Can Intermittent Fasting Cause Fertility Issues? Here's What The Science Says

People engage in fasting for a variety of reasons. Some fast as part of their religious practices, while others do it to lose weight and improve certain health conditions. For those who can't tolerate the severe feelings of hunger and fatigue associated with prolonged fasting, intermittent fasting — which allows you to swing between fasting and eating each day — is a much more tolerable alternative. According to the Mayo Clinic, some common approaches to intermittent fasting include alternate-day fasting, 5:2 fasting, and daily time-restricted fasting. All of these methods allow you to eat a normal diet for part of the week while skipping meals for the remainder. For instance, under the 5:2 fasting plan, you eat anything you want for five days of the week while restricting your calorie intake to 500 calories — equivalent to one meal per day — for the other two days.

Not only does intermittent fasting promote healthy weight loss, but it's also good for your health. "Many things happen during intermittent fasting that can protect organs against chronic diseases like type 2 diabetes, heart disease, age-related neurodegenerative disorders, even inflammatory bowel disease, and many cancers," explains Johns Hopkins neuroscientist Mark Mattson. However, this type of diet is not without critics. Opponents of intermittent fasting argue that skipping meals or engaging in restrictive eating for a long period of time can induce eating disorders, which result in fertility issues. So, can intermittent fasting interfere with reproductive hormone production? Here are some insights.

Intermittent fasting is unlikely to affect fertility

Per recent findings on the pros and cons of intermittent fasting, it's unlikely that this eating regimen has a significantly negative impact on a person's fertility. In a study published in the journal Obesity, researchers measured the sex hormone levels of pre- and postmenopausal women with obesity who went on intermittent fasting. Over the course of eight weeks, dieters lost 3% to 4% of their baseline weight, and neither reported significant differences in their testosterone and androstenedione levels. In summary, the time-restricted eating plan did not appear to have an impact on the women in the study's hormone levels, and there were no alarming side effects related to fertility. Because the study was only conducted on obese females over a brief period of time, a more extensive and diverse experiment is required to support the findings.

Reproductive endocrinologist Dr. Salem El Shawarby from Fakih IVF Fertility Center notes that a number of studies have suggested that intermittent fasting promotes detoxification and regulates ovulation in women, priming the body for conception. Alternate-day abstinence from food and drinks also helps the body remove toxins, balance hormones, and adjusts prostaglandin levels, which altogether increase fertility in women. Dr Vitalis Acupuncture also remarks that intermittent fasting boosts your sensitivity to insulin and healthy blood sugar levels accordingly, which restore ovulation and improve your chances of conception as a result. While intermittent fasting boasts plenteous bodily benefits, it's not for everyone.

Intermittent fasting is not for everyone

According to the Center for Discovery, intermittent fasting is not suitable for individuals with higher caloric needs — including those who are underweight, battling weight gain, under 18 years of age, pregnant, or breastfeeding. If you have anorexia or bulimia or you are at risk of having eating disorders, intermittent fasting might worsen your condition or lead to dangerous eating behaviors. Before embarking on any type of fasting or implementing any drastic changes in your diet, it's imperative to consult a healthcare professional to see which eating plan works best for you. If you're trying to conceive, extreme deprivation of food can do you more harm than good.

For those who are new to intermittent fasting, Fertility Tips recommends starting with a diet that's very low in carbohydrates. Cutting back on your carb intake will help reduce insulin resistance — a condition that is frequently linked to infertility. For instance, a ketogenic diet that provides 60% to 80% of the daily calories from fat, 10% to 30% from protein, and less than 5% to 10% from carbohydrates can help lower insulin levels and control reproductive hormones, which is beneficial for increasing fertility. Meals and snacks under a ketogenic diet primarily consist of eggs, poultry, omega-3-rich fish, whole grains, and full-fat, and unsweetened dairy products. White rice, baked goods, fast food, instant noodles, and high-carb sauces are not keto-friendly. Since healthy weight loss actively boosts fertility, combining keto with intermittent fasting may help you reach a healthy weight-to-height ratio faster.