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Why on earth are you still struggling to get pregnant? Well, the answer may be the one thing that is the hardest to truly change.....stress and how we manage it.
Stress can be a good thing in moderation. A little burst of cortisol (stress hormone) helps to fire up our engines so we can run away from a lion or wildebeest (my personal fav). But, when this sort of stress and resulting cortisol release becomes chronic, unrelenting, day in and day out stress, our bodies don't cope quite so well. When this happens we start producing a hormone called alpha- amylase. Alpha-amylase has recently be discovered as a bio-marker for chronic sympathetic nervous system activation. AKA a signal that you're mind and/or body are chronically stressed out. AA has been formerly used as a way to diagnose pancreatitis or pancreatic inflammation. The geek in me finds this fascinating because when we are stressed and living in a chronic sympathetic dominant state our pancreas has to work overtime producing insulin in response to elevated blood glucose levels. When we are stressed and exerting a high level of cortisol our bodies naturally increase our blood sugars in order to mobilize energy in our skeletal muscles so we can make that mad dash away from the wildebeest.
Recent studies have confirmed the link between stress and infertility. A few different studies measured these two hormones, cortisol and alpha-amylase. They demonstrated that while cortisol has no effect on infertility, women with high alpha-amylase had nearly double the risk of infertility. This makes perfect sense if you think about it from an ancestral perspective. Fertile women need to be able to run away from possible dangers every once in a while. A healthy cortisol response signals a fit and thriving individual. What we DON'T want is a woman who is chronically stressed. Chronic stress sends signals to our body that our world is a really dangerous place out there and isn't a safe space to raise a new little baby. The body is smart and wants to survive....so, it shuts down your ability to conceive.
What can you do if you're feeling chronically stressed out? Here are a few tips:
- Try to sleep or rest more. Sleep is how we tell our bodies it's safe to recover. Try to get more.
- Practice yoga or meditation. Even 5 mins a day will make a difference in terms of your response to stress. Need a launching pad? These short guided meditations will help you on your way and feature the beautiful Erin Urton who is an expert in fertility, pregnancy and postpartum meditation and yoga practice.
- Lighten up on the caffeine. Did you know that just 200 mg of caffeine (one 12 oz mug of coffee) increases blood cortisol levels by 30% in one hour! Switch to herbal tea or decaf while your body resets and recharges.
- Move gently everyday. I don't mean hard stress inducing crossfit WODS. I mean walking outdoors, cross country skiing, hiking and gentle weight lifting. These things are all proven to lower your body's stress response and help you chill out.
- LAUGH. Surround yourself with people who love and support you and lighten up. Have a good time
- Give. The process of giving back helps to elevate your mood and support the body's natural ability to heal. The holiday season is a perfect time to get started on this one!