How Can Diet Affect Fertility?
According to the American Society for Reproductive Medicine about one-third of infertility cases are due to female factors. Another 20 percent of cases go unexplained. Problems such as blocked fallopian tubes or irregular ovulation may be direct causes. Poor nutrition may be an indirect cause or contributing factor for some couples as nutritional deficiencies may be behind factors that affect a woman’s reproductive health.
Good fertility nutrition involves getting plenty of nutrients to keep the reproductive glands healthy, to help the body manage stress, and to maintain proper functioning of all bodily systems. Female reproductive health is complex and depends on a series of factors ranging from a healthy nervous system to a properly functioning endocrine system. While a healthy diet may not be the cure for infertility, it may certainly be a foundation for fertility for some women.
A Healthy Diet
To eat a healthy diet to promote reproductive health and possibly increase fertility it is important to eat a well-balanced diet. Protein is important for the production of hormones and the formation of new, healthy tissue. Fatty acids are also necessary for hormone production, but an excess of saturated fat can slow the body down. Fiber is important for eliminating toxins and waste from the body so all systems can
function properly. This means basically a diet for fertility is the same diet that you would eat for heart health, mental health, and longevity:
- Eat a variety of fish, legumes, nuts, seeds, and some poultry and meat for protein, fat, and many nutrients.
- Make whole grains, such as oatmeal, whole wheat bread, barley, and quinoa a part of your diet.
- Eat mineral-rich fresh fruits and vegetables regularly.
- Drink plenty of water.
Stay away from junk food, processed foods, cigarette smoke, and alcohol, which can all decrease reproductive health. Alcohol in particular can inhibit the implantation of a fertilized egg in women.
Highly Beneficial Foods
Aside from eating a well-balanced diet there are some foods that are very beneficial in a diet to increase fertility. They are excellent sources of nutrients that promote the healthy production of sex hormones, protect reproductive organs from free radical damage, or have been linked to infertility in women when the body is deficient.
Nuts and legumes, particularly Brazil nuts, almonds, walnuts, and peanuts are all excellent food choices. They contain important nutrients such as selenium, manganese, and vitamin E.
Berries, sweet peppers, and citrus fruits all contain lots of vitamin C, which acts as a protective antioxidant. (Selenium and vitamin E also protect cells from damage).
Flax seed oil, evening primrose oil, nuts, and fatty fish are good sources of essential fatty acids, which support normal glandular activity.
Brown rice, sunflower seeds, eggs, oatmeal, broccoli, milk, and avocados contain B vitamins and folate, which are needed for the synthesis of RNA and DNA, to support the reproductive glands, and to manage stress.
Meat, seafood, and pumpkin seeds are high in zinc, which contributes to normal ovulation in women.
Is Diet the Answer?
Is good fertility nutrition the solution to infertility in women? Not always, but eating a well-balanced diet and improving your well-being is certainly a powerful tool for creating the balance and healthy functioning that may contribute to fertility.
References and Image Credits
American Society for Reproductive Medicine https://www.asrm.org/awards/index.aspx?id=3012
Balch, Phyllis A. “Prescription for Nutritional Healing.” Fourth Edition (Penguin Books, 2006).
Page, Linda. “Healthy Healing: A Guide to Self-Healing for Everyone.” Eleventh Edition (Traditional Wisdom, 2003).
American Pregnancy Association https://www.americanpregnancy.org/gettingpregnant/preconceptionnutrition.html
photo by John Muir
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photo by Paul Downey
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