Summit on Environment, Reproductive, Nutritional and Genetic Factors Affecting Reproduction

In my acupuncture for fertility practice I have been talking with patients for years now about the hormone disruption caused by environmental chemicals, as well as how nutrition affects reproduction. So I was eager to attend the March 5th Environment and Reproductive Science Summit 2016  in Dallas and to share what I learned.

This conference was sponsored by the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, The Society for the Study of Reproduction, and the Society of Reproductive Biologists and Technologists. The presenters and the attendees were MD’s who do IVF, as well as accomplished researchers in the area of reproductive biology and technology.

I thought that I might be the only practitioner who does acupuncture for infertility at the conference, but I was delighted to see MD and mentor, Dr. Sadhna Singh, who was trained in Obstetrics and Gynecology, and practices acupuncture for fertility in Houston , Texas.

I knew that I would return with more questions than answers, and with frustration that many of the findings cannot yet be clinically applied. Indeed, much of the research has not been published yet. But the direction of the data definitely supports the dreadful fact that as a species our fertility may be declining and we are possibly headed toward the need for more assisted reproduction. Attending the conference also validated my efforts for the last twelve years at educating my patients in regard to limiting exposure to endocrine disrupting chemicals.

Researchers from Harvard, UCLA, UCSF, etc., and the National Institute of Health presented information on male and female fertility that was gathered from original research in humans and animals, as well as from surveys and retrospective studies. The focus for all of the studies was Environmental, Nutritional, and Genetic Factors Affecting Reproduction. The endocrine disrupting chemicals, or EDC’s that were discussed included those that come from plastics, pesticides, polluted air, and personal care items.

Scientific “pearls” and notable information included:

  • Components of plastics are “covalently unstable” which means they do indeed leach out of items and enter the human body.
  • Organic diets significantly reduce levels of pesticides in our bodies.
  • Some endocrine disruptors such as the fungicide vinclozolin causes “Transgenerational epimutations”. This means that the negative affects of the fungicide are passed on to at least three generations of offspring.
  • Phthlates, used to soften plastics, caused a decrease in sperm and genital malformations in mice.
  • BPA (bisphenol-a) used to harden plastics, caused meiotic (cell division) errors and spermatocyte (early sperm cell) loss.
  • Endocrine disruptor exposure in mice affected timing of puberty, weight, and gene expression in mice.

Information from surveys included a presentation from a researcher at the National Institute of Health who profiled the ENDO, Life Study and the Oxford Conception Study which show a connection between stress and fertility. It is important to remember that showing an association is not the same as showing cause and effect.

In an effort to present balanced information, I must tell you that not everyone in the scientific community believes that there is enough evidence to supporting a clear connection between exposure to environmental chemicals and endocrine disruption that impairs fertility. But better safe than sorry, and if we cannot eliminate all of the exposure around us, why not limit our exposure as best we can? Drink, cook, eat, and store in glass and stainless steel. Use lotions, potions and personal care products that do not have endocrine disrupting chemicals in them. Reach for the baking soda and vinegar for cleaning. I have shared with all of you that have come to my office for fertility acupuncture, the literature from the UCLA Center for Reproductive Health and the Environment.  Their pamphlet will give you information on finding products without potentially dangerous chemicals in them.

The speaker I truly wanted to hear was Dr. Jorge Chavarro, from Harvard. He is an MD and a nutrition researcher, and I have lent many of you the book he wrote with Dr. Walter Willet, The Fertility Diet. He presented data on the association between high pesticide exposure and low sperm count and plastic exposure and low birth weight. But finally there was some good news (and things we can do) from a presenter: Omega-3 fats from fish result in higher sperm counts and higher mono-fat intake  (olive, peanut, almond, sunflower, safflower oil, avocados) is associated with higher birth rates. He did add that he was disturbed by one of his recent findings: evil “transfats”, aka, partially hydrogenated fats can still be found in men’s sperm even though it has been largely eliminated in the food supply.

Attendees asked many hard questions of the presenters, such as does the IVF process expose embryos to potentially harmful chemicals, and if so, what is the affect ?  Of course you can imagine that the answer was a big fat “We don’t know”. However some researchers are looking at epigenetic, chromotin, and mitochondrial dysfunction (things related to gene function) in regard to the IVF process. If all this seems alarming or confusing, remember that it is a good thing that these issues are being looked at, because it ultimately may be a step to improving the process, safety, and outcomes of IVF. And the bottom line is that every year I get amazingly beautiful Christmas card photos of perfect, beautiful babies.

If any of you would like to talk with me about the conference, do not hesitate to call or e-mail.  

Jane Gleeson 

Jane Gleeson Infertility Acupuncture Wisconsin, Milwaukee

Jane Gleeson Infertility Acupuncture Wisconsin, Milwaukee