Fertilize problems are becoming more common these days. An estimated 19% of women are unable to get pregnant after a year of trying. Fortunately, there are steps that they can take to turn things around.
Contemporary research tells us that exercise and diet play very important roles in improving fertility. Exercise and what we put into our bodies directly affect our health and well-being, so it stands to reason that healthy habits are more likely to facilitate optimal fertility. In this article, we will explore this connection in a little more detail and provide some general advice on the lifestyle change you can make to help maximize your chances of becoming pregnant.
The role of diet
Intake of whole unprocessed foods containing fiber, healthy fats and protein is consistently found to be essential for optimizing the health of your microbiome (bacteria growing in the gastrointestinal system), reducing inflammation, and supporting your immune and hormonal system which ultimately leads to healthy ovulation and eggs in women and sperm in men. Healthy sperm and eggs make for stronger more viable embryos which in turn stand a greater chance of implantation and successful growth.
Researchers from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and Harvard Medical School also found that diets containing extra folic acid, B12, and omega-3 fatty acids had positive fertility outcomes. Conversely, diets leading to low-quality sperm and eggs are generally low in fruit and vegetables, high in sugar and unhealthy fats (found in fried foods) may reduce sperm quality and quantity.
The role of exercise
We have talked about the general health benefits of exercise. One factor we haven’t discussed is the role working out plays in boosting fertility.
The growing pool of peer-reviewed research into the impacts of exercise on male fertility and female fertility clearly points towards the positive influence moderate-to-regular exercise can have. Minimizing the amount of excess weight you carry helps balance hormones, improve insulin, and reduce stress, all of which positively influence fertility. Recent studies have also demonstrated that exercise can also improve IVF success rates as this study found in women who exercised regularly and reported pregnancy after receiving IVF treatment.
So, if a sustained effort to improve diet and exercise improve fertility, then what choices should you consider making if you are trying to conceive?
There many natural ways to improve fertility.
Exercise – an exercise routine of one hour or more a day of moderate to vigorous exercise.
- Note – the key here is not to overdo it. There is an emerging body of evidence that suggests that excessive vigorous exercise can indeed negatively impact fertility.
Diet-Do’s – where possible try to make sure your diet is inclusive of the items listed below. Again, the trick here is moderation and variety. Done right, this dietary change can be one you adopt for life. An example of a diet that incorporates all the groups below is the Mediterranean diet.
- Oily fish (like salmon or sardines for saturated fats)
- Essential proteins (avocado, chicken, fish, low-fat yogurt and milk, cottage cheese, tofu, eggs, beans) and,
- Low GI foods (most fruits, pulses, and root vegetables, leafy green vegetables, whole grains, and nuts)
Diet Don’ts – the science here (especially with relation to antioxidants like vitamin D, dairy products, soy and caffeine) is somewhat inconclusive as to their impacts on fertility. There is however very little counter-evidence with regards to trans-fat “unhealthy diets” (those “rich in red and processed meats, potatoes, sweets, and sweetened beverages”). Where possible, stay clear of the groups below:
- Carbonated drinks
- All alcohol, smoking or other drugs
- Simple carbohydrates and artificial sugars
- High GI foods (fast food, chocolate, sugary cereals, white bread, and other processed foods)
A note on the role of stress
Stress is known to have hormonal impacts which in turn can affect conception and (for those carrying the pregnancy) embryo implantation. Simply put, the less stress the better. If elements of your life are stressful, try making changes in those areas or (if you have time) take on healthy activities that help you wind down and relax.
The type of food and drink consumed, and the level and quality of exercise have clear impacts on general health, well-being……and fertility.
Your GP or Infertility Specialist (as part of a thorough fertility workup) will explore nutrition as a part of your fertility treatment plan, so making those diet and exercise changes now will be of great benefit.