We recently hosted a fertility facts morning with Dr Marilyn Glenville, Dr Ciara Wright and Dr John Kennedy, Medical Director at the Sims IVF clinic. We were delighted to present the latest in nutritional support for conception and prevention of recurrent miscarriage. Dr John Kennedy brought us through the basics you need to know and what tests to do. Dr Kennedy has a fantastic ability to translate complex science and break it down into simple terms. Here’s a few gems we picked up from him, dispelling some myths around your fertility.
Does what you eat affect your fertility?
The straight answer is, yes. Absolutely. There is enough research now to definitively say that your diet significantly affects your ability to conceive and carry a healthy pregnancy.
Essential nutrients for men
For men, new sperm are constantly being made. Essential nutrients such as zinc and omega-3 fatty acids are directly involved in sperm production. Over the following 3 months, sperm mature and develop and need to do so under the protection of antioxidants. Zinc plays a further role here, as does selenium, vitamin C and vitamin E to name the big players. We’ve all heard that the ‘Western Diet’ is bad for us. But even if you are not eating pizza and soda every day of the week, a large number of our patients are low in these critical antioxidant mineral and vitamins.
Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) is a condition in which a woman’s levels of sex hormones are out of balance. This leads to the growth of ovarian cysts on the ovaries.
PCOS is thought to affect up to 10% of women of childbearing age and if you have two of the following three features you may be diagnosed:
- Irregular or absent periods – which means your ovaries don’t regularly release eggs or ovulate
- Excess androgens – high levels of “male hormones” in your body, which may cause physical signs such as acne or excess facial or body hair
- Polycystic ovaries detected on an ultrasound
Balancing your hormones naturally
Nutrition plays an important role in balancing your hormones naturally. When our hormones are out of balance, this can lead to problems such as pre-menstrual syndrome (PMS), irregular, painful or heavy periods, difficulties getting pregnant and a myriad of menopausal symptoms. At every stage in your life, supporting your hormonal balance through simple dietary and lifestyle changes could help to reduce the effects of hormonal changes.
Zinc is an extremely important mineral in our diet. It is a component of one of the most abundant antioxidant compounds in the body (copper-zinc oxide dismutase) and is a co-factor in over 400 reactions in the body, including many steps involved in metabolism. It is essential for the production of sperm and for the development of mature eggs and uterine health in female fertility. Zinc is critical for the production of thyroid hormones and thus regulation of our hormones in general and prevention of miscarriage.