The fertility rate has been declining due to unhealthy dietary and lifestyle practices. Comorbidities are rising among people, which also impacts their fertility status. Infertility is defined as difficulty conceiving after 12 months of unprotected sexual intercourse. Infertility can be due to female factors (reduced ovarian reserves or reproductive diseases), male factors (abnormal semen parameters, sexual conditions, or chronic illness), or both.
Stress, sleep, BMI, lifestyle, smoking or alcohol use, and caffeine intake are some factors affecting fertility in both men and women. Research highlights the importance of a holistic approach to improving fertility. The holistic approach considers all aspects of the body, including sleep, stress, a fertility-friendly diet, reproductive health, and physical activity, to improve overall health. Diet plays a crucial role in managing hormones that regulate reproductive functions.
Let’s discuss some key points about fertility-friendly diet
- Carbohydrates: Carbohydrates are the energy sources for our body and brain; therefore, an adequate level of carbohydrates is necessary. However, consumption of excess simple carbohydrates and high-glycemic-index foods can lead to insulin resistance. Insulin resistance and hyperinsulinemia are linked to reproductive disorders like PCOS and hyperandrogenism. High-glycemic-index foods can cause infertility by impacting ovulation. Carbohydrate-rich foods like sweetened beverages, sweets, and desserts should be limited in the diet as these affect fertility. High-fiber carbohydrates should be preferred.
- Fats: Higher fat intake is linked to infertility and hyperlipidemia. Consumption of trans fatty acids and saturated fats causes infertility due to ovulation disorders. Trans and saturated fats may lead to insulin resistance and metabolic disturbances. Omega-3 fats can positively impact fertility. Consumption of omega-3 is linked to reduced risk and symptoms of PCOS. These also improve hormonal balance, lipid profile, and insulin sensitivity. Consumption of monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFA) decreases inflammation and enhances fertility.
- Protein: Adequate protein intake is essential for muscle building, immune functions, hormone production, tissue repair and synthesis, and gene functions. A diet rich in protein maintains carbohydrate-insulin balance and prevents insulin resistance and hence is called a fertility-friendly diet. Some studies claim that animal protein is linked to infertility as it may target excessive androgen production, leading to hormonal and ovarian disturbances. Therefore, plant protein sources should be included in the diet.
- Folic acid, vitamin B-12, and B-6: Women planning pregnancy are often advised to take folic acid and vitamin B-12 supplements. This improves fertility and also prevents birth defects in babies. A deficiency of folic acid, vitamin B-12, and B-6 leads to an increase in homocysteine, which is linked to a lack of ovulation, increased inflammation, and oxidative damage. Supplementation with these vitamins prevents these effects.
- Vitamin D: Vitamin D is crucial for endocrine functions and the synthesis of sex hormones. PCOS women often have low vitamin D levels. Supplementation with vitamin D is linked to reduced inflammation and improved symptoms of endometriosis and PCOS. Therefore, vitamin D may enhance fertility by improving overall reproductive health.
- Iron: Iron deficiency anemia is linked to infertility in women. Iron deficiency can be due to heavy menstrual flow and a lower dietary intake of iron. Supplementation with iron improves fertility rates.
- Iodine: Iodine is a necessary mineral for thyroid metabolism. Thyroid functioning is crucial for reproductive health. Iodine deficiency in women is linked to infertility; hence, supplementation improves the fertility rate.
- Antioxidants: Oxidate stress and free radicals can cause damage to the ovum and impact fertility. Antioxidants help lower oxidative stress and protect the ovum from damage. Vitamins A, C, and E are powerful antioxidants present in several vegetables, fruits, and nuts. Consumption of these foods enhances fertility and reduces the risk of endometriosis.
The pregnancy diet should be a balanced diet consisting of vital nutrients. Supplements should be taken under the guidance of an expert. High-caffeine foods and alcohol should be avoided, as these have a negative impact on fertility. Along with diet, regular physical activity should be practiced to relieve stress and improve BMI. Talk to Gytree Experts to learn more about a fertility-friendly diet. Consulting a dietician will be beneficial to planning a healthy pregnancy.