Seven ways to boost your fertility
07-02-06 suggested by: Zé Vance
Those planning a baby should look first at their lifestyle, says Jacqui Ripley. What both of you do - or don't do - could make all the difference
Get enough zinc
Although zinc is essential for both sexes, it plays a particularly important role in the production of testosterone. "A low level leads to a reduction in the production of this main male hormone which can lead to impaired fertility," says Dr Ananda Prasad, professor of medicine at Wayne State University School of Medicine in Detroit. In one study, Prasad found men put on a diet low in zinc had significant drops in sperm count. When their zinc intake was restored to the recommended daily allowance of 15mg, testosterone levels and sperm count returned to normal in between six and 12 months. Insufficient vitamin C in a man's diet is also thought to lead to sperm clumping together, a problem called agglutination, which inhibits sperm motility.
Avoid coffee shops
"There is plenty of evidence to show that caffeine, particularly in coffee, decreases fertility," says nutritional therapist Dr Marilyn Glenville. "Drinking as little as a cup a day can halve your chances of conceiving. One study showed problems with sperm increase with the number of cups consumed daily." She suggests eliminating food and drink containing caffeine for at least three months before trying to conceive. This includes chocolate, black teas, some medications, energy drinks and cola.
Give supplements a rest
A team of researchers at California's Loma Linda University School of Medicine explored the effect of popular herbs on fertility and their findings, published in the journal Fertility And Sterility (1999), suggest high doses of St John's wort, ginkgo and echinacea might even damage eggs and sperm. St John's wort in particular prevented sperm achieving penetration of the egg and seemed to cause genetic mutations in sperm.
Check your body fat
There's a strong relationship between body fat and fertility - being too light or too heavy can hinder the chances of conception for both sexes. A woman must have body fat of at least 18% to produce oestrogen leading to ovulation - your best chance of conceiving is when 20-25% of your body mass is fat tissue.
"Thin women may have too little oestrogen and overweight women too much to become pregnant," says holistic fertility expert Dr Gowri Motha of the Jeyarani Centre in Essex. "Thin men may have low sperm counts, while obese men have low testosterone levels and high oestrogen levels, which impede sperm production." Gowri has overweight clients cut back on alcohol and refined carbohydrates, and follow a low GI diet including lots of energy foods, such as grains.
Turn off your mobile
Research presented to the European Society of Human Reproduction & Embryology in Berlin in 2004 suggested a man's fertility may be damaged by the electromagnetic radiation emitted by mobiles. Men who carry their phone on a belt or in a trouser pocket are thought to be at highest risk. Those who had their phone on stand-by all day had about a third less sperm than those who did not. And, of the remaining sperm, high numbers were found to be swimming abnormally. However, scientists say further work needs to be done to confirm the finding, which had not taken into account potential confounding factors, such as stress.
Stress: an excellent contraceptive. In women it disrupts the hormonal communication between the brain, pituitary gland and ovaries, interfering with egg maturation and ovulation. There is also a direct link between the brain and reproductive tract. When a woman feels under pressure, spasms occur in the fallopian tubes and uterus which can affect the movement and implantation of a fertilised egg. In men, physical and emotional stress alters sperm counts, motility and structure.
Prescribe yourself a holiday as sunlight is one of the best fertility treatments around. "Research shows it boosts testosterone in men," says Dr Penny Stanway, author of LifeLight (Kyle Cathie). "Exposure to sunlight also raises women's oestrogen levels and encourages regular ovulation."
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