High Fiber Diets May Promote Anovulation
High fiber diets have long been associated with a decreased risk of breast and some other cancers. The positive effect of fiber upon cancer is thought to be due largely to the way in which dietary fiber can influence the level of estrogens circulating throughout the body.
The key problem here is that this same estrogen which can at certain times fuel cancer is also vital to ovulation and fertility; having too little estrogen may lower your fertility especially if you have a low BMI and low body fat. Because estrogen production in the body is dependent upon sufficient body fat levels, being on the skinny side may compound the estrogen-lowering effects of a high fiber / high fruit diet.
A study (1) was developed to test the hypothesis that high fiber diets may disfavor ovulation by reducing estrogen levels. Two hundred and fifty women (aged 18-44 years, average age 27.5 ) were studied for two menstrual cycles and their dietary fiber intake was assessed. Levels of various hormones: estradiol, progesterone,LH and FSH were measured as were anovulatory cycles. The women all had healthy body weight (average BMI 24) and had healthy exercise levels.
The results of the study showed that increased dietary fiber intake was associated with lower levels of *all* reproductive hormones measured and also increased the incidence of anovulatory cycles. Each 5-g per day increase in total fiber intake was linked to a 1.78-fold increased risk of having an anovulatory cycle. Fruit fiber had the strongest effect as a promoter of anovulation and fiber from whole grains and vegetables did not have a significant effect. The researchers concluded that:
"These findings suggest that a diet high in fiber is significantly associated with decreased hormone concentrations and a higher probability of anovulation..."
Don't get me wrong, high fiber diets maybe great for long-term health and cancer prevention - I follow one myself - but if you have anovulation you may need to take a closer look at nutritional factors which may be dropping your estrogen levels a little too low.
Low fat or fat-free diets and excessive work-outs or running can also drop estrogen levels significantly. These diet and lifestyle choices may be great for long-term cancer prevention and health but by significantly reducing reproductive hormones such strategies can create difficult conditions for optimum fertility and ovulation. Be sure to discuss any diet changes with your fertility physician.
This article is intended for informational purposes only and is NOT intended to diagnose, offer medical or nutritional treatment or replace medical or nutritional advice for which you should consult a suitably qualified physician or dietitian.
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1. Effect of daily fiber intake on reproductive function: the BioCycle Study1,2,3 Audrey J Gaskins, Sunni L Mumford, Cuilin Zhang, et al., First published August 19, 2009, doi: 10.3945/ ajcn.2009.27990 Am J Clin Nutr October 2009 vol. 90 no. 4 1061-1069
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