By Claire Georgiou, Reboot Naturopath, B.HSc ND
Getting pregnant and sustaining a healthy pregnancy can be one of the most rewarding experiences, but unfortunately many couples struggle to conceive naturally and may need some type of assistance or intervention. Luckily, dietary changes and lifestyle habits can help!
More than six million women in the United States suffer with infertility issues, whether it’s difficulty getting pregnant or carrying a pregnancy to term. Male infertility also accounts for up to 30 percent of infertility experienced among couples.
A Harvard 8-year study of more than 18,000 women uncovered 11 evidence-based suggestions for improving fertility.
Many health recommendations can be effective in supporting healthy ovulation and fertility. These suggestions are helpful for both men and women.
1. Avoid trans-fats and processed oils
Consumption of trans-fats is strongly linked to an increased risk of ovulatory failure. Trans-fats have been found to have a negative impact even when consumed in small amounts such as 4g daily. Yes, a few bites of fries or a small donut will contain more than this, so those little treats unfortunately can impact your fertility.
Trans-fats are found in many types of processed foods which include pre-packaged baked goods, margarine, fried foods and other packaged ready-made snacks and meals. Keep it trans-fat free while trying to conceive and beyond.
2. Avoid refined carbohydrates
Biscuits, pastries, cakes, crackers, fluffy breads, chips, processed cereals and other high-glycemic foods can cause a sugar spike that aggravates hormonal imbalances and insulin resistance. High blood sugar levels and insulin negatively impact ovulation and can reduce fertility. Whole grains, nuts, seeds, fruits and vegetables in their whole form can help promote fertility, so focus on these types of carbs.
3. Reduce alcohol and caffeine
Low-to-moderate consumption is okay for fertility. Keep it to 1-2 standard drinks including a few alcohol-free days per week and 1-2 coffees or teas per day as a safe level to follow. Some practitioners encourage consuming as little as possible to give you the best possible chance of conceiving a healthy pregnancy.
4. Whole fat products
Research has indicated that people who consumed skim milk products and low-fat dairy products had a negative impact on their fertility while the full fat products did not. It has been proposed that the fat helped to modulate the hormonal impact that the low-fat products can have, and it also supports blood sugar regulation. This does not suggest you need to start consuming dairy but it indicates the importance of consuming foods in their whole natural state.
5. Healthy fats
The study indicated that consuming health oils such as extra virgin olive oil, nuts, seeds, oily fish, avocado and other types of natural fatty foods helps to normalize blood sugar levels and support hormonal health.
6. Plant-based proteins
Increasing your fiber and plant-based nutrients with more plant proteins has been shown to improve fertility. You can include lentils, beans, peas, nuts and seeds.
7. Don’t forget your minerals
Getting more iron, folate, magnesium and other vitamins and minerals from your leafy greens and other plant foods is an easy and healthy way to improve your health and fertility.
Avoid the sugary sodas, sugary iced teas, caffeine and energy drinks and other unhealthy beverages and enjoy herbal teas, filtered water and fresh juices. Juices are a great way to boost fertility and increase your nutrient profile and consume your recommended servings of fruits and vegetables.
Moderate-to-low intensity exercise has been shown to support and promote healthy ovulation. High intensity can unfortunately work against you due to changes in stress hormones. Keep moving and keep it comfortable and light.
10. Fertility weight zone
Keeping your BMI or your waist-to-hip circumference in the healthy zone will help keep your fertility in the optimum zone. Eating too much or too little can negatively impact your fertility. Even losing 5 to 10 percent of your body weight if you are overweight can substantially improve your chances of conceiving naturally or gaining weight if you have a low body mass index or too little body fat. An ideal BMI is 20-24.
11. Take a pre-conception multivitamin
Supporting yourself with extra nutrition is also important to increase your chances of healthy ovulation and pregnancy.