Many of our patients are surprised to find out how much their weight can impact their ability to conceive. In fact, an estimated 12% of all infertility issues are weight-related, and maintaining a healthy body mass index (BMI) is one of the most helpful things you can do to enhance your fertility.
So what is a healthy BMI? Doctors tell us that a BMI between 19 and 25 ideal. (BMI is calculated by calculating your weight in pounds and dividing it by your height in inches, then dividing it by your height in inches again, then multiplying the result by 703. Example: 140 pounds, divided by 67 inches, divided by 67 inches, multiplied by 703 gives you a BMI of 22.)
If you are chronically malnourished or underweight your body may go into survival mode and you may produce less estrogen. This means that you are not able to build a follicle and may ovulate erratically or not at all. Low estrogen levels also lead to reduced fertile cervical mucus which can also be a problem if you’re trying to conceive. We all know that anorexia nervosa can often affect the menstrual cycle, but did you know that you only need to be 10% underweight to adversely affect your hormones? For many of my patients, it’s as little as 2 or 3 pounds which can make all the difference.
In Chinese medicine, if you are underweight you fall into a category we refer to as yin deficiency. Yin is the Chinese term for those aspects of your body that are about substance and nourishment. People who are yin deficient exhibit signs of estrogen depletion such as hot flashes, insomnia, light periods, and reduced cervical fluid. At Yinova, we will give you Chinese herbs that supplement yin as well as helping you to change your diet. Specifically, we ask our underweight patients to increase their consumption of healthy fats such as those found in olive oil, avocados, nuts, seeds, and oily fish. We also suggest that you increase your consumption of plant estrogens by eating some soy products and flax seeds.
In overweight women, infertility is usually related to erratic ovulation. Fat cells release estrogen which inhibits FSH (follicle-stimulating hormone) production which can prevent ovulation. In Chinese medicine, these people are classified as yang deficient with yang referring to all the aspects of your body’s function that relate to movement, activity, and transformation. People who are yang deficient have slower metabolisms than others.
At Yinova, we will give you Chinese herbs that tonify yang and help you to plan a sensible weight loss regimen. We will also ask you to limit your intake of plant estrogens found in tofu and soy milk. Clinical research has shown that 60% of women* who lose just 5-10% of their overall bodyweight resume regular ovulation.
* Language used in the study referenced