Creating new life is a process that doesn’t always happen easily, and many factors can come into play. The food that you’re nourishing your body with is one of these factors, and it can play a significant part in your ability to conceive and maintain a pregnancy. Sugar in particular can throw a real spanner in the works. We are going to delve into this today, and take a look at how sugar affects insulin, hormone health, egg quality, embryo quality and early miscarriage. Let’s start with sugar and it’s affects on hormonal health.
How sugar affects hormonal health
Hormonal health works on a tightly controlled feedback system. If a certain hormone is too high, or too low, the feedback system gets out of balance and issues occur as a result. Insulin is just such a hormone. Insulin is secreted in response to glucose in the blood stream, which happens anytime you eat carbohydrates. If you eat something extra high in sugar, more insulin is released. When this happens often, the body becomes sluggish at responding to insulin, and you end up with insulin resistance.
Insulin resistance plays a large part in the presentation of polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS). In PCOS, insulin resistance increases hormones known as androgens, including testosterone. It also plays a part in creating cysts on the ovaries, impairs follicle stimulating hormone and goes on to limit ovulation and fertility.
Insulin resistance also increases the bodies level of cortisol, the well-known stress hormone. Your body then perceives you are ‘stressed’, and fertility and reproductive functions can shut down until your body believes the stress is over.
How does sugar affect your egg quality?
A diet high in refined sugars and refined carbohydrates can also damage the quality of your eggs. It works the same way in men and can lower the DNA quality of the sperm. When low quality eggs and damaged sperm meet up, the likelihood of conception is lowered. It also increases the risk of early miscarriage, keep reading to find out how this works.
Sugar intake and early miscarriage, are they related?
With a moderately high sugar intake, the placental cells struggle to attach properly to the uterus. This increases the risk of ‘non-attachment’ or early miscarriage. Another aspect of this is chromosomal abnormalities in the fetus. Studies are showing that if blood sugar is not stable at the time of ovulation and consequent conception, the risk of chromosomal abnormalities is heightened. One of the main known causes of miscarriage in the first trimester is this chromosomal abnormality.
So, while this all sounds a bit sinister, there is a lot that can be done to give yourself the healthiest ovulation, conception and pregnancy possible. Let’s take a look now at how you can keep your blood sugars in check and optimise your fertility.
How to optimise your fertility
Nutrition is an obvious low hanging fruit here, and one that we have a lot of control over. The best way to ensure you are consuming food that is good for you and your fertility is to opt for wholefoods, the way that nature intended. These include:
- healthy protein sources from eggs, nuts, grass fed meats, organic dairy and legumes
- Complex carbohydrates from wholegrain oats, rice, quinoa, buckwheat and of course fruits and vegetables
- Healthy fats from fatty fish, avocadoes, nuts and seeds and organic dairy.
- Vitamins & minerals from loads of green leafy veggies and brightly coloured fruits and vegetables.
If you feel like something sweet, pair fruit with some organic full fat yogurt, or make a smoothie with some frozen fruits, chia seeds, yogurt etc. When you have sweetness with good quality fats and or proteins, it helps to stabilise your insulin response.
Exercise is also key. Performing moderate exercise helps to stabilise and lower your blood sugar levels. This could be a 30 minute walk each day, resistance exercise such as weights or pilates/yoga, or some short high interval training sessions. Move in a way that feels good to you, and that is also sustainable with your lifestyle.
Supplementation can also be a key pillar for some people. There are key nutrients required for blood sugar regulation, and also for hormonal health and fertility. Your practitioner will be able to guide you on what nutrients you need specifically, and in what forms for best absorption.
Lastly, blood sugar regulation is an important pillar of fertility, but it isn’t the only factor. There is so much that can be done to improve your hormones and your fertility. I’m here to be your guide on this journey. If you’re ready to find some answers and get the help you need, please head HERE to book your first appointment.