We all know that a woman’s fertility decreases as she gets older, but even during her younger – and most fertile years – dietary and lifestyle factors have a major impact on women’s chances of having a healthy baby.
Conception is a complex process. It all depends on everything working properly at several key stages and it’s daunting to think of all the things that can go wrong. There are many simple ways in which you can dramatically improve your chances of getting pregnant, but first you need to be aware of the things that negatively affect your ability to conceive.
Conditions that affect fertility:
Being Overweight: The more excess weight you carry, the more your ovarian function tends to decrease. Women who are overweight are more likely to develop polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), the most common hormonal disorder in women of reproductive age and a leading cause of infertility.
Being Underweight: Just as too much fat can affect your fertility, so can not having enough of it. If your weight drops too low, then her periods can stop. This sometimes happens with athletes who have very tough physical regimes and excessive dieting.
Medical Problems: There are several medical conditions that can affect fertility. Some, like blocked fallopian tubes and PCOS are directly linked to infertility. Others, like celiac disease and thyroid issues are not so obviously linked. Happily, once identified, all these obstacles can be overcome.
Stress: High levels of stress hormones such as prolactin affect a women’s ability to conceive and in extreme cases can stop her ovulating. It’s nature’s way of protecting women from getting pregnant at a time when they would find it difficult to cope.
Nutritional Deficiencies: These days we tend to eat a lot of refined and convenience foods that have been stripped of all essential nutrients during manufacturing. As a result, many people are deficient in zinc, which is the most important mineral for both female and male fertility. Over consumption of caffeine and alcohol may also affect your ability to conceive.
Environmental Toxins: We live in a society where we are bombarded with chemicals and toxins. We are exposed to chemicals in our food, the packaging around it, in pesticides, additives and preservatives. And we come in to contact with many more toxic substances in everyday life; household cleaners, aerosols, synthetic carpeting, traffic fumes. All combine to form a “chemical cocktail” that can affect both male and female fertility. Electromagnetic radiation from mobile phones is also implicated.
What you can do to boost fertility:
Improve your diet: A healthy diet really can help you conceive and give birth to a healthy baby. But good nutrition doesn’t mean giving up all the things you like. It just means being well-informed and making the right choices. Pay special attention to the following:
- Essential Fatty Acids: These are the healthy fats found in foods such as nuts, seeds and oily fish. They are a vital part of every human cells and the body needs them to balance hormones, insulate nerve cells, keep the arteries and skin supple and keep itself warm.
- Reduce saturated fats: A diet high in saturated fat is known to stimulate estrogen production, which can compromise fertility. Animal products are the main source of saturated fats, so you need to limit your intake of meat, eggs and dairy products.
- Fibre: Wholegrains, fresh vegetables and fruits are rich in fibre which reduces excess estrogen levels, clears out old hormone residues and binds to toxins. Studies have shown that women who eat a vegetarian diet excrete three times more “old” detoxified estrogens than women who regularly eat meat. To get enough fibre in your diet make sure you eat plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables (cooked and raw), wholegrains (brown rice, wholemeal bread, oats, crackers and wholemeal pasta), nuts, seeds and beans. Avoid “refined” carbohydrates such as cakes, white bread and anything containing white flour and sugar.
- Optimise your gut function: It’s important to get your bowels working efficiently so that “old” hormones can be excreted quickly and so your food goes not end up putrefying – which can happen if it stays in the gut too long. Proper bowel function helps you get rid of chemicals, pesticides, heavy metals and other toxins that can affect your fertility.
- Reduce toxic exposure: Buy organic whenever possible, avoid food and drinks in plastic containers or wrapped in plastic (like cheese – toxics are fat-loving and migrate into fatty foods), wash fruit and veggies abundantly (peeling can reduce toxic residue by about three quarters).
- Eat more cruciferous veggies: Broccoli, cabbage, Brussel sprouts are high in indoles, which block the conversion of estrogen into a toxin form, while speeding up its elimination.
The right food may be the single most important thing you have to achieve a successful pregnancy and you have full control over your eating choices. A properly qualified Nutritionist can help you identify any underlying conditions and give you additional guidance on how the right nutrition can give you and your partner optimum health and fertility.
For nutritional consultations on a wide range of health issues contact Susan Tomassini, Licensed Nutritionist BSc (Hons) Dip BCNH @ 06 17481114
Try this fertility boosting breakfast recipe – packed with nutrients and fibre!
- 1/2 cup oatmeal
- 1/4 cup Apple Juice
- 1/4 cup natural plain or vanilla yogurt
- pinch of cinnamon
- 1 medium apple (preferably Granny Smith)
- 1 Tablespoon crushed almonds
- 1 Tablespoon dried cranberries
- 1 medium banana
- 1 handful blueberries
1) Mix oatmeal, juice, cinnamon and yogurt together in a large bowl. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
2) In the morning, grate the apple and slice the banana into the oatmeal. Mix in the blueberries, almonds and cranberries.