The number of couples facing fertility problems is on the increase with close to 1 in 6 couples not able to conceive after a year of trying with many seeking medical help. There is a great deal that be done through changes to diet and lifestyle to optimise your fertility. Here are just a few:
- Balancing blood sugar levels can help keep the stress hormone cortisol in check. Elevated cortisol can result in reduced progesterone which is vital in pregnancy. This can lead onto imbalances in estrogen and testosterone levels. Aim to eat balanced meals regularly with a source of protein, slow releasing carbohydrate and vegetables / fruit at each meal and snack
- Keep an eye on stress levels (which can lead to raised cortisol). Consider taking up yoga, meditation, more time out, quiet walks, reading a book in the bath etc.
- Eat plenty of brightly coloured fruits and vegetables. They are rich in antioxidants that can protect against birth defects and miscarriage. They can also protect sperm from oxidative damage
- Increase zinc containing foods such as spinach, cashew nuts, pumpkin and squash seeds, organic chicken, dark chocolate, chickpeas and grass-fed beef (max twice a week). Zinc can increase sperm count and it is an essential part of genetic material so a deficiency can cause chromosomal changes
- Omega 3 fatty acids are important for healthy hormone functioning. They also control inflammation which can interfere with staying / getting pregnant. Foods rich in omega 3’s include walnuts, crushed flaxseeds and chia seeds, oily fish (max 2 portions a week)
- Limit / avoid alcohol. Alcohol can reduce both men and women’s fertility. In men it decreases sperm count and sperm motility
- Decrease / avoid caffeine – a number of studies have shown that caffeine (particularly in the form of coffee) decreases fertility. Caffeine is a stimulant and raises cortisol levels so can also interfere with hormone production
- Obvious one – don’t smoke! It is linked to infertility in both men and women. It can decrease sperm count in men and make sperm more sluggish (as can smoking marijuana).