Remember when we tried to answer the question if eating french fries aids in IVF success? Well today, we’re looking at something somewhat healthier, pineapples!
The History of the Pineapple
Pineapples and infertility go hand in hand. If you’re reading this, you probably have some interest in (in)fertility. It also means you’re currently on the Internet. This, in turn, means that there’s a very high likelihood you’ve noticed a large percentage of IVF/infertility social media profile pics featuring a pineapple.
The history of the pineapple may have started when Christopher Columbus brought one back to Europe from his travels. It was an instant hit! However, it was very difficult to cultivate as it only grows in certain climates. So early European explorers did what they do best:
kill, conquer, destroy, import pineapples from Caribbean islands.
The long voyage without adequate refrigeration meant pineapples easily spoiled and only a select group of people were able to afford these fashionable luxuries. King Charles II of England even had a portrait made of him receiving a pineapple. And if you were ever invited to a dinner party where the hostess served sliced up pineapple, you knew you were part of the inner circle. No expenses would be spared, all just to keep you and the fellow invitees entertained and happy. It became the symbol of hospitality and friendship (and status).
Pineapples and (In)Fertility
Pineapples are good lookin’ fruits, there’s no denying. And I’m sure glad they’re on sale for no more than a dollar from time to time.
But what does a pineapple have to do with infertility?
Pineapples are pretty and healthy. They contain a lot of Vitamin C and Manganese and are basically fat-free. They also contain an enzyme called “bromelain”, which helps break down proteins and aids with digestion. It is this enzyme, bromelain, that makes many IVF patients and others who are trying to conceive add it to their shopping list.
Benefits of Bromelain
It is thought that bromelain has anti-inflammatory benefits and is sometimes used as an adjuvant therapy when treating certain chronic inflammation or some autoimmune diseases.1
Also, bromelain influences blood coagulation, by inhibiting a protein involved in blood clotting. It may even have an effect on certain cancer cells.2
But how does bromelain (positively) affect your chances of conception?
There have been and a grand total of zero scientific studies carried out on how eating pineapple, or bromelain supplements, benefits your fertility. zero.
The problem is that the jury is still out on whether there are any real benefits of blood thinners or drugs that can change the inflammatory environment.3 Also, randomly adding these drugs to your regimen without knowing what you’re doing is not recommended.
So even though bromelain may have some of these benefits, it’s still unclear if the benefits themselves actually aid in getting pregnant.
How Much -and When- Should You Eat
Let’s say you don’t care if bromelain really has a significant effect on pregnancy rates, how much pineapple should you consume?
While every part of the pineapple contains some bromelain, by far the largest concentration is in the core.
Ugh, you mean that tough white stuff that you cut out?
Yes, exactly that! Even if you were to eat the disgusting pineapple core, it probably still won’t contain enough bromelain to have an effect on infertility!
But let’s continue our hypothetical quest of eating lots of tough, chewy pineapple core to improve our IVF success rates… when should you start eating it?
Those trying to conceive naturally suggest starting as early as 4 days prior to ovulation (good luck timing that if you have irregular cycles) and end the day after ovulation. There are also reports that you should start on the day of ovulation and continue for 5 days.
In the IVF world, many women claim you should start on the day of transfer and continue for 5 days, while others say you should start sooner.
Just reading about all of this gave me a serious headache and some vicarious anxiety. What’s the origin of this? How do people even come up with these ideas! Aaaah!
Consuming bromelain could be beneficial in certain non-fertility settings (like sports injuries or for those suffering from rheumatoid arthritis), but you should only do so after discussing it with your doctor. The edible parts of pineapples don’t contain nearly as much bromelain as supplements do.
There’s no scientific evidence to suggest that eating pineapples or bromelain supplements help with implantation, IVF success, or getting pregnant naturally.
Now, why is that?
If you’re one of those people constantly checking out those “10 things your doctor doesn’t want you to know” clickbait articles, you probably think it’s an infertility conspiracy that the benefits of pineapples aren’t publicly addressed.
Trust me. Your doctor wants to boost their official success rates as much as you want your baby (well…), so if bromelain really has a positive effect, wouldn’t it be in their best interest too? It’d be easy enough for them to pack up a couple of fresh slices + core and give it to you as a transfer-day gift. Or more realistically: prescribe you expensive bromelain pills. But they don’t.
Keep this one thing in mind: the absence of any evidence is not evidence itself that something works. In other words, just because there is no hard evidence that pineapples don’t work, doesn’t mean that it does work.
This blog post by an infertility doctor also addresses the pineapple-infertility conundrum. He came to the same conclusion as I did; there’s no link between pineapples and infertility, but if you like pineapples (and you aren’t allergic) and wanna get a daily boost of vitamins, well go right ahead! It’s definitely a lot healthier than eating those french fries.
Other IVF Superstitions
So, what do you do to boost your chances of success, and do you believe it works?
If you know of any other interesting superstitions, IVF tips and tricks, drop me a comment below and I’ll look into it for an upcoming IVF Superstitions blog post in the future.