Infertility and desire for children – can nutrition help?
In fact, countless couples would like to have children, but pregnancy may not happen.
According to the Cologne-based Federal Center for Health Education (BZgA), every seventh partnership remains unintentionally childless. The causes of infertility are manifold if the longed-for desire to have children is not fulfilled. In addition to the advancing age of the partners, body weight also plays a role. Stress, hormonal disorders, diseases, medications, as well as an unbalanced diet, luxury products,
especially alcohol and nicotine, can also have an impact.
If pregnancy does not occur one to two years after stopping contraceptives, both partners should consult a specialist in order to clarify possible medical reasons for infertility.
Sperm quality, fallopian tube dysfunction, hormonal imbalances, diseases such as endometriosis, thyroid dysfunction, or polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) are possible causes that can stand in the way of pregnancy. Very few of these causes are congenital, but arise from diseases, surgery or an unhealthy lifestyle.
Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)
About 15 percent of women of childbearing age suffer from polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). PCOS is one of the most common hormonal imbalances in women. It involves the increased production of male hormones such as testosterone. Too much testosterone interferes with the development of the follicles. The follicles cannot mature and atrophy prematurely. In addition to an excess of male hormones, insulin resistance can also be a cause for the incomplete formation of the follicles. As a result, ovulation fails to occur, menstrual cycles lengthen or menstrual bleeding (amenorrhea) stops completely. This process is controlled in the pituitary gland – the “control center” for hormonal balance – because the pituitary gland produces follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) and luteinizing hormones (LH). Both together regulate the menstrual cycle, i.e. FSH ensures that the oocytes mature and LH stimulates ovulation and corpus luteum formation. In PCOS, LH production is increased and FSH production is decreased. Higher levels of LH contributes to the increased production of androgens, male sex hormones, in the ovaries, which are converted to estrogen with the help of FSH in fatty tissue. However, since FSH levels are reduced in PCO syndrome, less estrogen is converted, resulting in excess androgen that prevents a normal cycle. Other accompanying symptoms that can occur, in addition to infertility, with an increased androgen level (male sex hormones) are acne, hair loss, disturbed fat metabolism or high blood pressure.
In overweight women, PCOS occurs much more frequently, especially when fat cells increasingly settle on the abdomen. The abdominal fat is the production site for inflammatory molecules including TNF-α, interleukin-6. Likewise, hormones are increasingly produced in the fat cells, which can create a hormonal imbalance.
As early as the late 1980s, scientists drew attention to the fact that the distribution of fat in the body has an impact on our health. In many people, body weight and BMI (body mass index) are not significantly elevated, but they still have fat deposits (visceral fat) on the abdomen. The measure used to determine whether increased visceral abdominal fat is a risk factor is waist circumference, which should not exceed 35 inches (88 cm) in women, according to the International Diabetes Federation. For men, the limit
is an abdominal girth of 40 inches (102 cm).
However, obesity not only increases the probability of PCO syndrome, but also the probability of insulin resistance (which often occurs in connection with PCO syndrome). The body’s cells hardly respond to the signals of the insulin, which transports sugar from the blood into the body’s cells. The decisive factor is the fact that less adinopectin is produced in fat cells. Adinopectin is needed to activate the GLUT-4 transporter present in the cells, which allow sugar to enter the cells. As a result, less sugar is absorbed into the cell for energy supply. The body tries to counteract this and signals the pancreas to produce more insulin in order to maintain the sugar utilization. A vicious circle is triggered, because a constantly high insulin level promotes fat storage and allows fat cells to continue to grow. At the same time, the production of male hormones in the ovaries and kidneys is increased.
Obesity is also a problem for men and their sperm quality. Studies have shown that overweight affects sperm quality, i.e. with a body mass index of 25, men lose an average of 25 percent of their sperm. It can be assumed that hormonal changes also take place in men with an augmented increase in fatty tissue, which influence sperm quality. Furthermore, it is known that the fat that accumulates around the testicular vessels increases the temperature in the testicles and thus harms the sperm. The temperature in the testicles is usually 2-3 degrees below the actual body temperature. In addition to clarifying whether a medical cause is the reason why pregnancy is delayed, one should also focus on nutrition. Nutrition has a great influence on fertility in both men and women. With a balanced diet rich in vital substances, as
recommended by Metabolic Balance, weight can be gently reduced, hormones can be brought back into balance and thus a basic prerequisite for pregnancy can be created. Furthermore, the acid-base balance benefits from a change in diet, as detoxification processes are stimulated. Weight reduction is absolutely desirable in case of overweight or obesity. The diet should be designed in such a way that the underlying insulin resistance can be reduced, i.e. the insulin sensitivity of the cells can be reactivated. However, this requires stable blood glucose levels and moderate insulin levels. Diets with a lower carbohydrate content and a higher protein content are predominantly recommended. This is easy to practice with Metabolic Balance.
In addition to high-quality proteins and complex carbohydrates, an optimal supply of micronutrients is important. Numerous studies have shown that an adequate supply of folic acid is not only important for women who want to become pregnant, but also for men, because folic acid is said to significantly improve the quality of sperm. In addition, a diet rich in folate can reduce the number of sperm with a chromosomal defect and thus prevent possible malformations. Natural folic acid is found mainly in green
vegetables, pulses, oatmeal, peanuts and tomatoes. Another trace element that plays a decisive role in the desire to have children is zinc. Zinc promotes the body’s own production of the male hormone testosterone and thus also influences a better quality of sperms and their mobility. In addition, the quantity of sperm is also increased.
However, zinc deficiency also significantly affects fertility in women, because cycle disorders can occur and serum concentrations of the sex hormones estrogen and progesterone fall below the normal range. Zinc deficiency, even if it prevails only for a short period of time, contributes to limited fertility in both sexes. Meat lovers can now relax, because zinc is found in abundance in various types of meat such as lamb, beef, turkey, but green vegetables, pulses and nuts can also contain a lot of zinc.
Science has not yet studied all the micronutrients associated with fertility However, it is certain that selenium, magnesium, vitamin E, C and the B vitamins also help to regulate the hormonal balance in men and women and increase the ability to conceive. Vitamin E – the Greek denomination is tocopherol – roughly translated means “to beget a child” – “to expect a child” – in fact, sufficient vitamin E improves oocyte quality and, incidentally, with vitamin C, also acts as a powerful antioxidant. Perhaps this is the reason why it is now and then called the “vitamin for the desire to have children”. Vitamin E is abundant in cold-pressed oils, seeds, nuts, egg yolk and also in whole grain products.
Numerous studies have already shown how important omega-3 fatty acids are for our bodies. In particular, eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexanoic acid (DHA) have a positive influence on our immune system and are predominantly recommended for inflammatory diseases. After the first trimester of pregnancy at the latest , it is also increasingly important for expectant mothers to be supplied with
sufficient omega-3 fatty acids to promote the healthy development of the child. Studies have also found out that EPA and DHA promotes fertility in women and also supports egg implantation. In the study, the recommended amount of EPA/DHA via fish oil capsules was 480 mg per day. Omega-3 fatty acids are mainly found in fatty sea fish, nuts and linseed oil and should enrich the diet more often. For example, every day a handful of nuts and at least 3 tablespoons of cold-pressed linseed oil can help ensure the supply of essential omega-3 fatty acids.
Just as, on the one hand, a balanced diet can have a positive effect on fertility, on the other hand, alcohol, smoking, drugs, excessive exercise or even environmental pollutants can limit fertility. Regular alcohol consumption or smoking disrupts the hormonal balance in both sexes. While oocyte maturation is delayed in women and the menstrual cycle is disturbed, the concentration of sperm in the ejaculate
decreases in men and the proportion of defective sperm cells increases.
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