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article imageOp-Ed: Can the paleo diet affect women's fertility?

By Alyssa Sellors     Jul 29, 2013 in Health
The Paleo diet has become the latest in a series of popular eating trends that aim to cut out processed foods and go back to the basics of whole eating, but is cutting out entire food groups a good idea?
Cutting out processed foods is an excellent idea as many food in America are quite processed and full of additives and preservatives, but when any diet cuts out entire food groups, my red flag goes up, high.
I think the Paelo dieters out there have good intentions, but it seems that with so little research on this diet, people are acting like it's the next coming of Jesus. For example, a recent article published on Examiner touts the headline, “For Paleo-diet expert Mark Sisson, 60 is the new 30.” In my opinion that assumption is a bit extreme, but more and more people are turning to Paleo diets by the day.
Before I discuss the possible negative side effects for women of child bearing age, why the popularity of the diet? Huffington Post writer Meredith Melnick answered just this in her recent article, “Paleo Diet: Healthy or a Hoax?” Beyond the benefits of building muscle and reducing body fat, it is believed that diseases such as heart disease and obesity are “illnesses of civilization,” so the Paleo diet works against the negative effects of our “modern diet” to prevent these diseases. But why do we have to go back to pre-civilzation, before the days of grains, salt, dairy, and legumes? What's so bad about these? There has been so little research on this diet, but a lot of research on the benefits of beans, whole grains, and dairy. It seems like common sense to recognize the issues with this diet, from scientific studies alone.
Going back to my red flag moment. Paleo cuts out all dairy, sugar, grains and legumes, and also limits salt intake. Cutting out sugar is a great idea for anyone, but if you cut out dairy, for example, you are cutting out a great source of calcium, vitamin D, probiotics, and protein (and please buy organic dairy to stay away from harmful hormones). Since so many food groups are cut out, the diet relies heavily on animal proteins, since beans for protein are off of the list. Now, if I remember correctly, the Atkin's diet sounded a lot like this, and that did not turn out so well for people. I know Paleo has a great emphasis on grass-fed and organics, but come on, isn't this just a glorified Atkin's of the 21st century?
Finally, my point about fertility. Women of child bearing age need a certain level of folic acid and other essential nutrients necessary for the reproductive system. Beans are the top source of folic acid, a way to get protein without having to rely on animal proteins. According to the Fertility Diet, a publication of studies conducted over the period of a decade on fertility, women looking to get pregnant don't just need dairy, they need full fat dairy. If the idea of going Paleo is to cut out processed foods, it can be done with dairy too if you just stop buying low-fat things that are not meant to be low-fat, like cheese and milk. Full-fat dairy foods convey the female hormones of estrogen and progesterone, but when full-fat dairy is made to be low-fat, these hormones are removed and only male hormones, or androgens, are left behind. When male hormones are not balanced by female, ovulation is impaired. Going back to the idea of protein, women looking to conceive should be getting the majority of their protein through plant based sources, and it is in my opinion that everyone should slow up on the animal protein to protect the heart and shrink the waistline.
There are obviously multiple factors involved when it comes to getting pregnant, but consider shying away from diets that cut out such essential nutrients to fertility if you are looking to conceive in the near future. As I said earlier, I think the entire diet is a gimmick, based on good principles, but a gimmick none the less. If you want to cut out processed foods and eat healthier, just remember that it doesn't take a lot of skill or knowledge to buy things that grow from the ground more than the things that come in boxes.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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