The vitamins, minerals and other substances found in the foods you eat serve a variety of important purposes in the body. When it comes to infertility, whether it affects the man or the woman, deficiencies in nutrients linked to reproductive health could result in difficulty conceiving a child. Vitamin B-6 appears to influence fertility in more ways than one and increasing intake of foods rich in this substance or taking supplements might offer benefits -- though it may or may not be the sole answer, depending on your individual circumstances.
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B-6 and Luteal Phase
Your menstrual cycle consists of two phases – the follicular phase and the luteal phase. The luteal phase occurs after ovulation, when your body prepares for implantation of a fertilized egg. If this phase does not last long enough, the egg cannot implant and the uterine lining will break down, resulting in an early miscarriage. Improper levels of the hormones involved in this process likely trigger this problem. WatsonWellness.org explains that vitamin B-6 can raise levels of progesterone, a key hormone in preparing the body for pregnancy. ,
Homocysteine and Infertility
Adequate levels of vitamin B-6, along with vitamin B-12 and folate, keep levels of homocysteine low. Homocysteine is an amino acid that has been linked to heart disease when present in high levels. A Dutch study that appeared in the July 2006 issue of “Human Reproduction" looked at the effects of homocysteine and other chemicals on fertility in couples undergoing assisted reproductive technology. Researchers observed that elevated levels of homocysteine in sperm was associated with poorer-quality embryos, which they theorize may lower chances for successful conception.
B-6-Rich Diet and Fertility Outcomes
Another Dutch study, which appeared in the November 2010 issue of “Fertility and Sterility” compared the effects of two types of diets on levels of vitamin B6, folate, vitamin B-12 and homocysteine levels in couples receiving fertility treatments. Both were considered healthy diets – the first was rich in fruits, vegetables, fish and whole grains and low in unhealthy foods like those rich in saturated fats and processed foods. The second diet was the Mediterranean style of eating, rich in vegetable oils like olive oil; vegetables; fish; and legumes. Althogh both diets produced healthy levels of folate, the Mediterranean diet also produced healthy levels of B-6 both in the blood and follicular fluid. Couples following the Mediterranean diet were more likely to get pregnant.
Foods rich in vitamin B-6 include fortified grain products such as cereal and oatmeal, legumes, baked potatoes, bananas, chicken breast, salmon, walnuts, soy, avocados, sunflower seeds and spinach.
Increasing your level of vitamin B-6 does not appear to pose any dangers to fertility specifically, but given the complex connections between nutrients and various bodily processes, one cannot know for sure. Taking too much, however, can result in nerve damage in the arms and legs, leading to loss of controlled movement of your body. Skin lesions and stomach upset are also side effects of excessive vitamin B-6 intake, according to the National Institutes of Health. To achieve therapeutic effects with natural substances, you typically require more than the recommended daily intake to prevent deficiency. The National Institutes of Health recommends taking no more than 100 milligrams daily. If you want to use supplements to increase fertility, you should only do so under the supervision of your doctor.
- Fertility and Sterility: The Preconception Mediterranean Dietary Pattern in Couples Undergoing in Vitro Fertilization/Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection Treatment Increases the Chance of Pregnancy
- WatsonWellness.org: Progesterone
- Human Reproduction: Homocysteine, Glutathione and Related Thiols Affect Fertility Parameters in the (Sub)fertile Couple
- Office of Dietary Supplements National Institutes of Health: Vitamin B6
- Acupuncture Denver: Luteal Phase Defect