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Let me introduce myself. My name is Mark Sisson. I’m 63 years young. I live and work in Malibu, California. In a past life I was a professional marathoner and triathlete. Now my life goal is to help 100 million people get healthy. I started this blog in 2006 to empower people to take full responsibility for their own health and enjoyment of life by investigating, discussing, and critically rethinking everything we’ve assumed to be true about health and wellness...

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April 28, 2010

Primal Nutrition and Fertility

By Mark Sisson
135 Comments

First Place!Although for many of us starting a family simply happens (surprise!), others among us take an intentional approach. Maybe we delay having children for professional, financial or relationship reasons. Maybe we begin trying when we’re young. Regardless of timing, facing our fertility (so to speak) is an intensely personal and often emotional passage. It can inspire joy and wonder in our basic human capacities – our deep-seated physical impulse and emotional expansion toward parenthood. For some of us, however, the journey takes on anxiety and disappointment. Although varied and nuanced factors define our reproductive health (some not fully understood even today in the medical community), experts agree that lifestyle factors contribute to overall fertility.

I get emails from time to time on the fertility question, and I appreciate these readers’ stories and interest. The growing science of nutrigenomics, the study of how diet influences gene expression patterns, will undoubtedly offer more insights in the future. Research, however, offers plenty of suggestions already for enhancing reproductive results through dietary measures – a briefing of sorts on what to eat, what not to eat, what to consider supplementing, etc. For everyone who’s tried, is trying or interested in trying somewhere down the line, here’s a Primal primer for fertility nutrition.

For Both Men and Women…

Achieve a Normal Weight. Obesity is a known factor in infertility for both men and women. Obesity early in life presents the most reproductive risk.

Reduce Oxidative Stress. Oxidative stress from a whole host of factors, including oxidized fats, intense physical activity, alcohol, illness and regular metabolic functioning, negatively impact conception success and pregnancy outcomes. For men, oxidative stress has been shown to damage sperm DNA and lower sperm count and motility. For women, oxidative stress impacts conception ability by decreasing the permeability and function of the egg, impairing successful implantation of a fertilized egg in the uterine lining, and decreasing the viability of the embryo. (image)

Up your antioxidant and fish oil intake. We know antioxidants and anti-inflammatory fatty acids like omega-3 fight oxidative stress elsewhere in the body. The same goes for reproductive functioning. Research has shown time and again that antioxidants support fertility in both men and women. Vitamins C and E and cofactors like selenium, zinc and copper, appear to be especially key. There are probably many other antioxidants that can benefit as well. As for fish oil, sperm actually depend on a generous polyunsaturated fatty acid supply for well-functioning, fluid membranes that are required for fertilization.

For the Men…

As already suggested, the onus is on both halves of a hopeful couple. Here are a few key recommendations for men.

Avoid soy. I’ve never been a fan of soy, and prepping for pregnancy is a good time to reassess your intake. The issue with soy of course is the estrogenic effects, which animal and human studies have shown decrease sperm counts. The inevitable question is raised why Asian countries where soy is prevalent don’t suffer a fertility crisis. It’s a perfectly valid point – one which research hasn’t fully addressed. From my own perspective, I’d venture to guess that at least part of the discrepancy might be traced to the consumption of unprocessed, often fermented soy in Asian cuisine versus the heavily processed versions in Western menus.

Supplement strategically. Studies of male infertility have shown that zinc and vitamin C levels correlated with sperm count and quality. Additionally, L-carnitine and L-acetyl-carnitine have been useful supplements for enhancing sperm motility and quality.

For the Women…

Female infertility that can be traced to hormonal disruption, as in polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) or luteal phase deficiency, responds especially well to dietary intervention. A few years ago, a book called The Fertility Diet highlighted results obtained from studying 18,000+ women and the associations between their diets and respective fertility rates. Critics suggested that the study design was far from air tight and that the book’s findings were most useful for women with PCOS. The book, however, offered generally sensible recommendations for the most part. Somehow the findings related to carbs was re-spun to suggest “good carbs” as opposed to low carbs as the specific results suggested, but that’s of little surprise. Based on the bulk of research out there, here are a few recommendations for women.

Achieve Normal Insulin Levels. Excess insulin can impair ovarian function and increase hormone-binding globulin, which raises androgen levels and commonly decreases ovulation. Although getting insulin under control can help boost fertility, avoid chromium picolinate during the preconception period, since it has been linked to DNA mutation and sterility.

Supplement Strategically. Iron and zinc are particularly crucial for early cell division once the egg is fertilized. Folate (not folic acid) both pre-conception and in early pregnancy cuts the risk of neural tube effects. Higher iron levels have been linked to higher fertility.

Eat Clean Protein. The Fertility Diet authors suggests that balancing plant and animal protein corresponded with fewer fertility difficulties; however, no attention was given to the possible impact of livestock hormones, antibiotics, etc. If there’s any time to go organic, preconception is the time.

Eat Plenty of Good Fats. Trans fats are paramount in fertility impairment. One study showed that a 2% increase in trans fat intake resulted in a 75% increase in fertility risk. Full fat dairy showed a positive effect, but go for clean organic sources.

Go Low/No Alcohol and Caffeine. Both alcohol and caffeine have been shown to decrease fertility in women.

This has been sort of a brief, straight-to-the-point, text book overview of nutrition and fertility. Now it’s your turn. I know that many Mark’s Daily Apple readers have stories about going Primal and getting pregnant. Do you have recommendations and experiences for enhancing fertility? Share your thoughts and anecdotes in the comment board. Grok on!

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135 Comments on "Primal Nutrition and Fertility"

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Michael Dyer
6 years 5 months ago

I knew there was something wrong with soy 🙂

Some explanations I’ve heard concerning Asian consumption of soy vs. Western consumption of soy, is that, since it hasn’t been a part of the western diet traditionally, many Westerners have difficulty breaking it down and are more prone to soy allergies.

Dana
Dana
6 years 5 months ago
There are a couple things about Asians and soy: 1. Asians do not eat nearly as much soy as PETA thinks they do. It’s a condiment over there, not a main course. When they want meat, they just eat meat. 2. The stuff is a ticking time bomb if you don’t handle it right. First off, they ferment most of it. Second off, they balance soy intake with iodine intake, particularly the Japanese. For example, if you have ever had traditional miso soup, you’ve noticed both tofu and seaweed in the bowl. The iodine in the seaweed helps head off… Read more »
Levi
6 years 4 months ago
Asian cultures do not eat the amount of soy that PETA advocates. In fact, being half-Thai and having grown up with mostly Southeast Asian cuisine, I can attest (and surely my Thai family in Thailand) that I rarely ate soy. When I did it was the fermented sort. What PETA will also not tell you is that Asians eat a lot of meat and fat. Most of my meals growing up consisted of beef, pork, or chicken with some rice on the side. But rice isn’t a complete staple either. Many traditional dishes have no rice at all. Its just… Read more »
Bex
Bex
6 years 4 months ago

Soy is also often fermented in Asia, which significantly changes it’s chemical makeup.

Sally
Sally
6 years 5 months ago

Just wondering if 38 is to old to start trying for a baby. I wasted most of my life being fat and now that I am almost at a healthy weight I wonder if I should not even consider it.

Fern
Fern
6 years 5 months ago

I don’t think your past your prime, if you want a child you should at least try to have one. I know a lady who is 46 and just had her first baby without any fertility treatments or anything.

Mike
Mike
6 years 5 months ago

Do it now, the longer you wait the higher risk you have of complications for you and your baby. Downs is specifically associated with late pregnancy.

On a plus side your chance of having twins is increased greatly by later pregnancies. I’ll let you decide if that is a good or bad thing 🙂

Cass
Cass
6 years 5 months ago

I think it’s fine. My mom had my little brother when she was 38 (my dad was 36). Keep in mind that risks of nondisjunction syndromes like Downs increase with age (and spike dramatically at 40), so I would be diligent about pre-natal care and screening, but I think if you want children and think you’re ready for them, you ought to go for it.

Primal Toad
6 years 5 months ago

Go for it! If you want a baby then go ahead and try. If the kid moves out when he or she is 18 then you won’t be 60 yet 😉

Dana
Dana
6 years 5 months ago

Read Weston Price’s work and Nourishing Traditions, and all those Weston Price Foundation folks and like-minded people–they really have a handle on this. Nutrition may play as big a role in how kids turn out when born to older women, as anything else. It can affect how your eggs ripen and we’ve already got age as a strike against us when it comes to that.

Ben
Ben
6 years 5 months ago

No way! I was born when my mom was 39, and my dad was 40!

primalpanda
primalpanda
6 years 5 months ago

My sister just got pregnant, easily, at age 42 and passed the 1st trimester with no problems for her or the baby. I’d recommend a genetic test if you DO become pregnant to spot problems early, because there are risks as we ladies age.

That said, GO FOR IT! If you want to, 38 is definitely not too late 🙂

Marianne
Marianne
6 years 5 months ago

38 is definitely not too old. People warn you of the horrendous increase in Down’s syndrome and the like as you age, yet even in your 40s, you are much more likely to have a healthy baby than not!.

I had a surprise baby at 44 when I wasn’t even eating primal. He has been a gift in every way.

Joyful Abode
6 years 5 months ago

one of my friends just had her first baby at 39. Both mom and baby were perfectly healthy the whole time.

Amber
Amber
6 years 4 months ago

Hi. I’m 38 and just had a baby last year! I was fat my whole life too and recently lost weight. It’s NEVER too late! I work with a woman who is 52 and she has four year-old TWINS!

I am actually trying to convince my man to have another one. 🙂 I really missed out!

Good luck!

Patty
Patty
6 years 4 months ago
Sounds like you’re concerned about the weight gain associated with pregnancy. Fear not! If you aim for the lower end of the recommended weight gain for pregnancy (25 lbs, a very doable goal IF you approach being pregnant as part of your diet and not an excuse to eat unlimited donuts, a mistake I made myself), here’s what will happen: In the week after giving birth, you will lose 10-12 of those pounds (I lost 15). If you breastfeed, you are likely to lose another 8-10 lbs (12 for me) in the next 6 months without much effort–mild exercise (think… Read more »
Ellen
Ellen
6 years 4 months ago
As a certified childbirth educator and student midwife, I have to say: please, please don’t “aim for the lower end of the recommended weight gain for pregnancy”! Recommended weight gains are based on the same sort of flimsy evidence underpinning the Standard American Diet — only with even less justification for modern women: doctors originally advised food restriction to produce small babies, so they’d fit through pelvises narrowed by malnutrition. (Good way to perpetuate a cycle there 🙁 ) A woman eating a healthy diet during pregnancy can gain thirty pounds, or sixty, or even lose weight if she’s obese… Read more »
BigJim
BigJim
6 years 5 months ago

I have found that tequila has babies in it.

Sebastien Noel
6 years 5 months ago

Great article Mark!

I also think that getting plenty of sleep, regular exercise and having a positive attitude in general goes a long way. When our hormones work normally and optimally, there often is great progress made with aspects such as fertility.

Those tips are good both for both fertility and a good sex life.

Abby
Abby
6 years 5 months ago

Just had to add my 2 cents. I am overall healthy. Healthy weight my whole life, moderate exercise, good amount of fat, limited trans fats, moderate consumption of coffee (16oz a day). My husband is much the same, probably consumes less caffeine. We have no diagnosed reason for infertility yet we haven’t gotten pregnant in 8 years of marriage. I’m just saying….

fireandstone
6 years 5 months ago

The biggest factor by far in the growing problem of male fertility is plummeting testosterone. Average values of the hormone in men has been steadily declining for about a half-century in the United States.

BPA is one well known factor in the process, but another important problem is a group of estrogen mimicking compounds (Alkylphenol-ethoxylates) which cross the skin barrier and exist in pretty much every grooming product you can imagine. Here’s a report (google cache of .pdf file):

http://74.125.155.132/search?q=cache%3AgPmeFNlZNM8J%3Awww.foe.co.uk%2Fresource%2Freports%2Fethoxylates_alkylphenols.pdf

Christian W.
Christian W.
6 years 4 months ago

“Average values of the hormone in men has been steadily declining for about a half-century in the United States.”

I think the increase in abdominal body fat and lack of activity for the last fifty years might have even more effect…

Amanda
Amanda
6 years 5 months ago

@ Sally~ No, it is never to late… as long as you are healthy and have the ability to love and provide then by all means try! Follow the suggestions and go for it.

@ Abby~ I’m not sure how long you have been eating primal, but you said “good amount of fat, limited trans fats” If you look in the article it says… “One study showed that a 2% increase in trans fat intake resulted in a 75% increase in fertility risk”

Amanda
Amanda
6 years 5 months ago

Abby~ The rest was cut off… if possible try to eliminate it, except for maybe whole organic milk. Just 2% makes a factor. Also, STRESS.. I truly believe is a BIG factor in being able to conceive. For me, I conceived with both kids when there was a significant drop in my stress level and mind you I was at 334 with first and 385 pounds when conceived my second… so based upon Dr’s ideas I should not have been able to conceive at all , but that is a different story… have faith, and RELAX…

Sally
Sally
6 years 5 months ago

Amanda thanks!

Kara
Kara
6 years 5 months ago
I would also recommend all women to read the book Taking Charge of Your Fertility. The book explains how your menstrual cycle actually works and goes against some conventional wisdom. It explains both a helpful non-hormonal method of birth control and a helpful way to conceive or, if infertile, ways to pinpoint what the issue is (if it is a problem with the female). Since reading it, I really think all women should read it as it is very enlightening and helpful. I now understand my body and how it works, which is really empowering. The book does recommend a… Read more »
Fern
Fern
6 years 5 months ago

That is a very good book, I learned so much about my body when reading it. I never really knew much about the female body until I read this book, funny thing though I read it to use it as a form of birth control, well apparently I cant read very well because 3 months later I was pregnant!

Kate
6 years 5 months ago

Ditto on the “Taking Charge of Your Fertility”. DH and I had trouble conceiving and two cycles after buying that book, we got pregnant!
It has a ton of information that I wish I had known about years ago.

Ellen
Ellen
6 years 4 months ago

_TCOYF_ really is an awesome book, and as a pregnancy/childbirth professional, I recommend it. It didn’t do anything for me in trying to conceive a third child, though, because it assumes a regular daily schedule (my sleep patterns vary drastically), which made charting extremely difficult. Your mileage may vary.

jb
jb
6 years 4 months ago

Taking charge of your fertility is an amazing book. it should be required reading for all women. I couldn’t believe how much I did not know about the basic functioning of my body as a 32 year old woman. the human body is really a symphony.

3 months later i was pregnant. I could have spent a lot less time and money on birth control than the ten years i poisoned myself with that stuff.

Mallory
6 years 5 months ago

eeeeeek! i am so interested in this post!

as a former anorexic and currently infertile ‘specimen’ i am tryiing everything i can to restore my menstruation. i eat beef & chicken livers a few times a week but am wondering if iron/zinc supplements would help? you only touch on the obese and not the underweight… opinions?

all my fats come from meat, coconut oil, butter and avocado, cream and occassional square of 100% chocolate

i include kefir/goat yogurt a few times a week

my BF currently says around 17%

i have coffee in the morning with cream… is this worth giving up caffeine?

JamieRose
JamieRose
6 years 5 months ago

I second this question- I am in pretty much the same exact boat as you, Mallory. I eat tons of calories but am having a hard time gaining/getting my period back… and I drink coffee every morning too! I hope I can keep that haha

Katie
5 years 8 months ago

I don’t know if you are still trying to conceive (hopefully you already have a baby on the way!) but if not, cutting out caffeine might be a good option. Some studies show that it alone can reduce your fertility by half. I’ve also seen studies that your body fat needs to be between 18 and 22% to conceive, so maybe getting it a tiny bit higher might make a big difference too.

Anna
Anna
5 years 16 days ago

i don’t know if you are still experiencing problems, but if so maybe i can help… i am also a former anorexic and had trouble getting my cycle back to normal despite having normalised my weight. i went to a woman’s nutrition expert who told me to eat butter, (tblsp)cod liver oil and (tsp)spirulina powder daily. within three weeks i had my first period in years. Goodluck

MM
MM
4 years 3 months ago
I just wanted to second this comment in a big way, and to say THANK YOU KATIE (hopefully some people like me still check out this thread!). I actually read this three months ago. I am also recovering from low body weight (never anorexic per say, but living the high-carb-but-restrictive-diet-along-with-tons-of-distance-running lifestyle for a good seven years). Two years ago I stopped birth control and realized I had no period, while just starting to embrace a paleo lifestyle (and all that comes with it – no more crazy running, more play and weight lifting). I figured my body would right itself… Read more »
MM
MM
4 years 3 months ago

oooops – by thank you Katie I meant thank you Anna – though I also think Katie has a point with the 18-22% BF being key too!

Abby
6 years 5 months ago
Truthfully my biggest issue is that people think they are in control of their fertility. Don’t get me wrong, being healthy is going to be a bonus, but I know morbidly obese people who can get pregnant, and some who can’t. I know super skinny people who can get pregnant and some who can’t. Just like you Amanda, you said based upon Dr’s ideas, you should not have been able to get pregnant (congrats btw). As for the relaxing, I understand what you are saying about that, but ever since we adopted 2 years ago, we have been relaxed, promise.… Read more »
Squirrel Jo
Squirrel Jo
6 years 5 months ago

Well said! I’m 28, and after 2.5 years of trying, I have made peace that having a baby might not be my path and I can only do so much, the rest is not in my hands. We have been so relaxed about it now for about 5 month, and nothing has happened. I have come to realise that my happiness is not determined by wether I have a baby or not.

The best thng about unexplained infertility… it has brought me so much health, in seeking solutions to be healthier I found Mark’s website, and for that I a grateful.

Aaron Curl
6 years 4 months ago

Lords hands?

Ben
Ben
6 years 4 months ago

Lord’s hands.

Mary-Anne
Mary-Anne
5 years 6 months ago

That may be true, but I know someone that tried for ages.. did everything they could, finally decided it wasn’t in the cards and started renovating their house. She was pregnant within 6 months. There is a story for everything. All you can do is try to get healthier and relax.

junebug
junebug
6 years 5 months ago

Good response Abby.

There are few things more frustrating to someone struggling with fertility problems than being spoon-fed the “just relax” “go on vacation” “don’t stress” platitudes. Vacation has not solved my recurrent miscarriage problem. Not being stressed hasn’t solved it. Nor has relaxing. And no, adoption won’t solve it either.

It is possible to be of sound mind and body, and still have fertility problems. Truly, if stress were THAT huge of a factor, explain to me, please, how it is that women suffering famine and disease in other countries manage to both get pregnant and carry to term?

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[…] Original post by Mark Sisson […]

Abby
6 years 5 months ago

Yes Junebug, you said it better than I could.
I am not disagreeing with MDA or the primal lifestyle. I just wanted to point out there is no certainty that if you do this and this you’ll get pregnant.
I think women can stress themselves out way too much trying to figure out the why. When sometimes it is what it is. Plus, as Christians, adoption is part of the Gospel.

Amanda
Amanda
6 years 5 months ago

Abby – thanks for your response. I too am dealing with infertility that has no known cause. I’m healthy, eat right, exercise and still haven’t had a cycle in over 5 years; nothing, nada, zilch. I’m 31, 20% bf and all tests come back normal. We have just accepted that if God wanted us to have a baby, He would make it happen, primal or not. We feel like He is leading us toward adoption and are perfectly content to let His plan unfold.

Dana
Dana
6 years 4 months ago
All right I’m going to dispute this, because there are enough heartbroken mamas and confused adoptees out there without making this a religious crusade. Moses was indeed adopted, but his life was in danger or he never would have been given up by his mother. And Moses’s story is not in the Gospel. The Gospel is the first four books of the New Testament, not the whole Bible. Overwhelmingly, if you look throughout the Bible, kids stay with their parents, even if their parents are poor. The Bible explicitly calls for believers to care for the “widowed and fatherless”–to care… Read more »
Abby
6 years 4 months ago
Dana, I am assuming your comments are directed at me. So I will respond accordingly. First of all, no one is assuming everyone here is a Christian. I am a Christian so I am free to talk about it. Also, I agree with most of the PD so no need to make assumtions as to what is or isn’t “christian.” Also, I am well aware that even thought I’ve adopted, I’m still infertile (wow, did you really need to write that?) My only point during this discussion is an encouragment to infertile women that most of the time, their infertility… Read more »
Ben
Ben
6 years 4 months ago

@Dana- I don’t think Abby meant that adoption is a necessity of the Gospel, rather it can be seen as a definitive part of Christianity (James 1:27).

@Abby- I’m not trying to put words in your mouth. The above assumption was based on observation.

Amanda
Amanda
6 years 4 months ago

I, too, understand that most on these boards are not Christian, but I have never once commented against someones religious beliefs, despite how much I disagree with them. And I do think the primal lifestyle is Christian!

Eat the foods that God designed for us to eat and move in ways that He created our bodies to move!

And thanks for reminding me that I’m infertile, I must have forgotten.

junebug
junebug
6 years 5 months ago
Of course, I agree with the lifestyle too, that’s why I practice it. And I think it *does* help. However, it can only help up to a certain degree. Everyone here loves epigenetics and gene expression, right? Well, my reproductive fate was determined before I was even born due to my mom’s low estrogen levels during pregnancy. All the bacon and spinach in the world cannot undo that. I am working with a naturopath as well as a fertility doc. The naturopath recommended essentially the primal diet (which I was already doing, except I finally did cut the dairy) and… Read more »
April
April
6 years 5 months ago

I have PCOS, and at one time I had gone without having a period at all for a year and a half! I then adopted a more low-carb lifestyle, lost 30 pounds, and my body was able to regulate itself. It’s so frustrating to me when I go to PCOS forums to see the typical low-fat dogma recommended there. A low-carb/paleo diet is THE best thing you can do for PCOS, aside from losing weight (good thing the two go hand-in-hand!)

Bess
Bess
6 years 5 months ago
I’m so glad I’m not the only one who’s noticed this! When I first learned I had PCOS and started obsessively reading everything about it, it was the weirdest thing: first they’d say it was primarily an insulin resistance problem, then they’d gaily recommend a low-fat diet with whole grains. So irritating! I come from a whole family of diabetics, so I KNOW what insulin resistance means. So instead of taking the stupid PCOS sites’ advice, I went low-carb. And I lost 30 pounds and got a regular cycle back. It makes me so angry to see the “low-fat, whole-grains,… Read more »
Tara
Tara
6 years 4 months ago
When I was diagnosed with PCOS at age 19, I was lucky to be sent to a nutritionist who recommend a high-protein, high good-fat, low (15-30 g/meal) refined-carb diet. When I stuck to it, I lost 20 pounds and improved my LDL/HDL, triglycerides, and androgen levels. Since I stopped sticking to it, I’ve gained weight. I started CrossFit a few months ago, and have already started leaning out, but am now going to go Primal to really dial it in. My question is for the PCOS ladies – did any of you take metformin before going Primal, and did you… Read more »
Bess
Bess
6 years 4 months ago

Wish I could help, there. I did not take any drugs for it, just dove headlong into low-carb. Maybe invest in a glucometer to help you regulate diet and get off the drugs?

grokette
grokette
6 years 3 months ago

Hi, Yes I have been prescribed metformin for PCOS which has been a real wake-up call for me and brought me to this website and starting a new journey. In fact I am not at all overweight but nevertheless clearly ‘insulin resistant’ and finding things *fairly* easy with the meds.
I am worried about when I stop taking them though… I am guessing the cravings might be harder to manage…
Has anyone else experienced this?
Thanks!

Heatherly
Heatherly
6 years 5 months ago
I think I wrote you, Mark, once upon a time to gain advice in the fertility dept and how this diet plays a role. As someone who was trying to conceive for 3 years, I knew part of the equation was in my hands but I also NEEDED help from a Dr. There are 2 (maybe even 3) directions infertility can take you. One being a metabolic dysfunction in which managing your blood sugar could play a key role. Another would be the physical dysfunction such as block fallopian tubes or a malformed uterus, in which diet will NOT help.… Read more »
Primal Toad
6 years 5 months ago
I love the fact that living by the primal blueprint – replicating how our ancestors lived but doing it in the modern day simply improves quality of life for every single thing. If you want to get better in anything – live by the primal blueprint. Anytime someone asks me how to do this or that in a better way I will just advise them to read PB and point them to this blog (and mine). Simple! I feel lucky to be venturing into this lifestyle at such a young age (22 on May 11!!). Knowing it improves fertility is… Read more »
Il Capo
Il Capo
6 years 5 months ago

Age is the biggest issue. In human history, women have always been conceiving the most between 15 – 25. These days, a lot of people only consider kids after 30-35, and that alone reduces fertility by ~ 90%

Dana
Dana
6 years 4 months ago
I suspect that happens because these folks haven’t been taking care of themselves. If you’ve spent your twenties not eating right, the thirties is when it starts catching up with you. I’m beginning to see, in the entertainment news (you can’t avoid it, I’m afraid), my fellow Gen Xers beginning to drop like flies because all the partying they did ten-fifteen years ago is finally shutting them down. If people are going to delay childbearing then they need to do it sensibly and take good care of themselves rather than think “I’m young and can handle it and I’ll take… Read more »
Ginger Baker
6 years 4 months ago
So agreed! I was married at 21, and had my first daughter at 23 – by far the first in my group of friends to do so, and looked a bit askance at by some people (at least until they realized that I have an very good head on my shoulders as it were LOL). I had a different experience than most people anyway – I had known my husband since I was 16, so while we were young, we had still been “together” for 5 years. It was odd! The funnier thing though is how relevant it is to… Read more »
Kishore
Kishore
6 years 4 months ago

The best time for women to bear children is late teens to early twenties. With modern day lifestyle, toxins in the food, boat loads of estrogen from birth control, plastics and parabenes from make-up etc, health in the 30s will be inferior unless you pay attention to it early enough.

junebug
junebug
6 years 4 months ago
You’re wrong again, and this was Abby’s entire point about how women are told to do this, don’t do that, eat this, don’t eat that, and it will magically solve their infertility problem. The major giant glaring factor you neglect to take into account is plain old dumb luck. Some women have no trouble conceiving and carrying to term in their late 30s. Some have trouble conceiving and carrying to term in their early 20s. Of the former group, some have led healthy lifestyles their entire lives; many have not. Of the latter, some have led healthy lifestyles their entire… Read more »
DB
DB
3 years 30 days ago

Nope, that is absolutely and completely untrue. Check out this article by a woman who did an in-depth review of all of the research and found very slight declines in fertility through late 30s:

http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2013/07/how-long-can-you-wait-to-have-a-baby/309374/

Karla
Karla
6 years 5 months ago

Three of my 4 pregnancies happened when I was on a low carb diet. When I wasn’t dieting I had fertility problems. I definitely agree that insulin levels are a big part of fertility issues.

Karla
Karla
6 years 5 months ago

Just to clarify, I didn’t mean all fertility issues.

Mallory
6 years 5 months ago
oh my gosh guys this is so depressing. i am ONLY 24 years old i am and should be at my PRIME for fertility. i did once have a period, before the eating disorder, and lost it at age 19-20 and have yet to have one since. as i catholic i totally understand the putting of my health and fetility in Gods hands BUT that is not acceptable to me. b/c i blame myself for becoming so sick and twisted it is MY fault i don’t have a period(not God’s) and after this many years of eating low-carb and primal… Read more »
Ben
Ben
6 years 5 months ago

Mark doesn’t necessarily advocate regular dairy. He just gives recommendations if YOU DECIDE to consume dairy.

Emily
Emily
6 years 5 months ago
Mallory: Don’t blame yourself! I know I did…for anorexia, and the resultant amenhorrhea, and bone loss, etc. I konw what you are going through. I do. And I also know how hard it is to add all that fat back into your diet…so congratulations on that!!!! It just takes time. I had my first normal menstural cycle 3 years after I started the eating disorder; and over 1 year from having achieved and maintained a healthy weight. The longer you had the ED, the longer it will take to heal. I also think that for some people who have injured… Read more »
junebug
junebug
6 years 5 months ago

Mallory,
My naturopath recommended I cut out dairy. I protested a bit (I love my Greek yogurt), saying that I don’t have any lactose intolerance issues. She said even absent obvious symptoms of such, our bodies simply have a hard time digesting cow dairy. She did say goat dairy was fine (blech). It was just one small part of an overall plan to improve my adrenal function and thereby (hopefully) improve my ovarian function. It was a recommendation specific to my case and my problem – not necessarily a blanket recommendation.

Squirrel Jo
Squirrel Jo
6 years 5 months ago

There has been a link between infertility and dairy – but low fat dairy. I steer clear from dairy when I can, and especially non-organic dairy.

Dana
Dana
6 years 4 months ago
People probably do have trouble with cow dairy–if nothing’s been done to it. Humanity has lasted as long as it has consuming foods it has not evolved to consume because it predigested those foods. Overwhelmingly, across the world you will find that traditional cultures ferment their seed-based and dairy foods. That’s where things like sourdough and yogurt come from. Yogurt and kefir cultures not only eat up lactose but also break down the fats and proteins to be more easily digested in the body. And while not all naturopaths are vegetarian, a lot of them are biased in that direction.… Read more »
junebug
junebug
6 years 4 months ago

My naturopath is not remotely vegetarian, at all. She is a doctor, with a medical degree from a naturopathic school of medicine, not some 3rd generation curandera who learned from the elders. One of the very first things she had me do was keep a diet diary for her for a week. She enthusiastically approved of my Paleo diet, with the exception of cow dairy. We’re she anti-meat, I’d imagine that would have come out at the same time.

Dan
6 years 5 months ago

Even more reason for me to not like soy.

Twyla
Twyla
6 years 5 months ago
I have had multiple friends with fertility problems until they cut all grains and sugars out of their diet. Lo and behold, they are all with children since dietary changes. I’m sure this doesn’t work for everyone, but it is definitely worth a try. I think it has a lot to do with malabsorption issues and not enough of the right nutrients to support conception. It seems insulin is a factor as well. Not sure of the answers, but I’m about to go on a SAD diet so I can STOP getting pregnant. I’m having #3, my SECOND totally unplanned… Read more »
Heather
Heather
6 years 5 months ago

I am 42, been eating Primal/Paleo for a year, off all gluten since I was having so many issues with it. I am now pregnant for the first time without fertility treatments (5 months). baby looks great, having a easy pregnancy too. I have occasionally eaten some rice or quinoa during my first trimester when I had some mild nausea. I honestly think this way of eating has made a huge difference. I have been feeling better than ever eating this way! My doctor says all my blood tests came back great and to keep up whatever I am doing…….

Jenna
6 years 5 months ago
This has been an ongoing issue for us, we’ve sort of given it a month or two more, and then it’s back to the R.E. Chalk up another one for “unexplained”. I am overweight, but all my levels are within the healthy range. It’s been eight years. I can tell that something is different though, since I have started eating Primal. Some crazy hormonal mumbo-jumbo seems to be afoot. My husband made it clear that it’s not just me. He has been eating about 60% Primally, and just informed me that “this stupid Blueprint of yours is making me notice… Read more »
Kishore
Kishore
6 years 5 months ago

Mark, do you think women who have been on birth control for a long time would have more problems conceiving from all the estrogen load?

Sterling
6 years 5 months ago

Losing weight can often solve fertility problems, due to its effect on insulin sensitivity.

However, increasing insulin sensitivity/decreasing insulin resistance alone (independent of obesity) can greatly increase one’s chances of getting pregnant who’ve previously had fertility problems.

Here’s an interesting read: https://acrobat.com/#d=1g8IAyfkweJEgu0A7e1Syg

Tara
Tara
6 years 5 months ago

Insulin levels played a huge role in me not being able to get pregnant for over 10 years. I developed PCOS and endometriosis. Once I got my PCOS under control (by going low carb), my fallopian tubes were too scarred from the endo to conceive naturally. So, we did IVF, which worked on the first try, and now have 15-month old twins. I am trying to raise them primally, too. My PCOS and endo are now gone and we might try for a little girl next year.

mallory
6 years 5 months ago

okay so should i like be monitoring my insulin?? the only think i know is when mine is outta whack mytemples are beating out the side my head. i will start prickin if there is hope in it!

Dana
Dana
6 years 4 months ago

I don’t think they make at-home insulin test kits. You could test your glucose though. There are usually a few free meter offers going around the Internet at any given time. Walgreens and CVS have their own store brand monitors that are pretty inexpensive too, although I have no information about their accuracy.

Tim Rangitsch
6 years 5 months ago

The cleaner I got my diet, the more potent I got! After a 4 month zero carb/all meat diet (grass fed, local beef and wild game) well, on April 15th we had a boy! Fritz is the product of Primal livin!

jicamamama
jicamamama
6 years 5 months ago
I think its so funny that you posted an article on Primal and fertility today. I have PCOS, Insulin Resistance, and have had amennorrhea for 3+ months now. I started eating Primal a couple weeks ago because I want to get healthy again. The dh and I going to try for our first child in the next 6 months or so. In addition to doing primal I also started supplementing with a pre-natal vitamin that contains Folic Acid and Iron. And the reason why this is all so funny?? This morning, my 3 month stretch of amennorrhea came to an… Read more »
Anais
Anais
5 years 3 months ago
i am sure the primal diet is great for PCOS, but in your case I think it was a bit too premature to be the result of your diet change 🙂 with PCOS the growth of the follicule is stopped before ovulation, probably due to high insulin level. The idea would be that primal diet=normalization of insulin level=normal growth of the follicule=ovulation=14 days later if not pregnant you get your periods. When you started your new diet you had or were probably just ovulating, meaning your diet didn’t have the time to have an influence on insulin level and ovulation.… Read more »
angrylegs
angrylegs
6 years 5 months ago

Beer should also be avoided for men (even though most do if they’re primal). The hops that are used to brew beer are one of the most estrogenic plants going around. There’s a whole history of the temperance movement changing the brewing ingredients that promoted vitality and sex to the hops that dissuade sex and energy.

Cocobean
Cocobean
6 years 5 months ago

I just got done reading Real Food For Mother and Baby by Nina Planck. Fabulous book! It is the first book I’ve read that talks about how important it is to eat healthy BEFORE you concieve not just after. I also have PCOS and my husband and I have been trying to conceive Thing #2 for about 7 months with no luck. I have been trying to eat primal for about a year now but there is still room for improvment. Thanks for the great article Mark!

Danielle
Danielle
5 years 7 months ago

I want to also say that Nina Planck’s books are fabulous!

I too have PCOS (as well as endo). I had lap surgery to remove the cysts, fibroids and endo. My tubes were clear which is a plus. I’m 37 so they are putting me on Metformin/Clomid. Primal eating, IMO, is crucial to keeping mom and baby healthy. I was able to avoid metformin for quite some time by cutting out grains/starches. I hope to get off of it soon enough.

Julie Aguiar
Julie Aguiar
6 years 5 months ago
Ahh a timely post. We take so much for granted! After being on the Pill for 12 years, when my Hubby and I decided to try for a baby we got Preg right away..and miscarried…and got preg less than a month later. Full term, easy Pregnancy, delivery etc..Decided to “have them close together” and 17 months later had baby #2. I was still nursing my first, but she started sleeping through the night at 3 weeks! Easy pregnancy again, she was almost born in the car, quick, natural birth. Nursed her for 11 months. They are now 6 and 7.… Read more »
Chandra
Chandra
6 years 4 months ago

I don’t like any options for BC either, and so I am not using any. My husband and I decided to try natural family planning.

Before you get freaked out and think I am talking rhythm method, you should check out a few websites, http://www.fertilityfriend.com helped me, and I am using the “Justisse” method of fertility management (a google search for it should find it no problem).

I like this method because it’s about body awareness, and what could be greater than being aware of your body! No hormones, no barriers, no vasectomy, and no babies.

Bex
Bex
6 years 4 months ago

Thanks for this link, the site is great! I also really like the Taking Charge of Your Fertility program – I read the book first and use the software. I like it because I can chart electronically without having to be online, which was nice when we were roadtripping in Mexico and didn’t have daily access.

I will definitely take a poke around the Fertility Friend site. We are currently using the “Fertility Awareness Method” for birth control, not conception, but the basics are the same…

Julie Aguiar
Julie Aguiar
6 years 5 months ago

OOPs..I meant “really”.. It is wicked late, sorry…lol

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Richard, Personal Development Author

wow Soy decreases Sperm Coung!?!? I bet that’s a huge wake up call for a lot of health conscious men reading this page. I don’t use Soy but have considered it. Thanks for this.

Nikki
6 years 4 months ago

Does being on the Pill effect your fertility after you’ve stopped taking them? I’ve been on it for about 4 years but I do want to be trying for a baby by the time I’m 28, so less than 7 years. If it’s going to cause problems for me then I’ll definitely consider stopping it.

Kishore
Kishore
6 years 4 months ago

Birth control pill will always deplete vitamin/mineral levels toa greater extent, especially zinc. You should be on a good bio-available multi-vitamin.

Maria
Maria
6 years 4 months ago
It is hard to determine whether being on the pill for an extended period of time affects fertility, since increase in age is a counfounding variable. However, from what I’ve read and heard from OB/GYNs, being on BC should not affect your chances of getting pregnant once you are off it. This is why some women miss just 1 day of BC pills and end up preggers. However, I still feel uneasy about being on the patch, having been on it for the past 7 years straight. Have definitely been thinking about this more and more since I am 26… Read more »
Ellen
Ellen
6 years 4 months ago

You might want to use a barrier method for a month or two after coming off the patch, just to be sure. While studies haven’t been conclusive, some hormonal methods like Depo-Provera have shown increased risk of birth defects in pregnancies conceived within a month or two of stopping the method. (In the case of Depo-Provera, the problems include low birth weight, chromosomal anomalies and polysyndactyly.)

mere
mere
6 years 4 months ago

More great info regarding diet and cycles can be found here:

http://www.gardenoffertility.com/

Katie Singer has a very helpful chapter about “lunaception” in the Garden of Fertility, which might be helpful for some of you who are suffering from ammenorhea.

If you are dealing with PCOS take a look at this:

http://www.naturallyknockedup.com/

I hope this helps!

Aurelia
Aurelia
6 years 4 months ago

I would actually prefer no fertility, but, thanks for the info!!! 😉

Kishore
Kishore
6 years 4 months ago

Just eat and drink more soy and grains and you should be well on your way there.

Lirpa
Lirpa
6 years 4 months ago

Soy and grains is what killed my reproductive system! You have to go with what works for your body, there is no ONE solution for everyone! My estrogen levels were already so high that adding soy contributed to the development of fibroids, menorrhagia, endometriosis, and ovarian cysts. Grains contributed to a host of other problems leading to the inability to support a fetus, even though I was extremely fertile. Everyone has different needs. One person’s cure is another person’s poison.

Aurelia
Aurelia
6 years 4 months ago

I didn’t say I wanted to get fat and experience the diseases of civilization, just that I’m not using any fertility I may currently possess, and would prefer to have none.

🙂

Primal Mama
6 years 4 months ago
I have struggled with infertility and PCOS my whole life. I was put on the pill at 14 for PCOS. Since I have been primal, I have noticed a difference in my periods and I am not on the pill anymore to control PCOS. It seems like I encounter so many people who have infertility issues. It is scary. I think that BPA plays a big roll because we encounter it in so many places, the biggest being receipts. I just wrote a whole post on BPA and how the government is hiding or at least delaying research that proves… Read more »
April
April
6 years 4 months ago
I dont promote soy and dont buy it but I have to point something out: When people say “1. Asians do not eat nearly as much soy as PETA thinks they do. It’s a condiment over there, not a main course. When they want meat, they just eat meat.” I have to debate it. I lived in Japan for 4 years and so I am only talking about Japan. They eat a ton of soy. It is not just a condiment. It is in everything including their meat dishes. I would order a pork dish and it would come with… Read more »
Bex
Bex
6 years 4 months ago

For me, the Fertility Awareness Method has been a big part of “going primal” for me, swearing off hormonal birth control and instead learning to trust my body.

My husband and I have been using this method (as birth control) for 2 years without incident and will surely use it as means to conceive if and when we reach that stage in our life.

http://www.tcoyf.com/

gilliebean
6 years 4 months ago

Me too! Some people are naturally inclined to naturalness, eh?

Chandra
Chandra
6 years 4 months ago

Woops, I just posted a reply about this up above. Fertility awareness rocks, and for me, going Primal was just another step on “being more natural”!

Julie Aguiar
Julie Aguiar
6 years 4 months ago

I am familiar with it..I just don’t think I/we have the control to go without sex because it is a “fertile” day. Our time alone together is precious and we like to make the most of it…and after being pregnant 3 times in two years, I don’t know if I will be playing with fire..lol

Bex
Bex
6 years 4 months ago
My husband and I use condoms during my fertile time, or just treat ourselves to enjoying things less risky. Barriers aren’t that expensive and (at least here in Ontario) most cities have a sexual health clinic that distributes both male and female condoms for free. Along with fertility awareness, it I have never felt happier or more in control of my body. My periods involve only minor discomfort and are 100% regular – 28 days – since going off the pill 2 years ago. I was diagnosed at 14 with PCOS and this is the first time, even with birth… Read more »
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Amy
Amy
6 years 4 months ago
I just wanted to add this. I will be 38 in July. I have 2 daughters age 16 and for many years we tried to have another child but it never happened. I was told about 10 years ago that I have PCOS (I am very overweight) and would not be able to have another child without the use of fertility treatments. As we already had 2 daughters I felt that was unnecessary and after a period of mourning my infertility I accepted it. My husband and I split 3 years ago and I have a new boyfriend. He was… Read more »
Vicki
Vicki
6 years 4 months ago

Congrats to you Amy on your weight loss and pregnancy! I myself have lost 130 lbs on a low carb and now Primal diet. I love to hear about people really turning their weight issues around and not resorting to really drastic ways out like gastric bypass. I am sure you will lose the rest of the weight you are aiming to. Good luck to you!

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Peter Andrews
Peter Andrews
6 years 4 months ago

In addition to the items mentioned above, vitamin D is also very important for fertility.

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