Diminished ovarian reserve is determined using Western medical diagnostic tests.
Results such as low AFC – antral follicle count, high FSH – follicle stimulating hormone, and low AMH – anti–mullerian hormone show you may be close to the end of your reproductive years and/or that egg quality may not be adequate.
If you have been diagnosed with diminished ovarian reserve, please have hope that all may not be lost. Ovarian function depends on many factors that can be age related but also life style related. Therefore, with some focused effort in the right direction, you may be able to positively influence the health of your ovaries.
The main factors currently known to influence ovarian reserve are:
- Being over age 40
- Previous use of fertility drugs to hyper stimulate the ovaries to ovulate
- Long term use of birth control contraceptives that suppress ovulation
- Specific nutrient deficiencies
- Hormonal imbalance – high FSH, low estrogen and progesterone…
- Stress and possibly adrenal fatigue
There are no Western treatments currently available to improve quantity or quality of follicles in the ovaries. Indeed, you are born with all the follicles you will ever have, and their quality is generally set before birth. However, recent research is showing the possibility to positively influence mitochondria (the power house of cells) of the follicles which may improve egg quality over time.
Traditional Chinese Medicine
There is a lot of research supporting the use of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), including acupuncture, herbal medicine, and nutrition, to improve menstrual cycles and positively influence the health of follicles in the ovaries. These natural therapies do not over stimulate the ovaries themselves using hormones. They instead support the normal functioning of the ovary in producing follicles and maturing eggs by improving blood circulation to the ovaries thereby improving nutrition and hormone delivery to that region, improving your overall body health, and hopefully improving your chances of getting pregnant naturally or at least improve your chance for IUI or IVF success.
A TCM diagnosis is based on identifying patterns of disharmony in the body; signs that have meaning when seen in relation to each other. Once we identify your pattern, a treatment plan can be designed to bring the body to a healthier balance increasing the chances of getting pregnant.
As with all TCM treatments at AcuPlus, the recommended treatment protocol will be based on your individual TCM diagnosis as not all patients diagnosed with diminished ovarian reserve will be treated the same. The most common TCM reasons for diminished ovarian reserve are Kidney Jing, Yin and Yang Deficiencies, although there are always other contributing disharmonies that will need to be addressed that are unique to each individual.
Nutrition & Diet
Chances are high that a diagnosis with diminished ovarian reserve is linked to some other health issues in the body. These may have developed with age or you may have been born with them. The aim with nutrition is to improve overall body health and this will positively influence the health of the reproductive organs as a result. Improving your health will not increase the number of follicles available for conception. However, there is some evidence that nutrition can improve egg quality to some degree. What you eat affects your fertility and especially your ability to improve the health of your eggs. A diet rich in anti-oxidants can decrease free-radicals, which cause aging and damage DNA everywhere in the body, including in the eggs.
Ultimately you need one healthy mature egg to improve your odds of conception, so improving your diet is a major key to success.
At AcuPlus, detailed diet and supplement recommendations are given to you based on your individual TCM diagnosis. The following information represents only general diet tips for those with diminished ovarian reserve:
- Eat plenty of high fiber foods. Fiber increases movement of food through the intestines and helps promote an optimal balance of helpful bacteria.
- Increase liver friendly foods such as kale, brussel sprouts, broccoli, and spinach.
- Use more anti-inflammatory spices such as turmeric, ginger, and garlic.
- Minimize or avoid sugar, caffeine and alcohol.
- Minimize or avoid dairy and gluten as they may contribute to inflammation.
- Minimize or avoid red meat because it contains large amount of arachidonic acid, which promotes inflammatory prostaglandins, inflammation, and pain.
- Avoid soy products because they have an estrogenic effect.
- Increase foods high in anti-oxidants such as various fruits and vegetables.
If you have been diagnosed with diminished ovarian reserve, the most important lifestyle shift is learning to manage your stress response. Poor management of chronic stressors can increase inflammation in your body which lead to a wide array of negative effects. When you learn techniques to minimize the effects of those stressors, using tools such as yoga, qi gong (meditative exercise), breathing exercises and meditation, and if you get more quality sleep, your body chemistry will change and become healthier.
Regular exercise can reduce your stress response as well, but it also will improve whole body circulation of blood and lymphatic fluid thereby helping your body feel and function more optimally. The general minimal recommendation is to include at least 30 minutes a day/every other day of brisk walking or other aerobic exercise preferably in nature so you can benefit from the calm it can bring. We aren’t looking to overdo exercise as this can negatively affect fertility. The goal is to reduce stress, improve circulation and improve whole body health.