How Undereating Affects Fertility

There are two extremes on the spectrum of infertility. On one side is insulin resistant PCOS, and on the other is hypothalamic amenorrhea. Both result in no ovulation and difficulty getting pregnant, however, the focus is often put on the hormonal imbalance that comes with having excess body weight and PCOS. I want to highlight another side that is often ignored, and that is having too little body weight and undereating.

The body needs a certain level of body fat on it to keep hormones in balance. If we under eat, which is often accompanied by overexercising, and body fat stores become too low, hypothalamic amenorrhea occurs. Undereating, weight loss, stress, and over exercising can all be related to hypothalamic amenorrhea and typically result in low estrogen and progesterone levels, low insulin levels, high cortisol, and low thyroid hormones which impair reproductive function.

Most people think undereating means not eating enough calories or depriving the body of food, accidentally or intentionally, but it goes beyond calories. Yes in some cases women aren't eating enough macronutrients/calories but in many cases, women are eating enough calories but not eating enough micronutrients. In other words, women are eating enough food, but the food they are eating is void of important vitamins and minerals.

It's important to make sure the food we are eating is nutrient-dense food in order to get the specific micronutrients involved in maintaining hormonal health. There are specific nutrients that affect hormone production and regulation of hormones that tell the body when and how to ovulate, and whether or not it has the resources to support a pregnancy.

This is why the quality of the food we eat is even more important than the quantity, especially if and when we want to have a baby. Fertility means the body has everything available to create a new life from ovulation to full-term. If key nutrients are missing, this won't be able to happen.

What's ironic is that undereating micronutrients can lead to overeating macronutrients because the body's need for nutrients causes the body to signal it needs to eat again. The less nutrient-dense we eat, the sooner we feel hungry again because we are not eating in a way that's sustaining. To test this, have a piece of toast which is pure carbohydrate, then have an egg with half an avocado which contains protein and healthy fats (the richest sources of fertility supporting micronutrients) and notice how quickly you feel the need to eat again after each meal. If you're like me, you'll be hungry again in no time after the piece of toast!

Eating nutrient-dense whole foods causes hunger levels to naturally regulate, which frees you from calorie counting. Calorie counting will often lead to skipping butter, eating low fat foods, consuming salad without dressing, trimming fat off cuts of meat, and avoiding nuts and seeds which then decreases the intake of foods rich in nutrients for fertility. The fear of fat is detrimental to fertility. Dr. Westin A. Price found that our ancestors prized healthy fats and organ meats because they were so rich in fat soluble vitamins and minerals, nutrients important for fertility and often missing in modern diets. Organ meats are 10 fold higher in vitamins and minerals important for fertility so it only takes eating a small amount to flood the body with nutrients. The lower the intake of fat soluble vitamins, the higher the risk for sex hormone dysfunction and anovulation. This is because the more nutrients the body is missing, the more it will go into nutrient conservation mode and cease ovulation since survival is more important than reproduction.

I encourage you to get in touch with your roots and eat like your ancestors! If you have been to one of my workshops or worked with me then you know I typically recommend eating liver at least once per week. This is something I practice myself for optimal hormone function and optimal health. I know that it involves stepping out of your comfort zone, but your body will thank you! I will be writing about the benefits of organ meats and my favourite recipes for making them in a future post, so stayed tuned for that.

If you'd like to learn what specific micronutrients are a priority for your unique body, you can find out by booking an optimize wellness hair test here.

Now I’d love to hear from you. Have you tried eating organ meats? What changes in your body did you notice? Share and let me know!