Oxidative stress – we hear this word a lot when it comes to fertility, but what does it mean? “Reactive oxygen species” (“ROS”) are chemicals generated during many cellular processes. They play a big part in our immune system, energy production within our mitochondria, cell communication, and more. When controlled, they are a necessary part of our biology. However, when the balance is thrown off, and the ROS levels exceed our antioxidant capacity, we get “oxidative stress”.
Oxidative stress can be destructive; damaging to our cell membranes, enzymes, and our DNA. It can turn on genes that are “pro-inflammatory”, worsening the problem. Chronic oxidative stress has been shown to lead to a number of diseases including inflammation, atherosclerosis, diabetes, neurodegenerative diseases, and more.
How does oxidative stress impact fertility?
- Oxidative stress can produce inflammation and vice versa, it’s a vicious cycle. Inflammation has been linked with endometriosis, PCOS, spontaneous pregnancy loss, tubal obstruction – all established causes of suboptimal fertility.
- Oxidative stress can have a direct impact on sperm function. High levels of oxidative stress have been shown to impact sperm motility and cause reduced fertilization ability.
- Oxidative stress can directly damage DNA. This can be a risk factor for genetic abnormalities and aneuploidy (chromosomal abnormalities).
- Oxidative stress may directly influence egg and embryo quality. Higher levels of 8-OHDG in this study resulted in lower fertilization rates and decreased good quality embryos.
How do I know if I have oxidative stress?
We can measure it! There are two types of urine tests available. One is an in-house urine test run during your naturopathic appointment. We measure a ROS metabolite in the urine, which is a marker for oxidative stress. It allows us to monitor your treatment and progress, in-house. Another test is 8-OH-DG, a marker for DNA damage due to oxidative stress. This is dried urine analysis which also looks at antioxidant status, hormones, and stress levels, allowing for a more comprehensive overview. Finally, clinical signs play a big role in your assessment. A throughout history at Acubalance explores your diet, sleep, exercise, stress, past blood work; all valuable indicators of oxidative stress, and all addressed in your treatment plan.
How do you treat oxidative stress?
It’s all about balance. Some ROS activity is required. This amount is usually easily controlled by your antioxidant pathways and nutrients. However if ROS/inflammation levels begin to rise, they can begin to use up and deplete your antioxidants. This makes it harder for your body to keep up with the oxidative stress. When treating oxidative stress, you want to (1) minimize the cause (i.e. things that are generating the inflammation), and (2) boost antioxidants to neutralize the oxidative stress.
Minimize oxidative stress
- One of the fastest ways to boost antioxidants is via IV nutrient therapy. Antioxidants such as Glutathione, Vitamin C, Zinc, Selenium, etc. are infused directly into the bloodstream, at higher concentrations than achievable through supplementation. This means high doses of antioxidants available for your cells to use immediately, to counter oxidative stress. The number of treatments will depend on the individual case.
- Nutrient-rich diet: ensure intake of whole foods rich in antioxidants. This means lots of veggies! The Acubalance Fertility Diet recommends 50% veggies with each meal. This makes sure you’re getting LOTS of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants with each meal, to help combat inflammation and oxidative stress.
Remember, it’s all about balance. Can you have too many antioxidants? Yes. We need some ROS activity, even for fertility. So, it’s important you’re monitored, and that antioxidant therapy is tailored specifically for you.
Interested in learning more? Call 604-678-8600 to book your free 15-minute consultation.
Dr. Ashley Damm
Naturopathic Doctor – Vancouver, BC
- Iborra A., P. J. (2005). Oxidative Stress and Autoimmune Response in the Infertile Woman. Immunology of Gametes and Embryo Implantation.
- Seino, T. e. (2002). Eight-hydroxy-2′-deoxyguanosine in Granulosa Cells Is Correlated With the Quality of Oocytes and Embryos in an in Vitro Fertilization-Embryo Transfer Program. Fertil Steril.
- Tamura, H. e. (2008). Oxidative Stress Impairs Oocyte Quality and Melatonin Protects Oocytes From Free Radical Damage and Improves Fertilization Rate. J Pineal Res.