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The Impact of Nutrition on Your Fertility Journey.

Healthy U Nutrition Fertility Guide



Fertility and nutrition is an area that needs a little more love and attention! Over the years, I have experienced an increase in referrals for fertility support (both early stages, and later stages of this journey), and I thought it would be beneficial to spread the ‘nutritious’ word in our blog this month. Each fertility journey is unique and should include a balanced, holistic and supportive plan that is tailored to each individual's values and capacity. The nutrition component related to fertility is focused on a plan that prioritizes nutrient-rich foods, such as those that are high in antioxidants and offer anti-inflammatory benefits; while at the same time, including those indulgent meals and fun experiences that we all need every so often. This blog aims to breakdown the top nutrition / lifestyle categories that have strong evidence to optimize one’s fertility status. 


SELF-QUIZ: Mini Nutrition Assessment


How many servings of vegetables / fruit are you having throughout the day?

  1. Less than 2 cups 

  2. 2-3 cups 

  3. 4-6 cups 

  4. 6 cups or more (this would be ideal to work towards)


How many omega-3 rich foods (fish, walnuts, chia seeds, ground flax seeds) are you having throughout the week?

  1. Less than 1 serving

  2. 1-2 servings

  3. 2 or more servings (this would be ideal to work towards)


Are you choosing whole-grains more often? 

  1. Not yet

  2. Sometimes 

  3. Always (this would be ideal to work towards)


How is your sleep hygiene going?

  1. Going to bed a bit too late, and not enough sleep (<8 hours)

  2. So-so 

  3. Going to bed early enough to build 8-hours of sleep / night (this would be ideal to work towards)


Approximately how many steps throughout the day are you accumulating? 

  1. <5,000 steps

  2. 5,000-7,000 steps

  3. >7,000 steps (this would be ideal to work towards)


Understanding the Stats

Infertility is common. So common. In fact, couples are starting this journey later in life, especially compared to earlier generations, adding to the fertility complexities. Infertility affects around 15% of couples globally. It's quite an equal-opportunity challenge, with about 35% of cases attributed to women, 30% to men, 20% to both partners, and 20% unexplained. SO technically, this newsletter goes out to us ALL! 


The Nutrition Link

Guess what? Research continues to confirm a positive correlation between healthy lifestyle behaviours and optimizing fertility status. Simply put, what you eat will likely have an impact in some capacity in your fertility journey. Lifestyle factors, such food, movement, mental wellness, sleep hygiene, hydration status, etc. play a significant role in fertility. Let's delve into some nutrition nuggets that could make a real difference.


Omega-3 Fatty Acids: Tiny Heroes

Ever heard of these omega-3s? They are like the superheroes of nutrition! Found in cell membranes, they are crucial for various bodily functions, especially in the brain, eyes, and even sperm cells. Studies suggest that omega-3 supplements might boost fertility in both men and women. Fish, walnuts, ground flaxseeds, and chia seeds are all omega-3 rich goodies worth adding to your plate.


Antioxidants: The Body's Warriors

These warriors fight off free radicals, reducing inflammation and stress in our bodies. For both men and women, antioxidants seem to play a vital role in fertility. Think of colorful fruits, veggies, nuts, and whole grains as your superhero squad battling oxidative stress. Adding an antioxidant-rich food to each eating time throughout the day would be a great way to boost your intake more consistently and evenly throughout the day. 


Coenzyme Q10: The Age Fighter

As we age, our natural CoQ10 levels drop, causing more free radical action and stress. For women, especially, this decline might impact ovarian function. Supplementing with CoQ10 might just be the boost needed for ovulation rates and preserving that precious ovarian follicle pool.


Insulin Sensitivity: A Horomone Impacted by Carbs and Movement

When our insulin sensitivity is out of balance, it can throw a wrench into our hormonal harmony, affecting ovulation and even the success of conception. Not to worry, we have evidenced-based / easily integrated strategies that can help boost insulin sensitivity (reverse insulin resistance) and support that fertility journey:


  1. Healthy Carbohydrates: It’s all about the quality of carbohydrates. Opt for whole grains (>4g fibre per serving), loads and loads of veggies, colourful fruit with the skin ON, and legumes that are both protein and fibre loaded - these foods release energy slowly, and put less demand on our pancreas, keeping those blood sugar levels stable.


  1. Portion Control: Enjoying our favorite foods is something I encourage, however, keeping an eye on portions can make a world of difference. It’s all about balancing your plate with multiple food groups for all meals and snacks, and sticking to ¼ plate portions for starch! 


  1. Cardio Fun: Get that heart pumping! Regular cardio exercise is not just fantastic for overall health; it can also improve insulin sensitivity. Plus, it’s a great way to lift those spirits as this type of exercise also increases endorphins (happy hormones).  


Food & Lifestyle Tweaks for Harmony

  • Carbs Matter: Opt for whole grains and high-fibre versions. They help regulate blood sugar, which impacts female fertility.

  • Antioxidant Feast: Load up on colorful fruits, veggies, nuts, and seeds for that antioxidant power.

  • Avoid Ultra-Processed Foods: Choose foods with limited ingredients (ie. more whole foods), and limit those fast-food meals and packaged goods. They hike up oxidative stress, which is aligned with optimal fertility. 

  • Stress Less: Stress might not directly cause infertility, but managing it positively offers more internal balance, creating a supportive environment in our bodies for fertility. 

  • Sleep Tight: Quality snooze time of 7-9 hours helps regulate those crucial reproductive hormones.

  • Move It, Move It: Physical activity can help regulate ovulation and improve insulin sensitivity, both fertility-friendly perks.


References


Agarwal, A., Leisegang, K., Majzoub, A., Henkel, R., Finelli, R., Panner Selvam, M. K., Tadros, 

N., Parekh, N., Ko, E. Y., Cho, C. L., Arafa, M., Alves, M. G., Oliveira, P. F., Alvarez, J. G., & Shah, R. (2021). Utility of Antioxidants in the Treatment of Male Infertility: Clinical Guidelines Based on a Systematic Review and Analysis of Evidence. The world journal of men's health, 39(2), 233–290. https://doi.org/10.5534/wjmh.200196


California Walnuts. (n.d.). Nutrition Information. California Walnuts. 


Falsig, A. L., Gleerup, C. S., & Knudsen, U. B. (2019). The influence of omega-3 fatty acids on 

semen quality markers: a systematic PRISMA review. Andrology, 7(6), 794–803. https://doi.org/10.1111/andr.12649


Harvard Health Publishing. (2019, July 29). Why not flaxseed oil?. Harvard Health Publishing. 


Harvard T. Chan School of Public Health. (n.d.). Antioxidants. Harvard T. Chan School of Public 


Hosseini, B., Nourmohamadi, M., Hajipour, S., Taghizadeh, M., Asemi, Z., Keshavarz, S. A., & 

Jafarnejad, S. (2019). The Effect of Omega-3 Fatty Acids, EPA, and/or DHA on Male 

Infertility: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis. Journal of dietary supplements


Kloss, J. D., Perlis, M. L., Zamzow, J. A., Culnan, E. J., & Gracia, C. R. (2015). Sleep, sleep 

disturbance, and fertility in women. Sleep medicine reviews, 22, 78–87. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.smrv.2014.10.005


Martínez Leo, E. E., Peñafiel, A. M., Hernández Escalante, V. M., & Cabrera Araujo, Z. M. 

(2021). Ultra-processed diet, systemic oxidative stress, and breach of immunologic 

tolerance. Nutrition (Burbank, Los Angeles County, Calif.), 91-92, 111419. 


Mayo Clinic Staff. (2023, August 9). Coenzyme Q10. Mayo Clinic.


National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (NIH). (2022, March 24). How Sleep Works - How 

Much Sleep is Needed?. National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (NIH). https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/sleep/how-much-sleep


National Institutes of Health. (n.d.). Omega-3 Fatty Acids. National Institutes of Health. 


Oregon State University. (n.d.). Omega-3 Fatty Acid Content in Fish. Oregon State University. 


Salvio, G., Cutini, M., Ciarloni, A., Giovannini, L., Perrone, M., & Balercia, G. (2021). Coenzyme 

Q10 and Male Infertility: A Systematic Review. Antioxidants (Basel, Switzerland), 10(6), 


Saini R. (2011). Coenzyme Q10: The essential nutrient. Journal of pharmacy & bioallied 

sciences, 3(3), 466–467. https://doi.org/10.4103/0975-7406.84471


Smits, R. M., Mackenzie-Proctor, R., Fleischer, K., & Showell, M. G. (2018). Antioxidants in 

fertility: impact on male and female reproductive outcomes. Fertility and Sterility, 110(4), 


Stanhiser, J., Jukic, A. M. Z., McConnaughey, D. R., & Steiner, A. Z. (2022). Omega-3 fatty acid 

supplementation and fecundability. Human reproduction (Oxford, England), 37(5), 1037–1046. https://doi.org/10.1093/humrep/deac027


Statistics Canada. (2022, May 16). Fewer Babies Born as Canada’s Fertility Rate Hits a Record 


Tesarik J. (2021). Towards Personalized Antioxidant Use in Female Infertility: Need for More 

Molecular and Clinical Studies. Biomedicines, 9(12), 1933. https://doi.org/10.3390/biomedicines9121933


Xie, F., You, Y., Guan, C., Gu, Y., Yao, F., & Xu, J. (2022). Association between physical activity 

and infertility: a comprehensive systematic review and meta-analysis. Journal of translational medicine, 20(1), 237. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12967-022-03426-3


Yahya, F. (2022, August 23). Infertility and stress. Mayo Clinic Health System. 


Major Contributors: Elisa Porretta, Geneviève Perron and Sarah Fallavollita


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