Fertility Diet: How to Increase Fertility

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Fertility Diet to Increase Fertility Do you want to know how to increase fertility? A fertility diet can potentially ensure a healthy pregnancy. It’s also important that both men and women follow the diet for at least a year before getting pregnant.

That said, in the last few decades, infertility has been a growing problem for many couples. Infertility is when a couple fails to conceive a child after one year of regular, unprotected sex at least twice a week.

It’s thought to affect one in seven couples, or 7.3 million couples, in the U.S. Some estimate that between 16% and 25% of all couples have serious issues with getting pregnant.

Is Infertility a Problem Related to Women Only?

Although infertility is often considered a woman’s issue, that’s simply that not the case. About half of the time, the man contributes to the infertility issues. Some estimates suggest that around 6% of men between 15 and 50 years of age are considered infertile. Also, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention examined data from the 2002 National Survey of Family Growth, and discovered that 7.5% of all sexually active men younger than 45 years old reported seeing a fertility doctor at some point during their lives. Of these men, 18% were diagnosed with an infertility issue.

What Causes Fertility Issues?

Once a couple decides that they want to conceive, they may discover that the process of conception is a little more complex than perhaps they thought. There are multiple potential causes of infertility. An estimated 25% of infertile couples became infertile from more than one cause, and many common lifestyle issues contribute to the rising infertility rates in men and women.

Infertility Causes in Women

  • Age: Studies show that women experience optimal fertility before the age of 31. After that, the probability of conception begins to drop.
  • Ovulation problems: Without ovulation, egg fertilization cannot occur. Ovulation problems are often caused from a hormonal imbalance called polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), which can interfere with normal ovulation.
  • Less common causes of infertility in women: These include physical issues with the uterus, uterine fibroids, and blocked fallopian tubes due to endometriosis, pelvic inflammatory disease, or ectopic pregnancy surgery.

Infertility Causes in Men

  • Abnormal sperm count or quality: It only takes one sperm to fertilize an egg, but during every ejaculation there are about 200 million sperm and only around 40 sperm will ever reach the vicinity of an egg. In about 90% of low sperm count cases, there is no identifiable cause.
  • Varicoceles: These are varicose veins that surround the testicles, and when they are too large they can overheat the testicles. This can affect the shape or number of sperm.
  • Sperm movement: Injuries or reproductive system damage may block the sperm from moving.
  • Other infertility causes in men: Sometimes the man is born with infertility problems. Issues later in life may also affect male infertility, such as cystic fibrosis.

Can You Find Out Earlier if You Have Fertility Issues?

You can find out if you have infertility problems at any time by visiting your doctor to conduct the appropriate examination. For example, in men a semen analysis will test the concentration and quality of the sperm. For women, they can do at-home testing to help determine ovulation by measuring luteinizing hormone (LH) in the urine. LH will increase 24 to 48 hours before the ovulation period.

What Are the Risk Factors that Increase Infertility in Men and Women?

Even if you not infertile or don’t know if you are infertile, it’s important to understand what risk factors may be leading you down that path. Here are some lifestyle, dietary, and other health conditions thought to increase the risk of infertility in women and men.

Infertility Risk Factors for Women

  • Smoking and excessive alcohol use
  • Extreme weight loss or weight gain, and eating disorders such as anorexia
  • Excessive emotional or physical stress that leads to absent periods
  • A poor diet and nutritional deficiencies
  • Hormonal problems, including low progesterone or low thyroid
  • Sexually transmitted diseases and infections
  • Overly intense exercise
  • Toxic metals or environmental toxins such as xenoestrogens
  • Cancer treatments such as chemotherapy and radiation therapy

Infertility Risk Factors for Men

  • Substance abuse such as smoking, drugs, or alcohol
  • Increased stress and lack of sleep
  • Congenital defects, ductal obstruction, post-infectious obstruction
  • Erectile dysfunction, premature withdrawal, ejaculation problems
  • Increased pollution, and pesticides such as DDT, PCB, and DBCP
  • Increased exposure to toxins such as xenoestrogens
  • Heavy metal exposure, such as like arsenic, mercury, and lead
  • A poor diet that is low in fiber from vegetables and high in saturated fat
  • Increased scrotal temperature, and tight-fitting clothing and underwear
  • Cancer treatments such as chemotherapy and radiation therapy

How to Increase Fertility in Men

If you want to know how men can be more fertile, take a look at the following.

1. Decrease Chemical Exposure

Take a look at what chemicals are going into your body. It’s a good idea to prevent or minimize the impact of xenoestrogens, which are found in plastics, pesticides, industrial pollutants, and other substances. Also avoid plastic containers, bottles, utensils and wraps, as well as animal products with added hormones and other chemicals, plus synthetic cosmetics and deodorants.

2. Increase Your Antioxidant Intake

Antioxidants are considered very important for male fertility. For example, a Cochrane review from 2011 found that antioxidant supplementation for infertile men improved birth and pregnancy rates. The review contained 34 studies and 2,876 couples. Specific antioxidants known to improve sperm count and overall fertility include vitamin A, beta-carotene, lycopene, vitamin C, vitamin E, zinc, and selenium. Keep in mind that this was updated in 2014 and researchers stated that the hypothesis needs further testing.

3. Pygeum

Studies have found that pygeum can help improve seminal fluid composition and increase prostatic secretions. Pygeum extract has also been found to improve the ability to achieve an erection for men with prostatitis or benign prostatic hypertrophy.

4. Chinese Ginseng

Scientific evidence also suggests that Chinese ginseng can help increase male fertility. In animal studies, Chinese ginseng has been found to increase testosterone and sperm formation levels, increase sexual activity, and promote testes growth. Ginsenosides, the active constituents in Chinese ginseng, have been shown to improve sperm motility and fertilization.

5. Ashwagandha

Ashwagandha is an adaptogenic herb that can help reduce stress in men with infertility problems. In a study published in Fertility and Sterility in 2010, researchers found that ashwagandha improved sperm count and motility. The herb also improved other factors important to infertile men, including increasing testosterone and luteinizing hormone, and lowering levels of prolactin and follicle-stimulating hormone.

6. Tribulus

Tribulus has long been used in Ayurvedic medicine as a male fertility tonic and aphrodisiac. In European folk medicine, it’s also used to increase sexual potency. The key constituent in tribulus responsible for its sexual functioning activity is a steroidal saponin called protodioscin. The highest levels of protodioscin are sourced from places in Eastern Europe like Bulgaria. Animal studies have found that tribulus can increase certain sex hormones like testosterone. Tribulus can also increase sperm count.

Other Important Nutrients and Remedies

There are also other remedies to increase fertility in men naturally, including folic acid, vitamin B12, vitamin D3, magnesium, essential fatty acids, grape seed extract, pine bark extract, alpha-lipoic acid, coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10), the amino acids L-arginine and L-carnitine, and velvet bean.

How to Increase Fertility in Women

There are a number of ways to improve fertility in women. Here’s how to increase fertility in women naturally.

1. Chaste Tree Berry
Chaste tree berry is considered the best-documented herbal remedy for improving fertility in women. Studies have found that chaste tree berry promotes healthy menstrual cycles. This is useful since elevated prolactin can disrupt the menstrual cycle and lead to infertility. Chaste tree berry will also increase progesterone levels, which also helps to increase fertility in women.

2. Probiotics
Microflora imbalances in the vagina and intrauterine and genital infections have been linked to failed pregnancies and reproductive failures, including spontaneous preterm birth, miscarriage, and preterm labor. A study published in the American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology in 2007 found that women during the first half of pregnancy with altered vaginal flora were four times as likely to have a spontaneous preterm birth. A high-potency probiotic supplement can help balance the microflora imbalance in the vagina.

3. Maca
Maca is a hormone-balancing herb known to improve fertility in both men and women. That said, women should only take maca during their menstrual cycle, and should stop taking it during pregnancy.

4. Vitamin B Complex
All B vitamins are necessary before conceiving a baby. Vitamin B6 in particular has also been found to improve fertility in women. Folate—not folic acid—is considered important during early pregnancy to prevent complications. Folate can help prevent spina bifida in newborns, and it’s best to get enough folate before and during pregnancy. Taking folate together with vitamin B12 can ensure that the baby’s genetic codes are intact.

5. L-Arginine and L-Carnitine
Animal studies have found that carnitine has a protective effect against embryo death and egg damage linked with endometriosis. Arginine is considered a precursor to nitric oxide synthesis, which is needed for formation of new blood vessels to nourish the development of the fetus. L-carnitine and L-arginine are the supplement forms of both amino acids.

Other Important Nutrients and Remedies

There are also other natural remedies to increase fertility in women such as fish oil, vitamin D3, pine bark extract, grape seed extract, nettle leaf, red raspberry leaf, dandelion, alfalfa, red clover, vitamin C, zinc, selenium, and a natural progesterone cream.

What Is the Fertility Diet?

There certain foods that should definitely be included and avoided on the fertility diet menu, and the following are some fertility diet tips that you should consider:

1. Decrease Dietary Chemical Exposure
It’s a good idea to remove refined sugar, white flour, and processed and fried foods from the diet. High chemical intake is known to impact fertility in men and women.

2. Eat Organic Food
In general, aim for a whole and organic food diet high in vegetables and fruits in a fertility diet plan, to avoid pesticide exposure. Part of the fertility diet for men should also plenty of foods high in zinc, which is a nutrient important for male reproductive fluids.

3. Reduce Animal Fat Intake
The fertility diet plan should also reduce the intake of conventionally raised meats and animal products that are high in chemicals and mimic the effects of estrogen, which in excess can decrease fertility and sperm count. Avoid conventional milk, dairy products, pork, beef, and poultry. If you must consume red meat or poultry make sure it is grass-fed, free-range, and organic.

4. Increase Good Fats
Essential fatty acids are generally lacking in people who follow the Standard American Diet. Incorporate fatty fish, ground flaxseed, flaxseed oil, organic eggs, coconut oil, avocado, nuts and seeds, and extra virgin olive oil to both male fertility diet plans and female fertility diet plans.

5. Avoid Alcohol and Caffeine
Alcohol can have a negative effect on fertility in many women and men. It’s estimated that even one drink per week can reduce the chances of conception by 50%. Excessive alcohol consumption is also linked with low sperm function in men, and caffeine consumption is associated with fertility issues including miscarriages. Caffeine is also known to affect stress hormones and female hormones. The diuretic properties of caffeine will also lead to a loss of nutrients important to fertility.

Benefits of Eating a Healthy Fertility Diet

Why should you eat a natural fertility diet plan? Overall, there are a number of benefits of a fertility diet plan. For starters, what you eat will impact the health of sperm and eggs and reproductive system for at least 90 days after consumption. A diet geared toward fertility is also the best treatment for women with PCOS and infertility issues. A natural fertility diet provides the necessary antioxidants, minerals, and vitamins that protect the sperm and egg from free-radical damage. The natural fertility diet may also reduce the chance of a miscarriage due to insulin resistance, and it will help the body maintain hormonal balance by eating healthy fats.

Other Tips for Getting Pregnant

There are also some other fertility booster tips that can significantly help couples get pregnant. Here’s how to make yourself more fertile.

  • Drink lots of clean and filtered water: Water is very important to many bodily functions, including fertility. Avoid drinking chlorinated tap water.
  • Aromatherapy: Essential oils can also help fertility. Rose oil in particular can improve the ability of sperm to travel to an egg. Other essential oils known for aphrodisiac effects include sandalwood, patchouli, and ylang-ylang.
  • Acupuncture: Studies have found that acupuncture can improve female fertility. Acupressure points can also encourage conception for both men and women, including bladder 23 and 47 (B23 and B47), stomach 36 (St36), and lung 1 (Lu1).

Sources for Today’s Article:
Murray, M., M.D., et al, The Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine (New York: Atria Paperback, 2012), 724–747.
Balch, J., et al., Prescription for Natural Cures: A Self-Care Guide for Treating Health Problems with Natural Remedies Including Diet, Nutrition, Supplements, and Other Holistic Methods (Hoboken: John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 2004), 351–356.
Showell, M.G., et al., “Antioxidants for Male Subfertility,” Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, 2011; doi:10.1002/14651858.CD007411.pub3.
Ahmad, M.K., et al., “Withania Somnifera Improves Semen Quality by Regulating Reproductive Hormone Levels and Oxidative Stress in Seminal Plasma of Infertile Males,” Fertility and Sterility, 2010; doi:10.1016/j.fertnstert.2009.04.046.
Verstraelen, H., et al., “Modified Classification of Gram-Stained Vaginal Smears to Predict Spontaneous Preterm Birth: a Prospective Cohort Study,” American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology, 2007; doi:10.1016/j.ajog.2006.12.026.
Rodriguez, H., “The Natural Fertility Diet: How to Eat for Optimal Fertility,” Natural Fertility Info web site; http://natural-fertility-info.com/fertility-diet, last accessed March 15, 2016.
“How to Get Pregnant Naturally,” Wellness Mama web site; http://wellnessmama.com/1326/get-pregnant-naturally/, last accessed March 15, 2016.
“Infertility fact sheet,” Women’s Health web site; http://www.womenshealth.gov/publications/our-publications/fact-sheet/infertility.html#f, last accessed March 15, 2016.
“Infertility FAQs,” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention web site; http://www.cdc.gov/reproductivehealth/infertility/, last updated Sept. 16, 2015.

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Jon Yaneff, CNP

About the Author, Browse Jon's Articles

Jon Yaneff is a holistic nutritionist and health researcher with a background in journalism. After years of a hectic on-the-go, fast food-oriented lifestyle as a sports reporter, Jon knew his life needed a change. He began interviewing influential people in the health and wellness industry and incorporating beneficial health and wellness information into his own life. Jon’s passion for his health led him to the certified nutritional practitioner (CNP) program at the Institute of Holistic Nutrition. He graduated with first... Read Full Bio »