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Here at Montana Whole Health we have been big advocates of the Mediterranean diet for fertility patients for years. Well now we have some really good research supporting this diet!
Two strong studies now show that eating a Mediterranean diet regularly improves fertility rates!
The first study shows that patients who stick to a Mediterranean diet carefully increases pregnancy rates in IVF patients. The second study shows that men who consume a Mediterranean diet have better sperm counts, including total sperm counts, motility and morphology. (Morphology is a measurement of how healthy the sperm looks, and motility is a measurement of how well the sperm swims.)
What is the Mediterranean diet?
Let me be clear here – a Mediterranean diet is NOT eating spaghetti with red sauce and drinking a glass of wine. LOL!
Here are the basics of the Mediterranean diet:
- Lots of olive oil. Meaning copious amounts! Olive oil should be the main source of fat. Contrary to popular belief, increasing fat consumption is NOT likely to cause weight gain. In fact olive oil in particular seems to help satiety, which is the sensation that we are full.
- Protein sources primarily from fish and beans, with minimal intake of red meats.
- Colorful fruits and vegetables in abundance.
- Whole grains in moderation.
- Moderate use of red wine – about 3 oz daily for women, 5 oz daily for men.
I have patients aim to be 80-90% on the Mediterranean diet. This means you can eat other foods than fish and veggies, just limit them!
My basic guidelines to be Mediterranean diet-friendly:
- Aim to make at least 1/2 your plate fruits and vegetables. Yes, this includes breakfast!
- Aim to make 1/4 of your plate include anti-inflammatory protein, focusing on fish, nuts and beans.
- I consider wild game to be “okay,” since it tends to be an anti-inflammatory meat. You should always check your iron levels (ferritin), however, because high iron meats like wild game can increase inflammation if your iron stores are too high. (This is typically not the case for most women, who tend to have low levels of iron if they are having regular periods, which depletes iron.)
- Aim to make 1/4 of your plate whole grains. Note not all patients tolerate grains well, and some patients feel better eating a diet more similar to Autoimmune Paleo, which is similar to a Mediterranean diet but without grains.
Other bonuses with the Mediterranean diet:
No diet can guarantee having a baby. But the Mediterranean diet is great because it has other benefits as well. Here are some of them:
- Decreased risk of type II diabetes.
- Decreased risk of heart attack and stroke
- Decreased risk of dementia in old age
- Decreased rates of depression and anxiety
When in doubt have half your plate be fruits and vegetables and load up on olive oil!
What else can I do to increase my chances of having a baby?
I always recommend getting thorough labwork done if you are having issues conceiving. This includes a hormone workup for women, and a semen analysis for men. Here in Missoula we recommend using NW Cryobank to analysis semen samples, since the Cryobank does such a great job analyzing not just total count and motility, but other important markers like morphology, presence of white blood cells and more. Men who have low total counts should have a more thorough workup and bloodwork of their own.
Remember that total sperm counts that are now considered “normal” would have been considered infertile 75 years ago. This is how much male sperm counts have dropped in the last century! Here at Montana Whole Health we calculate chance of conception using not just total sperm counts, but factoring in morphology, motility and unidirectional motility. And YES there are many naturopathic and evidence-based options for improving sperm counts!
For women we assess markers of inflammation, hormones at specific times of the month (this is very important!), ovarian quality, thyroid health, iron status, and screen for autoimmune disease. Every patient is unique and every patient receives a personalized treatment plan. Both Dr. Krumbeck and Dr. Dalili have specialized training in naturopathic fertility treatment.
Karayiannis D, Kontogianni MD, Mendorou C, Mastrominas M, Yiannakouris N. Adherence to the Mediterranean diet and IVF success rate among non-obese women attempting fertility. Hum Reprod. 2018 Mar 1;33(3):494-502.
Karayiannis D1, Kontogianni MD1, Mendorou C2, Douka L2, Mastrominas M2, Yiannakouris N3. Association between adherence to the Mediterranean diet and semen quality parameters in male partners of couples attempting fertility. Hum Reprod. 2017 Jan;32(1):215-222.