Bad diets can be fatal to your fertility.
We are bombarded daily with information telling us that being overweight or obese is not good for our health and tips on how to lose this extra weight.
There are thousands of methods listed on the web,magazines or other sources that claim to help you to lose weight and hence promote your health. What they fail to tell you are the hidden risks asociated with a rapid weight loss and the problems it can create for your fertility.
If obese, losing weight through a controlled and healthy diet, can improve anthropometric indices and can restore ovulatory cycles increasing the chance of falling pregnant. On the other hand, misguided crash dieting can be detrimental to your fertility, by causing ovulatory infertility.
Following a few simple and smart steps, you can lose weight if necessary and at the same time optimise your ovulation and your fertility rather than destroy it.
How does your weight affect your ovulation?
Weight can play a determining factor in your fertility, simply because it can affect your ovulation.
Ovulation is affected by hormones, which among other factors, are also affected by the percentage of fat a woman has. Obese or underweight women may have hormonal disturbances resulting in menstrual disorders, due to body fat and estrogen production relation.
Recent research suggests that more ovulatory infertility is attributed to being overweight and leading a sedentary lifestyle than to being underweight and over exerting oneself. However, if you are obese or overweight and are trying to fall pregnant, you have to be very careful about the way you lose weight and the rate of this weight loss. Dieting and starving the body of the nutrients it needs may result in ovulatory disorders, compromising your fertility. Research has shown that 30% of infertility is caused by ovulation problems.
What is ovulation and when does in take place?
Most women are aware of their ovulation and therefore can plan the fun part of making a baby. However, for some women, ovulation signs are not so obvious and their ovulation day is not always the same.
Ovulation is when a mature egg leaves the ovary and travels through to meet a sperm. If fertilization occurs, then a zygote is created ready for implantation. If the egg does not get fertilized, then menstruation will start in a couple of weeks.
Usually, ovulation takes place half way through your cycle. If, for instance, you have a 28-day cycle, then you will most probably ovulate on day 14. In reality, however, we are not programmed to be like computers, therefore, it is very important to find out and be certain of your ovulation day, rather than speculate it.
Determining your ovulation is crucial
There are various ways to determine your ovulation day. One of the best ways is to make a chart and record the changes in your body temperature with a basal body thermometer. A basal body thermometer will give you a four-digit reading (i.e 36.65). Therefore, you can be more accurate. If using a BBT for finding your ovulation day, it is important that you take your temperature daily as soon as you wake up, before getting out of bed, before drinking water and before doing anything else.
When recording your body temperature, it is also important to sleep for 4 continuous hours before doing so. You should do this for 2-3 months. Your temperature will raise ½ a degree Celsius on the day of your ovulation due to progesterone secretion. In addition to this, your vaginal secretion around ovulation should resemble the consistency of an egg white.
By tracking your ovulation, you can better plan your actions but it can also help you to pin point any ovulatory dysfunction. Irregular ovulation means that your hormones aren’t quite right, which can lead to other issues, like lack of fertile cervical mucus, thinner or thickening of the endometrium, abnormally low levels of progesterone and a shorter luteal phase. All of these are related to infertility.
If your ovulatory dysfunction is due to excess body fat or poor eating habits, following the next few simple steps may resolve your issue and lead to pregnancy. A low glycemic, Mediterranean type diet can improve ovulatory infertility, decrease preterm birth and the risk of gestational diabetes.
10 steps to lose weight and enhance your ovulation
Step 1: Eat small and frequent meals. Preferably every 3 hours to keep your blood glucose stable throughout the day.
Step 2: Avoid too many carbohydrates in one meal. I usually recommend no more than 2 servings of carbohydrates in one meal (depending on the anthropometrics of each person). One serving for example, is equal to a slice of bread or one small potato.
Step 3: Eat unrefined complexed carbohydrates. Due to their high fiber content and low glycemic index, they don’t cause a rapid blood glucose elevation, which is important for good hormonal balance. Examples of unrefined complexed carbohydrates is pulses and sweet potato, whereas sugar and white bread are refined and have a high glycemic index.
Step 4: Add vegetables to all your meals and snacks. Due to their high fiber content, vegetables will make you feel full, which is important to your weight loss effort. Choosing a wide variety of vegetables ensures the intake of many different vitamins and minerals needed for fertility.
Step 5: Include fruits in a smart way. Fruits are very important especially due to their antioxidant compounds, however, eating too many fruits in one meal or drinking fruit juices can raise your glycemic index. To lower the glycemic index of fruits combine them with a small amount of protein or fat such as a slice of cheese, or yogurt or a few unsalted nuts.
Step 6: Good quality protein is vital. Good protein sources include beans, lentils, chickpeas, black eye peas, unsalted nuts, original Greek yogurt from goat or sheep, fish, shellfish, organic or free range eggs and chicken and meat from grass fed cows. Protein that comes from conventional sources may include antibiotics and hormones which make them a bad source for your fertility.
Step 7: Good fat is good. Eat small portions of good fat such as unsalted nuts (brazil, walnuts, almonds) seeds, avocado and olive oil. Two Brazil nuts a day can provide you the selenium you need, which is vital for fertility.
Step 8: Avoid ready-made meals and processed foods. They are usually high in bad fats, sugar, salt, and preservatives, and cause fertility issues.
Step 9: Light exercise is necessary. Include some type of light exercise daily such as walking, pilates, yoga, swimming and more. Avoid vigorous and exerting types of exercise as it can cause a flush of different hormones in your body and negatively impact your fertility.
Step 10: Do not lose more than ½ kilogram per week. Adjust your portion sizes accordingly to avoid rapid weight loss which again is not optimal for your fertility.
TAKE HOME MESSAGE
· Excess body fat and poor eating habits can lead to ovulatory infertility.
· Dieting and starving will only lead to more fertility problems.
· A low glycemic, Mediterranean type diet will help you lose the extra weight, while restoring your ovulation dysfunction and optimise your fertility.
National Collaborating Centre for Women's and Children's Health (UK. "Fertility: assessment and treatment for people with fertility problems." (2013).
Diet and lifestyle in the prevention of ovulatory disorder infertility Moran, Lisa J., Victoria Tsagareli, Manny Noakes, and Robert Norman. "Altered preconception fatty acid intake is associated with improved pregnancy rates in overweight and obese women undertaking in vitro fertilisation." Nutrients 8, no. 1 (2016): 10.
Riley, J.K. and Jungheim, E.S., 2016. Is there a role for diet in ameliorating the reproductive sequelae associated with chronic low-grade inflammation in polycystic ovary syndrome and obesity?. Fertility and sterility, 106(3), pp.520-527.
Hakimi, Osnat, and Luiz-Claudio Cameron. "Effect of Exercise on Ovulation: A Systematic Review." Sports Medicine (2016): 1-13.