The Role of the Gut Microbiome and Reproductive Health - A Revolutionary View of Human Life
The Gestational Journey speaker, Felice Gersh, MD, gives us a taster of what her incredible talk will cover at the summit in this article...
New understandings of what it means to be a human have emerged over the past two decades, and our views of the intricate relationships between fertility, ovarian health, the menstrual cycle, nutrition, sleep, stress, exercise, and metabolic wellbeing have been revolutionized.
Humans are technically "superbeings," amalgams of the genetic material of our own cells and that of the incredible microbiomes covering every bit of our bodies, inside and out. In sharp contrast to what we were taught, nothing in our bodies is sterile, and there are microbes in every nook and cranny, and we are just beginning to understand the synergies existing between our own cells and those of our invisible co-inhabitants.
The largest of all the microbiomes, the gut microbiome, is the collective genomic material of the trillions of microbes residing within the bowel. It's only recently become apparent that it is a major factor in maintaining both metabolic health and reproductive health, particularly so in women with PCOS.
It's only been proven in the past year or so that the gut microbiome of women with PCOS is not normal - it's what is called dysbiotic. It harbors harmful microbes which foster the production of Lipopolysaccharides, also known as endotoxins - toxins from within. These toxins can exit the gut and enter the immune system encircling the gut, and even circulate throughout the body. These endotoxins create a state of inflammation, which damages the reproductive functions of the ovaries and impacts the normal rhythms of our hormones.
The toxins also travel directly to the liver, creating liver inflammation and promoting the development of fatty liver, a further detriment to metabolic and reproductive wellbeing. The liver plays a critical role in all metabolic functions of the body and its disregulation spells havoc for reproductive functions. Reproductive health is synonymous with metabolic health. Healthy livers are not optional!
In obese women, endotoxemia is a significant issue, which becomes magnified for obese women with PCOS, as PCOS is associated with a lower threshold for the activation of white blood cells and the release of their inflammatory contents, the cytokines. Women with PCOS have to be even more aware of the importance of maintaining a healthy microbiome for their fertility.
We are just at the beginnings of our understanding of the complex relationship of the gut microbiome and fertility. But even with what we now know, it's clear that the care and feeding of the microscopic inhabitants within us is simply not an optional enterprise if we value fertility and optimal health for ourselves and for future generations.