Seven Chemicals in Food That Can Reduce Fertility
Several factors influence your reproductive health, fertility, and chances of becoming pregnant. One of the pivotal is the food you consume. If you are planning to conceive, you must take extra care of what to eat and avoid. Your body must be fully prepared before you conceive, and balanced nutrition can go a long way in ensuring that.
However, it is equally important to understand that toxins and chemicals in foods can also negatively impact your reproductive health. You might not even notice some toxins present in your foods while they quietly cause hormonal imbalance leading to fertility issues.
This article will discuss some of the worst chemicals present in your food that can impact your fertility. But let’s understand a little more about these chemicals and how they affect your fertility before going any further.
Can chemicals impact your fertility?
Several chemicals found in polluted environments and certain food additives can hurt your pregnancy and fertility. In most situations, the chemicals impacting your reproductive system create a hormonal imbalance in your body.
As you might be aware, your endocrine system is very active during your pregnancy. Several hormones are being produced in the body, and any disruption in their production can be disastrous. Hence, the body must maintain a steady hormone production rate throughout the pregnancy.
Let’s look at some of the chemicals that might cause a disruptive effect on your hormonal balance and hence, negatively impact your fertility.
Which chemicals are most dangerous?
Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs)
GMOs are foods and food products produced from organisms that have been altered at the genetic level. Hence, any GMO product will have modified DNA. Although changing the DNA of plants and animals is very complex, it essentially results in a modified organism with specifically tailored DNA.
While the overall benefit of GMOs can’t be denied, there is some serious downside to these products. On the one hand, GMO products can be made more nutritious, have a better yield, and increase the world’s food supply; they can also harm your health.
One of the most important concerns that many Australian scientists have voiced regarding GMOs is their impact on the endocrine system. Although the research in this field is still in the early stages, it is better to stay away from GMOs as much as possible if you are trying to conceive. Thankfully, most food brands in Australia will label whether their products are GMO-based or not. Reading through the labels of food products before you buy them can help you cut out most GMO products from your diet.
Heavy metals are bad for your body whether you are trying to get pregnant. While most people are aware of the bad effects of heavy metals like lead and mercury, there are other metals that you should try to avoid in your diet as well-\
Metal ions can be dangerous even when their concentration is quite low as they show a phenomenon called bioaccumulation. The metals can accumulate in your organs and bones rather than go out of your body through urine.
An example of how harmful the effects of these metals can be is the effect of mercury on reproductive health. When your mercury levels go up, it disrupts the hormone production in the hypothalamus, pituitary, adrenal gland, and gonads. The disruption can produce various effects, including low sperm counts in males, irregular periods, and other female menstrual disorders. Mercury is known even to cause premature menopause and ovarian dysfunction in some cases.
Another particularly dangerous metal is lead. Lead accumulation in the body can cause menstrual abnormalities, altered hormone production, and delayed conception in many women.
The source of these heavy metals is mostly drinking water. Ensure that the water supply that comes to your house has low levels of heavy metals. Also, ensure that the paint used in your home is lead-free and limit your consumption of fish known to have high mercury content.
Another chemical to be aware of if you are trying to get pregnant is perchlorate. Although it is an industrial chemical, it is commonly found in fireworks, matches, chlorine cleaners and bleaches, and chewing tobacco. Perchlorate has been known to cause disruptions in iodine uptake in the thyroid gland, sometimes leading to hypothyroidism.
In menstruating women, the chemical is known to cause an alteration in estrogen metabolism, irregular periods, and problems in ovulation. In males, perchlorate can result in a lowering of sperm production and fluctuation in testosterone levels. Ensure that your drinking water has a low concentration of this potentially dangerous chemical.
Bisphenol A (BPA)
BPA is a very common additive used in producing various kinds of plastics and raisins. Most of the BPA in your body comes from the storage containers you use to store cooked food. The BPA leaches from the plastic, especially when you reheat your food in the microwave, and finds its way into your body.
BPA is a notorious endocrine disruptor and can cause hormonal imbalance by affecting hormone production in several glands. In males, BPA can disrupt the spermatogenesis-the process of sperm production in the testes. One of the best ways to avoid BPA from entering your body is by limiting your plastic usage to store food. If you want to use plastic containers, ensure that they are always BPA-free.
Perfluoroalkyl and Polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAs)
PFAs are also dangerous chemicals that are found in non-stick cookware. These chemicals are so popular that it is almost impossible to avoid them getting through to your body. Apart from the non-stick cookware, the PFAs can also be found in stain-resistant clothes, carpets, and even foam fire extinguishers.
PFAs are particularly dangerous to a pregnant woman as they can affect the newborn’s weight and cognitive development. Although scientists still don’t know how long these chemicals stay in your body, most scientists think the PFAs can remain accumulated in your body for decades.
Avoid microwave popcorn bags, water-repellent, stain-resistant clothes, and fast-food containers lined with plastic.
Pesticides and herbicides
Pesticides and herbicides are the most commonly used chemicals in agriculture to eliminate crop pests and weeds. While they can improve the yield of many crops, they can be dangerous if they find their way into your body. Most herbicides and pesticides can delay pregnancy in many women and cause oxidative stress.
It has been shown in several studies that having a diet that limits the intake of these chemicals increases the chances of getting pregnant. When you are buying groceries, try to purchase pesticide-free organic produce. You can also read about brands that employ sustainable agricultural practices and avoid or limit the use of such chemicals.
Parabens are a class of chemicals most commonly used as preservatives in products ranging from toothpaste to packaged foods. These chemicals parabens have been shown to disrupt your body’s hormonal balance and cause fluctuation of glucose levels.
In many countries, including Australia, companies are mandated to write about the usage of parabens on their products. So, if you are a bit vigilant, it is possible to avoid these chemicals. Avoid foods like beer, sodas, and frozen food products filled with parabens and opt for healthier alternatives. Several brands have stopped using parabens and are much more beneficial than others. Do your research before you buy any products containing parabens from the supermarket.
What if you are exposed to fertility reducing chemicals already?
As we have seen above, it is virtually impossible to avoid exposure to some toxins we discussed. Hence, don’t be alarmed if you think you have been exposed to the toxins mentioned above.
While most of the toxins might not have an immediate effect on your body, it is wise to be mindful that most of these toxins can be avoided. Take active steps to limit your exposure to these substances by opting for healthier alternatives. Additionally, you can also start taking fertility supplements rich in antioxidants which can help flush out these toxins from your system.