Let’s Talk Fertility & Diet
Let’s be brave and talk fertility. This is NOT an easy topic for most people, let alone someone who has unexplained infertility, is undergoing fertility treatments or has experienced loss along the way. As women, fertility can be a part of what makes us feel like we have succeeded as women, it’s a part of our womanhood. Even as young girls, we start to pretend we are moms, caring for our dolls as we see our moms care for our siblings. I am not saying even women feels this and that is 100% cool; but for those of us who have dreamt of holding our baby girl/boy for the first time, the desire to get pregnant is strong once you are ready to have a baby. You are desperate to try anything and everything that will increase your chances of getting pregnant and give you some sort of control. 15-30% of couples face unexplained fertility (that number is HUGE!). This means, you are NOT alone if you can relate to anything I am saying. You are also are definitely not alone if you have already started eating some foods daily or in excess in the hopes that it may improve fertility.
I want to start by saying, I have been extremely fortunate to have not had to undergo fertility treatments myself. When my husband and I started trying, I thought we would get pregnant within a couple months. We were not that lucky, so I did experience some heartbreak when I got my period in the months we were trying and the feelings of failure and desperation. I know these feelings only intensify as the journey goes on. I have walked alongside friends who have tried to get pregnant for years with no success and have undergone fertility treatments. I have seen the emotional and physical toll it takes on both the women and the men. Each couple has a unique fertility journey. Not everything I post about, including below will be helpful to you. This is not to discourage you, just remind you that everyone’s fertility puzzle will come with different pieces (who knew I could be so creative with my metaphors?).
So enough lead up... is there such thing as a fertility diet?
If only there was this magic diet that could make our ovaries dance and sperm act as supermen! There are hundreds of fertility blogs, forums and Facebook groups, all with messages promising if you eat or drink _____ this or follow diet X, it will help you get pregnant. Is there any truth to these claims? Well, first, lets start with a full blow ‘diet’ (I hate this word but let’s dig in deeper).
YES.. there is a ‘diet’ or style of eating that actually carries some solid weight when it comes increasing your chances of getting pregnant. The tried and true Mediterranean Diet. This diet has been around for decades; the Mediterranean’s seem to know what they are doing. minus the wine. WHAT!?! Not only do you have to not drink for 9 months, there are a few studies that have found drinking more than 2 drinks a day may reduce your chances of getting pregnant. I say if there is any chance of reducing your chances, lets skip it! I want to break this diet down into a few take away points to get you started and make it WAY simpler for you when you head out to the grocery store.
1. Make it Whole…grains! – Research has linked choosing fiber rich grains while avoiding easy to digest grains (like pastries, white flour, sugary cereals, white rice) to reducing ovulatory infertility. These slower digesting carbohydrates help to manage blood sugar and insulin levels which can improve chances of fertility. This means, do not ditch the grains, get your carb fix from barley, oats, quinoa, wild rice, and wheat bran instead of grabbing that while bagel from Tim’s.
2. Colour your plate- Fruits and vegetables are superfoods because they contain ANTIOXIDANTS and the more variety in colour, the better. If there is one thing we know for sure, it is we want to reduce oxidative stress in the body to improve fertility for both males and females. Sperm are
extremely sensitive to oxidative stress, so one thing I cannot emphasis enough is, men, you play a major role in this as well. Okay, back to these antioxidants, what are the big ones we are looking for and where can we find them?
a. Lycopene- this lovely antioxidant has been found in some research to help with sperm motility. Some everyday food sources that contain lycopene are tomatoes, grapefruit, watermelon and red bell peppers.
b. Vitamin E, C and CoQ10- these warriors are packed together as they can sometimes act as a team. In general, these antioxidants have been found to improve rates of pregnancy and sperm quality. Vitamin E can be found in nuts or avocado, Vitamin C is in citrus, berries, red pepper and kale, and lastly CoQ10 in sardines, mackerel or spinach but a supplement is also a great option.
c. Selenium- many of you who have already started your own research on foods for fertility have probably heard about Brazil nuts. Well these guys are helpful for sperm mobility and ovary health because of the antioxidant selenium. Luckily, brazil nuts aren’t the only option to get in selenium although they are loaded. It is also found in other nuts or oysters and many other fruits, veggies and whole grains in smaller amounts.
3. Add in the Pulses (beans, lentils, spilt peas)- Plant based protein is a hot trend right now but one reason I love these guys so much is (aside from the fact that SK is the largest producer of them) they reduce the risk of ovulatory infertility. One study even found that eating just 5% of your protein from pulses can reduce this risk by 50%!
4. Make your dairy FULL Fat- A massive 8-year study found that women who consumed 2 of more servings of low-fat dairy products increase their risk of anovulatory infertility by 85% all the while including full fat dairy reduced infertility by 27%. These numbers are HUGE! Seriously, bring on the full fat yogurt and homo milk!
These 4 points are just to get you started, the tip of the iceberg if you will. I hope this at least gives you a better understanding of some of the research that is coming out and where to get yourself started on deciding what to eat on your fertility journey. I want to hear from you guys..!
- Have you or someone you know struggled with infertility?
- Have you tried eating any specific foods or diets while trying to get pregnant?
- Leave me your comments! I would love to hear your thoughts.
*Connect with me if you would like my references