Blog

What should men eat for fertility?

December 24, 2018
male fertility diet, toronto naturopath, naturopathic doctor toronto, fertility naturopath

Spoiler alert: Men can contribute to infertility. 

It’s not just a woman’s issue. And what you’re eating (or not eating), can affect your fertility success. Let’s dive into a couple of things that can help improve sperm parameters in men. 

Fatty Acids and Fertility

The sperm cell membrane high in fatty acids, and these acids are necessary for sperm function. The membrane is pretty important when it comes to fertilization – it helps with cell maturation, penetrating and fusing with the egg. 

The fatty acids that you need to do these jobs can’t be made by your body, so you need to either eat fish, supplement with fish oil, or eat nuts and seeds. Studies have shown that male fertility patients who have a higher intake of omega-3, have more normal sperm. A study looking at walnuts (which are a great source of omega 3s) have been related to higher sperm parameters – vitality, motility (how sperm move), and morphology (how sperm look). Another study showed that men’s fish intake was related to shorter time to pregnancy and a lower risk of infertility. 

It is important to pay attention to mercury levels in fish, and consider avoiding fish with high mercury levels as it may impact fertility. 

Soy and Fertility

Women aren’t the only ones cautious about soy. From my experience, men are pretty fearful too. When we look at the research on dietary soy and men’s health it’s pretty conflicting. While one study mentions that dietary isoflavone intake is associated with higher sperm count and motility, another says that soy intake is associated with lower sperm concentration. 

Here’s the thing, if you’re vegan or vegetarian and soy makes up a large part of your diet, aim for non-GMO and organic sources. 

Dairy & Meat and Fertility

Research on diary and sperm parameters is pretty mixed. One study looking at young men and dairy consumption showed that intake of dairy products (like milk) have been related to lower testosterone, FSH and LH levels. 

When it comes to meat, the same results exist. Some studies show that meat is unrelated to sperm parameters, some show that processed meat affects sperm counts. 

Something to consider though is your cardiovascular health. While that Double Big Mac might not do anything to your sperm, it might affect your heart health! Keep in mind that your body 

Fruits & Vegetables and Fertility

Unsurprisingly, fruits and vegetables are cornerstone of good health. But, many of them are sprayed with pesticides. One study showed that consumption of high-pesticide-residue fruits and vegetable was associated with poor sperm quality in men attending a fertility clinic. 

So what does this mean? Choose organic when eating foods off the Dirty Dozen list. 

Next Steps

Overall, the review that I read didn’t go into as much detail as the female version. However, it did mention that if you’re going to abide by a diet, then the Mediterranean Diet is a good bet. It’s high in seafood, vegetables and fruits, whole grains, etc. Basically you’re not eating processed and packaged foods.  

Changing a diet can be pretty difficult. I’m of the mind of taking it a week at a time, so if you’re introducing a new food or avoiding an old (but problematic) favourite, do it in weekly increments. 

When I was giving up gluten, cow dairy and eggs, I picked one and committed to that for a week, then gave up another, etc. When introducing new foods like salmon, commit to eating it once a week, find different ways to prepare it, etc. Changing your habits around food don’t need to be difficult. But like all things, it does take some work. 

For more information on how you can boost your fertility and improve your sperm parameters, consider working with a naturopathic doctor. If you have any questions, feel free to get in touch!

Reference

Nassan, F., Chavarro, J. and Tanrikut, C. (2018). Diet and men’s fertility: does diet affect sperm quality?. Fertility and Sterility, 110(4), pp.570-577.

What should women eat for fertility?

December 17, 2018
female fertility diet, toronto naturopath, naturopathic doctor toronto, fertility naturopath

It might come as a surprise that few people think about preconception health. And to be honest, when they do, it’s usually because of fertility struggles. Diet plays a huge role in how we feel and function, and provides the necessary building blocks to support conception.

Carbs and Fertility

Carbs might make up a significant part of your diet. When it comes to nutritional science, there’s a lot of learn about carbs, but I want to focus on 2 things: the glycemic index and glycemic load. 

The glycemic index is a value assigned to a particular food on how fast or slow it causes an increase in your blood glucose level.

The glycemic load combined quality and quantity of carbohydrates. It’s calculated by the amount of food you eat and the glycemic index of the particular food.The glycemic load is also associated with higher risks of ovulatory infertility.

In PCOS, it’s been found that women will often consume foods with a higher glycemic index. When women reduce their carb intake (or perhaps choose carbs with a lower index and load), their insulin sensitivity will improve, testosterone will decrease, and ovulation will occur (this is important, because anovulation is a key symptom in PCOS).

Fats and Fertility

Let’s clear something up. Fat isn’t bad. Yes, some are better than others and there are some you should avoid completely. But you need fat to make hormones, help your eggs mature and to get that tiny blastocyst to implant! 

Unsurprisingly, you should be avoiding trans fats. They increase insulin resistance, may prevent ovulation from happening, and decrease your chance of getting pregnant.

To get into specifics, omega 3 fatty acids are associated with progesterone production in the luteal phase (this is important!) and a reduced risk of anovulation. In women undergoing IVF, omega 3 fatty acid intake was associated with better embryo morphology. 

Protein and Fertility

You should be eating at least 1g of protein per kg of body weight (more if you’re active). Protein comes in different forms: animal and vegetable. One study showed that ovulation was negatively affected by increased animal protein. While another study showed that although fish, eggs, and processed meats didn’t have an effect on ovulation, vegetable protein intake decreased anovulation. Blastocyst formation in assisted reproductive technology decreased in patients consuming more red meat. But it was positively affected by fish consumption.

Now before you head on off to the local fish monger, you want to pay attention to fish and mercury content (as it may interfere with hormones and fertility). Fish to avoid would be bigeye tuna, king mackerel and swordfish.

Soy protein often gets a bad rap, but can actually be beneficial in women seeking fertility treatments. Soy isoflavone supplements were associated with improvement in reproductive outcomes, increased live birth after clomiphene administration, and higher endometrial thickness and ongoing pregnancy rates after IVF and ICSI. 

A couple things to consider before ordering your soy latte – choose organic, non-GMO soy. And if you have a thyroid condition, it’s best to avoid dietary soy altogether.

Next Steps

It might be obvious that a diet that leans towards fast food/processed foods and few fruits and vegetables is probably not the best. And when it comes to a diet in particular, adopting a Mediterranean diet (which basically has a foundation of vegetable and fruit, whole grains and fish) has shown to be effective in a few studies. 

Pesticides and other chemicals in our foods may also affect reproductive success, so if possible, choose organic when you can. Basically, if any of the fruits and vegetables that you eat appear on the Dirty Dozen, eat the organic version instead. 

When choosing meats, aim to get your meats from local farms if possible. And grass-fed and antibiotic-free are great options too. 

 If you found this information helpful, please sign up for my monthly newsletter called The Flow for great and informative content like this!

References

Chiu, Y., Chavarro, J. and Souter, I. (2018). Diet and female fertility: doctor, what should I eat?. Fertility and Sterility, 110(4), pp.560-569.

Why am I getting acne now that I’ve stopped birth control?

Written by   in 
January 9, 2018
acne birth control, toronto naturopath, naturopathic doctor toronto

You started birth control years ago to deal with acne. 

Now you’re thinking it’s time to stop for good. 

But you’re worried that you’re going to start breaking out again. 

Does this sound familiar? You’re not alone. This is (unfortunately) a common thing that many people struggle with. Let’s figure out why this happens and what you can do about it!

Why does acne happen?

When  we start puberty, a bunch of our hormones get activated – estrogen, progesterone, androgens, etc. Sebum production increases from about 9 years old to 17 years old. Hormones like testosterone can trigger acne because it increases sebum production.

Birth control and testosterone

Birth control pills have a couple of effects on hormones:

  • Decrease androgens like testosterone, DHT and DHEA-S
  • Increases SHBG
  • Decrease serumproduction

The progestins used in birth control are actually pretty structurally similar to testosterone, and can therefore produce androgenic side effects. However the side effects are based on how ‘androgenic’ the progesterone is – this is known as the androgen index.

Progestins with a high androgen index may cause can cause acne, hair loss, weight gain, and insulin resistance. These progestins include: medroxyprogesterone acetate, levonorgestrel, norgestrel, and etonogestrel.

Progestins with a low androgen index may cause depression or anxiety, low libido, and suppress adrenal function. When you stop taking this type of progestin, your body may rebound by producing a lot of androgens because it doesn’t think any are available. These progestins include: drospirenone, norgestimate, cyproterone, and natural progesterone.  

Your skin on birth control

You might have noticed that when you started birth control, your skin became clearer. That’s because the hormones in the pill (estrogen and progestin) suppress androgens (like testosterone) and ultimately sebum. When your sebum levels are low, your skin will make more sebum to compensate. The estrogen and progestin will continue to suppress sebum production, and the cycle will continue on.

You’re probably not worried about this when you’re on the pill, because you’re not noticing any of it. Your skin is clear, your selfie game is strong, and you are able to get throughout the day without any embarrassment or frustration.

Your skin off birth control

At some point you’re going to want to get off the pill. Maybe you’re thinking of starting a family, maybe you want to experience a real period – whatever the reason is, you’re worried about what’s going to happen with your skin.

Because I believe honesty is the best policy – it’s important to know that you’re probably going to get acne once you stop the birth control pill.

Why does this happen?

It happens because sebum is not being suppressed anymore, and you have higher levels now than when you did when you started the pill. And because your ovaries are producing androgens again (another group of hormones that are effectively shutdown when you take birth control).

For the next 6-12 months your body is going to be withdrawing from the effects of the pill, which means that acne may be on the horizon for you.

Prepping your skin before you stop the pill

If you want to stop the pill, then consider prepping your skin about a month before you give the pill up for good.

Dairy-free diet

Cow dairy may cause inflammation and produce chemicals that increase inflammation and sebum production. This is especially seen with skim/non-fat milk products and ice cream. Dairy also contains hormones that can affect the body, by producing more testosterone.

Consider switching to alternative forms of dairy, or even choosing different animal dairy like buffalo (my fave), goat or sheep dairy. 

Sugar-free diet

Refined sugars may increase insulin, which can increase androgen production in the body. Plus let’s be honest, processed foods aren’t great sources of nutrients. If you can do better, choose better. 

Fix your digestion

Acne may pop up with leaky gut and food sensitivities. Normally whatever enters your gut, should (momentarily) stay in your gut. But if you have leaky gut, food from your gut may pass through some cells it shouldn’t, and end up elsewhere in your body. Your immune system will respond by mounting an attack against these food particles and cause a cascade of effects – acne being one of them.

So if you’ve cut the dairy and sugar for a couple of weeks, but are still experiencing acne – you may want to give the elimination diet a try.

Consider supplements

Supplements can be great at quick starting the healing process (especially since the pill depletes a bunch of nutrients). Ultimately, you should consider working with a health professional when supplementing because we make sure you’re taking the best product, dose, form and timing.

Some nutrients to consider are:

  • Zinc
  • Berberine
  • DIM
  • B vitamins

Go deeper

Acne may also be a sign of PCOS. Now before you tell me you don’t have polycystic ovaries (I hear this a lot), you can have PCOS without the cysts.

If you have irregular periods or don’t ovulate and have signs of high androgens (ex. acne), then it’s worthwhile to get some testing done. Check out my in-depth series on PCOS to learn more.

Next Steps

While the prospect of getting acne once you stop the pill is both frightening and frustrating (especially if you’re an adult), there is hope! Starting a skin-care plan before you stop is a step in the right direction.

And working with a professional can help you navigate all the ups and downs –particularly if you’re working with food sensitivities or PCOS. If you have any questions or tips and tricks, please share them below!