As children, we all grew up hearing how sugar was bad for us. It damages our teeth, makes us hyperactive, and overconsumption can lead to serious illnesses like Diabetes. But what about the damage it can cause to a woman’s fertility? Hundreds of thousands of women suffer from Unexplained Infertility. Doctors are unable to pinpoint the root cause of the infertility even after conducting laboratory tests as they seem to be fine and healthy enough to conceive naturally. As a solution, many of these women are recommended diets that are considered healthy and optimum for conception. A sugar-free diet is believed, by many experts, to help in cases of infertility as intake of sugar and infertility seem to have a strong relationship. This sugar-free diet not only can benefit these “unexplained” cases but all of us looking for ways to boost our diminished fertility.
Nutrition plays a big role in keeping the reproductive organs of a woman healthy. Our bodies are not made for consumption of so much sugar that we tend to eat on a weekly basis in the form of all the cakes, chocolates, sugary drinks, candies, and cookies. We tend to overlook the dessert we ate the night before or even the sweet, fruity alcoholic drink we had with a friend after work. While high amounts of sugar is not good for your health in general, it can play havoc with your fertility.
High amounts of sugar lead to hormonal imbalance
It’s common for some individuals to experience emotional highs and lows after eating a meal loaded with sugar. Sugar affects hormones produced inside the body, thereby putting strain on a woman’s fertility. Eating lots of sugar spikes insulin levels inside the body for a brief period of time after which it drops in a dramatic manner. This sudden increase and decrease has a big impact on your hormones, leading to their mess. Hormonal imbalance also results because of the efforts made by the body to restore sugar levels back to normal. In this effort, body releases both adrenaline as well as cortisol hormones. For women suffering from an ailment called endometriosis, this hormonal imbalance leads to further difficulties in conception. There is no dearth of women recovering completely and even becoming pregnant after removing refined sugar from their diets. This happens because absence of sugar helps in removing inflammation of the uterine lining.
Insulin resistance because of sugar
Refined sugar is not just bad for your overall health but also your fertility. Women afflicted with PCOS are found to have a resistance to insulin. Insulin is a substance released by the pancreas to convert the sugar you consume into energy. More insulin is released inside the body when you eat sugar. When you become resistant to insulin, it leads to problems with fertility. It causes issues during ovulation and the time when embryo implantation has to take place on the lining of the uterus. Resistance to insulin also increases risk of miscarriage.
Sugar can cause poor egg quality
Studies are showing that sugar intake and poor egg quality are closely linked. Sugar is a natural oxidative element and, in terms of your ovaries, can cause free radicals to damage your eggs leading to poor egg quality and lack of conception. As you progress down the IVF route, you will most likely be asked to perform a “Glucose Tolerance Test”. This is a test that determines if you suffer from the beginning stages of Diabetes or have some sort of insulin resistance. To those who suffer from this condition, a low dose insulin reducing medication (i.e. Metformin) is prescribed in order to regulate how your body processes sugar. However, recently some IVF clinics have recommended low doses of this same insulin-reducing medication to women diagnosed with Poor Egg Quality in order to lower sugar spikes and keep the damaging oxidation from affecting a woman’s eggs prior to an IVF.
Sugar leads to the loss of many vitamins and minerals
Sugar intake leads to the loss of vitamins and minerals. This can be detrimental to your fertility because your hormones need these nutrients to function properly. Low levels of vitamins and minerals can lead to lower immunity and irregular periods. There are also increased chances of infection that play a role in miscarriage.
Sugar intake often leads to yeast infection
While eating high quantities of sugar and yeast infections have been found to have an association, there is no direct linkage of yeast infection with infertility. But when a woman suffers from a yeast infection, she cannot bear the pain of vaginal intercourse. As we know, pregnancy is possible only with intercourse and thus sugar plays its role in infertility even through a yeast infection.
High sugar intake worsens premenstrual syndrome
Premenstrual syndrome, commonly known as PMS, is a major factor in infertility. Women suffering from PMS have been found to have issues in conception. The symptoms of PMS are worsened with a high intake of sugar.
High intake of sugar lowers immunity levels
High sugar intake has been linked with low levels of immunity. Just a single tablespoon of sugar can lower your immunity for as many as 4 hours. Lowered immunity leaves you vulnerable to many types of infections such as vaginal yeast infection and bacterial vaginosis. Risk of STD’s is also significantly increased with lower immunity. All these ailments greatly reduce your ability to conceive.
In a study conducted at Harvard, researchers found that there was an 80% decrease in issues related with infertility when women were made to consume a healthier diet for fertility. Women who underwent this study showed 80% less risk towards infertility that are caused by ovulatory disorders as compared with women who continued to eat the diet that they were consuming earlier. The women in this study were made to eat much less sugar from carbohydrates and they received protein from plant sources rather than animal sources. The diet that these women consumed supported a healthy reproductive system.
The research conducted by Dr. Weston Price and Dr. Brewer also suggests that fertility issues can be resolved if women with unexplained infertility, or infertility as a whole, resort to a healthier diet aimed at pregnancy. Their recommendations are based upon traditional diets for women that are also referred to as natural fertility diets. All such diets recommend reducing intake of refined sugars and replacing it with natural substitutes.
I too cut out sugars in my diet at the same time I also became gluten-free. To be frank, I’m not a sugar person and rather prefer salty, bitter things over anything sweet. My husband and I always laugh when we go to a new restaurant and the server naturally comes to me with a dessert menu or, better yet, wheels the dessert tray over for my inspection. Definitely without knowing how those desserts appeal to me like a plate full of raw broccoli (my apologies to those who love raw broccoli)! Cutting out regular sugars found in desserts, sodas, etc. wasn’t a big problem for me at all but cutting out an occasional glass of wine was an issue. That was a lot harder to do since I do like to partake a bit when in social settings. However, even though I do occasionally drink a glass of red wine now and then, my wine has now been substituted with no sugar alcohol (yes it does exist). My drinks of choice now come from Rum, Vodka, etc. which are the straight spirits and are sugar -free.
“Hard alcohol contains no sugar or carbs. Even though it’s made from natural sugars, fruits, grains, sugarcane and berries, those sugars are converted to alcohol during the fermentation and distillation process. Stick with straight alcohol.”
As we’ve learned, sugars are damaging in so many ways to so many processes in our body. It’ll be difficult at first to cut out refined sugars, but not only will your fertility thank you for making it healthier, but so will your waistline.