Your diet, lifestyle and environment all directly affect your fertility and reproductive health. Couples should be aiming for optimal health through a nutritious well-balanced diet to ensure that there is an adequate supply of important nutrients vital for healthy sperm and eggs, and for hormone production. Any harmful substances that are known to affect reproductive health and compromise fertility should be removed from the diet and your surrounding environment to give you the best chance of conceiving and having a healthy pregnancy and baby.
Here are 10 important steps you can take to boost your fertility and reproductive health.
INCLUDE HEALTHY FATS IN YOUR DIET
Beneficial omega-3 fatty acids play a vital role in reproductive health and fertility. Omega-3 fats are needed for healthy sperm and eggs, hormone production and ovulation.
Omega-3 fatty acids cannot be synthesized in the body so they must be supplied through the diet or supplementation. The best sources of omega-3 fatty acids include wild oily fish (salmon, trout, sardines, krill). Chia and flax seeds, walnuts and dark green leafy vegetables are also good plant-based sources of these healthy fats. A good quality fish oil supplement is also recommended at a dose of 2g daily to ensure your levels are optimal.
Seafood containing high levels of mercury such as shark (flake often served in fish and chip shops), swordfish, king mackerel, broadbill, marlin, barramundi, gemfish and orange roughy should be avoided or only eaten occasionally.
LIMIT YOUR ALCOHOL CONSUMPTION
Excessive alcohol consumption will affect your reproductive health and fertility by reducing the absorption and utilization of important nutrients. Excessive alcohol disrupts metabolism of essential fatty acids (omega-3’s), which can lead to a deficiency. The gut mucosa is also affected by drinking too much alcohol, reducing the absorption of much needed nutrients such as B vitamins which are needed for the formation of sex hormones. Urinary excretion of nutrients essential for proper fertility like zinc, magnesium, calcium, chromium and vitamin C, are also increased by excessive alcohol consumption. It is also just as important for males to abstain from drinking too much. Excessive alcohol consumption directly affects male reproductive health and fertility by reducing spermatogenesis (the formation of sperm). Try switching to kombucha on ice instead, which has probiotic goodness that benefits gut health.
SWITCH TO A WHOLEFOOD DIET
A good balance and supply of vitamins and minerals are needed for healthy reproductive function, improved fertility. The majority of your diet should be made up of fresh, wholesome, unprocessed foods that are rich in vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and fibre.
Processed and refined foods should be kept to a minimum as they commonly contain high levels of sugar, salt and trans or saturated fats. Processed foods can also contain many different artificial additives such as colours, flavours, preservatives and artificial sweeteners. Processed foods are usually low in fibre and void of important nutrients.
UP YOUR ZINC INTAKE
Zinc is one of the most important nutrients needed for hormonal health and fertility in men and women. It also acts as an antioxidant protecting sperm and eggs from free radical damage. A zinc deficiency can cause fertility problems, chromosomal abnormalities and lowered testosterone levels in males. Zinc is important for males to produce healthy, well-formed sperm.
Supplementation is recommended if you are low in zinc at a dosage of around 40mg/day. Make sure you always take zinc with food or you can feel nauseous. It’s also important to eat zinc rich foods like legumes, wholegrains, sunflower and pumpkin seeds, brewer’s yeast. Grass fed lean meat, organic chicken and eggs (yolk), and organic dairy foods are also great sources of zinc.
BOOST YOUR DAILY ANTIOXIDANTS
Including a variety of antioxidant rich foods in our diet is one of the best ways to optimize our health and prevent cell damage including damage to your DNA, eggs and sperm. Various environmental and dietary factors can increase the presence of destructive free radicals in the body. These include over exposure to sunlight, environmental pollutants like exhaust fumes, cigarette smoke, stress, and eating a typical Western diet rich in processed, sugary and deep fried foods.
You can help reduce your free radical load by choosing to buy organic foods and skin products, avoid using chemical household cleaning products, and looking at ways to reduce and manage your stress through regular exercise, yoga and meditation. The best way however to fight free radicals is by eating a wholesome diet rich in colourful fresh fruits and vegetables that are abundant in a variety of protective antioxidant compounds.
Some of our most potent antioxidant nutrients supplied through the diet include carotenoids (beta-carotene, lutein, zeaxanthin), resveratrol, vitamin A, C and E, lycopene, selenium, flavanoids, querceitn, glutathione and astaxanthin. You will find these antioxidants in super foods like broccoli sprouts, berries (the darker the better), wild salmon, raw cacao, avocado, grapefruit, citrus fruits, pomegranate, purple and red grapes, tomato, brazil nuts, turmeric, kale and other brassica veggies.
Green tea is rich in polyphenols, namely catechins and epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG), which are powerful antioxidants. Drinking 3 cups of our Bodhi Organic ViridiTEA green tea daily is a great way to up your antioxidant intake.
INCREASE IODINE RICH FOODS
Adequate iodine intake is essential for healthy thyroid function and optimal reproductive health. Good thyroid function is especially important for female fertility. Suboptimal function can cause menstrual irregularities and failure to ovulate. The thyroid gland is also needed to regulate the body’s metabolism, for energy production, weight maintenance and balance of other hormones.
Foods that are rich in iodine include sea vegetables such as arame, dulse, kelp, nori, wakame and kombu.
BOOST YOUR VITAMIN C
Vitamin C is another necessary vitamin needed for healthy reproductive function and fertility. It is required for the production of reproductive hormones, it helps promote ovulation and prevents sperm agglutination (clumping together). Vitamin C acts as a powerful antioxidant that protects the body against free radical damage. Vitamin C plays a critical role in protecting sperms genetic material (DNA) from damage.
Include plenty of vitamin C-rich foods in the diet such as fresh fruits (especially citrus fruits, berries, black currents, pineapple, papaya, mango, kiwi), vegetables (broccoli, peppers, and raw cabbage).
DE-STRESS YOUR LIFE
Being stressed for a prolonged period of time can negatively affect your general health and reproductive function. Being under a lot of stress can reduce your chances of conceiving in a number of ways. Stress can effect sexual performance, disrupt hormonal activity, cause irregular menstrual cycles, absence of period or absence of ovulation. Any disruption to the menstrual cycle and delayed ovulation can cause fertility problems and result in difficulty conceiving.
Some helpful methods of ‘de-stressing’ include yoga, exercise, meditation and massage. Useful nutrients and herbs that help to calm and restore nervous system function include B vitamins, magnesium, chamomile, valerian, lemon balm, lemon verbena, withania, rhodiola and passionflower. You will find these calming botanicals in our Bodhi Organic VitaliTEA, SereniTEA and TranquiliTEA.
By choosing to eat organic food you can have peace of mind that you won’t be consuming any toxic pesticide or herbicide residues, hormones, antibiotics or genetically modified ingredients that could be potentially harmful to your health and reduce your fertility.
If you buy commercially grown produce make sure you wash them well, peel off their skins, and wash grains well and cook them in fresh water. Always try to buy your chicken, eggs and dairy products organic, and choose wild fish and grass fed meats when you can.
Herbs and the tea plant absorb pesticides and herbicides readily so always look for certified organic teas and herbal tisanes. You don’t want these toxic chemicals ruining your healthy brew.
Avoid plastic chemicals that mimic oestrogen in the body that can cause hormonal disruption and can contribute to reproductive and fertility problems. Avoid using plastic water bottles and use glass, stainless steel or BPA-free bottles. Try our Bodhi ECO glass tea flasks and Bodhi ECO stainless steel flask. Do not store and heat food in plastic containers or in plastic wraps. Use glass, ceramic and stainless steel containers and wax wraps for your food.
Written by Lisa Guy, naturopath and founder of Bodhi Organic Tea.