Too often the entire focus of fertility recommendations are directed towards women. It is true that egg quality is the single most important factor in determining conception. That said, a healthy egg cannot overcome sperm with damaged DNA. So, let’s provide some guidance for what men should be doing with their food choices to improve the chance of a successful conception. http://nutritionfacts.org/video/male-fertility-and-diet/
An important aspect of “lifestyle medicine” is helping our patients take control of the factors of their daily routine that may tip them towards a higher pregnancy rate. Toward that end, one of important determining factors of egg quality has to do with whether not the egg has been damaged prior to fertilization. So let’s consider what causes egg damage and what we can do to prevent it.
Each egg that you have has been waiting since you were an infant for the opportunity to grow and develop. During the years that the eggs remain dormant, they are very susceptible to adverse conditions. For instance, small charged particles called free radicals can damage the proteins, membranes and the DNA within the eggs. These free radicals are formed normally as a result of physiologic processes like digestion and ovulation. However, there are lifestyle situations like tobacco use or over-eating that can promote free radical formation. Additionally, conditions like endometriosis are believed to impair fertility at least partially due to the increase in the production of free radicals. A recent review detailed how eggs that have been damaged by free radicals have a lower capacity to produce a successful pregnancy.
Your body makes chemicals called antioxidants whose purpose is to be there to capture and neutralize free radicals when they are formed. Since free radicals only exist for an instant, it is important that these antioxidants are always around. Unfortunately, most of us don’t make enough of these little protectors. That’s why foods that contain antioxidants are believed to be so healthful. Not only can they provide us with these chemicals that we need but they can do so when they would be most useful—during digestion. There is evidence that berries of the Acai—a palm tree grown primarily in northern Brazil—may be able to tip the delicate balance in your favor and therefore protect your ovaries from damage.
Studies suggest that Acai berries may contain more antioxidants than blueberries, raspberries or any other potent natural antioxidants. Additionally, the juice contains healthy omega-3 fatty acids suggesting that this may be another means by which it may provide health benefits. To date, one on-going study suggested that women that had failed IVF due to poor egg quality; had an improved outcome after taking an Acai supplement prior to their next attempt. The two to three months prior to an egg’s release represent the time when it is most susceptible to harm. Therefore if you have a low ovarian reserve and/or a history of poor egg quality; you should consider taking an Acai Supplement. A convenient dosing schedule is 1000 mg taken twice each day. There are various supplements available or you can try consuming Acai products two to three times each day as part of a healthy diet. I find the Sambazon products (http://www.sambazon.com/products ) to be diverse and very appealing because they are organic and sustainably harvested.
Studies show that during the average pregnancy in the US, women will consume between 12 and 14 lbs of food additives. This will include more than 4,500 different flavorings, additives, preservatives, pesticides and herbicides that are deliberately added to what they’re consuming. Although we have regulatory agencies that are supposed to insure the safety of what we are exposed to in our diet, most of these have been placed in a category of “generally recognized as safe” or GRAS. As this blog and my books reveal, there is growing data demonstrating how unsafe many of these hormone-disrupting chemicals can be. More surprising to me is that while it is assumed that these chemicals are safe until studies show otherwise; many people demand proof that organic products offer an advantage. On this too, the data is becoming increasingly clear.
In March of 2008, a comprehensive review of the published research comparing the nutritional content of organic foods to those produced through conventional farming techniques. This paper included 97 research studies that compared the nutrient content of 236 paired items. The organic foods were superior in 145 (61%) of the comparisons; while the conventionally farmed foods were superior in 87 (37%). In 2% there was no difference. Specifically, the organically grown foods tend to be higher in vitamins, minerals and anti-oxidant content whereas the conventionally grown foods tended to be higher in protein, nitrogen and sugar content. This means that the organic foods are healthier while the others are more calorie-dense. By switching to organic products you can reduce your exposure to hormone disrupting chemicals by about 90% while supporting beneficial practices for the environment.
Over the past several years, the purchase of organic products has gone up by over 30%. As a result, their cost has come down and their availability has increased. That doesn’t mean that it doesn’t cost a bit more. Here are some steps that you can take if you’re on a more limited budget:
- Consider re-directing some of the money that you spend on vitamins/supplements toward organic food purchases. There is less of a need to “supplement” a healthy diet.
- Be selectively organic. Some foods are more prone to contamination from conventional farming than others. Here are the foods that you simply can’t clean away the toxins from: apples, cherries, peaches, raspberries, bell peppers, grapes, pears, spinach, celery, nectarines, potatoes and strawberries.
- Pay attention to your method of cooking. If you’re grilling at high temperatures, deep-frying in oils or micro-waving your food in plastics then you’re introducing all sorts of toxins that aren’t necessary.
- Reduce your consumption of animal products. Many of the toxins that animals are exposed to are stored in their fats. By consuming meat, fish or poultry you’re getting a concentrated dose of what that animal was exposed to during its life. By lowering your portion size and choosing leaner options you’re be reducing your chemical burden.