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Simple Steps to Support Fertility

Monica Emerich


Many factors - genetic, lifestyle, dietary and even stress - can affect your ability to have a child. And while some cases of infertility require medical attention, there are simple steps you can take to improve your chances of conceiving:

  • Understand the different threats to male and female infertility.
  • Eat a healthy, balanced diet - organic foods, whole grains and fresh fruits and veggies.
  • Reduce or eliminate certain lifestyle factors such as cigarettes, alcohol and caffeine.
  • Dietary supplements - vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and essential fatty acids - help support fertility.
  • Excessive weight gain or loss and too much stress can cause infertility.
  • Try acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine - their benefits date back thousands of years.

What is infertility?
Infertility is defined as the inability to conceive a child after a year of unprotected sexual intercourse. Infertility does not only strike those who have never had a baby, it also can happen to those who have had children and are trying again. In fact, statistics show that infertility has increased more than 30 percent over the past 50 years.

Men and women can both suffer from infertility. The following outlines the most common causes of infertility in the genders.

Male Infertility

About 90 percent of the cases of low sperm count are caused by insufficient sperm production, and there is a strong correlation between the number of sperm in an ejaculation and fertility. Sperm count and quality are affected by nutrition. Consider the following supplementation guidelines to help overcome male infertility. Vitamin C protects sperm from damage; low dietary vitamin C levels are linked to infertility. Vitamin B12 is necessary for reproduction. A deficiency in this essential vitamin leads to low sperm counts and reduced sperm motility or movement. Vitamin E protects sperm from oxidative damage that can lead to infertility. Carnitine is an important amino acid, a deficiency of which can cause low sperm counts and decreased motility. Zinc is a critical trace mineral involved in male sexual function because it directly affects sperm count and testosterone levels. Food sources of zinc include nuts and seeds - especially pumpkin seeds - whole grains and brewer's yeast. Siberian ginseng, yohimbe and saw palmetto are herbs that may help treat male impotence.

Female Infertility

Infertility in females is considerably more complex than in males. It can result from lack of ovulation, nutrient deficiencies, genetic or health problems, a hormonal imbalance, ovararian disorders or stress. The following nutrients have been shown to support female fertility.

  • Beta-carotene - essential for ovulation.
  • Vitamin E - a powerful antioxidant.
  • Vitamin B6 - one of the most essential nutritional supplements for fertility.
  • Vitamin C - supports the production of female sex hormones.
  • B complex vitamins play a central role in the functioning of the nervous system and in hormone balance. They also help counteract stress.
  • Iron deficiency - a frequent culprit in infertility. Before you supplement with iron, always check with a health care provider, as an increase in iron can cause serious health problems in some people.
  • Herbs - vitex or chaste tree berry, dong quai, black cohosh and wild yam are traditionally used to balance female hormones.

Following these guidelines can help improve your chances for entertaining the stork.

1. Diet recommendations
The Standard American Diet (SAD) is highly suspect as part of the cause of today's high infertility rates. High in fat and full of sugar, it's desperately low in essential nutrients. Some infertility experts also suspect that infertility is linked to our increased exposure to chemical additives and toxins in the food we eat.

Boost your chances to conceive with the following tips: Eat natural and organic foods. Eat whole, unprocessed foods including whole grains, legumes, fresh vegetables, fruits, nuts and seeds. Identify any suspected food sensitivities and allergies. Drink at least six to eight glasses of water daily. Eliminate or reduce alcohol and caffeine consumption. Limit sugar and refined carbohydrates. If you smoke, quit. Engage in regular exercise.

2. Lifestyle considerations
If you drink more than one drink a day, take drugs, smoke, or drink caffeinated beverages, you may be endangering your fertility. It is advised that you reduce or eliminate these habits.

3. Dietary Supplements for overcoming infertility
You are what you eat, and clinical studies have shown that deficiencies in certain vitamins, minerals and essential fatty acids can adversely affect fertility.

"Often, women and men are relatively malnourished," says Tim Smith, M.D., author of Renewal: The Anti-Aging Revolution (Rodale Press, 1998). "They often lack a sufficient quantity of essential nutrients to get the body to the point of reproductive functioning."

The basic nutritional supplement program for fertility includes: A high quality multivitamin and mineral supplement. Antioxidant nutrients including beta-carotene, selenium and vitamins E and C. Essential fatty acids (EFAs) such as flaxseed oil to provide sufficient amounts of alpha linolenic, an omega-3 fatty acid, and linoleic acid, an omega-6 fatty acid.

4. Maintain a healthy weight
Weight can affect the fertility of both men and women. For women being overweight or underweight can prevent ovulation. But before you overdo it trying to lose weight, remember that too much exercise can harm ovulation and sperm count. Your health care provider can help you determine the best weight goals for you.

5. Reduce your stress
Stress is difficult to escape in the modern world but, sadly, it can cause infertility. Fortunately, it is often a temporary situation. Try the following to reduce stress: Slow down - work less Deep breathing exercises Yoga or other mind/body disciplines Regular physical exercise Stress reduction classes Therapy or counseling

6. Try TCM and acupuncture
The benefits of Traditional Chinese Medicine and acupuncture date back thousands of years in China. In fact, infertility has been treated with acupuncture since 11 A.D.

"These techniques assist in regulating women's menstrual cycles and in invigorating the sperm," says Roger Hirsh, OMD and licensed acupuncturist. "They also serve to enhance the function of the whole body."

It is important to understand that there are many causes and solutions for infertility. While the suggestions here can support healthy reproductive function, it is always a good idea to visit your health care practitioner to rule out serious complications.

Related Articles

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Male Fertility Declines With Age, Too

Boost Your Fertility With Diet

Can What a Man Drinks Affect His Fertility?

What To Expect At Your First Fertility Checkup


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