You don’t have to search too hard to discover that fertility rates in the U.S. and Canada have fallen to a record low [i]. There is a number of contributing factors associated with this decline, but one of the most compelling is a poor diet. Research is starting to reveal that nutrient deficiencies play an important role in the development of many diseases that cause infertility.
Correlations Between Infertility & Poor Nutrition
There are numerous interesting correlations that can be made between the increasing infertility rates, historical changes that have occurred in the U.S. food supply, and increases in chronic disease. For instance, the latest report from the National Center for Health Statistics sourced by PEW Research Center [iii] tells us that the general fertility rate among women of childbearing age took a sharp down turn around 1958-59, around the time processed foods, trans fats, use of prescription medications and use of sugar all became epidemic [iv]. Now, trends from 60+ years ago will sound like ancient history to many of you, but remember that genetics has a role to play here as well. How your parents ate at the time of your conception is in your genes, so keep reading! Here are a few additional key facts and trends:
- Inflammation in the gut and elsewhere in the body can minimize nutrient absorption which can lead to deficiencies in available nutrients needed for healthy sperm, egg and hormone production, which determines successful conception.
- In the U.S. per person consumption of sugar skyrocketed around 1955 to 2000 to 126 grams (25 teaspoons) of sugar per day, 110 grams per day in Canada.
- Guess what some of the negative effects of sugar are on the human body? Insulin resistance, lowered immunity, dysmenorrhea (severe PMS), yeast infections and hormone disruptions. Just one of those conditions can cause infertility.
- Consuming dairy products that are made from cows fed with hormone additives can disrupt the endocrine system, leading to hormonal imbalances which can cause male infertility, as well as Polycystic Ovary Syndrome and endometriosis in women.
- Between 1954 and 1960 the FDA enacted some of the first legislation to govern food safety guidelines, which allowed the use of food additives, pesticides, color additives in our food. These substances are known as excitotoxins and endocrine disruptors – very fancy words for nasty little molecules that have the ability to kill off brain neurons, mess with blood sugar levels, disrupt hormone production and increase the risk of infertility.
Unfortunately, most soon-to-be parents aren’t paying attention to the history and deteriorating quality of our food supply or the burdening escalation of chronic disease. Nutrition just isn’t on the radar, which seems strange to those of us who understand this basic principal: Garbage in = Garbage out. Or put another way: Poor parent health = Poor genetics, hormones, and baby health
What You Eat Matters
Of the estimated 1 in 6 Canadian and American couples who struggle with getting pregnant each year, there is undeniable evidence that lifestyle, nutrition, and environmental factors are a major culprit [v]. This is great news for those of you who want to get pregnant because it gives you the chance to do something to improve your circumstances, whether that be changing your diet or ridding your home of toxic cleaning products. If you are 6 to 12 months away from the time you want to be pregnant, you are at the perfect point to adopt a healthier lifestyle and eating habits to support conception and the healthy pregnancy I know you desire.
Can You Make the Commitment?
As hopeful new parents, the time for giddy joyfulness will come, but right now you should focus your efforts on making short-term decisions and changes that will benefit you and your baby long-term. Do some internet research, read a book, consult with a nutritionist…. there are many practitioners who have the knowledge to help you through this. The commitment to turn around your health needs to come from YOU. Really educate yourself. Consider this your first job as loving, responsible future parents – to improve your overall health. Doing so will increase your fertility and your chances of having a healthy pregnancy and delivery.
Top Tips For Optimal Health and Fertility Prior to Conception
Click below to download a guide on how you can support your and your partner’s body six months prior to conception.
About The Author
Barbara Rodgers, NC, BCHNÒ, is an author, educator, and strategist for the holistic nutrition industry. In her private practice, she works one-on-one with clients dealing with autoimmune disorders, fertility, chronic fatigue, and stress. The goal of Barbara’s work is to elevate the level of awareness among the masses that integrative, holistic healthcare options are often effective as a treatment for chronic and severe illness. She is living proof that even “incurable” disease can be managed without toxic medical or pharmaceutical intervention. Note: This information is provided as a resource and for educational purposes only. These recommendations are not intended as a substitute for consulting a physician or licensed healthcare practitioner. If you are pregnant, consult your doctor before beginning any nutritional or dietary changes.
[i] National Post (2012). “Infertility On the Rise In Canada: Study”. [ii] Mercola, J., M.D. (2009) “10 Ways to Address Your Root Causes of Infertility – Naturally”. [iii] PEW Research Center, Livingston, G. (2015). “Is U.S. Fertility at an All-time Low?” [iv] U.S. Food and Drug Administration (2015). “Significant Dates in U.S. Food and Drug Law History”. [v] http://www.reuters.com/article/us-couples-infertility-idUSBRE90A13Y20130111