Today is Day 3 of Women’s Health Week! Today we are going to dive into a topic that often leaves a lot of people confused - FOOD FOR FERTILITY. There is so much information out there it is sometimes hard to know where to begin.
Trying to conceive can already be stressful enough let alone adding the additional layer of figuring out what and how to eat. This is why I like to make it really simple with my patients; it doesn’t need to be complicated or hard at all!
The reason the food you eat when trying to fall pregnant is so important is because what you eat nourishes and fuels your body on a cellular level. Conception is so amazing because it is just two cells (and egg and sperm) joining together to create a human being, and when are you providing to your future child just one cell of your body – we want that cell to be as healthy as possible.
When women come to me for help with their fertility, our goal isn’t just to get her to fall pregnant, the goal is to strengthen and nourish her body to allow an easy conception to take place and to also get her health in the most optimum state so she can also have a healthy baby.
Thanks to growing research from embryology we know that the health of the mother and father directly impact the health of the child not only at birth, but for the rest of their lives. The state of the mother and father can directly impact the strength of the child’s immune system, mental health and predisposition to disease. The food we choose to nourish our bodies with is a key way to have a huge impact on our health.
This is something Chinese medicine has known for thousands of years. We have a concept called Pre and Post Heaven Qi. Pre-Heaven Qi is what we get from our parents, it is their genetic material that goes on to dictate our constitution that influences our health, growth, development and reproduction. Post-Heaven Qi is the energy we cultivate once we are born, this comes from our food, drink and our lifestyles. We can always change and improve our Post-Heaven Qi by the choices we make day to day, but our Pre-Heaven Qi is determined at birth and cannot change. When working on your fertility we are influencing your Post-Heaven Qi so you can pass on the best health possible to determine your child’s Pre-Heaven Qi so they can have happy and healthy lives. It’s all about having good healthy well-nourished soil before you plant a seed!
Now we have established why your fertility diet is so important we can move on to the fun stuff – the food!
WHERE TO START?
Bone Broth – a well-loved favourite! In Chinese medicine bone broth is often called ‘’longevity soup’’. One of the vital nutrients in bone marrow is the omega-3 fatty acid DHA, which is required for the development of the brain, eyes and other organs in infants. The marrow in the bones contain the precursors of red and white blood cells, this gives a huge boost to our energy and immune system. The high concentration of collagen and gelatine in bone broth helps to protect and seal the gut lining. The gut is where we absorb the nutrients from our food so we need this to be in the best state possible in order to have the most well nourished cells.
More greens! - Add a serve of green vegetables with each meal, or at least with lunch and dinner. Green vegetables help to strengthen liver function and promote detoxification; this is vital for hormonal regulation. Focus on broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, kale, spinach and brussel sprouts to target the liver.
Organic, range-fed meat - for iron, B12 and saturated fat. It is very common for women to become iron deficient during pregnancy so we want to avoid starting the pregnancy already deficient. B12 is a vitamin that is key for maintaining nerve and blood health and helps make DNA. We want this vitamin to be in abundance when trying to conceive.The foods with the highest source of B12 are beef liver, mackerel, sardines, red meat and salmon.
Seafood - Eat wild caught fish over farmed fish. Oysters have the highest concentration of Zinc in any food and we need Zinc for healthy egg development. Seaweed has high levels of iodine that helps to regulate the thyroid.
Eat organ meats - Eating the same cut of meat over and over again eg. Chicken breast, can promote imbalance. Organ meats are some of the most nutrient dense foods we have access too. 100g of beef liver contains 311% of our daily intake of B12 and 99% of our daily requirements of iron. 100g of lamb kidneys contain 1315% of our daily requirements of B12!
Don’t be scared of fat! - We create our hormones out of saturated fat and we need this to be in a healthy supply for hormonal and reproductive health. Good fats can be found in avocados, nuts, organic grass fed butter, ghee, organic grass fed meat, coconut oil, extra virgin olive oil, salmon and sardines.
Berries - Contain high levels of antioxidants to help clear away toxic debris in cells.
Eat seasonally - Look at what fruits and vegetables are in season where you live and try to choose accordingly.
Caffeine – taxes the adrenal glands and decreases blood flow to the reproductive organs.
Gluten, sugar, and dairy (excluding organic grass-fed butter) – these three dramatically increase inflammation in the body. Inflammation in the digestive system makes it difficult to absorb and assimilate nutrients in the body – nutrients we need for fertility and reproductive health.
Soy – soy is a phytoestrogen meaning that it mimics estrogen in the body. This can cause estrogen levels to rise, causing a hormonal imbalance and impacting fertility. Elevated levels of estrogen have been linked to endometriosis, fibroids, endometrial cancer and obesity.
Processed foods – usually high in artificial sugar and synthetic chemicals that our bodies don’t recognise as food.It is difficult for our bodies to absorb chemicals we don’t recognise and this can lead to oxidative stress, free radical damage, inflammation and hormonal disregulation. Processed foods are not typically nutrient dense, we want to FUEL our cells rather then drain them.A good rule of thumb is to avoid where possible foods that come in packaging. Opt for fresh foods and ingredients rather then pre packaged foods.
Refined oils – these oils are highly processed and become rancid when heated during cooking, this increases oxidative damage to our cells and have a toxic affect on the body. These oils include vegetable oil, canola oil, cottonseed oil, safflower oil and soybean oil.
Tuna and big fish – contain high levels of mercury, opt for smaller fish
Alcohol – has been shown to interfere with ovulation and egg health and increase the risk of miscarriage.
Start by making 3 changes to your diet this week from the lists above this week and see how you feel. What changes? WHat do you notice? Leaves your questions and comments below!