Lifestyle Connections to Fertility

July 9, 2018

Lifestyle Connections to Fertility

Research has shown that diet can help women avoid one of the most common causes of infertility – the problems associated with ovulation. Listen in as we talk about how what we eat affects all aspects of our health, including fertility, and how healthy fats and oils play a key role in fertility.

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KARA:  Good morning. Welcome to Dishing Up Nutrition. I'm Kara Carper a licensed nutritionist. I have a master's degree in holistic health and today's show is brought to you by Nutritional Weight & Wellness. We are going to look at the nutritional connection to infertility and other lifestyle habits that are connected to infertility today. Cohosting with me, I'm super excited to be in the studio with my colleague and dear friend Lea Wetzell. Lea is also a licensed nutritionist and a certified nutrition specialist. Lea and I have both worked with many clients who were struggling to conceive. Lea, thanks for joining me this morning.

LEA: It's great to be in here with you today.

KARA:  Yeah, it's good to see your smiling face this morning. We're going to share with our listeners a number of reasons that a couple may experience in fertility.

LEA: Yes. One question that I often get from clients who are hoping to get pregnant is, does my diet affect my chances of getting pregnant? That's a really good question. And I would have to say yes, but as nutritionists, I think all of the health is affected by what we're eating, of course. As to question regarding if a woman's diet can affect pregnancy we should look at some of the research of how food choices affect fertility.

KARA:  In groundbreaking research in the Nurses' Health Study indicated...the Nurses' Health Study is excellent, if you have not heard of that. And that study indicated that nutrients from our diet can indeed help women avoid one of the most common causes of infertility. And that most common cause is the problem that's associated with ovulation. No surprise there. You might be asking, well, who did the research? What did they find? Well, the research came out of the Harvard School of Public Health. It was led by one of our favorite people and researchers, we referred to him frequently, Dr. Walter Willett. It was coauthored by Dr. Jorge Chavarro.

LEA:  One of the biggest takeaways from this research was how fats and oils affect fertility. As a nutritionist, this does not really surprise me because you know, for the past 20 years or so at Nutritional Weight & Wellness, we have been teaching about the importance of eating healthy natural fats for health and also for fertility.

KARA:  Lea, we're going to talk more about this, but if people are listening just tuning in and they're hearing natural fats, they might not know what that means and basically what we're referring to are fats that are not processed in a factory.

LEA: Exactly natural, so butter, coconut oil, olive oil.

KARA: Avocados, things like that. Olives, nuts and seeds and we'll talk more about that, but yeah natural fats are important for fertility. Much of the information about the importance of eating natural fats came from the work of Weston A. Price. So this is just a little interesting nutrition story. Back in the 1930s there was a dentist named Dr. Weston A. Price and he studied the primitive people throughout the world to observe their health and also their fertility. So he was kind of just researching what they were eating,  what their lifestyle habits were and then based on that, what was their health like and what were the fertility rates like and the rates of conception.

LEA: And when he looks at the fertility practices among those primitive cultures, he observed that every one of those primitive cultures valued one or more of what they considered sacred foods. These sacred foods were considered important for both women and for men to eat at least six months before their conception.

KARA:  Six months before the conception. Okay. So kind of just like a period where people are just preparing their bodies, they're getting their bodies ready for conception and men and women. Isn't that interesting? We'd like to share what the sacred foods of some of these different cultures were. So for example, in Switzerland it was butter. So this wasn't too far out, it was grass fed butter, butter coming from animals that were pasture raised, that's a really, really great source of a natural fat and it's saturated fat. And that's really important as well.

LEA:  For fertility. And another primitive culture, the sacred food was fish heads stuffed with oats and chopped with cod livers. From other groups the sacred food was fish eggs.

KARA:  So those are maybe not as common as grass fed butter. South Sea Islanders, again, of both genders, consumed oil from fermented shark livers. So fermented shark liver oil that might not sound very appetizing, but I mean these primitive people understood that in order to have the best rate of fertility and also to have a healthy baby, they needed to be eating foods that were high in nutrients like this. And it really seemed that all of these cultures understood that both women and men needed more natural fats in their diet. So I think, do you feel like there's sometimes a misconception in our country or I don't know if it's just our country, but let's focus on the female. What's the female doing?

LEA:  Exactly. And if we look at the issues with infertility, yes, 60 percent maybe is female based infertility, but 40 percent...

KARA:  That's pretty high, 40 percent.

LEA:  Forty percent is for men. And so these sacred foods were nutrient dense animal foods with high levels of fat soluble vitamins and these special sacred foods were high in vitamin A, vitamin D and vitamin K2.

KARA: Yep all fat soluble great vitamins. What was the benefit of eating butter or oil from fermented shark livers? Well these primitive cultures understood that the father-to-be would produce healthy sperm and the mother would avoid ovulation problems again, which is the most common reason for infertility. And then they would both be preparing their bodies and the specifically the mother would prepare her body by having all these nutrients to have a healthy fetus growing inside.

LEA: Right. So if you're interested in learning more about Dr. Weston A Price's work and especially the details of how deficiencies in vitamin A affect pregnancy and conception, we recommend that you order his book, Nutrition and Physical Degeneration.

KARA: It such a great book too.  I haven't read it from cover to cover.

LEA:  I know, but he covers so much in those books and different conditions.

KARA:   We have that in our office. That's a really good book. Again, Nutrition and Physical Degenerationby Dr Weston A. Price. Dr. Price found that a deficiency in vitamin A in lab animals created spontaneous miscarriages, eye defects, deafness, nervous system problems, and a variety of other physical problems as well.

LEA: That's pretty remarkable.

KARA: We don't hear a lot about vitamin A.

LEA: Right, right, but it's very, very important for fertility. Because of my personal experience with asthma, as I've shared many times on the show, I'm always interested in learning more about what can affect our lungs. And Dr. Price found that children whose mothers received vitamin A supplements had better lung function compared to those children's mothers who were given a placebo. Children whose mothers received plant based beta-carotene did not experience any benefits.

KARA:  Do you mind if we talk about that for just a minute here?

LEA:   I think that is a good idea.

KARA:  I feel like if we kind of glossed over that, people might not understand fully. Because you hear a lot about vitamin A and what is the Lea, what is the vegetable that people always think about when they hear vitamin A?

LEA:  Carrots.

KARA: Now carrots are great, but that's a source of beta-carotene, which is a precursor to the actual vitamin A, the fat soluble one that we've been talking about that is so important when it comes to trying to conceive.

LEA: Exactly right. And some people don't do a really good job of converting that beta-carotene into the active vitamin A. Genetic reasons could be part of it or other nutrient deficiencies could be part of it.

KARA: Sure. There's a lot of factors.

LEA: So an active form to get the vitamin A would be like we were talking about like butter or additionally it could be cod liver oil.

KARA:  Sure. Great sources of vitamin A.

LEA:  I often recommend that for women that are trying to conceive.

KARA: Yeah. Great, thank you. It would seem that vitamin A we know is an important nutrient for fertility and for the fetus. So what foods are high in it? You had just mentioned a couple. Liver also is very high in vitamin A. In the past, you hear about families who would use to eat liver, onions and bacon at least once a week. You don't hear about that today, very much. So people are probably wondering how, how else can I get vitamin A? And again that pasture raised animal for butter, that's a really important one. And then cod liver oil. And that's something that anybody has access to.

LEA: Exactly. And you know, I would have to put a shout out for our cod liver oil, the Omega-3 Care that we carry at our office that really doesn't have that fishy bite after you consume it.  My kids love it. They line up and I give them a teaspoon of cod liver oil every morning. 

KARA: That's great. My daughter takes that as well. It's got a little lemon flavor.

LEA:  I use that a lot for people that don't like fish for one and don't like how cod liver oil tastes like fish or kids.

KARA:Great suggestion.

LEA:  Well, it's break time already.

KARA:  All right, let's go to our first break.

LEA: All right, so you are listening to Dishing Up Nutrition. Today's discussion is about some possible causes of infertility and some very practical solutions. I want to share one of our nutritional solutions with you right now, sleep at least seven and a half hours most nights. However, for best fertility it's actually better to get eight and a half to nine hours of sleep for both men and women. If you are having troubles with sleep, as nutritionists, we specialize in helping you develop good sleeping habits. To set up an appointment with one of our dietitians or nutritionists at Nutritional Weight & Wellness, please call our office today at 651-699-3438.

KARA: Welcome back to Dishing Up Nutrition. We understand that most people change their habits in phases, especially when it comes to eating habits. Phase one, people might take a class so they get the information, they learn and then they practice. Phase two after a few weeks they're ready to learn more, so they might meet individually with say their nutritionist. So again, they're still learning, they're getting more information and they continue to practice. Phase three, so what that looks like in phase three, maybe that's a few months down the road again, they're ready to learn more. So maybe they listened to Dishing Up Nutrition podcasts.  They listen, they learn and practice. So learning about nutrition and health, it's not a one time and you're done experience. It takes time. It takes practice to achieve your personal success. We do have a couple great seminars that I would like to talk about they're Saturday seminars and they're coming up this fall, The Food Connection to ADHD seminar that's in September. The Menopause Survival Seminar is in November, so those are wonderful seminars for you to attend and learn. You can get more information on our website, which is weightandwellness.com. You can look up dates, times and more information and those are really popular seminars. They don't come around super frequent.

LEA:  Maybe a few times a year.

KARA: Yeah. So if that interests you, I would jump at that opportunity because people always say, oh, The Menopause Seminar, I missed it, when's the next one? And it might be a few months down the road.

LEA: Yeah. And I would say honestly, we both are on this journey, right? You know, and I've been practicing nutrition in my life for over 20 years now and I still make it a point of learning and making efforts of making sure that my food is prepared. It's an ongoing learning process, isn't it?

KARA: It's a great point. Like this whole phase one, phase two, phase three, that's not just for all of you that are listening. We're doing that as well.

LEA:  Got to practice what you preach.

KARA:  Yeah. Yeah. And it's a constant learning and practice experience.

LEA: Exactly. And all of these tools that we offer really, really do help make it a applicable for everyday life. Reasons why you make that commitment to preparing your foods and cooking your foods and eating healthy.

KARA: And I think one great thing about Nutritional Weight & Wellness is that we don't just tell people what to do, like in our classes and our podcasts, our goal at least is to give the why's and the reason behind it.

LEA: And then we help with practical solutions of how we can make this happen.

KARA: Yeah, on a day to day basis. So good stuff. Before break, just to kind of recap, we were really talking quite a bit about vitamin A and the importance of, I'll call it the pure vitamin A. Which is going to work much better when it comes to fertility compared to the beta-carotene form. And so we were just mentioning cod liver oil is a great way to be getting that vitamin A.

LEA: Yes, and easy way to do that. It seems like the work of Dr. Weston A. Price established that primitive cultures understood that both men and women needed to eat sacred foods to ensure fertility and to have these healthy fetuses. Going back to today's western diet culture, a lot of this, these nutrients are lacking in our modern day diets, right?

KARA: We call it the western diet or some people refer to it as the SAD diet, standard American diet.

LEA:  It doesn't have a lot of these saturated fats. It doesn't have a lot of healthy sources of vitamin A, vitamin D and K2. They're missing.

KARA:  Right, so no surprise that the rates of infertility actually have increased as people are eating a more standard kind of processed food diet. What has modern day research found about what foods support fertility? Well, Dr. Walter Willett and Dr. Jorge Chavarro discovered much to their surprise that high fat dairy products support ovulation. This is very similar to what the primitive people were eating in Switzerland. Like they were eating butter to support fertility, especially butter from cows that are grass fed and heavy cream is wonderful, full fat sour cream, full fat cream cheese. So just notice we're saying don't get the low fat stuff. You really want to get the full fat, that's where the vitamins are.

LEA:Exactly. Exactly. This is really going against that low fat message which has been taught to us for the past, I would say over 50 years. The Harvard School of Public Health has found that full fat dairy products were good for fertility while skim milk and sodas were really bad for fertility. Although there are countless books offering advice about diet and infertility, as a nutritionist, I respect the quality of the research provided by the Nurses' Health Study and that presented by Dr. Jorge Chavarro and Dr. Walter Willet.

KARA:  Their research starts with the very core of nutrition, healthy animal fats coming from dairy products. So if you're like many of our clients and listeners, you may have a fear of fat that may just be something that has been kind drilled into you to avoid foods that contain animal fats. You might really need to take some baby steps to make some small changes. So for example, if you're used to drinking soy lattes, let's just say you thought, oh, I should really avoid half and half or heavy cream because of the high fat content, it's time to switch over. We're saying this is a good thing. Go to your coffee shop. Here's what I do. I just say, excuse me, do you have heavy cream? And they take it out of the fridge and they gave me a funny look.

LEA: I know, right?

KARA: And I pour my own heavy cream. It tastes delicious. And that's got those fat soluble nutrients.

LEA:  That's exactly what I do to Kara. Or another thing for those sort of examples is I bring my own fat, so I'll put like the heavy coconut milk, real stuff, not the carton stuff. I now put that into the bottom of my mug and then I'll have like, like don't clean it out. I want my coffee on top of that.

KARA: Oh, you're very organized. I should start doing that. You're really supposed to bring your own mug anyway to the coffee shops. I haven't graduated to that yet.

LEA: And I think that's a great advice Kara of just baby steps. I know a lot of clients that I work with have a lot of fear of adding a lot more fat into their diet. We've been fed so long this low fat message that they're really afraid of what may happen if they do that. I say let's start wherever you feel most comfortable with these whole real healthy fats.

KARA:  Right like if somebody doesn't maybe enjoy coconut as a fat, maybe you just start with butter. Or the heavy cream.

LEA:   Instead of doing the margarine. Let's start there and then evolve this as we go. And that's exactly how I evolve my eating habits as well. Back when I was young, my younger years, for example, I used to drink lots of fruit juice and eventually I realized and learned that all of that really was just as bad as drinking soda full of sugar and it was one of the root causes, causing my lung inflammation, which explained my wheezing and hard time breathing. And I made a switch to drinking predominantly lots of water. And guess what, I would say, one of the many benefits of what helped me get rid of my asthma and have no more wheezing. And once in a while I know some clients have a struggle with just drinking plain water all day long. I add things to my water to mix it up a little bit to add a little bit of essence of flavor. So this time of year, one of my favorite things to do, is I like water generally a little bit more cold in the summer, is I'll add like lemon or lime or mint or cucumber or orange to my water, infuse it. And I just, I feel like it goes down so smooth when I do that.

KARA:  I'm the same way. I mean, sometimes you just want to mix it up a little bit and have a little bit of flavor. We don't promote a ton of the carbonated beverages, but I will have like one flavored La Croix with dinner and that counts towards your water intake and it's a great replacement from a sugary drink.

LEA:  Oh, for sure. Well, guess what? We're already in our next break time. You are listening to Dishing Up Nutrition by brought to you today by Nutritional Weight & Wellness. Now here's another nutritional solution for increasing fertility and overall health. Avoid all processed foods containing refined vegetable oils such as soybean oil, corn oil, cottonseed oil, and canola oil. Instead, choose foods containing olive oil or avocado oil. We'll be right back. 

KARA: Welcome back to Dishing Up Nutrition. Is it time to learn more about your healthy eating or refresh your current knowledge and commitment? We have a variety of locations available to you to take our 12 week Nutrition 4 Weight Loss Series. You spend an hour each week learning and then practicing every day and feeling great all month. You can call 651-699-3438 to get more information, to sign up. You can also go to our website weightandwellness.com and you can get more information on the locations and the start dates of all of those upcoming series.

LEA:  It's a really great series and with that too, you get appointments with nutritionists. You get to one hour appointments, so you get that individual attention and figure out what works best for you and then you get that weekly support. It's great.

KARA: I think both are really important.  You have that accountability piece from your cohort or your other class members and people share ideas in the classes. Plus that one-on-one attention. It's a great package. Also we wanted to just mention, I'm sorry we haven't been given out our number today, but if you have any questions or comments, please give us a call in the studio 651-641-1071 and we're happy to take your calls. Before break we were talking, well Lea was sharing her story about having asthma just switching over from like a more sugary drink to water. And that inflammation in your lungs got better decrease. So you kind of have to ask yourself, how can I break away from eating these higher sugar foods, which an example of a higher sugar food would be a fat free yogurt. Unfortunately those fat free yogurts, they're typically either high in sugar or artificial sweeteners. You have to be careful for that.

LEA: The fat gives the flavor so then you have to add in a lot more sugar or artificial sugar so you want to eat it.

KARA:  When they take the fat out, they have to try to make it tastes good with something. We want to be switching over avoid the fat free yogurts that are sweetened and switch to a full fat plain yogurt. And if you remember that research we were talking about from Harvard Public Health, found that full fat dairy products supported ovulation. And again, the most common cause of infertility is problems with ovulation. So if you have a desire to have a baby in the future, maybe just making this one nutritional change is something that's something you can do today. You can just stop buying and eating the low fat or fat free foods and just switch over, start eating full fat dairy products. Get rid of the skim milk even the two percent, and switch over to whole milk. Stop buying the low fat cheese and buy the full-fat cheese. If you can find it from grass-fed cows, that's even better. I guess it just really depends on where you're shopping, but we definitely want to be at least going for the full fat dairy products.

LEA:  Yep. I think that's great advice. Here's another idea, avoid the egg beaters or just eating the egg whites and eat the whole egg from a free range or pastured chicken to get the best nutrients for you and for your baby. There's a lot, a lot of nutrients and the egg yolk for fertility.

KARA: You know, it's so funny. I've heard about people who they kind of do the opposite and they would like throw the egg whites away. I mean, if you're going to focus on one part of the egg it's the yolk that is the most nutrient dense that has those fat soluble vitamins.

LEA: Yeah. That's funny. That's great.

KARA: And why do you think good fat supports fertility? Well, it's all about how your cells function. And one reason the fats that you eat are so important is because the cell membranes in our body are made up of fat. Each membrane around our cell is made up or should be made up of good healthy fats. So here's kind of the breakdown of the fat on her cell membranes, again, which cover every cell of our body. Half of the cell membrane contains saturated fat. So we're going to get that from butter, heavy cream, bacon fat and lard.

LEA: Okay. So what you just said was 50 percent of your cells in your body need saturated fat for health.

KARA:  Yes, so we do need a lot of saturated fat to support our cell membrane, which really is made up of 50 percent saturated fats. A quarter of the membrane is made up of monounsaturated fat. We would get monounsaturated fats from olive oil, avocados, avocado oil and maybe like macadamia nuts. The other one quarter of the cell membrane is made up of polyunsaturated fat, so we will get polyunsaturated fat from a variety of nuts. So if you grab a handful of nuts, that's typically going to be a good healthy oil, but we have to talk about those unhealthy polyunsaturated fats. Because those are everywhere right Lea?

LEA: It's hard to avoid them.

KARA:  So just because you heard the word polyunsaturated doesn't mean that's always healthy because corn oil, soybean oil, cottonseed, and even canola oil, those are not good oils. They actually, when we consume them, they can damage our cell membranes. So think about that. The cell membrane becomes weak and fragile. It might actually become kind of stiff instead of flexible. That really can impair the communication between the cells. To have good conception, our cells need to be talking to each other and we need to cell membranes that are flexible and healthy. So if you, if you think about this, the sperm cells in the egg cells are not communicating. That's really, that's kind of a long explanation of how healthy fats play a really big role in conception.

LEA: Going back again to nuts, which are a great source of, of what we want for the polyunsaturated fats.  Best consumed in its most natural state like the raw or even better sprouted, but a lot of them are coated in oils, like the vegetable oils of some sort.

KARA: The nuts.

LEA:   Yeah. And they are heated really hot. So nut are great but  ideally to have them without the oils on them.

KARA:  Do you usually just have your clients look at the labels when they, let's say they go to Trader Joe's, they're looking for nuts. You have them look at the label and avoid the ones, the nuts, that are roasted in an oil?

LEA:  Yes, like anything that's any sort of polyunsaturated for sure. Yes.

KARA:  I think that's great advice.

LEA: I know some of you are thinking, what about medical treatments? Sure medical treatments can sometimes override deficiencies, but medical approaches are not always successful and they can have unwanted side effects.

KARA: And in addition, these medical treatments, they're very expensive.

LEA: They are.

KARA:  I've had several friends who have gone through these medical treatments and we won't spend too much time talking about this, but not only is it expensive, it can be hard physically on the body and emotionally. It affects the whole family. So it's really just, it's a really big commitment and unfortunately really the medical treatments only work about one fourth of the time. Eating more good healthy fats, there are no downsides to that. So let's say you might be thinking that's really expensive to pay $7 a pound for grass-fed butter. Well, you know, medical infertility treatments are very expensive, so investing in some healthy fats is just a very proactive way to heal the body.

LEA: Yeah. And I have a client currently who actually is now in her third trimester, which is really great.  Who struggled with infertility for many years and had gone through IVF therapy I think four times and had four miscarriages. And then I started working with her, I think it has been four years ago now, and she and her husband too, I worked with both of them have evolved their diet to eating really like a lot of what we talk about on Dishing Up Nutrition - the healthy fats, getting a lot more of those really good fertility vitamins in her diet.

KARA:  Well that's wonderful. What a great story.

LEA:  Getting rid of sugars. It's really great that she's been able to now conceive successfully naturally. We know about one in seven couples struggle with infertility. Nutrition isn't typically a quick fix as we find it may take two or three years to change your nutritional status from very deficient to optimal for conception.  Just kind of as I explained, it took some time for my client, several years to successfully conceive. But it's really interesting to note that most infertility occurs in men and women who are either underweight or who are overweight.

KARA:   I think that's important that you had said it's not always a quick fix and it can be so don't let that scare you from trying this.  A lot of people have a shorter timeframe. They're like, "oh, I would really love to get pregnant in the next six months to a year" and you know, that can happen. But we also want to just say that sometimes kind of changing the nutritional status of the body could take longer than that.

LEA: And if you think out in the future, maybe in three or four years, you're interested in having kids, this is the time now to make a point of changing.

KARA:It's never too early.

LEA: It's never too early. And it's never too late to make these changes. Well, we're at time for break again. You are listening to Dishing Up Nutrition. Here's one final nutritional solution for you today to improve your fertility. Replace all of your low-fat dairy products with full fat ones. So as we were talking about earlier, drink whole milk rather than skim milk. Eat four percent cottage cheese rather than low fat cottage cheese. Eat full-fat yogurt instead of low fat or no fat yogurt. Eat full-fat ice cream rather than low-fat sherbet. Eat heavy whipping cream and use that in your coffee instead of soy milk, skim or two percent milk. Eat full-fat cream cheese and use full-fat sour cream. That really sounds pretty simple to me. We'll be right back.

KARA:  Welcome back. You're listening to Dishing Up Nutrition, JoAnn and Cassie, or going to be cohosting the show next Saturday with the attention grabbing title, Slow Metabolism - The Bread Connection. I can't wait to hear that.

LEA: That'll be a good show.

KARA:You don't want to miss that one. Now, if you found our discussion on fertility today, interesting, I encourage you to share the podcast with friends or family members. Infertility is a very common problem. Approximately 14 percent of couples in the United States have difficulty getting pregnant and/or staying pregnant, which is really, that's what the definition of infertility is.

LEA: Yes. While we were on break, we had a caller call in who was driving, so she didn't wanted to stay on the line. She had a question in reference to what is a good alternative if we're going to cut away from sugars and cut away from artificial sweeteners, she was  wondering how something like stevia would be for pregnancy. I would say that that it would be a good option.  I think the quality of the stevia, like a raw stevia sourcing, the one that we often recommend is SweetLeaf stevia and they have stevia drops or are granulated stevia. A little bit of that goes a long way. It's very, very sweet.

KARA: Much sweeter than actual sugar.

LEA: Yes. Yeah, exactly. You know, so a little bit. Sometimes if I'm looking for something different, I'll add a little bit of that to maybe a tea in the afternoon.

KARA: Do you like the powder or the liquid drops?

LEA:  I do more of the liquid drops I would say. I would say a little bit of that while pregnant, I think it would be just fine.

KARA: Yeah, I like that as well. Earlier in the show you were talking about water and how it's important to get water in as the main beverage and sometimes I will add like some vanilla cream, just a few drops of vanilla cream, the liquid stevia that we sell at our office. And it just, for some reason I ended up drinking a little bit more water throughout the day.

LEA: Yeah, I do that with clients too. And then we also talked earlier about, we want to eat our full-fat dairy products and full-fat plain yogurt, which I get whenever I talk about that with clients or in class and people like, "Ooh, that's so bitter." We're so used to the high sugar flavored low-fat yogurts. I'll have clients when they're making that transition, put a little bit of that, that a different flavored drops of stevia, whatever their preference, they have all sorts of different flavors - vanilla, chocolate.

KARA:That's a great idea. Just put a few drops in that plain full fat yogurt and stir it up.

LEA: Makes a big difference.

KARA: Yeah. And maybe put some berries on there as well.

LEA:  So it's a good option.

KARA: If you've been living on a low fat or no fat, we'll just call it a starvation eating plan, because that's really what it is. It ends up to be extremely low calorie when people are eating low fat, no fat. You most likely are lacking the optimal nutrition to conceive. So at the same time we understand that if you've been eating a lot of high carbohydrate foods such as bread, pasta, crackers, chips, you might have something called insulin resistance or PCOS. That's polycystic ovarian syndrome. And that insulin resistance is interfering with the good cell communication that we talked about that earlier. So simply put the sperm and the egg can't hook up when there is not good cell communication, which unfortunately is often the case with insulin resistance and PCOS.

LEA: That's correct. That's correct. Yeah. So if you're experiencing infertility, have you ever connected your lack of sleep to your infertility?  I find this so interesting, sleep is a major lifestyle factor that really does make a difference.

KARA: And Dr. Matthew Walker said in his book Why We Sleep, we had a podcast, we have a podcast.

LEA:  Yeah I was on with Carolyn and Dar and we did a book review for his book. It's a fascinating book.

KARA: So yeah, we recommend if you want to listen to a whole show about sleep, to go back and find that with Dr. Matthew Walker and the book, Why We Sleep. But sleep is the foundation of good health, of course, alongside a good diet and exercise, but every major system, tissue and organ of the body is going to suffer when you're not sleeping enough. So I really liked this statement, "No aspect of your health can retreat at the sign of sleep loss and escape unharmed. Like water from a burst pipe in your home, the effects of sleep deprivation will seep into every nook and cranny of biology down into your cells even altering your most fundamental self, your DNA."

LEA:That's amazing.

KARA:  It's so true though. We can't just not sleep and expect that we're going to be able to function and be healthy.

LEA: It is rare that I go through a consultation that I don't talk about sleep with somebody. It's always brought up for one reason or another in relation to every aspect of health. Like we just talked about.

KARA: Weight, infertility.

LEA: Chronic disease. All of that. Research out of University of Chicago Sleep Center found that men who reported sleeping too little had 29 percent lower sperm count than men who obtained a full and restful night sleep.

KARA:  Can you say that again? That's amazing.

LEA: This is research from the University of Chicago Sleep Center found that men who reported sleeping too little had a 29 percent lower sperm count than those who obtained a full night and restful sleep at night.

KARA: How interesting.

LEA: Super interesting. Males who lacked sleep also had notably lower testosterone levels. Men with lower testosterone levels often feel tired, lack focus, and have less muscle mass. Women who worked swing shift or have erratic schedules were 80 percent more likely to have a subfertility which reduced their ability to get pregnant. So both men and women.

KARA: Again, we sometimes just focus on the health and the lifestyle of the female. But in this case it's almost 30 percent lower sperm count with a man who's not sleeping a full night.

LEA:   With my male clients, it's often the sleep is the last thing they want to do. They got to get all their stuff done. They don't really prioritize sleep. I think it's important.

KARA: And maybe, you know, getting six hours, drinking a lot of coffee to get through the day, things like that. If you're struggling with infertility issues, could it be as simple as you just need more sleep? We would suggest eight and a half to nine hours of sleep most nights. Consider the number of hours that people in primitive cultures slept. So if you think about before electricity, they would fall asleep at approximately 9:00 PM and wake up at 6:00 AM. If you add that up, that's nine hours of sleep.

LEA:  Yes, and as nutritionists we can help you with your sleep issues. We can help you get enough of the correct fats and we can help you learn how to avoid bad fats. We can also help you include a good source of vitamin A. Each person has individual needs in each nutrition plan should address those unique needs.

KARA: The research from the Nurses' Health Study, one of the largest and longest running studies of women's health, shows that what you eat, how active you are, and that key lifestyle factors like sleep can dramatically affect your fertility. So it really makes sense that what you eat is going to affect your ability to get pregnant and stay pregnant. Millions of dollars have been spent on the development of reproductive technologies. There's not a lot of attention and money that's focused on diet infertility.

LEA:  And look at, as we showed today how important these pieces are to promote that.

KARA: And so I think it's really time to shift the financial support to nutrition therapy and nutrition research. It's something that I think everyone should be thinking about.

LEA:  Yes, definitely. Our goal at Nutritional Weight & Wellness is to help each and every person experience better health through eating real foods. It's a simple yet powerful message. Eating real foods is truly life changing. I want to thank everyone today for listening. Thank you Kara.

KARA: Thank you Lea and thanks everybody. Have a great weekend. 

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