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NUTRITION

Antioxidants and Fertility*

Will Antioxidants Help You Get Pregnant?

 

Introduction

Your body is home to trillions of cells, which on a day-to-day basis, face a wide range of potential threats, including free radical damage. Although exposure to free radicals is inevitable, due to smoke, sunlight, air pollution, poor diet, and even exercise, antioxidants can help you maintain the health of your DNA and cells.

Some of the most common exogenous antioxidants include vitamin C, vitamin E, lipoic acid, coenzyme Q10, and beta-carotene. However, these are just the tip of the iceberg, as there are hundreds, if not thousands of substances that offer antioxidant properties.

If you and your partner are experiencing fertility issues, here’s what you need to know about antioxidants when trying to conceive. 

What Are Antioxidants?

Found naturally in the human body, as well as in a wide array of foods, antioxidants work by reducing cellular damage, which leads to a decline in immune function and the development of disease.

First gaining attention in the 1990s, researchers began to link free radical damage with chronic conditions such as atherosclerosis and cancer. Studies were beginning to show that people who consumed a low intake of antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables faced a higher risk of such conditions.1 This means that antioxidants are capable of neutralizing free radicals before they begin to attack cells.

Symptoms of Antioxidant Deficiency

Some people face a higher risk of antioxidant deficiency than others, including:

  • Older adults, as the body naturally makes fewer antioxidants with age
  • People who drink heavy amounts of alcohol or smoke cigarettes
  • Individuals with digestive problems
  • People who do not absorb antioxidants properly

Although symptoms of deficiency can range, depending on whether or not you lack vitamin C or vitamin E, for example, some of the most common symptoms associated with antioxidant deficiency include:

  • Poor memory
  • Changes to skin and hair health
  • Impaired wound healing (i.e. taking a long time for minor wounds to heal)
  • Fatigue

Please note: You can get too much of a good thing. Although it’s important to incorporate various antioxidants into your daily diet, high concentrations of select antioxidants can have the opposite effect. 

The Relationship Between Antioxidants and Fertility

It’s well understood that antioxidants help protect you against disease and the overall aging process. However, these substances also play a critical role in fertility.

Numerous studies have identified a link between oxidative stress and fertility, both in males and females, which occurs when there is an imbalance of free radicals and antioxidants. To prevent damage, the body has developed a natural antioxidant defense system, but unfortunately, due to various stressors, an imbalance is common. This is why health experts recommend a diet rich in antioxidants.

In men, there is evidence that antioxidant use can lead to a decrease in sperm DNA fragmentation2, improving overall sperm quality.3 Since defective sperm function is the most common cause of infertility, it is important to reduce damaging factors4, including inflammation, cigarette smoke, pollutants, and other variables that contribute to oxidative stress, which results in low sperm count, low sperm motility, and low sperm volume.

While studying the female reproductive tract, oxidative stress is believed to cause significant fertility issues. Researchers also suggest that up to 50-60 percent of pregnancy loss may be influenced by oxidative stress.5 Preeclampsia and spontaneous abortion have also been linked to oxidative stress. This is why it’s recommended that you consume antioxidants to target an imbalance of free radicals. In turn, this can improve egg quality and make your cycles more regular, as reported by the American Pregnancy Association.6

In both males and females, oxidative stress is believed to impact the DNA of, respectively, spermatozoa (the mature male sex cell that fertilizes the ovum) and oocytes (cells in an ovary).

What Are the Best Foods for Antioxidant Deficiency?

As discussed, there are many antioxidants, providing you with a plethora of dietary options. The best sources are fruits and vegetables, as well as food products derived from plants, such as green tea or dark chocolate.

The following nutrients provide antioxidant activity and can be found in numerous foods, including:

  • Vitamin C — Orange, kiwi, sweet potato, bell peppers, papaya, cantaloupe, leafy greens, broccoli, and guava.
  • Carotenoids (i.e. lycopene and beta-carotene) — Asparagus, pumpkin, tomatoes, carrots, kale, mangos, turnip, peaches, sweet potato, squash, grapefruit.
  • Vitamin E — Avocado, leafy greens, almonds, sunflower seeds, red pepper, spinach.
  • Zinc — Oysters, sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds, lentils, shrimp, beef, chickpeas, cashews.
  • Selenium — Barley, brown rice, Brazil nuts, poultry.

To combat an antioxidant deficiency, the key is variety. Since the presence of color typically indicates a specific antioxidant, eat a “rainbow diet.” A balanced diet is critical when aiming to conceive. That is why you’ll also want to incorporate other essential vitamins and minerals which support optimal reproductive health, including vitamin B2, vitamin B6, and vitamin B12.

There are a number of steps you can take to actively target your reproductive health. Learn more about how Impryl improves reproductive health here. Also, be sure to check out these fertility resources to better support your journey.

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*NOTICE: The contents of this website are for informational purposes only, and are not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health care provider with any questions you may have regarding a potential medical condition.