By Mylinh Nguyen R.TCMP, R.Ac
Trying to conceive can be an exciting time for many couples as they embark on the journey to expand their family. It can also be a time of great stress and anxiety for some parents-to-be, as unexpected difficulties may arise.
With the increasing rates of infertility in Canada being seen in both women and men over the past decade, there is definitely a cause for concern. Diet and lifestyle factors play a substantial role in how fertile a person is, and with the rapid technological advances and the food and chemical industry expanding at an unprecedented rate, healthy lifestyle choices are becoming increasingly more difficult to make.
Currently, it is estimated that 40% of all infertility cases have no apparent cause and it may very well be that environmental factors are playing a major role in this issue. To help reduce the negative impact that some lifestyle choices have on fertility, the following list outlines 3 natural ways to enhance fertility and improve chances of conceiving.
Drinking Clean Water
The average adult is made up of 60-70% water and therefore, maintaining proper hydration levels is extremely important for good overall health. When trying to conceive, it is even more crucial to have an adequate amount of water intake on a daily basis to help keep body fluids flowing efficiently and hormones in balance.
When considering the amount of water to drink, a good rule of thumb is to take your body weight in pounds, divide that by 2 and the result you get is the number of ounces you should have in a day. For example, a 140lb person would do well with 70 fluid ounces of water, or about 9 cups on average each day.
It is also important to note that the type of water you drink plays a key factor in fertility. With the ever-rising levels of contamination in our environment, it is necessary to make sure that the water being consumed is clean and has been properly filtered. Investing in a reverse osmosis, water distillation, or multi-stage filtration system are excellent options for ensuring that your drinking water is free from contaminants. And of utmost priority, when it comes to fertility, is to avoid drinking water from plastic bottles and cups. Water is known as the universal solvent, making it the perfect medium to house chemicals that have leached out of plastic containers. Many of the chemicals found in plastics are endocrine disruptors, which means they interfere with hormone balance in the body.
Getting Enough Good Quality Sleep
The amount and quality of sleep a person receives plays an immense role in the regulation of hormones within the body. One of the most important of those hormones is melatonin, the hormone that regulates the body’s circadian rhythm. Proper levels of melatonin are required for a person to experience rejuvenating sleep. Melatonin is secreted from the pineal gland during the night and numerous studies have shown that sleeping while exposed to light or in close proximity to electrical devices, may reduce or delay the production of melatonin, which in turn disrupts the sleep cycle. This is why it is best to sleep in a completely darkened room and away from all electrical devices. It is also important to avoid any type of screen at least 1 hour before bed, to not suffer the negative impact of the blue light emitted from screen, which also disrupts proper hormone production.
Apart from encouraging healthy sleep, melatonin is necessary for regulating other hormones in the body including those that direct a woman’s menstrual cycle. Melatonin plays a crucial role in fertility and fetal development and low levels of melatonin have been linked to fertility problems.
A 2016 study showed evidence that sleep does in fact affect male fertility as well because of its impact on testosterone levels. Testosterone is an important hormone that regulates male fertility and the majority of testosterone released in men occurs during sleep. In this same study, men who slept for six hours or less had 25% lower sperm counts and the sperm died much faster in comparison to men who got a more sleep. Because a sleep cycle is approximately 1½ hours in length, it is ideal to aim for 7½ or 9 hours of sleep each night.
Avoiding Caffeine and Alcohol
Caffeine is known to increase stress and anxiety levels in both men and women, so it is no wonder that it would affect fertility as well. Many studies have shown that caffeine contributes to infertility in both men and women.
Researchers from the National Institute of Health have found that consuming caffeinated drinks (i.e. coffee, tea, pop and energy drinks), even prior to pregnancy can raise the risk of miscarriage by 74%. They also found that if a woman continued to consume caffeine during the first 7 weeks of pregnancy, that she was more likely to miscarry. In addition, this study noted that men who consumed caffeinated beverages prior to conception were just as strongly associated with pregnancy loss as females.
For women trying to conceive, it is important for them to understand that caffeine is a stimulant that causes a constriction of blood flow to the uterus. Caffeine is also known to interfere with implantation. All types of coffee, whether regular or decaf, are acidic and this can make the body and cervical mucus too acidic, thus reducing the chances of conception. Further to this, some studies have linked caffeine to lower sperm counts in men.
Alcohol consumption has been associated with an increased risk for ovulation disorders in women. Studies have shown that moderate to heavy alcohol consumption in men is associated with a decreased sperm count, motility and percentage of normal appearing sperm. Improvements in sperm markers has been seen after 3 months of abstinence from alcohol.
With all of these factors in mind, we can see how just a few slight adjustments in lifestyle choices, can lead to enhanced fertility potential in both men and women. These lifestyle changes have been shown to increase fertility whether trying to conceive naturally or in conjunction with assisted reproductive therapies.
To help prepare the body further and heighten fertility to an even greater level, it is a good idea to seek out care from a qualified health practitioner who will be able to create a tailored plan to each person’s individual needs and offer comprehensive support.