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40% Women Are Vitamin D Deficient

An epidemic of vitamin D deficiency has been emerging over the last decade among all racial groups in the United States. In fact, the prevalence of vitamin D insufficiency nearly doubled from 1994 to 2004. Among women of reproductive age, more than 40 percent are insufficient in vitamin D.

Vitamin D’s most important role in the human body is to keep bones healthy and strong by helping the body absorb calcium. However, recent research has pointed to additional ways that vitamin D deficiency factors into our overall health, including its role in chronic diseases like diabetes, obesity, autoimmune disease, cardiovascular disease and cancer, as well as an association with a higher risk of both overall and cancer mortality. Instead of only affecting cells that live in the bone, we now understand that Vitamin D is able to affect many different types of cells in different organs in the body. The way it does this is by turning genes within that cell, “on and off.” In other words, vitamin D affects the way a cell carries out its function, and it can control the growth or the death of that cell.

Many studies have recently focused on the relationship of vitamin D levels to cancer. Low Vitamin D levels have been associated with a 30 to 50 percent increased risk of colon, prostate and breast cancer. Indeed, vitamin D’s newly discovered roles in the human body involving immunity and the ability to turn on or off certain genes, provides a logical explanation as to how vitamin D could contribute to cancer risk and mortality. However, while these studies do show a link between vitamin D levels and cancer risk, they do not prove that low levels of vitamin D cause these cancers—and there have not yet been any studies that show a clear benefit in taking vitamin D.

In the world of reproduction, the importance of vitamin D was initially shown in experiments with mice. Mice who are either deficient in vitamin D, or who lack the vitamin D receptor, can demonstrate underdevelopment of the uterus and inability to form normal mature eggs, resulting in infertility. If pregnancy is achieved, the fetuses of these mice show impaired growth. Reproduction is normalized in mice with vitamin D supplementation, but not with calcium alone, suggesting that vitamin D’s role in female reproduction is not related to helping the body absorb calcium.

In humans, the vitamin D receptor is present in many female organs, including the ovary, uterus, and placenta. The active form of vitamin D (calcitriol) has many roles in female reproduction. Bound to its receptor, calcitriol is able to control the genes involved in making estrogen.v The uterine lining produces calcitriol in response to the embryo as it enters the uterine cavity, shortly before implantation. Calcitriol controls several genes involved in embryo implantation. Once a woman becomes pregnant, the uterus and placenta continue to make calcitriol, which helps organize immune cells in the uterus, so that infections can be fought without harming the pregnancy. Poor vitamin D status has been associated with certain pregnancy complications such as gestational hypertension and diabetes.

Women about to undergo in vitro fertilization (IVF) can provide valuable insight into the role of vitamin D, since it is possible to examine each aspect of reproduction, from egg development to implantation of the embryo. A recent study found that women with higher vitamin D levels were significantly more likely to achieve pregnancy from IVF compared to women with lower levels of vitamin D. This study was repeated in another IVF center, which confirmed a four-fold difference in pregnancy rates between vitamin D replete and deficient women. In another study looking at the recipients of donor eggs, vitamin D levels in the recipients were associated with clinical pregnancy, emphasizing that the critical role of vitamin D in pregnancy may be within the uterus.# Though more research is needed, it appears that vitamin D levels are associated with IVF success, and that its most important role in reproduction may be at the uterine lining. No studies have yet evaluted whether giving vitamin D improves IVF outcomes. But the data that does exist at this point suggests that a role for vitamin D supplementation may exist as a means of improving one’s natural fertility both among the fertile and the infertile.

The research that implicates vitamin D deficiency as playing a role in not only fertility but in overall health is compelling, and it is backed by sound physiologic hypothesis. Before broad treatment changes are instituted, however, further research needs to be completed to assess the health benefits of supplementing vitamin D to attain replete levels. Nevertheless, this is an exciting new field of research that could lead to simple and inexpensive approaches to improve health. Regardless of potential fertility benefits, patients should be counseled regarding appropriate vitamin D supplementation for overall health benefits, including bone health, pregnancy health, and chronic disease risk reduction.

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10 Tips for Coping with Infertility

If you are recently married or thinking about getting married, it can be easy to get caught up with the idea of marriage and the good times you anticipate having. But what about when the inevitable bad times hit? Will you be ready to cope when they do?

For many couples, infertility can create a lot of anguish due to the incredible stress fertility treatment can put on a marriage. The question is, will that stress necessarily cause a couple to divorce? Recent research says no.

In a study of more than 40,000 women, Dr. Mariana Martins, a psychology professor at the University of Porto in Portugal, found that fertility treatment does not increase the likelihood of a couple divorcing. Martins instead attributes the “security of relationships” to a couple remaining committed to seeing through their infertility issues.

Over the course of the 16 years during which the study spanned, around 20 percent of couples who had children via assisted reproductive treatment separated or divorced vs. 22 percent who did not. The risk of breakups is, as Martins concludes, due to childlessness instead.

Though specific to couples battling childlessness, the research raises an important issue, and that is how a husband and wife can support each other during difficult times, whether they are facing infertility or any other problem causing them stress. In other words, how a couple copes with a trying situation can either make or break a couple, literally.

As with any other situation, the best way to deal with a stressful situation, whatever that may be, is to prepare for it as best you can before it happens. Here are my 10 suggestions for coping with stress during a marriage.

1. Communicate. Be open with your spouse about what you are thinking and feeling. Do not expect your spouse to be able to read your behavior as he or she can easily misinterpret it, creating distance between you. Whatever the trouble is, you can deal with it. But the first step must be facing your problems head on, together.

2. Be a team player. And by together, I mean behaving as a team player. Stress easily divides and conquers, so treat it like the enemy that it is and play fair. That means supporting each other’s hopes and dreams (without compromising your own) and never undermine your partner, especially publicly.

3. Do not point fingers. Teammates do not point fingers at each other when things go wrong. Blaming each other for circumstances beyond your control or mistakes (yours or someone else’s) will get you nowhere fast or set you back further.

4. Display affection. Even if you are feeling bad, try and be there for your partner. A hug or a touch can do wonders for keeping you connected to your partner. Sex is one way, not the only way to stay close to your spouse. Explore other options besides that one.

5. Spend time alone. Sometimes when we are going through a difficult period, we need to be alone and process our feelings. Do not be afraid to take a step back and spend time by yourself. Let your partner know that is what you are doing, so they do not receive your distance as a slight.

6. Relieve pressure from your spouse. Whatever you are going through, try not to use your husband or wife as a crutch. Turn to others for love, care, and support, giving your partner some much-needed time to breathe. Stress can cause people to break. Relieve them and allow them to regroup before that happens.

7. Take care of yourself. While being mindful of taking pressure off of your spouse, try to take pressure off yourself, too. That means exercise self-care however you can. Whether it is by eating well, getting a good night’s sleep, or going for a hike, remember, you need to be strong to deal with the issues you are.

8. Keep things in perspective. Some stressors are worse than others, and it can be helpful to take a step back and evaluate your current situation from time to time. Are things that bad? Are they improving? Each of us is guilty at one time or another of overreacting. Determine if this is one of those occasions.

9. Get help. If you find that you are having difficulty coping with stress, consider seeing a mental health professional for assistance. Set up appointments not only for you but also for you and your spouse together. After all, you are there to support one another, in good times and bad.

10. Stay positive. No one ever said life would be easy. But the good part about it is that situations can improve, even when you do not think it is possible. Just as events can often get worse, they can also get better. Keep your stress level in check, so you can be around for each other when that happens. After all, isn’t that what you vowed to do?


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7 Surprising Sperm Killers

Everyday chemicals may be lowering your sperm count, scrambling DNA sperm data, or causing sperm mobility problems.  You might already know that narrow bike seats and antidepressants can cause problems.  MSN lists seven more you might not have heard about:

1. Cash register receipts: About 40 percent of receipts are coated with bisphenol-A (BPA), which has been linked to fertility problems and low sperm count and quality.

2. Canned food: The biggest source of BPA contamination is food packaging; almost all metal cans are coated with a BPA resin.

3. Sex toys: Sex toys made of out vinyl contain phthalates, which are linked to cancer, allergies, birth defects, and infertility.

4. Your shower: Phthalates are also found in scented soaps, shampoos, and cleaners -- and in vinyl shower curtains.

5. Chemical-laced produce: Pesticides are meant to kill insect, but they can also affect your sperm.

6. Heated car seats: Heated car seats and heating pads increase testicular temperatures enough to decrease sperm production.

7. Contaminated fish: PCBs are a type of banned chemical, but enough remain in the environment to accumulate in fish.


Two of the Most Common Chemicals Linked to Reproductive Problems

Hormone-disrupting chemicals are profoundly pervasive in today's modern world. They lurk in personal care products, food containers, medical tubing, toys and more. Bisphenol-A (BPA) and phthalates are two of the most well known culprits.

Bisphenol A (BPA)

BPA is a common ingredient in many plastics, including those in water bottles and children's toys, as well as the lining of most canned goods. It was recently discovered that even many cash register receipts contain this chemical.

BPA is so pervasive it has been detected in the umbilical cord blood of 90 percent of newborn infants tested!

Recent studies have confirmed suspicions that BPA is affecting male fertility, primarily by reducing semen quality. One such study, which provides the first epidemiological evidence of an adverse effect on semen quality, was published in the journal Fertility and Sterility. The study included 218 men with and without BPA exposure in the workplace, in four regions of China.

The researchers found that higher urine levels of BPA were significantly associated with:

  1. Decreased sperm concentration
  2. Decreased total sperm count
  3. Decreased sperm vitality
  4. Decreased sperm motility

Compared with those who did not have detectable levels, the men with detectable levels of BPA had more than:

  • three times the risk of lowered sperm concentration and lower sperm vitality
  • four times the risk of lower sperm count
  • twice the risk of lower sperm motility

According to the authors:

"Similar dose-response associations were observed among men with environmental BPA exposure at levels comparable with those in the U.S population."

In women, BPA can also reduce your chances of successful in vitro fertilization (IVF) by interfering with ococyte (immature egg cell) quality. Two recent studies attest to this. One, published last December, found an inverse association between BPA concentration and normal fertilization, and the other, published earlier last year found that "BPA was detected in the urine of the majority of women undergoing IVF, and was inversely associated with number of oocytes retrieved and peak estradiol levels."


Phthalates are another group of chemicals that wreak havoc with your reproductive health. Exposure to phthalates can lead to incomplete testicular descent in fetuses, reduced sperm counts, testicular atrophy or structural abnormality and inflammation in newborns.

Phthalates are commonly found in vinyl flooring, detergents, automotive plastics, soap, shampoo, deodorants, fragrances, hair spray, nail polish, plastic bags, food packaging, garden hoses, inflatable toys, blood-storage bags, intravenous medical tubing, and yes, even sex toys, as pointed out by MSN.

Other Common Chemicals Linked to Fertility Problems

While BPA and phthalates have gotten most of the media attention, there are a number of chemicals that fall into this harmful category. Others to look out for include:

  • Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) -- Found in grease- and water-resistant coatings like Teflon and Gore-Tex, is a likely carcinogen.
  • Methoxychlor and Vinclozin-- An insecticide and a fungicide respectively, have been found to cause changes to male mice born for as many as four subsequent generations after the initial exposure.
  • Nonylphenol ethoxylates (NPEs) -- Known to be potent endocrine disrupters, these chemicals affect gene expression by turning on or off certain genes, and interfere with the way your glandular system works. They mimic the female hormone estrogen, and have been implicated as one reason behind some marine species switching from male to female.
  • Bovine growth hormones commonly added to commercial dairy have been implicated as a contributor to premature adolescence.
  • Non-fermented soy products, which are loaded with hormone-like substances.
  • MSG -- A food additive that's been linked to reduced fertility.
  • Fluoride -- This chemical in the U.S. water supply has been linked to lower fertility rates, hormone disruption and low sperm counts.

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