How Does Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) Impact Fertility?
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a commonly diagnosed condition of the digestive tract that can be classified in to 3 different categories:
IBS-C (constipation type)
IBS-D (diarrhea type)
IBS-M (mixed type)
It is estimated that up to 20% of the population suffers from IBS, making it a significantly common condition. However, it has been observed, that IBS may affect fertility through a variety of different mechanisms. The main mechanism which has been suggested to negatively affect fertility is the increase in oxidative stress resulting from IBS. The increased reactive oxygen species have been associated with declining sperm health and egg health.
It is important to note, however, that current research has only established a correlation, not a causation. Patients with IBS may also have poor quality diets, may use tobacco, increased amounts of alcohol, have elevated inflammation in the body, which can all contribute to fertility as well as worsening symptoms of IBS. So whether these is a common factor which can make IBS symptoms worse as well as negatively affect fertility or whether it is indeed the IBS that can negatively affect fertility has yet to be determined.
That being said, research does support the use of a healthy diet with balanced macronutrients, increased consumption of micronutrients, smoking cessation, reducing/eliminating alcohol consumption, and increased amounts of healthy physical activity can all support fertility as well as may help to reduce symptom severity of IBS.
Irritable bowel syndrome can also affect nutrient absorption in the digestive tract, and reduced absorption of important micronutrients can reduce the activity of our antioxidant system, meant to neutralize the oxidative stress (which is harmful for sperm and egg health).
Anton, C., Ciobica, A., Doroftei, B., Maftei, R., Ilea, C., Plopa, N. D., Anton, E. (2020). A Review of the Complex Relationship between Irritable Bowel Syndrome and Infertility. Medicina, 56(11), 592.
This article is in no way a replacement for medical advice or medical care, it is advised that anyone concerned about their Health should speak with their Naturopathic Doctor. Please discuss with your healtcare provider and only make changes to your medications regimen if recommended by your doctor and under their guidance.