8 Simple, Real-Life Tips You Can Start Today
Whether you’re the resolution-making type or not, once the holidays are over we’re all trying to return to a bit healthier lifestyle (so many parties and treats!).
You all know that I’m a strong believer in the power of food to help with infertility, so I wanted to put together a list of easy, quick changes that anyone can make to tweak your diet for better fertility health.
While none of these suggestions alone will guarantee you a baby, all of these healthy tips are backed up by scientific studies.
And while you’re considering how to improve your habits in the new year — don’t forget to rope your partner in too! It’s always easier to make diet changes with support from loved ones, and it’s important for both the male and female reproductive systems to be as healthy as possible.
8 Healthy Changes That Help Improve Fertility
Many of the following tips come from, or are mentioned in, The Fertility Diet. This book is based on research from the landmark Nurses’ Health Study — one of the largest and most comprehensive studies on women’s health. The book is well worth a read, and it’s advice is relevant and useful for anyone – whether you’re TTC or not.
#1 Eat More Veggies
Meat is packed with sex steroid hormones. When women eat meat (any kind of meat), the Nurses’ Study found a negative effect on ovulation. An article on NutritionFacts.org explains:
“To break it down: eat a single serving of any meat, and you increase your infertility risk 30%. Red meat increases infertility risk 40%. But just a single serving of chicken—half a chicken breast a day—and women increase their infertility risk more than 50%—worse than bacon and hot dogs!”
However, researchers have also found that consuming protein from vegetable sources appeared to have the opposite effect—protecting and improving fertility.
Have you heard of Michael Pollan’s three food rules? It’s one of my favorite sayings, partially because it’s so dang simple. Pollen advises people to:
His edict on food and eating reflects several guidelines in The Fertility Diet that I mentioned earlier.
Vegetables are a great source of:
- Antioxidants such as folate, zinc, vitamins C and E, beta-carotene and lutein. These nutrients help deactivate the free radicals in your body and have been shown to improve sperm quality and increase the chances of conception with IVF
- Fiber (which is also found in whole grains, fruits, and beans). Fiber helps keep your blood sugar balanced, and some types of fiber can help remove excess estrogen by binding to it in your intestines.
- Protein. Yes, you can get plenty of protein from vegetables alone. Some great plant-based protein sources include beans, nuts, seeds, and many dark-colored, leafy greens and vegetables such as broccoli, kale, spinach, and mushrooms. One study showed that the risk of ovulatory disorders is cut in half when 5 percent of your total calorie intake is derived from plant proteins.
I recently wrote a post about how shifting to a plant-based diet helped me overcome my PCOS symptoms. If you haven’t read it, go here to get the scoop on my personal experience.
Naturopathic Doctor and Acupuncturist Dr. Eliza Klearman suggests that her patients who are struggling with infertility consider trying a Mediterranean Paleo style diet. This means lots of vegetables, high quality meats that are wild, pasture-raised, and/or grass fed, healthy fats like olive oil, coconut oil, and avocados, and fruits.
In her blog, Dr. Klearman writes: “It [the Mediterranean Paleo style diet] is one that I like my patients to consider for overall health improvement. The key is realizing this is not a meat heavy diet. It focuses on vegetables – loads and loads of them – preferably organic. Fresh herbs and spices to flavor your foods. Healthy fats to help fill you up. And a small side of the highest quality animal proteins.”
#2 Choose Meat Thoughtfully
A Harvard Public Health study found that infertility was 39 percent more likely in women with the highest intake of animal protein. However, if you choose to eat meat, try to stick with high-quality meats that are organic, wild, pasture-raised, and/or grass fed and limit processed meats as much as possible. Eggs and fish are also great choices for non-plant-based proteins.
#3 Eat Fewer Refined Carbs
The body absorbs refined carbohydrates very quickly, causing spikes in blood sugar and insulin levels. One large observational study found that refined carbs with a high glycemic index were associated with a greater risk of ovulatory infertility.
The Infertility Diet recommends swapping out refined carbs like white bread and pasta (which can increase ovulatory infertility) for whole grains, oatmeal and vegetables.
#4 Cut Caffeine
I know. I know. I wouldn’t suggest it if I didn’t think it was really something that could make a difference in your fertility health.
Anna from To Make a Mommy has a great post on this topic, where she explains:
“While large amounts of caffeine (categorized as more than two cups of coffee a day) are clearly linked to reduced fertility, especially in cases of tubal disease and endometriosis, as little as as one cup of coffee a day is linked to increases in cycles until conception. In fact one study showed that those who consumed as little as one cup of coffee a day were half as likely to become pregnant, per cycle, than those who drank less.”
And it’s not just about the caffeine…
#5 Avoid Toxins
Unless you’re drinking organic coffee or tea, there’s probably a lot of pesticides and other toxins in your cuppa. Another reason to take a break from caffeine – just for now while you’re working to build your family.
It’s also worth considering the other toxins that may be present in your life and reducing or removing as many as possible. This may mean:
- Choosing to eat organic as much as possible
- Not spraying pesticides on your yard
- Avoiding plastics
- Picking up healthier cleaning products
- Re-evaluating your cosmetics
The Environmental Working Group is a great resource for learning about which products are healthy and which aren’t.
#6 Drink Water
We all know this already, so I won’t make some long speech. You know if you should be drinking more. Treat yourself to a cute reusable bottle, and drag it with you on the go.
#7 Try Acupuncture or Yoga (or both!)
According to several research studies, acupuncture can increase fertility by increasing blood flow to the reproductive organs and balancing the endocrine system. Acupuncture also provides tremendous stress relief. And yoga is a great way to move your body, improve blood flow to the reproductive organs, and gain long-lasting mental benefits. (Check out our new partnership with Fertile Hope Yoga and the wonderful Erin McCollough!)[
#8 Guided Meditation
If you’re not already meditating or using one of Circle + Bloom’s guided meditation programs, see if one might be a good fit for where you are in your journey. The mental and physical benefits of meditation are well-documented, and have helped so many of our Circle + Bloom community members reach their dreams!
With love and hope for a 2020 that is all you want it to be…