One of the biggest obstacles to successful embryo implantation, and why IVF fails in some women, is an inflammatory environment, which can be caused by autoimmune conditions and other proinflammatory immune system conditions. If there is inflammation in the body, it could be harmful to the embryo and prevent implantation success.
The state of inflammation does not necessarily require the use of drugs, but can also be optimized through adequate nutrition and lifestyle improvement. It is also extremely important to reduce the effect of stress, which can impact the immune system: a holistic approach that includes acupuncture and hypnotherapy can help in this regard.
Pro-inflammatory diets and anti-inflammatory diets
There are two types of inflammation: acute and chronic.
Acute inflammation it is the body’s protective response to injury or infection. For example, acute inflammation occurs when you cut your finger. The body sends white blood cells to protect the area. You may notice swelling and redness and feel pain, but this process is key to preventing infection.
Chronic inflammation instead it can be triggered when the body tries to free itself from harmful substances such as smoke toxins. Increased levels of chronic inflammation are also associated with excess fat, especially abdominal fat.
Chronic low-grade inflammation can damage blood vessels, arteries, nervous system, and intestines. It can eventually lead to chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, some cancers, and some bowel diseases.
The emerging understanding of the role of inflammation in major chronic diseases has drawn attention to the effects of diet on the inflammatory process.
Understanding this link can help us identify specific dietary and food patterns that can reduce chronic inflammation and improve overall health, including fertility.
Can diet have an impact on chronic inflammation?
While acute inflammation is a normal and healthy response to short-term stress or injury, chronic low-grade inflammation is implicated in a number of diseases such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes and, most importantly, infertility.
The scientific literature concerning the relationship between diet and human fertility has greatly expanded in the last decade, leading to the identification of some clear patterns.
Acute inflammation is actually a normal part of many reproductive processes: cyclic changes in the ovaries, egg maturation and ovulation, changes in the endometrial lining all have an inflammatory component.
However, conditions such as endometriosis, polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), and premature ovarian failure have been linked to chronic inflammation and adverse pregnancy outcomes. Researchers speculate that chronic inflammation can damage the uterine environment and / or disrupt the specific chain of immune system events that allow an embryo to implant in the uterus.
By looking at inflammation markers such as C-reactive protein (CRP), interleukin-6 (IL-6), and tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-α), the researchers found that diet can affect the state of inflammation.
What impact does a pro-inflammatory diet have on fertility?
Inflammation and resolution of inflammation are finely regulated processes during the implantation process. In situations of chronic inflammation these processes are hindered and being able to decrease or cure this chronic inflammation can significantly increase the chances of getting pregnant.
In the case of chronic inflammation, pro-inflammatory immune cells continue to circulate in the body and damage healthy tissues, including the lining of blood vessels (atherosclerosis), joint tissue (arthritis) and the intestinal mucosa (food intolerance). Interestingly, inflammatory mediators are also implicated ininsulin resistanceto. Chemical messengers released by inflammatory response immune cells cause target cells in adipose and liver tissue to lose their ability to respond to insulin.
A contribution to the increase in inflammation can be made by the increase in oxidative stress levels, and vice versa: inflammation and oxidative stress are inextricably linked.
Oxidative stress occurs constantly in our body. Reactive oxygen species that cause oxidative stress are necessary for many biological processes in our body but, just as the name tells us, these reactive oxygen species are unstable. If the levels rise too high, or there is a reduction in the defense systems used to fight reactive oxygen species (e.g. antioxidants), they can cause considerable damage to DNA and cell membranes, leading to cell death.
Mitochondria are a small organelle found in most cells, they are the main source of reactive oxygen species. When oxygen is broken down (metabolized) for energy, electrons can escape from the energy production chain and these transform oxygen from a stable molecule to one that loses some electrons to become unstable.
If the mitochondria are not functioning properly, this will generate significantly more reactive oxygen species leading to increased oxidative stress.
Although most of the reactive oxygen species are produced by processes that take place in the body, they can also come from external sources including smoke, pollutants, tobacco, some medications, and radiation.
According to a very recent study conducted by Dr.ssa Gemma Fabozzi, embryologist and nutritionist in charge of the B-Woman center, published in the journal ‘Antioxidants”, incorrect diets affect oocyte quality because they negatively interfere with mitochondria which play a key role in folliculogenesis and oocyte maturation. The consequences affect fertility, which can cause a failure to conceive, or implantation, or prevent the pregnancy from continuing. Long-term damage to the maternal mitochondrial DNA can cause future health problems in the baby.
How inflammation affects fertility
High levels of inflammation and oxidative stress negatively affect the quality of sperm and oocyte, reducing the chances of conception. Detecting low-grade inflammation and oxidative stress are not routine procedures in fertility pathology, so often the only sign of these underlying conditions may be poor egg quality, poor fertilization rates, recurrent failure of fertility. implantation or miscarriages.
Over 70% of women with unexplained infertility have high levels of inflammation and oxidative stress.
PCOS: women with PCOS show chronic low-grade inflammation, characterized by increased plasma levels of inflammatory cytokines, which have been associated with insulin resistance. Levels of oxidative stress are also increased in PCOS, while circulating levels of antioxidants, which are our defense against oxidative stress, are low.
Endometriosis: Endometriosis is an inflammatory condition induced by estrogen.
Male factorIncreased circulating markers of inflammation and oxidative stress leading to DNA fragmentation are seen in male infertility, a key factor in low fertilization rates, low blastocyst formation rates and recurrent early pregnancy loss.
Chronic inflammation and fertility: how do we mitigate inflammation and oxidative stress?
The adoption of strategies to dampen chronic inflammation and oxidative stress are very effective in improving fertility and increasing pregnancy success.
Diet is one of the most easily controlled factors that can manipulate the gut microbiota and affect inflammation. Inflammation modulators include vitamin D and omega-3 fatty acids, and probiotics.
What are anti inflammatory foods?
Foods with greater pro-inflammatory potential are red meat and processed meat, refined carbohydrates such as white bread, white rice and many sweets; sugary drinks including sports drinks.
Foods that have the highest anti-inflammatory potential are green leafy vegetables such as kale, cabbage and spinach; dark yellow vegetables like winter and summer squash and yellow peppers; whole grains, quinoa, wholemeal bread and oatmeal; fruit, green tea. These foods contain specific anti-inflammatory compounds such as carotenoids, flavonoids, vitamins and fiber.
But let’s see them in detail:
- Blue fish: The levels of omega-3 fatty acids in oily fish help counter the inflammatory effects of the omega-6 fats found in most meat.
- Some nuts, such as macadamia nuts, which are high in omega-9 fats and seeds such as flax seeds, chia seeds and hemp.
- Fruits and vegetables: foods high in antioxidants help stem the action of free radicals, which cause inflammation. The orange and dark green vegetables …