Focus on Your Fertility: Nutrition, Supplements, Lifestyle + More!
Deciding to try to have a baby is an exciting time! You can support your body naturally through nutrition, supplements, and lifestyle changes to improve your chances of conception.
With infertility on the rise, I wanted to share some of the research I have piled together for myself and clients working on fertility.
I love the way Wellness Mama put it: "Infertility, like any disease, is simply a sign that something is not right inside the body and must be fixed. It isn’t a deficiency in fertility drugs or due to a lack of IVF. Fertility is a natural process in the body, but one that the body can turn off if it doesn’t feel it can safely sustain a pregnancy."
It's not always an easy road and no journey is the same, but I hope this blog post will provide you tips and suggestions that you'll be able to use to improve your health and fertility <3
Note: You'll notice I have lots of links in this article! Some (not all) of these products are affiliate links which support my work. It is no additional cost to you if you purchase from my link, I will simply receive a small amount back for referring you to the company. I appreciate your support!
At the forefront of improving your fertility is eating a nutrient-dense diet. In fact, it has been argued that the Standard American Diet (SAD) is a key reason for the rise of infertility statistics.
What does a nutrient-dense diet mean?
Choosing a sweet potato over french fries, sardines over tilapia, chicken thighs over chicken breasts, veggies over processed grains, fruit over candy bars. Eating a nutrient-dense diet involves picking the option that carries the most nutrients. The best bang for your buck, so to speak.
It's very important to eat enough (in general) and get a nice balance of carbohydrates (mostly from veggies, fruits, and starchy sources like sweet potatoes and squashes), proteins (grass-fed meat, eggs, wild-caught seafood), and healthy fats (coconut oil, avocados, grass-fed meat, egg yolks, olive oil).
Beyond that, there are foods that are critical to include (or eat more of) during this time.
Eggs are like nature's multivitamin when raised from a happy, pasture-raised chicken. Eggs contain SO MANY critical nutrients for fertility, but you must include those yolks to reap the benefits.
Some egg yolk micronutrient highlights:
- Fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, K
- Choline: essential for proper liver, brain and nervous function. Can also help prevent neural tube defects
- Folate: first of all folate and folic acid are NOT the same. I'll explain this under the "supplements" section because methylated folate is what we find in real whole foods, and egg yolks provide a nice hit of it!
Folate is a necessary B vitamin for early on in pregnancy to prevent complications (I've actually read that the first 28 days are the most critical!). It also helps with cell division and promotes ovulation which is why you'll hear docs and women working on fertility to take this as a supplement while trying to conceive.
Grass-Fed Meat (+ Dairy, if tolerated)
Grass-fed, properly raised meat will contain fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, K. In addition, they also contain high amounts of conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) which is know to have anti-carcinogenic effects. Plus, grass-fed meat has a better Omega-3 to Omega-6 ratio than grain-fed cows (more about that here)..
Not everyone is able to tolerate dairy, but if you do, I highly recommend grass-fed butter. If dairy is a problem, I would add in a high-quality ghee (or make it yourself!). These products contain everything mentioned above for grass-fed meats, plus it's also high in lauric acid, which boosts mama & baby's immune system. A brand that I can find almost anywhere nowadays is Kerrygold.
Organ Meats (especially Liver)
It may sound disgusting and hippy to suggest organ meats, but they contain insanely concentrated sources of micronutrients.
Liver, especially, is a great source of protein and is the most concentrated source of Vitamin A that we can find. Vitamin A is known to aid in development of kidneys, lungs, and the face. Liver also contains loads of iron, copper, zinc, and folate. PLUS, it contains all of the B vitamins, especially a high percentage of B12.
Not whipping up liver and onions anytime soon? I get it... I still struggle with this as well! I have a few suggestions:
- In Practical Paleo 2nd Edition, Diane has recipes for a Bacon & Superfood Meatloaf (which is delicious!) and a Liver Pate (ok, I admit I haven't quite made this one yet :-P)
Cold-Water, Fatty Fish & Seafood
This is an unpopular one because in our culture, many folks are not eating a ton of seafood. The truth is, our ancestors thrived on seafood and it was a huge source of protein and micronutrients in their diet!
Cold-water, fatty fish, particularly salmon and sardines, are high in long-chain omega-3 fatty acids DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) and EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid). These Omega-3s are talked about a lot because our diets are so LOW in omega-3s (and conversely, so high in omega-6s). They are important because help with the inflammatory process, specifically to reduce inflammation and are critical to brain health. Omega-3s also help to regulate our reproductive hormones.
Don't just worry about fatty fish, however. Other seafood products are also super beneficial, particularly oysters. Oysters are extremely high in zinc, which is beneficial for cell division, especially for sperm production.
During my NTC studies, we learned that zinc therapy improved sperm count in men with low counts in as little as 6 weeks and that the percentage of couples that conceived from zinc therapy was comparable (and even slightly better) than that of expensive fertility treatments! (You can read a little more about this here).
Dark, Leafy Greens + Veggies
This may be a given as we should all be eating more dark, leafy greens and veggies! Think spinach, broccoli, cauliflower, kale, collard greens, swiss chard, cabbage, brussels sprouts, etc. These delicious powerhouses are rich in iron, folate, B6, and Vitamin E (to name a few). Plus, they will be easy on your waistline ;)
We have really just begun to scratch the surface of understanding the impact of gut health on fertility, pregnancy and our babies. It's my belief that the integrity of our gut plays a large role in morning sickness (and as someone who has STRUGGLED with being sick for 26+ weeks of my pregnancy, it's something I am going to continue to research!)
Not only does good gut health improve mama's overall digestive system, it may also be passed on to the little one via the birth canal. We want that birth canal to be as healthy as possible mamas!
Though this is probably controversial, I had to also include this statement from Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride, a physician who cured her son's autism with diet through her GAPS protocol, "What I see in the families of autistic children is that 100 percent of moms of autistic children have abnormal gut flora and health problems related to that." (Read more about her story and this phenomena here).
Fermented foods include raw, cold sauerkraut (warming will kill the good bugs!), kombucha, kimchi, fermented veggies, kefir, etc. I'll recommend my favorite probiotic supplement in that section below.
I'd be amiss if I did not mention some foods that you should also AVOID while focusing on fertility, though I am not going to go into much detail right now about why (this post is long enough! ;P).
Refined Vegetable Oils (canola oil, rapeseed oil, soybean oil, corn oil, sunflower oil, safflower oil, peanut oil) Just watch this YouTube "How It's Made - Canola Oil" and you'll never want to eat it again!
Refined Sugars (anything with -sugar, -syrup, -sweetener, fructose, dextrose, glucose, high fructose corn syrup, sucrose... to name a few. If you struggle with sugar, check out The 21-Day Sugar Detox program! I run groups othen).
Processed Grains (white breads, pastas, enriched wheat flours, corn starch, potato starch, modified food starches... think cookies, cakes, crackers & "snack foods", battered/breaded foods, etc)
Supplements & Herbs
Supplements will never replace a nutrient-dense diet.
Let me repeat that.