Dr. Abayomi Ajayi
01-4667360, 07026277855 [email protected]
When you are trying to conceive, what you eat matters, so you should consume foods that would boost your fertility. But if you are infertile, will a particular food “cure” your infertility? The answer is no but that should not stop you from eating well to make sure you are getting proper nutrition to support your fertility.
You may wonder how the food that you choose to eat or not eat affects your ability conceive? What is important to acknowledge is that even the healthiest of diets can’t cure the more serious conditions that cause infertility in both men and women.
If for instance, you are diagnosed with blocked Fallopian tubes, dietary changes are not going to do anything to resolve that blockage. Cases like this can be resolved through IVF. Nevertheless, the influence of diet and other related lifestyle choices on fertility should not be overlooked. Whether combined with fertility treatment or pursued alone, changes in diet can have a significant and measurable effect on your fertility.
The explanation has to do with the role that nutrients play in the reproductive system, and what you eat is an important way to get those nutrients. Eating nutrient-rich foods is usually safer than concentrated supplements. There are particular foods connected to fertility health, but even though fertility foods won’t cure your infertility, what you eat (and don’t eat) often relates to your fertility. Overall, good nutrition leads to good health and good overall health can, sometimes, protect your fertility.
If you are a woman, as you age, the amount of antioxidants in the fluid around your eggs decreases. Without antioxidant protection, the cells surrounding the egg are less able to provide nutrition for the egg. The resulting poor function of those cells correlates with reduced embryo quality and chance of pregnancy. If you are a man, oxidative products correlate with poor semen quality, a reduction in sperm motility, and fragmentation of the sperm DNA. To decrease the negative effects of oxidation, you and your spouse should increase your dietary intake of antioxidants.
Unhealthy eating habits can harm fertility and your weight tends to impact your fertility. If you’re eating burgers and fried chips all day, and then taking large amounts of soft drinks, obviously that’s not going to help. On the other hand, if you try to eat as many nutrient-rich foods as possible, you may very well protect or even improve your fertility. Healthy foods will replace the unhealthy aspects of your diet, and replacing the unhealthy foods helps you maintain or get to a healthy weight.
Unlike other factors that you cannot control such as your age and your genes, eating the right food and avoiding others is something you can do yourself to help improve your ovulatory function. The fact is that if you are eating as if you’re already pregnant, it can actually help prime your body for conception.
There are many ways through which you can healthily wine and dine your way to a happy, healthy pregnancy by following a conception-friendly diet.
One useful dietary tip if you are trying to get pregnant is to avoid overcooking food. The reason is because toxic compounds are produced when foods are overcooked, so things like barbequing, broiling, grilling and frying should be minimised because they are associated with poor follicular and embryonic development and a lower likelihood of ongoing pregnancy.
Healthy fats are an important part of overall health but also healthy reproductive health. For instance, walnuts are rich in omega-3s and omega-6s. Avoid consumption of higher saturated fat (trans fats) associated with retrieval of fewer fertilised eggs, and decreased embryo quality. Stick to the higher monounsaturated fat associated with a higher birth rate. Limiting meat and other foods high in saturated fat, while increasing foods higher in monounsaturated fat, will give you the best chances. Consume more of avocados, olive oil and nuts, to obtain a good source of monounsaturated fat.
All fruits and vegetables contain antioxidants but berries are one of the best sources. Spices such as ginger, turmeric, cumin, as well as dark chocolate and green tea are also excellent sources, but avoid caffeine if you are trying to get pregnant. Foods containing omega-3 have been associated with improved sperm quality and embryo implantation. Fish oil is an easy and inexpensive way to get omega-3.
Perhaps the most important factor that you can consider right away is your weight. Do you know that being under or overweight can lead to infertility? It does! And as a result of this, it is quite important to optimise your health as you prepare to become pregnant. It cannot be overstressed that nutrition plays a critical role. A rule of thumb is that less red meat, more seafood, fruits and vegetables improves fertility.
There is a well-established link between fertility and weight, so you and your spouse should know that being underweight or obese can have a marked effect on your individual fertility and your combined fertility. The human reproductive systems rely on a delicate balance of hormones to function properly, and when stress is placed on these systems as a result of a low or high bodyweight, their natural chemical rhythms begin to break down.
In particular, if you are a woman that is obese, you are more prone to a higher rate of infertility and a lower IVF pregnancy rate. Excess weight has been linked to the development and worsening of polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), a common cause of infertility in women mostly due to irregular cycles and inconsistent ovulation.
Symptoms of PCOS, including infertility, can be reduced when an affected overweight woman loses just 10 to 15 per cent of her body weight. Obesity also negatively impacts on male fertility as it relates to sperm count and sperm motility.
You can address your diet and lifestyle to tackle your infertility. To know if weight is affecting your fertility, a good place to start is to take a look at your body mass index (BMI). While BMI cannot account for important factors such as muscle mass and body fat percentage, it can give you an idea of whether you might benefit from losing or gaining weight in the interest of maximizing your fertility.
As a general rule, a BMI under 18.5 (underweight) or over 30 (obesity) may suggest that your weight is adversely affecting your fertility. Generally high intakes of vegetable oils, vegetables, fish, and legumes and low intakes of snacks is advised if you are trying to conceive.
The simple rule is that you should consume more of monounsaturated rather than trans fats, and consume more vegetable than animal protein. Go for iron from plants and supplements. Fertility friendly foods include plant-based foods, whole fruits and vegetables, seafood rich in omega-3 fatty acids such as salmon and mackerel; whole grains and nuts, and legumes (beans and lentils). Cut down on simple or refined carbohydrates, trans fats and highly-processed foods.
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