Fertility: Foods & Vitamins to Boost Your Chance of Conceiving

Fertility: Foods & Vitamins to Boost Your Chance of Conceiving

Proceive’s health nutritionist Gaye Godkin MPH Nutrition (Hons) DipNT cNLP answers our questions on diet, lifestyle and nutrition. This interview covers both male and female health, the best foods to eat, foods to avoid, and how quickly you can improve your fertility by changing what you eat. If there’s anything we’ve missed, or you have any further questions for Gaye, please drop me an email jelliediary@gmail.com.

What advice can you give men with low sperm motility in terms of:

a) Diet & nutrition

We recommend avoiding processed high fat, deep-fried, salty foods most of the time as most experts agree they are bad for your health and would be more likely to adversely affect fertility. Sperm production is dependent on good quality nutrients. Avoiding anti-nutrients is just as important as eating good quality food and taking a high quality supplement. The following foods and behaviours damage the manufacturing of sperm in the body.

Possibly the biggest anti-nutrient consumed in the UK is alcohol. Alcohol is detrimental to sperm health. Alcohol causes cellular damage to the body and increases oxidation and free radical production. Male sperm is particularly affected by the amount of alcohol consumed.

Improving the quality of sperm takes time and men should take proactive measures at least three months before conceiving to enhance the quality of their reproductive cells We recommend a balanced healthy diet, modest exercise, adequate sleep, stress reduction and fertility supplements (such as Proceive Men).

b) specific vitamins & supplements 

There are a number of key nutrients that are vital for healthy sperm cells:

  • Zinc contributes to normal fertility and reproduction
  • Selenium contributes to normal spermatogenesis
  • Vitamin C contributes to normal physiological function which helps in producing good quality cells
  • Vitamin D contributes to the normal function of the immune system
  • Vitamin B12 has a role in the process of cell division
  • Magnesium contributes to the psychological function and also has a role in the process of cell division
  • Vitamin E contributes to the protection of cells from oxidative stress
  • Omega-3 is also beneficial to sperm health.

The best thing to do is take a supplement which contains all of these, such as Proceive Men or Proceive Men Max.

What vitamins are important to take when trying to conceive?

For men:

  • Zinc contributes to normal fertility and reproduction
  • Selenium contributes to normal spermatogenesis
  • Vitamin C contributes to normal physiological function which helps in producing good quality cells
  • Vitamin D contributes to the normal function of the immune system
  • Vitamin B12 has a role in the process of cell division
  • Magnesium contributes to the psychological function and also has a role in the process of cell division
  • Vitamin E contributes to the protection of cells from oxidative stress
  • Omega-3 is also beneficial to sperm health

For women:

  • Vitamin B6 to contribute to the regulation of hormonal activity
  • Zinc contributes to normal fertility and reproduction
  • Vitamin B12 has a roll in the process of cell division
  • Vitamin D contributes to the normal function of the immune system
  • Vitamin C contributes to normal physiological function which help to produce good quality cell
  • Vitamin E contributes to the protection of cells from oxidative stress
  • Magnesium contributes to the psychological function and also has a role in the process of cell division
  • Folic acid contributes to normal maternal tissue growth during pregnancy

Folic acid of folate? 

This is a situation that we are monitoring closely. We are very aware of the new version of folic acid being promoted. In its short form, it is known as folate. Its technical term is L-5-methyltetrahydrofolate. This version of folic acid, as opposed to folacin (traditional folic acid which we use), is relatively new to the market. There is a lot of research being conducted on this form of the nutrient and we are monitoring each development with great interest.

When we were developing the formulation the clinical evidence on Folacin vastly outweighed that of Folate. It is true that there is some research on this version, but the majority of research has been performed on folacin/traditional folic acid. Independent clinical research is the best of way of identifying the efficacy and safety of a substance and of a nutrient, thus this is why we chose Folacin. As with all nutrients in the Proceive range, if the science and independent research demonstrates that there is a better version of any nutrient out there – we will make the necessary amendments to our formulation.

Key foods for fertility 

  • Walnuts contain Vitamin E, omega 3 oils, and healthy fats
  • Brazil nuts contain selenium, magnesium, vitamins and healthy fats. You can eat them raw, add them to cakes, muffins, scone mixes, or bread mixes as well as to salads.
  • Blueberries contain vitamin K, vitamin C, fibre, manganese and other antioxidants. Like blueberries, raspberries are filled with antioxidants. They help provide Vitamin C, calcium and iron. Eat them on their own, in yogurt, in a smoothie or in cakes, the list is endless.
  • Beetroot contains folate, fibre, vitamin C and other minerals and is rich in anti-oxidants. Grate or slice them in salads, gives a lovely colour, or add to smoothies.
  • Avocado provide monounsaturated fats, Vitamin B6 (aids the regulation of hormonal activity, as well as reducing tiredness and fatigue) and folate. Great on toast with anything added.
  • Dark chocolate is believed to be a natural mood-booster and is a great antioxidant. One or two squares a day are good and as dark chocolate can taste a bit bitter it can be hard to take more than a few squares a day which is probably a good thing!
  • Garlic is believed to help inhibit the growth of bacteria, as well as having anti-inflammatory powers. It adds a great taste to savoury dishes
  • Sweet red peppers contain more Vitamin C than oranges. Add to salads, soups and curries.
  • Pulses including beans, lentils and peas are great sources of fibre and protein. They are great in salads, curries and soups.

Foods to avoid

We recommend avoiding processed high fat, deep-fried, salty foods most of the time as most experts agree they are bad for your health and would be more likely to adversely affect fertility.

Sperm production is dependent on good quality nutrients. Avoiding anti-nutrients is just as important as eating good quality food and taking a high quality supplement. The following foods and behaviours damage the manufacturing of sperm in the body.

Alcohol is the biggest anti-nutrient

Possibly the biggest anti-nutrient consumed in the UK is alcohol. Alcohol is detrimental to sperm health. Alcohol causes cellular damage to the body and increases oxidation and free radical production. Male sperm is particularly affected by the amount of alcohol consumed. Alcohol is rapidly converted to glucose in the blood. Excess circulating glucose damages sperm cells and causes weight gain. Furthermore, alcohol destroys a vital B vitamin called folate in the body — this vitamin is necessary for healthy DNA replication in sperm.

The effects of being overweight

Being overweight decreases your chances of conception in both the male and the female. Many fertility clinics will not treat couples who are over-weight. They are advised to lose the weight before treatment can begin.   At the clinics, their body mass index (BMI) is calculated. It is not necessarily a good indicator as to what is happening internally. A better measure is to measure mid abdominal fat. This excess fat is lapped around the ovaries, uterus and male reproductive areas. These fat cells disrupt the functioning of the sex glands and interfere with hormonal harmony. To reduce tummy fat, reduce processed carbohydrates and aim to eliminate all sugars and foods containing processed fats.

Stress, caffeine, and sugar

When stressed, the body produces greater amounts of adrenaline. Adrenaline is a stress hormone secreted by the adrenal glands. Prolonged exposure to adrenaline is not conducive to conception. Excess adrenaline switches off all non-essential life processes and can inhibit conception. Drinking caffeine and sugar laden caffeinated drinks increase the production of adrenaline. Aim to avoid or reduce coffee while trying to conceive and eliminate caffeinated sugary drinks. Adrenal glands can become burnt out from excess stress. Support them by taking some vitamin C daily and foods or supplements high in magnesium.

Male and female hormones are made up of fats. Fats are hugely important raw materials that are components of both the sperm and all sex hormones. Cell membranes are made from the various fats and consumed in the diet. A diet high in processed fats known as trans-fats interfere with the delicate signalling that occurs on these membranes. These are artificial fats made from margarine or re-heating polyunsaturated fats. Aim to eliminate donuts, white bread, certain pizza, chips, deep fried foods, pastries, biscuits and cakes unless they are made from butter.

Sugar is ubiquitous. It is in all processed foods. It is difficult to completely eliminate it from the diet. Semen contains abundant fructose. Fructose gives the sperm vital fuel for it to swim. However, in excess, it causes damage to the cell membranes. Aim to reduce your consumption of sugar daily. Eliminate fizzy drinks, fruit juices, cakes, biscuits and bars. Do however continue to eat 2 pieces of fruit per day as it contains good nutrients.

The body has in excess of 50 trillion cells which all require a steady supply of glucose to function optimally. Foods that are high in available sugars such as refined carbohydrates, fruit juices, fizzy drinks, white bread, biscuits, crisps, baked potato, cakes and sweets flood the body with excess glucose too quickly. This in turn triggers the release of a hormone called insulin. Insulin’s job is to open the cell door to receive the glucose and remove it from the blood. However insulin is an anabolic fat storage hormone and if triggered too often causes weight gain. Insulin works most efficiently when blood sugars are gently raised.

To achieve blood sugar balance, aim to eat 3 small meals per day and 1 snack. Aim to finish eating at 7.30 in the evening. Carbohydrate intake should be significantly reduced.

Fats, protein and fibre

Fats, protein and fibre should be included in each meal. They are broken down in the stomach slowly and give a gentle rise in blood sugar levels leading to a minimum exposure to insulin.

The glycemic index is a measure given to the ability of foods that contain carbohydrate to raise blood glucose levels. Glucose has a G.I. of 100, cornflakes 93, and a plain baguette 95, raisins 64, and rice cakes 82. To manage PCOS, regulate hormonal production and prevent weight gain it is advisable to eat foods that are 50 and below on the G.I. index. This is an easy guide to follow.

Fats play a very important role in the management of hormonal balance. High levels of testosterone are a common feature with this syndrome. This is caused by an enzyme, (aromatase) converting excess oestrogen into testosterone. This conversion is influenced by metabolism and fatty acids. Fatty acids work on the cell membrane to trigger hormonal reactions. Fats that are eaten in the diet, dictate the composition of the outer layer of fat on the cell.

Stock on up omega 3 fatty acids

If the diet is high in trans-fats from chips, pizza, confectionery, baked goods, biscuits etc. these foods have a negative effect on hormones. By contrast if the diet is high in omega 3 fatty acids from oily fish or taking a fish oil supplement, hormonal balance is better with less oestrogen being converted to testosterone. Patients with PCOS respond well to high doses of omega 3 in conjunction with cleaning up the diet. By reducing carbohydrates, eliminating trans-fats and reducing overall consumption, metabolism is significantly improved. This in turn leads to improvement in symptoms and weight loss.

Weight gain and difficulties associated with weight loss are common with PCOS. Unfortunately, fat cells produce hormones such as oestrogen which can be converted into testosterone further exacerbating symptoms.

Exercise will help, aim to exercise at least 30 minutes per day. This will improve the cells sensitivity to insulin and improve metabolism for the day ahead. However, diet accounts for 80% of weight management and weight loss so prioritising food choices is imperative to improve this condition.

Is there any truth in the consumption of pineapple core aiding implantation?

There is no scientific evidence to suggest that pineapple core positively affects implantation. Pineapple core does contain bromelain which is a digestive enzyme and is sometimes used by naturopaths to reduce inflammation.

I’ve been advised not to eat chocolate unless after a meal during my stims. What effect does insulin levels have on egg growth?

Maintaining good insulin levels is important for women who have PCO or PCOS. Insulin is a fat storage hormone. High circulating levels can increase the birth weight of a baby and leave that baby more predisposed to type 2 diabetes later in life.

Alcohol… We all know drinking too much is bad in general, but what exactly does it do to the environment in the womb, and to a man’s sperm? Are there any amounts that are safe when TTC / going through an IVF cycle, so as to keep life as ‘normal’ as possible?

 There are many deleterious effects from drinking alcohol when pregnant. It interferes with folate production and usage in the body. Folate is a crucial nutrient during pregnancy. Sperm is a very volatile substance that is prone to environmental damage. Excess alcohol causes damage to sperm and dysregulates blood sugars.  A safe amount is a glass of wine with food.

I want to create the best environment for a pregnancy, but in terms of my actual cycle – how quickly to the foods you eat today impact the health of your womb/eggs?

Improving the quality of eggs takes time and couples should take proactive measures at least three months before conceiving to enhance the quality of their reproductive cells.

Can egg quality be improved and how quickly? What are the best ways to do this?

Improving the quality of eggs takes time and women should take proactive measures at least three months before conceiving to enhance the quality of their reproductive cells (as should men to improve sperm quality). We recommend a balanced healthy diet, modest exercise, adequate sleep, stress reduction and fertility supplements.

Does red pine bark, L-Arganine and royal jelly improve a women’s fertility? I’ve been taking for about a year and I can’t say I’ve seen any improvement in egg quality or endometrium lining.

 There is no evidence that red pine bark or royal jelly can improve a woman’s fertility. L-Arginine works as a vasodilator which means it supports the integrity of blood vessels which may support conception.

McDonalds’ fries post embryo transfer. Why are these fries supposed to help?!

Eating McDonalds, or any other chips to boost the chances of conception is a novel idea, however, I’m afraid will do little to improve the chances of a pregnancy. We recommend avoiding processed high fat, deep-fried, salty foods most of the time as most experts agree they are bad for your health and would be more likely to adversely affect fertility.

I can understand the logic to a certain degree since salt, is an essential nutrient for a healthy body. It plays a vital role in the regulation of many bodily functions and is contained in body fluids that transport oxygen and nutrients. It is also essential in maintaining the body’s overall fluid balance. Potatoes are also a rich source of nutrients and are high in vitamin C, which helps to produce good quality cells and B vitamins which regulate the hormonal in both men and women. Boiled potatoes with little or no salt is preferable. Most western diets already have too much salt and it is better to avoid adding more to our food.

Can a lack of ovulation be changed by a healthy diet?

Lack of ovulation is usually associated with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)?

Polycystic ovary syndrome is when your hormones are out of balance. It may cause problems with your periods and make it more difficult to get pregnant. If it isn’t treated, over time it can lead to other health issues such as diabetes and heart disease.

Most women with PCOS grow many small cysts on their ovaries. That is why it is called polycystic ovary syndrome. The cysts are not harmful but lead to hormone imbalances.

Early diagnosis and treatment can help control the symptoms and prevent long-term problems.

How can diet help PCOS?

Aim to achieve sugar balance

The body has in excess of 50 trillion cells which all require a steady supply of glucose to function optimally. Foods that are high in available sugars such as refined carbohydrates, fruit juices, fizzy drinks, white bread, biscuits, crisps, baked potato, cakes and sweets flood the body with excess glucose too quickly. This in turn triggers the release of a hormone called insulin. Insulin’s job is to open the cell door to receive the glucose and remove it from the blood. However insulin is an anabolic fat storage hormone and if triggered too often causes weight gain. Insulin works most efficiently when blood sugars are gently raised.

To achieve blood sugar balance, aim to eat 3 small meals per day and 1 snack. Aim to finish eating at 7.30 in the evening. Carbohydrate intake should be significantly reduced.

Fats, protein and fibre should be included in each meal.

They are broken down in the stomach slowly and give a gentle rise in blood sugar levels leading to a minimum exposure to insulin.

The glycemic index is a measure given to the ability of foods that contain carbohydrate to raise blood glucose levels. Glucose has a G.I. of 100, cornflakes 93, and a plain baguette 95, raisins 64, and rice cakes 82. To manage PCOS, regulate hormonal production and prevent weight gain it is advisable to eat foods that are 50 and below on the G.I. index. This is an easy guide to follow.

Fats play a very important role in the management of hormonal balance. High levels of testosterone are a common feature with this syndrome. This is caused by an enzyme, (aromatase) converting excess oestrogen into testosterone. This conversion is influenced by metabolism and fatty acids. Fatty acids work on the cell membrane to trigger hormonal reactions. Fats that are eaten in the diet, dictate the composition of the outer layer of fat on the cell.

Reduce carbs, increase your omega 3

If the diet is high in trans-fats from chips, pizza, confectionery, baked goods, biscuits etc. these foods have a negative effect on hormones. By contrast if the diet is high in omega 3 fatty acids from oily fish or taking a fish oil supplement, hormonal balance is better with less oestrogen being converted to testosterone. Patients with PCOS respond well to high doses of omega 3 in conjunction with cleaning up the diet. By reducing carbohydrates, eliminating trans-fats and reducing overall consumption, metabolism is significantly improved. This in turn leads to improvement in symptoms and weight loss.

Weight gain and difficulties associated with weight loss are common with PCOS. Unfortunately, fat cells produce hormones such as oestrogen which can be converted into testosterone further exacerbating symptoms.

Exercise will help, aim to exercise at least 30 minutes per day. This will improve the cells sensitivity to insulin and improve metabolism for the day ahead. However, diet accounts for 80% of weight management and weight loss so prioritising food choices is imperative to improve this condition.

What foods are crucial to growing a healthy lining?

There is no one food or food group crucial for a healthy lining. Foods should be consumed from all groups, complex carbohydrates, proteins from a diverse range and healthy fats and fibres.

Gaye Godkin, Health Nutritionist, MPH Nutrition (Hons) DipNT cNLP

Always check with your fertility clinic, health professional or doctor before you begin any new diet or start taking any new supplements. 

Sponsored content in collaboration with Proceive.

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