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FertilityFor YouMale Fertility

How Diet and Lifestyle can protect your Future Fertility

By November 5, 2021No Comments

So much of the conversation of how to support fertility focuses on those people who are currently trying to conceive, those people who want a baby now. But what if you know that you want a family in the future just not right now, how can the diet and lifestyle choices that you make today protect your future fertility and improve your chances of conceiving in the future.

Future Female Fertility

Women can protect their future fertility by focusing on two main areas of our reproductive health: our ovarian reserve and hormone balance. The term ovarian reserve refers to the number of eggs left in a woman’s two ovaries and it is a strong influencer of fertility and chances of getting pregnant. We are born with all the eggs we will ever need and this number naturally declines as we get older, but good nutrition and lifestyle practices can help to reduce the speed of the decline in your ovarian reserve and therefore support your chances of getting pregnant later in life.

Focusing on having good hormone balance will not only support a regular menstrual cycle (an important factor in female fertility) it will also protect the reproductive organs and  keep them healthy.

How can diet and lifestyle choices protect ovarian reserve

Our ovarian reserve is going to diminish as we get older, that’s a fact, but we also know that our age is not the only factor that influences ovarian reserve, our diet and lifestyles can also positively or negatively influence how quickly our ovarian reserve declines, so therefore dietary choices today can really impact our chances of getting pregnant in the future. The research tells us that diet can impact ovarian reserve in a number of ways:

It’s all about the antioxidants – Antioxidants are nutrients and chemicals that occur naturally in fruits and vegetables, often providing that plant food with the pigments that give it colour. Antioxidants protect our cells from damage and ageing and therefore they can help protect our ovarian reserve. Ensuring our diet is rich in antioxidants is crucial in protecting ovarian reserve and the research tells us that we should focus on consuming a number of specific antioxidants:

Resveratrol –  reserveratrol is commonly found in red grapes, so this antioxidant is the reason drinking red wine is associated with so many health benefits. It can also be found in peanuts, pistachios, blueberries and dark chocolate. If you are going to choose red wine as your source of resveratrol avoid drinking a bottle of red in one sitting as binge drinking will negate any of the antioxidant benefits in the red wine.

Quercetin – found in onions, apples, capers and green tea. Quercetin is a powerful antioxidant and possibly the reason why an apple a day protects our health.

Curcumin – curcumin gives the spice turmeric its vibrant yellow colour. Try and consume meals made with turmeric on a regular basis, even if you aren’t making a curry why not toss your vegetables with some turmeric before roasting or add a teaspoon to cooking water when boiling rice or potatoes.

Proanthocyanidin – this antioxidant give fruits and vegetables their purple, blue or red colour so you’ll find them in berries, pomegranates and red wine. Fresh berries can be expensive so opt for frozen berries, while vegetables such as red onion, red cabbage and even black beans are more budget friendly sources of this important antioxidant.

Beta-cryptoxanthin – one study found a very strong relationship between consumption of this antioxidant and protection of ovarian reserve, you’ll find it in peaches, mandarins and oranges.

Eat more good fats – eating the right type of fat is a strong predictor of good ovarian reserve, so aim to get more of the good omega-3 fats found in oily fish, walnuts and flax seeds. Women who have better stores of these fats are consistently found to have better ovarian reserve possibly becausethese good fats protect our bodies from inflammation and we know that inflammation can speed up the decline of our ovarian reserve. It’s also important to reduce intake of the bad pro-inflammatory fats at the same time, so try and avoid sunflower oil, corn oil and vegetable oil, all of which drive inflammation.

Lifestyle choices that you make today can have a strong influence on your future fertility, so together with making the right food choices focus on these positive lifestyle changes:

Drink responsibly: while it’s not essential to cut out alcohol completely to protect your future fertility it is important to be mindful of the way that you drink. Aim to avoid binge drinking at the weekend, instead spread your alcohol consumption across your week. Binge drinking depletes the body’s antioxidant stores and, as we’ve seen above antioxidants are crucial in promoting future fertility. Choosing red wine as your preferred tipple might also have benefits due to the antioxidant content, in fact wines such as malbec, pinot noir and shiraz provide the most antioxidants.

Cut the cigarettes: let’s face it cigarettes are bad news for our health and that includes our future fertility. Cigarettes will negatively impact ovarian reserve and significantly reduce chances of getting pregnant in the future. So don’t put it off, try to quit today.

Sleep matters: getting enough sleep is one of the most important things we can do for our health and if we think about it, it doesn’t cost us anything. When we sleep we produce the sleep hormone melatonin, which has another role in our bodies, it acts like an antioxidant, protecting our cells. Melatonin has been shown to slow down the rate at which our ovarian reserve declines. So aim to get around 7 hours of sleep a night to ensure you are producing sufficient melatonin.

Ditch the plastic: maybe you are trying to reduce your use of plastic for environmental reasons, but did you know that avoiding exposure to plastic can support your fertility? A specific type of plastic called Bisphenol A (BPA) is known to interfere with fertility and hormone balance and negatively impact ovarian reserve. BPA is found in plastic water bottles, cling film and Tupperware, so invest in a stainless steel refillable water bottle and glass food containers (or reuse jam jars) and avoid wrapping food in cling film.

Eat a hormone balancing diet

The food choices we make can have both a positive and negative impact on the balance of our reproductive hormones, potentially impacting the regularity of our menstrual cycle and the health of our reproductive organs. Getting the balance right will not only support hormonal health today but could also make getting pregnant that much easier when the time comes.

Fill up on phytoestrogens – the word phytoesytrogens literally means plant oestrogens, and certain foods contain these compounds that can help promote female hormone balance in a number of ways. These plant oestrogens help to balance oestrogenic activity when oestrogen is both high and low, so can help keep menstrual cycles regular and can help prevent hormonal imbalance conditions where oestrogen activity is too high (such as endometriosis or fibroids). Phytoestrogens also promote production of a substance called Sex Hormone Binding Globulin (SHBG), which binds to hormones in our bloodstream and helps to balance and regulate hormonal activity. Foods that provide phytoestrogens include: flaxseeds, beans and lentils, tahini, pomegranates, sweet potato, edamame beans. Hummus is an ideal source of phytoestrogens to consume daily as two of its main ingredients chickpeas and tahini are a rich source of phytoestrogens.

Interestingly some research indicates that we get the most benefit from phytoestrogens when they are converted into active substances by the good bacteria that live within our gut (our gut microbiome), so supporting this population of good bacteria by eating fermented foods and using a probiotic supplement is an important way to support hormone balance.

Brilliant Brassicas – eating vegetables that belong to the broccoli family of vegetables (also known as brassicas) is another way to promote and maintain good hormone balance through dietary changes. These vegetables contain a compound called indole-3-carbinol that helps to remove excess oestrogen from our body and therefore can be beneficial in oestrogen dominant conditions and to ensure a proper ratio of oestrogen to progesterone (an imbalance in this ratio is one of the main causes of hormonal imbalance for women in their 30s). Women should aim to eat at least one serving of the following  vegetables every day: broccoli, purple sprouting broccoli, tenderstem broccoli, kale, cavolo nero, cabbage, cauliflower, Brussel sprouts, radish, rocket, pak choi, kohlrabi, radish and swede.

Keep sugar consumption to a minimum – when we eat sugar (and refined white carbohydrates) our bodies respond by producing the metabolic hormone insulin. The more sugar we eat the more insulin we will produce. Unfortunately insulin also has the potential to disturb our reproductive hormone balance as it can encourage the body to produce higher levels of male hormones (androgens). For women higher than normal levels of androgens can interfere with ovulation and regularity of menstrual cycle. So try and focus on having treats 1 or 2 times a week and keeping sugar intake to a minimum.

Alcohol and hormone imbalances – Drinking alcohol can have a direct impact on female hormone balance, even moderate consumption can lead to an increase in oestrogen levels and a drop in progesterone, an imbalance that can affect the regularity and length of the menstrual cycle. As outlined above avoid binge drinking sessions and aim to keep alcohol intake to a minimum.

 

Why your weight is important

Maintaining a healthy weight and BMI is important as it can impact upon both ovarian reserve and hormone balance. Fat tissue, often referred to as adipose tissue, is actually a biologically active substance that produces inflammatory compounds and can interfere with proper hormonal health.

Fat tissue produces inflammatory messengers called adipokines and being overweight will result in a chronic low grade inflammatory state. Inflammation in the body can promote the decline of ovarian reserve and therefore having a BMI that is above normal could contribute to a faster than normal decline in fertility. Fat cells also produce a substance called aromatase that encourages the body to produce oestrogen, therefore, being overweight can result in excessive oestrogen production, a state that can interfere with proper ovulation and impact negatively on the health of reproductive organs.

Losing weight is not always as simple as eating less and moving around more (in fact calorie reduction has been proven not to work in the long run), if you do need to lose weight it is a good idea to seek the support and advice of a medical professional or nutritional therapist.

 

Future Male Fertility

While much of our focus today has been on how women can support their future fertility, there are a number of important ways in which men can support their future fertility too. Men don’t have exactly the same concern as women do because their reserve of sperm will not diminish, in fact men are constantly producing new sperm through a process called spermatogenesis. However male fertility alos declines with age and there are a number of key lifestyle considerations that men can take on board to promote good hormone balance that will help protect their future fertility.

Maintain muscle mass – the more muscle mass men have triggers the body to produce testosterone so maintaining good muscle mass through exercise and resistance training and avoiding a sedentary lifestyle is important to maintain and support  male hormone balance.

Sleep more – the amount of sleep a man gets is directly linked to his testosterone levels. The testosterone used during the day is replenished during sleep and therefore insufficient sleep will lead to a drop in testosterone levels. Aim for a good sleep pattern of at least 7 hours a night to support healthy testosterone levels.

What on earth are telomeres and how can they protect our future fertility?

In terms of scientific understanding telomeres are a relatively recent discovery. Telomeres are a small protective cap on the end of chromosomes that keep our DNA healthy by preventing chromosomes from becoming damaged and fraying (they are often compared to the protective cap on the end of shoelaces). Because of this role in protecting DNA quality telomeres play a key role in the cell ageing process and preventing premature cell ageing. Keeping telomeres and the DNA within reproductive cells healthy could be an important focus in prolonging and protecting future fertility.

The longer telomeres are the better they do their job and we are beginning to understand that a number of dietary and lifestyle behaviours can help maintain telomere length and, as a result, could prevent premature cell ageing in our reproductive organs. Research indicates that following a Mediterranean dietary pattern rich in vegetables, fruit, beans and good fats from olive oil while also enjoying regular moderate (but not excessive) exercise can help maintain telomere length. On top of that supporting production of the antioxidant glutathione can help improve telomere length. Glutathione is produced in the body using the minerals selenium and sulphur. So eating sulphur-rich foods such as the Brassica vegetables (see above) and onions, leeks and garlic and selenium-rich foods including shellfish, turkey and eggs will support glutathione levels.

It’s clear that age is not the only factor that impacts our fertility and the diet and lifestyle choices we make today can play a really important role in maintaining and protecting our fertility until we are ready to start a family.

 

References

Yang L, Chen Y, Liu Y, et al. The Role of Oxidative Stress and Natural Antioxidants in Ovarian Aging. Front Pharmacol. 2021;11:617843.

Pearce K, Tremellen K. Influence of nutrition on the decline of ovarian reserve and subsequent onset of natural menopause. Hum Fertil (Camb). 2016 Sep;19(3):173-9.

Skaznik-Wikiel ME, et al. Elevated serum levels of biologically active omega-3 fatty acids are associated with better ovarian reserve. Fertility and Sterility. 2016; 106 (3):e66

El-Nemr A, Al-Shawaf T, Sabatini L, Wilson C, Lower AM, Grudzinskas JG. Effect of smoking on ovarian reserve and ovarian stimulation in in-vitro fertilization and embryo transfer. Hum Reprod. 1998 Aug;13(8):2192-8.

Zhang J, Chen Q, Du D, Wu T, Wen J, Wu M, Zhang Y, Yan W, Zhou S, Li Y, Jin Y, Luo A, Wang S. Can ovarian aging be delayed by pharmacological strategies? Aging (Albany NY). 2019 Jan 23;11(2):817-832.

Yang, C., Liu, Q., Chen, Y. et al. Melatonin delays ovarian aging in mice by slowing down the exhaustion of ovarian reserve. Commun Biol 4, 534 (2021).

Cao Y, Qu X, Ming Z, Yao Y, Zhang Y. The correlation between exposure to BPA and the decrease of the ovarian reserve. Int J Clin Exp Pathol. 2018;11(7):3375-3382. Published 2018 Jul 1.

Kuiper GG, Lemmen JG, Carlsson B, Corton JC, Safe SH, van der Saag PT, van der Burg B, Gustafsson JA. Interaction of estrogenic chemicals and phytoestrogens with estrogen receptor beta. Endocrinology. 1998 Oct;139(10):4252-63.

Michnovicz JJ, Bradlow HL. Altered estrogen metabolism and excretion in humans following consumption of indole-3-carbinol. Nutr Cancer. 1991;16(1):59-66.

Jan Gill, THE EFFECTS OF MODERATE ALCOHOL CONSUMPTION ON FEMALE HORMONE LEVELS AND REPRODUCTIVE FUNCTION, Alcohol and Alcoholism, Volume 35, Issue 5, September 2000, Pages 417–423,

Wang X, Simpson ER, Brown KA. Aromatase overexpression in dysfunctional adipose tissue links obesity to postmenopausal breast cancer. J Steroid Biochem Mol Biol. 2015 Sep;153:35-44.

Vasilopoulos E, Fragkiadaki P, Kalliora C, et al. The association of female and male infertility with telomere length (Review). Int J Mol Med. 2019;44(2):375-389. doi:10.3892/ijmm.2019.4225

 

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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.

Jill Martin

Business Development Director

 

Jill Martin is a trained nurse and highly experienced pharmaceutical professional. Most of her business acumen and skills were developed by the world class training she received at Glaxo Smith Kline (GSK). Hard work and focus have resulted in a varied and successful career working in several different disease areas. As part of the Diabetes team at GSK, an opportunity arose to develop and support education programmes that were rolled out to the NHS across the UK, which resulted in improvement of Strategy and Patient Care. Jill feels that education is the key to understanding and has made it a personal goal to self-improve and support learning for others especially within the healthcare arena. The last 10 years have been devoted to trying to impart the importance of Fertility Health early in the life cycle of us all, rather than when infertility issues arise. She is delighted to have joined Nua Fertility on their mission to support people and communities to understand the importance of gut health on our fertility well-being.
 

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

The most important thing to me in life are family and friends, it breaks my heart when people are broken and I know that I am always trying to find solutions to problems. I love being outside rather than sitting at a desk and would rather lift the phone and have a chat with someone rather than email or message. I find people interesting and will often be that annoying person who starts a conversation on a train or plane.
 

What was your journey to parenthood like?

I feel very blessed to have had my family naturally, although not without some challenges. Following a miscarriage and thyroid issues conception wasn’t as easy as I would have hoped. My personal experience made me appreciate how important it is to value ways to improve your fertility health. This set me on my own journey to find out more, by surrounding myself with a network of experts in this area who I am continually learning from. When possible I take every opportunity to share best practice or send information to others that I know who are also seeking to understand more.
 

What is your ideal way to relax and unwind?

Juggling home life and working full time with a lot of travel, for most of my adult life made me find a way to relax that may seem strange. I love getting my trainers on and going for a long walk or run, even in the rain! Sometimes I will listen to a podcast and other times just be mindful of my surroundings. I find this a great way to clear my head, think about priorities and take time out for myself.
 

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

From an early age I loved to make jigsaws, little did I know that this skill would help me later in life to understand the complexity of fertility and the miracle of life. Everyone is unique, every situation is different, like a jigsaw there are lots of pieces that need to be put together to become complete. Explore all options, chat to experts don’t be afraid to ask for help.

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.