Tried everything to get pregnant? How Functional Medicine is providing a fresh new perspective!

Oct 05, 2016


Many of us on our journey to have a baby, have come up against roadblocks.

We may have been told we’ll never conceive our own children, we may be told that the only way we can get pregnant is with IUI or IVF.

This news is not only financially devastating, it is heartbreaking!

I’m here to tell you that there are other options!

Getting a second opinion from a Functional Medical Doctor can be invaluable and can help you discover why you can’t conceive.

If there is a little voice in your head telling you, there must be a better way!

You are in the right place!

I’m excited to introduce Dr Rajka Milanovic Galbraith to the Fab Fertile Blog.

Share a little about your story and how you got into the field of functional medicine.

I was a board certified family doctor and despite living a seemingly healthy life and being physically fit and a marathon runner, I became all too familiar with the shortcomings of allopathic (or conventional) medicine. During this time I was trying to get pregnant. I had experienced extreme fatigue for 10 years.It was so bad that I would fall asleep on dates, at rock concerts, even while assisting during surgery!I was finally diagnosed with Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis.In addition to Hashimoto’s I experienced severe migraines (at one point I thought I was having a stroke because I lost vision and speech).I also had gallbladder surgery, which lead to complications that ultimately induced pancreatitis. These complications recurred several years after the initial surgery. I was so sick with severe belly pain. A second autoimmune was being entertained. One which would require lifelong steroids.

Then I was diagnosed with endometriosis and ultimately unexplained infertility. After experiencing failed IVF’s and IUI’s, I found it difficult to move forward. When a woman in my practice became pregnant with her eighth child (she has lost 6 or 7 due to her cocaine addiction), I wondered how was it possible that I couldn’t conceive. What was I doing wrong? It was absolutely heartbreaking.

I was finally able to conceive naturally twice when a more holistic approach was undertaken.Interestingly enough I didn’t find functional medicine until after conceiving. I became certified by the Institute of Functional Medicine and by the American Board of Integrative and Holistic Medicine. After making changes to my diet, lifestyle and adding nutritional therapies the remainder of symptoms disappeared. I never received that second autoimmune disease diagnosis nor did I go on steroids.

What would you say to someone who has been told they will never conceive

I would say that you don’t need to suffer.Unless your doctor takes a functional medicine approach to healing there are many different avenues to consider that can help you conceive. Don’t give up hope!

How is Functional Medicine different from Traditional Medicine?

Functional Medicine discovers the causes of disease. We discover the root cause by taking a detail history starting with diet and lifestyle first and leaving medications as a last resort.

Let’s examine the differences.

In Traditional Medicine we would consider the following:

e.g. patient has severe headaches

1) Brief Medical History – the visit would take an average of seven (7) minutes, we would take a brief medical history, we would ask questions such as: where is the headache, how long have you had the headache, how does it make you feel (eg. vomiting, blurry vision, pain)

2) Diagnosis – we would then make a diagnosis of migraines and medication would be prescribed

The problem with this method is that we haven’t addressed the underlying cause of the headaches; we have simply diagnosed and prescribed medicine to treat the symptoms. This approach works very well in acute care it allows for quick diagnosis and treatment which is important in the instance of for example a heart attack.

In Functional Medicine if a patient had a headache we would consider the following.

1) In-depth Health History – I have a 26-page intake form. The following would be considered:

  • diet
  • sleep patterns (how may hours of sleep per night),
  • exercise
  • purpose in life
  • past jobs (looking for environmental toxins, exposure to chemicals)
  • containers that use to eat foods
  • previous illnesses (eg if had 10 ear infections as a child and was given antibiotics this can alter bacteria in the gastrointestinal tract and then affect mood and lead to other illnesses)
  • Viral infections (how many colds/flu’s have experienced)
  • Family history
  • Social history

2) Next we place all of their events on a timeline as well as fill out a “matrix” which looks at the following 7 areas:

  • Assimilation (think of this as your G.I./gut function),
  • Defense and repair or your immune system,
  • Structural integrity (your arteries bones muscles), Communication (or hormones),
  • Transport (how your hormones etc are transported),
  • Biotransformation and Elimination (or detox)
  • Energy (as in how you produce it). We also explore antecedents (what preceded the symptoms: i.e our birth history)
  • Triggers (an infection etc) and Mediators (what keeps the symptoms going, such as a bad diet)

3) As most diseases and symptoms are due to underlying inflammation, I use the STAINS pneumonic to identify the cause of the patient’s inflammation (which stands for Stress, Sleep, Toxins, Adverse Immune Reactions, Infection, Nutrients, Sedentary and Solitude).

  • Stress – many of us are in the fight or flight response that engages the sympathetic nervous system, affects cortisol levels and ultimately hormone levels too.We would work to turn on the parasympathetic nervous system that will engage the relaxation response.Check out heartmath and practice 10 minutes /2x per day.
  • Sleep – we would examine sleep patterns, aiming for 7-9 hours of sleep per night and establish a sleep ritual.Sleep is very powerful for both health and fertility.
  • Toxins – exposure to environmental toxins can be very harmful for our health and fertility.This can include the pesticides and herbicides in our foods, the plastic containers we use to reheat the food, the plastic water bottles, EMF’s (electromagnetic field) such as taking phones out of pants pockets and removing laptops from labs (especially important for male factor infertility).
  • Adverse Immune Reactions – food sensitivity can cause an immune reaction.A food sensitivity tests such as: MRT test or Alcat are good places to start to determine if foods are causing an immune reaction.
  • Infection – low-lying infection can create numerous symptoms in the body.A good place to start is a stool test.
  • Nutrients  consuming the standard western diet, which consists of processed foods and high sugar can wreak havoc on the body and lead to a nutritional deficiency.Many people are low in magnesium and zinc.Zinc is especially important for male infertility.We would examine the specific nutrient levels with blood testing to determine if there are any deficiencies.
  • Sedentary – our sedentary lifestyles have been likened to having the same affects on the body as smoking.Switching to a standing desk, tracking your steps, plus getting regular exercise such as weight lifting and cardio are essential parts of a healthy lifestyle and are very beneficial for fertility.
  • Solitude – not usually an issue for those undergoing infertility as they are usually surrounded by loved ones i.e. their partner. More of an issue in the elderly who many no longer have a social support system and or are isolated.

Some additional considerations:

  • Emotional Blockages– many people may have emotional blockages that are causing a physiological response in the body.Cranial Sacral therapy and energy medicine can be quite effective.
  • Genetics  getting tested for MTHFR six (6) months prior to trying to conceive can be beneficial to determine if there is a methylation gene mutation.Methylation repairing DNA, turning on and off genes, fighting infections and getting rid of environmental toxins to name a few.Always chose methylated folate over folic acid.Folic acid is the synthetic form of folate and can cause problems in the body when there is an abundance.Methylated folate is very important as it can prevent disease in the unborn infant (eg. ADHD and autism).

This study of the agouti mouse shows just how important a mother’s diet is in shaping the epigenome of her offspring. All mammals have a gene called agouti. When a mouse’s agouti gene is completely unmethylated, its coat is yellow and it is obese and prone to diabetes and cancer. When the agouti gene is methylated (as it is in normal mice), the coat color is brown and the mouse has a low disease risk. Fat yellow mice and skinny brown mice are genetically identical. The fat yellow mice are different because they have an epigenetic “mutation.”

When researchers fed pregnant yellow mice a methyl-rich diet, most of her pups were brown and stayed healthy for life. These results show that the environment in the womb influences adult health. In other words, our health is not only determined by what we eat, but also what our parents ate. Reference -

What are some key areas that you look for during on the patient intake form?

  • Diet
  • Exercise
  • Sleep
  • Stress
  • Environmental Exposure
  • Recurrent Illnesses
  • Symptoms of Estrogen Dominance (eg. PMS, water retention, breast tenderness, headaches, fatigue and digestive problems).

What blood work do you like to review during your consultation?

  • Complete Metabolic Panel
  • Complete Blood Count
  • Thyroid Panel (includes TSH, Free T4, Free T3, Reverse T3, Thyroid Peroxidase Antibodies (TPOAB), Thyroglobulin Antibodies (TGAB)
  • Fasting Insulin
  • Morning Cortisol
  • HSCRP – (High Sensitivity C-Reactive Protein)
  • RBC Zinc
  • RBC Magnesium
  • RBC Selenium
  • RBC Copper
  • Folate
  • B12
  • Vitamin D
  • Lipid Panel
  • FSH (Follicle Stimulating Hormone) Day 3
  • LH (Luteinizing Hormone)
  • Estradiol Day 3
  • Progesterone Day 21
  • Testosterone Total and Free

Which Functional Tests do you like to review prior to your consultation?

Food Sensitivity Tests – it is always beneficial to figure out the exact foods that are causing inflammation and possible immune reaction in the body.I like both of these food sensitivity tests (they are blood tests): MRT or ALcat.

Adrenal Stress Hormone Test – This hormone panel evaluates the effect of chronic stress on the endocrine system.It is a salivary test and will evaluate the following:Cortisol x 4, 2 averaged DHEA-S, estradiol, estriol, progesterone, testosterone, melatonin (bedtime). The Biohealth 205 and Genova ASI are good options.

What are some general recommendations that you give your patients (diet, lifestyle, supplements?)

1) I generally recommend a full elimination diet or at the very minimum removing dairy and gluten (this is a good exercise to do while we are waiting for the Functional Testing results to come back). Check out the Fab Fertile Fertility Preparation Program, which is an elimination diet that includes chef prepared recipes.

2) I generally recommend the Paleo Diet.  Check out the Fab Fertile Free 3 Day Fertility Diet Challenge which includes Paleo friendly options too.3)Supplement recommendations include a good prenatal (Seeking Heath – they have a good quality prenatal that is in a powder form, beneficial for anyone who may have issues with swallowing capsules), probiotic (10-15 billion CFU’s), Omega (3-6-9), Evening Primrose Oil/Borage Oil, Zinc, Magnesium and Vitamin D.  Join the Fab Fertile Support Group for your FREE Fertility Supplement Guide.

What are some resources that you can recommend?

Health Talks Online has an event calendar with online health summits.Topics include thyroid health, gut health, women hormones, essential oils and much more!

Thanks to Dr. Galbraith for sharing her wisdom and experience dealing with women’s health and infertility.

If you have tried everything to have a baby, please don’t lose hope!

Book your free Supercharge Your Fertility Discovery call here!  Learn how functional medicine can help you have your baby.

Sarah Clark empowers couples to discover how lifestyle and diet can dramatically impact their chances of conceiving. She was diagnosed with premature ovarian failure at 28 and had both her kids with donor eggs. Not until years later did she discover that the root cause of her infertility was a food intolerance. Join the Free Fab Fertile Support Group on Facebook for mini-challenges, motivation and inspiration!