Making the decision to start a family is huge. Having children changes everything about your life. Sadly, many people struggle more than they thought they would when trying to conceive.
In 2016, the fertility rate in the United States was the lowest it’s ever been. There are thousands of people struggling with the label of ‘infertile’ and with conditions like polycystic ovarian syndrome and endometriosis that can reduce your ability to conceive. Whether you are having difficulty conceiving or trying to be proactive in preparing your body for future conception, proper nutrition is vital. Foods dense in specific nutrients are necessary for hormone function, production and balance – as well as for egg and sperm health and for fetal development.
Most of reproduction is out of our control, but there is one thing we can control – our diet. Dr. Jeffrey Russell a reproductive endocrinologist, conducted a study to test the importance of the amount of protein in a person’s diet and how it affects fertility. Importantly, he controlled for Body Mass Index (BMI) and age, which are both known risk factors for infertility. Dr. Russell found that women whose diet was over 25% protein had four times higher pregnancy rates than for those with less than 25% protein. He also found that the food eaten by both men and women affects the health of sperm and eggs for 90 days. Research also suggests that the majority of cases of infertility from irregular menstrual cycles and ovulatory conditions may be preventable through diet and lifestyle interventions.
The amount and quality of sleep you are getting are both lifestyle factors which affect fertility and pregnancy. Working long hours with high stress, a lack of physical activity and a poor diet can drastically increase your risk of infertility.
Functional medicine is about getting to the root causes of health challenges, including fertility issues, rather than following the trial and error approach of utilizing various supplements, eating plans and even medications. The root cause of many health issues, including infertility, is in the gut. When you are eating a lot of trans fats, low-fat dairy and foods with too much sugar, this can contribute to inflammation in the body, leaky gut, autoimmune disorders, ovulatory conditions and fertility struggles.
The benefits of an anti-inflammatory diet are manifold when trying to boost fertility. Certain diet changes can protect eggs and sperm from free radicals in the body – as well as help maintain a healthy hormonal balance. An abundance of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants helps to support a healthy reproductive system and promote energy and vitality for both men and women.
It is important to keep in mind that there is not a ‘magic fix’ to infertility – dietary or otherwise. No change in diet can possibly cure all infertility. There are many conditions affecting fertility which diet will not ‘fix.’ However, eating foods which boost fertility can be beneficial in providing assistance to many people seeking to start or grow a family.