Updated: Jan 21
Something I am really passionate about is how the food we eat can influence our fertility.
Fertility issues affect approximately 15% of couples, and women who have PCOS (ie me!) are even more likely to suffer from infertility, in fact PCOS is the number one cause of infertility in women… Lucky us lol
Although fertility can be incredibly stressful (especially when your doctor tells you that you won't be able to conceive naturally, like mine did! grrrrr), something I think is so important to understand is that issues related to fertility fall into two categories; ‘controllable’ and ‘uncontrollable’.
Uncontrollable factors simply mean what their name suggests, that we as a humans may have very little or no control over them. This can include factors such as age, genetics and some medical conditions.
On the other hand, controllable factors are those that we DO have the ability to control, and one of those BIG factors is diet.
Something that is very concerning is that fertility rates are declining in both males and females, and the crazy part is that even though infertility is affecting more and more people, there still seems to be very little education around how we can help to increase out fertility using these ‘controllable’ factors. In fact according to research, food and lifestyle changes can help to boost fertility by up 69%. THATS ALOT!!
When it comes to diet and fertility eating certain foods, and avoiding others, plays a big role, AND in most cases is something that is completely in our control.
Different nutrients play critical roles in how our reproductive system functions, and since food is the main source of all our nutrients it is so important that we aim to include these fertility boosting foods to ensure optimal fertility.
So whether you are just starting to think about having a family, or you have been trying to conceive for some time, I have compiled a list of my favourite fertility boosting foods, nutrients and tips (as well as what to avoid!) to help you on your way to optimal fertility…and hopefully your own little miracle baby, like my own!
Ok, so I know this is not exactly a food BUT choosing organic foods is one of the first and foremost steps I would recommend taking if you want to increase your fertilty..
Pesticides and other endocrine disrupting chemicals found on many foods are known to disturb normal endocrine functions, which can have a negative impact on fertility. On top of this pesticides contain a special chemical, known as “Organophosphorous”, which is a powerful neurotoxin. Exposure to this neurotoxin may cause damage to an unborn baby’s brain and nervous system development.
Organic foods also have many other benefits such as being rich in antioxidants, which act as a barrier against free radicals and are necessary for cellular health and enhanced egg and sperm health.
So if you have the option, always try to opt for organic- your body (and your baby) will thank you for it.
You can find out more about endocrine disrupting chemicals here:https://www.pcostowellness.com/post/2018/05/19/the-top-5-most-harmful-endocrine-distrupting-chemicals-to-remove-from-your-life-right-now
Calcium rich food
Calcium is an essential ingredient for bone and reproductive health. Adding plant based dairy sources to your daily diet when you are trying to conceive, or if you have any ovulation issues is a great idea. Calcium is also crucial for the development of your baby’s teeth and bones.
Although calcium can be found in dairy products, many dairy products can be inflammatory so consider plant based sources such as leafy greens, fermented soy products, seeds, beans and almonds.
Folic acid improves the health of eggs, so experts always recommend consuming folate-rich foods. Foods rich in folic acid include beef liver (if you eat meat), white rice, asparagus, spinach, black-eyes peas, avocado, broccoli, brussels sprouts, romaine lettuce and broccoli. Bok choi and kale also contain calcium and magnesium, helping your body to make efficient use of progesterone and oestrogen.
It is important to note here that many women with PCOS are deficient in folate so you may want to look at supplementing with methylfolate (or L-5-methyltetrahydrofolate) - especially if you are trying to get pregnant.
Read more about why this is important here https://www.pcostowellness.com/single-post/2019/09/29/5-common-nutritional-deficiencies-in-women-with-PCOS
Anti-inflammatory foods are exactly that! Foods that are known to help lower inflammation and therefore can help to improve fertility!
Excess inflammation is known to be a root cause of a variety of imbalances in the body, including having a serious impact on your fertility. Several reproductive disorders such as PCOS are often accompanied by chronic inflammation, which can significantly reduce your ability to conceive and maintain a healthy pregnancy.
Anti-inflammatory foods include, turmeric colourful veggies, dark leafy greens, blueberries, pineapple, celery, beets, cruciferous vegetables, wild salmon and oily fish, coconut oil, fermented vegetables and probiotic foods.
Whole grains are a fertility (and PCOS!) superfood for many reasons, the most important being their ability to control blood sugar levels.
Eating whole grains such as quinoa takes your body longer to digest because of their high fiber and protein content (quinoa is also a great plant based source of protein for vegans and vegetarians). This means that they can keep your blood sugar levels stable and your hunger at bay.
This is important because when our blood sugar spikes and plummets after a sugary meal pour insulin levels become unbalanced, this then affects our hormone balance.
Too much fluctuation in blood sugar and insulin levels can lead to insulin resistance and even diabetes and can be problematic for fertility and pregnancy.
Healthy fats such as “Omega-3s” are vital for your reproductive system and help in regulating hormones, promoting ovulation, increasing cervical mucus and improving blood flow to the uterus. According to research, eating legumes and omega 3’s 2-3 times a week can delay menopause, resulting in increased chances of fertility.
If you love avocados (like me!) you will be happy to know that the fat present in avocados can act as a nutrient booster for your eggs!
Avocados are also an excellent source of folate, full of monounsaturated fatty acids (which are known to reduce ovulatory infertility), rich in fiber, low in glycemic index, and contain a number of antioxidants.
But don’t worry if you don’t like avocados there are plenty of other sources such as olive oil, nuts, seeds, coconut oil and grapeseed oil can reduce the inflammation in the body, which helps promote regular ovulation and general fertility. Some good fats may even assist women who truly struggle with infertility. Studies have shown that consuming a certain quantity of monounsaturated fats in the form of avocados during the IVF cycle increased the success rate by three and a half times, as opposed to women who don't eat good plant-based fats during that period,
Don't skip breakfast
Research shows that eating a substantial breakfast may help to increase fertility. A balanced breakfast provides your body with sufficient energy to keep your endocrine system balanced and functioning at an optimal level. On top of this a study that involved women eating a larger breakfast, suggested an improvement in ovulation.
WHAT TO AVOID?
Avoid extreme diets as they are often lacking in some nutrients or too high in others. Some diets such as the Ketogenic, raw and low fat diets can be problematic and have the potential to interfere with ovulation/ fertility.
Mercury can damage the nervous system and it is recommend to avoid mercury rich seafood such as tuna and swordfish. Eating high-mercury fish can affect the development of baby’s nervous system.
Artificial sweeteners present in soda can cause inflammation and metabolic changes, both causing fertility issues. On top of this their packaging may also contain some toxic chemicals that should be avoided.
Trans fats can lower fertility due to their potential to cause inflammation and insulin resistance. Excessive consumption of trans fats may damage your blood vessels and even decrease sperm count and quality.
High-glycemic index foods
High-glycemic index foods result in sugar spikes leading to inflammation, hormonal imbalance and disturb ovulation. Therefore, avoiding such foods is a good idea to increase your fertility.
Alcohol consumption has been linked to infertility. Excessive alcohol consumption should be avoided if trying fall pregnant.
Pasteurized dairy promotes the prostaglandins that trigger inflammation. However you may be able to tolerate goat cheese, milk kefir, or yogurt (plain & organic).
Too much caffeine
Caffeine, can interfere with fertility has been linked to an increase in the chances of miscarriage. Limit or eliminate coffee intake to two cups per day in order to have safe fertility experience.
Raw animal products
Raw animal products such as seafood, eggs and raw meat can contain bacteria that may harm the fetus.
Industrial oils are highly inflammatory and should be avoided. Also keep an eye out for these type of oils in processed foods.
I hope this helps to inspire you to use food as a tool to help increase your fertility... I know I credit diet to a huge part of my own fertility/ pregnancy journey.