While age and genetic factors influence egg and sperm quality, incorporating healthy lifestyle choices can positively impact your fertility health. Find out how you can positively influence your fertility with the right diet.
Studies have shown that adopting a balanced diet, maintaining a healthy body composition, avoiding smoking and excessive alcohol consumption, minimizing exposure to environmental toxins, and managing stress can improve egg and sperm quality.
For individuals experiencing fertility challenges, seeking guidance from healthcare professionals or fertility specialists is essential to explore further options and potential interventions. By prioritizing fertility health, individuals can enhance their chances of conception and pave the way for a healthy pregnancy and childbearing journey.
Preparing your body for the best possible pregnancy involves likely changing a few habits and adopting healthier nutrition and lifestyle habits. You can actually improve egg, sperm, and uterine health by changing your intake of nutrients and removing foods and substances (or your habits) that aren’t serving you. You can optimize your chances of conceiving and promote a healthy pregnancy.
How important is Nutrition & Lifestyle to fertility?
Nutrition and lifestyle can play a significant role in fertility. Both factors can affect hormone levels, reproductive health, and overall well-being, which are crucial for conception and healthy pregnancy. Here are some ways in which nutrition and lifestyle impact fertility:
- Hormone balance: A balanced diet and healthy lifestyle choices can help maintain proper hormone levels, such as insulin, estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone. Hormonal imbalances can disrupt ovulation, menstrual cycles, and sperm production, making it more challenging to conceive. Big players here are blood sugar balance, and making sure to have enough high-quality, unprocessed calories for your activity level.
- Reproductive organ health: Nutrients like vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants support the health of reproductive organs. For example, folate is important for fetal development and can help prevent birth defects. The word folate has the same root as foliage: dark leafy greens are a great source of natural folate. Nutrients like zinc, selenium, and vitamin E support sperm health. Fresh nuts and seeds are a good source as well as some seafood.
- Body composition: Maintaining a healthy ratio of fat to muscle is crucial for fertility. Both obesity and being underweight can interfere with hormonal balance and disrupt menstrual cycles in women. In men, obesity is associated with decreased sperm quality and quantity. Fat and muscle tissue is hormonally active, it isn’t just sitting there not participating!
- Ovulation and menstrual regularity: Certain lifestyle factors, such as stress, excessive exercise, and poor nutrition as well as too much or not enough food, can affect ovulation and menstrual regularity. A balanced diet and a healthy lifestyle can help regulate these processes and increase the chances of conception.
- Oxidative stress: Poor nutrition and unhealthy lifestyle choices can increase oxidative stress in the body. Oxidative stress can damage reproductive cells, including eggs and sperm, and affect fertility. This is where “eating the rainbow” comes in colours in vegetables and fruits are antioxidants. They put out the fires of oxidation in the body. A diet rich in vegetables, at least 5 servings a day, and includes some fruits, depending on your digestion and blood sugar, especially blueberries and other dark-coloured fruit which are rich in antioxidants.
- Mental and spiritual well-being: Stress, anxiety, and depression can negatively impact fertility by affecting hormonal balance and reproductive function. Adopting a healthy nutrient-dense diet, including regular exercise, sufficient sleep, and stress management techniques, can promote emotional well-being and support fertility. Exercise has repeatedly been shown in research to be effective in reducing symptoms of depression. A study (Gaskins et al., 2016) that explored the association between physical activity and fertility in women, found that engaging in regular moderate physical activity, such as brisk walking or cycling, was associated with a shorter time to pregnancy in women trying to conceive.
Some key findings support the importance of nutrition and lifestyle in fertility. A notable study by Chavarro et al. (2007) examined the impact of diet on fertility in women. It found that a “fertility diet” consisting of a high intake of monounsaturated fats, vegetable protein, high-fibre, low-glycemic carbohydrates, and full-fat dairy products was associated with a reduced risk of ovulatory infertility.
At Holistic Fertility Institute we do not recommend dairy to clients, for a number of reasons, but this shows how important fats can be for fertility. If you do eat dairy, know that “Low fat” dairy is actually a highly processed food, and this also points to the importance of minimally processed foods supporting fertility.
Another study (Gaskins et al., 2012) investigated the association between lifestyle factors and semen quality in men. It found that a healthy diet, characterized by a higher intake of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, was associated with better semen quality parameters, including sperm concentration and motility.
Mediterranean-style diet and healthy weight during IVF
A study (Vujkovic et al., 2010) examined the impact of preconception lifestyle factors on fertility outcomes in couples undergoing in vitro fertilization (IVF). It found that women who adhered to a Mediterranean-style diet, characterized by a high intake of fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains, and fish, had higher chances of achieving a successful pregnancy and live birth through IVF.
Another study (Hammiche et al., 2012) investigated the impact of body mass index (BMI) on fertility outcomes in couples undergoing fertility treatment. It found that both overweight and underweight women had reduced fertility, with longer time to pregnancy and lower pregnancy rates compared to women with a normal BMI. Aiming for a healthy weight should therefore be a goal for anyone undergoing fertility treatment.
Amela Ivković O’Reilly, B.Sc. Nutritionist