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High Sugar Foods, Inflammation and Your Fertility

High Sugar Foods, Inflammation and Your Fertility

high sugar foodsMost of us know that too much sugar has a negative effect on our overall health and it does on our fertility as well. Even more concerning, filling up on high sugar foods means you’re skipping other nutrient-dense, Fertility Diet foods like fruits and vegetables, quality proteins, essential fats and whole grains.

Sugar: It’s probably one of the most misunderstood and over-consumed food substances. The latest statistics from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) show adults in the US eat as much as 13% of their total daily calories from sugar. That’s simply too much!

Added Sugars- They’re Everywhere

Almost all snack foods and processed foods have added sugars in their ingredients. These sugars are very different than natural sugars from fruits and vegetables, which also offer many other nutrients that the body benefits from.

Added sugars appear on ingredient labels as: high fructose corn syrup, fructose, sucrose, brown sugar, rice syrup, dextrose, maltose, barley malt, fruit juice concentrates, glucose, invert sugar, lactose, maltose, malt syrup, pancake syrup, raw sugar, and turbinado sugar.

All of these sugars adversely affect many body systems and are highly concentrated. Similar to addictive drugs, added sugars affect the limbic system of the brain linked to emotional control. Eating sugar activates pleasure centers and increases serotonin production- the body’s “feel good” chemical.

For these reasons, eating sugar can make you feel good at first. In fact, many people use sugary foods as their daily reward. Yet, the more you eat sugar, the more you crave it. If you’ve gone through it you know: it’s easy to fall into unhealthy eating patterns with sugar. Further, rewarding yourself with sugar backfires when it comes to hormone balance and fertility.

Sugar, Hormones & Your Fertility

Across the board, eating excess sugar increases oxidative stress and inflammation, and accelerates early aging, leading to cellular changes that damage the egg, sperm, and the reproductive system. Beyond that:

  • Too much sugar imbalances testosterone production and can lead to hormone-related acne and worsens PMS symptoms.
  • Eating too much sugar contributes to insulin resistance, affects weight management, and increases chronic inflammation.
  • For people with Immunological Infertility, too much sugar aggravates impaired immune response. It can also lead to leaky gut syndrome, affect mineral absorption, and may make it even harder to conceive.

The Science on Sugar & Inflammation

Refined sugar is 99.4-99.7 pure calories, without any vitamins, minerals, enzymes, fats or protein. At best, it’s a quick source of energy. At worst, it’s a trigger for early aging, potential disease and chronic inflammation.

A 2014 study published in Lipids in Health and Disease reveals consuming a 50-gram dose of fructose leads to a spike in inflammatory markers like C-reactive protein (CRP). More worrisome, inflammation remains high for over two hours after consumption.

A 2011 study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition shows that 40 grams of added sugar from one can of soda a day increases inflammatory markers, insulin resistance and LDL cholesterol. The group studied gained more weight, too.

Some Good News about Sugar

You don’t have to quit all sugar! You can enjoy natural sugars from whole foods like fruits and vegetables guilt free. Natural sugars are not known to trigger inflammation or harm fertility. Because it contains complementary nutrients like fiber and enzymes, natural sugar is absorbed more slowly and is metabolized more easily.

Many sources of natural sugar actually have potent anti-inflammatory action. Just a few examples: organic pineapple, papaya, and berries.

Sugar & Fertility- The Bottom Line

Check ingredient lists of the foods you’re eating. While working on your fertility, make a conscious decision to avoid or strictly limit added sugars. Note: The highest sources of added sugars in the American diet are sugar-sweetened drinks, desserts and sweets. If you haven’t already, cut out or strictly limit these foods to drastically decrease your sugar intake.

For sweeteners, try Stevia leaf (Stevia rebaudiana), dates, lo han fruit, raw honey or Xylitol which add flavor without the health risks.

Stick to these changes, and your body and fertility will thank you. You may be surprised by how much better you feel when you cut out added sugars from your diet.

Resources to learn more:
Sugar May Contribute to Infertility
5 Anti-Inflammatory Foods Women Should Be Eating
Top 5 Anti-Nutrients That Affect Fertility
The Role of Inflammation in Infertility


Dr. Christine Traxler M.D., OB/GYN
Dr. Christine Traxler M.D., OB/GYN

Dr. Traxler is a University-trained obstetrician/gynecologist, working with patients in Minnesota for over 20 years. She is a professional medical writer; having authored multiple books on pregnancy and childbirth; textbooks and coursework for medical students and other healthcare providers; and has written over 1000 articles on medical, health, and wellness topics.  Dr. Traxler attended the University of Minnesota College of Biological Sciences and University of Minnesota Medical School,  earning a degree in biochemistry with summa cum laude honors in 1981,  and receiving her Medical Doctorate degree (MD) in 1986.

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