Infertility studies by the Center for Disease Control in 2005 showed that 1 in about 8 women were unable to carry a child to term, a large decline from past surveys. One of the concerning discoveries of the study was the observation that the decline in fertility for women ages 15-24 was very similar to the decline for women aged 25 years and over. 15-24 are normally very fertile years—thus a decline in the youngest category of fertility that closely matches that decline in older women indicates the existence of a developmental threat that is fundamentally affecting adolescents’ natural development into fertile young women.
Another study noted that the rate of unexplained infertility 20 years ago was 20%. Today, it is 40%, double the rate, reinforcing the case for an unseen yet highly prominent threat to fertility at all ages. This is not a topic brought up among friends and family. Fertility clinics have waiting lists months long.
From a holistic macrobiotic or longevity view, there are good reasons for the decline. Our modern and some trendy eating styles bear a great deal of the blame.
Traditional cultures understood the value of adequate nutrition in particular ways intuitively, and from their experience, that was important for both men and women’s reproductive health. Their wisdom can be explained through the modern scientific lens of nutrition. Common eating patterns in the U.S including many naturally oriented dietary pathways are not aware of the importance of these foods. I believe that this is the crux of the infertility problem that affects both men and women’s ability to foster children. In this article I will address a woman’s nutritional needs for reproductive fitness. Men are the other side of the coin which I will shed light on in another article.
The first aspect of women’s eating to address is the elephant in the room. Modern women since the 60’s have focused on excessive dieting. When a person diets, they cut out many key nutrients that are needed for healthy functioning of the body including reproductive functioning.
Women and many men are concerned about weight gain. This issue is not as simple as the amount of foods that you eat. There are many aspects of daily modern life and food that suppress the metabolism and either foster overeating or create easy weight gain. A certain amount of people who gain weight do not overeat. This touted connection is one of the biggest myths. Often in the case of those who don’t eat much, they have chronically dieted or have been on a restrictive diet for a number of years.
Eating adequate amounts of calories from predominantly healthy foods fosters a healthy metabolism. A healthy metabolism supports fertility. Research suggests that a woman under 25 needs about 3000 calories to maintain their metabolism. Not getting enough calories can interfere with fertility. Many young and middle aged women are dieting or dieting on and off. Both dieting and binging on foods create problems with the metabolism.
Besides adequate calories for reproductive health women need adequate protein from natural hormone and pesticide free meats, wild fish, eggs and whole milk dairy products. Carbohydrates from whole grains, some refined grains and natural fats such as butter, coconut oil and olive oil must be adequate. Mostly cooked vegetables, some raw vegetables, cooked and dried fruits, and other natural foods are required.
Vegetable proteins sources alone are not adequate as a source of protein because the amount in grains and beans is too low. In order to have adequate daily protein amounts the volume of these foods would be excessive. For example, depending on a person’s size someone would have to eat up to four cups of cooked rice and four cups of cooked beans in a day. To boost their protein consumption, a person following a vegan diet can add rice or pea protein powder. Those following a vegetarian diet can eat more eggs, dairy products and add whey protein powder.
Particular nutrients that are missing in modern women’s diets are vitamin A, vitamin K2, vitamin E, vitamin D, B vitamins, iodine, calcium and magnesium. These nutrients are essential for healthy fertility.
The fat-soluble vitamins are particularly important. Vitamin A is not biologically available from vegetable sources for most people or in adequate amounts. A dependable source of vitamin A is only from animal food sources including butterfat from grass fed animals, liver, other organ meats, sardines, eggs of pastured chickens, cod liver oil, fish and shellfish. Many of these are not eaten by women today.
Vitamin D and K2 are only available from animal food sources. Vitamin E is missing from most women’s diets. Vitamin E is depleted by eating lots of polyunsaturated vegetable oils such as flax, soy, canola, sunflower and other seed oils. The scientific name for vitamin E, tocopherol is derived from the Greek language. It means to bear young.
A lack of many of the above nutrients creates a low thyroid condition which is common in many women. The thyroid is intimately linked to reproductive function.
In many natural diets the above nutrients are missing. In addition, in both modern and natural diets, there are many substances that suppress the metabolism. These include bromated or bleached flours, polyunsaturated fats, high fructose corn syrup, tofu, excessive amounts of nuts, seeds, and nut and vegetable milks; pesticides and hormones in commercial vegetables, fruits, meats, poultry, dairy products and excessive watery foods, beverages and more.
Lifestyle factors include imbalanced body postures from excessive sitting and slumping over computers and phones cause poor circulation to the body organs. A lack of healthy exercise and many environmental factors are contributing to the problem of infertility.
A healthy education that goes beyond the government recommendations is important to solve the infertility crisis. Along with understanding the importance of motherhood, training in the correct way of eating is essential for young women to give the tools for a lifetime of overall health including reproductive health. In many ways, we need to go beyond leaving education to the marketplace and media.