In Genesis chapter one, where we find an overview of creation, we find that God created the first man and woman. Immediately in the next verse (Genesis 1:28) are His first recorded instructions to them, which were to “be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth.” Without question, one of the most important and gratifying experiences for a young couple is that of bearing and rearing children!
Tragically, Hallelujah Acres often receives word from disappointed couples who have been unable to conceive. But is diet a conception issue? Is there indeed a connection between the prevalence of declining fertility and diet and lifestyle choices?
Decreasing fertility has become a growing concern. “In the 1950s, approximately 1 out of 10 couples had some sort of infertility problem. In the 1990s, that rate is nearly double.” (The Art of Natural Family Planning,
4th edition, John Kippley and Sheila Kippley)
In his weekly Health News
my dear friend Robert Redfern states: “In Scotland the sperm count has dropped 30% in 25 years and even in France, the country famed for its cooking and healthy eating, it has dropped by 25% in just 17 years.” Some statistics indicate as many as 1 in 3 couples are victim to infertility. What is the root cause of these staggering statistics?
Rarely do we find doctors discussing research that indicates diet and lack of nutrition are to blame. As Robert Redfern states, for them to do so, “They may then have to admit that it’s also the cause of most other diseases.”
The conventional explanation for increasing infertility involve three main factors:
- Couples waiting too late until fertility naturally decreases
- Increasing rate of sexually transmitted disease
- Falling sperm counts
While there is no doubt some truth to the conventional explanation, especially falling sperm counts, we know that our genes control everything in our body. But, as retired medical doctor, Dan Chesnut, MD notes in his book, Lying with Authority,
for a gene to become active, something in nutrition or our environment must trigger it.
Over the past 20 years at Hallelujah Acres, we have found that when we provide nourishment to the body in a way that is as close to the original, whole foods, plant-based diet God intended for mankind in Genesis 1:29 (the basis of The Hallelujah Diet), the body functions in a superb fashion. Gene expression is positive, hormonal systems function as God intended, and our entire body functions as God designed. Indeed, what we eat is foundational to our health and well-being.
If a couple wants to enjoy excellent health and to rear healthy children, it is imperative that they adopt a whole foods, plant-based diet at least six months prior to conception, while avoiding lifestyle practices such as tobacco use and alcohol consumption. These efforts help create the ideal environment for a healthy egg and sperm, affording the best foundation for a healthy pregnancy. In fact, the health of the father and mother, including their diet and exposure to various toxins, will influence not only their children but the genes of their grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
Exposure to pesticides, dioxins, PCBs, and any of the hundreds of chemicals used commercially today can negatively impact the sperm count. In lab animals, it has been shown that a single exposure to pesticide is enough to damage sperm for many generations. Yet, with optimal nutrition, men can produce healthy new sperm in as little as 3 months.
“Dr. Anway from the Centre for Reproductive Biology at Washington State found that a single exposure to pesticide is enough to damage sperm for many generations. His team exposed pregnant rats to common pesticides and then measured sperm counts over the next five generations. They found that 10% of male descendents were completely infertile, and 90% had low sperm counts
. The effect remained undiminished over five generations. This means that a man today can have a low sperm count because his grandmother was exposed to DDT in the 1940's.”
In women, polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) is equivalent to a low sperm count. Women with PCOS have a normal reserve of eggs but their eggs do not mature each month as they should. PCOS is the leading cause of infertility in women. Obesity as well as environmental toxins may be at the root of PCOS. Excess levels of insulin that are associated with excess weight have been shown to interfere with egg development.
“Type 1 PCOS (insulin resistant) may also be linked
to sugar, smoking, Pill use and trans fat. There are also a large number of Type 2 PCOS cases who are not obese and whose insulin is normal. In these women, ovulation is disturbed by other factors such as thyroid, stress, environmental toxins, and the pill.”
We can try to limit our exposure to toxins as much as possible, but they are all around us day and night. The average person has over 700 toxins in their body.
Lack of iodine is another concern. Adequate iodine is extremely important, not only for the thyroid, but for every cell in the body. All of the cells need iodine to regulate their metabolism. Without it, says Dr. Mark Sircus, “People are known to suffer from swollen glands in the throat, thyroid diseases, increased fluoride toxicity, decreased fertility rates, increased infant mortality rates, and (with severe deficiency) mental retardation. It has been theorized that iodine deficiency is a causal factor in ADHD of iodine-deficient mothers.” In fact, the thyroid is just as important as the ovaries; it plays a critical role in a healthy pregnancy and in the mental health of the baby. A well functioning thyroid is necessary for ovulation, progesterone production, and for implantation. Anything that negatively impacts the thyroid can have a negative influence on fertility.
Increased exposure to halogens — bromine, chlorine, and fluorine — impedes the body’s ability to use the extremely limited amount of iodine in our diet today. Bromine is used as an antibacterial agent for pools and hot tubs; a fumigant for agriculture use; a fumigant for termites and other pests; and is even in carbonated drinks containing bromated vegetable oil (e.g., Mountain Dew, AMP Energy Drink, and some Gatorade products). It is also found in many medications and, in the 1980s, bromine replaced iodine in many bakery products.
In light of the fact that most people are deficient in iodine, it is important to educate yourself on the role of iodine and consider supplementation. For starters, read Iodine: Why You Need It Why You Can’t Live Without It, by David Brownstein, M.D. Discreet supplementation is essential to meet not only the iodine needs of the thyroid gland but of each cell in the body.
It is important to note that fluoride added to drinking water and used in dental practices, toothpaste, and many medications is another toxic element that can also inhibit the thyroid’s ability to concentrate iodine. It should be avoided as much as possible. When found in the water supply, the water should be purified by distillation or reverse osmosis before ingestion. Filters will not remove fluoride.
Chloride is a halogen but is very important in the extracellular fluid. Chlorine is the oxidized form of chloride and is added to many water systems as well as swimming pools and hot tubs. It is a toxic element and should be avoided as it too can inhibit the body’s use of iodine.
Soy is yet another infertility factor, genetically modified (GM) or otherwise. Most of the soy (upwards of 90%) and corn grown in the U.S. is genetically modified, but research in mice has already demonstrated that even non-GM soy can have a potential negative influence on fertility. When a woman eats soy, it decreases the ability of the sperm to swim in the female reproductive tract. In parts of the world where soy is regularly consumed, it is considered a condiment or side dish. This keeps the dose low, so that the impact on fertility is not as pronounced. A child whose reproductive system is developing should avoid all concentrated soy.
Jeffrey Smith, founder of The Institute for Responsible Technology, reported on a routine study by Russian biologist Alexey V. Surov and colleagues to understand the impact of Monsanto’s GM soy on fertility.
“After feeding hamsters for two years over three generations, those on the GM diet, and especially the group on the maximum GM soy diet, showed devastating results,” Smith says. “By the third generation, most GM soy-fed hamsters lost the ability to have babies. They also suffered slower growth, and a high mortality rate among the pups.”
We cannot predict specifically how research of this nature translates to humans, but it certainly indicates the potential dangers associated with GM foods. Safety of GM foods has never been established and many countries will no longer allow them to be imported or grown. Use of GMs is an experiment using humans as subjects and the full impact may not be known for decades. Any products containing soy or corn should be avoided unless it is organic. Since our government will not support labeling of foods that contain GM ingredients, the only way to avoid them is to use organics.
Click here to read more on GM foods in an article by Dr. Michael Donaldson.
Body weight is important in fertility, too, especially for women. Women having less-than-ideal body weight can have menstruation cycles that range from long to very long with delayed ovulation and perhaps extended, ambiguous mucus patterns that make pregnancy almost impossible.
Likewise, excessive exercise that reduces body fat below what is needed can cause infertile cycles and/or “runner’s amenorrhea” – the absence of both ovulation and menstrual periods.
Excess body weight in men can also cause problems. It can prevent the elimination of toxins and lead to imbalances in the hormones, which can present fertility challenges.
Overeating and excess body weight can also negatively impact fertility. Too much body fat can contribute to an imbalance of the hormones estrogen and progesterone in some women (BPA leached from plastic water bottles can disrupt estrogen levels, too, causing hormonal imbalances and affecting ovulation and overall fertility). Excess body fat can also contribute to irregular cycles and difficulty in maintaining fertility. Women need to maintain about 20% of their weight in body fat to maintain normal fertility.
Since diet plays such a crucial role in fertility, it is imperative for young couples to carefully consider what they eat, especially since our foods today are lacking in nutritional value when compared to just a few decades ago. For example, our diets today contain up to 30 times the amount of omega 6 fats to omega 3s (an ideal ratio is about 1:1 or 2:1 omega 6s to omega 3s). Omega 6s, while essential, create inflammation when consumed in excess or when they are damaged. Omega 3s are anti-inflammatory and are essential components of healthy cells. Good sources of land-based omega 3s include flaxseed, chia seed, walnuts, and flaxseed oil.
Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) is an essential omega 3 fat that is not found in land-based omega 3 sources. It is the most prominent fat in our brain and plays a critical role in the integrity of the cell membrane. It is a critical factor in the development of the retina and brain in the fetus and nursing infants. Most people convert the short-chain, land-based omega 3s to DHA very poorly. The best way to ensure we have healthy levels of DHA is to supplement the diet with a well-processed, pure fish oil that is free of heavy metals, such as the brand Hallelujah Acres offers, Pharmax Finest Pure Fish Oil.
B12 is an essential nutrient that, under ideal conditions, is produced in the gastrointestinal tract by friendly bacteria. It is not found in plant-source foods, but is vital to maintaining wellness and in being able to birth healthy children. Don’t rely on blood tests to determine B12 sufficiency; they are not accurate. The best way to evaluate B12 status is with MMA (Methylmalonic Acid) screening of the urine. If one is unsure of their B12 status, supplementation with a sublingual B12-B6-Folate supplement is an inexpensive way to ensure that B12 deficiency doesn’t develop and that folate needs are met (B12 should be in the methylcobalamin form, not cyanocobalamin). Folate deficiency during pregnancy can lead to neural tube birth defects such as spina bifida.
Though we have focused mainly on the health of women in terms of fertility, it is important to note that eating a healthy diet is the responsibility of both would-be parents. The quality of the sperm is dependent upon the nutrients provided by way of diet.
For example, one of the most common male infertility causes from nutritional deficiencies is vitamin B12 deficiency, mentioned above. Vitamin B12 is a critical component of sperm production. Oxidative stress and gluten sensitivity in men can also pose fertility problems.
The role of nutrition in fertility is unquestionable. Young couples seeking to rear healthy children must take responsibility for their health. They must become educated in regard to the impact of diet, lifestyles, and nutrition on both their personal wellness and their ability to conceive.
Health News Spring 2013 - Online Bonus Content: