Improve Fertility with a Healthy Lifestyle


Article courtesy of Dr. Joel Fuhrman, MD

Approximately 12% of women of childbearing age, or 7.3 million women in the U.S. have impaired ability to become pregnant, and 10-17% of couples experience infertility or subfertility at some time.

Fortunately, there are a number of diet and lifestyle behaviors that can positively affect fertility in women:

Avoid refined carbohydrates

Women whose diets were high in glycemic load, indicative of more refined carbohydrate – white flour, sugar, white pasta, etc. – were almost twice as likely to experience ovulatory infertility. Similarly, consumption of soft drinks is associated with compromised fertility. This is likely because insulin serves a number of functions in the ovary, including production of hormones and hormone receptors – hyperinsulinemia, caused by excessive refined carbohydrate intake, can interfere with normal ovulation.

Consume plant sources of protein and iron Protein intake is thought to affect hormone levels, and these hormonal effects are likely to influence fertility. Researchers have found that women with high animal protein intakes were 39% more likely to experience infertility than women with lower animal protein intake.  In contrast, women with high plant protein intake were 22% less likely to experience infertility than women with lower plant protein intake.  Similarly, intake of nonheme iron (the type of iron found in plant foods and supplements) is associated with a reduced risk of infertility, whereas heme iron (found in animal foods) intake showed no association.

Get adequate micronutrients

Micronutrient adequacy is crucial for optimal fertility and during pregnancy for overall maternal, fetal, and child health.  B vitamins are important for development of sperm and egg cells.  Folate, a B vitamin, is crucial for preventing neural tube defects, and may also help to maintain regular ovulation.   Comprehensive micronutrient adequacy promotes fertility and this is  most effectively achieved by eating a variety of colorful, natural plant foods Combining a micronutrient-rich eating style with a high quality supplement to assure adequate, Vitamin D, iodine, zinc and B12 also helps to protect against deficiencies. Multivitamins should be chosen carefully, since most contain potentially harmful ingredients.  Read Dr. Fuhrman’s recommendations on supplement use for women who are planning to become pregnant.

Avoid dairy products

Two or more servings per day (compared to 1 or less per week) of low fat dairy foods was associated with an 85% increased risk of infertility. Apparently it was the dairy protein that had the most detrimental effects because the decreased fertility was seen only for low fat dairy. Galactose, a component of lactose, is known to interfere with ovulation, and dairy foods are also thought to contribute to polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), a common cause of infertility.


A sedentary lifestyle is likely a risk factor for infertility.  Each hour per week of vigorous exercise is associated with a 5% decrease in risk of ovulatory infertility.  Although moderate intensity exercise is not associated with fertility, of course it is still beneficial for overall health and weight maintenance.

Maintain a healthy weight

Weight loss in overweight and obese women can improve reproductive function.  More importantly, maternal obesity is associated with increased risk of complications and birth defects.

Read more here:


Eat Healthy & Thrive


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