Nutrition, the piece of the puzzle almost every fertility clinic is missing
I am so very grateful for our local fertility clinics and the amazing reproductive endocrinologists we have in the Boston area. Without their incredible technology, science and expertise, my wife and I would never have been able to conceive. The same is true for many other women. It’s truly a miracle what science can achieve.
With that said, I strongly believe that fertility clinics and most reproductive endocrinologists are missing a major piece of the puzzle when it comes to supporting and enhancing fertility. That missing piece is nutrition.
It sounds simple, right? Just improve your diet and you’ll improve boost your fertility. Well to be honest, it kind of is that simple. Don’t get me wrong, making shifts in your diet does not guarantee you’ll get pregnant: nothing and no one can. But I consider it my job, as a natural health practitioner who focuses on fertility and women’s health, to present you with everything that can improve your health and therefore your fertility. The idea is to give you the best possible opportunity to conceive. Optimizing your diet is just one way, albeit a big way, we improve your overall health to support fertility.
Keep reading to learn what I recommend and how it can help boost your fertility.
Increase Nutrient Intake while Decreasing Toxin/Chemical Exposure
This is the basic premise that I recommend to all my patients and the one that I followed throughout my journey to get pregnant.
Increasing nutrients is an extremely important consideration. Vitamins, minerals and proteins are the building blocks for everything we need to be healthy, regulate reproductive (and all other) hormones, support maturation of eggs/follicles, build a thick nutrient-rich endometrial lining, and have adequate estrogen and progesterone production to sustain a pregnancy. And then of course, we want to supply the baby with high level nutrients so that he or she has the best possible opportunity to grow healthy and strong.
If you’ve been struggling to conceive, you may be up against some common issues such as PCOS, low ovarian reserve, endometriosis, irregular periods, anovulation or partner’s abnormal sperm analysis results. Diet can improve all of these conditions, which will in turn enhance your fertility and improve your chances of conceiving and carrying a healthy baby to term.
What to focus on
Increasing Intake of a Variety of Organic Vegetables
When thinking about increasing your nutrient intake, focus on increasing consumption of organic vegetables. Try to include a variety into your diet, not just carrots and celery! I’m talking about kale, collards, bell peppers, broccoli, squash, zucchini, asparagus, Brussels sprouts, spinach, cauliflower, beets and chard. Dive into learning how to prepare these nutrient-dense vegetables. The internet is an amazing and easy place to find recipes. Look for Paleo- and Whole30-based websites for healthy ways to prepare vegetables that taste great. Variety plus herbs and spices will turn vegetables into delicious treats. And that’s coming from someone who’s hated vegetables.
Be Wary of Too Many High-Glycemic Fruits
Be careful of too many fruits. It’s common to think about eating a ton of fruits and vegetables when thinking about improving your diet. What sometimes ends up happening is that we’ll snack on high sugar fruits and not really increase our intake of vegetables. While I’m certainly not recommending going without fruit, it’s important not to overdo it with fruits. They can be high in sugar and many women, especially women with any kind of hormone disruption, are sensitive to sugars and really need to limit anything that will raise the blood sugar, including unfortunately, fruits that are high on the glycemic index such as banana, mango and pineapple.
Incorporate Superfoods into your Regular Diet
Next up, think about adding Superfoods into your daily routine. I think of these foods as nutrient bombs! I love making smoothies, adding a handful of a nutrient-rich protein powder along with a big handful of greens, some organic nut milk and 2 to 4 Superfoods. You can download my Green Fertility Smoothie Here if you want the base recipe and some ideas for Superfoods to add. Here are some of my favorite
Acai Powder by Terrasoul Superfoods
Green Superfood by Amazing Grass
Organic Chlorella by Green Foods
Cacao by Navitas
Grab Your Free Green Fertility Smoothie, Now:
Healthy Meats and Healthy Fats
If you’re looking for general guidelines to follow when it comes to diet, lean toward Paleo and Whole30 plans. They primarily focus on eating fruits, vegetables, healthy fats and organic, grass-fed meats. It’s a common misconception that meat is bad for us, especially red meat. This is true when we eat heavily processed, non-organic meats that were raised in terrible conditions, fed GMO corn meal or worse, and given many rounds of antibiotics and other drugs. But organic, grass-fed meats are absolutely filled with vitamins, minerals and protein. All the things we need to have healthy blood supply, strong hormone regulation and lots of energy.
Decreasing Toxin/Chemical Exposure
Decreasing your exposure to toxins and chemicals is equally important as increasing your nutrient intake. Chemicals and toxins in our food (pesticides sprayed on our foods, fed to the animals we eat as well as processed foods like packaged foods and trans fats), beauty products, perfumes, wall paints, wood stains, laundry detergents, cleaning supplies, chemicals on new clothes, radiation from our phones, chemicals on new rugs/furniture are actual endocrine disruptors. That means they disrupt hormones, including estrogen and progesterone, of which proper balance is absolutely crucial to healthy menstrual cycles and healthy maturation of sperm and eggs. In many cases, this type of hormone disruption leads to the exact types of disorders we are struggling with when it comes to difficulty to conceive, PCOS, low ovarian reserve, endometriosis, irregular periods, anovulation or partner’s abnormal sperm analysis results.
We simply cannot avoid exposure to all toxins but we can drastically reduce our exposure.
Every effort you can make to eat organic foods and use products that are either organic or chemical-free will help maintain your health and the strength of your fertility.
There are two important considerations I want to point out when it comes to exposure to toxins and chemicals: 1) the damage these chemicals do to delicate genetic materials; and 2) the inflammation they cause in our bodies.
Delicate Genetic Materials, Sperm and Eggs
One of the primary reasons to reduce our exposure to chemicals and toxins is to reduce the damage they do to the delicate genetic information (DNA) within our cells. In essence, sperm and egg are rapidly multiplying cells and they are vulnerable to damage from chemical exposure. This can lead to poor sperm analysis results, low ovarian reserve and low fertilization rates during IVF.
Inflammation Slows Down and Disrupts all Metabolic Processes
We’ve been hearing more and more about the evils of inflammation over the last few years. I suspect it will become the primary focus of research when it comes to causation and treatment of disease in the not too distant future. Here’s why it’s important when it comes to fertility.
Inflammation slows down and disrupts metabolic processes, including production and regulation of hormones. This certainly includes estrogen and progesterone, but it also impacts thyroid hormones, or pituitary-regulated hormones, including follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) and luteinizing hormone.
Here’s what I see clinically, when women take the time to significantly clean up their diets, i.e., eliminate high inflammatory foods (gluten, dairy, sugar and common food allergens) and eat primarily whole foods (organic vegetables, grass fed meats, and healthy fats). They ovulate more regularly, have less pain with menses, stimulate more follicles during IVF cycles and have higher rates of conception and lower rates of miscarriage. I don’t have a research study to site here; this is simply what I have found after working for ten years with women struggling to conceive. Everything works better when we are less inflamed. It’s really that simple.
Why Don’t Fertility Clinics Take Nutrition More Seriously?
So why aren’t more fertility clinics and reproductive endocrinologists paying attention to nutrition? To be honest, I’m not entirely sure, but I do have some theories. First, it’s not part of their training. Nutrition was part of my professional training and I have spent two decades obsessively studying nutrition and the healing benefits of foods. The fertility clinics and doctors simply don’t have the time to focus on nutrition or educate patients on the benefits of healthy eating.
In addition, there are not many research studies on nutrition and fertility. Because of that, the information is not circulated throughout the medical community. While research-based medicine is so important, this is one of the places where it can actually hinder good medical practices.
Regardless of the reason, we as patients and as alternative health practitioners need to pay attention to our nutrition. We have so much control over our own health and healing. Nutrition is one tool we simply can no longer ignore!