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  • Writer's pictureJenny Ingles, CFCP

There's a Supplement for That?

Updated: Sep 19, 2023

Pills in a clear cup
Pills in a cup

I'm a little granola crunchy. Ok. I lie. I'm a lot of granola crunchy. Western medicine has failed me so many times that I could dedicate an entire website to it. But Western medicine is the reason my son is alive and I'm a HUGE fan of NaPRO Technology, so I'm not anti-Western medicine. I just tend towards going a natural route first. I completely understand why women turn to dietary changes (for the record I am 100% on board with that) and supplements to cure their fertility woes. However, there is a dark side to the supplement world that is worth discussing.

Supplements are powerful, medicinal substances (often herbs) that are used in different forms to treat ailments. These supplements are so powerful that in countries that use them more traditionally (i.e. as medicine), there is a person who is taught how to use them without causing harm. They were not traditionally available to the average person. In some countries, certain supplements are available by prescription only or are highly regulated. The United States, on the other hand, is sort of the Wild Wild West of supplements. Which is no surprise since doing our own this is sort of what we're founded on. In the U.S., there are minimal regulations on supplement purity, efficacy, or safety. While I'm not advocating a crack down on the availability of supplements, I definitely think anyone using supplements need to be aware of potential dangers.

Many supplements interact with prescription medications, over the counter medications, and other supplements. For example, St. John's Wort, a common supplement used to boost mood, interacts with antidepressants, and SAMe, another common supplement. In addition to drug interactions, supplements can negatively affect bodily systems. DHEA is a androgen replacement supplement that can raise androgen levels and reduce a woman's ability to methylate estrogen effectively. I once read of a woman taking a dangerous combination of breastmilk enhancing supplements known to cause blood thinning even though she had a blood-clotting disorder.

Over the years, I have seen Vitamin C supplements completely dry up mucus cycles causing infertility and I have seen Vitamin B6 supplements cause continuous mucus more than once. On the more extreme end, I've seen the supplement DIM cause a dramatic reduction in estrogen, affecting ovulation, and shortening the luteal phase. DIM metabolizes estrogen and assists in how it is broken down and removed from the body. If a woman believes she has estrogen dominance and begins taking DIM, she could remove too much estrogen or if her estrogen issue is caused by a gene variant such as COMT then she runs the risk of the estrogen breaking down into the more cancerous form of estrogen. Many women choose to use DIM for estrogen dominance instead of Metformin. I, myself, have. But I did it under the guidance of a NaPRO doctor. Whenever a woman approaches me about cycle-related issues, the first thing I ask is what supplements she's using. Even multi-vitamins can cause trouble if certain vitamins within the mixture are too high. So what's a granola crunchy lady with cycle issues supposed to do?

The first thing a woman with cycle issues should do is begin charting. Charting helps you understand the quality of your mucus and how balanced your hormones are. From there, your Creighton Practitioner can work with you and/or a NaPRO doctor to determine exactly what's wrong and develop a game plan. Also, never underestimate the power of eating healthy, and avoid hormone-disrupters (more on that in the future). Once all of those things are going well, then it's worth looking into supplements. Just remember that supplements are a type of medicine and are not "side-effect free."

I would recommend anyone considering supplements work with a doctor who specializes in supplement protocols. For those who choose not to work with a doctor, then it is essential to research each supplement's potential drug interactions, and exactly what that supplement does. If you understand how something works, then you can be better informed. I would stay away from supplements that are not third-party tested for impurities. Supplements that aren't tested could contain nasty things like arsenic. It's also essential to only treat problems that have been identified via some sort of workup. I know women who have symptoms of estrogen dominance, but after doing a full NaPRO workup discover that they actually have thyroid issues. Imagine the chaos that a woman would suffer if she took a supplement to reduce her estrogen when she actually has balanced estrogen.

I am not against supplements. In fact, I use a few of them and I've found one to be particularly helpful for one of my children with ADD. I just like to take a more measured approach. Supplements are powerful and they have the potential to do great good or great harm. For that reason, they should be treated the same way you treat any medication. First, be sure that you actually need it by charting and getting a workup. Second, clean up your diet. Third, work with a doctor (or someone certified in supplements) to help you choose the right supplement and dose for your condition.

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