Are you fertile on keto?

Healthy reproductive organs. The key

Healthy reproductive organs are the key for fertility and happy aging. Fertility is declining across the board, in both sexes, that is true. However, don’t miss this article even if you’re currently single or already happy to have two kids.

In this article you will find:

  • explanation of the need of healthy reproductive organs for any individual;
  • general principles of keto diet and product list to choose or avoid;
  • what is already known about keto diet and fertility;
  • known and new insights, causes to concern about keto diet for fertility

Fertility concept

Fertility and the fact of the conception itself may be interpreted as a physical proof of a healthy reproductive system and health in general.

When single, taking care of your reproductive system and an overall health would have a beneficial outcome for a future family planning (not waiting for years before natural conception or spending big money on doctors).  

When already happy having kids, taking care of your reproductive system may reduce the risks of common chronic diseases, such as variety of gynecologic cancers for women and number of reproductive system cancers for men.

For the average person in general, not harming yourself by practicing bad habits or blindly following health trends can have positive effects on overall health for years and decades, increasing your chances of living a very long, happy life.

Short summary

Conception is a physical proof of a healthy reproductive system. However, it does not mean to have “unhealthy reproductive system” if you are currently not interested in having kids. Health is always health.

Overall health of reproductive organs is crucial for anyone: for those who are ready to have kids and for single people too. For singles it may reduce the time trying to conceive or spending big money for treatments in the future. And for people over 40-50 years it may significantly reduce the risks of reproductive organs’ cancers.

General principles of keto diet

While the actual keto menu for an individual may vary, the main list of “do” and “don’ts” food products (1, 2, 3):

“ALMOST ZERO CARB”, KETO FOODFOOD TO AVOID ON KETO DIET
Meats (beef, lamb, pork, turkey, chicken, duck)  Sugary foods (fruit juice, smoothies, cake, ice cream, candy)  
Processed meats (hot dogs, salami, sausages, bacon, ham)  Grains or starches (wheat-based products, rice, pasta, cereal)  
Fish (cod, halibut, sardine, swordfish, mackerel, tuna, trout, salmon)  Fruits  
Seafood (shrimp, lobster, squid, mussels)  Beans or legumes (peas, kidney beans, lentils, chickpeas)  
Fats and Oils (extra virgin olive oil, coconut oil, grass-fed butter or ghee, MCT oil, avocado oil, animal fats like lard, fish oil)  Root vegetables and tubers (potatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots)  
Spices and Condiments Sweeteners (stevia extract, monk fruit extract, erythritol)  Some condiments or sauces (honey, mustard, ketchup)  
Drinks and Beverages (water, coffee, tea, sugar-free and carb-free energy drinks, diet soda)  Alcohol (beer, wine, liquor)  
Alcohol (gin, rum, vodka, tequila, brandy, cognac)   
Eggs   
Dairy (heavy Cream, half-and-half (half whole milk, half heavy cream))   
Vegetables (Broccoli, bok choi, celery, spinach, asparagus, radish, mushrooms, bell pepper, cauliflower, white cabbage)   
Fruits and berries (tomato, avocado, watermelon, strawberries, raspberries, lemons, peaches)   
Preserved meat products   
Canned or smoked fish and meat   

Short summary

  • Keto diet may be adapted for carnivore, vegan or vegetarian food preferences.
  • Keto diet may support both healthy food (green vegetables) and questionable food products for health (hot dogs, canned food).
  • Keto diet restricts consumption of high carbs food products such as fruits, grains, legumes which are essential for conceiving.
  • Keto diet restricts consumption of unhealthy high carbs food products such as cakes, ice-cream, pasta, candy.
  • Keto diet accepts low carb alcohol and artificial sweeteners.

Keto and fertility. What do we know?

PCOS (women)

Infertility specialists already observe that women with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) improve the quality of their eggs on ketogenic diet by losing weight and balancing hormones. Main PCOS causes are: a) excess insulin; b) low-grade inflammation (which stimulates polycystic ovaries to produce androgens – male hormones – in excess); and c) heredity (genes linked) (4, 5).

Sperm-friendly (men)

If the standard diet is filled with refined carbohydrates and sugar, which leads to excess weight and poor sperm quality, – then ketogenic diet might be a good way to start positive changes (4).

Example from life

The American couple switched to keto diet gradually and after 90 days, healthy twins were the happy result after in vitro fertilization. In simple words, they both cut on potatoes and other high-carb food of a typical American diet and lost weight. As an outcome, the quality of eggs and sperm have improved (6).

Short summary

Positive results of the keto diet on fertility exist, but they are more associated with the transition from common these days, but abnormal and harmful “foods” to healthier eating habits.

When a couple cut on processed sugar-packed foods and potatoes – it naturally lowers insulin resistance and improves the functions of reproductive system by balancing hormone functions.

Causes to concern about fertility and keto

Insights and causes to concern about fertility and keto diet are as follows: saturated fats, nutrient deficiencies, added stress, mercury in some fish species, possible erythrotrol harm for reproductive system, BPA linked to keto food products, olive/coconut oils for cooking, mineral deficiency linked to nuts, and listeria bacteria in soft cheeses.

Saturated fats

Many people on keto diet eat foods high in saturated fats. Too much fats can increase total cholesterol, slow digestion, lead to constipation and overwork of pancreas (as pancreas produce not only insulin to break down carbs to glucose, but also lipase – an enzyme which breaks down fats).

High-fat dairy products are associated with decreased sperm motility and abnormal sperm shape. Some of this could be due to sex steroids given to cows (7).

Saturated fats are: butter, ghee, lard, coconut and palm oils, sausages, bacon, salami, cheese, cream, sour cream.

Related articles:

Are you happy on keto?

Must-do keto. Maybe think twice?

Casein in dairy – which products have the most and the least amount of it?

Nutrient deficiencies

Some food is highly recommended when trying to conceive, however, it is not in the list of keto diet. A huge variety of essential antioxidants, vitamins and minerals comes from fruits (grapefruits, bananas, figs), medium-to-high carb vegetables, legumes (chickpeas) and whole grains. While keeping these foods in restriction on keto diet for a long period of time, nutrient deficiencies may appear.

Natural carbs are OK for fertility

Low-carbohydrate diets can lead to improvements in reproductive hormone levels and regular ovulation in women who are overweight or obese. However, for females with normal weight, natural carbohydrates are essential nutrients to develop a healthy embryo.

Added stress

Restrictive diet like keto may add to a woman’s stress while she is having fertility treatments and is not recommended with the history of eating disorders (4).

Mercury in fish

Larger fish species that live longer have the higher levels of mercury because they’ve had more time to accumulate it. Mercury cannot be removed by cooking and may be found even in breast milk, which means, transmitted to a newborn.

Larger fishes are: swordfish, king mackerel, tilefish, tuna.

Erythritrol

Erythritol is the commonly preferred artificial sweetener in the keto diet list. In natural environment, erythritol is used as a “food” for Brucella bacteria – a kind of bacteria which causes an infectious disease in cattle (swine, cows, goats and sheep). Brucella bacteria accumulates mostly in reproductive tract and when fed sufficiently with erythritol, causes infertility or abortion (8).

In humans, 90% of erythritol is excreted with urine, i.e., passes urinary tract and reproductive organs (9). Mice and humans have been considered to lack erythritol, however, using erythritol as a sweetener on a daily basis may probably change the situation.

Fermented foods which contain erythritol naturally are Japanese sake, wine, beer, soy sauce and miso-bean paste (10).

BPA

Bisphenol A (BPA) is a hormone disrupter, a chemical which is widely used in plastic packages and for cans.

Keto diet list includes canned and processed foods, which, in their turn are packed in plastic or metal cans. A metal can package may be a source of aluminum – a natural metal which is known to cause variety of health conditions. A metal can package, covered from the inside with a thin plastic film is also a potential source of BPA (11, 12).

More info about aluminum:

Aluminum excess in my body! What about you?

Aluminum and breast cancer. Is there an (indirect) link?

Sources of aluminum burden in the body

Avoiding aluminum “traffic” into a body and ways to excrete it naturally

Extra virgin olive oil. Attention! Cooking!

Virgin olive oil is produced from whole, ripe olives without heat to keep the best quality and health-beneficial properties. Extra virgin olive oil is a great source of vitamin E, monounsaturated fats and has anti-inflammatory properties. However, all the good properties disappear and may even be linked with the increased cancer incidence when the oil is exposed to heat over 150 C / 300 F (13, pages 253-254).

Olive oil has a medium smoke point and is recommended for light sautéing

More info:

Professional review of the book “Unlove sugar”. Part 2.

Coconut oil. Attention! Cooking!

Coconut oil has a low smoke point (170 C / 350 F) which makes it unhealthy for baking or cooking at higher temperatures. 

Nuts. Attention! Mineral deficiency!

Naturally, nuts are packed with essential vitamins and minerals. However, nuts also contain phytic acid (a substance found in plant seeds, grains, and nuts). For human consumption it is referred as an anti-nutrient.

Phytic acid binds minerals in the digestive tract, making them less digestible for humans’ stomach. It impairs the absorption of iron, zinc, magnesium and calcium, in other words it „grabs“ minerals from the body and may promote deficiency of essential minerals. Eating unsoaked nuts, grains and seeds regularly in sufficient amounts may negatively affect physical and mental well-being (14).

Listeria in soft cheeses

Listeria bacteria can cause an infectious disease listeriosis. This has been linked to an increased risk of miscarriage.

Food products which may contain listeria: soft, ripened cheeses like brie, camembert and some goats’ cheese; blue cheeses like Danish Blue and Stilton, all unpasteurized dairy products, all types of pâté, including vegetable (15).

Short summary

When trying to conceive or to maintain healthy reproductive organs in general, follow the knowledge you have already gained:

  • reduce daily amount of saturated fats;
  • follow a keto diet for a short period of time so that not to provoke mineral deficiency;
  • choose smaller fish species which accumulate less mercury;
  • reduce or avoid erythritol and processed keto food in plastic packages and cans;
  • use avocado oil (smoke point 270 C / 520 F) or ghee butter for cooking and extra virgin olive oil only for salads;
  • soak nuts to reduce the amount of phytic acid in it;
  • avoid raw soft cheeses to lower the risk of listeriosis or bake it.

Conclusions?

Keto diet for fertility is not only about eating fats and meats. As any other diet, it is about making right steps when following the general principles.

The quality of diets and life-styles can shorten or lengthen human life span. A long life span is the cumulative result of doing a lot of little things right

Udo Erasmus

References

  1. https://www.ruled.me/zero-carb-food-list-for-ketosis/#zero-carb-meat
  2. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/318601
  3. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/ketogenic-diet-101#foods-to-avoid
  4. https://www.everydayhealth.com/fertility/keto-diet-fertility-infertility/#:~:text=%E2%80%9CUsing%20a%20ketogenic%20diet%20to,CCRM%20Network%20Clinic%20in%20Texas
  5. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/pcos/symptoms-causes/syc-20353439#:~:text=The%20exact%20cause%20of%20PCOS%20isn’t%20known.,your%20body’s%20primary%20energy%20supply
  6. https://www.dietdoctor.com/trying-conceive-try-better-baby-diet-beef-butter-bacon
  7. Don’t make the mistake of letting a diet kill sperm by Edwin McDonald, MD, online source: https://www.uchicagomedicine.org/forefront/health-and-wellness-articles/dont-make-the-mistake-of-letting-a-diet-kill-sperm#:~:text=High%20fat%20dairy%20products&text=The%20Rochester%20Young%20Men’s%20Study,motility%20and%20abnormal%20sperm%20shape
  8. https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fmicb.2017.01088/full
  9. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/erythritol#TOC_TITLE_HDR_2
  10. https://www.jstage.jst.go.jp/article/shokueishi1960/29/6/29_6_419/_pdf
  11. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7304337/
  12. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5026908/
  13. https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/2648.Fats_That_Heal_Fats_That_Kill#:~:text=Udo%20Erasmus%20presents%20research%20on,%2C%20blackcurrent%2C%20and%20snake%20oil
  14. https://www.amazon.com/DAILY-SUGAR-FREE-RECIPES-ALMOST-VEGANS-ebook/dp/B095XG1YMR/ref=sr_1_2?dchild=1&keywords=alisa+palatronis&qid=1622522398&sr=8-2
  15. https://www.aptaclub.co.uk/conception/foods-to-avoid-conception.html

The conclusions drawn and the assessment of the health benefits/risks are restricted to information appearing in the scientific literature

© A. Palatronis, 2019-2021

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