Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Nutrition-Related Fertility Busters

Imagine my surprise when my husband approaches me at the book store with a book titled, "What Your Doctor May Not Tell You About Getting Pregnant." Whoa, charlie! What's going on?!

"Uhhh..." I said, looking at him to crack a smile or something. I feel my cheeks redden. He is deadpan.

"I was looking in the nutrition and health section and for some reason this book jumped out at me. Have you thought about looking into how nutrition relates to fertility, for, uh, your blog?" he says quickly, noting my looking around.

Okay, so that's it? A new topic related to nutrition? I can breathe now.

I sat down with a pile of books to look at and started by looking through this one. I know we're all adults, here, but I couldn't help but feel embarrassed by the book topic. I made sure the book cover was firmly pressed against my lap.

I flipped through and immediately found a lot of great information. I dug through my bag for my little black notepad. I would have to take notes. I already had a "to buy" pile of books that was falling off the arm of my chair, so I would have to take some notes from this book instead of buying it.

If you or your partner are interested in getting pregnant, and wonder what nutritional factors are related to being successful or not in this endeavor, read on. Personally, I have not given this topic much thought, but once I learned that refined sugars may have something to do with fertility, I couldn't help but be interested. I know too many people who are having fertility issues.

I hope the following helps inspire you to eat healthier and do more research of your own:

"Simple sugars and refined starches deteriorate health and create the following negative effects:

  • Hormone imbalance. That energy 'rush' from a candy bar or glazed doughnut lasts all of 15 minutes to half an hour. It comes from a sharp rise in your blood sugar levels, but that 'high' soon switches direction and plummets downward, leaving you drained and exhausted....You are in a state of emergency because your adrenal glands are secreting extra cortisol--the so-called flight or fight hormone--in an attempt to replenish your system's sugar levels because sugar is essential fuel for every body system. Over time, too much cortisol stimulated by chronic low blood sugar levels weakens your adrenal glands to the point where they produce lower levels of sex hormones. This can lead to hormone imbalance that impacts fertility.
  • B vitamin deficiency. Manufacturing excess cortisol eventually uses up nutrients needed for proper hormone balance and fertility. These include the B vitamins, especially B6 and magnesium. Vitamin B deficiency may make you vulnerable to some harmful affects of stress, another fertility buster.
  • Overly high insulin levels. In order to get all this sugar out of the blood and into cells, where it's converted into energy, the pancreas has to keep secreting insulin. Excess insulin secretion eventually causes insulin resistance, which is known to be associated with infertility.
  • Compromised immune response. Some research shows that just a single teaspoon of sugar can reduce immunity for up to four hours.
Your best bet is to avoid sugar.... altogether. Satisfy your sweet tooth with plenty of fruits. For example, treat yourself to a fruit smoothie by blending fresh fruit and ice cubes. Maple syrup in small amounts is okay, especially in cooking. Stevia, a South American plant with even more concentrated sweetening power than sugar, does not affect your blood sugar levels."

Source: "What Your Doctor May Not Tell You About Getting Pregnant," by Raymond Chang, M.D. & Elena Oumano, PhD., pgs. 167-169

Other resources for additional information/medical advice on fertility:
American Board of Holistic Medicine
National Infertility Association
National Institutes of Health


anastasia_wolf said...

HAHAHAA! Not quite ready for kiddies? I was lucky, although I had a serious sugar addiction I had no problems getting pregnant. I do wonder about my excessive consumption of sugar during pregnancy and my daughters' teeth... there's another link for you to look up, the effect of sugar on teeth (not the normal bacteria theory, but the theory about sugar leeching calcium from teeth and bones).

My Year Without said...

What an interesting theory you propose: that consuming large amounts of sugar while pregnant might affect the teeth and bones of the fetus?

That is definitely worth checking into. Thanks for the thought!

Hanlie said...

LOL! Fertility is life-long state of mind, so even though you're not quite ready, it's not a bad idea to get your body in tip-top condition... I'm convinced that most fertility problems can be healed with excellent nutrition, and eliminating added sugars is the ideal place to start.

anastasia_wolf said...

I'm wondering if so! My firstborn has rather crappy teeth, even though she had no sugar at all in the first 2+ years of her life (trying to remember the first time I gave her something with sugar in it, it was definitely after 2 - oh barring a teeny amount in her first birthday cake's icing argh). She doesn't drink juice, or softdrink, and her sugar consumption is only marginally higher than mine (and remember I've cut it out except in sauces etc which I rarely have). We clean her teeth daily (sometimes under protest :( ) and her diet is good. I was at a loss and then I read something about refined sugar leeching calcium from bones, and since the teeth are unimportant in the body's hierarchy they are the first to suffer. Given that I myself have weak enamel it would make sense that a genetic predisposition to weaker enamel combined with a high sugar diet while forming in utero may have damaged her teeth before birth. Horrible thought though. You may have to look up some alternative sources though as the bacterial theory of tooth decay is definitely the dominant one.