Guest Post by Bastyr University Nutrition Studies Student Anita Bermann
Last month we discussed the importance of keeping blood sugar levels stable for maintaining a healthy hormonal balance and a fertile reproductive system. If you are committed to improving your chances of getting pregnant this spring, there are a few risky foods worth mentioning that might still be standing in your way.
• Sugar is one of the most difficult foods for the reproductive system. Sugar can of course contribute to insulin resistance as discussed in Part 1, but also lowered immunity, weakened adrenal glands (which affects release of sex hormones like estrogen, progesterone, DHEA, and testosterone), and systemic candida infection, which can hinder contact between sperm and egg. Focus on naturally sweet foods like sweet potatoes, beets, carrots, and onions to soothe your sweet tooth, rather than refined sugars.
• Do you suspect a gluten intolerance? If you haven’t seen a doctor to check you for Celiac Disease, you should know that undiagnosed Celiac Disease has been associated with infertility. Often, micronutrient deficiencies due to reduced intestinal absorption (in true Celiacs, gluten damages the delicate villi lining the GI tract) are the culprit here. Luckily, adherence to a strict gluten-free diet can repair the gut and solve the problem within months. Make sure you visit a doctor or nutritionist before attempting to go gluten free, though, as there are other GI problems that could be behind the same symptoms.
• Do you like drinking milk? Make sure you stick to organic dairy if you are trying to get pregnant. Hormones in factory farmed cow’s milk can interfere with your own. Another interesting finding: full fat dairy has been associated with a 27% lower risk of infertility. Scientists aren’t sure why, but remember that whole milk is a whole food, with calcium, vitamin D, and fat to help support steroid hormone production. Look for 100% grass fed organic milk rich in anti-inflammatory Omega 3 fats.
• Caffeine is a major problem. One study has shown that women who drink even just 1 to 1.5 cups of coffee a day have a 50% reduction in the ability to become pregnant! Try to choose herbal teas and decaffeinated coffee or green tea whenever possible.
• Alcohol in excess can wreak havoc on the reproductive system in women and men. Drinking large amounts can destroy sperm in men and prevent production of progesterone in women, the hormone that balances estrogen to ensure a perfect cycle. Multiple authorities recommend no more than 1 drink/day for women; 2 drinks/day for men. Remember that 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine, or 1 shot of liquor equals one drink.
Besides avoiding problem foods like sugar and alcohol, it is crucial to consume a nutrient rich diet with a wide variety of colorful fruits and vegetables to provide micronutrients for the reproductive system.
Next month, we’ll discuss the specific nutrients for optimal reproductive health…so stay tuned!