Fiber and Fertility

October 07, 2009

Fiber and Fertility 

 Competency #: Fiber Reference:  Gaskins et al AJCN Oct 2009 The BioCycle Study 

 Fiber is a hot topic.  The American Diabetes Association recently set targets of 14 grams of fiber per 1000 calories.  Considering that most Americans eat about 15-16 grams of fiber a day, this would be a doubling of their intake.  Interestingly enough, we probably evolved eating as much as 100 to 150 grams of fiber a day and many indigenous cultures around the world consume 40-80 even now.  

The European EPIC study looking at fiber content in diets found that poorer Roumanians and Bulgarians ate out of their gardens and small farms. Their diets contained much more fiber and they had much less heart disease and colon cancer.  Studies in North America have confirmed that higher fiber reduces breast cancer risk and is associated with lower risks for stroke, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and colon cancer.  That’s a pretty good package. How does fiber do it?  It probably speeds up the transit time of food through your gut and disallows the reabsorption of all the hormones, fats and other poisons your liver excretes in your bile.  Having lots of volume to work with just “flushes” the bad stuff out.  

Dr. Burkitt (famous African missionary surgeon) noted that the healthiest Africans always had the largest bowel movements, twice a day, and never had appendicitis, gall bladder disease, diverticulitis, or colon cancer which are all staples of western surgery. What is the Biocycle Study?  No one has ever investigated what fiber does to pre-menopausal women.  There has been some research that suggests that it is the life time of estrogen exposure that makes for high breast cancer risk, and that is related to the amount of animal protein we eat (China Study).  The more protein eaten, the earlier onset menarche starts and the later menopause ends, and the higher estrogen is throughout the life cycle.  

Does that mean fiber might be a way to lower estrogen?  You bet!  That was the premise of this study.  That is what they found.  Sure enough, higher fiber was associated with lower estrogen levels throughout the cycle.  They also found lower levels of LH and FSH, the two hormones that set off ovulation.  For every 5 grams of extra fiber a day, there was a 78% increase in “anovulation.”  No egg, no fertility.  Now, the initial numbers were small so a 78% increase over a small number is still small, but statistically significant. 

 WWW:  What will work for me.  This is interesting.  The effect on fertility is certainly no method of birth control.  But we live in an “estrogenized” world where lots of chemicals have estrogen effects on men and women.  Lowering all our estrogen effects may be helpful.  Our livers can excrete the stuff, and we can get rid of it if we eat enough fiber.  This study confirms we can get a lower blood level of a universal hormone by the amount of fiber we eat.  Now, if you want to have kids and get pregnant, a few months of ice cream and cookies might be just fine.

This column was written by Dr. John E. Whitcomb, Brookfield Longevity, Brookfield, WI. (262-784-5300)