The Truth About Fertility Nutrition
So, you and your partner have made the decision to try for a baby! This is a very exciting time for a lot of couples, however, for a few women it can be overwhelming, especially when the advice on fertility tricks seems never ending. Whether you are sorting through the old wives’ tales or help guides on the internet, it is important to make sure that you are relying on evidence-based options, and trust me, it is hard at times to sort the fact from fiction. To clear some things up about fertility, let’s have a look at a few common fertility myths, and put a few to rest once and for all…
Myth 1: My egg count can be increased – Unfortunately, the number of eggs that a woman has cannot be increased, and will usually decline with age. While this may be disheartening to hear, it is not all bad news. Research has found that enhancing our nutrition can slow the rate at which we lose eggs. A key strategy for optimizing egg numbers is to review zinc to copper ratios. In particular, it is important to make sure that you are including more zinc options, such as oysters, and less copper in your diet. Vitamin D is also another nutrient of interest in the research, with studies looking into its potential role for fertility preservation. Remember, if you are trying for a baby, quality matters too. So, if you know that you have a low egg count it is best to take action earlier, rather than later to improve your egg health and optimise your pregnancy outcomes.
Myth 2: It’s my fault if we’re unable to conceive – Infertility occurs in around 15% of all couples. However, for 50% of these cases, poor sperm health is attributed to a failure to conceive. While there is substantial evidence linking overweight and obesity with poorer semen quality for males, the body of evidence around diet is still growing. But with what we do know is that the typical Western diet, which is high in red meat, processed meats and refined grains, is typically linked to a higher risk of infertility in males. While the Mediterranean diet has gained popularity for its role in reducing health risks, such as heart disease, it also has been shown to reduce the incidence of erectile dysfunction in overweight men and those with metabolic syndrome. In addition, diets rich in fruit, vegetables and wholegrains have shown positive outcomes for sperm motility, concentration, and morphology; all of which are very important in improving your chances of falling pregnant.
Myth 3: You cannot get pregnant if you are over 40 years of age – Women who are over 40 years have a less than 5% chance of falling pregnant, and unfortunately, have a greater chance of miscarriage. While we already know that our number of eggs decreases naturally over time, chromosomal damage to eggs also makes it harder for older women to conceive. However, research has found that dietary improvements may increase the chances of trying to fall pregnant over the age of forty. Following a Mediterranean diet and lifestyle, which includes eating fresh fruit and vegetables, consuming nuts and extra virgin olive oil daily, eating fish at least twice per week, limiting alcohol consumption and increasing aerobic activity all can do wonders for reducing chromosomal damage and increasing fertility outcomes.
Myth 4: Eating pineapple daily will boost fertility – One of the most common fertility tricks I hear on the rumor mill is about pineapple improving chances of fertility. Now, as there’s been no formal scientific research done to date, it’s impossible to dispute this rumour categorically, but there’s plenty of women who have tried it without success unfortunately. In fact, there may even be an element of truth! An enzyme concentrated in the core of the pineapple, called bromelain, may be helpful in reducing inflammation which is particularly important during implantation of the embryo into the uterus. However, a word of warning; high amounts of bromelain may cause adverse pregnancy outcomes for women – so, it’s best to not overdo it. While pineapple might not be at the top of the list to help embryo implantation, there are some other scientifically-backed food options that can help your fertility outcomes. For instance, a study which looked at a group of women undergoing IVF, found that a higher wholegrain intake was associated with a greater chance of implantation and live birth. When choosing products such as pasta, breads and cereals, it is always best to try and opt for wholegrain options to best support your fertility!
Want more advice?
I am sure you can now appreciate how important it is to turn to the scientific evidence when thinking about your own fertility. With a world of knowledge at your fingertips about fertility, make sure you are getting the right advice.
For more information about fertility nutrition, visit Nourish with Melanie.