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Case Study Issue 64: Nutritional Therapy - Inability to Conceive

by Penny Crowther(more info)

listed in case studies, originally published in issue 64 - May 2001

Client: Jane Smith (not her real name)
DOB: 6/11/67
First appointment; 9/11/00

Jane’s main reason for coming to see me was failure to conceive. She and her partner had been trying for a baby for two and a half years. She became pregnant once in that period of time but had suffered a miscarriage one and a half years ago. Conventional tests to determine the cause of her fertility problems had shown that her progesterone levels were low. Her menstrual cycle was irregular, varying from 32-41 days. Lack of ovulation was also a problem.

Jane had been on the pill for approximately 14 years but not for the last two and a half years. Her periods were painful for the first day and she suffered a lot of pre-menstrual bloating.

Eight years ago she had an irregular smear test which showed pre-cancerous cells of the cervix and she had these removed. She suffered from constipation as a child. Whilst travelling in India in 1999 she suffered four months of continuous gastro-intestinal upsets She had had several strong doses of antibiotics for this which appeared to clear the problem.

Her partner was a strict vegetarian and Jane ate meat only very occasionally.

A test in November 2000 showed her partner’s sperm count was extremely low but motility was good. Jane and her partner were advised by the specialist that they would not conceive naturally. ICSI – Intracytoplasmic sperm injection, – was suggested as the most viable option.

Treatment Protocol

My aim was to balance Jane’s hormone levels. From a naturopathic point of view, two organs which play an important role in hormone balance are the liver and the bowel. The liver is responsible for synthesizing and metabolizing hormones and the bowel for excreting unwanted hormones. It therefore follows that if these two organs are working properly hormone balance will be more efficient. The strong doses of antibiotics Jane took whilst travelling would have killed off many of the “friendly” gut bacteria, allowing the proliferation of less desirable organisms in the bowel.

I put Jane on a wheat and dairy free diet to develop healthier bowel conditions. Both wheat and dairy foods are prone to form mucoid deposits in the gut which, over time can encourage the growth of undesirable bacteria as well as impairing absorption of nutrients through the gut wall. Dairy products are relatively high in saturated fat and therefore, by leaving them out of the diet, digestive pressure is taken off the liver, allowing it to heal. The diet was also free of sugar and was predominantly made up of whole foods.

I gave Jane a probiotic containing the bifidophilus strain of bacteria to rebalance her gut flora and a fluid extract of Agnus castus (40 drops per day). This herb is known to help balance the female hormones. I also prescribed a pure fish oil supplement (Eskimo 3) to provide hormone-like prostaglandins.

Finally I gave both Jane and her partner a high strength mineral formula (which was particularly high in zinc citrate) to re-mineralize the tissues. The role of zinc in fertility is well researched. Sexual function and reproductive capacity in both sexes are dependent on this mineral. In men, inadequate zinc levels directly affect the quantity and quality of sperm produced. In women, zinc deficiency is linked with a whole host of reproductive problems including increased tendency to miscarry if pregnancy occurs. Adequate zinc levels at conception are particularly vital since this mineral is needed for cell division. I considered that zinc deficiency was an important factor for both Jane and her partner (vegetarians are at greater risk of zinc deficiency). Jane’s partner took the mineral formula too but did not put the dietary changes into practice.

I also gave Jane two Australian Bush Flower remedies (Wisteria and She Oak) to help to release any emotional blocks to pregnancy. Jane felt that she particularly identified with the properties of the Wisteria.

Results & Outcome

On her second visit (18/12/00) Jane reported a general improvement in her health. In the first few days of the programme, she had experienced what I believe were reactions which showed her body was detoxifying, for example, headaches and joint pains. She also lost 4 lb in weight in four days which was mostly water. After four days she started to see a steady improvement in the way she felt. Jane had actually become pregnant on 4 December (25 days after beginning the nutrition programme) but at the time of her second visit to me we did not know this. At the time of writing her pregnancy is going to plan and she continues to feel well.


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About Penny Crowther

Penny Crowther DN Med BANT NTCC qualified as a nutritional therapist in 1997 and has been in clinical practice ever since.  She has seen hundreds of clients at her practices in London SW15. She has written for Positive Health, FamiliesGreen FarmHealth Matters, The Health Times and contributed to articles for the Daily TelegraphThe Times Literary  supplement,  Pregnancy & Birth, Marie Claire, has been featured in the Daily ExpressDaily Mirror and on local radio.

She is registered with professional bodies BANT (British Association for Applied Nutrition and Nutritional Therapy) and CNHC.

Penny now specializes in nutrition for women in their 40s and beyond, particularly around peri and post menopause. Her approach to health is holistic, and takes into account emotional, mental and environmental factors as well as nutrition. She studied many complementary therapies before training as a nutritionist which provides a broad foundation of knowledge. She is dedicated to personal and professional development and frequently attends lectures and seminars to keep up to date with the latest scientific nutrition research. Penny may be contacted on Tel: 07761 768 754;

Please note that nutritional advice is not a substitute for medical advice and treatment or visiting your GP or Health Professional.

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