by Elizabeth McMillan, MS, CNS, LDN
Conceiving a child in this day’s society can be difficult and frustrating. Couples are waiting longer to have children in order to become financially stable and establish a professional career. According the statistics, couples in their twenties have a 20 to 25 percent of getting pregnant while couples in their thirties have a 15 to20 percent chance of getting pregnant. Fertility decreases as we age, thus improving our fertility is imperative for the new generations.
Besides age, there are a few things that will affect fertility. Fertility is governed by balancing hormones to create a new life. Hormonal balance is effected by obesity, sugar control, stress and anxiety and the ability to detox endocrine disruptions.
A healthy body mass index (BMI) is between 18.5 and 24.9 and a fertile BMI is between 20-24. Although the BMI is known as the golden standard, it does not take into consideration body type or muscle mass. Body fat percentage might be a better judge of how our fat affects fertility. A fertile body fat percent is between 20 and 25 percent. Not having enough fat is just as impacting as having too much fat.
Our hormones need a healthy body fat to operate correctly. Having a low body fat might cause a lapse in ovulation even with normal cycles. Increasing calories and decreasing the strenuous workouts may improve ovulation drastically in a matter of a few months. On the other hand, having too much fat may shorten the ovulation cycle and cause estrogen dominance. Being overweight can lead to gestational diabetes or high blood pressure during pregnancy. Research shows that losing 5 percent of your body weight can kick-start ovulation.
Improving sugar control can impact fertility by way of helping to balance the hormones necessary for conception. When sugar levels are high, insulin is triggered to decrease the amount of sugar circulating in the blood. In women, higher insulin levels will also increase testosterone and this can stop ovulation. This also leads to polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), one of the leading causes of infertility. Not to leave men out, but high sugar levels can also decrease the sperm count causing fertility issues.
The entire endocrine or hormonal system functions as an interconnected balancing act. Reproductive hormones are interconnected to the sugar regulating hormones as well as our brain chemistry hormones. Each subset of hormones tries to maintain body equilibrium by helping to balance the others. When we are stressed or anxious, this sends the endocrine system into a tailspin. Chronic stress and anxiety will take precedence over ovulation and sperm generation.
Lastly, there are environmental endocrine disruptors that we are faced with daily. It is important for the body to be able to detoxify out these disruptors. Endocrine disruptors are commonly found in plastics. Switching from a plastic water bottle to a glass can severely decrease the amount of exposure to these chemicals. Improving detoxification pathways can also decrease the impact of these chemicals.
The good news is that there are natural ways to improve fertility, starting with nutrition. Following a fertility diet, both women and men can drastically improve the chances of conceiving. First, focus on healthy calories like a whole-foods diet filled with lean proteins, healthy fats and multitudes of vegetables and fruits. Secondly, decrease sugary, empty calorie foods like soda, baked goods and white grains. Finally, there are certain nutrients that help improve the innerworkings of conception. For instance, zinc and vitamin C improve sperm count and motility; while in women vitamin C prevents DNA damage to the fertilized egg, and zinc helps to balance estrogen and progesterone.
Top 10 Foods that improve fertility
- Eggs are a complete protein and a healthy fat.
- Avocados help to balance hormones and improve reproductive organs.
- Figs help male fertility and boost semen quality.
- Green tea helps to increase fertility and create fertile mucus.
- Maca is a superfood that helps to balance hormones.
- Beans are high in protein and filled with important minerals.
- Nuts are high in protein and healthy fats.
- Wild salmon is filled with healthy fats that help promote healthy brain development.
- Coconut cream helps to cleanse and detoxify the body.
- Olives help to assist in nourishing the reproductive environment.
Eating for fertility involves supporting the reproductive efforts by way of providing nutrients for hormonal health, detoxifying excess and building up nutrient stores in order to create a new life. Enhancing fertility through nutrition will also provide the necessary nutrients to the unborn child and create the best start of a new life.
Elizabeth McMillan is an integrative nutritionist at Rose Wellness. Go to RoseWellness.com for more information.