Why you should consider electrolytes to support your fertility

kali's picture

You hear from everyone that you need to be sure to “stay hydrated” for optimal health, and when it comes to fertility this certainly is true.  Without adequate hydration status, cells in the body (including your reproductive organs) can't communicate properly. You can't make adequate reproductive fluids, either. But while the suggestion is important, the nuances of true hydration are often under-communicated. Truly, you can’t be well hydrated if you’re simply drinking tons of water and not considering electrolytes.

From a nutritional standpoint, electrolyte intake and balance is just as important for your overall health and fertility as your macronutrient intake (fats, proteins and carbohydrates). And while you likely pay attention to the macro makeup of your meals (or at least I hope you do! The Acubalance Fertility Diet recommends 50% veg and fruits, 25% protein, 25% starch and a serving of healthy fats), have you ever stopped to consider your electrolyte intake?

Electrolytes are essential minerals that carry an electrical charge when dissolved in water. Changes in electrolyte levels both inside, and outside, your cells is one of the ways that cells communicate with one another. The minerals sodium, chloride, potassium, calcium and magnesium all function as electrolytes, and can be found in all bodily fluids including seminal fluid, cervical mucous and amniotic fluid during pregnancy.

They play critical roles in the healthy functioning of these bodily fluids and in many of the body’s fundamental actions - electrolytes keep your heart beating regularly, sustain your energy, support your adrenal health, allow nerves to function, and balance fluid levels. In the context of fertility, electrolyte balance in the reproductive fluids is variable - the concentrations of sodium and potassium in cervical fluid change throughout the cycle, and change predictably in response to changing estradiol levels, for example. Research has tried to quantify these changes in the interest of understanding how cervical fluid changes may impede or support sperm motility at certain cycle points.

During pregnancy, your electrolyte requirements go up. Electrolytes are critical components of amniotic fluid - the fluid that cushions baby and supports their development - and fluid volume increases by 50%. Deficiencies during pregnancy carry risks like fetal growth restriction and pregnancy complications,

They’re pretty critical.

So how can you be sure you’re getting enough?

You can always ask to have an electrolyte screen done via standard blood work - in fact, you may have already had one done without knowing it. Sodium and potassium levels are often checked on a general chem screen, and you can have someone look closely at your values to help you understand where you need support. We can also test blood calcium and  RBC magnesium levels.

But in general, the things you want to carefully consider are your dietary choices.

Firstly, salt.

It’s not the enemy. In fact, salt (sodium + chloride) is a necessary element for human life. You literally cannot live without it. Many of the “risks” associated with dietary salt are over-estimated, and your personal risk of excessive salt intake is incredibly low if you cook most of your meals at home.

Yes, tons of processed foods that are “high in salt” are bad for your health - but it’s not simply the sodium and chloride content, it’s also the processed fats, sugar and refined carbs. 

It’s important to consume salt in the context of a whole food, nutrient dense, diet, to ensure that sodium and chloride are balanced properly with the other electrolytes like magnesium and potassium.

Consider unrefined sea salt or Himalayan pink salt for a dense micromineral profile. Salt the food you make at home to taste, and use salt liberally during pregnancy (the fear mongering over salt in pregnancy is ridiculous and not founded on the science - in fact, salt deficiency is incredibly dangerous in pregnancy).

Second, your diet matters.

The remaining electrolytes (potassium, calcium  and magnesium) will come from your foods when you learn to prioritize the nutritionally dense sources.

Foods rich in potassium include: bananas, tomatoes (especially sun dried tomatoes), avocados, oranges, cantaloupe, seaweed, peaches, apple cider vinegar, white beans, wild rice, leeks, apricots, hearts of palm and beans. Coconut water is also a good source of potassium, but is not considered a therapeutic electrolyte beverage on its own because it doesn’t have the full complement of electrolytes.

Magnesium: it can be tough to reach therapeutic levels of magnesium from foods alone, and because the human body cannot store magnesium, you have tot ingest it daily. This is partly why magnesium supplementation is one of my most common prescriptions - that, and over 60% of women are critically deficient in magnesium. The type of magnesium that’s best for you may not work for someone else, but in general I love magnesium bisglycinate for the added benefit of the glycine molecules (calming for the nervous system), and magnesium threonate to get the added brain effects (it crosses the bbb).

Continue to prioritize magnesium rich foods, which include: pumpkin seeds, ground flax, Brazil nuts, sunflower seeds, chia, almonds, tahini, cocoa and seaweed.

Calcium: most people consume adequate calcium from their diets, and even in pregnancy extra supplementation is not always necessary. While dairy is the highest concentrated dietary source of calcium, even those who are dairy free can meet the RDA through focusing on non-dairy calcium rich foods such as sesame seeds, canned fish (with the bones!), tahini and chia.

Should you need an additional supplement, choose calcium malate or egg shell derived calcium for better absorption, and consider a supplement that contains the essential minerals for proper calcium utilization (vitamins D and K2).

In certain scenarios, an electrolyte beverage is a fantastic addition to your daily routine. If you’re taking IVF medications, have been diagnosed with OHSS, have found electrolyte imbalances on blood work, or have otherwise been recommended one by your healthcare provider, it’s a great idea to seek one out. My favorite brand at the moment is LMNT - a blend of sodium, potassium and magnesium.

If you’d like to talk more about electrolytes and your fertility, schedule your free 15 minute discovery call to see if we are the right fit to work together.

In health

Dr K

electrolytes to support your fertility