Fertility problems and diet: Trying to get pregnant?

Foods to eat and avoid to boost fertility in both male and female hormones. A recent study (2018) of fertility and dietResearchers from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and HarvardMedical School have just published a review of past studies that examined the impact of diet on fertility. Here’s what they found.For women trying to become pregnant naturally (without “assistive reproductive technologies” such as in-vitro fertilization), the following vitamins and nutrients were linked to positive effects on fertility:

• folic acid
• vitamin B6 – increases progesterone production
• vitamin B12
• omega-3 fatty acids
• Healthy diets (favouring seafood, poultry, beans, pulses, whole grains, tofu,low-fat dairy products, nuts, seeds, spinach, fruits, and vegetables are related to better fertility in women and better semen quality in men), however, Trans fat and “unhealthy diets” (those “rich in red and processed meats, potatoes,sweets, alcohol and sweetened beverages”) were found to have negative effects.

Vitamins and minerals (known as micronutrients) are essential for our bodies to function. They occur naturally in the food we eat but can also be taken as supplements. A healthy diet is the best way to ensure you're getting the nutrients you need, but it is recommended that women who are planning a pregnancy supplement their diet with folate.If you're trying to conceive, the risk of birth defects can be reduced by supplementing your diet with certain micronutrients, described below. Some may also help improve fertility in both men and women.

• Folate is a B-group vitamin that supports the baby’s brain and spinal cord to develop properly, during the very early stages of pregnancy. It is difficult for women to get enough folate in their diet. Therefore, it is recommended that women take at least 400 micrograms of folic acid each day before conceiving and during pregnancy. You can get folate through a multivitamin tablet; it’s best to take one specifically for pregnancy or pre-conception because some vitamins, such as Vitamin A, are dangerous if taken in high amounts during pregnancy. Some studies suggest that folic acid supplementation can improve fertility in some people but it is not yet known if this applies to everyone.

• Vitamin D supplements may improve fertility in women and men who are vitamin D deficient. During pregnancy vitamin D is involved in transferring calcium to the growing baby.

• Zinc and selenium can reduce the damaging effects of free radicals. Free radicals are waste products from various chemical reactions in the cells in the body. Substances that produce free radicals include fried foods, alcohol,tobacco smoke, pesticides and air pollutants. High levels of free radicals can cause health problems. Studies of infertile men have found that zinc and selenium can reduce the damage to sperm caused by free radicals and improve sperm quality. Whether this improves their chance of fathering a child is not yet known but it may be a good idea for men who want to be fathers to boost their zinc and selenium intake. The easiest way to do this is through a healthy diet. It is not known if zinc or selenium supplements improve female fertility.

In addition, weight is also a factor, male obesity may alter testosterone and other hormone levels, according to the American Society for Reproductive Medicine. Plus,low sperm count and poor sperm motility are common in overweight and obese men.When it comes to diet, load up on fruits and vegetables, which contain vitamins,minerals and antioxidants that may help create strong sperm. Vitamin c is important for healthy sperms, selenium helps to form sperm and zinc helps to regulate sex hormones. Acidic foods such as red meat and tea are thought to inhibit sperm production.

Avoid going on any kind of fad diets, which can deplete your body of nutrients it needs for pregnancy and find a healthy eating plan that works for you by talking to your doctor and registered nutritionist.

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