How to Detox Prior to Conception
Preconception care is a concept that has been around since the 1970s and its importance has finally made its way into mainstream medicine. So, what is preconception care? Common sense tells us that we should make an effort to clean up our diet and lifestyle, becoming fit and healthy prior to conceiving a baby. But now science backs the idea that a healthy sperm and healthy egg create a healthy conception and baby. This is why we need to detox prior to conception.
You can read more about how to prepare for a healthy pregnancy here and how to improve the health of your sperm here. The focus of this article though is how to detox for the duration of your 4-month preconception plan.
A Healthy Body Starts with a Healthy Gut and Liver
Focusing on healing your gastrointestinal system is a great place to start when looking at any treatment plan. It is possible that your liver and intestines have had to endure years of assault from alcohol, processing prescription or recreational drugs and processed foods. Luckily the liver is a remarkable organ that has the ability to heal itself under the right conditions. The liver is responsible for hormones which is why it is so important to look after it when it comes to preconception care. Milk thistle is probably one of the most well-known liver herbs and it is very effective. However, I usually only prescribed this herb for men due to its ability to chelate iron and reduce iron stores. Great if this is what you need, but most women need to boost iron prior to pregnancy. This is the reason I left milk thistle out of the Detox & Liver Support formula.
My Favourite Liver Herbs
I LOVE bupleurum. In Chinese medicine, irritability is associated with an “angry liver”. Aside from helping to protect the liver, this fabulous herb is renowned for reducing irritability. I use it myself to reduce irritability associated with premenstrual syndrome (PMS) and perimenopause.
Schisandra is another powerful liver herb that is also an adaptogenic (helps you cope with stress), nervine tonic (calms the nervous system) and enhances phase I/II detoxification by the liver. This was one of the key liver herbs I used for women who had high oestrogen levels as it assists the processing and clearance of hormones.
Dandelion leaf is my favourite herb for reducing fluid retention. It is high in potassium which is handy when taking a diuretic because usually they result in an increase of the excretion of electrolytes. I once read an article saying that oestrogen causes brain cells to swell, and this was the cause of the clumsiness that accompanies PMS. Whether that is true or not, I don’t know but when I take dandelion leaf myself, I definitely notice less fluid retention before my period!
Globe artichoke is similar to milk thistle in that it is a “hepatic trophorestorative”, a substance that helps to regenerate liver tissue, however it doesn’t have the same chelating properties that milk thistle appears to have. This herb is fantastic for people who have digestive issues and suffer from abdominal bloating, nausea, constipation and flatulence.
A depurative is a substance that improves detoxification of several body organs, not just the liver. It aids elimination of accumulated waste products within the body. My favourite depurative is burdock. Hands down this has to be the best herb for clearing the skin and giving a sluggish bowel a gentle nudge.
One important system in the body for eliminating waste products that is often forgotten about, is the lymphatic system. The lymphatic system is part of the immune system and is responsible for “cleaning” fluid and returning it to the blood vessels. It can become sluggish as it doesn’t have the same “force” as the cardiovascular system. You can encourage the movement of lymph fluid through the lymph vessels by exercising, dry body brushing and massage. As an aside, these measures are also reported to help get rid of cellulite!
You can also take “lymphatic” herbs which assists detoxification of lymphatic system. Often these herbs are prescribed for people with chronic skin disorders such as dermatitis, acne, psoriasis, and rosacea. Clivers is one of my favourite “lymphatic” herbs that is also a depurative and diuretic depurative (aids detoxification via the kidneys).
Test for Heavy Metals and Detoxify
Hair tissue mineral analysis (HTMA) can show what heavy metals were excreted from the body in the previous three months. This can be a good indicator of the heavy metals stored in your body although you do need to bear other aspects in mind such as what your diet was like in that three-month period. For example, if you ate a tuna sandwich every other day, it’s likely your hair test will show a high level of mercury.
You will need to see a natural medicine practitioner to do an HTMA and they will guide you through detoxifying from heavy metals with high doses of antagonistic minerals. However, it is likely that they will prescribe chlorella alongside any other supplements. I would also put chlorella into the “depurative” category as it is commonly prescribed for detoxifying the blood and bowel as well as chelating heavy metals. If taking chlorella causes loose bowels for you, try cutting back on the dose.
A Poo a Day Keeps the Doctor Away
Regular bowel motions are important for excreting not only waste products but also hormones. The longer oestrogen sits the bowel, the more it will be reabsorbed back into your bloodstream. This is yet another reason why eating lots of veggies is vital for good health. A high fibre diet, exercise and drinking 2 litres of filtered water daily, should be enough to sustain a daily bowel motion. If you have a sluggish bowel, taking the herbs listed above should assist. If not, try my handy tips in this article about constipation.
Taking a probiotic is a good idea for improving gut health and the appropriate one for you should be discussed with your natural medicine practitioner.
There are special detox diets out there and this should be followed for at least 3 weeks prior to conception. Detox diets are very restrictive so it’s usually not practical to sustain them for longer than this. However, there are some special rules that you should stick for the entire 4-month preconception period. Here are my top 5 tips:
- Lemon juice in hot water before breakfast.
- Eliminate coffee, coke and other caffeinated beverages. If you must have something, have one cup of tea daily.
- Eliminate alcohol. It’s only for 4 months for men. If you’re a man and this terrifies you, suck it up. Your partner has to give up for a loooooong time – 4 months preconception, 9 months of pregnancy and a year or two of breastfeeding. The best support you can give her is to quit as well and find alternative activities that don’t involve alcohol, like going to the movies.
- Switch to organic meat, dairy, fruit and vegetables. Pesticides contain xenoestrogens (foreign oestrogens) which can disrupt your hormonal balance and interfere with fertility.
- Load up on fruit and veggies every day and always drink filtered water out of a glass or glass bottle.
Implementing these changes may be difficult at first, but remember, it takes 21 days to break a habit. Once you establish some new, healthier habits, they will become second nature. The better you feel, the more motivated you are to stay that way.
Even when you’re not trying to conceive, doing a detox every 6 months or so is a great step towards a healthier, well-functioning body.