Blood Sugar and Fertility
There are many factors at play when it comes to whether someone can get pregnant easily or not, but one factor that is (mostly) under your control is your blood sugar.
Under normal conditions, when you eat a meal, the carbohydrates are broken down into simple sugars, which is the body’s main source of energy. Glucose easily enters the bloodstream from the small intestine and that tells your pancreas to release the hormone insulin.
The role of insulin is to help move the glucose from the bloodstream into the tissues (liver, muscles, fat) for storage so you can use it later. When enough glucose has moved into the tissues, the pancreas stops making insulin until you eat another meal.
With some health conditions, like diabetes and PCOS, this process doesn’t work as well, leading to persistent high blood sugar levels. Persistent high blood sugar due to the cells not responding well to insulin, and not being able to move glucose from the blood to the tissues, is called insulin resistance. Over time, high blood sugar levels can damage the kidneys, nerves, heart, eyes, and it can interfere with other hormones. Insulin resistance can happen in anyone, and can be short-term or long-term.
When insulin resistance interferes with sex hormones like estrogen, testosterone, progesterone, luteinizing hormone, and follicle-stimulating hormone, it can cause ovulation to be irregular and has been associated with poor egg development, implantation failure, and impaired embryo development.
Poor blood sugar regulation can also impact thyroid functioning and cause excess stress hormone (cortisol) levels. Both cortisol and high blood sugar can impact fertility indirectly.
Insulin resistance is associated with DNA damage in sperm, as well as reduced sperm concentration and motility (the ability of the sperm to move properly). Elevated blood sugar and insulin resistance can also cause lower testosterone levels and erectile dysfunction.
Blood sugar, Diet and Pregnancy
Once pregnancy has been achieved, maintaining healthy blood sugar levels continues to be important because high blood glucose can increase the chance of miscarriage as well as cause a number of birth defects.
The easiest way to reduce high blood sugar and insulin resistance is to change what you eat:
- avoid soda, other sweetened beverages and fruit juice
- cut out sugary foods – including food made with honey or maple syrup
- significantly reduce anything made from flour – bread, pasta, cookies, crackers, etc.
- trans fats from hydrogenated oils
In addition, add in:
- more protein than you’re probably used to, aim for 50g per day (one egg has 6g of protein) – try to eat protein at every meal or snack
- a wide variety of vegetables – broccoli, bell pepper, leafy greens, cucumber, zucchini, etc.
- beans and lentils – these have a lot of soluble fiber which helps lower cholesterol and triglycerides
- fresh fruit
- healthy fats – avocado, butter, olive oil, nuts, seeds
- omega-3 fatty acids – these fats can help reduce insulin resistance and lower triglycerides
Another important factor in reducing insulin resistance is to exercise regularly. Please, for your own sanity, make exercise something fun! Choose something you enjoy – dancing, hiking in the forest, learning how to stand-up paddle if you have access to a lake or river, borrowing a friend’s very energetic puppy, and taking them for a walk. Getting better sleep and reducing stress are also helpful in decreasing insulin resistance.
Acupuncture has been shown to help reduce insulin sensitivity in several research studies. It can also help you sleep better and develop more resilience to stress. If you are concerned about how your blood sugar is affecting your fertility, contact us to learn more. We are here to help you have the family you’re hoping for!