tonic for the digestive system and the liver. Its gentle, protective effects include increasing the production and flow of bile and helping to clear excess hormones from the body.
Artichoke : Artichoke aids the digestive process by promoting healthy bile
flow and intestinal motility while also supporting blood flow in the liver.
DIM (Diindolylmethane): DIM, found in cruciferous vegetables, promotes healthy estrogen metabolism and cell cycle activity.
Pure Encapsulations Liver GI Detox offers a detoxification formulation that includes nutrients to support the liver, gastrointestinal and also includes binders like chlorella and also a broccoli sprout concentrate. Product can be taken with the DIM Pro 100 or DIM Detox to achieve synergistic benefits.
The information is for general education. It is not meant to be used by a patient alone. Please work with your health care practitioner to use this information in the best way possible to promote your health and the health of your future child.
Written by Denise Tam, Holistic Nutritionist