Knowing what to eat to increase your fertility can be very confusing.
The Internet is scattered with differing views which often contradict one another. It is important to listen to your own body and know what works (and does not work) for your body.
The Fertility Diet Pyramid is a great place to start. Dr Jeffery Russell explains that the ratio of less than 10% of your calories coming from carbohydrates, at least 25% of your calories should come from protein, with the remaining coming from good fats; can significantly boost your fertility.
This is particularly true if you have PCOS or other fertility concerns
What is Ketosis?
Ketosis is when your body is under-going a very normal way of processing what you have eaten.
Your brain can use one of only two things as energy – glucose or ketones.
Ketones are made from metabolizing fat or protein in to energy.
This is how your body should always function. It is how we have evolved to survive!
However, in this day and age many (and I mean MANY) people have metabolic issues that hold them back from consistently losing weight. This can be extremely frustrating, because you are doing everything “right” and eating well, but still your weight does not budge.
You are providing your body with excess energy every time you eat high sugar or high carbohydrate foods. Your body knows that it does not need this much energy, so it stores it in your body – as fat stores.
What is the Keto Diet?
We call this diet the Keto Diet, but it is also known as Ketogenic Diet, Ketosis Diet, and Low-Carb Diet (or LCHF – Low Carb High Fat).
During this diet you are required to eat low carbohydrate foods and high fat foods (good fat obviously). The perfect balance would by 75% of calories from good fats, 20% from proteins, 5% from carbohydrates. So, although carbs are discouraged, they are not altogether eliminated.
This diet is certainly not a ‘new’ diet – although it has become more popular in recent years.
RELATED POSTS: What to eat to take your body into ketosis
What to expect when starting the Keto Diet
As you start the Keto diet you begin to monitor what you are putting into your body.
As your insulin levels drop (from not having carbs all the time!) you will find that your body adapts, and your hunger will go away.
Your body is very intelligent and identifies that it needs more energy than what you are providing it. It will then search for different sources of energy since you are not providing it through food.
This is where your body will turn to the stored fats that are full of stored energy (this is how you can reduce your fat on your body).
Ketosis is when your body has run out of stored glucose/sugar in the liver and muscles, and starts burning fat instead. A by product of breaking down fat in the absence of sugar is a chemical known as ketones. These ketone bodies can be burned by your brain instead of glucose.
Ketones are harmless and natural and should not be confused with ketoacidosis which is a deadly condition that diabetics can find themselves in if their blood glucose levels get too high (read below for more on ketoacidosis).
The fruity, weird smell on the breath, however, is the same in both conditions, as that is the ketones that you can smell.
Who can Benefit from the Keto Diet?
If you have diabetes, the keto diet is thought to be a really good option for you. By lowering your carbohydrates intake you can support the balance of insulin in your blood, avoiding the spikes and crashes.
The above is also the same for people suffering from PCOS. In fact the reason that this type of diet is recommended for people with PCOS, is due to the effect that it has on insulin.
If you suffer from any heart disease or have concerns around your gut health, including Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), the Keto Diet may help you manage or reduce these issues.
Do you struggle with acne? This diet can help you as you begin to balance out your hormones and reduce your sugar intake.
How do you know you are in Ketosis?
As a beginner Keto dieter you might be wondering how you will know if you are on the right track or not. These are some signs that you are certainly on right track to achieve ketosis.
The first thing you may notice is weight loss. This is a positive sign, and probably the outcome you are most favorable of!
You are likely to hit a big weight loss in the first week – if this is the case for you, you are likely to have hit ketosis due to the diet you have had over the last week. Well done!
Please note that not everyone will experience this straight away or at the same rate. We all have unique bodies – which is amazing! Don’t compare yourself, set off on your own journey and own it!
Suddenly you will realize that you have much more energy. Not the short bursts of energy, but consistent energy.
You will be focused and able to make decisions quickly. You are no longer tired, this is because you are fueling your body with food that makes it work correctly.
This is because your body is not having to work over time to process the rubbish food that you were feeding if prior to starting this way of eating.
Please note that short-term tiredness will certainly be there in the beginning as your body adjusts to the new foods you are eating. Stick with it – push through this. It is worth it.
Loss of Hunger!
In case you don’t already know – fat fills you up! Because during the Keto Diet, you need to eat a lot of good fat, you will find that you do not need to eat as much or as often.
If hunger does still sneak in, I would suggest that you are not eating enough fats. Do not be afraid of fats in your diet – they are NOT the enemy!
Foods you can enjoy:
• Meat and fish
• Veges – green is best!
• Nuts and Seeds
• Butter, cream, cheese
• Healthy oils
Foods that you will need to avoid:
• Alcohol – I know, how sad!
• Sugar – Sugar is terrible for your body!
• Root Vegetables
• “Low fat” and “diet” products (likely to gain their flavor from sugar)
—-basically anything with high carb content!
A Note on Ketoacidosis:
High levels of ketones in your body can become dangerous. Ketoacidosis can only physiologically occur in diabetics.
Ketoacidosis is a state of very high ketones (over 15mmol) and very high blood sugars (over 20mmol).
You need to be aware that ketoacidosis is a life threatening condition and if you are a diabetic you need to watch your blood sugars closely while working with your doctor weaning off any medication.
Early signs of ketoacidosis are:
• Difficulty concentrating
• Abdominal pain
• Change in breathing
• Excessive thirst
• Feeling flushed
• Nausea and vomiting
If you notice any unusual changes in your body, please take these seriously and chat with a doctor.
The Keto Diet for Improving Fertility: Can the Ketogenic Diet Help Get Me Pregnant?
Many of the common causes of infertility have been shown to improve significantly when people adopt the ketogenic diet.
The Center for Disease Control estimates that about 12% of women ages 15 to 44 in the United States have difficulty conceiving and carrying a pregnancy to term (1)
Studies show that over 70% of women with PCOS have insulin resistance (2) and experts believe it is the leading cause of this disease.
Additionally, statistics show that over 80% of women in the U.S. with PCOS are either overweight or obese (3)
The ketogenic diet stops insulin resistance and over time will reverse it.
Endometriosis is where the cells lining of a womans uterus also grow elsewhere in the body, usually the pelvis. Women with endo suffer from increased inflammation and pain, especially around menstruation.
Keto has been shown to reduce symptoms in many women.
Overweight / Underweight
A womans hormone are a delicate balance designed to support growing a baby through a famine. If a woman is underweight, or malnourished her body simply will not see this as a safe time to conceive so her whole reproductive system can shut down.
Keto will help underweight and malnourished men and women to gain weight and improve their hormone balance and nutrient profile.
Obesity is another common cause of infertility in women. Research has shown that women who are overweight or obese tend to struggle with menstruation and ovulation issues, conception rates, miscarriages and other pregnancy complications (4).
Several studies found that the risk of infertility is 3x higher in obese women than in non-obese women(5) and one study found that a larger portion of women who are seeking medical help to get pregnant are obese (6).
Following a ketogenic diet helps both men and women struggling with losing weight to take control of their hunger and insulin levels, allowing rapid weightloss in most people.
Not all infertility is caused by the woman, in 50% of the cases the man also has some fertility concerns. Eating a low inflammation diet that removes most dairy, gluten and toxic chemicals is the best way to improve a man’s sperm count.
Does keto make you fertile?
If you have impaired fertility caused by hormone imbalance, weight issues or allergies and nutrient deficiencies, then the ketogenic diet can certainly improve the odds of you conceiving.
Improved Hormone Balance
Your body needs saturated fats to use as building blocks to make your sex hormones. Raised levels of insulin all the time disrupt your bodies natural hormone balance, and in women it can stop ovulation which then leads to high estrogen and low progesterone levels, and often elevated testosterone levels.
A low carbohydrate diet will head this off at the pass and keep your insulin levels low, allowing your body to naturally rebalanced your hormones.
Many of us live in a constant state of inflammation. This puts your immune system and the rest of your body on high alert all the time and can reduce your overall fertility.
Raised insulin levels will cause inflammation, so does eating grains and, in some people, dairy and nuts. Removing the things from your diet that cause inflammation will increase your chances of conceiving naturally.
Women with irregular cycles are usually caused by being over or underweight. The ketogenic diet improves both these factors.
Women who usually have very long cycles or seldom ovulate usually find that within a few months of keto that their cycles will start to normalize.
Sometimes they get worse before they get better, read more about keto for women here.
Sperm are VERY sensitive to toxins and heat. Exposure to either of these will cause the sperm to die. Being overweight can be enough to reduce the number of viable sperm significantly.
If you have food intolerances (especially to gluten or dairy) you can also suffer from increased viscosity of the semen, this limits your swimmers ability to move.
Drinking plenty of water and cutting potential allergens from your diet for 3-6 months can be very beneficial.
How does keto improve fertility?
There are many ways that the ketogenic diet can help improve both you and your partners fertility. There are some fertility clinics that are seeing such good results that they are recommending the ketogenic diet for all their clients before they start fertility treatment. (6)
The ketogenic diet is based on real, whole foods and is low in toxin-filled grains (one of the most sprayed crops!) and encourages you to remove sugar totally from your diet.
Sugar, grains and processed seed oils are all highly inflammatory foods. Removing these from your diet allows your gut to start to heal and reduces the overall inflammation in your body.
This is why many people loose so much water weight in the first 2 weeks – your body holds that water to protect itself when it is in a state of inflammation.
Improve Hormone Levels
In both men and women, your sex hormone levels as well as your hunger hormones like leptin and grehlin return to normal, healthy levels over time.
Improve Nutrient Absorption
If you have been eating the standard American diet full of grains and seed oils, your gut is likely to be what they call ‘leaky’. This is a damaged lining where food particles get in to your blood stream and cause allergic reactions and a state of high inflammation.
In this state your gut will not absorb nutrients well. Also the SAD diet is lacking in many key nutrients. When you swap to a natural, whole foods diet, you will start to absorb all the micro nutrients that your body needs (once your body has had time to heal!)
How you can use the keto diet for fertility improvements: Using the keto diet to get pregnant effectively
Lower your Carbohydrate Intake
The ketogenic diet is defined at less than 50 total grams of carbohydrates (or 20g of net carbs) each day. Keep your carbohydrate intake low, and totally avoid grains, legumes and sugar.
Increase your Natural Fats Intake
Keto is all about increasing your fat intake. You want to stick to the natural, healthy fats – butter, lard, tallow, duck or goose fat, meat fats in general, olive oil, avocado and raw, cold pressed nut oils – including coconut.
You will want to avoid the commercially produced industrial seed oils – canola, soy, corn and rice bran.
Let Your Body Heal
If you have grown up on the SAD diet, you will need to allow your body some time to heal. It has taken you years of bad eating to get to where you are, some people need some healing time before their body will start to let go of the weight.
This is the perfect time to hide the scales, and keep and eye on all the other health benefits you are experiencing – do you feel more clear-headed? Less tired? Clearer skin? Better gut health? Less cravings? Better mood stability?
Track Your Cycles
One of the best things you can learn to do if you are trying to get pregnant is to learn to properly track your cycles. You can use this to document your changes and work out your fertile times.
What is the Keto Diet: How Ketosis Can Improve Fertility
The Keto Diet can be a great way to kick start your body into a healthy lifestyle and is very likely to increase your fertility.
It will encourage your body to use stored fats as well as reduce hunger and help control insulin and hormones.
What you put into your body has a huge impact on your fertility. If you are thinking that the Keto diet is a too big of a step for you, perhaps trying the fertility diet using the fertility diet pyramid.