In response to stress, which may take the form of injury, illness, eating an unhealthy diet, sleep deprivation, other physiological stress or emotional stress, the body’s immune system responds by releasing various chemical regulators in an attempt to restore the normal environment, or ‘homeostasis’. These chemical regulators may be released from the white blood cells of the body which communicate with other cells and tissues. Some of these chemical messengers are small proteins called cytokines which indicate inflammation or activation of the immune system.
While acute inflammation is a normal, healthy response to short term stress or injury, chronic low grade inflammation is implicated in a number of disease such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes and particularly infertility . Elevated levels of inflammation negatively affect sperm and oocyte quality, reducing fertilisation and conception rate.
Reducing inflammation is an effective strategy to enhance fertility, and exercise and diet are proven to reduce inflammation. Having a sedentary lifestyle which includes sitting for long periods of time is associated with higher levels of inflammatory proteins while engaging in regular exercise reduces inflammation. Just as physical activity can modulate inflammation, what you eat can also have an impact. High fat diets increase inflammation while diets high in fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes reduce inflammation.
Exercise can protect against diet induced abnormalities in sperm  but a combination of eating a variety of fresh, unprocessed foods and engaging in regular exercise is the ideal way to optimise your fertility. If you do have an occasional meal that would be considered high fat, exercise (the right prescription of aerobic and resistance exercise) beforehand can reduce levels of fats in the blood stream and associated inflammation [3, 4]. In young health males eating fast food exclusively for two weeks, exercise protected against the negative diet induced reductions in good cholesterol (HDL) and insulin resistance . If you plan on eating a high fat meal, head out for a 60 min walk before you indulge to limit the damage!
Are you getting the right exercise prescription to optimise your fertility? Do you want to get individualised advice on how to improve your diet for conception?
1. Maxia N, Uccella S, Ersettigh G, Fantuzzi M, Manganini M, Scozzesi A, et al. Can unexplained infertility be evaluated by a new immunological four biomarkers panel? A pilot study. Minerva Ginecol. 2017.
2. Alhashem F, Alkhateeb M, Sakr H, Alshahrani M, Alsunaidi M, Elrefaey H, et al. Exercise protects against obesity induced semen abnormalities via downregulating stem cell factor, upregulating Ghrelin and normalizing oxidative stress. EXCLI J. 2014;13: 551-572.
3. Fuller KNZ, Summers CM and Valentine RJ. Effect of a single bout of aerobic exercise on high-fat meal-induced inflammation. Metabolism. 2017;71: 144-152.
4. Wilburn JR, Bourquin J, Wysong A and Melby CL. Resistance Exercise Attenuates High-Fructose, High-Fat-Induced Postprandial Lipemia. Nutr Metab Insights. 2015;8: 29-35.
5. Duval C, Rouillier MA, Rabasa-Lhoret R, Karelis AD. High Intensity Exercise: Can It Protect You from A Fast Food Diet? Nutrients. 2017; 9.