Monday, January 17, 2011

The Fertility Diet: Homocysteine Levels and Miscarriage

We are grateful to have our advisory board member, Karen Reynolds, an acupuncturist and RN at Balance Restored Center for Integrative Medicine write a guest blog for us today on the topic of homocysteine levels, which, if elevated, may cause miscarriage. Here is her post:

There are various factors that could lead to miscarriage in early pregnancy—something you’ll want to be aware of while trying to conceive. One of these factors is having elevated homocysteine levels.

Homocysteine (also referred to as Total Homocysteine, or abbreviated as tHcy on lab forms) is a toxic amino acid produced by your liver and usually counterbalanced by healthy cleansing processes in your liver. High levels of tHcy are associated with risk for stroke, heart attack, and clot formation in your cardiovascular system. And in early pregnancy, elevated tHcy is associated with miscarriage.

Your body needs B vitamins, specifically folate, B12 and B6, for the conversion of tHcy into a non-toxic substance.

In 2004, The Journal of Clinical Chemistry published an interesting piece of research entitled: “Maternal Homocysteine before Conception and throughout Pregnancy Predicts Fetal Homocysteine and Birth Weight.”

As you may know, birth weight is a big indicator of neonatal health. This study found that women supplemented with B vitamins had lower tHcy than unsupplemented moms. The babies of supplemented moms also had lower tHcy noted at birth. Neonates born to moms with higher tHcy levels weighed less.

Studies have shown that folic acid supplementation before conception and in pregnancy is associated with increased birth weight and longer gestational length. Folic acid also has an immensely important role in the development of your baby’s spinal cord and brain and helps prevent spinal cord problems, also known as neural tube defects.

Some things that can drive up your Homocysteine (tHcy) levels:
  • Vitamin B deficiency (Folate, B12, and B6)
  • Smoking
  • Excessive alcohol intake
  • Lack of exercise
  • Excessive coffee intake
What helps if your Homocysteine (tHcy) is high?
  • Supplement with B-Vitamins (Folate, B12, and B6)
  • Incorporate foods which are high in B-Vitamins into your daily diet
  • Address the lifestyle activities noted above
Foods high in B-Vitamins

  • Folate - Leafy greens such as spinach, turnip greens, fresh fruits and vegetables.
  • Vitamin B6 - Poultry, seafood, bananas, leafy green vegetables, potatoes.
  • Vitamin B12 - Animal foods are the only natural source of vitamin B12; but many products are fortified with vitamin B12. Shellfish, such as clams, mussels, crab. Fin fish, beef.
Facts about having Homocysteine (tHcy) blood levels drawn:

  • Ideally check tHcy levels before you get pregnant. However it’s never too late to supplement with B Vitamins. They are safe, inexpensive and easy to digest.
  • Draw blood first thing in morning after having fasted from food and fluids for at least 8 hours.
  • For menstruating women: tHcy levels are most accurately assessed prior to ovulation and not in the luteal part of your menstrual cycle (The luteal phase of your cycle is the second half which is from ovulation through menses). Ideally draw sometime on Days #1-#7 of your cycle.
Reference: Clinical Chemistry 50:8 1406 –1412 (2004) Maternal Homocysteine before Conception and throughout Pregnancy Predicts Fetal Homocysteine and Birth Weight by: Michelle M. Murphy,1* John M. Scott,2 Victoria Arija,1 Anne M. Molloy,3 and Joan D. Fernandez-Ballart1

In my acupuncture clinic, I specialize in the treatment of fertility of both men and women, women’s health, and functional endocrinology. Drawing from my 22 years of experience as an ICU RN, I make extensive use of lab testing. I also utilize acupuncture, antioxidants, dietary changes and nutritional supplementation to optimize health, wellness and vitality for the amazing women and men who I have the great honor treat.

If you have questions, please feel free to contact her at:

Phone: 415.381.8500 Ext. 4

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