Many couples in the world struggle with fertility issues. While some opt for In-Vitro Fertilisation, commonly called IVF, others adopt. But what if someone told these couples that their diet and lifestyle could be the reason that they were not able to conceive? Apparently, that is a possibility and looks like there is a solution to it as well. At least that is what dietitian Jaime Rose Chambers believes and she has a baby bump to prove her point.
Jaime and her husband had been trying to conceive for almost three years, but things weren't really going according to plan. While she knew she had issues like endometriosis and polycystic ovarian syndrome, she believed that they could have a family some day. That was when she came across fertility diet guidelines from Harvard University.
"It showed that a certain diet and lifestyle factors could help infertility associated with one of the most common causes: problems with ovulation," Jaime wrote on MyBody+Soul Australia. While she found that stress and over-exercising could have an adverse affect on her hormones, the sperm quality of men could also be hit by diet and lifestyle.
"So, once we returned from holidays, I really ramped up our eating at home to be more fertility-specific. I made sure we were very diligent in reducing our alcohol and red meat intake and ditched any fried foods and processed meats," she explained. "I made sure to use beautiful extra virgin olive oil in our meals and used only wholegrains and whole milk products."
The couple also regularly took multivitamins and made sure that their intake of fresh fruit and vegetables was adequate.
"I pulled back to just one precious coffee per day. Sugary drinks were completely out too so the occasional gin and tonic was out. I also went from doing very high intensity physical exercise to lower impact long walks and light jogs," the 35-year-old mother-to-be added.
All the discipline and efforts paid off a few months later when Jaime found out that she was pregnant. She is 30-weeks pregnant now and believes that the dietary and lifestyle changes really did help her with it.
"If you are planning to start a family or if you have been trying for some time, the simplest, no-brainer first step to take is to do an audit of your diet and of your lifestyle and make the recommended changes. You might just find that's all that it takes for you to fall pregnant," she noted.
The fertility diet, which was researched by scholars at Harvard University, was published in May 2009. The recommendations were also published as a book -- The Fertility Diet.
The study was conducted for over eight years and involved 18,000 women. While the study clearly says that the diet and lifestyle changes do not guarantee pregnancy, it explains "it's virtually free, available to everyone, has no side effects, sets the stage for a healthy pregnancy, and forms the foundation of a healthy eating strategy for motherhood and beyond."
Here are the dietary and lifestyle changes that the research recommends:
- Avoid trans fats. These artery-clogging fats threaten fertility as well harm the heart and blood vessels. Go trans free.
- Use more unsaturated vegetable oils. Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats help improve the body's sensitivity to insulin and cool inflammation, two trends that are good for fertility. Add in more vegetable oils, nuts, seeds, and cold water fish such as salmon and sardines. Cut back on saturated fat.
- Turn to vegetable protein. Replacing a serving of meat each day with beans, peas, soybeans or tofu, or nuts can improve fertility.
- Choose slow carbs, not no carbs. Choosing slowly digested carbohydrates that are rich in fiber, like whole grains, vegetables, whole fruits, and beans, instead of rapidly digested carbs can improve fertility by controlling blood sugar and insulin levels.
- Make it whole milk. Skim milk appears to promote infertility. If you drink milk, choose whole milk while trying to get pregnant, or have a small dish of ice cream or full-fat yogurt every day.
- Take a multi-vitamin. Getting extra folic acid (400 micrograms a day) before you get pregnant could actually help you start eating for two.
- Get plenty of iron from plants. Extra iron from plants, including whole-grain cereals, spinach, beans, pumpkin, tomatoes, and beets, appears to promote fertility.
- Drink to your health. The best beverage for keeping your body hydrated is water. Coffee, tea, and alcohol are okay in moderation. But skip sugared sodas—they appear to promote ovulatory infertility.
- Head toward the fertility zone for weight. Weighing too much or too little can interrupt normal menstrual cycles, throw off ovulation or stop it altogether. The best range for fertility is a body-mass index (BMI) of 20 to 24. Working to move your BMI in that direction by gaining or losing some weight is almost as good.
- Move to the fertility zone for activity. If you don't get much physical activity and are above the fertility zone for weight, daily exercise can help improve fertility. But don't overdo it: too much exercise, especially if you are quite lean, can interfere with ovulation.