Fertility Dietary Advice
Diet is an important factor in fertility and can be optimised to enhance your chances of having a baby. Below are extracts from my fertility book on when to try and conceive a baby naturally.
We’ve all heard the saying “We are what we eat”, but what does this mean in relation to fertility? All types of food are graded according to quality. It’s the quality of our food that greatly affects our health and fertility. If you want good fertility then you need to nourish your body with good quality food. To use an analogy, if we want better performance from our car, we feed it with the extra good gas. We really are what we eat and we need to eat well and prioritize money towards good quality food. People often look for the cheapest foods, thinking it looks the same so it must be the same, but it’s only the same skin deep. Upon closer inspection, food varies greatly, for example meat in one store can be greatly different to meat in another store. You often get what you pay for, so paying a bit extra for better quality food will greatly improve your health and chances of having a baby. You can’t skimp on food if you want good health. There is a saying “Pay the farmer now or the doctor later”.
Research has shown that women who are given dietary and lifestyle advise as well as coping mechanisms for dealing with the infertility had a marked improvement in pregnancy rates than those who did nothing. They became pregnant and lost weight too, had reduced anxiety and depression and improved self-esteem levels, all of which are important aspects of fertility treatment in Chinese medicine.
Fertility clinics and nutritionists often recommend taking protein supplements to improve fertility, as protein is important in aiding follicle growth. The follicle itself is made up mainly of protein and some carbohydrates; so don’t cut out carbs completely. However, essential fatty acids such as omega-3 are also vitally important for fertility, hence why some IVF clinics prescribe intralipids to their patients. An ideal diet for your fertility would be a combination of essential fatty acids, protein, vegetables high in iron and fruits rich in antioxidants.
You can break this down according to your menstrual cycle, with foods for jing, yin and blood in the first part (follicle phase) and foods for yang in the second part (luteal phase), once you’ve ovulated. If however, you feel hot and sweat at night after ovulation, replace foods for yang deficiency with foods for yang excess.
Most people eat with their eyes and their mouths rather than their stomachs. Any food that takes too long to digest is bad for the stomach, i.e. gluten. Research has shown that people sensitive to gluten are more likely to be deficient in iron. This is due to a weakened spleen not producing enough blood in Chinese medicine. For good health and fertility you should eat with both your mouth and your stomach. That way, the food you eat will be the best for your body and won’t weaken it. It’s no surprise that Chinese cuisine has evolved to be both good for the mouth and the stomach. Have you ever had a Chinese meal and then felt hungry again a few hours later? This is because it has been easy for the stomach to digest and has been processed efficiently. Learning what food is easy for your stomach to digest is a learning process and will take time, but the rewards are huge.
You should only eat when you’re actually hungry. Sounds obvious I know, but a lot of people eat with their mind and not with their stomach. We live in a modern world where people seldom feel actual hunger. We often eat before we feel hunger, which stresses our digestive system, causing it to weaken, which affects fertility.
Women following a very low calorie diet can suffer from a lack of biotin (part of vitamin B group), whilst men who are body builders should avoid high consumption of raw egg whites as they contain a protein called avidin, which binds to biotin in the gut preventing it’s absorption. Cooked egg whites are ok. Low levels of biotin can cause deficiencies that are associated with a lack of yin and blood in Chinese medicine, which affects fertility.