The conception and bearing of children have a history both revered and disparaged. Still, on balance, children are desired by most young couples. The inability to have them, consequently, is a source of stress and grief for those struggling with fertility. While scientists have made great strides in improving the chances of a healthy conception, many twosomes are frustrated at every turn. Perhaps surprisingly, the answer to their troubles may lie in a low-tech solution: proper nutrition. Specifically, research increasingly demonstrates a correlation between a lack of dietary fiber and poor fertility health. This may provide hope for couples trying to conceive.
Female Hormones and Fertility Health
Some women are plagued with a surplus of estrogen. This can lead to conditions like endometriosis and polycystic ovary syndrome. Normally, endometrial tissue is confined to the lining of the uterus. With endometriosis, however, this tissue grows beyond the uterine cavity to affect the ovaries, fallopian tubes and pelvic region. Cysts, inflammation and other problems result, as do pain and discomfort—and reduced fertility health.
Too much testosterone is, on the other hand, implicated in polycystic ovary syndrome. The high concentration of testosterone—or another androgen hormone—inhibits the female follicles from ovulating, i.e. releasing eggs, and interrupts the hormonal changes that should occur with each monthly cycle. Among the myriad complications that follow is difficulty with becoming pregnant. In some cases, high insulin levels lead to the excess androgens that precede polycystic ovary syndrome.
Male Fertility Health
Up to half the cases of studied infertility trace the source back to the man, according to research recently published in the Journal of Clinical Medicine. Significantly, high-fat diets and obesity were primary factors in poor male fertility health. These diets adversely affected sperm count, quality and motility (how well they swim) and are marked by low consumption of fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Including these foods and reducing saturated-fat intake is recommended to reverse sperm deterioration. Dr. Feiby Nassan of the Harvard University School of Public Health puts it simply: “Your sperm is what you eat.”
How Fiber Boosts Fertility Health
Fiber aids in the regulation of blood sugar. In so doing, it controls the exaggerated swings in hormonal levels that are associated with the female disorders described above by removing surplus estrogen. Meanwhile, a diet rich in fiber promotes weight loss and better sperm quality in men. Taken together, the odds of conceiving are vastly improved.
Elevated blood sugar in women, according to the American Diabetes Association, can wreak havoc with hormonal levels—namely estrogen, progesterone and testosterone—thereby leading to complications with the endometrium and follicles referenced earlier. Men with high blood sugar risk altered sperm DNA as well as erectile dysfunction. Needless to say, stabilizing sugar is paramount when trying to get pregnant. Fiber has proved to slow the absorption of sugar into the bloodstream. Consider this: do health care professionals give someone with dangerously low sugar an apple or a glass of apple juice? It is the latter because the fiber of the apple retards the sugar’s entry into the blood. This is how fiber is a boon to greater fertility.
The good news is that high-fiber foods are not hard to find. Cruciferous vegetables like arugula, broccoli, cabbage, kale and watercress are notable in their fiber content. Likewise, legumes such as green peas and red beans are excellent fiber sources. Apples are among the fruits highest in fiber content. Whole grains and wild rice also pack a fibrous punch. Overall, adding fiber to the eating plan is both convenient and inexpensive. Actually, it could make the difference between a life of frustrated infertility and the joy of creating new life.
Is fiber a miracle cure for infertility? No. Yet its absence in a diet may be one of the reasons—if not the primary reason—that a couple has difficulty with conception. The relationships of fertility health to hormones and blood sugar make it clear that food intake that is rich in fiber can only help in the achievement of pregnancy.