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Dairy and your Fertility

The debate on whether dairy is bad for you or not seems to be never ending. However, knowing the facts will help you decide your dairy or non-dairy diet.

 

Is there a link between dairy products and infertility? While there are many factors leading to infertility, there is no dearth of women who seem to be perfectly healthy and able to conceive.  Unexplained Infertility, and infertility in general, has led scientists and doctors to take a look into diets of women to find a correlation between foods and infertility.  Many studies have been conducted that have found high fat dairy products to have an impact on the fertility of women.  However, the relationship between dairy products and infertility is a very complex one with different cultures advocating different levels of intake of dairy products to promote fertility.

Conflicting views on dairy products and their impact on fertility

In most western cultures, doctors favor a diet containing low fat dairy products.  These fats have enough calcium and protein to promote fertility while keeping insulin levels under control.  However, in Chinese culture (and Chinese medicine) and also some other Asian countries, experts recommend an intake of absolutely just the minimum of dairy products.  They say that dairy products lead to the thickening of cervical mucus that pose problems to the ease of sperm transportation and causes difficulty in embryo implantation with the uterine lining becoming very slippery (hence unable to attach).  At the other end of the spectrum are doctors who recommend full fat dairy products to women who are trying to become pregnant.  A research at the Harvard School of Public Studies closely monitored approximately 20,000 women and found that a diet containing full fat dairy products actually triggered ovulation in many of these women.  In fact, these researchers found that a diet containing low fat dairy products adversely caused problems in conception among many of these women.

Such divergent views of experts on fat content in dairy products have led to confusion in the minds of women who are trying to become pregnant.  It’s the fat globules in milk that estrogen and progesterone hormones use in order to attach themselves.  When milk is skimmed, these hormones are left behind and the resulting dairy product contains only androgens.  Androgen is a male hormone and its dominance in dairy products actually impairs the process of ovulation and can cause testosterone levels to rise in females.

Women tend to consume low fat dairy products to become pregnant

In recent times, women around the country trying to become pregnant have been consuming good amounts of low fat dairy products while avoiding full fat milk, cream, and butter.  Fat contains many vitamins that are considered necessary for the health of a woman’s reproductive system.  But skimmed milk and dairy products made from this low fat milk are devoid of butterfat.  In a recent study, it was found that the risk of infertility actually increases with consumption of low fat, skimmed milk while this risk is decreased when full fat dairy products are consumed.  The same study found that women who included high fat dairy products in their fertility diet were more likely to experience desirable outcomes than women who did not follow such a diet.

There is a tendency of milk manufacturers to add the hormones lost during skimming of milk to retain its character, touting skim milk as a healthier alternative to whole milk.  However, the hormones so added in milk and even other dairy products have been found to affect the endocrine system of individuals.  These added hormones can greatly impair a woman’s fertility.

Inflammation caused by dairy products

In Traditional Chinese Medicine, it’s believed that dairy products cause inflammation inside the body thereby impairing the ability of women to conceive.  Consuming too much of full fat milk also hampers the ability of embryos to easily implant on the lining of the uterus.  Issues with too much mucus being produced have been found with the lining of the womb with women drinking more than 120g of milk every day as embryos have failed to become implanted on this lining.

Connection between BMI and fertility

Body weight, and hence body mass index has a correlation with fertility.  This is because very high or very low body weight can have issues such as disrupted menstrual cycle and others.  Menstrual cycle has a direct impact on the ability to conceive.  Thus an obese woman who is finding it difficult to become pregnant can increase her chances of conception if she cuts down on high fat dairy products. 

Studies on fertility and their connection with dairy products:

  • There has been very limited research on the connection between intake of high fat dairy product and fertility. A study conducted at the Institute for Reproductive Health (Chavarro, Jorge E., M.D. “How Diet Affects Fertility.” The Daily Beast. Dec. 1, 2007. (June 11, 2012) has found that consuming whole milk products in reasonable quantities has a favorable impact on fertility.  In fact, the study (Curtis, Glade B., Judith Shuler. “Your Pregnancy Week by Week, (7th Edition.) Da Capo Press. 2011) concluded that consuming 2 servings of whole milk every day increased chances of conception by a massive 25%.

Margo’s Advice:

I became dairy-free at about the same time as I became both gluten-free and sugar-free.  I did it on the advice of my Acupuncturist because of the high inflammation and an overproduction of mucus I was experiencing.  (BTW- In regards to the Inflammation, I had been told by my RE during a routine ultrasound, that my uterine lining was very inflamed and expecting implantation to occur while in this condition was highly unlikely.  If you find yourself with similar conditions, cutting out dairy should help).  My Acupuncturist told me that, since I live in a humid climate, the effects dairy can have on a body are greatly exacerbated and that I needed to eliminate it in order to also alleviate my symptoms.  When I followed through with cutting out my daily 2 glasses of milk, my 3-4 eggs a week, and the occasional yogurt (what can I say, I love dairy), I found that my inflammation and mucus overproduction disappeared.  I also was rewarded with clear, vibrant skin since an overconsumption of dairy can cause acne.

I do indulge sometimes, I won’t lie.  It’s hard not too when there are 5 cartons of whole milk waiting to be consumed eventually by my growing boy.  I do, however, greatly reduce my consumption and view the occasional glass of milk as a treat rather than a necessity. People of course ask me about how I then give my body the calcium it needs.  Well, you might be surprised to know that Almond Milk, Cashew and Coconut Milk has as much if not more calcium that regular milk.  Sure the taste of these three is not the same but have you tried Chocolate Almond Milk? I personally don’t like the taste of chocolate (I know, I’m strange), but my husband does.  When he tried it, he said it tasted like drinking a delicious chocolate shake.  It was that good and definitely lower in calories than a shake- 80 vs. 250, so go figure!  If you still don’t like the idea of the different milk sources, then try incorporating instead coconut yogurt (so delicious) or frozen coconut milk bars found at the grocery store.  They surely will satisfy whatever milk craving you’re having.

One thing to always keep in mind is this specific solution suited me but it may not suit you.  It’s always best to consult with your doctor as to their take on your consumption or non-consumption of dairy products to increase your fertility.

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