How to Support Your Gut Health and Fertility When Trying to Get Pregnant

Supporting your gut when trying to conceive is essential for balancing hormones and improving fertility outcomes.  Everything in your body is connected and at the center of this connection is your gut.

So how is the gut connected to fertility? 

Fertility is an extension of your overall health, therefore, a finely tuned digestive system contributes to a finely tuned reproductive system.

In this blog post, I'll share how to support your gut when trying to get pregnant with food, supplements and through comprehensive gut health testing.

The purpose of the digestive system is to bring nutrients to each cell of your body, in addition to eliminating waste to ensure toxins are safely removed from the body. Outside of digestion food, your gut is also responsible for:

  • Developing a strong immune system
  • Running your metabolism
  • Making vitamins
  • Communicating with every other cell in your body.

It does this by manufacturing hormones, chemicals and bacteria that contribute to overall health and healthy hormone production. 

When there are disturbances in digestion or your gut is compromised, this can lead to a cascade of health effects that impact hormone production and consequently fertility.

Understanding Gut Health And Fertility

In order to understand gut health, we must consider the human microbiome. Why? We are currently living in the golden age for gut-health science. We now know that the gut microbiome is the most important scientific discovery for human healthcare in recent decades. In fact, we only discovered it – or rediscovered it – in the age of genetic sequencing about 20 years ago in the early 2000’s. 

What we now know about the gut microbiome, is changing the way we look at and treat health conditions worldwide, including fertility. Essentially, your gut microbiome is the colony of bacteria that lives inside your gastrointestinal tract:

  • It contains 500 to 1000 species of bacteria weighing about 3.5lbs of your total body weight 
  • It’s a bustling community of trillions of bacteria, archaea, fungi and viruses
  • It contains at least 150 times more genes than the human genome 
  • Its responsible for manufacturing and detoxifying hormones that support reproductive health

Our microbiome is massively complex and its residents vary enormously from person to person, very similar to your unique individual fingerprint.

Therefore, when considering how to improve fertility, the microbiome is essential to consider. 

For example, without a healthy microbiome, estrogen metabolism and function becomes impaired and can lead to a number of health consequences including endometriosis, PCOS, endometrial hyperplasia, and infertility. Authors of this research review concluded that treating the gut microbiome to modulate estrogen levels should be considered as a new future treatment for estrogen-mediated diseases including infertility (1).

Another study found that women with recurrent pregnancy loss show a higher prevalence of undiagnosed gut disorders.  The findings show that these women were found to have abnormal gut permeability, which was found to contribute to inflammatory reactions in the body.  We know that gut health plays a vital role in immune function. When our immune system isn’t working optimally as a result of poor gut health, our bodies may enter a state of chronic inflammation and this can contribute to: 

  • Recurrent pregnancy loss (2) 
  • Decreased progesterone levels leading to implantation failure (3)
  • The development of autoimmune processes impacting fertility (4)
  • The development of antisperm antibodies preventing fertilization (5)

Click here to check out how my client Maria got pregnant after healing her gut of Candida overgrowth on Episode 68 on The Ultimate Pregnancy Prep Podcast.

So how do you know if your microbiome is healthy? By completing a comprehensive stool analysis you can do a deep dive into your gut health and understand the nuances of your gut microbiome.  

Stool testing can measure digestive markers to assess the efficiency of digestion and absorption. It does this by evaluating specific enzymatic activities in the gut while assessing the presence of undigested food components in the stool. It also shows you the status of beneficial, imbalanced and pathogenic bacteria, along with yeast and fungus and specific remedies on how to treat it. 

Click here to request your Comprehensive Stool Analysis

How to Fuel Your Body With The Proper Nutrition for Gut Health and Fertility

You might be wondering, “what can I eat to support gut health and overall fertility?” By focusing on targeted nutrition, you can feed your gut microbiome with the building blocks it needs to help crowd out toxins, support transit time and improve intestinal permeability. 

  1. Eat a diversified well balanced diet, filled with whole, nutrient dense foods. Your microbiome loves diversity.  The more diverse foods you can consume, the more you’ll be able to feed the microbes in your gut, leading to a healthier colony of microbiota.  
  2. Your microbes love to eat fiber. Fiber rich foods are essential for healthy bowel movements, proper elimination, estrogen detoxification, blood sugar balance and absorption of nutrients. Aim to include at least 25-30g of fiber in your daily diet and consider adding in 1-2 tbsp chia or flax seeds daily. 
  3. Probiotic-rich foods help maintain a healthy balance of good bacteria in your gut microbiome and support digestion, vitamin and mineral absorption, along with immune function.  Consider adding about 2 forkfuls of kimchi or sauerkraut to your daily diet.
  4. Prebiotic-rich foods help maintain the healthy balance of your gut microbiome by feeding the good bacteria. They also regulate blood sugar and insulin resistance, help stimulate the production of hormones that aid in appetite suppression and lower inflammation in the body. Consider cooking often with garlic, onion, leeks, dandelion greens and jerusalem artichokes.  

How Lifestyle Factors Can Influence Gut Health & What You Can Do

Outside of nutrition, your gut health is also impacted by your lifestyle including stress, sleep, exercise and medication.

When we become overwhelmed by stress, we end up pushing ourselves too hard at the expense of sleep, sanity, and health which signals to the body that we have to focus on surviving. Stress is one of the greatest challenges to our immune system and we know that our immune system develops inside the gut. If we are under too much stress, it puts pressure on nearly every organ and system in the body. 

Consequently, our digestive system gets compromised and our reproductive system becomes the least important, shuttling our resources to the essential functions of our body that are needed to just get through our stressful day. Because of this, our baby making functions begin to shut down! 

  • Stress management tip: Take 5-minutes to do some deep belly breathing. Breathing deeply brings more oxygen to our tissues allowing for proper cellular function within our body. It slows us down, lowers cortisol levels and brings us into a more balanced, centered state.

Gut health is also impacted by restorative sleep, or lack thereof. As a culture, we are sleep deprived. Without adequate sleep, it is nearly impossible for the body to heal and function at its best. Inadequate sleep can lead to irregular bowel movements, disrupted hunger signals and imbalance blood sugar. 

  • Restorative sleep tip: Follow a consistent sleep schedule to improve sleep hygiene. Go to bed at approximately the same time each night and wake up at approximately the same time each day. 

We can all probably agree that when we exercise we feel more energy, we sleep better and have more clarity throughout our day. Movement is a form of medicine that can be healing and therapeutic for the mind, body and soul, in addition to helping you optimize your body for pregnancy

Moving your body helps your digestive system to “move” as well, as it increases blood flow to your digestive system and helps your body to properly digest and absorb vitamins and nutrients from food. It also encourages proper elimination and removal of toxins from your body. 

  • Exercise tip: The key is to find something that brings you joy and gets you moving on a regular basis, at least 30-minutes every day. Whether you’re into dance class, swimming, strength training, hiking with your dog, yoga or pilates, physical activity will help you improve your fertility outcomes.

The use of medications such as birth control pills, nonsteroidal drugs like Advil, aspirin and Motrin and antibiotics can compromise your gut health when preparing for pregnancy. Overconsumption can damage the brush border enzymes in the mucosal lining of the small intestines allowing for microbes, partially digested food particles and other toxins to enter into the bloodstream. They also create conditions inside the gut that can help feed fungi that can damage the gut lining. 

  • Medications tip: work with a holistic provider to get to the root cause of why you’re needing to take your medications in the first place and what strategies you can use to support your gut during or after medication use.

The Best Supplements to Take For Gut Health

While I strongly believe that a well balanced diet is key to optimizing overall fertility and gut health, supplements can be used to give your body the extra boost of support it needs. 

Here are my top gut health supplements:

Probiotics are a beneficial bacteria that are necessary to support digestion and immune function. 

These microbes enhance your ability to properly absorb nutrients and they help keep your immune system in balance; essential in the preconception and pregnancy phase.

When choosing a probiotic, look for these things:

  • It should be multi-strain, meaning it contains more than just a single strain of bacteria. Between 8 and 15 strains is optimal. It should also include several strains of Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium.
  • The product should have an enteric coating or be pH-activated as stomach acid can kill both harmful and helpful strains of bacteria.  A probiotic capsule that doesn’t dissolve in the low pH of the stomach is preferable to ensure the maximum number of probiotics reach your small intestines where they become active.

DOSEAGE: An average dose per capsule for a healthy person is approximately 10 billion CFU’s (colony forming units) per capsule. If you are taking antibiotics, make sure to take your probiotic 4 hours away from your antibiotic dose. In addition, it is preferable to take up to 50-100 billion CFU’s per day for up to 30- 60 days after antibiotics have been finished. 

Depending on the current state of your digestive health, digestive enzymes might also be needed for temporary relief of indigestion. As we age or are under chronic stress, the production of important digestive enzymes can drop significantly. This can result in abdominal bloating, gas, or a feeling that food isn't passing through the digestive system effectively.

Digestive enzymes are a great way to help your body break down and absorb the essential nutrients that are in your food. You may have an immaculate diet, however, if you are not able to digest and assimilate the nutrients, what’s the point?!

How to choose your digestive enzyme:

  • If you eat animal protein, choose an enzyme that includes HCl and bile, as it is needed to help you break down the protein and fat in animal protein 
  • Make sure it includes Pancreatic enzymes (aka protease, amylase, lipase) as protease break down protein, amylase breaks down carbs, lipase breaks down fat
  • If you are vegetarian or vegan, choose a plant enzyme blend. These are typically made with ingredients derived from pineapple and papaya that have been clinically proven to support digestion when taken with food.

DOSEAGE: Take 1-2 capsules before or during an indulgent meal aid in the process of digestion.

Here are my top probiotic and digestive enzyme supplements to support gut health.

The colon works best with adequate amounts of water, good bacteria and fiber. 

Ensuring you have enough fiber in your diet helps with balancing blood sugar, raises your metabolism, a balanced gut microbiome and speeds up transit time - the time it takes for food to move through you from the time you eat it before it comes out the other end. 

Finely powdered psyllium hulls are the best non-irritating fiber supplement source. It aids your bowel function by speeding up transit time for constipation and slowing it down if you’re experiencing diarrhea. 

DOSEAGE: Mixing one tablespoon in warm to hot water first thing in the morning and consuming it before you eat.

Ready To Improve Your Gut Health To Get Pregnant?

If you've been diagnosed with an autoimmune condition, unexplained infertility, experience irregular/painful cycles, have PCOS, endometriosis, have suffered recurrent pregnancy loss, have had unsuccessful fertility treatments or want a deeper look into your health and fertility, a Comprehensive Stool Analysis can help get you answers. 

Unlike traditional blood lab tests, functional labs such as a Comprehensive Stool Analysis, provides a deeper insight into the body's digestive system and how it correlates to infertility. By analyzing your gut health, it can help identify the underlying causes of infertility and guide personalized treatment plans for faster healing.

Do you need support and guidance with getting pregnant? We’re here to help. Check out my 1:1 private fertility coaching packages here.

Nora DeBora ~ Your Fertility Health Coach

Naturally Nora

Nora DeBora is a Preconception Health Coach, Holistic Nutritionist, Fertility Awareness Practitioner and host of The Ultimate Pregnancy Prep podcast. She empowers women and couples to improve their fertility outcomes to help them get pregnant through step-by-step programs, in-depth functional testing and targeted nutrition and lifestyle strategies.