Choosing the right food to eat can boost the health of your reproductive system and increase your chances of conceiving and maintaining a healthy pregnancy. One recent study found that women store omega-3 fatty acids in the fat tissue of their hips and thighs that a fetus depends on while developing in utero.
So long before you become pregnant, your diet is crucial for creating an optimal environment for a baby. Since your body can’t manufacture omega-3’s on its own, those nutrients have to come from the food that you eat. Another recent study found that curcumin, the active ingredient in the spice turmeric, is a powerful anti-inflammatory. Inflammation can compromise the genetic material of your eggs, so consuming turmeric in your diet can protect this genetic material, increase blood flow to the ovaries, thus keeping them healthier, and improve the chances of conceiving and of maintaining a healthy pregnancy.
Food choices are crucial not only for women trying to conceive naturally. Brand-new research has found that what a woman eats and drinks can also affect their success with infertility treatments such as IVF. In one Harvard study, researchers found that women having IVF who consumed the most saturated fats (primarily found in animal sources such as red meat) had fewer mature oocytes (cells that form eggs), which reduced their likelihood of successful infertility treatment. Meanwhile, women with the highest intake of monounsaturated fats (found in foods such as nuts, seeds, avocados, vegetable oils and nut butter) were about three and a half times more likely to have a live birth than women who consumed the least. Another study, in Denmark, found that drinking more than five cups of coffee per day reduced women’s chances of becoming pregnant with IVF treatment by about 50% compared with women who didn’t drink any coffee at all. This doesn’t surprise me, since excess caffeine can alter blood sugar, overstimulate the adrenals, and affect elimination, all which disrupt your hormonal balance.
There’s another key reason why food matters for your fertility: Stress.
The hypothalamus and pituitary gland must receive the all-clear message from your adrenals that there’s no threat to your well-being. However, if you’re eating a nutrient-deprived diet, your adrenals register this as a form of internal stress, and this response can signal to the brain that this might not be an ideal time for pregnancy for you or baby. Here’s how. When stress is high, your cortisol levels rise and the production of the hormone DHEA – a hormone from which many other hormones, including progesterone and oestrogen, are created – drops. In effect, then internal stress prevents the optimal hormonal environment for conceiving and maintaining a pregnancy.
Your body requires a complex variety of nutrients to function optimally. When it’s not getting enough of these nutrients or it’s receiving too many harmful ones (such as saturated fats and refined carbohydrates), this is stressful for your body. On top of that, when your organs are busy prioritising flushing these toxins from your system, they don’t prioritise working towards helping you become pregnant. The good news, however, is that while there are very few external stressors you can control (such as crazy deadlines and horrific bosses) you can limit internal stress by eating a high-quality diet (which in turn helps to mitigate the potential damage from external stress).