Is there a link between hunger – fullness hormones and fertility?

Ever wondered why you feel hungry or full? There are a number of systems that work together to tell you when to seek out food, with the key players being Leptin and Ghrelin.

Our fat cells produce leptin, which regulates food intake and energy expenditure. Leptin levels correlate with your fat mass; if your fat mass is lower than your genetics would like it to be, the brain will sense the lower leptin levels and stimulate your hunger. In women, low leptin levels will also mean reduced fertility and/or amenorrhoea (lack of periods). The rationale for this is: if your body is low in energy stores, it’s not safe to start growing a baby!

It doesn’t only matter how much ‘padding’ we have, but also the pattern of our eating. Our gut cells release a hormone called Ghrelin in response to lack of protein in our diets or irregular meals. Ghrelin has a direct impact on the hormones that regulate our menstrual cycles (talking to the ladies here): it suppresses the luteinising and follicle stimulating hormones, which in turn impairs follicle maturation and ovulation..

Being ‘within the healthy BMI’ range does not necessarily mean that your body will be ‘ready’ to have a baby. You need to be at a weight that is genetically set for you as ‘healthy’ and eat regular, and balanced meals. Other factors that are important include exercise (not too much!) and avoidance of too much stress. The latter two increase cortisol levels, which also tends to suppress those all important menstrual cycle hormones...


Is exercise always good for you?

Excessive exercise can have significant negative effects on your body, i.e. worsen inflammatory state if you have PCOS or even lead to irregular periods and fertility issues.. It’s important to recognise if you have crossed over the line into an unhealthy pursuit of compulsive exercise, which could also be a sign of an underlying problem, such as body image dysmorphia, an eating disorder or dysfunctional regulation of emotional states.

Some warning signs that your relationship with exercise may be ‘unhealthy’:

  • You decline engaging in social activities in order to exercise
  • You feel restless/ irritable if you take a day off or try to cut down your exercise
  • You increase the amount of your exercise if you think that you are ‘too much’
  • You continue to work out even when you are sick…

What is YOUR relationship with exercise?


Happy Easter

Easter means different things to people and to me it’s about celebrating spring, new life and and embracing family traditions, which revolve around painting eggs, baking cinnamon buns and spending half of the day eating Easter lunch... The egg is a symbol of fertility and of renewed life that goes back to the ancient Egyptians and Persians. It’s thought that they are the ones who started the custom of colouring and gifting eggs during their spring festival... I’ve gone off on a tangent here a little talking things not really diet related...

To get back on track, I will share a ‘fun fact’ on male fertility. Male sperm contains lots of antioxidants, including vitamins E & C, carnitine, carotenoids, zinc, selenium and folate. They protect semen from the damage of reactive oxygen damage, which could otherwise cause fertility issues by damaging sperm and changing the sperm DNA. Dietary intake of antioxidants (both from food and supplements) has been shown to be strongly associated with semen quality (aka fertilisation potential). On the contrary, alcohol and smoking (even being exposed to cigarette smoke) have negative effects on fertilisation potential because these tend to reduce sperm count and slow down its speed... Bottom line is, when it comes to fertility, diet and lifestyle choices matter! Happy Easter everyone!