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Issue 136: Fertility & Diet

Fertility & Diet

They say we’re in the midst of a baby boomlet, but for those who want to have a baby and can’t, the idea of a baby boomlet seems far removed. Without a doubt, having a child is a highly personal decision, and waiting for the right time to have a baby can take many forms. For some, getting financially or professionally stabilized first is a priority. For others, they’re ready to have that bundle of joy, but for some reason, they’re not able to.

In fact, there are approximately six million couples in the U.S. who experience infertility—and many look to medically assisted pregnancy for answers. For example, Assisted Reproductive Technology, or ART, offers many procedures to help with fertility, but those typically require fertility drugs, medical procedures, long waits, a fair amount of money and low success rates varying from 20 percent to 35 percent.

Take heart, though, if you're among those six million couples. There may be a better—and more natural—way. What’s more is it’s available to all, has no unwanted side effects, is drug-free, is foundational for a healthy pregnancy, is not expensive and paves the way for a lifetime of a healthy diet and lifestyle for motherhood and beyond. A long-term Nurses’ Health Study of nearly 19,000 women found that diet, exercise and lifestyle habits increased the women’s fertility—particularly ovulatory infertility which accounts for about 30 percent of fertility difficulties in women. Each of these women said they were trying to have a baby, and most of them did have babies over the course of the eight-year study.

Among the study’s findings were that unhealthy carbs like white bread and sugary products all adversely affect insulin levels, which directly influence reproductive hormonal balance, ovulation and fertility. Healthy carbs like brown rice and whole grains, however, in moderation, positively influence insulin levels, hormonal balance, ovulation and fertility. Interestingly, the women in the unhealthy, high-carb category were 92 percent more likely to have ovulatory infertility than those in the healthy, low-carb category.

Additionally, when some of these carbs were replaced with healthy natural fats, there were indications that healthy natural fats supported improved ovulation. Overall, the findings say that eating too many unhealthy carbs can increase insulin levels and decrease fertility, while eating a diet based on whole grains, fruits, veggies and healthy fats can decrease insulin levels and improve ovulation as well as your chances of getting pregnant. 

Speaking of fats . . . avoid those dreaded trans fats found in fast foods and most commercial, processed items. They can nix your chances of normal ovulation and conception—even if your intake of trans fats is only 4 grams a day, which is less than most Americans consume daily. Conversely, healthy fats, including healthy saturated fats, can improve the menstrual cycle, while high intake of polyunsatured fats may support fertility. In short, fats are powerful. Healthy fats like omega 3 fatty acids, which are essential for reproductive health, can build fertility while unhealthy fats like trans fats can shut it down.

Likewise, healthy plant proteins may help pave the way to pregnancy by supporting ovulatory fertility. Be sure to get enough whole fat dairy, too—not low-fat or skim. One or two servings of whole fat dairy daily can support healthy ovulation, while low-fat or skim dairy products can result in unbalanced sex hormones. The bottom line is that the more whole fat dairy (organic and preferably raw, of course) a woman has in her diet, the greater her chances of avoiding infertility.

Then there’s weight. Weighing too little or too much can throw off your menstrual cycle and ovulation or stop it altogether. Women with a BMI (body mass index) between 20 to 24 (with an ideal of 21) were the least likely to be infertile. You might say that having a BMI between 20 to 24 is the fertility zone. Don’t’ forget about exercise, either. At least 30 minutes of exercise daily can also put you in the fertility zone. (An added benefit is that these dietary and lifestyle suggestions don’t only help support female fertility, but can also help with male fertility.)

You’ll also want to look into a quality multivitamin, since research says taking a multivitamin has benefits for female and male fertility. Simply put, supplements can help balance hormones and overall health. In fact, the Nurses’ Study concluded that women who took multivitamins containing folic acid and iron, for example, were more likely to become pregnant.

Who knows? Changing your diet and lifestyle may just help boost the baby boomlet!

 

This information is intended for educational and informational purposes only. It should not be used in place of an individual consultation or examination or replace the advice of your health care professional and should not be relied upon to determine diagnosis or course of treatment.


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