Nutrition for Fertility
Nutrition has such a powerful ability to increase and support fertility in both men and women. When the body is well nourished, underlying issues are addressed, you’re digesting properly, and the body’s natural detox pathways are supported is when the odds of conceiving can be turned in your favor. The following is a set of general suggestions for the average couple trying to conceive a child. I do recommend that couples meet with their General Practitioner and a Nutritional Therapist to make sure every facet of health is addressed.
Most people have the idea that consuming fat will make you gain weight or increase your cholesterol levels, when in reality we need to eat fat to have optimal health. We have fallen into a time of fat phobia and have replaced the fat found in processed foods with more sugar and refined carbohydrates, leading to weight gain, increased diabetes, and hormonal imbalances. When it comes to fertility, consuming high-quality fat is absolutely critical in hormone production and supporting the endocrine system.
Make sure you are consuming enough omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids by eating wild caught fish with low mercury content or consuming a high-quality fish oil supplement. Omega-3 and omega-6 oils have been proven to increase pregnancy rates in women undergoing IVF.1 The importance of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids should not be underestimated, they have also shown the ability to improve embryo morphology which can extremely beneficial for couples undergoing IVF and other interventions.2
The type and quality of fat absolutely matters. Here is a wallet sized shopping guide of oils to include and avoid.
It Takes Two
When a couple is trying to conceive it is common for the woman to focus on nutrition and improving her health while the health of her partner is often neglected. It takes a well nourished couple to conceive, have a healthy pregnancy and child. Both partners should focus on eating a plant-based diet with organic pastured meats and eggs, as well as high-quality plant and animal based fats.
The male’s preconception period is a critical time that can have a tremendous effect on the health of the pregnancy and the health of the child. Paternal exposure to toxins and/or poor diet, can actually cause mutations in sperm DNA. The compromised DNA can lead to a whole host of problems like increased miscarriage risk, complications during the pregnancy and can cause health problems in the child. Chronic paternal alcohol consumption has been proven to change RNA coding and nucleoside modifications in mice, leading to potential health problems in their offspring.3
Bisphenol A is an environmental endocrine-disrupting (hormone disruptor) compound found in plastics. Maternal exposure to BPA has been long known to cause hormone imbalances and in mice it has the ability to increase the risk of insulin resistance later in life in their future offspring.4 But, paternal exposure should not be overlooked as BPA exposure has been proven to increase the risk of depression, anxiety, and stress hormones in mouse offspring.5
Storing your leftovers in glass containers, drinking out of stainless steel or glass cups and bottles, avoid produce that is packaged in plastic, and purchasing oils that are stored in glass, are easy ways to minimize your plastic use.
Lastly, one of the most worrisome paternal exposures that has a tremendous effect on their child’s health is smoking. A survey was conducted in China where men make up the majority of smokers and it was shown that a large percentage of children with lymphocytic leukemia and lymphoma had fathers who were smokers. The child’s risk of cancer increased with the number of years the father smoked before conception.6
Nourish Your Fertility
Supporting a healthy pregnancy through diet can improve your nutrient stores that are utilized to make a brand new person. Taking a prenatal vitamin will not make up for the deficiencies a poor diet will cause, making sure that you are eating a nutrient dense and properly prepared diet is the first place to start.
- Quality Matters – Make sure you are eating organic as often as possible. The pesticides found on conventional fruits and vegetables has been associated with lower probability of clinical pregnancy and live birth.7 Look for fresh, organic, and in season produce, scout your nearest farmers market on the weekends. If eating 100% organic is not feasible even reducing your exposure will have an effect on your fertility. The Dirty Dozen is a great place to start when you are trying to avoid produce with the highest pesticide residue.
- Get Outside! – Safe daily exposure to sunlight can increase your vitamin D status over time and lower stress levels. Vitamin D deficiency is at an all time high and deficiency has been shown to cause hormone disruption, decrease immune function, and increase your risk of depression while adequate supplementation can actually reduce the risk of gestational diabetes.8 Work with your practitioner to determine if you are deficient in vitamin D and how to safely supplement.
Support Your Gut – A perfect nourishing diet and supplements will not help you as much as it could if you are not digesting properly. If you are eating while stressed, AKA driving and scarfing your breakfast during your morning commute, eating after an argument with a loved one, or if you are preoccupied with your to-do list will not allow you to digest well. Eat in a calm state, turn of the TV, give thanks for the food, and have engaging conversation with your family will help encourage stomach acid production to properly break down your food. Address any food allergy or sensitivities and remove them from your diet, support healthy levels of digestive enzymes, heal your gut lining, and support your gut flora by eating raw lacto-fermented foods or probiotics will go a long way in supporting proper digestion and absorption.
Faith Hans is a Nutritional Therapy Consultant based out of North Texas. Her philosophy is that diet has a tremendous effect on health. She has worked with men and women and has helped them restore hormonal balance, support fertility, lower inflammation levels, increase energy levels, improve sleep, and support gut health through nutrition.