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How to Improve Egg Health Through Diet

Updated: Aug 17

Before we embark on creating a human, there are a few things you may not have considered when trying to improve egg health prior to conception, including your diet. When we go back to basics and biology 101, when we are trying to conceive, we are trying to essentially have an egg and a sperm say hi to one another and work their magic!





It's a complex biological process involving DNA from both parties merging once they meet. So naturally it makes sense to make sure that each component (i.e the egg and the sperm) has enough quality DNA and energy in order to create an embryo.


More on sperm health later, but for now we are looking at ways to improve female egg health through diet.


It all starts with the oocyte, an undeveloped egg that lives in the ovary. These eggs have the potential to develop and mature into follicles and (usually) one matures into an egg and is released each menstrual cycle.


In order for an oocyte to develop, lots of energy is needed, it needs to be protected from oxidative stress which can cause damage. A damaged egg will not lead to a healthy pregnancy and a healthy baby. The aim here is to reduce any inflammatory action and there are some dietary factors which may help to improve this.


Here are my 3 top tips in order to help you boost your egg health through diet..



Vitamin D

First up is vitamin D - Also known as 'the sunshine vitamin' is actually a pro-hormone and research has shown it to be very important for female reproductive health as well as bone health.





One study found that women who are TTC were more likely to fall pregnant when their vitamin D levels were optimised, compared with those who had a vitamin D deficiency or insufficiency. Primate studies have also demonstrated the link between vitamin D and follicular development (2).


Vitamin D is found in sources such as: fortified mushrooms, oily fish, fortified milks and fortified cereals (3), however these sources, although the ingredients are constantly improving, food sources are not always sufficient to meet our bodies needs.


We obtain most of our vitamin D from the sun. The general rule of thumb for our body being able to synthesise vitamin D from the sun, is when our shadow length is shorter than our height. This means that the sun is above us and is close enough for those UVB rays to create that vitamin D goodness.


Obtaining our vitamin D from the sunshine is great, however if you live in the UK then you'll know we don't see that much sun! Plus there can be other risks associated with unprotected sun exposure such as DNA damage which is a risk factor for cancer. That's why the Scientific Advisory Board (SACN) recommend a daily 10μg supplement to maintain vitamin D levels throughout the year (1), ESPECIALLY if you do not have much sun exposure, or if you have beautiful melanated skin. People with dark skin create less vitamin D from the sun's rays, increasing the risk of deficiency.


[A note on sun safety: 20-30 minutes is ample time to obtain your vitamin D from sun exposure.. exposing a larger surface area such as the chest, arms or legs will help your body to get the most of your time, however it is linked with risk of cellular damage. Try to stay out of the hottest midday sun (usually between 11am-3pm) and be sure to wear a broad spectrum sunscreen. More information on sun safety can be found from the NHS here.]



Omega 3

Omega 3 is a fatty acid which can help reduce inflammation, it is good for heart health, as well as reducing the risk of cellular oxidative damage.


Omega 3s are commonly found in oily fish and the oily fish obtain their omega-3 fatty acids from eating micro algae (2)





The British Dietetic Association (BDA) states that "You can safely have up to two portions of oily fish per week if you are pregnant, breastfeeding, planning a pregnancy or may become pregnant in future." (4)


A portion of fish is around the size of the palm of your hand. Good sources of oily fish include:

- Mackerel

- Herring

- Salmon

- Pilchards

- Trout

- Fresh or frozen Tuna (not tinned - the canning process removes some of the fats)

- Fresh crab (3)


There are sustainability factors that are becoming more apparent - you will see some of this devastation if you watch some popular documentaries on Netflix...


Other sources of omega-3's include: chia seeds, flaxseed, some omega-3 rich oils and some nuts and seeds. When supplementing your Omega-3's make sure you opt for a supplement containing about 450mg of EPA and DHA, avoid Omega-3 supplements containing vitamin A.



Zinc


Zinc plays an important part in egg health, ovulation and the development of the embryo, especially in the early stages. Zinc is an important cofactor in many processes involving DNA transcription (6). Zinc also proves to be an antioxidant which can help to prevent free radical damage in the body.


Foods rich in zinc include: meat, shellfish, legumes, nuts, seeds, dairy, eggs and even in dark chocolate (3). Aim for 8mg per day. please note, this will need to be increased to 11mg once you fall pregnant.




This is just one peice of the fertility puzzle - See if I can help you on your fertility journey and book a discovery call with me today (UK residents only)




DISCLAIMER

Please note: The information in this article is not a substitute for professional medical or dietetic advice - if you have concerns regarding your health, please speak to your doctor. See the full disclaimer here.



ABOUT DIETITIAN KIRSTY

Dietitian Kirsty is a registered UK based dietitian and the founder of Your Health and Lifestyle Ltd. A company designed to support people with their fertility journey through evidence-based nutrition advice. In addition to being passionate about supporting the next generation, Kirsty enjoys supporting women with reconnecting with their innate intuitive eater, practicing self-care and discovering food freedom.



REFERENCES

1. SACN. (2016) Vitamin D and Health Report. Available online at:

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/sacn-vitamin-d-and-health-report

pg 125 [last accessed 10th August 2021]


2. Xu J, Lawson MS, Xu F, Du Y, Tkachenko OY, Bishop CV, et al. Vitamin D3 Regulates Follicular Development and Intrafollicular Vitamin D Biosynthesis and Signaling in the Primate Ovary. Front Physiol. 2018;9:1600.


3. McCance & Widdowson 7th summary edition of the composition of foods plus the revised composition of food integrated data set (CoFids). 2018. McCance and Widdowson's composition of foods integrated dataset [last accessed 9th August 2021]


4. Nichols, P. D., Petrie, J., & Singh, S. (2010). Long-chain omega-3 oils-an update on sustainable sources. Nutrients, 2(6), 572–585. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu2060572


5 BDA. (2021). Omega-3: Food Fact Sheet., Available Online at: https://www.bda.uk.com/resource/omega-3.html [last accessed 9th August 2021]


6. Zinc. Favier, A.E. The role of zinc in reproduction. Biol Trace Elem Res32, 363–382 (1992). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF02784623



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