The Nurses Study out of Harvard School of Public Health is a huge study program that has been running since 1976. One of the topics of study – done over several years, looked at the impact of diet on the fertility of over 18,000 women. From this study, the authors Drs. Jorge Chavarro and Walter Willett discovered that diet and exercise can improve your fertility potential by up to 80%. Yes that is 80%! They made 10 recommendations that from this study appear to change the fertility potential if you have an ovulation problems such as ovulation disorders, polycystic ovary syndrome, fibroids or uterine polyps, damaged fallopian tubes, endometriosis and immune system disorders.
I like lots of things about this study and their recommendations. Firstly, the sheer numbers involved allows us to see how powerful diet is for all sorts of women and secondly it supports my theory that you must boost your overall function rather than trying to find a ‘fix-it’. Feed your cells the nutrition they need and they will start to perform their normal function or close enough to normal function and that in itself is the start to super-charging your fertility potential.
The 10 recommendations
1. Avoid Trans-fats: Trans-fats are found primarily in fried foods, packaged crackers, cakes, pie and pizza crusts, pancake mixes, frozen dinners etc etc.
2. Use unsaturated vegetable oils: olive, canola, flaxseed and sunflower oils are all unsaturated.
3. Increase your vegetable proteins and decrease animal protein: Beans and nuts are 2 sources of good vegetable proteins
4. Unrefined carbohydrates and grains: “Good carbohydrates” include oatmeal, beans and vegetables, whereas “bad carbohydrates” include white bread, pasta, rice, cakes, cookies, pies and candy. The body turns bad carbohydrates into blood sugar quicker than it does their less-refined counterparts. Once excess insulin is dished out by these bad carbohydrates, more sex hormone proteins are released into the blood stream. This can trigger increased testosterone production, thereby halting ovulation.
5. Full fat: While this study recommends full fat dairy products I believe that taking a general approach to increasing good fats into your diet is important. Sex hormones require these good fats for proper function. Avocado, coconut products and nuts are not just good fats but great fats 😊
6. Take a multi-vitamin: While you will get most of your needed nutrients through your food eating this way a multi-vit will enhance what you are eating. No supplement can make up for a poor diet.
7. Iron: The study suggests you do not rely on red meat for iron as there appears to be some kind of relationship between high meat intake and lowered fertility. Instead they recommend a supplement. Non-meat sources are legumes, quinoa and brown rice as well as some vegetables.
8. Soft drinks are out: Women in the Nurses’ Health Study who drank two or more caffeinated sodas a day were 50 percent more likely to have ovulatory infertility compared with women who drank these beverages less than once each week. Coffee contains caffeine, but it’s also packed with water and
antioxidants. Coffee drinkers in the study weren’t any less likely to have infertility compared with women who didn’t drink coffee.
9. Aim for a healthy weight range: A BMI of 20-24 is thought to be ideal – remember, being underweight has an impact just as being overweight does.
10. Exercise: Yep movement and exercise are a vital part of being healthier.
So there you have it…straight out of Harvard!