Detoxing prior to pregnancy: what, why and how

Detoxing prior to pregnancy: what, why and how

We all have a toxic body burden. The question is not whether it exists - the question is how profound it is and how much it is interfering with your health. 

Minimizing your exposure to environmental toxins that can harm fertility is one of the best steps you can take to increase your chances of getting pregnant and having a healthy baby.

Why detox?

  • Toxicity can interfere with fertility, leading to problems getting pregnant. 
    A body overloaded with toxins will have a harder time reproducing. Your body will shut down reproduction any time it perceives the environment into which it will bring a child to be either unsafe or unstable. A toxic body indicates a toxic environment, and your body shuts down reproductive function to protect both you and your future baby. 
  • Toxic compounds can pass from mom to baby, leading to problems having a healthy baby. A study by the Environmental Working Group identified over two hundred industrial compounds and pollutants in samples of newborn babies’ umbilical cord blood. This means that some percentage of a mother’s toxic body burden is being transferred to her baby. Because of this, detoxing prior to pregnancy can help minimize the transfer of toxic compounds from mama to baby. 

What are toxins?

At the simplest level, a toxin is anything physical, chemical or biological that produces an adverse effect. Toxins impair the proper flow and functioning of the body by creating a cascade of negative reactions throughout the body. In addition to disrupting the normal flow and function of your organ systems, all toxins create oxidative damage which can impair mitochondrial function. A key pillar of fertility is maintaining good egg health and in order to maintain good egg health, you also need to maintain good mitochondrial health. 

Where are toxins coming from?

Toxins can come from the external environment (exogenous) or they can be generated internally within your body (endogenous). The most prevalent external toxins come from food (e.g., pesticides, food additives, hormones), water (e.g., heavy metals, medications), air (e.g., solvents, mold), personal care products (e.g., endocrine disruptors in shampoo, lotion, make-up, etc.) and home care products (e.g., cleaning chemicals). The most common internal toxins (yes, there is such a thing as toxins produced internally!) come from metabolic processes (such as bacterial byproducts and oxidative stress). 

Unfortunately, most of us are unwittingly exposed to more toxins than we would know in the course of daily living. Our bodies have trouble eliminating substances that they were never designed to process in the first place. For example, over twenty thousand chemicals have been added to the Toxic Substances Control Act Inventory since its inception in 1975, and our food supply has changed more in the last fifty years than it did in the previous ten thousand. Our body is being exposed to many new and unfamiliar compounds; these compounds are accumulating at an increasing pace and at a faster rate than our bodies can eliminate them. 

How can I effectively detox?

The goal of detoxification is to remove any obstructions to flow or function and open the channels of elimination. In an ideal world, a strong detoxification system encourages any toxins that inevitably get into your system to exit quickly without leaving too much of a trace. 

It is not practical to remove all toxic exposures. Our goal is to help our body to process them effectively. To that end, there are 2 main components to an effective detox regimen: 

1. Reduce toxic exposure

This includes reducing the number of toxins that you’re exposed to on a daily basis. Luckily, the majority of toxins are non-persistent. In other words, if you stop the exposure to the toxin, it will be eliminated from the body. 

Reducing toxic exposure will involve systematically going through each of the 5 main categories of toxins (air, water, food, personal care products, home care products) to identify and eliminate major sources of toxic burden. 

2. Increase detox capacity

This includes improving the function of your detox organs - liver, lungs, skin, colon, kidney (and lymph system). Each of these organs works to eliminate excess waste that's produced from natural metabolic processes (endogenous toxins) as well as from our exposures of daily living (exogenous toxins). To improve their function, we simply need to give our organs what they need (in the form of nutrients and circulation) and take away what they don’t (in the form of toxins and stagnation). 

While we aim to support all of your detox organs, the real superstar of the show is the liver. Without a healthy liver, there is no hormonal balance. This fertility-friendly cleanse is designed to give your liver some extra special TLC. 

To support overall detox capacity, we will focus on a combination of practices, including supporting nutrition, elimination, sweating, circulation and lymphatic drainage.

When should I detox?

Now that we’ve established why and how to detox, let’s discuss when. Ideally, you want to detox several months prior to conceiving. You want to give yourself time to remove toxins from your environment and for your body to eliminate them from your body. 

As a recap, toxins are everywhere (air, water, food, personal care products, home care products) and they make your body work harder and less efficiently to complete normal body processes. Toxins can interfere with fertility and pregnancy. It is not possible to eliminate all toxins, but it is possible to reduce how much you are exposed to and to increase your body’s capacity to deal with your exposures. Detoxing prior to pregnancy helps to improve fertility and increase likelihood of healthy conception and pregnancy. It increases the probability that you are as healthy as possible during pregnancy, which is a gift that keeps on giving - to you and your future family. 


Includes excerpts from 9 Months is Not Enough

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