Egg quality is the factor we want to consider in any stage of a fertility journey. Both egg quality and sperm quality are essential factors in fertilization, implantation, and a healthy baby. In this blog, I review two powerhouse nutrients, COQ10 and glutathione, and why they are fundamental to egg quality.
A female body is born with all the eggs they have. Throughout their lifetime, there is an abundant number of exposures that can cumulatively impact the quality of the egg. We want to combat this.
The maturation of an egg is approximately a 3-month process. During this time, we want that egg surrounded by an abundance of nutrients and resources allowing that egg to mature such that it can reach its peak potential. We also want the egg and follicle to have all tools it needs to combat anything negatively impacting egg quality.
Factors to consider when optimizing egg quality
Oxidative stress is a normal byproduct of cell metabolism. However, when the balance is thrown off and there is an excess of oxidative stress, it can be quite destructive. Think of a rusty car. If there’s adequate paint and maintenance, the car is unlikely to rust. However, when chipped, and not maintained, rust can develop and comprise the structure of the car making it weak and vulnerable to damage. Similarly, an excess of oxidative stress can be directly damaging to the egg, the egg DNA, and the mitochondria function.
The mitochondria are the battery of the cell, responsible for producing energy. When an egg undergoes maturation, this requires an enormous amount of energy. As we age, our mitochondria’s ability to harness and produce energy can decline. Further, oxidative stress can directly damage the DNA and its efficiency to produce cellular energy, and directly influence the equality of the egg.
Hormones like FSH, estrogen, testosterone, etc., play a direct role in egg maturation. Evaluating your hormone balance is a fundamental step in a fertility assessment.
Nutrients are the direct resources that cells need to fuel and perform just about any function. Many of them form “cofactors” needed to allow for hormone production, energy production with the mitochondria, and egg maturation. A crude analogy of this is the relay race. The race can progress when the baton is passed from one racer to the next. You can think of the nutrient as the baton. If there isn’t a baton, it’s incredibly difficult to win that race. The baton is needed to move the race forward. Adequate nutrients are needed for all cellular functions, and nutritional deficiencies can compromise efficiency.
The research shows that there are two heavy hitters when we’re looking at optimizing egg quality.
- Coenzyme Q10 is a nutrient that occurs naturally in our bodies. It’s used directly within the mitochondria and required for energy production. COQ10 is also an antioxidant, which protects our mitochondria from oxidative damage. Our production of COQ10 slows as we age, making the mitochondria more susceptible to oxidative damage.
- COQ10 supplement has been shown to reduce the aneuploidy rate (chromosomal abnormalities) and improve the number of mitochondria (Ma et al, 2018). Pretreatment with COQ10 can also improve ovarian response and egg quality (Xu, 2018).
- Glutathione is one of the major antioxidants in our body. It works hand in hand with COQ10 to help quench oxidative stress within the mitochondria.
- When considering egg quality, “Glutathione shields eggs from damage caused by oxidative stress during egg development, thus improving egg quality. Research shows that oocytes with higher levels of glutathione produce healthier and stronger embryos (Mukherjee et al., 2014)”.
- Glutathione is a nutrient I’m also considering in many of my male fertility patients. When considering sperm quality, glutathione deficiency can cause instability in the sperm, impacting its motility. It also directly combats oxidative stress during sperm development and optimizing glutathione replenishment can improve sperm quality (Adeoye et al, 2018).
- Glutathione is very good at mopping up oxidative stress. To get the most benefit from glutathione, you must consider the delivery method.
- IV glutathione is the best bioavailable option for administering this antioxidant. We are able to bypass the gut lining and deliver it directly into the bloodstream for immediate use. Most oral preparations are poorly absorbed and don’t result in the therapeutic outcomes we’re looking for. However, new liposomal technology is a promising new method of glutathione delivery and a great option for egg quality support. Talk to your Acubalance doc about which liposomal formulas are best, or if IV nutrient therapy is something to consider for your case.
Barriers to getting these nutrients
There are 4 factors that I see preventing patients from getting the maximum or desired benefit from these nutrients:
Quality of the supplement
Both glutathione and COQ10 are highly unstable molecules. They are eagerly waiting to get to work, and if not delivered appropriately, or in a supplement that ensures its stability and maximizes their absorption – you will not see the benefits.
We need to get these nutrients up at adequate doses to see the clinical benefits. The dosage will vary depending on the case, and you should talk to your Acubalance doc to decide what is the most suitable for you. An inadequate dose may mean an inadequate response.
Remember the egg development takes a minimum of 3 months. These nutrients are targeting oxidative stress in the mitochondria and facilitating the production of cellular energy. If there are other comorbidities (i.e inflammatory conditions such as endometriosis, PCOS, thyroid disorder), you may consider longer supplementation.
There are other nutrients that work alongside COQ10 and glutathione and to help them continue to do their job (remember the baton analogy from above!). Nutrients like B vitamins, Vitamin C, magnesium, L-carnitine and more, are all essential to the mitochondria, lowering oxidative stress and of course the overall egg maturation process. Nutritional counseling and support is a foundation piece not only for egg quality but ensuring these supplements can work their best.
Strategies to optimize your intake
The take-home message is quality, dose and delivery form, and duration matter, and they matter a lot. There are a couple of different ways we can maximize these:
- Oral supplementation – a convenient method to get quality nutrients, check with your Acubalance practitioner to ensure what you’re getting is the best dose and form.
- IV nutrient therapy – fast and highly bioavailable method to get high dose nutrients, ready for use immediately. Learn more here.
- Nutritional counseling – nutrition is a foundational piece of the picture. The Acubalance Fertility Guide is a great starting point, however, if you need more guidance, let’s connect and discuss individualized nutrition support.
- Lab assessment – understand what’s going on in your body. Whether it’s nutritional markers, hormone balance, or markers of inflammation, understanding what’s happening in your body can allow us to further customize the plan.
While I focused my article on two of the major nutrients for egg quality, there are a number of other great options that may be suitable for your case as well. If you’re interested in learning more, schedule a discovery call to learn more about what we do.
Dr. Ashley Damm
Naturopathic Doctor – Vancouver, BC