Antioxidants and Fertility

Antioxidants and Fertility

Antioxidants are one of the most important components to having healthy fertility that every woman and man needs to focus on. Before we get started, there are two terms you will need to become familiar with:

Antioxidants
Antioxidants are a family of vitamins, minerals and other nutrients that help to protect the body from the damage caused by free radicals.

Free Radicals
Free radicals are unstable molecules that can damage cell structures. In normal every day life free radicals are produced from the activity in our bodies (for example free radicals are made during energy production) but chemicals in our surrounding environment can also create free radicals. It is said that each cell in our body is attacked about 10,000 times a day by free radicals, accelerating the aging process. Antioxidants neutralize the free radicals, stopping further damage from happening and protecting the cells health. If you are not doing something to help protect your cells, this damage can add up.

How Antioxidants Work

Antioxidants work like a defense system, disarming free radicals. They are a kind of police force within the body. They “quench” free radicals wherever they are so they are not able to spread and cause damage to our cells. When an antioxidant finds a free radical it engulfs it and melds into its molecular structure. This creates a weakened free radical, not strong enough to do any harm. At this point that particular antioxidant is sacrificed unless its “sister” antioxidant comes along and revives it. I will go into further detail about this a little later as it is very important to know if you are using antioxidant therapies.

Why Antioxidants are important and necessary for healthy fertility

So we now know how antioxidants and free radicals generally work, but now we are going to talk about how they affect fertility specifically. Everything in the body is made of cells that need to be protected from free radicals; simple as that. Not only are the ovum (egg) and sperm made up of cells which can be affected by free radical damage, so are the reproductive organs and glands that produce reproductive hormones. If these cells are less than optimal, the organs, ovum, eggs, etc. will not be functioning at their best.

Another thing to remember; when DNA is attacked, it can also be altered by free radicals. The DNA of both partners is the future blueprint for a child. Damaged DNA is known to cause miscarriages or birth defects/developmental problems for the future child. Studies have also shown a connection between oxidative stress caused from free radicals and male infertility. So, it is very important for both parents to be taking an antioxidant complex in the correct amounts. I will share with you the best antioxidant blend for fertility in a bit, but first lets take a look at which antioxidants are most important…

Antioxidants Most Important for Fertility

Lipoic Acid
Lipoic acid is a very important antioxidant because it not only helps to protect the female reproductive organs, but it has also been shown to improve sperm quality and motility. Lipoic acid is a must in every supplement regime as it regenerates all of the other antioxidants and is the only antioxidant that can regenerate glutathione. It also helps to build a strong and properly functioning immune system and can help to reverse some of the damage caused from smoking cigarettes.

Lipoic Acid regenerates itself as well as vitamins E, C, glutathione and CoQ10
Suggested daily usage: 100mg a day (split in two doses)
Food sources: In small amounts found in potatoes, spinach and red meat.

Vitamin E
Studies have shown that vitamin E increases sperm health and motility. In one study it was shown that sperm motility, percent of live sperm, and percent of normal spermatozoa all increased with the supplementation of vitamin E and selenium. In another study (this one done on rats) it was shown that rats that were deficient in vitamin E became infertile and the sperm became immobile. The female rats had a higher rate of miscarriages. In fact, vitamin E was first discovered in 1922 during feed-trials on rats. Their diets were deficient in vitamin E and they were infertile. Once they started feeding them wheat germ their fertility was restored. This is how the scientific word for vitamin E came about; tocopherol in Greek means “to bear young”. Vitamin E may also help to reduce anemia by preventing oxidative damage to the red blood cells.

It has been shown that men who prepared with vitamin E prior to IVF treatment with their partners had an increase in rate of fertilization from 19% to 29%.

Vitamin E is regenerated by CoQ10, vitamin C and Lipoic Acid
Suggested daily usage: 500mg a day of mixed tocopherols and tocotrienols in addition to a diet rich in vitamin E foods.
Food sources: Raw vegetable oils, nuts, nut butters, rice bran oil, barley, and green leafy vegetables.

Vitamin C
Vitamin C is another very important antioxidant for both male and female fertility. Vitamin C improves hormone levels and increases fertility in women with luteal phase defect, according to a new study published in Fertility and Sterility (2003;80:459–61).

The study: 150 women with luteal phase defect were enrolled in the current study. The participants were given 750mg of vitamin C per day or no treatment at all.

The group receiving vitamin C had an increase in progesterone levels. While the women receiving no treatment had no change in progesterone.

Also the pregnancy rate was significantly higher in the vitamin C group: 25% within six months, while only 11% of the untreated women became pregnant in the same time period.

Another study showed that women using vitamin C while taking the drug clomid had a better chance of ovulating. It appears that taking vitamin C may enhance the action of clomid. (Speak to your doctor about this one.)

As for men, vitamin C has been shown to improve sperm quality and protect sperm from DNA damage; helping to reduce the chance of miscarriage and chromosomal problems. Vitamin C also appears to keep sperm from clumping together, making them more motile.

Vitamin C is regenerated by vitamin E, CoQ10 and Lipoic Acid
Suggested daily usage: 500mg a day in addition to a healthy whole foods diet rich in vitamin C.
Food sources: Abundant in plants and fruits including red peppers, broccoli, cranberries, cabbage, potatoes, tomatoes, and citrus fruit.

CoQ10
CoQ10 works with enzymes helping to cause chemical changes within the body, particularly energy production. CoQ10 is involved in the production of ATP, so a lack of this antioxidant could cause a shortage of energy to every cell and system in the body including the reproductive system. Think of CoQ10 as a battery within the cell.

There are two forms of CoQ10, ubiquinone and Ubiquinol. CoQ10 starts off as ubiquinone and then is converted within the cell to the more powerful Ubiquinol.

CoQ10 levels naturally decline with age, so this is an important antioxidant to include in your program, especially if you are above 35. A study in Fertility and Sterility shared that CoQ10 helped to increase the sperm motility in semen. CoQ10 is found in salmon and organ meats, but to make sure you are getting enough, supplementation is recommended. Several studies show that CoQ10 supplementation can increase egg and sperm health.

CoQ10 is regenerated by vitamin E and lipoic acid.
Suggested daily usage for those under 35: 30mg a day when used in combination with other antioxidants.
Suggested daily usage for those over 35: 100mg a day of CoQ10 Ubiquinol, in addition with other antioxidants.
Food sources: Found most abundantly in seafood and organ meats.

Glutathione
Glutathione is considered to be nature’s master antioxidant and detoxifier. It is the cell’s primary antioxidant. Across the board, low levels of glutathione are a marker for disease and premature death. Glutathione is instrumental in the detoxification of pollutants from the liver and the body. It is also one of the most important defenders of a cells immune system.

One area of fertility glutathione may have an impact on is with autoimmune issues. Glutathione is involved in regulating the pathway that activates genes that can cause chronic inflammation. So in other words, it can suppress the ‘bad’ genes that trigger autoimmune issues. This may be helpful for those who are experiencing immunological miscarriages or if the body is rejecting your mates sperm.

In other studies glutathione is shown to be an anti-aging antioxidant, extending the life of fruit flies (the subjects of the experiment are quite similar to mammals) by 26% longer than normal. From these studies it is exciting to think of the possible impact this can have on our egg health, one of the cells most affected by aging process.

Glutathione is regenerated by lipoic acid.
Suggested daily usage: The best way to increase glutathione levels is to take 100mg of lipoic acid a day.
Food sources: Abundant in fresh fruit, vegetables and freshly cooked meat.

Gingko Biloba
Gingko biloba is one of the longest living trees on the planet and also one of the most common in the united states. It is well known for its longevity, some trees living to be 1,000 years old.

Generally thought of as the ‘memory herb’, ginkgo has much more to offer. In men ginkgo is the number one herbal remedy for impotency and to improve sexual function. Gingko may help to prevent the leading cause of male impotence – atherosclerosis. Half of male impotence cases are not caused by hormonal or psychological problems, but by clogged arteries, AKA lack of circulation. In a study reported in the Journal of Urology, Ginkgo was given to half the subjects and a medication injection (papavarine – a muscle stimulant that can boost erections) was given to the other. Ginkgo was shown to improve erections in those men who took it. It took 8 weeks for the men to see the first results of using this herb.

The circulation enhancing benefit of ginkgo will benefit women as well, helping to bring fresh blood to the reproductive system as well as antioxidant protection.

Why Antioxidants Work Best as a Network

I stated earlier in this article that each antioxidant that has disarmed a free radical becomes sacrificed unless its “sister” antioxidant comes along and rejuvenates it. Every antioxidant has a “sister” antioxidant which can regenerate the spent antioxidant. For example here are some of the antioxidant sister pairs…

  • Lipoic acid can be regenerated by itself and can regenerate all of the other antioxidants
  • Vitamin C is regenerated by vitamin E, glutathione and lipoic acid
  • Vitamin E is regenerated by vitamin C, coQ10 and lipoic acid
  • Glutathione is regenerated by lipoic acid

So as you can see it is important to get all of these antioxidants into our body on a daily basis. These antioxidants work together helping to protect the body and keep the system filled with antioxidants.

How to Increase Your Antioxidants

Diet
Diet is the first way to get more antioxidants into your body. Eating a nutrient dense fertility diet includes all whole foods, fruits, vegetables, whole grains, grass-fed meats, raw dairy, nuts, seeds and seaweed. All of these foods offer a wide variety of nutrients which are needed for optimal antioxidant levels.

Make sure to eat a wide variety of colors and fresh raw foods. Antioxidants are sensitive to heat and can be damaged during cooking and processing, so include a good amount of raw foods in your diet. Fresh pressed juices and smoothies are a great and easy way to get an abundance of nutrients into your diet.

Supplementation
The second step of getting more antioxidants into your body is to take an antioxidant blend supplement. This is very important as much of the food people eat today is void of antioxidants due to packaging and cooking. I personally take an antioxidant blend daily as it is so important for overall health and fertility.

After two years of research and trying to find the best antioxidant blend, we have finally found one that contains all of the necessary antioxidants for fertility. Network Antioxidants was created by Dr. Lester Packer, the leading antioxidant expert in the United States. It contains all of the most important antioxidant nutrients in a capsule form which you can take one capsule, twice a day. This blend is great for both men and women and should be a part of everyone’s health program, especially for fertility. We include this product in our Egg Health, Prepare for IVF and Male Fertility Kits.

Reduce Free Radicals
Smoking, drinking, excessive exercise, hydrogenated oils and stress can all cause free radicals to form. Do what you can to avoid adding additional free radicals for your body to fight. Every time you smoke free radicals are formed in your body. Over time these free radicals are what make cigarette smoking so bad for you. The same occurs with other toxins and environmental pollutants. Defense is the best offense, right.

References:
1. SPERM OXIDATIVE STRESS AND THE EFFECT OF AN ORAL VITAMIN E AND SELENIUM SUPPLEMENT ON SEMEN QUALITY IN INFERTILE MEN. L. KESKES-AMMAR, N. FEKI-CHAKROUN, T. REBAI, Z. SAHNOUN, H. GHOZZI, S. HAMMAMI, K. ZGHAL, H. FKI, J. DAMAK and A. BAHLOUL Systems Biology in Reproductive Medicine 2003 49:2, 83-94
2. Selenium-vitamin E supplementation in infertile men Effects on semen parameters and micronutrient levels and distribution. Denis Vézina, François Mauffette, Kenneth D. Roberts and Gilles Bleau
3. Effect of Ascorbic Acid on Male Fertility. EARL B. DAWSON, WILLIAM A. HARRIS, WILLIAM E. RANKIN, LEONARD A. CHARPENTIER, WILLIAM J. McGANITY
4. Evaluation of oxidative DNA damage in human sperm and its association with male infertility
5. H. M. Shen, S. E. Chia and C. N. Ong Department of Community, Occupational, and Family Medicine, Faculty of Medicine, National University of Singapore, Republic of Singapore.

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[-] 4 Comments
  1. Update 2014 – We are back! We have been away for a while and we sure have missed all of your wonderful questions and thoughts on our articles. Moving forward, one of our staff herbalists will be here to respond to comments! We look forward to connecting with our readers once again!

  2. If u cleanse body for three weeks while ttc, but had pizza heree and there, should u cleanse yourself again or just continue to eat right and dribk plenty of water?

  3. Hi Hethir/Dalene,

    Can we use Network Antioxidants supplements during pregnancy?

    Thank you,
    Sisira.

    • Hi Sisira,

      We do not recommend taking antioxidant supplements during pregnancy, there is not enough research to show it safety for use during pregnancy.

      Best Wishes,

      Dalene