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FertilityFor YouNutrition

Food Swaps for Fertility

By September 3, 2021September 5th, 2021No Comments
Food Swaps for Fertility

We all know that a balanced and nutritious diet is key to supporting our reproductive health and chances of conception. But, with so much information and advice out there, some of it contradictory, it can be hard to know where to begin. We’ve drawn up a list of simple food swaps that can be easily introduced to bring real improvements in your reproductive health by promoting egg and sperm quality.

Swap BREAKFAST CEREAL for EGGS

Far from being the healthy start to the day that the cereal companies suggest, breakfast cereals are mostly composed of refined grains and sugar, even those high fibre ones that appear healthy. These cereals can cause blood sugar levels to spike, leading to high blood glucose and insulin levels. The research tells us that consistent exposure to high blood glucose and insulin levels can have a negative impact on both sperm and egg quality. On the other hand, eggs provide a nutritional powerhouse of vitamins, minerals and protein to start your day. A protein-rich breakfast will ensure you start the day with stable blood glucose and insulin levels. Eggs contain a number of nutrients that are essential for reproductive health, such as the amino acid cysteine, which the body uses to make the antioxidant glutathione. Antioxidants like glutathione plays a key role in protecting egg and sperm cells from damage, thereby ensuring egg and sperm quality.

Swap COFFEE for SPICED HERBAL TEAS

We’re not saying that you need to cut out coffee completely, but excessive caffeine intake has been linked with some negative outcomes in female reproductive health including miscarriage and low birth weight babies. Too much caffeine can deplete levels of folate, one of the most important nutrients for our reproductive health. Folate plays an essential role in DNA production in our bodies and, therefore, improves the quality of DNA within egg and sperm cells. Try limiting coffee intake to 2 cups a day and why not replace your usual cups of coffee with spiced herbal teas such as turmeric or cinnamon tea. Not only are they caffeine free but the spices in the tea are a great source of antioxidants that help the body produce healthy egg and sperm cells. Eating a diet that is rich in antioxidants one of the most important changes we can make to improve egg and sperm quality.

Swap SOFT DRINKS & DIET SOFT DRINKS for WATER

Fizzy soft drinks are directly damaging to fertility: studies how that women who consumed one soft drink daily had a 25% lower chance of conceiving, while men who drank one soft drink a day had a 33% reduced chance of conceiving. Diet soft drinks might seem like a better choice: they contain negligible calories so seem pretty harmless, and if you’re trying to lose weight to support your chances of conceiving, chances are that you’ve already swapped to diet soft drinks. However, the artificial sweeteners in diet soft drinks have been associated with lower egg and embryo quality in women trying to conceive. Regular consumption of diet soft drinks has been shown to negatively impact the gut microbiome, which we now understand plays a key role in supporting our reproductive health. To replace these drinks you can’t go wrong with filtered water or mineral water from a glass bottle to hydrate the body. If you find plain water boring, why not add slices of citrus fruits, cucumber or even a handful of berries to your water to make it a bit more interesting.

Swap POTATO CRISP for NUTS

When reaching for a snack between meals the choices we make can either tip the balance of our diet in a positive or negative direction. Potato crisps are a carbohydrate based snack that doesn’t provide much in the way of nutrition – so grabbing a bag of potato crisps will give you a substantial calorie hit without any nutrients to show for it – what we call empty calories. Nuts on the other hand are a rich source of trace minerals and vitamins, in fact a number of studies have shown that men consuming a handful of nuts daily (especially hazelnuts, almonds and walnuts) for 14 weeks had improved sperm motility and morphology.

Swap CHOCOLATE BARS for PROPER DARK CHOCOLATE

It may seem strange to suggest that chocolate might be a health food, but proper good quality chocolate has real health benefits. Cocoa is a bean after all, and proper chocolate with at least a 75% cocoa content contains around half the sugar of a generic chocolate bar. On top of all that, dark chocolate is one of the most concentrated sources of those all important dietary antioxidants that promote egg and sperm quality.

Swap SUGARY TREATS for FRESH FRUIT

Sugar is bad news for our reproductive health, and if you’re trying to improve your fertility it’s crucially important to reduce sugar consumption. Therefore sugary treats should be just that, treats and we should avoid indulging on a daily basis. Sugar consumption leads to high blood sugar and high insulin levels and these imbalances have been shown to negatively impact sperm and egg quality. So keep sweet treats to a maximum of 2 times a week and instead replace those treats with some antioxidant rich fresh fruits such as berries, watermelon, kiwi fruit and cherries.

Swap WHITE POTATOES for SWEET POTATOES

Sweet potatoes definitely pack a much more significant nutritional punch compared to white potatoes. Sweet potatoes are higher in the antioxidant nutrient beta carotene, thanks to their orange colour, and are higher in fibre while also having a lower impact on blood sugar levels. Swapping from white to sweet potatoes is an easy way to increase our antioxidant intake while also looking after our blood sugar health. A large body of research has consistently shown that high blood sugar levels can negatively impact male and female fertility, so choosing foods that have a lower impact on blood sugar levels is a key way to support fertility.

Swap DAIRY ALTERNATIVES for REAL DAIRY PRODUCTS

No I haven’t got that the wrong way around! Unless you are lactose intolerant or have an allergy to dairy products, cutting dairy products out of your diet completely is not necessarily going to improve your reproductive health. In fact eliminating dairy products significantly reduces dietary intake of the mineral iodine, which plays an important role in supporting female fertility and is crucially important in pregnancy. In fact good quality organic dairy products and fermented dairy products such as natural yoghurt, kefir and unpasteurised cheese can have real benefits in supporting and helping to maintain a healthy gut microbiome. Focusing on good gut health may appear odd as a way to improve fertility, however, we now know that the good bacteria that populate our guts can restore balance to the rest of the body. The health benefits of a healthy gut microbiome include promoting nutrient absorption, supporting hormone balance and reducing inflammation, all factors that can impact male and female reproductive health.

 

 

 

 

REFERENCES

Agarwal A, Aponte-Mellado A, Premkumar BJ, Shaman A, Gupta S. The effects of oxidative stress on female reproduction: a review. Reprod Biol Endocrinol. 2012 Jun 29;10:49. doi: 10.1186/1477-7827-10-49

Rodríguez-Varela C, Labarta E. Clinical Application of Antioxidants to Improve Human Oocyte Mitochondrial Function: A Review. Antioxidants (Basel). 2020 Nov 28;9(12):1197

Suliga E, Głuszek S. The relationship between diet, energy balance and fertility in men. Int J Vitam Nutr Res. 2020 Oct;90(5-6):514-526.

Otake M, Sakurai K, Watanabe M, Mori C. Association Between Serum Folate Levels and Caffeinated Beverage Consumption in Pregnant Women in Chiba: The Japan Environment and Children’s Study. J Epidemiol. 2018;28(10):414-419.

Salas-Huetos A, James ER, Salas-Salvadó; J, Bulló; M, Aston KI, Carrell D, and Jenkins TG. Sperm DNA methylation changes after short-term nut supplementation in healthy men consuming a Western-style diet. Andrology, 2020;

Slater A, (2016, 24 10) Artificial sweeteners may reduce fertility BioNews https://www.bionews.org.uk/page_95747

Hatch, Elizabeth E.a; Wesselink, Amelia K.a; Hahn, Kristen A.a; Michiel, James J.a; Mikkelsen, Ellen M.b; Sorensen, Henrik Toftb; Rothman, Kenneth J.a,c; Wise, Lauren A.a Intake of Sugar-sweetened Beverages and Fecundability in a North American Preconception Cohort, Epidemiology: May 2018 – Volume 29 – Issue 3 – p 369-378

Niels Henrik I. Hjollund, Tina Kold Jensen, Jens Peter E. Bonde, Tine Brink Henriksen, Anna-Maria Andersson, Niels Erik Skakkebæk, Is glycosylated haemoglobin a marker of fertility? A follow-up study of first-pregnancy planners , Human Reproduction, Volume 14, Issue 6, June 1999, Pages 1478–1482,

Chemlal H, Bensalem S, Bendiab K, Azzar M, Benberkane A, Lalaoui K, Iguer-Ouada M, Bournine L. High HbA1c levels affect motility parameters and overexpress oxidative stress of human mature spermatozoa. Andrologia. 2021 Feb;53(1)

Kuehn B. Iodine Deficiency May Impair Fertility. JAMA. 2018 Feb 27;319(8):760.

Tomaiuolo R, Veneruso I, Cariati F, D’Argenio V. Microbiota and Human Reproduction: The Case of Female Infertility. High Throughput. 2020;9(2):12.

Sirota I, Zarek SM, Segars JH. Potential influence of the microbiome on infertility and assisted reproductive technology. Semin Reprod Med. 2014;32(1):35-42.

Qi X, Yun C, Pang Y, Qiao J. The impact of the gut microbiota on the reproductive and metabolic endocrine system. Gut Microbes. 2021;13(1):1-21. doi:10.1080/19490976.2021.1894070

He FF, Li YM. Role of gut microbiota in the development of insulin resistance and the mechanism underlying polycystic ovary syndrome: a review. J Ovarian Res. 2020 Jun 17;13(1):73.

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Amy Martin

Marketing Director

Amy is a high achieving individual with a number of marketing awards under her belt, including Young Digital Business Person of the Year 2019. She is a big believer in digital marketing and an expert in executing personalised targeted campaigns. Amy strives to learn from data and campaigns that show return on investment.

Robert Gordon

Managing Director, Gordons Chemists

 

Robert Gordon, director at Gordons Chemist's. Gordons Chemists is a chain of more than 60 pharmacies, located in NI and Scotland. Gordons Chemists is Northern Ireland's largest independent pharmacy chain.

Dr. Debbie Collins

MBBchBAO MRCGP

 

Dr. Debbie Collins MBBchBAO MRCGP, a practicing GP and partner in Belfast. She has a passion for patient education and advocacy. Her special interests are Women's Health and Fertility

Sarah Trimble

Nutritional Therapist

 

Sarah Trimble - a nutritional therapist with a passion for good food instead of fad diets. Sarah has a particular Interest in using the power of nutrition to support hormonal imbalances and reproductive health.

Barbara Scott

Director, Seren Natural Fertility
Chair, Association of Reproductive Reflexologists

 

Barbara Scott is Chair of The Association of Reproductive Reflexologists, founder of Seren Natural Fertility and author of Reflexology for Fertility. In 2017, she was awarded ‘Complementary Therapist of the Year’ by the Federation of Holistic Therapists and has been nominated for several awards within the field of complementary therapy. In 2019 she was awarded the Innovation in Reflexology Award by the Association of Reflexologists.

Barbara speaks and lectures globally on her integrative approach to supporting couples having difficulties conceiving. She has spoken at many of the Fertility Shows and Fertility Fest. Alongside her own busy clinics, she also trains practitioners in providing this integrative, approach to fertility and reproductive healthcare and well-being. The ARR (Association of Reproductive Reflexologists) has trained practitioners globally, from Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Europe, and most areas of the UK.

Her expertise and passion is in advocating a patient-centred and integrative approach to supporting both men and women on their journey to parenthood.

Cindy Charles

Fertility coach and Founder of Fertilelife

 

Cindy Charles- Fertility coach and Founder of Fertilelife. Cindy is a committed advocate of social and personal development. Her own life experiences inspired her fertility support services. Cindy has worked with the Fertility Network UK, and has had the privilege to work as a resident Fertility Coach for the London Women's Clinic on Harley Street. Cindy believes in the importance of nurturing our own fertility.

Dr. Lyuda Shkrobot

MD, MSc Gynecologist, Fertility specialist at unq.life fertility clinic

 

Dr Lyuda has a special interest in reproductive immunology. Dr Shkrobot assisted in establishing the first European Donor Egg programme at Sims, coordinating and liaising with Intersono Clinic in Ukraine Advisors. She is passionate about patient-centred, results-driven care.

Lisa Corcoran

Business Development Executive

 

Lisa has 15 years of commercial business experience. She has proven her capabilities in Investment Property Sales and, Management & Business Development for Technology companies that have provided her with an understanding of different customer needs across several sectors. Lisa appreciates the value of customer education and relationship building in long-lasting partnerships.

Aoibheann Murphy

Chief Financial Officer

 

Having trained with PWC, Aoibheann qualified as a Chartered Accountant in 1997. She subsequently spent eight years working in industry, gaining invaluable experience in many areas In 2005 Aoibheann became MD of Pangur Consulting, providing professional expertise to a broad client base. She is looking forward to the new challenge of Nua Fertility.
 

Share a little about yourself—the things we wouldn’t learn from simply reading your professional bio.

 

What was your journey to parenthood like?

Right craic!
 

Do you prefer podcasts or books? And of the one that you prefer, what is a show or title that you recommend?

I love sport…any sport…and the outdoors. Living in the Barrow valley I get to enjoy swimming and kayaking in the Barrow and exploring the Blackstairs mountains. Since I hung up my soccer boots (the body just couldn’t take it anymore!), I’ve been cycling with my lovely friends in Mount Leinster Wheelers and was chuffed to have completed the Ironman 70.3 triathlon event in Dublin in 2019!
I’m an avid reader…books beat podcasts hands down!...although recently I’ve dabbled with audio books through the library app Borrow Box. “A Little Life” left its mark on me. A harrowing story, definitely not for the faint hearted.
 

If there was just one thing you could impart on women on their journey to parenthood, what would it be?

Don’t be consumed by the roles in your life – parent, partner, employee etc. Parenthood, be it getting there or going through it, will have its tough times. Cherishing yourself as an individual and making time for yourself can help you through those times….it’s good to be a bit selfish!!

Mark Mullins

Director of Sales

 

What was your journey to parenthood like?

To be honest it was very difficult. At the beginning we thought that when we decided that we wanted to start a family Deborah would fall pregnant shortly afterwards like many of her friends. As time went by, we started to suspect something was wrong. After initial tests we found out that I had a low sperm count which meant that we would have to go down the assisted pregnancy route. This took me several months to get my head around as I blamed myself for this. All I wanted was my wife to be able to go through the pregnancy journey. We couldn’t wait to become parents. There were many long and painful nights where I thought this would never happen for us. After several failed attempts we decided to look at further ways of improving our chances. This led us to look at fertility supplements, our diet, exercise. I will never forget when that morning during our Two Week Wait when Deborah woke me up at 5 a.m. to show me those two lines, we had both been yearning for! We are blessed to now have our beautiful daughter.
 

On challenging days, what kept you going? Where did you find inspiration?

My wife was my inspiration. She kept me going through those challenging months and years. She was there to help me deal with everything. The guilt I felt when I saw her having to go through everything.
 

What is your ideal was to relax and unwind?

My latest passion is cooking on my BBQ. I find it so peaceful and I just switch off. It just gives me a bit of alone time which everyone needs.
 

If there was just one thing you could impart on men as they begin trying to become parents, what would it be?

I would highly recommend communicating with friends and family. A problem shared is a problem halved. Failing that there are some really good private Facebook groups for men suffering from infertility. I found this great support through the good and especially the bad times.

Deborah Brock

Founder & CEO of Nua Fertility

 

Deborah has a personal passion for fertility health, supporting people and communities. With over 15 years experience of working in the Non profit and Education sector, I have had the honour of working together with people and communities focusing on their strengths, capacities and assets. With extensive senior management, project management and creative programme development experience.

How did your experience with fertility inspire you to help start Nua Fertility?

My own personal fertility journey opened my eyes to the world of fertility health. Trying for a baby is one of the most exciting yet vulnerable times in your life. It took myself and my husband over three years and the helping hand of science to become a mum.  I have always worked with people and communities and felt my vision for Nua Fertility could genuinely support others who have fertility challenges.

Share a little about yourself—the things we wouldn’t learn from simply reading your professional bio.

I'm am curious person and love all things research. My ideal evening would be reading and exploring scientific journals! I like to think I am a little bit creative and I LOVE paint by numbers! Its probably the only time I slow down, I become immersed in the painting and think of nothing else.

What do you want to tell someone trying to conceive or already pregnant?

Educate yourself! Knowledge is power. The more you inform yourself about your fertility health the more you are empowering yourself with knowledge. Own your journey and take control over your own fertility health.

What’s something you wish someone told you while trying to conceive?

Open up and talk with friends and family. I was surrounded by amazing friends and family but I never opened up. When your struggling to conceive, a non-judgemental ear to listen or a shoulder to cry on is so powerful.