If you’ve been trying to get pregnant without success, you’re probably anxious to learn any tips or tricks that could help you. But is it true that your sugar intake could be messing with your fertility?
How Sugar Affects Hormones
It’s easy to underestimate the impact sugar has on your hormones. After all, sugar is a food, and food goes through your digestive system, right?
Your body activates hormones when you eat sugar, too. The first is insulin. Too high or too low levels of sugar in your blood can be dangerous, so when a sugary soda spikes your blood sugar, insulin gets released to lower blood sugar as quickly as possible. Then, the adrenal glands kick in. A quick swing in blood sugar, like what just happened, is their signal to release adrenalin and cortisol.
Now your body is busy regulating three hormone levels in an attempt to deal with the sugar high. Do this too often, and your fertility hormones may suffer some consequences. For example, Shady Grove Fertility Center explains that insulin has some chemical similarities to ovarian hormones that signal your body to ovulate. If ovaries read elevated insulin as a signal to produce fewer fertility hormones, sugar consumption could potentially interfere with ovulation.
Sugar and PCOS
Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a relatively common disorder causing hormone imbalance and growths on the ovaries. Women with PCOS often struggle with insulin resistance from frequently elevated levels, overproduction of testosterone, and fertility struggles. Eating a diet high in sugar can make those symptoms worse by continuing to drive insulin high. Read about PCOS and pregnancy here.
Sugar also contributes to weight gain or challenging weight loss. This is both because the elevated insulin tells your body to store more fat, and because sugary foods are also typically high in calories.
How Much Sugar Should I Eat?
The American Heart Association recommends that women have no more than 24 grams of added sugar (about 6 teaspoons) per day. Men can have 36 grams (9 teaspoons). Added sugar can look like any of the following on an ingredient list:
- Brown sugar
- Corn syrup
- Evaporated cane juice
- Cane crystals
- Rice syrup
- Agave syrup
- And others
You generally don’t need to worry about the naturally occurring sugars in fruit. You may want to consider cutting back on white flour and white rice, which your body also processes quickly (potentially leading to similar insulin and hormone swings).
How to Cut Back on Added Sugar
You’d be amazed at how much sugar you can cut from a normal diet. Take a look!
- Swap a Grande Vanilla Latte for plain latte with 2 tsp sugar: Save 27 grams
- Eat eggs instead of a donut for breakfast: Save 10 grams
- Drink 12 oz. water instead of a can of soda in the afternoon: Save 39 grams
- Have 8 oz. of watermelon instead of two handfuls of gummy worms: Save 40 grams! (The sugar in watermelon doesn’t affect your blood sugar the same way, plus it’s got Vitamins A and C to boot)
A few changes can quickly save more than 100 grams of sugar. That’s more than half a cup!
If you’re having trouble getting pregnant, sugar isn’t necessarily the only thing you’ll need to change to conceive. But your sugar intake can absolutely affect your health, including your reproductive health, and it’s a part of your life that you have a lot of control over. If you’re thinking about having a baby, it’s worth looking at your diet to see if there are ways to cut back to the recommended sugar limits. You may help steady your hormones and feel healthier, too.