Infertility supplements

  • Tribulus terrestris has a long history of use for a variety of conditions. It has been suggested that it was used in ancient Greece and India as a physical rejuvenation tonic. In China, it is used as a component of therapy for conditions affecting the liver, kidney, cardiovascular system and immune systems. It has also been used in Eastern European folk medicine for increased muscle strength and sexual potency. Despite its history of use, there is limited human data available in order to evaluate its clinical effectiveness. Tribulus has been studied as a non-steroidal alternative to treatment of infertility. Although the results of the few studies done with the combination product Tribestan® are promising, more studies are needed in order to further evaluate its clinical effectiveness. Preliminary research with tribulus also suggests that it may be useful in treating coronary heart disease, but additional study is needed.
  • Selenium is a trace mineral found in soil, water, and some foods. It is an essential element in several metabolic pathways. Selenium deficiency can occur in areas where the soil content of selenium is low and it may affect thyroid function and cause conditions such as Keshan disease. Selenium deficiency is also commonly seen in patients on total parenteral nutrition (TPN) as their sole source of nutrition. Gastrointestinal disorders may decrease the absorption of selenium resulting in depletion or deficiency. Selenium may be destroyed when foods are refined or processed. Specific dietary sources of selenium include brewer's yeast, wheat germ, butter, garlic, grains, sunflower seeds, Brazil nuts, walnuts, raisins, liver, kidney, shellfish (lobster, oyster, shrimp, scallops), and fresh-water and salt-water fish (red snapper, salmon, swordfish, tuna, mackerel, halibut, flounder, herring, smelts). Selenium is also found in alfalfa, burdock root, catnip, fennel seed, ginseng, raspberry leaf, radish, horseradish, onion, chives, medicinal mushrooms (reishi, shiitake), and yarrow. The role of selenium in cancer prevention has been the subject of recent study and debate. Initial evidence from the Nutritional Prevention of Cancer (NPC) trial suggests that selenium supplementation reduces the risk of prostate cancer among men with normal baseline PSA (prostate specific antigen) levels and low selenium blood levels. However, in this study, selenium did not reduce the risk of lung, colorectal, or basal cell carcinoma of the skin and actually increased the risk of squamous cell skin carcinoma. The ongoing Selenium and Vitamin E Cancer Prevention Trial (SELECT) aims to definitively address the role of selenium in prostate cancer prevention.
  • Lycopene is a carotenoid present in human serum and skin as well as the liver, adrenal glands, lungs, prostate and colon. Lycopene has been found to possess antioxidant and antiproliferative properties in animal and laboratory studies, although activity in humans remains controversial. Numerous studies correlate high intake of lycopene-containing foods or high lycopene serum levels with reduced incidence of cancer, cardiovascular disease, and macular degeneration. However, estimates of lycopene consumption have been based on reported tomato intake, not on the use of lycopene supplements. Since tomatoes are sources of other nutrients, including vitamin C, folate, and potassium, it is not clear that lycopene itself is beneficial. There is no well established definition of "lycopene deficiency," and direct evidence that repletion of low lycopene levels has any benefit is lacking.
  • DHEA (dehydroepiandrosterone) is an endogenous hormone (made in the human body) secreted by the adrenal gland. DHEA serves as precursor to male and female sex hormones (androgens and estrogens). DHEA levels in the body begin to decrease after age 30, and are reported to be low in some people with anorexia, end-stage kidney disease, type 2 diabetes (non-insulin dependent diabetes), AIDS, adrenal insufficiency, and in the critically ill. DHEA levels may also be depleted by a number of drugs, including insulin, corticosteroids, opiates, and danazol. There is sufficient evidence supporting the use of DHEA in the treatment of adrenal insufficiency, depression, induction of labor, and systemic lupus erythematosus. There is a lack of available studies on the long-term effects of DHEA. However, DHEA may cause higher than normal levels of androgens and estrogens in the body, and theoretically may increase the risk of prostate, breast, ovarian, and other hormone-sensitive cancers. Therefore, it is not recommended for regular use without supervision by a licensed healthcare professional.
  • DHEA is a weak male hormone produced in both men and women. It is released by the adrenal glands. The DHEA-producing adrenal glands are small, triangular shaped glands located above the kidneys. The outer layer of the glands makes hormones that ha...
  • The main function of L-carnitine is to transfer long-chain fatty acids in the form of their acyl-carnitine esters across the inner mitochondrial membrane before beta-oxidation. In humans, it is synthesized in the liver, kidney, and brain and actively transported to other areas of the body. For example, 98% of the total body L-carnitine is confined to the skeletal and cardiac muscle at concentrations approximately 70 times higher than in the blood serum. Supplementation may be necessary in rare cases of primary carnitine deficiency, which may be caused by a defect in carnitine biosynthesis, a defect in carnitine active transport into tissue, or a defect in renal (kidney) conservation of carnitine. Known conditions of secondary deficiency of carnitine (insufficiency), in which L-carnitine is effective, include chronic stable angina and intermittent claudication characterized by distinct tissue hypoxia (low oxygen levels). Another condition that may benefit from carnitine supplementation is decreased sperm motility. Although use in preterm infants suggests carnitine supplementation may aid in maintaining or increasing plasma carnitine levels and possibly weight gain, carnitine is not routinely added to preterm total parenteral nutrition (TPN). However, soy-based infant formulas are fortified with carnitine to levels found in breast milk. In 1986, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved L-carnitine for use in primary carnitine deficiency. D-carnitine or DL-carnitine may cause secondary L-carnitine deficiency and should not be used.
  • Zinc has been used since ancient Egyptian times to enhance wound healing, although the usefulness of this approach is only partially confirmed by the clinical data of today. Zinc is necessary for the functioning of more than 300 different enzymes and plays a vital role in an enormous number of biological processes. Zinc is a cofactor for the antioxidant enzyme superoxide dismutase (SOD) and is in a number of enzymatic reactions involved in carbohydrate and protein metabolism. Its immune-enhancing activities include regulation of T lymphocytes, CD4, natural killer cells, and interleukin II. In addition, zinc has been claimed to possess antiviral activity. It has been shown to play a role in wound healing, especially following burns or surgical incisions. Zinc is necessary for the maturation of sperm and normal fetal development. It is involved in sensory perception (taste, smell, and vision) and controls the release of stored vitamin A from the liver. Within the endocrine system, zinc has been shown to regulate insulin activity and promote the conversion thyroid hormones thyroxine to triiodothyronine. Based on available scientific evidence, zinc may be effective in the treatment of (childhood) malnutrition, acne vulgaris, peptic ulcers, leg ulcers, infertility, Wilson's disease, herpes, and taste or smell disorders. Zinc has also gained popularity for its use in the prevention of the common cold. The role for zinc is controversial in some cases, as the results of published studies provide either contradictory information and/or the methodological quality of the studies does not allow for a confident conclusion regarding the role of zinc in those diseases.
  • L-arginine was first isolated in 1886. In 1932, scientists learned that L-arginine is needed to create urea, a waste product that is necessary for toxic ammonia to be removed from the body. In 1939, researchers discovered that L-arginine is also needed to make creatine. Creatine breaks down into creatinine at a constant rate, and it is cleared from the body by the kidneys. Arginine is considered a semi-essential amino acid because even though the body normally makes enough of it, supplementation is sometimes needed. For example, people with protein malnutrition, excessive ammonia production, excessive lysine intake, burns, infections, peritoneal dialysis, rapid growth, urea synthesis disorders, or sepsis may not have enough arginine. Symptoms of arginine deficiency include poor wound healing, hair loss, skin rash, constipation, and fatty liver. Arginine changes into nitric oxide, which causes blood vessel relaxation (vasodilation). Early evidence suggests that arginine may help treat medical conditions that improve with vasodilation, such as chest pain, clogged arteries (called atherosclerosis), coronary artery disease, erectile dysfunction, heart failure, intermittent claudication/peripheral vascular disease, and blood vessel swelling that causes headaches (vascular headaches). Arginine also triggers the body to make protein and has been studied for wound healing, bodybuilding, enhancement of sperm production (spermatogenesis), and prevention of wasting in people with critical illnesses. Arginine hydrochloride has a high chloride content and has been used to treat metabolic alkalosis. This use should be under the supervision of a qualified healthcare professional. In general, most people do not need to take arginine supplements because the body usually produces enough.
  • Black cohosh is popular as an alternative to hormonal therapy in the treatment of menopausal (climacteric) symptoms such as hot flashes, mood disturbances, diaphoresis, palpitations, and vaginal dryness. Several studies have reported black cohosh to improve menopausal symptoms for up to six months, although the current evidence is mixed. The mechanism of action of black cohosh remains unclear and the effects on estrogen receptors or hormonal levels (if any) are not definitively known. Recent publications suggest that there may be no direct effects on estrogen receptors, although this is an area of active controversy. Safety and efficacy beyond six months have not been proven, although recent reports suggest safety of short-term use, including in women experiencing menopausal symptoms for whom estrogen replacement therapy is contraindicated. Nonetheless, caution is advisable until better-quality safety data are available. Use of black cohosh in high-risk populations (such as in women with a history of breast cancer) should be under the supervision of a licensed healthcare professional.
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