There are many things that can affect your fertility such as age, poor lifestyle choices like smoking, and a history of sexually transmitted infections. If you're interested in getting pregnant right now or later on in life, you may be curious about what affects fertility. According to fertility experts, there are certain eating habits that can affect your fertility that you might want to watch out for.
According to Dr. Marra Francis, board-certified OB/GYN and Executive Medical Director at EverlyWell, there is evidence out there to prove that diet can effect ovulation and fertility. In general, "good fats" like fish and avocado can help boost ovulation, while other fats like red meat and fried foods can decrease egg production and ovulation, she says. Other foods that relate to ovulation and egg production include grains and plant proteins, which she says are good for ovulation.
But there are other eating habits that might affect your fertility, like how regularly you eat, or the types of containers your food or drinks may be packaged in — all are important to note if you are trying to or are considering conceiving.
Here are some eating habits you may not realize dramatically affect your fertility, according to experts.
If you have a habit of forgetting to eat lunch due to a hectic work schedule, that can have a way of affecting your fertility without you realizing, as can under-eating. "Ovulation can be skipped leading to an anovulatory cycle or delayed most often due to under-eating (i.e. strict diets ... skipping meals due to busyness,) matched with over-exercising," Holly Grigg-Spall, fertility expert at Daysy and author of Sweetening The Pill, tells Bustle. Under-eating can lead to nutrional definiciencies and stress, whereas over-exercising can cause stress on the body.
According to Grigg-Spall, making any sort of major diet change will often lengthen or shorten cycles, move ovulation periods, or change a woman's fertile window. So it's important to give your body the nutrients it needs to ovulate during every cycle. "Keep eating more nutritious, whole foods and your partner should be doing the same," she says.
Editor's Note: If you or someone you know has an eating disorder and needs help, call the National Eating Disorders Association helpline at 1-800-931-2237, text 741741, or chat online with a Helpline volunteer here.
If you have any food sensitivities or allergies, always be mindful to keep those far away from your body. "The women I work with monitor their cycles via basal body temperature data and can clearly see the impact food sensitivities and food allergies can have on their cycles," Grigg-Spall says. Charting your basal body temperature is what some women do to help track fertility. Your basal body temperature is your temperature when your body is fully rested, and ovulation is known to increase your temperature. According to Planned Parenthood, this method has a 76 to 88 percent success rate.
Some allergies can cause your body temperature to rise. Based on Grigg-Spall's observations, women who track their cycles have noticed increases in body temperature after consuming foods that cause allergic reactions. "The inflammatory response brought about for them (in short) has been found to prevent ovulation or lengthen the cycle considerably," she says.
For those lucky enough to be without food allergies or sensitivities, moderation and eating a nutrient dense diet is key. "Consuming good fats will help women ovulate every cycle," she says. "Ovulating every cycle is essential for optimum fertility."
Bisphenol A, or BPA, is an industrial chemical than can be found in everyday items like plasticware. As Carolyn Gundell, MS, the fertility nutritionist with the Reproductive Medicine Associates of Connecticut tells Bustle, it's important to be aware of foods packaged in plastics or cans that may contain BPA or even styrofoam. "BPA, plastics, non-stick pans, phthalates, parabens, and other chemicals can have endocrine disrupting effects, which are harmful for fertility," Gundell says. As a tip, try to avoid microwaving foods in plastic tupperware as much as you can. That can also be harmful to your health in general, Gundell says.
Taking herbal remedies can seem like a healthy and more natural way to cure certain ailments. However, Gundell says there are no "miracle foods," and that a diet rich in folic acid may be the way to go versus herbal remedies.
"Fertility patients need nutrient-dense foods, especially those with folic acid," she says. "It's important to give the body what it needs to function effectively." Gundell recommends having a healthy, well-balanced diet that's rich in vitamins, minerals, good fat, complex carbs, citric fruit, and green leafy veggies.
"A large study found that the Mediterranean diet has been shown to improve success rates from In Vitro Fertilization (IVF)," which may mean it can help fertility overall, Dr. Edward Marut of the Fertility Centers of Illinois, tells Bustle.
According to the 2018 study published in the journal Human Reproduction, women who followed a "Mediterranean-style" diet were 65 to 68 percent more likely to achieve a successful pregnancy and birth than women who did not. It's all about consuming foods that are high in heart-healthy fats and consists of olive oil, fresh fruit and vegetables, whole grains, legumes, fish and less red meat intake. So it's not about following a certain diet plan, it's about consuming a range of foods that are healthier for you.
Choosing to go organic can be a good thing if you're looking to protect your fertility. According to Dr. Francis, opting for organic dairy products can be better in the long-run because non-organic milk usually contains hormones that can interfere with ovulation.
Besides that, Dr. Marut says, "Skim milk has also been associated with infertility, so opt for whole milk or a higher fat milk." A 2007 study published in the journal Human Reproduction found drinking whole fat milk and eating ice cream were better for fertility than consuming low-dairy products like skim milk and yogurt. In fact, women who ate at least two servings of low-fat dairy foods a day were 85 percent more likely to be at risk for ovulation-related infertility than women who ate less than one serving of high-fat dairy food a day.
If you are trying to conceive, you may want to cut back on the caffeine intake because a study published in the journal Lancet found "women who consumed more than the equivalent of one cup of coffee per day were half as likely to become pregnant, per cycle, as women who drank less." When reducing caffeine, it's important to remember that caffeine can also be found in soda, energy drinks and chocolate. But you don't have to stop drinking caffeinated beverages entirely. Dr. Marut recommends, "No more than two servings a day is considered safe, and if you can cut it down to one" then that is even better.
If you are looking to get pregnant in the near future but think you need to make some slight changes in your eating habits overall, Dr. Dara Godfrey, fertility specialist and nutritionist in Progyny’s Network tells Bustle it takes about three months for an egg to mature. So keep these things in mind once you decide to start trying to conceive.
But most importantly, be sure to consult your doctor before making any major changes to your diet. Every body works differently and what works for most, may not work for you. So always keep your doctor in the loop just to be safe.