Optimizing Fertility in a Vegan Lifestyle
An increasing number of people in the US are choosing to live a vegan way of life, motivated by concerns about health, the environment or compassion for animals. In the last five years, the number of vegans in the US has increased from 0.5% to about 6% of the population.4,1
Dr. Wendy Chang, M.D., a reproductive endocrinologist with the Southern California Reproductive Center (SCRC) and Chris Talley, a Nutritional Scientist with Precision Food Works, spoke in the webinar Optimizing Fertility in a Vegan Lifestyle about how veganism impacts fertility. They discussed some things that can contribute to success as you begin your journey toward conception as a vegan.1
Since the 1970s, physicians have known that nutrition impacts health. Nutritional testing is an excellent way to determine whether foreign chemicals in your body or deficiencies in your diet are keeping you from having a successful pregnancy. It can reveal amino acid and vitamin deficiencies, toxic elements and more. If you are vegan, there are particular nutritional considerations that can impact your fertility. Here are a few:1
Avoid Toxic Elements
Toxic substances in and around us can affect the hormones needed for our bodies to create a successful pregnancy, including estrogen, testosterone and progesterone. Cadmium, arsenic, mercury and other toxic substances are common offenders. Removing sources of these toxins is a beginning, but if levels are still high, talk with your endocrinologist about strategies to remove these substances from your body.1
- Cadmium can come from smoke exposure, some forms of chocolate, lip gloss and hair dye.
- Arsenic sources include dust from home remodels, sand blowing from a beach, some bottled waters, seaweed, seafood, rice and commercial apple juice. Tattoo ink can be a contributor, as can tobacco and marijuana.
- Mercury can come from seaweed, novelty jewelry, dental fillings and thermometers.3
Overcome Nutritional Deficiencies
Along with removing toxins, sufficient nutrition from vegan sources is essential for a successful pregnancy.
“I oftentimes tell patients who have poor egg or sperm quality that we have lots of data points. One thing we know is that the quality of the egg and sperm and what your body puts out is really a factor of what you’re putting into it,” said Dr. Chang.1
In the webinar, Dr. Chang lists the deficiencies most frequently seen in vegans. They include protein, iron, Omega-3 Fatty Acids, Vitamin B12, Vitamin D and Calcium, Zinc, and Coenzyme Q10. Chris made these recommendations to help shore up potential deficiencies in a vegan diet.1
- Protein—Make sure to get enough protein. Beans, pulses and legumes are excellent vegan sources. If they cause gas and bloating, proper soaking and cooking can make them more digestible.
- Iron—Try spinach to improve iron levels. Eating it by itself only gives you 3-4 percent of the available nutrition. Add in an orange or lemon for vitamin C and you’ll absorb more of the available iron.
- Omega fatty acids—Plant sources of omega fatty acids occur in the form of alpha-linolenic acid that the body converts to Omega 3s. Sources include flaxseed, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds and walnuts. The conversion rate is limited, however, and some essential fatty acids such as DHA and DPA do not occur in these sources. Algae oil is vegan and contains these nutrients.
- Vitamin B12—Sources of B12 are limited in a vegan diet, so supplementation is your best bet. Choose a methylated B12 since it is most easily absorbed by the body, especially for those with a gene mutation called MTHFR.5
- Vitamin D—Vitamin D sources typically come from animal products or the sun. Your best bet is supplementation if you are limiting sun exposure and animal products.
- Zinc—If your zinc is low, a zinc lozenge can bring levels back up. There are also indications it can help stave off a viral infection if taken as symptoms emerge.
- Coenzyme Q10—This antioxidant is typically found in meat. If you’re not eating meat, taking a supplement can improve egg quality.
The Tip of the Iceberg
This is a small taste of the information contained in the full webinar. In the webinar, Dr. Chang and Chris walk you through more details about how to improve your chances of a successful pregnancy while living a vegan lifestyle.
At SCRC, we use the best of medical science to help clients with a great variety of lifestyles conceive a successful pregnancy. Our compassionate, experienced physicians and our state-of-the-art on-site laboratory give you the best chance of creating your family. Contact us today to schedule a consultation.
- Optimizing Fertility in a Vegan Lifestyle with Dr. Wendy Chang, M.D. and Chris Talley, Nutritional Scientist: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hLA75M6Kims&t=16s
- The Effects of Vegetarian and Vegan Diet During Pregnancy on the Health of Mothers and Offspring https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6470702/
- How People are Exposed to Mercury https://www.epa.gov/mercury/how-people-are-exposed-mercury
- Why Go Vegan? https://www.vegansociety.com/go-vegan/why-go-vegan
- MTHFR gene variant https://rarediseases.info.nih.gov/diseases/10953/mthfr-gene-mutation