When attempting to start a family - we learn fairly quickly the importance of nutrition. But did you know that just as there are nutrients that assist and sustain healthy fertility, there are also anti-nutrients that can negatively affect your fertility?
An anti-nutrient is a "natural or synthetic compound that interferes with the absorption of vitamins, minerals and other nutrients". It either steals nutrients from the body to process the compound or takes more nutrients from the body to ward off its effects. In the simplest terms, it is a compound that is causing more harm than good.The pretty white stuff we call sugar is one of those.Let's define...
Sugar: From a scientific standpoint sugar is known as "sucrose" - two simpler sugars stuck together: fructose and glucose. In a recipe, a little bit of acid (i.e. lemon juice or cream of tartar) will cause sucrose to break down into these two components. Sugar is a carbohydrate and is found naturally in most plants.
According to a recent study done in 2015 by Euromonitor, the average American consumes about 32 teaspoons of sugar per day. (To give you perspective, that's just slightly more than what is consumed from drinking 3 - 12oz cans of Coke.) To compare - an average person today consumes in 2 weeks what a person in the 1700s consumed in an entire year! Of course in the 1700s they got their sugar intake mainly from healthful, natural fruits. Today - well it comes from just about everything that goes in our mouth.
Why Does the Amount of Sugar I Eat Matter?
So let's backup to what we mentioned at the beginning of this article - sugar is an anti-nutrient. That means it requires some of the nutrients you already have stored in your body, in order to metabolize and process, nutrients like B vitamins, vitamin C, calcium and trace amounts of potassium, magnesium, zinc, chromium and sodium! This means, that consuming foods high in sugar (this includes HFCS), depletes your bodies stored reserves of these nutrients. To put it simply - this means it provides calories and that's it. So if you ate enough sugar, and nothing else, your body would eventually be stripped of all its nutrient reserves and you would eventually die. But before you got there - you would just walk around miserable and sick with your body not functioning properly.
What are the Effects of Sugar on Fertility?
Have I scared you? I'm not trying to - but the amount of sugar in your diet is a very big deal. I passionately believe that couples who want to make a baby need to have the facts. A lot of people seem to know a lot about 'diet', but not-so-much about nutrition. There is no magic pill you can take, as every part of your diet and the nutrients it does (or doesn't) provide your body, lays the foundations for a healthy – or not so healthy – egg and sperm.
In your effort to prepare for pregnancy, you and your other half have likely learned a lot about 'diet'. But how much have you actually learned about nutrition?... All the little micro-nutrients that dance throughout your body throughout the month in order to prepare for pregnancy?Nutrition - not just diet - is important!
Within this foundation, we find that one of the major components that we need to keep tabs on in our body is our blood sugar. A healthy blood sugar level is key to your overall health, as too much is a major hormone disruptor and has a negative impact on the fertility process. Maintaining good blood sugar regulation is extremely important to give yourself the best possible chance of getting pregnant fast.
What is Blood Sugar?
We all need sugar. It is required for our bodies to function properly. By sugar, I am referring to "glucose" - the sugar found in our blood (blood sugar). It's the simplest of the carbohydrates, making it a monosaccharide and along with fat; glucose is one of the body's preferred sources of fuel in the form of carbohydrates. People naturally get glucose from bread, fruits, vegetables and dairy products. You use it for everything from walking and talking to breathing and thinking.
Normal blood sugar range is between 80 to 100 mg/dL with 89.9 mg/dL as a good baseline, some research suggests even lower levels such as 70-85.After you eat a meal, your blood sugar levels rise will rise and fall as your body either uses the energy it had received or stores it away. The bloodstream can only handle about 5 grams of glucose at any one time, which is equal to one teaspoon; too much is toxic to the body. When we eat, our body alerts the pancreas that it needs to release insulin to deal with the rising blood sugar level. The body actually works very hard to get it out of the bloodstream quickly because of this very fact.
On the flip-slide, when blood sugar is low, glucagon is released from the pancreas, which in turn stimulates the liver to convert glycogen back to glucose to be released into the bloodstream (a process called, glycogenolysis)
How Does Blood Sugar Impact Fertility?
Sugar reeks havoc with your hormones. So what does that mean to you and your plight for pregnancy? When you consume sugar it quickly raises your insulin levels for a brief period of time, then the levels drop considerably. When your sugar levels drop, your adrenals release both adrenaline and cortisol in an attempt to restore sugar levels back to a balanced state. This ends up eventually causing a hormonal imbalance. The reason that this impacts fertility so significantly is because progesterone (the main hormone required for ovulation to occur) and cortisol compete to bind to the same receptors in the body. And unfortunately, Cortisol will always win. So if this competition continues for an extended period of time it can disrupt the entire endocrine system - which then disrupts all your sex hormones: oestrogens, progesterone, the androgens DHEA and testosterone. ·
Sugar causes inflammation. This is of major importance if you live with endometriosis. Endometriosis affects the uterine lining and makes the implantation of an embryo difficult - in turn affecting fertility and conception. Many Studies have shown that endometriosis sufferers who cut out sugar from their diet notice substantial changes and in some instances completely recover. This is due to the immediate reduction of inflammation. ·
Sugar affects PMS. When your time of the month rolls around, your PMS symptoms can be a clear indicator on how balanced your hormones are. If you're struggling to maintain balanced emotions, it's likely your body is struggling to maintain balanced hormones - is sugar playing the bad guy here? ·
Sugar leads to insulin resistance. We have learned that insulin goes to bat for us to convert excess sugar to energy. But did you know our bodies where never meant to have this battle taking place quite so often? Because insulin is being released over and over, this eventually leads to insulin resistance - also called "pre-diabetes". Insulin resistance has been connected to issues with ovulation, egg maturation and implantation of the embryo. It also puts women at a much higher risk of miscarriage. ·
Sugar depletes essential vitamin and mineral stores. In order for our bodies to function efficiently, they require balanced hormones. In order to balance our hormones, they require specific amounts of vitamins and minerals. And sugar messes with this. When our vitamin and minerals are low, it can lead to amenorrhea, irregular periods, lower immunity, increased infection (which can be a factor in miscarriage), increased anxiety, depression and gut health issues like irritable bowel syndrome.
The take away of all this? One of the best things you can do for yourself and your future baby is to reduce your sugar intake! Join the Fertility Diet Challenge to learn how to get started!
Sarah Clark empowers couples to discover how lifestyle and diet can dramatically impact their chances of conceiving. She was diagnosed with premature ovarian failure at 28 and had both her kids with donor eggs. Not until years later did she discover that the root cause of her infertility was a food intolerance. Join the Free Fab Fertile Support Group on Facebook for mini-challenges, motivation and inspiration!