How Sugar affects your fertility

Image: Rosanna Davidson Nutrition

Image: Rosanna Davidson Nutrition

When we refer to sugar we’re talking about fructose. Fructose is found in refined sugar, fruits, honey, agave, maple syrup and many processed foods.  Sugar causes our hormones to fluctuate hugely.  When your hormones are fluctuating it puts a massive strain on your fertility and fertility is about your reproductive system working to the best of its ability, regardless of gender and whether you are trying to conceive or not.

Sugar messes with your hormones: When we consume sugar it drives our insulin levels too high & too quickly for a brief period of time, then it drops dramatically.  Our adrenals go into a ‘stress response, by releasing cortisol and adrenaline in an attempt to restore our sugar levels back to an even keel and this leads to a hormonal imbalance.

This impacts our fertility because progesterone (the main hormone required for ovulation to occur) and cortisol compete for the same receptor binding sites in the body and cortisol always wins.   If this continues for an extended period of time it can disrupt the entire endocrine system, meaning all your sex hormones whether you’re male or female: oestrogen, progesterone and the androgens DHEA and testosterone.

Sugar causes inflammation: This is of particular importance to women who suffer from endometriosis. Endometriosis affects the uterine lining and makes the implantation of an embryo difficult.  Many endometriosis sufferers who cut out sugar from their diet notice substantial changes due to the immediate reduction of inflammation. Our bodies aren’t designed to consume quantities of sugar and our gut goes into a frenzy trying to cope. Inflammation is our body’s reaction to this.

Sugar consumption affects PMS: Hormones need to be in balance in order to keep everything running smoothly and our moods even.

Sugar leads to insulin resistance: Many women who suffer from PCOS have insulin resistance. Insulin is released by the pancreas to convert sugar to energy; so the more sugar we eat, the more insulin we release, eventually leading to insulin resistance.  Insulin resistance is linked to issues with ovulation, maturation of the egg and implantation of the embryo into the uterine lining. It also puts women at a much higher risk of miscarriage.

Sugar depletes essential vitamin and mineral stores: In order for our hormones to function efficiently they require specific amounts of vitamins and minerals to be well-fuelled. Fructose severely depletes our vitamin and mineral stores and this can have a huge impact on our fertility. When our stores are low, our entire body is compromised which contributes to amenorrhea, irregular periods, lower immunity, increased infection (which can be a factor in miscarriage), increased anxiety and depression and gut health issue like irritable bowel syndrome.

A deficiency of vitamins and minerals will also age you.

If fertility is important to you or is likely to be of relevance in the not too distant future, one of the best things you can do to ensure your hormones are in tip-top shape is to reduce your sugar intake.

If you're looking at cutting sugar, focus on the foods you can eat rather than those you can’t, to make quitting easier and it’s still fine to include some organic fruit in your diet. It’s not as bad as you think!