Ep60 – Five Lessons Learned from Attending the Fertility Show Live
You are listening to Katy Bradbury, a registered nurse and nutritional therapist. Today’s podcast episode is called “Five Lessons Learned from Attending the Fertility Show Live.”
So hello, hello. I can’t believe it’s been a week already since I last spoke to you. So I hope that you have had a lovely week, wherever you are and whatever you’ve been doing. I thought I’d come and do a very special little episode today, and this is actually the second podcast that I’ve recorded this week, not for one of my own, but I was a guest expert on another person’s podcast this week, which was wonderful. If you don’t already know it, and if you are one of my listeners who has got a current eating disorder, or has had an eating disorder in the past, then her podcast is called ‘Bulimia Sucks’, and her name is Kate Hudson Hall. She was absolutely lovely, and it was a real pleasure to go and talk to her this week all about eating disorders in relation to fertility. So it was a really lovely, warm conversation, and I believe it’s the 20th of June that the episode is going to be released. So I will put it on all my platforms, and hopefully, you can enjoy listening to that as well.
But for this week, I wanted to come and share some lessons with you because I have been at the Fertility Show in London, Olympia, and it’s been a really long weekend. Actually, it’s been a really long day today. I am exhausted, and I actually felt like just going to bed. I was like, no, I will go and record this podcast because, on the way home, my mind was buzzing from all the wonderful people I spoke to and who I connected with. It was just such a lovely event to attend as a practitioner. Myself and some of my colleagues from the fertility nutrition centre had a stall. So we were lucky enough to be able to speak to all sorts of different people and also to be able to have a wander and connect with some of the other incredible people and services that are out there. I spoke to loads of people, I learnt loads of things, and I just wanted to come and share with you five of the lessons that I learned from attending the fertility show.
So the first lesson was, and I did already know this but talking to so many people in such a short space of time really, really just reminded me that no two stories are the same. There are so many different journeys and stories through fertility out there. And oh, it was incredible talking to some of you. I was honestly so struck by the resilience and openness and the strengths, I guess, of everyone I spoke to. I spoke to people from all different types of IVF journey, so a lot of the fertility show does have IVF exhibitors. So a lot of the talks, etc., are very much geared around IVF, which I will come on to one of my later points. So lots of the journeys were around IVF and all sorts of journeys from people who had had multiple rounds of IVF that hadn’t worked, so lots of people who were really feeling like they were struggling with implantation and people who had embryos in the freezer at the moment, and we’re kind of questioning what their next steps should be. I spoke to single women who were getting sperm donors. I spoke to women in their 50s who were getting egg donors. It was just incredible. It really, really was, and people were just so open and willing to share their story and happy to be listened to, I think, actually. So it was wonderful. I absolutely love connecting with people on this topic. I know that it can be a really difficult and unfortunate journey for a lot of people. Still, I really do love connecting with people who are on different journeys. I just think it’s incredible. I really do. So that was my first lesson, and as I say, it wasn’t, you know, it wasn’t a new lesson. It was something I definitely already knew. But it was just wonderful to connect with so many people in so many different stories.
The second lesson, and this is sliding into the nutrition talk now, is that so many people are low in Zinc. So at our store, we were doing some zinc testing. Now, it’s not the most rigorous Zinc testing. We weren’t doing serum, and we weren’t doing blood testing or anything like that. But what we were doing is using a solution, a zinc solution, it’s called Zinka test, and you can use it to check to give an indicator of what your zinc levels might be doing. Zinc is a really commonly deficient, or people often have insufficient levels of Zinc and magnesium as well. There are two minerals that, although they are widely found in the food world, we often find that levels are quite depleted. So like levels are, especially for things like magnesium, levels are depleted in the soil because of our farming practices in the modern world, not allowing the soil time to replete its nutrients. So the knock-on effects of this are quite big. And also, lots of people don’t have a particularly nutrient-dense diet these days. So we were doing the Zinc testing. It’s a little solution, and it’s quite fun. You swirl it around in your mouth, and depending on what taste you get in your mouth after swelling around in your mouth, it gives an indicator of what your zinc status might be. And the very vast, vast majority of people had insufficient levels of Zinc. I think I did one or two people where their levels seemed like they were probably pretty good. And most other people are not that great. There was no one who, so with this zinc test, if you taste nothing at all after you’ve switched it around in your mouth, then that is an indicator that you’re zinc level may be quite depleted. So there wasn’t anybody that said they couldn’t taste a thing, but there were quite a few people who weren’t really getting much through. So the good news is, is that the zinc tests that we were doing actually gave everyone that was taking a good old dose of Zinc, so at least they came away having had some, but I do think that that was really interesting and absolutely testament to how lots of people who really feel as though like you know they have a pretty good diet or they take certain supplements or whatever might still be depleted in Zinc and other nutrients. This isn’t a call for everyone to go and start supplementing with high dose zinc by any stretch of the imagination because it has to be tailored to you. We had to be very cautious about, you know, just going all-in with supplements, but it was certainly interesting.
And that leads me to my next point. So lesson number two was that many people are low in Zinc. Of course, Zinc is a really important nutrient for reproductive health, so it’s a really great one for sperm health. It’s well researched for the health of sperm. But it’s got many, many processes in the body, including being enzymes and cofactors, for all sorts of different things. But it’s also a really important nutrient for the immune system. And we know that when we’re thinking about things like inflammation, being a driver for struggles with fertility, that very much links in with the immune system. So Zinc is a really important nutrient. It’s not. I know I’m joking about it that many people are low in Zinc, but actually, that means we need to think about this, right? It’s just a nutrient. It’s not nothing. It means we really need to be thinking twice about what we’re doing and thinking about whether nutrient deficiencies could be playing a role in your fertility issues. So that was number two.
So number three, kind of leading on from that point, really, lots of people are taking supplements that are completely inappropriate for their needs. Now, we were not able to really discuss supplements in much detail today because our regulatory guidelines say we can’t just dish out supplement advice willy nilly. It has to be tailored to the individual. And if you go back and listen to one of my previous episodes, I’ll double-check the number as I talked to you so that I can tell you which episode it is, but I did do an episode recently on prenatal’s it was called ‘Which Pre Natal Should I be Taking’, and the take-home message from that episode was, not to tell you which prenatal you should be taking, unfortunately, as much as I would love to, it’s episode number 44. But the take-home message really from that was they aren’t all created equal. And what is suitable for one may not be suitable for another, and the quality of some of them, even some of the more popular brands, isn’t that great? So some of the more popular brands, even though they are quite expensive, and everyone else takes them and that what might be what is recommended on the NHS or whatever else might not be that great for you to be honest, because the levels of the nutrients in them might not be great, they might not be that absorbable. They might not be in forms that are appropriate to you, and they may contain things that aren’t suitable for you, or they may not contain enough of things that you need more of. So when we’re thinking about supplements, and the vast majority of people that I spoke to, who were taking a lot of supplements, when I asked them, ‘Okay, so you’re on this big list of supplements whose told you to take them?’ the vast majority of people were not taking these supplements under the guidance of a skilled and knowledgeable practitioner. They were taking supplements, and I don’t. By the way, if this is you, please don’t feel as if I’m pointing the finger. I’m just saying that there’s a lot of misinformation out there, and it is a really complex web of information. So all the people that came that chatted to me who were taking lots of different supplements were all bright, intelligent women who were clearly spending a lot of time doing research, and, you know, reading up on these things, and that’s great. That is, you know, that is incredibly empowering. But it has taken me years of training to get to my current knowledge of what is suitable for people and why. And my recommendations for supplements will always be based on lab testing as well to actually back up what we’re doing because sometimes we do lab testing, and it Oh! Okay! That supplement would not be good for you. In fact, it could be detrimental. So we need to tread with caution with supplements, and that was my lesson number three is that lots of people are taking supplements that are completely inappropriate for their needs.
Number four is to say that it’s a growing field, fertility is a growing field, and there is more and more research out there which is really exciting. And there’s more and more technology out there as well and the advancements, advancements, is that even a word advances, sorry, I’m really tired, I’ve got brain fog. It’s been a long weekend. Advance, I know I’m going to go with advancements. The advancements in technology are quite incredible, actually, in this really exciting things going on. Again, we need to tread with caution because just because there’s an advancing technology doesn’t always mean that it’s a good thing to do. But in practical terms, we were opposite a stand, and I was chatting to the guy there, and they developed a new supplement for sperm, specifically for sperm. There was some pretty decent research behind it. I’m always a little bit wary because there are 1,000,001 new supplement companies, and when we’re nutritionists, we kind of get bombarded by companies wanting to get us onboard. But I chatted to this guy and considering I’m a bit of a sceptic with new things like I need to know that supplement is really good before I recommend it, and I am quite excited by this one for sperm health. I’m not going to share what it is because I don’t want anyone to just rush out and buy a supplement just because they’ve heard it on a podcast because of the reason that I just spoke about before is that not all supplements are suitable for all people. But it was really exciting to hear. And I actually got a bottle, a three month supply of this supplement, which was worth over 100 pounds. I’m very, very excited to send that to one of my current clients who I think it will be perfect for.
Now, what else did I want to talk about with some of the exciting advancements and developments? I wanted to talk about that. Oh, and the other thing about sperm health that I wanted to talk about is this emerging availability of at-home semen testing. And I really do think that that is going to be so helpful for people because it’s, for want of a better expression, it is a bit of a ball ache. I don’t know any man that is thrilled about having to go to a clinic and produce a sperm sample. It’s awkward. It’s uncomfortable. And whilst I don’t have that much sympathy, because I think that the women, if you’re familiar with wonder, then you will know, I think ultimately the women get it worse and no question. But nonetheless, it can be a barrier, and I’m always for males getting involved and also having the appropriate testing done, et cetera because it takes two to tango. In a couple situation, that is, in a heterosexual couple situation, but it’s just trying to break down those barriers, isn’t it is trying to get there to be as few barriers as possible. The whole home sperm testing thing is not new. I know of a company that does it already, which is great, but the company that I already knew about was not doing semen morphology, and that, for me, is a key part of the equation. So I learned about a new company that is starting to offer at-home sperm testing where you go, and they’ve got this special packaging, which means that the sample is collected by the courier and it’s preserved well enough to actually make that sample viable. So that was very exciting to hear about. And the third example that I wanted to give you is, is a device; I need to go away and look at this in a bit more detail, but it’s certainly interesting; it is a device, and I can’t remember the name of them now, but it’s a little device. It’s a vaginal device, and you pop it into your vagina after sex, and it’s almost like a cap, it’s almost like a moon cup, actually, but it’s higher up. So it goes around, essentially the rim of the cervix. And it holds the sperm in place, and you keep it in for an hour after having sex, and it literally helps the sperm stay in place. So, for example, you know, that may be helpful. I know; I’m guessing here because I haven’t had the chance yet to sit and actually look at some of the studies that have been done on this product. But for examples where there might be issues with motility, swimming in the right direction, etc., then that could be helpful. And they were really pleased that they were having some good success rates with that. So I just thought it was really interesting to hear about some of the different things that were available. So that was the fourth is; it is a growing field, and there are some exciting new developments out there. And even some of the IVF clinics were, you know, talking about some of the new developments that they’ve got and some of the research that they’re doing, et cetera.
But that leads me on to my fifth and final lesson learned from today. And I’m ending on a little bit of a not so great note. I’ve spoken about a mixed bag of things, some positive and some not so positive. But the last point is a bit of a bugbear, maybe not the best point to end on, because it’s going to be me getting my ranty pants on. But what really, really struck me, perhaps more than anything today, as people are getting mixed messages.
And it’s already a really confusing place to be. If you’re in that place where you’re struggling with your fertility, whatever that journey looks like. And you’re trying to do something about it. You’re trying to learn. Perhaps you’re under a fertility clinic. Perhaps you’re under a doctor for this. Perhaps you’re even under a doctor for something else as well. And then perhaps you also, you know, maybe you’re working with a nutritionist, or you’re keen, or you follow nutritionists on Instagram, like me, and you’re trying to get information from us as well. And it just turns into this big mishmash of information, which can be really hard to process. And then what happens is, if that’s not kind of bad enough, this big ball of information that’s hard to process is that you get people pooh-poohing things. And we attended some talks. Today, there were different talks going on that were largely being delivered by fertility clinics. And there were quite a few talks around. So I went to one that was all about implantation failure, why that happens, and what to do about it. And then there was a talk right at the end of the day about how to improve IVF success. Now, you would think, I would have thought that nutrition would at least be mentioned in some of these. And the talk that I went to earlier on, there was a very, very, very brief mention of nutrition and lifestyle in amongst the rest of the technologies that the clinic was offering. But the talk at the end of the day, I didn’t attend, and I’m glad I didn’t, because it would have made my blood boil, but I was told by some of my colleagues afterwards that the doctor, Professor, in fact, I believe he was who was delivering the talk at the end of the day on how to improve IVF success not only did he not mention nutrition, but he pooh-poohed it, and he categorically said, and bear in mind all the people that were sat in that talk were people like you who had come up to us and chatted to us and listen to what we had to say and taking it all in. And then they go to this talk right at the end of the day. And this big guy, big shot Professor in a suit, stands up at the front of the room and says there is nothing that can be done to improve egg health or sperm health using nutrition and lifestyle. There is nothing that you can do. Honestly, I mean, it is just laughable. I laugh because it is laughable, and I just can’t quite believe that there are people that are as sceptical as that because of nutrition, and this is another interesting thing. I’m going to just tag another cheeky lesson off the back of this one, actually, which is that people’s perception of nutrition, like lots of people that did speak to us, and this is again, it’s not I’m not blaming anyone here, because I think it’s fascinating, listening to the language that people used when they spoke to us, but lots of people considered us as an alternative therapy, like complementary therapies and this kind of thing.
And I don’t mind being put in that bracket, but complementary therapies are, for me, things like acupuncture, reflexology, etc. And I truly believe that those therapies can be incredibly helpful on fertility journeys. But nutrition is not an alternative therapy. Nutrition is life. It is literally life. And if we didn’t need nutrients, then we wouldn’t need to eat. It’s as simple as that. Eating is about more than just calories. It’s about more than just energy. And I’m sure I can feel myself getting on my high horse about here, but I’m sure that if you are one of my listeners, if you’re a new listener, then hi, welcome, but if you are one of my listeners, I’m sure I’m not preaching. No, I’m sure that I am preaching to the converted here because you will all hopefully know from listening to the podcasts just how important nutrition is and that it’s not a side thing. It’s not like an additional thing that can give you a boost. It is the thing. It is everything. And I just think it’s such a shame. I think it’s incredibly disheartening not just for me and my colleagues in our profession. But for everyone out there who is being let down by people who they feel like they should trust and should be listening to. So we, as a society, we put doctors and professors etc., on a pedestal, right? We really feel as though we should be listening to them. And I’m sorry to say that they’re not always right. And again, I’m not Doctor bashing here, and the point about this being mixed messages is that there was, conversely, there was a talk on the Saturday by a wonderful female gynaecologist; I believe it was, again, I didn’t go to that talk, but my colleague spoke very highly of it. And she was talking in detail about all the ways in which nutrition and lifestyle can impact things. And so, and that’s great, she clearly is upon it. And when we’re thinking about nutrition, there is so much research out there now that looks into nutrition and fertility and certain nutrients, deficiencies and the pressures and strains that are on the body that nutritional therapy can help to unpick to discover and to fix.
And I just found it really disheartening that again, as I say, the these mixed messages that people are getting and I find it in my practice as well, you know, is people coming to me and then they’ll go to their doctor, or they’ll go to their fertility clinic. And then they basically get told, It’s all just a load of B-word because this is a clean show. And I always feel difficult having conversations around that with my clients because I don’t want to then turn around and make them feel pulled in multiple directions by saying, Oh, no one, what they’re saying is a b-word. And then it just gets into silly pettiness, and I’m not about that. But what I am about is giving people information that they can trust.
And just be mindful like, I’m not anti-IVF. I think that IVF can be the most incredible thing. But I do think that people are almost spring-loaded and kind of fast forward into these IVF journeys, where they needn’t necessarily be and then nothing is done to say how that journey might be supported with nutrition and lifestyle. Now, there are some incredible clinics out there, IVF London, Alpesh from IVF London, here at the fertility nutrition centre, we’ve got a great relationship with them, and they do appreciate these things. So it’s not all bad, but it’s tiring, frankly. And it’s frustrating. And it’s annoying to me that we are in this day and age where there is so much research out there. And there is so much evidence. It’s not woo-woo, it’s not complementary therapy, it’s science, and it’s still being disputed by the medical profession. And I just think that it’s such a shame.
So sorry to end on a down note. I should have done that in a different order. Really? Shouldn’t I?
I think overall, it was an incredible weekend. And I just absolutely loved talking to all of you. So if you did attend, if any of my listeners did attend, and if any of you came to talk to us at the fertility nutrition centre stall, then huge, big, big love to you and thank you. Thank you for sharing your stories and for being so amazing, actually, on this journey that you’re on.
So thank you as well to my listeners, and do give me a star rating on the podcast if you’re a regular listener. I know there are a lot of you actually that I’ve spoken to. They’re like, Oh, I love the podcast, but I haven’t. I must get around to reviewing it, review it. Review it now; now is the time because it really just helps to get the message out there to the other people that could benefit from hearing it.
Anyway, I am done. I am going to go to bed exhausted. I will come and speak to you again next week. I can’t wait to connect with you again then,
Take care, bye-bye
Linked mention in the podcast
Episode 44 – Which Prenatals Should I be Taking?
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