Over the next few sessions I will examine why gut health is important re health and fertility and look at a few excellent foods to support the gut starting with leeks.
All health starts with the gut and the gut flora contained within it. If nutrients cannot be digested and/or absorbed from our food correctly then this will impact on all body organs and systems in some way, including the reproductive system. It is important to ensure that the gut is full of healthy microbes which are balanced, as these form an ecosystem that work closely together forming many interconnections. This finely tuned ecosystem is important for a healthy body and mind as it is involved in the effective absorption of vital nutrients, enhancing the immune system and helping to reduce inflammation in the body, turning off genes, turning on enzymes, helping in the reduction of anxiety and depression, the ageing process and is also important for fertility.
Stress, consuming inflammatory food, antibiotics, some medications and being born by caesarian section may reduce the levels of ‘good’ bacteria in the gut which can cause an imbalance to the microorganisms in the gut (microbiome) – this is known as Dysbiosis.
Consuming a good wholefood diet, which contains plenty of ‘gut friendly’ foods is an important place to start.
Why is gut health important for fertility?
*Poor gut health can lead to inflammation which may affect the reproductive organs
*Poor gut health may lead to nutrient deficiencies which can affect general health and fertility too (including the production of hormones as-well as egg and sperm health)
*Poor gut health may affect hormonal balance. The gut plays an important role in regulating the amount of oestrogen in the body and poor gut health may lead to oestrogen dominance with a knock -on effect on fertility.
*Poor gut health is linked to insulin resistance due to a rise in insulin levels which may negatively affect egg quality and menstrual cycle.
Why are leek good for our health ?
Leek are a member of the Allium family along with onions and garlic. Native to the Mediterranean and Central Asia, leeks have also been a staple of many European diets for centuries, and they are found in many leek recipes around the globe. Leek are a low- fat food and a great source of vitamins A, K and C, as well as selenium, folate and fibre. They also contain minerals such as iron (which is important for red blood cells) and manganese (involved in the regulation of brain and nerve function). Leek has been used medicinally for many years due to its antiseptic, anti-inflammatory, antibacterial and antifungal properties.
And what about our gut health?
Leeks are rich in prebiotics (others include garlic, onions, artichokes and asparagus), which are a type of fibre that feed the beneficial bacteria in the gut. Prebiotics – which include inulin and fructo-oligosaccharides – are mainly carbohydrates that cannot be broken down by our body’s own enzymes, so they pass through our digestive system and into the colon in the same state as we ingested them. Once in the colon, they act as a food for the probiotic bacteria and as a result help to increase the friendly bacteria. Prebiotics help to enhance nutrient absorption, eliminate toxic waste matter and stimulate the movement of food through the intestines and secrete digestive fluids. High-fibre foods, such as leeks, can also help reduce inflammation to protect against conditions like leaky gut syndrome.
And when it comes to fertility?
Leeks are fantastic – here are just a few reasons why:
*Leeks contain a good amount of folate, which has long been known to be a key component of a healthy pregnancy. Folate aids in cell division. It may also help prevent miscarriage, as well as neural tube defects, which are a type of birth defect that occurs when the spine and back do not properly close during fetal development.
*Selenium is an important antioxidant when it comes to fertility and is also used by the body to help support thyroid health, particularly the conversion of thyroid hormones from one to the other. This can help support your thyroid health, which is fundamental for fertility health and pregnancy. Selenium helps to protect the DNA in sperm and selenium may also help maintain the health of follicular fluid surrounding women’s eggs.
*Vitamin C is an important Antioxidant (Antioxidants are powerful substances that are known to protect against DNA damage by protecting the body against toxins and pollutants and have also been linked in studies to lowering sperm fragmentation) and also helps to support the luteal phase of the menstrual cycle. Vitamin C in studies has been found to prevent sperm from clumping together (agglutination).
*Leeks are a great source of vitamin A which is necessary for the growth and repair of many body cells including bones, teeth, collagen, and cartilage. It’s also involved in cell differentiation where cells become specific types of cells such as a brain cell or a blood cell. This is vital in the development of the foetus.
Hearty fertility supporting Leek and Cauliflower soup
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons butter
3 leeks, chopped
½ head cauliflower, chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 litre vegetable broth (use an organic stock cube)
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Splash of double cream (Optional)
Heat the olive oil and butter in a large pan over medium heat, and saute the leeks, cauliflower, and garlic for about 10 minutes. Stir in the vegetable broth/stock cube and water, and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat, cover, and simmer for 45 minutes. Remove the soup from the heat. Blend the soup with a blender or hand mixer. Season with a pinch of salt and pepper. Mix in the cream (optional) and continue blending until smooth. Enjoy![/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]