Solving infertility

The nutritional approach that increases your chances of conceiving naturally and also makes IVF treatment more likely to succeed.

Hatching healthy eggs
Unlike men – who produce a regular supply of fresh sperm after puberty – women are born with all their eggs (or ova) in place. Your ovaries contain about two million eggs at birth, but as you age, they gradually disintegrate. By puberty, there’s about 750,000 left, and by age 45, only 10,000 can be left. Your fertility is dependent on the health of these eggs and your reproductive organs, plus your body’s ability to produce the right balance of hormones to ‘mature’ your eggs ready for ovulation with each monthly cycle. Getting the right mix of supporting nutrients is key to this. In this section, we identify specific vitamins, minerals and fats that can make you more fertile. However, no nutrient works in isolation. Eating a well balanced diet enhanced with supplements that boost levels of all essential nutrients is the best route to achieving good health and maximising your fertility.

Tune up your sex hormones
The mineral zinc is absolutely vital for reproductive health. Infertility, low sex drive and period problems have all been linked to inadequate levels. Together with vitamin B6, zinc affects every part of the female sexual cycle. Working in partnership, these two nutrients ensure that adequate levels of sex hormones are produced. For example, one hormone called LHRH (luteinising hormone releasing hormone) causes your pituitary gland to stimulate the development of an egg (or ovum) that causes ovulation. A deficiency in either zinc or B6 causes a deficiency in LHRH, so your fertility decreases. Adequate levels of zinc and B6 also increase your desire for sex (which is why zinc-rich oysters are called an aphrodisiac) and alleviate pre-menstrual problems – women who suffer from premenstrual syndrome (PMS) are often zinc deficient (1).

After conception, zinc and B6 ease pregnancy sickness and post natal depression, as well as increasing the chances of having a healthy baby. Oysters, lamb, nuts, egg yolks, rye and oats are all rich in zinc, while B6 is found in cauliflower, watercress, bananas and broccoli. The optimum intake is 20mg of zinc and 60mg of B6, which you can achieve with a diet that includes these foods plus a good multivitamin and mineral supplement.

Why the right fats are essential
Fat is an essential part of our diet. But while the wrong kinds of saturated fats – found in processed foods, meat and dairy products – are rich in most people’s diets, the right kinds of fats are normally lacking. Oily fish such as mackerel, herring, sardines and salmon are rich sources of one kind of essential fat called Omega 3. Nuts and seeds are rich in the other kind – Omega 6. Like zinc and B6, Omega 3 and 6 fats are needed for healthy hormone functioning, so a deficiency is likely to effect your menstrual cycle and therefore your fertility.

To make sure you get enough essential fats, aim to have a portion of oily fish two to three times a week and eat a handful of fresh, unsalted seeds every day. Seeds are also rich sources of minerals (including zinc) and protein, so they make a perfect snack. But because of their fat content, they are prone to damage when they come into contact with oxygen (a process called oxidation – see below). For best results, follow our magic formula: keep a mixture (50 per cent flax and 50 per cent pumpkin, sunflower and sesame) in a screw-top jar in the fridge, then grind a heaped tablespoon in a coffee or food grinder each day to sprinkle on cereals, yoghurt or soups. Grinding releases...

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