Clinical studies show that in many situations, infertility can be effectively treated naturally with good nutrition and some lifestyle changes.
Nutrition is our body’s fuel and to have health, balance and fertility, we have to provide our system with optimal nutrients. Your diet matters. Your blood carries vital nutrients to your organs, tissues and skin so the richer your blood’s nutrient base, the healthier you are. If your food choices are poor, you will have deficient nutrients and blood toxicity which will result in body and organ dysfunction, and fertility will suffer.
Good nutritional choices will help regulate your endocrine system, balance hormones and stabilize blood sugar, which will help support you in trying to conceive. The endocrine system is burdened by over-eating and weakened by poor food choices, especially by excessive simple carbohydrates (sugar). This system thrives on a balance of complex carbohydrates, lean proteins and good fats at every meal.
Your body uses carbohydrates for energy first and most efficiently. Carbs are the optimal fuel for your body, although your body uses fats and proteins for energy as a second choice, but fats and proteins are really needed for other jobs. Your best foods for this are vegetables, fruits and whole grains.
While vegetables and fruits are low in calories, they pack a huge punch of nutrients that your body needs. To cooked or raw vegetables, you can add nutritious foods like olive oil, almonds and shredded cheese.
Fruits are packed with vitamins and antioxidants that will boost your health. Instead of drinking soda, which has a lot of sugar, choose orange juice or other fruit juice. You will get the vitamins that soda doesn’t have. Snack on fresh fruits to increase your nutrient intake rather than sugary or salty snacks.
Another large source of good carbohydrates is grains and cereals, and you should choose whole grains as they are packed with nutrients. You should eat several servings from this food group each day, such as whole grain bread and high fiber, whole grain cereals. Make your sandwiches with whole wheat bread, dip bread in a mixture of olive oil and garlic or other seasonings with lunch and dinner, have a bowl of cereal for a snack, add whole grain cereals to your casseroles, soups and trail mixes.
Getting enough protein each day is important for healthy tissues and muscles. The recommended protein intake per day for a healthy adult is between 50 and 70 grams, which is about what you would find in eight ounces of beef. In developed countries like the U.S., it isn’t difficult to get your daily protein, but you should choose healthy sources.
All animal products (meat, dairy, eggs) contain a large amount of protein and some plant foods such as beans, nuts and seeds do as well. Fruits and vegetables generally don’t have as much protein, but they still contribute to your overall protein intake. Fish, like salmon or tuna, is a terrific protein source because the fats that accompany the proteins are high in omega-3 fatty acids, (also flax seeds and oil and walnuts) which are essential for good health and often deficient in western diets.
Omega-3 fatty acids (fish oil) is very healthy fat. It contains nutrients that we need to keep a balance in our bodies. Most people get plenty of omega-6 fats in their diet from the primary oil ingredient added to most processed foods and is found in commonly used cooking oils, including sunflower, safflower, corn, cottonseed, and meat. In direct contrast, most people do not get nearly enough omega-3 oils, (cold-water fish, flaxseeds, canola oil and walnuts) which throws off the balance. The ratio should be in the range of 2:1 – 4:1, omega-6 to omega-3. Together, omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids play a crucial role in brain function as well as normal growth and development. Deficiencies in essential fatty acids can lead to health problems.
What to Eat…What Not to Eat:
For good fertility health, eliminate processed foods and add more fruits and vegetables to your diet. Choose lean meats and add fish to your diet at least twice a week. If you can’t eat fish (or don’t like it), take a high quality fish oil supplement every day to help maintain balance. Enjoy a handful of nuts as a snack, in main dishes or on fruit desserts – nuts contain healthy fats as well as protein. Use olive oil in salad dressings, as a bread dip, and on your whole-grain pasta instead of spaghetti sauce.
- 4-6 oz. Salmon (protein), 1 slice whole wheat bread (complex carbohydrate), and 1 Tbs. olive oil (good fat), 2 cups mixed green salad, and a ripe peach.
- 4-6 oz. baked chicken (protein), small baked potato (complex carbohydrate) with 1 Tbs. olive oil (good fat) and sea salt for seasoning, 1 cup green beans, tomato, and an apple.
- 4-6 oz. tuna (protein), ½ cup brown rice (complex carbohydrate), a handful of almonds (good fat) mixed in a half-cup low-fat yogurt, and a banana.
- 4-6 oz. fresh, baked fish (protein), ½ cup cooked beans (complex carbohydrate), ½ fresh avocado (good fat), and grapes.
- 2 eggs (protein), 1 slice rye bread (complex carbohydrate), 1 Tbs. natural peanut butter (good fat), and 1 cup orange juice.
Turkey and tofu are also excellent protein choices. Red meat should only be eaten occasionally and only hormone/antibiotic free. Choose a wide variety of vegetables and fruits for your complex carbohydrate group as they all contain different vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Flax seed oil, olives, macadamia nuts and natural almond butter are also good choices of good fats.
Foods to avoid when trying to conceive:
Bacon, hot dogs, processed deli meats, ice cream, candy, cake, cookies, fried foods, alcohol, pastries, white rice and white flour.
Research has found that several things can cause disruptions in fertility. Being undernourished, going on fad diets, unhealthy weight loss, being obese, high exercise levels can all contribute to infertility.
Effects of weight-loss on fertility:
- Losing 10-15% of usual body weight can decrease estrogen and testosterone. Gaining weight back to within 95% of usual body weight can return hormone levels to normal.
- High levels of physical activity and calorie deficits can cause delays and interruptions in normal menstrual cycles which appear to result from hormonal and metabolic changes.
- Prolonged energy restriction leads to “Energy Drain”, constant dieting, not enough food and excessive exercise. Negative energy balance leads to amenorrhea (the absence of menstrual period in a woman of reproductive age).
- Getting some exercise is important, but it should be moderate exercise for health, such as taking walks.
Effects of vegetarian diet:
Women who have vegetarian diets which are high in fiber, low in fat and quality protein (no red meat) have lower circulating estrogen levels. They are more likely to have irregular menstrual cycles than women who eat animal products. If you are going to go ‘Low Fat’, you should definitely choose high quality fats, such as olive oil, nuts, and avocados or take fish oil supplements on a regular basis to avoid a deficiency of essential fatty acids. Getting the cholesterol your body needs is essential for the synthesis of estrogen.
Effects of Caffeine:
In a European study, women who drank 4 cups of coffee a day (500mg caffeine) were 50% less likely to get pregnant versus women who had a low caffeine intake. In a U. S. study, it was suggested that having more than 300mg of caffeine per day (coffee, soda, and tea) decreased fertility by 27% per cycle versus a small amount of caffeine intake in women. Also, the effect of caffeine is stronger in women who smoke.
Effects of Alcohol:
- Fewer eggs retrieved
- Less chance of pregnancy
- Greater chance of spontaneous abortions
- Risk of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome
Effects of Smoking:
- Tubal abnormalities
- Alterations in immune system
- Menstrual cycle abnormalities
- Low estrogen production
- Low birth weight
- Higher risk of SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome)
A balanced diet, moderate exercise and other healthy lifestyle choices are major components in balancing the body, mind and spirit in preparation for conception.