Foods to support healthy fertility

Women's Health, Pregnancy | May 26, 2017 | Author: Naturopath

pregnancy, women's health

Foods to support healthy fertility

Approximately one in six Australian couples experience fertility problems. Many factors can be involved, some of which are listed below:

Factors affecting fertility of both men and women

Age. Fertility declines with age in both men and women. The shift towards delaying childbearing in Australian society may be a contributing factor to the rise in infertility.

Obesity. Male infertility worldwide is increasing along with the increasing problem of obesity. Male obesity is linked to erectile dysfunction, reduced sperm quality and damaged sperm DNA, which results in difficulties to conceive and miscarriage. In women, obesity is associated with failure to ovulate, irregular menstrual periods, miscarriage, and adverse pregnancy outcomes.

Underweight. Men who are underweight have lower sperm concentration, and underweight women can suffer from ovarian dysfunction and menstrual irregularities.

fertility cycling Exercise. Studies found that moderate physical activity, as opposed to frequent and strenuous exercise, results in better sperm parameters.

Cycling more than five hours per week has been shown to reduce sperm count and motility.

Similarly, high intensity exercise, but not moderate exercise, is associated with decreased fertility in women.

Psychological stress. Stress and depression are thought to reduce sperm quality in men, and also affect fertility in women. The diagnosis of infertility itself can increase stress levels significantly.

Lifestyle factors. Cigarette smoking, recreational and prescription drugs, and alcohol and caffeine consumption can all have substantial effects on fertility in both men and women.

Environmental and chemical pollution. Excessive exposure to toxins such as air pollution, heavy metals, pesticides, work-related chemicals, and radiation may have harmful effects on the reproductive health of both men and women. 

fertility2Factors affecting fertility in women

‚Äč‚ÄčOvulation disorders. Disorders that involve infrequent ovulation or failure to ovulate, such as polycystic ovary syndrome. It is a major cause of female infertility; this condition is associated with failure to ovulate regularly. Women with the condition are often obese and insulin resistant.

 

Damage to the fallopian tubes. Damage can be caused from an infection due to a sexually transmitted disease or previous surgery.

Endometriosis. A common condition characterised with the presence of normal endometrial tissue outside the uterine cavity. It is associated with infertility as it may lead to blockage of the fallopian tubes or adhesions, and can significantly affect the movement of the egg and sperm and disrupts implantation of the fertilised egg.

Fibroids. Fibroids are benign fibrous tumours that can grow inside and around the uterus, sometimes blocking or obstructing the uterus or the fallopian tubes.

Nutrition and fertility

Making the right dietary choices can increase your chances to conceive. Healthy changes to boost your nutritional status should begin 3-4 months before conception.

Researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health found that women who experienced problems with ovulation benefited from making some dietary modifications, in addition to losing weight and exercising. Their “fertility diet” included:

fertility foodsReplacing trans-fats with mono-unsaturated fats. Avoiding foods containing trans-fats, such as shortenings, margarine, cookies, crackers, snack foods, fried foods (including fried fast food), doughnuts, pastries, baked goods, and other foods processed with partially hydrogenated oils, and increasing intake of mono-unsaturated fats, such as in extra-virgin olive oil, olives, avocado, and nuts.

Plant protein. Consuming more proteins from vegetables – beans, chickpeas, lentils, nuts, seeds, soy, quinoa, buckwheat, and amaranth - than from animal sources, especially red meat and chicken.

Low glycaemic index carbohydrates. Increasing intake of fibre, as well as low glycaemic index foods. These are foods that by virtue of their slow digestion and absorption, produce gradual rises in blood sugar and insulin levels, thus help control blood sugar levels. It included avoidance of foods such as sugar, white bread, and white rice.

Dairy. Switching from consumption of low-fat dairy products to high fat.

Iron. Eating more iron from plants and supplements.

Multivitamin. Taking Multivitamins, especially ones containing folic acid
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Additional foods for hormone regulation

Both Endometriosis and uterine fibroids are associated with relative excess of oestrogen.To encourage oestrogen clearance by the liver and to reduce excess oestrogen levels, increase your intake of:

fertility fibreSoluble fibre. Fruit and vegetables, preferably unpeeled, and lentils, nuts, seeds, oats, barley, and whole grains such as amaranth, brown rice, buckwheat, whole wheat, and wild rice.

Brassica vegetables. Cabbage, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower and kale.

Plant oestrogens. Soy products (tofu, tempeh, soy milk and Edamame), and ground flaxseeds have an anti-oestrogenic effect.
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Specific nutrients

Vitamins B6, B9, B12. Involved in balancing oestrogens, and may provide stress support.Folic acid (B9) deficiency can contribute to infertility, and adequate folate may also prevent the occurrence of neural tube defects and other types of birth defects, including certain heart defects and limb malformations.Folate is critical for DNA and RNA synthesis, and foetal growth and development are characterised by widespread cell division. B12 is also involved in foetal development.

fertilityVitamin C and Iron. Iron deficiency can lead to infertility, while vitamin C enhances iron absorption. Severe anaemia in pregnant women is associated with adverse pregnancy outcomes, such as low birth weight, premature birth, and maternal mortality.

Zinc. May increase sperm count and motility.
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Lifestyle tips

  • Achieve and maintain a healthy weight. 
  • Exercise moderately.
  • Quit smoking. 
  • Limit alcohol. 
  • Reduce stress. 
  • Limit caffeine. 
  • Prevent sexually transmitted diseases.
  • Avoid exposure to toxins.

References

Australian Governemnt 2011. Fertility and infertility. Department of Health. Retrieved May 24, 2017, < http://www.health.gov.au>

Chavarro JE, Rich-Edwards JW, Rosner BA, Willett WC. (2007). Diet and lifestyle in the prevention of ovulatory disorder infertility. Obstet Gynecol.;110(5):1050-8.

Jungheim, E. S., Travieso, J. L., & Hopeman, M. M. (2013). Weighing the impact of obesity on female reproductive function and fertility. Nutrition Reviews, 71 Suppl 1(0 1), S3-8.

Mayo Clinic 2016. Getting pregnant Fertility. Mayo Clinic. Retrieved May 24, 2017, http://www.mayoclinic.org>

Palmer, N. O., Bakos, H. W., Fullston, T., & Lane, M. (2012). Impact of obesity on male fertility, sperm function and molecular composition. Spermatogenesis, 2(4), 253–263.

Sharma, R., Biedenharn, K. R., Fedor, J. M., Agarwal, A., Evenson, D., Fedele, L., … Sari-Minodier, I. (2013). Lifestyle factors and reproductive health: taking control of your fertility. Reproductive Biology and Endocrinology, 11(1), 66. http://doi.org/10.1186/1477-7827-11-66

Trickey R. 2011, Women, hormones and the menstrual cycle, Trickey Enterprises, Fairfield, Victoria.

 

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