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Nutrition as complimentary therapy for infertility

Catherine McDiarmid-Watt | Monday, May 12, 2008 | 0 comments

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Nutrition as complimentary therapy for infertilityOVER the past 20 years, fertility problems have increased dramatically. At least, 25 per cent of couples planning a baby will have trouble conceiving, and more and more couples are turning to fertility treatments to help them have family.

Nutrition is not just a complimentary therapy, it is something we do to our body on daily basis. So, it makes sense that if we intend to produce a child, we ensure that we give that child the best possible start in life by eating the best quality foods we can afford. It takes about three months for a sperm to develop and three months for an egg to ripen, so we should ensure that we start this healthy diet and lifestyle before we plan to conceive.

Though it goes without saying that a healthy diet is crucial to a successful pregnancy and a healthy baby, many people are unaware of the fact that diet can help to correct hormone imbalances that may affect one's ability to conceive. From medical point of view, infertility is believed to be caused by the following factors and in these proportions: ovulatory failure (20 per cent), tubal damage (15 per cent), endometriosis (five per cent), problems (26 per cent), and unexplained (30 per cent).

If the mathematics does not add up, it is because many couples experience more than one problem when trying to conceive. For example, one may suffer from endometriosis, but the partner may also have a low sperm count. Interestingly, the most common cause of infertility is "unexplained," which means that following thorough investigations, doctors can find no specific or identifiable medical problem at the root.

But this is where a natural approach can come into play. If a couple fails to become pregnant, there is obviously something causing the problem. It is no good labeling infertility "unexplained." The answer is to look deeper - at lifestyle sectors, nutritional deficiencies and even emotional elements (Marilyn Glenville 2008).

Zinc is probably the most important fertility nutrient. It is responsible for hundreds of enzyme systems, many of which affect sexual performance and fertility. After fertilisation has occurred, the embryo cells need to divide and grow and zinc is absolutely vital for this process. Zinc deficiency can increase the risk of miscarriage and low birth weight babies.

Zinc is the most widely studied nutrient in terms of fertility for both men and women. It is an essential component of genetic material and a zinc deficiency can cause chromosome changes in either the man or the woman, leading to reduce fertility and an increased risk of miscarriage. Zinc is necessary for the body to "attract and hold" (utilize sufficiently) the reproductive hormones - estrogen and progesterone.

Zinc is found in high concentrations in the sperm. It is needed to make the outer layer and tail of the sperm and is, therefore, essential for the health of the man's sperm and subsequently, the baby. Interestingly, several studies have also shown that reducing zinc in a man's diet will also reduce his sperm count. Diets low in zinc can reduce sperm counts, while excessive alcohol intake can reduce zinc levels even further. Zinc is found in food such as meat, wholegrain cereals, seafood, eggs and pulses.

Another nutrient that has a role in male fertility is selenium. Selenium is an antioxidant that helps to protect the body from highly reactive chemical fragments called "free radicals." For this reason, selenium can prevent chromosome breakage, which is known to be a cause of birth defects and miscarriages. Good level of selenium is also essential to maximise sperm formation. Blood selenium levels have been found to be lower in men with low sperm counts. Brazil nuts contain lots of this important mineral, alongside meat, seafood, mushrooms and cereals.

Folic acid can prevent spina bifida in your baby, and it is essential that you get plenty both before and during pregnancy. And that is not all: folic acid is undoubtedly important, but it is just part of the very important B-complex family of vitamins that are necessary to produce the genetic materials DNA and RNA. Together with vitamin B12, folic acid works to ensure that a baby's genetic codes are intact.

It is not enough to take folic acid alone when one is trying to become pregnant, all of the B vitamins are essential during the pre-conceptual period. Research has shown that giving B6 to women who have trouble conceiving increases fertility and vitamin BI2 has been found to improve low sperm count. Rich dietary sources include fortified breakfast cereals, bread, green leafy vegetables (such as Brussels sprouts, broccoli, spinach and green beans), oranges, dried beans, peas and lentils.

Vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant and has been shown to increase fertility when given to both men and women. Vitamin C is also another antioxidant, and studies show that Vitamin C enhances sperm quality, protecting sperm and the DNA within it from damage. Some research has indicated that certain types of DNA damage in the sperm could make it difficult to conceive in the first place.

Drinking any alcohol at all can reduce your fertility by half, and the more you drink, the less likely you are to conceive. There is plenty of evidence to show that caffeine, particularly in the form of coffee, decreases fertility. Drinking as little as one cup of coffee a day can halve your chances of conceiving.

Smoking has definitely been linked with infertility in women. It can even bring on an early menopause, which is a particularly important consideration for older women who may be trying to beat the clock. Smoking can decrease sperm count in men, making the sperm more sluggish, and can increase the number of abnormal sperm. With men, the effects on fertility are increased with the number of cigarettes.

It is crucial for women to obtain an optimum level of body fat (at least 18 per cent). If the level drops below this, it can lead to hormone imbalances, which may result in a failure to ovulate. At the other extreme, obesity can lower a woman's chances of conception.

In general, meat, shellfish, milk, cheese, bread, wheat germ, citrus fruit, dark green leafy vegetables, egg yolks, nuts, avocados, oily fish, seeds and olive oil are good sources of zinc, Vitamin C, E and good fats and it is encouraged that it be consumed.

Abegunde is of the Department of Nutrition, Faculty of Public Health, University of Ibadan.
Source: http://www.guardiannewsngr.com/natural_health/article03//indexn3_html?pdate=070208&ptitle=Nutrition%20as%20complimentary%20therapy%20for%20infertility&cpdate=080208


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Catherine

About Catherine: I am mom to three grown sons, two grandchildren and two rescue dogs. After years of raising my boys as a single mom, I remarried a wonderful man who had never had a child of his own. Unexpectedly, I found myself pregnant at 49!
Sadly we lost that precious baby at 8 weeks, and decided to try again. Five more losses, turned down for donor egg, foster care and adoption due to my age and losses - we have accepted that there will be no more babies in our house.

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