What you eat can make a big difference to how you feel and how your body functions. If you give yourself the very best nutritious food, then you’re more likely to achieve optimum health and that means optimum fertility. So we will talk about fertility treatment steps.
Animal breeders understand this – that’s why ewes are put to graze on the richest grass before the tups (male sheep) are let loose, and horses are routinely given nutrient-rich feeds to get them into the best possible condition before mare meets stallion.
But what about humans? It appears we’re not treating ourselves so well. As a result, one in six couples now has problems conceiving. Conventional investigations often return a diagnosis of ‘unexplained infertility’. The next step, IVF, can be traumatic and expensive, with less than a quarter of women actually ending up with a baby as a result
There is a way to increase your fertility naturally by ensuring your body (and that of your partner) is optimally nourished. Does it work? Statistics suggest a nutritional protocol can achieve a 78% success rate. Being as healthy as possible before conception also increases your chances in natural infertility treatments of having a healthy pregnancy and a healthy baby.
So how do you get yourself in top fertile form? Diet, stress levels, weight, and toxin exposure all play a role.
FOUR STEPS TO FEMALE FRUITFULNESS
Unlike men, who produce a regular supply of fresh sperm after puberty, women are born with all their eggs (or ova) in place. Your ovaries contain about two million eggs at birth, but as you age, they gradually disintegrate. By puberty, there are approximately 750 000 left, and by age 45 only about 10 000 are left. Your fertility is dependent on the health of these eggs and your reproductive organs, plus your body’s ability to produce the right balance of hormones to ‘mature’ your eggs ready for ovulation with each monthly cycle. Getting the right mix of supporting nutrients is key to this, as is regulating your weight and dealing with stress. Below are four key steps to support successful ovulation.
Balance your hormones
Hormones make things happen – for example, follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) matures an ovum, estrogen ensures that it is released at ovulation, and progesterone keeps it healthy during and after conception. Yet the fine balance of these hormones can often be disrupted. The mineral zinc and vitamin B6 work together to produce and regulate female sex hormones – inadequate amounts of either nutrient can create a hormonal deficiency or imbalance. They also increase your desire for sex (which is why zinc-rich oysters are renowned as an aphrodisiac) and alleviate premenstrual problems – women who suffer from premenstrual syndrome (PMS) are often zinc deficient. Read this “Understand Male Hormone Imbalance, And How to Fix It” too.
Essential fats – those found in oily fish like sardines, salmon and mackerel, and also in nuts and seeds – are also important for hormone balance. They facilitate healthy hormone functioning, so a deficiency is likely to affect your menstrual cycle and therefore your fertility.
Hormonal conditions which affect the reproductive area, such as polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) or endometriosis can also impact on fertility. Balancing blood sugar is a key aim for relieving PCOS, and supporting the immune system can help alleviate endometriosis. As the underlying causes for specific hormone-related problems are often unique to each individual, seeking expert help from a nutritional therapist can bring real benefits.
Clean up your act
When you want to get pregnant, reducing your intake of, or exposure to, harmful substances can increase your chances of conception, as well as creating a healthier environment for your baby to develop. Read this related “The Essential Ingredient“.
According to research published in the journal Fertility and Sterility, drinking any alcohol at all can reduce your fertility by half – and the more you drink, the less likely you are to conceive. Another study showed that women who drank less than five units of alcohol (i.e. fewer than four small glasses of wine or 2.5 pints of beer) a week were twice as likely to conceive within six months compared with those who drank more.
Unsurprisingly, smoking hampers fertility too. A study at the Institute for Reproductive Medicine in Germany found that smoking damages the quality of eggs in ovaries, reducing the number capable of producing a baby. And cannabis, considered by some to be safer, is actually equally harmful and also linked to infertility.
Sadly, you can’t even seek solace with a cup of coffee. Research has shown that caffeine – also found in tea, chocolate and cola drinks – decreases fertility. A study in The Lancet found that just one cup of coffee a day can halve your chances of conceiving.
Environmental toxins should also be avoided where possible. Pollution, pesticides, toxic metals such as lead or mercury, even the chemicals in hair dye and cleaning products, can all impact negatively on fertility, as well as harming a developing baby. The problem is that these toxins don’t break down but rather accumulate in your body. In the next issue, we go into more detail on the ‘anti-nutrients’ to avoid and how to reduce their impact, both for fertility and during pregnancy.
Deadlines, traffic jams, difficult relationships, money worries, information overload, time pressures. Modern life is full of stress triggers.
But stress puts your body into a state of alert which hinders the smooth functioning of systems such as digestion and reproduction. Stress also burns up stores of nutrients – especially B vitamins – which are crucial for a multitude of functions including fertility.
We know that being relaxed boosts fertility – this explains why holidays are a common time to conceive. But for most of us, taking time off is limited to a few weeks a year. The rest of the time, if you find it hard to relax, get irritable, are unable to ‘shut off’ from the events of the day or have trouble sleeping, stress is having a negative effect on your health – and this could impact on your fertility. Stress experts will often say it’s not the stress but the reaction that causes the problem. Unless your house burns down or someone dies, most stresses are not disasters. Thinking they are, however, can easily overwhelm you.
Optimize your weight
Women who are either under or overweight can experience fertility problems. Being fat phobic can also impact on hormonal health, so those who avoid eating any fat (especially the good variety) are also at risk.
Swedish research has revealed that the ‘average’ woman of the medium build will stop having periods at 52 kg. And even those who have periods but who have low body weight can be infertile.
Likewise, if you are overweight your fertility can be reduced. Even moderate obesity – classified as a body mass index (BMI) of 25 to 30 – can reduce your chances of conception and increase the risk of miscarriage