Unsurprisingly, the first food on the danger list is gluten. Numerous studies have linked both suclinical and severe Celiac Disease to all kinds of reproductive disorders in both men and women. Furthermore, the gut irritation caused by eating gluten can prevent you from absorbing adequate levels of micronutrients, compounding the problem. Eating a lot of gluten is also often accompanied by eating too many carbohydrates, leading to metabolic disorders that can further stress your body. Although it’s a good idea for anyone to avoid gluten, it’s especially necessary for couples trying to conceive.
Gluten is one toxin to avoid, but it’s hardly the only one: environmental toxins can do just as much damage by leeching into your food, water, and air from various different sources. A particularly harmful kind of environmental toxins for fertility is environmental estrogens: these are chemicals that mimic the effects of estrogen, the main female sex hormone. There’s nothing wrong with estrogen itself (in fact, it’s necessary for both men and women), but ingesting too many environmental estrogens throws off the natural and healthy balance of your own hormones. For women, this essentially sends the hormonal system into overdrive, causing problems like early puberty and very heavy and painful periods. For men, environmental estrogens can slow or prevent normal sexual development – the best-known example of this is probably the feminized fish that scientists have increasingly discovered in modern waterways. Environmental estrogens are ubiquitous in the modern world: plastic is a major source of them, but so are any common chemicals, building materials, and industrial and agricultural pollution. This makes them very tough to avoid, and probably impossible to escape altogether, but it’s important to take whatever steps you can.
Another diet-related problem frequently linked to male and female infertility is oxidative stress, a type of cellular damage caused by physical stressors (free radicals) that exceed your body’s ability to respond to them. As this diagram shows, oxidative stress impairs healthy reproductive function in both men and women by damaging cellular DNA. Since the primary purpose of egg and sperm cells is to carry DNA, this causes problems with the entire reproductive process, and reduces the chances of fertilization, implantation, and viability (whether or not a fertilized egg actually has the ability to develop into a fetus). Oxidative stress also contributes to female infertility by damaging the follicles and endometrium (the lining of the uterus), preventing the embryo from implanting, and disrupting the woman’s normal hormonal cycle; it’s linked to disorders including PCOS, endometriosis, and preeclampsia. To avoid oxidative stress and help your body heal from it, make sure to get plenty of antioxidants (including Vitamins C and E), and avoid food toxins.
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