embracing nutrition and functional medicine

Helping support Infertility with Functional Medicine

Problems with fertility? Read below how Functional Medicine may be able to help you.

Infertility and Functional Medicine

Infertility is widely defined as lack of pregnancy after one year of regular unprotected sex. There are many different causes and fertility problems can affect either partner.

In women, common causes of infertility include:

  • A lack of regular ovulation – this may be due to hormonal imbalance such as polycystic ovary syndrome, being underweight, or due to a lack of eggs
  • Abnormalities in the female reproductive tract such as scarred or blocked fallopian tubes.
  • Endometriosis – where tissue that behaves like the lining of the womb (the endometrium) is found outside the womb


In men, the most common cause of infertility is poor semen quality.

In both sexes lifestyle and environmental influences can also play a role:

  • Age – fertility declines in both sexes with age. Female fertility begins to decrease during a woman’s mid-30s. Although men remain fertile for much of their lives, sperm quality reduces as men age decreasing chances of conception and a healthy pregnancy.
  • Body weight – being overweight or obese reduces fertility in both sexes. In addition, being underweight can cause a woman’s menstrual cycle to stop, impacting her chances of getting pregnant.
  • Smoking – cigarette smoking can affect fertility in both sexes. In men, smoking is strongly linked with reduced semen quality.
  • Alcohol – in men drinking too much alcohol can affect sperm quality. For women, there are links between high alcohol consumption and reduced conception rates. Given the risks of drinking during pregnancy, the safest approach for women trying to conceive is not to drink alcohol at all.
  • Environmental factors – exposure to heavy metals, industrial chemicals, pesticides and other toxins have been shown to affect fertility, particularly in men.
  • Stress – in men, stress can reduce testosterone levels, sex drive and in severe cases sperm production. In women, stress can also cause a loss of sex drive and may also affect ovulation.
  • Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) – several STIs, including chlamydia, can affect fertility by causing damage to the reproductive tract.
  • Excessive oxidation – oxidative stress is caused by an excess of free radicals (from toxins, pollution, inflammation, stress, obesity etc) and a lack of anti-oxidants. In women, oxidative stress is associated with an increased risk of miscarriage. In men, excessive oxidative can damage sperm and reduce semen quality.
  • Methylation problems – One of the most important chemical reactions that take part in the early stages of pregnancy is methylation. If this process is compromised it can contribute to difficulty conceiving or maintaining a healthy pregnancy. Methylation can be affected by nutrient deficiencies as well as by genetics.


The standard treatment for unexplained infertility does not target a specific cause of infertility but instead uses costly medical technologies to become pregnant.

These include:

  • Medications to induce ovulation such as clomiphene
  • Artificial insemination techniques
  • In-vitro fertilisation


Although these techniques have helped countless couples to become pregnant they are not without their risks, including higher chances of pre-term birth and birth defects compared to natural conception.

Functional medicine works to optimise all aspects of health. When it comes to improving fertility it can help to uncover underlying imbalances that are impacting on reproductive function.

Functional testing can identify nutrient deficiencies, toxins, biochemical abnormalities, and hormonal imbalances not normally detected by routine laboratory assessments. The results can then be used to create a personalised fertility program that includes a diet plan, supplements and fertility boosting herbs. 1 2 3 4

Dietary and lifestyle advice will centre around restoring hormonal balance and ovulation and maximising semen quality. 5 6 7 8

Where necessary additional support to manage stress, achieve an ideal body weight or tackle underlying conditions such as PCOS or endometriosis can be included. 9 10

Functional medicine can also be used alongside traditional fertility treatment to support both partners health through the treatment process and maximise the chances of a successful conception.


  1. Ghafouri-Fard S, Shoorei H, Mohaqiq M, Tahmasebi M, Seify M, Taheri M. Counteracting effects of heavy metals and antioxidants on male fertility. Biometals. 2021 Jun;34(3):439-491. doi: 10.1007/s10534-021-00297-x. Epub 2021 Mar 24. PMID: 33761043.
  2. Gerhard I, Monga B, Waldbrenner A, Runnebaum B. Heavy metals and fertility. J Toxicol Environ Health A. 1998 Aug 21;54(8):593-611. doi: 10.1080/009841098158638. Erratum in: J Toxicol Environ Health 1999 Mar 12;56(5):371. PMID: 9726782.
  3. Greither T, Behre HM, Herlyn H. Genome-Wide Association Screening Determines Peripheral Players in Male Fertility Maintenance. Int J Mol Sci. 2022 Dec 28;24(1):524. doi: 10.3390/ijms24010524. PMID: 36613967; PMCID: PMC9820667.
  4. Ménézo Y, Patrizio P, Alvarez S, Amar E, Brack M, Brami C, Chouteau J, Clement A, Clement P, Cohen M, Cornet D, Dale B, D’ Amato G, Jacquesson-Fournols L, Mares P, Neveux P, Sage JC, Servy E, Huong TM, Viot G. MTHFR (methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase: EC SNPs (single-nucleotide polymorphisms) and homocysteine in patients referred for investigation of fertility. J Assist Reprod Genet. 2021 Sep;38(9):2383-2389. doi: 10.1007/s10815-021-02200-6. Epub 2021 Apr 29. PMID: 33914208; PMCID: PMC8490548.
  5. Crosignani PG, Vegetti W, Colombo M, Ragni G. Resumption of fertility with diet in overweight women. Reprod Biomed Online. 2002 Jul-Aug;5(1):60-4. doi: 10.1016/s1472-6483(10)61600-8. PMID: 12470549.
  6. Shaum KM, Polotsky AJ. Nutrition and reproduction: is there evidence to support a “Fertility Diet” to improve mitochondrial function? Maturitas. 2013 Apr;74(4):309-12. doi: 10.1016/j.maturitas.2013.01.011. Epub 2013 Feb 1. PMID: 23376023; PMCID: PMC4019337.
  7. Nassan FL, Chavarro JE, Tanrikut C. Diet and men’s fertility: does diet affect sperm quality? Fertil Steril. 2018 Sep;110(4):570-577. doi: 10.1016/j.fertnstert.2018.05.025. PMID: 30196939.
  8. Alesi S, Villani A, Mantzioris E, Takele WW, Cowan S, Moran LJ, Mousa A. Anti-Inflammatory Diets in Fertility: An Evidence Review. Nutrients. 2022 Sep 21;14(19):3914. doi: 10.3390/nu14193914. PMID: 36235567; PMCID: PMC9570802.
  9. Calcaterra V, Verduci E, Cena H, Magenes VC, Todisco CF, Tenuta E, Gregorio C, De Giuseppe R, Bosetti A, Di Profio E, Zuccotti G. Polycystic Ovary Syndrome in Insulin-Resistant Adolescents with Obesity: The Role of Nutrition Therapy and Food Supplements as a Strategy to Protect Fertility. Nutrients. 2021 May 28;13(6):1848. doi: 10.3390/nu13061848. PMID: 34071499; PMCID: PMC8228678.
  10. Joseph DN, Whirledge S. Stress and the HPA Axis: Balancing Homeostasis and Fertility. Int J Mol Sci. 2017 Oct 24;18(10):2224. doi: 10.3390/ijms18102224. PMID: 29064426; PMCID: PMC5666903.



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