Infertility is the inability to conceive. Either the man or the woman or both can be the source of the infertility. Infertility is suspected when pregnancy has not occurred within a year of unprotected sexual intercourse.
What is Infertility?
From Modern Western Medicine
Infertility can occur at any step during conception or maturation of the developing fetus. In order for conception to occur, a healthy sperm and egg must join as a result of sexual intercourse, and the resulting zygote must implant in the uterus where its cells can multiply and the fetus can grow. Once this has occurred, the developing embryo needs a healthy environment that supports the growth of the baby through the nine months of pregnancy.
The majority of cases of male infertility occur because the man has failed to produce enough healthy sperm. Several factors can damage sperm, including a blockage in the spermatic tubes caused by sexually transmitted disease; various veins in the scrotum; damages testes; abnormal development of the testes; or toxins in the blood that lower sperm count, such as cigarettes, alcohol, and drugs. Chromosomal damage, though rare, can also cause infertility. In addition, the man’s ejaculation can fail to project the sperm far enough into the fallopian tube in order for the sperm and egg to meet.
The most common cause of female infertility is the failure to ovulate, or produce eggs, which is caused by hormonal imbalance, stress, or disorder of the ovary (such as the presence of a cyst or tumor). A blocked fallopian tube can prevent the sperm and egg from meeting. Other causes include disorders of the uterus and the production of antibodies in the cervical mucus that kill sperm. In rare instances, an allergy to a partner’s sperm can occur or some form of chromosomal damage may be present.
Tests on both partners can determine the cause of infertility. Changes in diet and relaxation exercises are sometimes recommended. Drugs intended to treat male infertility have limited success; for women, medication may be helpful to promote ovulation. Fallopian tubes can be repaired by surgery. More technologically advanced procedures, such as in vitro fertilization or the insemination of a man’s semen into the woman’s cervix (used when a woman’s mucus contains antibodies that are hostile to a man’s sperm) may be tried.
Forty percent of infertility cases stem from disorders affecting both members of the couple. Thirty percent are caused exclusively by men, and another 30% by women.
From Traditional Medicine
Before consulting a holistic healer, the couple should have had a complete physical examination by a medical doctor to determine the cause of the infertility. Once this is done, the health of the man and woman can be promoted by natural healing methods. Very often, fallopian tubes are inflamed or blocked because of pelvic infection, which can be treated by diet, supplementation, and hydrotherapy. In Chinese medicine, the sexual vitality of both men and women depends on the health of the kidneys and adrenal glands, which are located on top of the kidneys. Infertility is seen as a kidney yang deficiency, meaning the absence of warmth and outgoing energy (sometimes referred to as fire energy). The remedies listed below are designed to increase kidney and adrenal strength by restoring kidney yang.
Foods to Eat
Add all the foods under Incontinence to this list as both are Chinese medicine remedies for insufficient kidney yang:
- Whole grains, especially barley, a tonic for kidneys
- Cooked vegetables
- Seaweed in small amounts (2-tbsp. servings) daily strengthen kidneys, bladder, and adrenals
- Beans, especially black beans, are strengthening to kidneys and adrenals and restore kidney yang
- Nuts, especially walnuts
- Fish, especially low-fat white fish and salmon, which strengthen kidneys
Foods to Avoid
- Coffee (especially weakening to the kidneys, adrenals, and sex organs)
- High-fat foods block circulation and can cause obstructions in the sex organs
- Excessively cold foods shock the stomach, digestion, and kidneys and weaken circulation on the kidneys (kidney fire)
- Raw foods, especially avoid these in the fall and winter when kidneys, bladder, and adrenal glands are being strengthened (see the description of the five element theory in the section on Chinese medicine in Part III)
- Excessive fruit and sugar weakens the kidneys
- Soft drinks tax the kidneys
Herbs to Treat Infertility
- False unicorn: decoction, simmer 5 – 15 minutes, take 6 oz. three times daily; tincture, 15 – 30 drops, three times daily; fluid extract, ½ – 1 tsp., three times daily; powder, 2 – 5 capsules (15 – 30 grains), three times daily
- Add dong quai and ginger to chicken soap for an excellent female hormone tonic
- Saffron: 100 – 500 mg (not to be used during pregnancy)
- Hot and cold sitz bath are very effective in removing internal congestion and inflammation
- Avoid excessively long showers. They drain minerals from the body and weaken kidneys
- Loofah brush the body vigorously when showering to promote qi flow
- Acupuncture to strengthen kidneys and adrenals
- Where a cotton cummerbund around the kidneys, adrenals, and bladder beneath your shirt to keep the kidneys warm
- Pelvic exercises (see section on Incontinence)
- Daily swimming
- Daily aerobic exercise, including walking, jogging, or any athletic sport that is enjoyed
For men and women:
- Vitamin B complex
Thiamin: 1.5 mg per day
Riboflavin: 1.8 mg per day
Vitamin B6: 2 – 10 mg per day
Vitamin B12: 2 – 10 mg per day
Niacin: 20 mg per day
- Folic acid: 200 mcg per day
- Vitamin E: 400 IU
For men, also include:
- Selenium: 20- 50 mg per day
- Zinc: 15 mg per day
- L-carnitine: 300 mg per day
- L-lysine: 500 mg per day
- Vitamin C: 100 – 500 mg per day (increases motility)
- Vitamin E: 100 – 400 mg per day