Optimize Your Fertility
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Dietary Habits and Reproductive Health

By Francis Polansky, M.D.

In this and the next month’s blog, we will review the impact of environmental toxicants and the lifestyle choices on one’s fertility potential and health in general.

This month’s blog will cover the nutritional factors, next month, we will review the non-nutritional, environmental issues.

The outcome of advanced reproductive treatments (IVF and related treatments) depends primarily on the quality of eggs and sperm and only secondarily on the performance of the reproductive center team. The egg and sperm reproductive capacity, in turn, can be greatly influenced by your lifestyle choices.

More comprehensive information about the impact of lifestyle on fertility can be found in Optimize Your Fertility.

Dietary Habits and Reproductive Health


Following a health promoting diet and taking nutritional supplements are the most important steps in optimizing your reproductive health.


1. Optimize Your Body’s Acid-Alkaline Balance


The best way we can maintain a proper blood pH balance is to avoid acid producing foods and increase consumption of alkaline foods.

  1. Minimize or eliminate the intake of the following acidic foods:
    1. All grains and foods made out of flour: bread, pasta, pastry, cereal, dumplings, tortillas, chips, cupcakes, cakes, cookies, pancakes, puddings, muffins, crackers, tacos, pretzels, bagels, doughnuts, etc.

    2. Dairy (especially hard cheese, i.e., Parmesan)
      Butter, buttermilk, kefir, and yogurt are OK.

    3. Cranberries (all other berries are OK)

    4. Processed meat (salami, sausages, hot dogs, canned meat)

    5. Carbonated beverages (soda)

  2. Increase intake of the following alkaline foods (organically grown if possible)*:

  • Apples
  • Cantaloupe
  • Green peas
  • Papaya
  • Apricots
  • Carrots
  • Grapefruit
  • Parsley
  • Artichoke
  • Cauliflower
  • Grapes
  • Peach
  • Asparagus
  • Celery
  • Kale
  • Pear
  • Avocado
  • Chard
  • Kiwi
  • Persimmon
  • Bananas
  • Coconut
  • Lemon
  • Pineapple
  • Berries
  • Cucumber
  • Lettuce
  • Raisins
  • Beets
  • Dates
  • Mango
  • Spinach
  • Bell peppers
  • Eggplant
  • Melons (all)
  • Salad mix
  • Bok Choy
  • Fennel
  • Nectarine
  • String beans
  • Broccoli
  • Figs
  • Olives
  • Sweet potato
  • Brussels spr.
  • Garlic
  • Onions
  • Tomatoes
  • Cabbage
  • Ginger
  • Orange
  • Zucchini
* Items in bold are especially helpful. Please note that all citrus fruits have an alkaline effect.


2. Avoiding Pesticides


People who eat organic produce eat fewer pesticides. The health benefits of a diet rich in fruits and vegetables even outweigh the risks of pesticide exposure. If you cannot buy organic, eating conventionally grown produce is better than skipping fruits and vegetables. (Pesticide Residues in Produce table)


3. Reduce Your Omega-6 to Omega-3 Fatty Acid Ratio


  1. Eliminate or minimize your intake of high omega-6 trans fatty acids (very important):

    1. Corn and corn products

    2. All grains and foods made out of flour

    3. Soybean, canola, sunflower, safflower, cottonseed, grapeseed, walnut, sesame, peanut, and vegetable oils. Americans get almost 20% of their calories from a single food source – soybean oil.

    4. Vegetable shortening, margarine

    5. Fried foods

    6. Junk food

  2. Consume an abundance of foods high in omega-3 essential fatty acids:

    1. Deep-sea fish from non-polluted sources: bayivf.com/fish (pdf)

    2. Seaweed

    3. Flaxseed oil

    4. Flax, chia, sesame, and pumpkin seeds

    5. Broccoli, cauliflower, spinach, kale, collards, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, and squash

  3. Take high-quality Omega-3 supplements


4. Reduce Your Dietary Glycemic Load


  1. Examples of high glycemic index foods:

    • High-fructose corn syrup

    • Grains and foods made out of flour

    • Potatoes and potato products.

  2. Examples of low glycemic index foods:

    • Fruits and vegetables (Make fresh vegetables the base of your food pyramid.)

    • Legumes

    • Seeds

    • Nuts

    • Seafood and meats

    • Eggs

    • Dairy products


5. Reproductive Hormones Imbalance


One of the primary environmental causes of hormone imbalance for both men and women is dietary.

  1. Avoid low nutritional value diet:

    Sugar, flour, caffeine, nicotine, alcohol, and processed food

  2. Avoid Soy products (unless fermented)

  3. Toxic plastics additives:

    Phthalates (PBA) are chemicals used in many plastics to make them soft or flexible.

    Avoid the following:

    1. Microwaving foods in plastic containers

    2. Consuming ready-made meals in plastic trays or trays covered with plastic film

    3. Consuming boil-in-bag foods

    4. Bottled water in plastic containers

    5. Canned foods

    6. Exposure to phthalates released from plastic car interiors, i.e., "new car" smell


6. Nutritional Deficiencies


Daily and consistent use of high quality, high potency multivitamins by both partners is critical for normal reproductive health.


7. Impact of CoQ10 on Eggs and Sperm


As eggs within the ovaries age, their mitochondria produce diminishing amounts of coenzyme Q10 resulting in decreased metabolic activity, a reduced probability of fertilization, and an increased frequency of embryonic chromosomal abnormalities.

Low levels of CoQ10 in the seminal fluid have been associated with low sperm count, decreased sperm motility, and male infertility.

It may be possible to reverse the effects of low CoQ10 levels on eggs and sperm by supplementation with CoQ10.


8. Alcohol


Alcohol intake by both partners reduces IVF success and increases miscarriage probability. Couples need to abstain before and during treatment.


9. Caffeine


Caffeine consumption (coffee, caffeinated tea, soda) by both partners should be eliminated prior to and during your treatment.


10. Advanced Glycation End-Products


Advanced glycation end-products (AGEs) are toxic end-products of foods cooked at high heat (grilling, barbecuing, broiling, and frying). Charred food also contains cancer-causing chemicals. Boiling, microwaving, and poaching are ideal ways to avoid overheating of foods.


11. Hydration


  1. Hydrate with:

    1. Filtered water

    2. Water sold in glass or metal containers

  2. Avoid the following:

    1. Water/beverages sold in plastic containers

    2. Sports drinks (most of them contain corn syrup or too much sucrose)

    3. Caffeinated beverages (diuretic effect)

    4. Carbonated beverages (acidic effect)

    5. Apple juice (diuretic effect)

    6. Alcoholic beverages (cause dehydration)


12. Reproductive Health-Promoting Diet


In summary, your diet should mostly consist of following:

  1. Fresh fruits and vegetables, especially large salads

  2. Cooked vegetables

  3. Less red meat and saturated fat

  4. Fish from non-polluted sources (bayivf.com/fish)

  5. No fried food

  6. Beans and legumes (not canned) soaked overnight before cooking

  7. White rice in moderation

  8. Quinoa and buckwheat

  9. Sweet potatoes

  10. Eggs in moderation

  11. Butter, buttermilk, kefir, and yogurt

  12. Ghee, avocado oil, olive oil, and coconut oil for cooking

  13. Coconut products

  14. Honey (in moderation)

  15. Antioxidants:
    1. Decaf green tea (1-3 cups a day, no sugar, honey is OK)
    2. Berries
    3. One oz. of dark (75% and higher) chocolate a day
    4. Spices especially turmeric, cumin, ginger, and oregano
  16. Water


September 2017

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