Ayurveda provides a holistic approach to improve fertility. Fertility in both men and women is affected by many factors these days, like stress, pollution, improper diet and sedentary lifestyle to name a few. It's important to cleanse the body from toxins, and nourish it with optimum nutrients to ensure that mind and body are in ideal state to procreate.
One in seven couples face difficulty in conceiving despite years of trying*. There are multiple social, mental, and physiological causal factors for this. Around 25% of cases also could be unexplained infertility where there is no identifiable cause in both man and women**.
All over the world, the rate of fertility and population growth rate are in a continuous decline, especially in the developed countries. The advancement in the age of women attempting to conceive in busy urban societies, and the increased cost of child-rearing in nuclear families, is a deterrent factor for fertility rate. Increased use of pesticides and chemicals are also understood as a causal factor especially in male infertility.
The number of couples relying on stressful and costly assisted fertility methods like IVF is also increasing proportionately. In this context, it is very relevant to look at the traditional wisdom in Ayurvedic science for guidance in developing a holistic solution to infertility and health in procreation. The factors that are of prime importance in the process of conception according to Ayurveda is not just healthy sperm and ovum. There is an equal or maybe more emphasis given on metabolic function, hormonal balance and mental/emotional health and the interconnection between these factors and healthy sperm/ovum.
A strong metabolic system to assist the formation of healthy sperm/ovum
a) Satvik Diet or food is abundant in life force. A diet which is predominant in stimulants like alcohol, tobacco, coffee, and refined sugars will be lacking any life force in it. A sattvic diet comprises fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, lentils and pulses that are locally available, seasonal and prepared freshly for consumption. In this context, genetically modified seedless grapes or antibiotic and hormone infused meat cannot be considered as sattvic and conducive to proper nourishment of reproductive tissues. Milk which is produced from cattle that are reared outdoor and are naturally grass fed instead of grains is also considered sattvic. Use of sprouted beans and activated nuts/seeds are also recommended as superior nourishment sources.
b) Agni – Good digestive fire with the ability to metabolize the nutrients and absorb the finest essence from them is essential to nourish the reproductive cells. Ayurveda understands that a series of the metabolic process leading to food being converted to nutrients and various body tissues must be perfectly balanced at every stage for the nourishment of sperm and ovum. Starting your day with a glass of warm ginger tea and including digestive spices like cumin and ajwain will make sure that the Agni is activated and maintained to help proper tissue nourishment.
c) Regular Detoxification – Ayurveda recommends regular cleansing of our internal system to achieve the optimum functioning of our tissue nourishment. Our body accumulates in time due to a combination of internal and external causative factors various complex chemicals and metabolic waste which is called as AMA. AMA is understood as having a negative impact on various physical, emotional, cognitive and behavioral functions. This has a direct impact on the quality of sperm in men and regularity in ovulation. The cleansing method is usually adopted according to individual body type and for a period of time necessary depending on the level of various AMA symptoms.
Hormonal balance for fertility
Enzymes and Hormones in our body are messengers and mediators of change. Ayurveda considers this as a type of AGNI itself called Dhatu Agni or cellular fire. The function of dhatu Agni is to support the metabolic changes within each dhatu which means tissue. There 7 different kinds of Dhatu Agni according to the respective tissue it is acting upon. The Sukra dhatu Agni relates to those hormones that act upon the reproductive function in men and women. So, in short dhatu Agni in Ayurveda in functional classification of hormones, as opposed to chemical classification in modern medicine. Treating the Dhatu Agni treats the issue by balancing the feedback mechanism, not by introducing more of a hormone externally. The effect of various food and herbs on these functions are the basis of ayurvedic treatment, not its effect on a hormone.
The control and functioning of each hormone in our body are regulated by an equal and opposite hormone produced from a completely different anatomical location. Example -Ghrelin the hunger hormones are produced in the stomach and Leptin the appetite inhibitor hormone is produced in our fat cells. Same is the case of progesterone and estrogen. Because of this reason Ayurveda seldom treats the affected gland alone and focuses on improving the coordination function within our body by achieving balanced Agni and doshas mainly (Pitta and Vata). So, a holistic approach has not just an advantage, but it is a necessity in treating hormonal function.
Also, since the effect of the opposing hormones is not ignored in ayurvedic treatment methods, the body learns more from the recovery process. In the modern system, we are currently experiencing a lot of hormone dependence issue as it leaves very less chance for our system to learn and rebalance. Introducing a synthetic hormone might be a requirement in certain medical conditions, but it destroys the delicate feedback mechanism that helps to balance the hormones within our body
Stress and emotional health for fertilityWomen with infertility report elevated levels of anxiety and depression, so it is clear that infertility causes stress. What is less clear, however, is whether or not stress directly causes infertility. Recent studies have shown that a cognitive-behavioral intervention can significantly increase the rate of pregnancy. It is also clear that stress and anxiety disorder could have a significant impact on hormones and digestive functions. As stress is a part and parcel of our lifestyle, methods to mitigate its effect in regular routine is a necessary intervention for improved fertility.
Ayurveda considers stress as a positive factor which helps us to improve and evolve by mindfully straining our adaptive capacities. But when our body and mind is not balanced enough; stress is left unmanaged and this residue creates tensions in our body and cloudiness in our intellect. Unclear thoughts lead to defective decisions and improper actions which again obliterate the state of natural equilibrium within our body, mind, and soul leading to 'the cycle of stress' situation. This can lead to specific health conditions like psychologically caused erectile dysfunction or functional hypothalamic amenorrhea .The true cure according to Ayurveda and yoga is balancing the mind body and soul to teach one how to catalyze stress and evolve higher.
Maintaining ones Dosha Prakriti or mind-body nature is the basic step to managing stress. One of the most powerful conceptual tools in Ayurveda is the Tri-doshas theory explains how the elements of nature which make up physical creation, dynamically combine to control all processes within the human physiology. These three functional capacities are called Vata, Pitta & Kapha. Each human being is born with unique combinations of Doshas, and that this natural balance is what is responsible for physical, mental and emotional difference among the people. By identifying and maintaining an individual’s Prakriti or Nature, Ayurveda can help each person create his or her own state of ideal health.
The second step is maintaining a routine which usually ruined in a stressful situation. Ayurveda has an elaborate description of a daily routine called Dinacharya and a seasonal routine called Ritucharya. This well-planned routine helps maintain our Dosha balance even after the body is exposed to a varied diet and climatic variations. A physically involved activity is also an important element in a well-planned routine. Yoga through its various tools like asana(postures), Pranayama (breathing exercises) and Dhyana (meditations) helps us disconnect or detach and retrieve our senses from the external plane to inner self thereby cutting the root of these unwanted stressful thoughts. Our mind is a terrible master and a wonderful servant. Controlling mind through the meditative practices are difficult like learning gymnastics or a new musical instrument. One should practice constantly and the most powerful servant “your own mind” will be at your disposal.
Herbs like Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) and Shatavari (Asparagus racemosus) are time tested adaptogen herbal remedies in Ayurveda recommended for both improved fertility and reducing stress.
Stress management for improved fertility is in short not just relaxation treatments, massages, and meditations, but an overall understanding of individual nature and sustaining its balance to fortify ourselves in the course of the stressful external situations. It is not stopping but controlling your acceleration is the necessary trick to avoid burn out and improve vitality.