Do you find yourself having energy crashes in the afternoon? Do you feel irritable and lethargic? All these can all be signs of blood sugar imbalance. But why does it matter? And how does it affect fertility?
The maturation of eggs across a women's cycle is dependent on a complex interplay between the reproductive hormones; these include oestrogen, progesterone, luteinising hormone (LH) and Follicular Stimulating Hormone (FSH). One of the main disruptors of this incredibly sensitive hormonal dance is sugar. Sadly sugar is firmly weaved into the western diet. Its adverse health effects are seen in many health conditions such as diabetes, gastrointestinal, and cognitive impairment.
How does poorly managed blood sugar affect fertility?
When we talk about blood sugar, we refer to the amount of sugar circulating in your bloodstream at any one time. If you are regularly eating foods high in refined carbs, caffeine and sugars, you may have noticed that you experience bursts of energy, followed by energy dumps. This rollercoaster of energy can happen throughout the day. When your blood sugar plummets, and you feel energyless, your body interprets this as stress and releases cortisol and adrenaline. Prolonged-release of these stress hormones impacts progesterone levels by inhibiting its activity.
How does this impact fertility? One of progesterones roles is to prepare the uterus for pregnancy by thickening up the uterine lining. Without this essential hormone, conception cant take place.
Then there is the role that insulin plays in fertility. Insulin is also a hormone that's role is to manage sugar levels in the body. When your blood sugar is consistently high, so are your insulin levels. Raised insulin levels cause insulin receptors in the body to become desensitised, which can cause a condition called inulin resistance. You may have heard of insulin resistance before. It is associated with female health conditions such as PCOS, which can negatively impact the quality of women's eggs and therefore affect their ability to conceive.
Lastly, there is the impact that experiencing these energy highs and lows has on eating habits. Ultimately, when your energy levels crash, you are more likely to reach for sugary-starchy foods, which will then make your energy skyrocket and then plummet again. So you can see how it becomes a vicious cycle that can lead to weight gain and obesity. Being overweight is also problematic for fertility; this is down to various hormonal imbalances and because excess fat cells can affect sperm/egg quality.
How to avoid the daily blood sugar rollercoaster ride?
So the moment you have been waiting for! How can you prevent hormonal imbalance and optimise your fertility? Luckily, some simple dietary swaps will keep your blood sugar levels in check!
Avoid skipping meals as that will cause your energy to dip.
At every meal, make sure you include a good source of protein (the size of your palm), healthy fats and complex carbohydrates that will sustain you for longer. Complex carbs (quinoa, buckwheat, oats) are slow-releasing, so they will essentially keep you going for longer and prevent an energy crash, coupled with a good source of protein to increase feelings of satiety.
Avoid refined sugars. Avoid putting white sugar in tea and coffee or adding it to cereals. Instead, use natural sweeteners like bananas, dates, apricots, prunes and figs. These taste great in cooking and baking too. Maple syrup and honey are better alternatives to refined sugar, plus they contain additional vitamins and minerals. Drizzle on porridge, granola or use in desserts.
Avoid refined foods - bread, pasta, cakes, biscuits, fizzy drinks, crisps, ready meals, fruit juices.
Consume whole foods - fruits, veggies, whole grains, nuts, seeds, legumes.
Decreases stress levels.
Prioritise low glycaemic load fruits such as berries, pears and apples. Always consume fruits like bananas with nuts or a protein source, to avoid a blood sugar spike.
Take regular exercise, this can even be fast walking, but 30 minutes daily is ideal.
Poached egg on sourdough with slices of avocado (vegans can replace with tofu scrambled egg or chickpeas).
Glorious green smoothie, recipe here.
Organic chicken and quinoa salad, with steamed broccoli, roasted rosemary and balsamic tomatoes, coriander, avocado, sesame seeds and an olive oil and lemon dressing. (vegans replace with lentils).
Cauliflower and aubergine curry with buckwheat and sauteed spinach.
Snack on nuts and fruit (ideally together to prevent sugar spike from fruit)