When you’ve reached the point in your life where creating a baby is desirable, many emotions can begin to swirl. First of all, excitement! Being part of the creation of a new life is an amazing thing, and seeing that sweet little face for the first time is one of the biggest rewards you’ll ever experience. There are other emotions that can creep in too… doubt, fear, uncertainty…and many of these can stem from the worry of infertility.
Infertility is complex and there are a multitude of lifestyle factors that affect reproductive health. Not surprisingly, food can make a big impact in this area, and we have helped hundreds of clients with known reproductive issues overcome their struggles by implementing nutritional habits that support fertility. In addition to the core philosophy of PFC (eating real food in a proper balance of protein, fat and carbohydrates), the following points are intended to help you improve and, if necessary, repair your reproductive system to prepare your body for a healthy pregnancy.
1. Ditch the sugar: You’ve heard us say this before, and once again, processed carbs are the enemy here. When we eat sugar and foods that turn into sugar in our body (refined carbohydrates), insulin is secreted from the pancreas to bring that sugar into our cells. High insulin levels can cause metabolic disturbances that will affect ovulation. When you choose carbohydrates (and yes, carbohydrates are still important—in PFC balance!), aim for mostly vegetables and some fruits so you are getting a large variety of vitamins, minerals and fiber without the blood sugar spike.
2. Eat healthy fats (and lots of them!): All hormones begin with a fatty structure. To support hormonal health, begin by increasing your intake of healthy fats including butter, nuts, seeds, avocado, coconut oil and full fat dairy (if you can tolerate it). Another key healthy fat is fish oil—we recommend supplementing with this for your essential dose of Omega 3s. Be careful to keep your intake of foods that promote inflammation in check as well. Avoiding trans fats and choosing healthy fats is important for healthy hormone balance and a healthy immune system and it also sets the stage for a baby’s healthy brain development.
3. Choose the right proteins: Just as not all fats or carbs are created equal, the same applies to proteins. Two of our favorite proteins to promote fertility and reproductive health are eggs and grass fed beef. There are many reasons we love eggs and one of the best is because they are the most bioavailable (that is, most easily utilized by our bodies) source of protein (not to mention easy to prepare, versatile, and delicious!). Our other favorite is grass fed (this is key!) beef. Grass fed beef contains healthy fats and iron which is needed for the ova (or, egg – the one in your body, not the one in your frying pan!) to live in the lining of the uterus. There’s a particular protein that we definitely do NOT recommend, despite it’s popularity, and that protein is soy. Soy has been shown to mimic estrogen, meaning it throws off your body’s natural hormonal balance. Soy products are incredibly processed, and most soy in the U.S. is genetically modified. Soy has also been shown to decrease sperm count in men. So both of you should skip the soy for best results!
4. Folate; not the only important “B” in town: There is overwhelming evidence to support the notion that folate helps prevent neural tube defects in embryos. It is smart for women of childbearing age to increase and even supplement their folate intake. While folate is undoubtedly important, it is just part of the essential B-complex family of vitamins that are necessary to produce the genetic materials DNA and RNA. Make sure mama and daddy are getting enough of these B vitamins to support healthy eggs and sperm:
- B12: In conjunction with folate, B12 works to ensure that your baby has all nutrients necessary for his/her genes and it helps mature red blood cells. B12 is found in eggs, organ meats, and types of seaweed, among other things.
- B6: Some researchers believe B6 is especially helpful for infertile women with irregular menstrual cycles. You can naturally find B6 in avocados, spinach, grass fed meats, and eggs to name a few.
- Choline: While not really a “B” vitamin, choline is often grouped into the “B complex” and is a nutrient with the potential to reduce harmful gene effects that may result in birth defects. It also is important for brain function, among other benefits. Egg yolks, beef liver and cauliflower are rich in choline.
*All three of these (B12, B6 and Choline) can be found in this one supplement: B-Supreme.
5. Fluids fluids fluids: Hydration is important for the usual brain function and natural detoxification systems, and also for the production of cervical fluid! Cervical fluid is important in protecting and nourishing sperm as it makes its way through the female reproductive tract to meet the egg. Make sure you’re drinking water and avoiding soda which will actually dehydrate you (among other offenses).
6. Choose organic: More and more research is linking pesticides to endometriosis and low sperm count which are two big causes of infertility. Pesticides are known as xenoestrogens, which are essentially environmental estrogens. Another major source of xenoestrogens is from the plastic industry. Avoid letting plastics come in contact with your food by using more glassware, and keep plastic items out of microwaves. For more tips on avoiding excess estrogen, which can contribute to infertility, check out our blog 8 Ways to Minimize Toxic Estrogen Exposure.
Fertility is a vast and intricate system that depends on many factors. Genetics, environment, stress, medication, general health, and compatibility between partners, just to name a few. As usual, we strongly recommend keeping it simple (stick with real food!) as outlined above in order to support your body for fertility, while also supporting your body in the other ways it needs to function optimally as well. These concepts are great for both pre-conception and post-conception so your body is at its healthiest even from the moment that you do get pregnant. Both men and women can benefit greatly from these six tips, and what better way to start bonding over baby than to make some life-giving lifestyle changes together right now?