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Is Your Vegan Diet Sabotaging Your Fertility? Understanding the Hidden Risks

Adopting a vegan diet offers many  health benefits, however, for those on a fertility planning journey, it’s important to understand how this vegan or plant-based lifestyle might be sabotaging your reproductive health. Going vegan can be great for your health and the planet, it also provide essential nutrients, but there are hidden risks that could potentially negative affect your fertility if not managed properly. Continue to read about the possible pitfalls of a vegan diet in relation to fertility. 

Potential Nutrient Deficiencies Resulting From Vegan Diet That Could Lead to Infertility

Adopting a vegan diet requires careful planning to ensure all nutritional needs are met, particularly when it comes to reproductive health. Here are some key nutrients that may be deficient in a vegan diet and how their lack can impact fertility:


1. Vitamin B12 Deficiency 

Vegan Sources: Limited to fortified foods including including some plant milks, some soy products and some breakfast cereals. Deficiency can affect overall health and possibly reproductive function. B12 supplements highly recommended. 

Vitamin B12 is crucial for the production and regulation of DNA and red blood cells. According to study When there is a B12 deficiency, it can lead to neurological issues and overall health problems, which indirectly impact fertility. For instance, low B12 levels can affect oocyte development and quality, which are essential for successful fertilization and implantation. 

Impact on Fertility According to TCM: : B12 Supports the production of Blood and Qi, crucial for overall vitality and reproductive function. A B12 deficiency can lead to Blood deficiency and stagnant Qi, affecting menstrual regularity and energy levels necessary for conception. Vitamin B12 supports the production and maturation of red blood cells, enhancing the Blood aspect and contributing to overall vitality and Qi, which nourishes reproductive organs.

A deficiency in B12 can reflect imbalances in Kidney Essence, crucial for fertility according to TCM.  Additionally, Liver Qi, responsible for the smooth flow of Qi and Blood, can become stagnant due to stress and emotions, disrupting the menstrual cycle and affecting fertility. Thus, maintaining adequate B12 levels and balanced Liver Qi is vital for optimal reproductive health.

Related: B12 for fertility: Exploring the Role of B12 in Fertility through the Lens of Chinese Medicine



2. Iron Deficiency

Vegan Sources: Non-heme iron from plant foods is less readily absorbed compared to heme iron from animal products. Combining with vitamin C-rich foods can enhance absorption.

On average, a woman needs about 18 mg of iron each day. During pregnancy, a woman’s need for iron increases significantly. It is recommended that pregnant women get at least 27 mg of iron per day. Research has found insufficient iron can lead to anaemia, reducing oxygen supply to tissues, including reproductive organs, potentially affecting fertility. Iron is essential for proper ovarian function and follicular development making the need for iron when trying to conceive an absolute must. About half of women with anemia who are in their child-bearing may also experience an absent period known as amenorrhea. This may be an indication of eating an insufficient number of calories. Low iron may cause anovulation, meaning an egg does not get released during the menstrual cycle. This does not just make conception difficult; it makes it impossible.

Impact on Fertility According to TCM: : Blood-building properties essential for nourishing the uterus and promoting healthy circulation. Low iron levels correspond directly with deficiencies of blood and Qi.  Insufficient Iron can lead to Blood deficiency and Qi stagnation, potentially disrupting menstrual flow and impairing reproductive health. Studies have demonstrated that acupuncture can boost the digestive tract’s ability to absorb iron. 


3. Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Vegan Sources: ALA from flaxseeds, chia seeds, and walnuts, with limited conversion to EPA and DHA, which are crucial for reproductive health. 

Omega-3 fatty acids, particularly EPA and DHA, play a significant role in reducing inflammation and supporting cellular health, which is vital for reproductive functions. A diet lacking in these essential fatty acids can lead to increased inflammation, potentially affecting ovarian function and embryo implantation. A study by NLM demonstrated that adequate levels of DHA are associated with improved egg quality and increased chances of successful pregnancy outcomes. 

Impact on Fertility According to TCM: Lack of Omega-3s can lead to Blood dryness and Liver Qi stagnation, potentially affecting menstrual cycles and reproductive health.


4. Protein Deficiency 

Vegan Sources: Need a variety of plant proteins (e.g., beans, lentils, quinoa, soy) to ensure complete amino acid intake.

Proteins are the building blocks of hormones and enzymes necessary for reproductive health. A varied intake of plant-based proteins ensures that all essential amino acids are available for these functions. Inadequate protein intake can lead to deficiencies in key amino acids, which are essential for the synthesis of reproductive hormones such as oestrogen and progesterone. Additionally, protein malnutrition can impair the development of reproductive tissues and organs, leading to fertility issues.

Impact on Fertility According to TCM:  Inadequate Protein intake can lead to Blood deficiency and Qi stagnation, potentially impacting fertility by affecting energy levels and menstrual health


5. Low Caloric Intake

Vegan Diets: Adequate calorie intake is crucial for maintaining body weight and reproductive health. Sometimes lower in calories and fat, which can lead to unintended weight loss or undernutrition if not planned properly.

Maintaining an adequate caloric intake is essential for hormonal balance and reproductive health. Underconsumption can lead to weight loss and hormonal disturbances that negatively impact fertility. A study suggests that women with a low body mass index (BMI) may experience irregular menstrual cycles or amenorrhea, which can significantly reduce the chances of conception. Additionally, insufficient caloric intake can affect the hypothalamic-pituitary-ovarian (HPO) axis, leading to disruptions in hormone production and ovulation. 

Impact on Fertility According to TCM: According to TCM principles, adequate calorie intake ensures the body has enough energy (Qi) to support vital functions, including reproduction. Insufficient calorie intake, common in poorly planned vegan diets, can lead to Blood and Qi deficiency, impacting menstrual regularity and overall reproductive health. In TCM, a lack of adequate energy can weaken the Spleen Qi, which is responsible for digestion and nutrient absorption, further exacerbating nutrient deficiencies crucial for fertility.

vegan diet deficiency fertility

Solution For Ensuring Proper Nutrition For Fertility 

1. Ensure you are intaking diverse and balanced nutrition

Aim: Ensure a wide variety of foods to cover all essential nutrients.

Include: Legumes, whole grains, nuts, seeds, and a variety of fruits and vegetables.

A diverse diet helps ensure that all necessary nutrients are consumed, supporting overall health and fertility. Incorporating a wide range of plant-based foods can provide the essential vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients needed for optimal reproductive function. For example, including a variety of legumes and whole grains can help meet protein and fibre requirements, while nuts and seeds can provide healthy fats and trace minerals.

2. Add supplements to your routine

B12: Regular supplementation is crucial when trying for a baby or during pregnancy. 

Iron: Consider supplements if blood tests indicate low levels.

Vitamin D: Often necessary for those with limited sun exposure, affecting calcium absorption and overall health.

Supplementation can help address potential deficiencies in a vegan diet, supporting reproductive health. Regular monitoring of nutrient levels through blood tests can help identify deficiencies and guide appropriate supplementation. For instance, vitamin D supplementation is often recommended for individuals with limited sun exposure, as it plays a crucial role in calcium absorption and bone health, which are important for overall reproductive health. Additionally, taking a high-quality multivitamin that includes B12, iron, and other essential nutrients can help ensure that all nutritional needs are met. 

3. Seek professional guidance

Consulting healthcare professionals ensures that a vegan diet is nutritionally adequate and supports fertility goals. A registered dietitian can provide personalised dietary recommendations and help design meal plans that include all necessary nutrients. Regular monitoring through blood tests can help track nutrient levels and identify any deficiencies early on, allowing for timely dietary adjustments or supplementation. Additionally, working with a Chinese Medicine expert can help address any concerns or challenges related to maintaining a vegan diet, ensuring that it supports overall health and fertility.

At TCM Blog we offer no obligation initial free 15 mins consultation. Free consultation available here.

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* These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. We can’t guarantee the treatment result, as the symptoms of conditions are unpredictable and vary greatly from person to person. The treatment length and recovery time also varies for individual. Please visit our consultation page where a specialists will discuss your care and provide a consultation, and the treatment will be designed to meet your individual needs.

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