Investigating Infertility: Why You Need a Stool Test if You're Struggling to Conceive
What is your poop telling you? And, more importantly, why should you care about this when it comes to your fertility?! If you’re like most of our clients and patients, you’re raising your eyebrows right now trying to figure out why the heck we would be recommending a stool test to investigate fertility issues.
We get it! Investigating the gut when you have a reproductive problem seems a little far-fetched at first. Especially since most of us grow up only learning about health from the conventional medicine perspective. We’re used to the body being broken up into individual systems that are each assigned to a medical specialty. And this tends to feed the belief that the different systems don’t have much to do with each other!
In reality, though, the body is much more complex than that – every system depends on every other in order to work properly. And if there’s one system that is absolutely vital to the health of ALL the others (especially the reproductive system), it’s the digestive system. So, let’s start by taking a look at how good digestion specifically supports fertility.
How Gut Health Affects Fertility
Good digestion is essential for absorbing nutrients from the foods we eat, which is extremely important for supporting fertility and a healthy pregnancy. We need nutrients to build our hormones, grow and mature healthy egg cells, repair our tissues, detoxify harmful substances, tame inflammation, and (of course) grow an entirely new human from scratch during pregnancy! If you’re not digesting and absorbing well, it really doesn’t matter how healthy your diet is or how many supplements you take – you still won’t be getting the nutrition you need to fully support your reproductive system.
Roughly 70-80% of your body’s immune system is located in your gut and your intestinal lining serves as the barrier between the outside world and the inside of your body. When we have poor digestion, gut infections, or imbalances between beneficial and harmful bacteria (dysbiosis), our intestinal lining can become irritated and begin to break down. This allows incompletely digested food molecules, toxins, and waste products to enter the bloodstream. The immune system will respond to these foreign invaders with inflammation, which can lead to oxidative stress, poor egg quality, a hostile environment in the uterus, hormone imbalances, allergic conditions, and even autoimmunity!
When hormones have served their purpose in the body, we need to be able to eliminate them so they don’t continue to affect our tissues. We primarily do this through, you guessed it, the digestive tract! Problems in the gut, like constipation or dysbiosis, will prevent us from properly detoxifying our hormones (especially estrogen) and cause us to reabsorb them. This can lead to estrogen dominance or an imbalance between estrogen and progesterone that can cause unpleasant symptoms and make it harder to get pregnant or carry to term.
Our digestive tracts serve as a major elimination pathway for toxins that we are exposed to on a daily basis, including industrial chemicals, pesticides, endocrine (hormone) disruptors, heavy metals, etc. After these things are processed by the liver, a healthy gut helps ensure they are carried out of the body through your poop. However, when digestion, bacterial balance, or the gut lining are compromised, we can end up reabsorbing them and suffering ill effects that can harm fertility. These include inflammation, oxidative stress, poor egg quality, thyroid
Does Your Gut Need Help?
As you can see, a lot can go wrong with fertility (and health in general) when the gut isn’t functioning well. Speaking of which, how can you tell if something is off in your gut? You might think you can just go off digestive symptoms alone, but that isn’t necessarily the case. It may surprise you to learn that many people with poor gut health don’t have obvious gut symptoms! Instead, they have symptoms of inflammation or immune system dysfunction that occur as a downstream consequence of poor gut health. If you are currently experiencing ANY of the symptoms listed below on a regular basis, you can benefit from some investigation into your gut.
Excess fullness, bloating, or belching
Acid reflux or indigestion
Constipation (<1 bowel movement/day)
Diarrhea (loose/completely liquid stool)
Cramping in lower abdomen
Bad breath or foul-smelling gas
Feeling better when skipping meals
Undigested pieces of food in stool
Urgent bowel movements after meals
Antibiotic use in the past year
Chronic vaginitis or yeast infections
Frequent urinary tract infections
Asthma or respiratory issues
Food allergies, sensitivities, intolerances
Hives, rashes, eczema, or rosacea
Joint/muscle pain or stiffness
Depression, anxiety, or brain fog
Dry skin or brittle hair and nails
An autoimmune condition of any kind
Why Take A Stool Test?
Alright, so now that you know how your gut health is connected to your fertility and which symptoms you need to be watching out for, let’s talk about why stool testing is such an amazing tool for getting to the root cause of fertility issues and why we specifically love the GI-MAP test by Diagnostic Solutions Laboratory.
Identifies Gut Infections and Dysbiosis
Did you know that parasite infections are extremely common in the U.S. and other developed countries? That’s right, you don’t have to be drinking river water in the jungle to contract a parasite! And although many parasite infections will initially cause severe digestive symptoms, these little buggers can actually make a long-term home in your gut without you even knowing it. Over time, they can steal nutrients from your food before you can absorb them, increase inflammation in your intestines, and damage your gut lining, all of which we know are problematic for fertility.
And parasites aren’t the only type of infection or imbalance we can have! We can also contract viral, bacterial, and fungal pathogens that have the potential to wreak havoc in the gut and cause the same types of issues discussed above.
Aside from infectious organisms, we may also experience problems in the gut when we simply don’t have enough friendly bugs to keep digestion running smoothly. We’re meant to have large numbers of beneficial bacteria growing in our large intestine, but we may have fewer of these good guys than normal due to things like poor diet, toxic exposure, antibiotic use, alcohol consumption, and other lifestyle habits.
Thankfully, the GI-MAP can identify if you have any type of gut infection or low levels of beneficial bacteria! Although there are other stool tests on the market that test for pathogens, GI-MAP uses the most advanced technology available and tests for the largest number of organisms. Once we know exactly what’s growing in the gut, we can design a protocol that will bring your gut back into balance and help eliminate unwanted GI symptoms, calm inflammation, and create a healthier and more fertile environment in your body.
Assesses Digestive Function
The GI-MAP also provides markers that help determine how well you’re digesting your food. This allows us to see if your pancreas and gallbladder are working well and whether you can benefit from digestive support supplements that will help you break down and absorb your food better, such as betaine HCl (stomach acid replacement), digestive enzymes, or bile salts (for fat digestion). Improving digestion and absorption will help correct nutrient deficiencies and prevent undigested food from irritating the gut lining and overstimulating the immune system.
Measures Inflammation/Immune Response
Stool testing, like the GI-MAP, provides information about the immune system within the gut and whether there is inflammation present. This can help determine whether you’re suffering from inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). These markers may also be out of range if you have a gut infection, have celiac disease or another autoimmune condition, or you’re consuming foods you’re allergic or sensitive to. The test also provides a specific marker that can indicate gluten sensitivity.
Helps Pinpoint the Cause of Hormone Imbalances
Any type of infection, inflammation, or immune response identified through the GI-MAP can be a root cause for hormone imbalances that may affect fertility. However, the test also measures the amount of a specific enzyme produced by certain types of bacteria that can deconjugate estrogen and cause it to be reabsorbed into the body. This can lead to symptoms of estrogen dominance and cause difficulty conceiving.
Get Started Investigating Your Gut
By now, you’re probably starting to see how helpful stool testing can be when investigating fertility issues. If you truly want to discover the root cause of why you can’t conceive, you have to understand how the foundational systems of your body are functioning – and there’s nothing more foundational to health and fertility than your gut. A stool test can provide a vast amount of actionable data that is nearly always missed in conventional fertility evaluations. And it’s pretty difficult to fix a problem if you haven’t figured out why it exists in the first place!
If you’re ready to finally find the answers you deserve, we’re here to help you! You can order your GI-MAP test today, along with a 60-minute review consult and 30-minute follow-up with us to receive personalized recommendations on how to heal your gut and restore your fertility!