Immunological Factors

I've been in practice for many years. Long enough to notice trends, one of the things I have noticed is the rise in autoimmune problems (allergies, lupus, Crohn’s disease, rheumatoid arthritis, chronic fatigue, and Hashimoto's Thyroiditis). What concerns me about this rise in immune system dysfunction is the effect it has on fertility.

Endometriosis, recurrent miscarriage and failed IVF are common problems for people who have autoimmune issues.

If you are suffering from repeated miscarriages, your immune system may be to blame. Experts estimate that up to 20% of miscarriages are related to autoimmune reactions. It’s as if the body has an allergic reaction to the embryo. In addition “unexplained infertility” is often not infertility at all, but rather recurrent miscarriages due to inappropriate immune reactions. 

There are four main markers of immune problems in people with recurrent pregnancy loss: Antithyroid antibodies, antiphospholipid antibodies, natural killer cells, and antinuclear antibodies. You can read more about each of these in Making Babies. There are very specific western medical protocols that can help in each of these cases and you should consult a high-risk OB (preferably with an immunology specialty) to discuss a conventional medical approach.

Chinese medicine has been shown in studies to help regulate the immune system. In cases of autoimmune disorders and immunological fertility barriers to fertility, acupuncture and specific Chinese herbs, often in combination with dietary and lifestyle changes, can help calm an overactive immune system, to support a healthy pregnancy.

How You Can Help Yourself:

  • Avoid alcohol and smoking altogether, and keep refined sugar and caffeine to a minimum, as they all put extra stress on your immune system.
  • Load up on antioxidants such as vitamin C (in reasonable amounts), vitamin E, beta-carotene and zinc, all of which are beneficial to the immune system. Include them in your diet and also consider supplements.
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