Emily Rydbom, CN, HN, CNP
Quick Fertility Facts
Today in the United States, 20% of all heterosexual couples are unable to conceive within 1 year of trying to become pregnant (1).
Between 1940 and 1990 sperm counts worldwide dropped by 50% (2).
Endometriosis affects 10%-15% of menstruating women between the ages of 24-40 years and can cause infertility (3).
There is a reason why 2.3 million couples in the US seek traditional medical assistance with infertility every year (4).
The health of each of us, male or female, includes the ability to reproduce.
Fertility is not an either/or, black-and-white concept for men or women (5).” There is a balance of continuum for male and female. Both the health of the sperm and eggs are involved in the dance for new life. Therefore, learning how to optimize your fertility is paramount. There are some inevitable aspects of life like aging and stress that have an impact on your reproductive health. But, there is often one culprit lying in the catacomb of dysfunction—inflammation.
The onslaught of inflammatory exposure whether by choice or not, holds the key to your health. Inflammation takes many forms and to become anti-inflammatory, takes multiple steps. I wish it were as simple as eating an anti-inflammatory diet, but unless you are also managing your stress and recovering with sleep, you are only part of the way to balance. Anti-inflammatory nutrients (activates the decrease of inflammation) AND pro-resolution nutrients (promotes the resolution of inflammation) are part of your balancing process.
Even if you can’t do all of it, taking the steps towards improving your fertility health is more important than you might think. We now know that what the mother eats preconceptually and during pregnancy has the ability to decrease chronic disease risk of her child. Why is this so huge? Because if you impact your child’s health early, then they have less risk of being sick later. By optimizing your nutrition and lifestyle now, you have a generational health impact on your family. Know that you have about 3 months for an egg to fully mature before it’s ready for conception. 3 months of lifestyle change to impact the health of your baby’s life forever? Yes, please!
Now guys, before you think women are the only ones who impact baby’s health, know that your diet has a powerful influence on your offspring’s genes via sperm—a father eating a diet low in nutrients can create abnormalities in genes linked to development, neurological and physical disorders, and certain cancers (6). You are also predominately responsible for creating and maintaining the health of the placenta (7). That’s right. You create the house that your baby grows in for 9 months. So, the question is simple what type of house do you want your child to live in?
What CAN You Do
- Choose from anti-inflammatory and pro-resolution rich foods sources. The best dietary combination that fulfills both the initiation and resolution of inflammation is adequate intake of omega-3 fatty acids (fish, fish oil, walnuts, flaxseed) polyphenols (blue/purple berries, peppermint, cloves, rosemary, flaxseed, dark chocolate), and phytonutrient intake (colorful fruits and veggies), while restricting omega-6 fatty acids (processed, enriched, added sugar/sugar-free foods) and limiting grain sources of carbohydrates (8). We also think it’s important to add that there at 8 foods that account for 90% of all food allergies in the US 9. Avoid foods like milk, gluten, and soy as a way to jump-start your health and decrease your inflammatory response.
- Keep the HPG (hypothalamus, pituitary, and gondal) axis of your body in check. Let’s break that one down—the brain uses hormones to communicate as a way of regulating reproduction. Managing stress levels is essential in bringing balance to this hormone cascade. Stress levels of glucocorticoids can disrupt and suppress endocrine signaling in the HPG axis (10). Glucocorticoids are steroids that reduce inflammation throughout the body. A naturally occurring example of a GC is cortisol, which is made by your adrenal glands and acts as a main role player to regulate inflammation. But remember, too much of a natural thing, can still be too much. That’s why we focus on stress management to allow your adrenals to cool off after a long-day’s work.
- Include a healthy dose of movement in your day, around 30 minutes, 5-7 days a week. If you can get outside to do it, even better. You will connect with the energy that the sun, light, and air can give you.
- Include at least 20 minutes of meditative breathing, prayer, thought, space for yourself everyday.
- Focus on fermented foods potent in probiotics such as sauerkraut, kim chi, yogurt, and kefir.
- Sleep, sleep, and sleep. Restorative sleep is crucial to your health. If you can focus on being asleep and staying asleep from 11P-4A, then you are giving your body the best chance to detox through your liver and restore your cell health by morning.
- Eliminate what is not important. There is a never-ending list of reasons to not put your health and your health goals as a top-priority in your life. Know that you never have to do anything perfectly, just consistently. Your body knows how to create balance. We often time get in the way of its’ natural healing power with the lifestyle choices that we make.
Distill your life down to the fundamentals: your health, your family, and your vitality. If anything in your life does not fit within those parameters, reassess why it remains as a focus. The immense ability to that you have to heal is astounding. Connect your mind to your body, and let your brain know that you can do this.
Your mind is your highest power.
Have a Happy and Healthy Day,
- Balch, J. & Balch, P. Prescription for Nutritional Healing, 2nd ed. Garden City Park, New York, NY: Avery Publishing Group, 1997
- Colborn et al., Our Stolen Future. New York, NY: Penguin, 1996
- Pizzorno et al., Clinician’s Handbook of Natural Medicine, 2nd ed. St. Louis, MO: Churchill Livingstone, Elsevier, pg 227-232, 2008.
- Rosenthal, M., The Fertility Sourcebook, Lincolnwood, IL: Lowell House, 1998
- Bauman et al., Therapeutic Nutrition: Men and Women’s Health, Penngrove, CA: Bauman College of Holistic Nutrition, 2011
- Sharma U, Conine CC, Shea JM, et al. Biogenesis and function of tRNA fragments during sperm maturation and fertilization in mammals. Science. 2015.
- Chen Q, Yan M, Cao Z, et al. Sperm tsRNAs contribute to intergenerational inheritance of an acquired metabolic disorder. Science. 2015. & Wang X1, Miller DC, Harman R, Antczak DF, Clark AG. Paternally expressed genes predominate in the placenta. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2013 Jun 25;110(26):10705-10. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1308998110. Epub 2013 Jun 10.8/
- Ferrazzi, Sears, Eds., Metabolic Syndrome and Complications of Pregnancy, Switzerland: Springer International Publishing, 2015
- Food Allergy and Research Education, www.foodallergy.org, 2105
- Shannon Whirledge and John A. Cidlowski, Glucocorticoids, Stress, and Fertility. Minerva Endocrinol. 2010 Jun; 35(2): 109-125
Posted on Jan 15, 2016