Are you struggling with infertility and wondering how you can increase your chances of successful conception? Look no further than your gut. Yes, you read that right. There is a strong connection between gut health and fertility, and we wrote the book on it that Fertility Experts and Dietitians are reading!
If you LOVE science, you can read Create a Fertile Gut: A Science Backed Approach to Nurture Your Microbiome for Optimal Fertility, IVF and Pregnancy Success.
In this blog, we have gathered expert insights on how to eat for successful conception by nurturing your gut. We'll explore the impact of gut health on fertility and discuss dietary recommendations that can support your journey towards not only better periods and hormone balance, but pregnancy and parenthood.
By adopting a gut-friendly diet, rich in specific nutrients to nurture beneficial bacteria, you can optimise your fertility potential. Get ready to discover the gut-fertility connection and take control of your reproductive journey. Let's dive in!
The Role of Gut Health in Fertility
Did you know that the billions of bacteria residing in your gut and the compounds they produce- collectively known as the gut microbiome - play a crucial role in regulating various aspects of your reproductive health? From hormone production to nutrient absorption, these helpful bacteria heavily influence your fertility.
A healthy gut microbiome is essential for maintaining hormonal balance, which is key for successful conception. The gut microbiota interacts with your body's endocrine system, helping to regulate the production and metabolism of hormones such as oestrogen and progesterone. Imbalances in these hormones can disrupt the menstrual cycle and make it difficult to conceive.
Our gut microbiome also plays a role in nutrient absorption. Without proper nutrient absorption, your body may lack the essential vitamins and minerals needed for reproductive health. This can impact the quality of eggs and sperm, making it more challenging to conceive.
To nurture your gut health and enhance fertility, it's important to focus on nourishing your gut microbiome. This can be achieved through a gut-friendly diet that includes specific nutrients and beneficial bacteria.
How the Gut Affects Hormone Balance
The intricate relationship between the gut and hormone balance is fascinating. But how exactly does this happen?
The gut microbiota produces enzymes that metabolise hormones in the body, ensuring that hormone levels remain balanced. When the gut microbiome is disrupted, this delicate balance is disturbed, leading to hormonal imbalances.
For example, high levels of particular bacteria in the gut can cause an increase in the production of enzymes called beta-glucuronidases. These enzymes can interfere with the metabolism of oestrogen, leading to increase oestrogen recycling and an excess of this hormone in the body. Elevated levels of oestrogen can disrupt the menstrual cycle and make it more challenging to conceive. You can read more about oestrogen balance here.
Our microbiome also plays a role in the balance of androgens, particularly in PCOS. Restoring microbiome balance has been shown to reduce circulating androgens, helping to maintain a balanced hormonal environment.
By nurturing your gut health, you can support the proper metabolism and balance of hormones for better periods, healthier sperm and conception.
The Impact of Inflammation on Fertility
Inflammation is a natural response by the body to injury or infection. However, chronic inflammation can have detrimental effects on fertility.
When the gut microbiome is imbalanced, it can lead to increased intestinal permeability, commonly known as "leaky gut." This can allow toxins and harmful bacteria to enter the bloodstream, triggering an inflammatory response in the body.
Chronic inflammation can interfere with the delicate balance of hormones and disrupt the reproductive system. It can also promote conditions such as polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) and endometriosis, which are known to affect fertility.
To reduce inflammation and support fertility, focus on whole, nutrient-dense foods that are rich in antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds.
Gut-Friendly Foods for Fertility
Now that we understand the importance of gut health for fertility, let's explore the specific foods that can support your reproductive journey.
1. Fibre-rich fruits and vegetables: Fruits and vegetables are packed with fibre, which is essential for a healthy gut. Fibre promotes regular bowel movements and helps maintain a diverse gut microbiome. Aim to include a variety of colourful fruits and vegetables in your diet, such as berries, leafy greens, and cruciferous vegetables like broccoli and cauliflower.
2. Probiotic-rich foods: Probiotics are beneficial bacteria that can help restore and maintain a healthy gut microbiota. Include fermented foods in your diet, such as yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, and kimchi. These foods provide a natural source of probiotics and can contribute to a thriving gut microbiome.
3. Omega-3 fatty acids: Omega-3 fatty acids have anti-inflammatory properties and can support overall gut health. Including sources of omega-3 fatty acids in your diet, such as fatty fish (salmon, mackerel, sardines), chia seeds and flaxseeds will deliver fertility nourishing compounds.
4. Wholegrains: Wholegrains, such as oats, quinoa, and brown rice, are rich in fibre and can promote a healthy gut microbiome. Wholegrains are one of the most important carbohydrates for fertility as they are packed with nutrients and antioxidants.
Wholegrains are grain foods that have not been processed or refined. They contain more fibre, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants than their refined versions (e.g. white bread).Examples of wholegrains are barley, brown and wild rice, spelt, buckwheat, bulgur (cracked wheat), quinoa, freekeh, corn, wholemeal or wholegrain bread, oatmeal and popcorn. Gluten free wholegrains include sorghum, quinoa, millet, buckwheat, amaranth, teff, corn and brown and wild rice.
A diet high in wholegrains in the 12 months prior to conception is associated with increased live birth rates in women undergoing fertility treatments like IVF. Swap that white rice for brown rice and you are already increasing your wholegrain intake!
5. Plant proteins: Lean proteins, such as chicken, turkey, fish, and legumes, provide important nutrients for fertility, including iron and zinc. These nutrients are essential for hormone production and support a healthy reproductive system.
While animal protein can form part of a fertility diet for the amino acids, iron and nutrients that may be harder to source from plant-based foods alone, opt for a number of ‘meat free’ meals across the week to increase your intake of plant based protein.
If you are getting excess protein from animal sources, this consumption usually comes with an increased saturated fat intake and a reduction in fibre intake. This is not a good combination for a happy gut microbiome.
Increases in fibre degrading bacteria that come with a diet high in plant-based foods produce beneficial compounds to strengthen the intestinal barrier, reduce inflammation, balance hormones, and support your metabolism.
Plant based protein can be sourced from foods including legumes, chickpeas, bean, quinoa and tofu.
6. Prebiotics: Fertile Gut prebiotic and synbiotic formulations are scientifically crafted with selected compounds proven to nurture gut diversity and support the production of fertility nurturing compounds.
If you are looking to improve microbiome diversity, reduce inflammation, support hormone balance, improve digestive health and build a foundation for optimal reproductive health our Ultimate Gut Nurturing Duo has you covered.
By incorporating these gut-friendly practices into your day, you can optimise your gut health and increase your chances of successful conception!
Mena et al, 2019 Human Repro Update
Duval et al 2015 Fertil Steril
Hajizadeh et al, 2019 J Strength Cond Res
Hajizadeh et al, 2018 Life Sci
Clark et al, 1995 Human Reprod
Evans-Hoeker, et al., Fertil Steril, 2013.
Bailey & Ayling, Sci Rep, 2018