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Intermittent fasting
Conception Oct 2, 2019
5 Minutes

Intermittent fasting: a boost to hormones and fertility?!

Can intermittent fasting improve your hormonal balance (particularly if you have PCOS). Reduce risk of cell damage and even potentially protect your fertility?! Boys too?!

Well science seems to be pointing that way. 

Here’s what we know:

You have probably heard the hype around intermittent fasting. This is essentially alternating between eating and fasting. Whether it be the 5:2 (two days of very low calories and five days of normal) or 16:8 (eating for eight hours of the day and fasting for 16). People are talking about it and increasingly doing it. For a variety of health based reasons. 

What is most interesting, from our perspective at least, is that the science suggests this could be a significant potential benefit when it comes to our ability to have healthy kids. Specifically benefits to hormonal balance, oxidative stress (cell damage) and even temporarily halting fertility decline.  

As always – there is no single bullet, solution or answer. It’s more about lots of little things together. However, this is showing some real results. Click here for the latest ‘How to’ way people are trying it.

If you want to check out the latest research and science on what this does and how this works before giving it a go read on:

So here is what the science is suggesting: 

First for your hormones: 

It is increasingly being recognised that intermittent fasting can have a benefit for hormonal balance. Particularly when it comes to insulin resistance. Essentially improving it.

Why does insulin resistance matter and what is it? 

Insulin resistance is when your body does not react as it should to insulin. Insulin being the ‘key’ that should unlock the door for sugar to go from your blood into a cell to be used for energy. When your cells don’t react properly to this, it can cause a number of issues. Including more insulin production, elevated blood sugar, fatigue and weight gain amongst others. 

From a fertility perspective it is also important: Insulin Resistance is very common amongst people who have Polycystic Ovaries (PCOS) with around 70% of sufferers having some form of insulin resistance. Crucially, the more insulin you produce (which happens if your cells don’t react to it) the more it can impact the ovaries causing imbalances. Specifically testosterone and something called SHBG. SHBG effectively transports testosterone to where it needs to be. When you have too much ‘free’ testosterone washing around your body (not enough of the carrier: SHBG) you can get a lot of the symptoms common to PCOS. Click here for more. 

The bottom line is: these types of imbalance do not make conception/pregnancy any easier. Weight gain and high BMI associated with it can also cause complications. So, if you can do something about it – even better….

Is Intermittent fasting another effective tool against this?

The good news is that there are many ways to tackle Insulin resistance from specific types of exercise – click here for more. To supplements like Inositol – click here for more. 

Intermittent fasting seems to be another route: Although research is still in its relative infancy, evidence is showing potential benefit from eating this way specifically benefits/improvements in insulin resistance. Further, it doesn’t appear to happen just because of weight loss (insulin resistance can impact people with lean PCOS too). 

Can it even help stop the inevitable fertility decline/egg quality?!

Some of the most interesting work (albeit it not fully understood yet) is around what intermittent fasting appears to do when it comes to fertility and specifically preservation of fertility as we age. Pretty interesting seeing as many of us are getting older before we feel ready to have children. 

What does the science say?

Most of the work is still in animal studies and is not yet fully understood, but, the bottom line is that it has been demonstrated that periods of fasting (which effectively temporarily shut down reproductive functions) could potentially prolong fertility, improve egg quality and halt some of the decline that comes with age.

Really?!

It appears to relate to the cell’s powerhouse, the Mitochondria. As we age the number and activity of these starts to fall which is in part why we have less good quality eggs as we get older. Whether it is evolutionary (to preserve fertility during times of famine) we are not sure. What seems to happen is that the number and activity of Mitochondria in the cells is boosted via fasting. (2) Pretty cool stuff. 

As one study in mice suggested, intermittent fasting may temporarily shut down active fertility ‘freeing up energy that can be used to enhance maintenance, thereby preserving viability and fertility for when the period of famine has passed.’ (1)

Interestingly, other ways to ‘preserve’ fertility like CoQu10 – click here for more – also seem to work on these all important powerhouses. So, it seems there is something to be said for this. 

This type of research is obviously pretty important as many of us don’t feel ready/able to have children until our thirties and beyond. Certainly in some studies it appears that not only can this potentially help when it comes to keeping us fertile for longer. It could help with egg quality. Even showing benefits after the intermittent fasting period has stopped. (3)

What about for the boys?

Intermittent fasting has also shown some benefit against something that tends to be behind cell damage: Oxidative Stress. Click here for more on how this has an impact. This is one of the things that damages sperm the most. 

Can Intermittent fasting help reduce Oxidative Stress? Whilst we dont know too much at this stage about sperm specifically, Intermittent fasting has shown some benefit reducing Oxidative Stress overall. Interestingly showing a protective factor specifically for lipids – all important for sperm (3) 

So, worth giving it a go? 

Once again, the science is not totally conclusive at this stage, but there are enough positive indicators to at least consider it. Different things work for different people of course and this is not advised if you are pregnant or breastfeeding. If in doubt always speak to your doctor but click here for some of the ‘how to’ ideas backed by science as to how to approach this in an effective way. 

References:

1) Tilly J, Sinclair DA: Germline energetic, aging and female infertility: Cell Metabolism: 2013 Jun 4: 17 (6): 838-850

2) https://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2011/07/cut-calories-increase-egg-quality/

3) Sutton EF, Beyl R, Peterson CM: Early Time-Restricted Feeding Improves Insulin Sensitivity, Blood Pressure, and Oxidative Stress even without weight loss in men with prediabetes: Cell Metabolism: 2018: Jun 5; 27(6):1212-1221

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This article is for informational purposes only. This article is not, nor is it intended to be, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment and should never be relied upon for specific medical advice. The information on this website has been developed following years of personal research and from referenced and sourced medical research. Before making any changes we strongly recommend you consult a healthcare professional before you begin.

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