Now that we know how antioxidants and free radicals generally work, let’s talk about how they affect fertility specifically. Everything in our body is made of cells that need to be protected from free radicals. Not only are the ovum (egg) and sperm made up of cells which can be affected by free radical damage, so are the reproductive organs and glands that produce reproductive hormones. If these cells are less than optimal, the organs, ovum, sperm, etc. will not be functioning at their best.
Another thing to remember: DNA can also be attacked and altered by free radicals.
The DNA of both partners is the future blueprint for a child. Damaged DNA is known to cause miscarriages or birth defects and developmental problems for the future child. Studies have also shown a connection between oxidative stress caused from free radicals and male infertility. So, it is very important for both parents to take an antioxidant complex in the correct amounts. Let’s take a look at which antioxidants are most important:
Glutathione is considered the nature’s master antioxidant and detoxifier. It is the cell’s primary antioxidant. Low levels of glutathione are a marker for disease and premature death. Glutathione is instrumental in the detoxification of pollutants from the liver and the body. It is one of the most important defenders of a cell’s immune system.
In fertility, glutathione is involved in regulating the pathway that activates genes that can cause chronic inflammation. In other words, it can suppress the ‘bad’ genes that trigger autoimmune issues. This may be helpful for those who are experiencing immunological miscarriages or if the body is rejecting your mates’ sperm.
In other studies, glutathione is shown to be an anti-aging antioxidant, extending the life of fruit flies (the subjects of the experiment are quite similar to mammals) by 26% longer than normal. From these studies it is exciting to think of the possible impact this can have on the ovum health, one of the cells most affected by aging process.
Food sources: Fresh fruit, vegetables and freshly cooked meat.
• Lipoic Acid
The stunning antioxidant because not only helps to protect the female reproductive organs, but it has also been shown to improve sperm quality and motility. Lipoic acid is a must in every supplement regime as it regenerates all of the other antioxidants and is the only antioxidant that can regenerate glutathione. It also helps to build a strong and properly functioning immune system and can help to reverse some of the damage caused from smoking cigarettes.
Lipoic Acid regenerates itself as well as vitamins E, C, glutathione and CoQ10.
Food sources: In small amounts found in potatoes, spinach and red meat.
• Vitamin E
Studies have shown that vitamin E increases sperm health and motility. In one study it was shown that sperm motility, percent of live sperm, and percent of normal spermatozoa all increased with the supplementation of vitamin E and selenium. Additionally, studies have shown the female deficiency of vitamin E causes a higher rate of miscarriages. Vitamin E was first discovered in 1922 during feed-trials on rats. Their diets were deficient in vitamin E and they were infertile. Once they started feeding them with wheat germ, their fertility was restored. This is how the scientific word for vitamin E came about: Tocopherol, comes from the Greek voices “tokos,” “parturition” and “pherein,” “to lead “, literally means that “leads to procreation “.
Vitamin E may also help to reduce anemia by preventing oxidative damage to the red blood cells.
It has been shown that men who were prepared with vitamin E prior to IVF treatment with their partners had an increase in rate of fertilization from 19% to 29%.
Food sources: Raw vegetable oils, nuts, nut butters, rice bran oil, barley, and green leafy vegetables.
• Coenzyme Q10
CoQ10 is involved in the production of ATP, (adenosine triphosphate). The lack of this antioxidant could cause a shortage of energy to every cell and system in the body, including the reproductive system. CoQ10 is like a battery within the cell.
CoQ10 levels naturally decline with age, so this is an important antioxidant to include in your nutritional program, especially if you are above 35’s. A study in Fertility and Sterility concluded that CoQ10 helped to increase the sperm motility in semen. Several studies show that CoQ10 supplementation can increase egg and sperm health.
Food sources: seafood and meats.
• Vitamin C
Vitamin C is another very important antioxidant for both male and female fertility. Vitamin C improves hormone levels and increases fertility in women with luteal phase defect according to a new study published in Fertility & Sterility (2003; 80:459–61):
“The Study: 150 women with luteal phase defect were enrolled in the current study. The participants were given 750mg of vitamin C per day or no treatment at all.
The group receiving vitamin C had an increase in progesterone levels. While the women receiving no treatment had no change in progesterone.
Also the pregnancy rate was significantly higher in the vitamin C group: 25% within six months, while only 11% of the untreated women became pregnant in the same time period.”
As for men, vitamin C has been shown to improve sperm quality and protect sperm from DNA damage; helping to reduce the chance of miscarriage and chromosomal problems. Vitamin C also appears to keep sperm from clumping together, making them more motile.
Food sources: Abundant in plants and fruits including red peppers, broccoli, cranberries, cabbage, potatoes, tomatoes, and citrus fruit.
Antioxidants Work Best as a Network
Each antioxidant that has disarmed a free radical becomes sacrificed unless its “partner” antioxidant comes along and rejuvenates it. Every antioxidant has a “partner” antioxidant which can regenerate the spent antioxidant. Here are some of the antioxidant pairs:
• Lipoic Acid can be regenerated by itself and can regenerate all of the other antioxidants
• Vitamin C is regenerated by vitamin E, Glutathione and Lipoic Acid
• Vitamin E is regenerated by vitamin C, CoQ10 and Lipoic Acid
• Glutathione is regenerated by Lipoic Acid
In conclusion, it is important to get all of these antioxidants into our body on a daily basis. These antioxidants work together helping to protect the body and keep the system filled with antioxidants.