Improve Fertility with Diet & Nutrition
Diet and nutrition are the vital foundation of fertility for both men and women. Eating a healthy diet to boost natural fertility and prepare your body for pregnancy is one of the most fundamental health changes you can make . It will improve your overall energy levels, well-being, libido, menstrual cycle and impact every area of your life. When combined with specific naturopathic and homeopathic treatment for infertility at our Perth clinic, these suggestions can greatly increase your chances of falling pregnant.
Many studies have shown that specific changes to your daily choice of foods can improve your possibility of conceiving. We will outline these factors in the following article, and provide references. As well, we will give you the benefit of more than thirty years experience in natural fertility treatment.
These simple dietary choices work on reducing the impact of conditions like fibroids, endometriosis and polycystic ovaries (PCOS). As well, they can help prevent recurrent miscarriage and stimulate ovulation. They can also normalise your menstrual cycle and support a healthy pregnancy.
These changes will help assist the specific treatments that we give for problems affecting your fertility. You will see this if you follow the links here to other pages related to women’s health problems and menstrual disorders as well as the separate pages on endometriosis and PCOS. After conception, healthy nutrition increases your chances of retaining the pregnancy past the first vital trimester.
We don’t forget that male fertility is at least fifty percent of the issue. Many lifestyle factors impact on men’s fertility, sperm quality and libido. We will also cover these dietary, nutritional and lifestyle tips for the male partner in this article.
Diet & Nutrition Guidelines for Natural Fertility
Eat Lots of Organic Fruits & Vegetables. Avoid pesticides
Conventionally grown fruits and vegetables contain pesticide residues which have been shown to negatively impact both male and female fertility. Studies have also shown organic vegetables and fruits to have more nutritional value, especially minerals.
Vegetables and fruits are our main dietary source of antioxidants. Antioxidants have many important functions in maintaining fertility, as we will show below. They are also vital for maintaining pregnancy once conception occurs.
Eat Only High Fibre Foods & Whole Grains
The fibre in fruits and vegetables also helps regulate blood sugar levels, which is vital in fertility.
Whole grains are rich in fibre and vitamins, and support the immune system. Fibre also helps the body eliminate excess hormones and keeps the blood sugar balanced. It is especially important in cases of PCOS, which has issues with blood sugar levels.
Avoid processed foods and refined flour and grains. That means no white bread, pasta or white rice. Instead, you should choose whole wheat or sprouted bread, whole wheat pasta, quinoa, and brown rice.
No Sugar or Fruit Juice
To keep the blood sugar balanced, that means no sugar in any foods, and no added sugar . It also means no fruit juice. Natural fruit is all right, because of the fibre content which regulates the release of sugar into the bloodstream. When you eat foods with added sugar, this results in a higher than normal release of insulin. The body responds in this way in an attempt to lower the blood sugar.
The body eventually has trouble responding to the insulin. This situation is known as insulin resistance. The resulting high blood sugar can damage a woman’s eggs and affect the hormones responsible for ovulation.
Studies have found that high insulin levels act to inhibit ovulation. In one study, women whose diets had the highest glycaemic load (a measure of blood sugar) were 92 percent more likely to have ovulatory infertility than those whose diets had the lowest glyacemic load.
No Soy unless Fermented, as in Miso or Tempeh
Unfermented soy foods have contain oestrogen-like compounds that can effect both male and female hormones and fertility. That means avoiding soy milk, soy protein powders, soy chips and protein meat substitutes and cheeses to avoid a negative impact on your hormonal balance. Fermented soy products such as miso and tempeh appear to be OK however. If you have hypothyroidism, avoid soy completely.
This is a controversial issue, and there are studies both for and against soy in fertility and other health issues. This metastudy investigates the pros and cons of soy in all health issues. It recommends caution in cases of infertility and for those with ovulation problems It can also affect your thyroid hormone levels, and that can also be an issue in fertility.
So on balance we recommend that you best avoid soy in your diet if you are trying to conceive.
Avoid Trans Fats (found in Commercial Baked Goods)
Trans fats have been found in this study to impact fertility by affecting ovulation. They are primarily in foods such as commercial baked and snack foods, cakes and biscuits, animal products like pies and pasties, chips, crisps and margarine. Like the effect of sugar and simple carbohydrates they increase insulin resistance.
As we have described above, insulin helps move glucose from the bloodstream to the cells. With insulin resistance it becomes harder for the body to move glucose into the cells. The pancreas responds by pumping out even more insulin. These high insulin levels cause a series of metabolic disturbances that affect ovulation.
In this study, Willett and Chavarro found that each 2 percent increase in consumption of trans fats—as opposed to the same increase from carbohydrates—was associated with a 73 percent increased risk for ovulatory infertility.
Eat Good Fats for Fertility
Good fats are important for fertility. Fish, avocado,olive oil and coconut oil are the best sources of good fats.
Fish is rich in omega 3 fatty acids. These fats are beneficial for overall health. But in addition they also help balance hormone production in a woman’s body.
Omegas 3 promotes fertility, particularly in men. These fats are a rich source of prostaglandins. Prostaglandins are hormone-like lipids that are important for semen production. They improve the maturity and viability of the male’s sperm. Studies have shown that men with poor sperm count or quality tend to have inadequate levels of prostaglandins and this can be improved with supplementation. Overall, the more omega-3 you have in your body, the better your sperm motility.
Omega 3 fatty acids are also important for female fertility. A 2012 study found that life-long consumption of omegas 3 could promote good fertility, even in more mature women. Additionally, the study also showed that even short-term treatment with omega 3 can improve the quality of women’s eggs.
Eat only Grass-fed Meats (Otherwise No Red Meat) for Fertility
A recent 2018 study demonstrates the red meat is correlated with hormone irregularities, particularly leading to endometriosis. This is a very strong association. The study used regular meats from cattle that are fed antibiotics, hormones and genetically modified foods. It is most likely the hormones that cause this, but the other influences are also best avoided.
Grass-fed meats are from cattle that have grazed in grass pasture and eaten fresh grass. This is the animals’ natural diet, and it provides a lot more nutrients.
For example, grass-fed meats are high in omega 3, and they are not fed antibiotics and hormones that affect your hormone balance and immune system. On the other hand, factory-farmed meats are higher in omega 6, which is already too high in our diets. Genetically modified corn is also fed to the cattle to fatten them up. This is another issue, because GMO foods have been linked to infertility as well as many other health problems.
Poultry does not have the same issues with hormones. However, eat only free range chicken. And consume only wild caught fish to again avoid antibiotics and GMO’s.
Harvard Research on Foods for Fertility
An eight-year study of more than 18,000 women by the Harvard Medical School uncovered ten evidence-based suggestions for improving fertility.
1) Avoid trans fats.We have already covered details on this above.
2) Use more unsaturated vegetable oils. Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats help improve the body’s sensitivity to insulin and reduce inflammation. These things are good for fertility.
However, there needs to be a balance between omega 3 and omega 6, with more omega 3 than in a typical diet. Add in more vegetable oils, nuts, seeds, and cold water fish such as wild caught salmon and sardines. Avoid farmed fish. Cut back on saturated fat from animal sources, but coconut oil is OK.
The best oils to use are olive oil and coconut oils for cooking, and olive oil for salads. Avoid canola oil, which is genetically modified. The best nuts are walnuts, which contain omega 3 as well as 6. All seeds are good, especially pumpkin, which specifically helps male hormonal balance.
3) Reduce animal protein and get more protein from vegetables. Replace more animal protein with nuts, seeds and pulses (legumes) like lentils and beans. Avoid soy however for the reasons mentioned above. You don’t have to eliminate animal protein, within the guidelines already mentioned. But replacing one meal a day with a vegetable protein source is a good suggestion.
4) Choose whole grains over refined white grains and flours. This controls blood sugar and improves insulin response, as we have discussed above, These things are vital for fertility.
5) Use only full fat milk products. Without investigating the reasons, they found a correlation between fertility and consuming full fat milk. Other studies have shown low fat and skim milk promotes abnormal insulin response, so this is probably the issue.
From our point of view, we would emphasise low consumption of milk for hormonal reasons, unless you have access to biodynamic, unpasteurised milk from grass fed cows.
6) Take a multi-vitamin. They found that 400 mcg a day of folic acid was crucial. However, with those with MTHFR sensitivities we recommend natural folate.
7) Obtain plenty of Iron from plants. These will also generally be rich sources of folate. Whole-grain cereals, leafy greens like spinach, beans, tomatoes pumpkin and beetroot appear to have a positive effect on fertility.
8) Keep hydrated. Fluid balance is important. Drink plenty of water. Moderate coffee and tea and alcohol consumption did not affect conception. We do however recommend no more than two cups of coffee a day after conception. And no alcohol in the luteal phase of the women’s cycle, because of the effect on the fetus once implantation occurs.
9) Keep a healthy weight and BMI. Weighing too much or too little can affect menstrual cycles and ovulation. The best body-mass index (BMI) range for fertility is between 20 and 24.
10) Get some daily exercise. But don’t overdo it. Enough to stay in the healthy weight zone appears to be important. Too much or too little can interfere with ovulation.
Foods to Boost Male Fertility
All of the above guidelines, while more specific for aiding female fertility, menstrual regularity and ovulation, also apply to men.
There are however some foods that have a specific positive effect on male fertility.
Foods Rich in Zinc
Zinc rich foods can improve testosterone levels. They have also been shown to improve sperm count and sperm motility.
Good sources of zinc are pumpkin seeds and whole grains. Oysters are good too, but they need to be sourced from a pristine, unpolluted waterway.
Foods Containing Vitamin C
Vitamin C is also vital for sperm production and viability. Don’t think supplements, as they don’t have all the co-factors necessary for vitamin C to work. It is always best to eat natural whole foods for fertility.
The best sources of vitamin C are fresh vegetables and fruits, especially leafy greens like spinach and broccoli. These are also rich in other antioxidants that help prevent degradation of sperm. Other sources are of course citrus and berries. Organic is best, to avoid pesticides, as outlined above.
Dark, Leafy Greens
This one is a no-brainer. We have already mentioned it for vitamin C. It is also a rch source of folate that is good for both male and female fertility. It helps produce strong, healthy sperm. Spinach, kale, broccoli and silver beet are good sources of folate.
Dark Chocolate or Cacao
The cacao bean, the source of chocolate, is a rich source of the amino acid arginine. This helps the production of sperm.
If you have it in the form of chocolate, make sure it’s dark chocolate with a low sugar content, at least 80% cacao powder.Otherwise you may get it in the raw cacao powder and add it to smoothies.
Fish and Seafood
We have already covered this in detail above. The omega 3 fatty acids that fish contain are important in the production and viability of sperm.
It is vital to get wild caught fish, for reasons already outlined. They should be oily fish. Such as salmon, sardines and mackerel.
Pomegranate has been shown to improve sperm quality. It also helps in prostate health and helps with erectile dysfunction, which of course can be a problem preventing conception.
The antioxidants in Brazil nuts protect the semen from free radical damage and. They are also the richest natural source of selenium. The mineral selenium is important for male fertility men because it boosts testosterone land improves sperm production and mobility.
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