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Inflammatory Foods & How They Hurt Your Fertility

Inflammatory Foods & How They Hurt Your Fertility

inflammatory junk foodI’ve talked about the role of inflammation in infertility before (click that link to learn why too much inflammation is bad). In this article, I will share a few of the top inflammatory foods you should avoid because they can affect your fertility. It’s a topic I’m passionate about sharing with you.

Your diet plays a major role in your fertility health and how well your body deals with inflammation!

Inflammatory Foods and Their Fertility Impact

High-sugar foods

All diets contain some sugar. Your body needs sugar for quick energy, but today most of us get far too much refined, simple sugar that causes inflammation. It is often from places we wouldn’t suspect.

Here’s the lowdown on how sugar can affect fertility:

  • Both animal and human studies show a diet high in sugar is linked to increased inflammation which can affect fertility and/or increase risk of infection, insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes, heart disease and weight gain, each of which can impact fertility as well.
  • Research presented at the American Society of Reproductive Medicine shows a high sugar diet can reduce IVF success rates.

If you’re trying to conceive: reduce foods high in refined sugar and check labels for hidden sugars. Do your best to avoid added sugars like 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.

For fertility health: stick to healthy, natural sugars from whole fruits. For sweeteners, use small amounts of natural sugars like honey, dates or agave syrup if needed. Alternatives like Stevia leaf (Stevia rebaudiana) or Lo Han Guo fruit (Siraitia grosvenorii) are other good choices, particularly if you have a known sugar balance issue.

Most snack foods, convenience foods, fast foods

I understand the struggle of eating on the run. Yet, it’s important to avoid the majority of convenience foods while working on a fertility concern.

  • Most convenience foods (chips, packaged snack foods, breakfast cereals, snack bars, frozen or microwaved meals, even canned foods and condiments) contain ingredients that increase inflammation. When reading labels, avoid items with excess salt, sugar, fat, preservatives, hydrogenated oils, emulsifiers, coloring agents or other chemicals. All of these additives can ignite inflammation.
  • Fast foods are especially harmful; loaded with preservatives, salt, sugar and fat. A 2018 Australian study in Human Reproduction found an 8-16% increase in risk for infertility in women who ate fast food four or more times a week.

For your fertility health: become a discerning shopper, and make the commitment to eat more foods with short ingredients lists, or without labels like organic fruits and vegetables.

Saturated fats/ Vegetable oils/ Artificial Trans fats

The wrong kind of fats trigger inflammation and disrupt your fertility program. Fried foods, foods high in saturated fats, vegetable oils, and margarine are all inflammatory foods to avoid or limit. Artificial trans fats (partially hydrogenated oils) found in snack foods, baked goods, fast foods and condiments are another big problem.

  • Research from the Harvard School of Public Health shows that the more trans fats a woman eats, the higher her risk for fertility problems.
  • Eating trans fats worsens insulin sensitivity.

For fertility health: enjoy healthy, essential fats from wild fish and seafood, avocado, olive oil, and fresh nuts and seeds. These fats calm inflammation and enhance fertility. A 2012 study published in Harvard School of Public Health shows eating more monounsaturated fats may even increase IVF rates. Learn more: Study Shows Eating Avocado May Increase IVF Success

Non-organic foods, GMO foods

High pesticides from non-organic foods and genetically modified foods (GMOs) are linked to inflammation and fertility problems in both sexes.

  • A 2015 study published in Human Reproduction finds a diet high in pesticides is linked to lower sperm count.
  • Research published in Environmental Health Perspectives shows women with higher exposures to organochlorine pesticides have a 30 to 70% increase in endometriosis risk.
  • Animal studies show eating GMOs leads to lower fertility rates and increased inflammation.

For your fertility health, avoid non-organic animal products, items on the Dirty Dozen list, farmed fish, and foods that are genetically modified (corn, soy, canola, zucchini, potatoes, wheat and rice).

Just choosing to eat organic dramatically improves your hormonal health by eliminating your exposure to inflammatory chemicals and GMOs.

Embrace Fertility Foods

While working on reproductive health, embrace foods in the Fertility Diet like the Fertile Dozen. Do your best to stay vigilant. Inflammatory foods sometimes sneak into choices that we thought were healthy.

I find the best way to avoid the lure of unhealthy, inflammatory foods is to have a plan. Meal preparation is an excellent idea to have healthy foods ready to go every day of the week. Further, most natural foods stores have a prepared foods section with nutritious choices if you’re very busy. Taking the time to create a food plan is well worth it for your health and fertility.


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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