This is a topic that I always go through with my fertility patients, please get rid of the low fat foods…! They are more damaging than good. This piece below is from the new Zita West book Eat yourself Pregnant and it outlines the dangers of low-fat foods and trying to conceive.
‘Many women make the mistake of substituting foods containing fat with low-fat products, thinking they won’t gain weight using them. However, for fertility – and, for that matter, for weight management – the principle is flawed. These products often contain trans-fats, sugars and sweeteners.
Artificial sweeteners disrupt the normal hormonal and neurological signals that control hunger and satiety. Many studies have shown that a diet that is high in sweeteners in the end leads to a greater consumption of calories and so to weight gain.
But, weight aside, there is some startling evidence for how low-fat products can hamper conception. In one extensive study in the USA, women who ate two or more low-fat dairy products a day were twice as likely to have problems conceiving. Ovulation rates were 38% better among those who used full-fat milk. One reason for this might be that when the fat is skimmed off dairy products to make reduced-fat versions, estrogen and progesterone are removed too, leaving an unnatural preponderance of androgen’s – male hormones.’
Scary stuff, my recommendations are to swap all low-fat dairy with organic full-fat dairy, or use alternative dairy products such as goat’s and sheep’s products or coconut & unsweetened almond milks and yogurts. But watch out for soya products such as soya milk, as these may well have a negative effect on fertility.
As part of the fertility consultation I ask my patients to do a 3 day diet sheet. I then make individual detailed nutritional suggestions for the patient to help them conceive.
I don’t know why but we are always grossed out by discharges and sometimes we fail to see the importance of them, especially when it comes to fertility. As part of my consultation with patients who are trying to conceive I always ask if they are aware of their fertile period? Do they notice any discharge and if so how much and when?
This ‘discharge’ (such a horrid word for such an important fertility fluid!) is vital for conception as it shows that the body is getting ready to release an egg and to aid sperm on their long journey to reach the egg for the magic conception to happen. In chinese medicine this is the time that yin turns into yang, the cooling phase of the run up to ovulation turns in the incubation phase for implantation.
As an acupuncturist and naturopath I am looking to help increase/promote cervical fluids with acupuncture, diet, lifestyle and correct supplements. And obviously to include the couple having sex in the fertile period!
There are lots of misconceptions about cervical mucus, here is some info to help you decipher your discharges…!
Fertile mucus means you are ‘potentially’ fertile.
It’s not the day we see the most amount of fertile mucus (characteristically clear/egg white consistency), it’s the last day we recognise this mucus. If the mucus lasts for 4-5 days this can be key for timing intercourse.
Cervical fluid changes with fertility and goes through a predictable pattern each and every cycle. After you have finished menstruating you should have a period of no discharge at all.
It should then be:
1. Sticky – In a 28 day cycle, this will be around day 7 or so. Your cervix will start producing a sticky or pasty kind of cervical fluid. This is the beginning of the fertile period.
2. Creamy – As your cycle progresses, your estrogen level is rising daily and the water content of your cervical fluid will increase.
3. Egg white – It is called this as it resembles raw egg white. It’s clear and slippery and can usually stretch an inch or more between a finger and thumb. This is the really fertile stuff!! It’s alkaline and keep sperm alive for up to 5 days inside your body.
4. Watery – Sometimes the water content inside a woman’s cervical fluid will be so high that the eggwhite cervical fluid is more like water, it’s clear, slippery and does not hold any shape. You will know it’s there by a very wet sensation in your vagina. This is very fertile cervical mucus is the last stage of the fertile period and suggests that the egg is about to be released.
5. Dry – this happens quickly after the wet period/egg release, the fertile window has finished for this cycle. Some women do experience a water cervical fluid the day before thee period, this is the endometrial lining starting to break up.
Cervical fluid is an incredibly valuable substance that is produced by your cervix. It’s made up of water, sugars, electrolytes and proteins. Fertile cervical fluid keeps sperm alive once it is inside the vagina. It provides nutrients, a hospitable alkaline environment and aids in transportation. Cervical fluid helps the sperm survive, sometimes for up to 5 days while waiting for the egg to be released. It also tells a lot about the state of a woman’s hormones.
Cervical fluid helps the sperm in 3 ways:
1. It provides an alkaline environment for the sperm. A woman’s vagina is slightly acidic and hostile to sperm. Fertile cervical mucus is alkaline, like a mans semen, and provides a safe harbour for the sperm.
2. It provides sustenance for the sperm while they swim on the way on up through the cervix, to reach the egg in the fallopian tube. The sperm need food along the way and fertile cervical fluid provides the needed nutrition.
3. It provides an easy pathway for the sperm to swim through. It also helps filter out irregular sperm so only the most suitable arrive at the egg.
There are many foods and supplements that can improve your cervical mucus such as royal jelly, evening primrose oil, increase your omega 3’s, avocados, olives etc…
I look at each women/couple individually and recommended foods and supplements to go with the acupuncture fertility program.
Fertility simply refers to a couple’s chances of becoming pregnant. If you are fertile, than there is a good chance that you will become pregnant at some point in time. Though pregnancy may not happen right away, if both a man and a woman are fertile, they will conceive a child eventually. Certain factors play a key role in determining fertility. In order for a woman to be fertile she must produce a viable egg during each monthly cycle. In order for a man to be fertile he must be able to produce strong and healthy sperm that can fertilize this egg. Numerous factors play a part in these roles including your diet, lifestyle and stress management. Keeping in mind the following guidelines, they will increase both your chances of conceiving and improve the health of your baby also.
Start a 3 month plan incorporating Diet, Exercise, Lifestyle and Stress management.
Why 3 months?
It takes 3 months for eggs to mature and be ready for ovulation
Men also take 3 months to produce a batch of sperm
The body requires 3 months to eliminate toxins and increase to optimum nutrient status
Optimize nutrient intake using following information. Eat a diet sufficient in Carbohydrates, Fibre, EFA (essential fatty acids) with a healthy amount of protein.Drink plenty of water 6-8 250 ml glasses per day.
Decrease Saturated Fats
Increased amounts of Saturated Fats are associated with increase in oestrogen causing an oestrogen imbalance. They also trigger body to produce inflammatory substances which can also increase period pains. They also block the body’s ability to absorb Essential Fatty Acids or “good” fats.
Food Sources: Reduce meat and dairy. Avoid all processed foods, such as biscuits, cakes, white bread, white pasta, and white rice. Aim for whole foods in their natural state.
Increase your Good Fats
Especially the omega 3 as they help decrease inflammation in the body, hormone balance and development of a baby brain, eyes and nervous system.
Food Sources: You will find good fats especially Omega 3 in oily fish e.g. salmon, mackerel, trout, sardines, herring, fresh tuna. Also found in walnuts, flax and pumpkins. Vegetable sources include kale and cabbage.
Increase Fibre intake
Fibre helps control the levels of Oestrogen. Old oestrogen enters the gut where fibre binds and helps excrete it from the system thus preventing re-absorption of old oestrogen into circulatory system leading to oestrogen dominance and hormonal imbalance.
Soluble fibre: found in vegetables, fruit, oats and beans.
Vitamin C – can trigger ovulation, with Vitamin E it may keep you fertile longer and improve the quality of the eggs.
Food Sources: Fruit, vegetables, citrus fruits, berries, green vegetables such as brussel sprouts and cauliflower.
Vitamin E – plays an important role in egg production.
Food Sources: Seeds, nuts, egg yolk, oily fish and broccoli.
Folic Acid – critical to baby’s health and in lowering risk of low birth weight, premature birth, and/or neural tube defects, such as Spina Bifida and Anencephaly.
Vitamin A – Important for your baby’s embryonic growth – including the development of the heart, lungs, kidneys, eyes & bones and the circulatory , respiratory and central nervous system. It also helps with infection resistance and fat metabolism. It also helps to assure you that your cervical fluid will be sperm-nourishing, fertile consistency. It also increases the amount of fertile fluid.
Food Sources: Coloured fruit & vegetables.
Zinc – essential for conception. Important for men to ensure the head of the sperm is hard and can penetrate the egg to fertilise.
Magnesium: nuts, vegetables, brown rice, eggs & sunflower seeds.
Manganese: help boost sperm quality, improves health of baby.
Food Sources: Wholegrains, seeds, leafy green vegetables, green beans, sweet potatoes, onions, strawberries, bananas, apples & eggs.
Selenium: essential for sperm production.
Food Sources: Found in eggs, nuts (Brazil), broccoli & garlic.
Calcium: needed for babies bones, teeth & nervous system.
Food Sources: Organic dairy products, salmon, oranges, prunes, sesame seeds, almonds, pulses, wholegrains and green leafy vegetables.
Royal Jelly: Royal Jelly is rich in amino acids (29 to be exact), lipids, sugars, some vitamins, fatty acids and most importantly, proteins. It contains high levels of vitamin D and E as well as ample levels of Iron & Calcium.
Evening primrose oil: This is an essential fatty acid that you can take from your period until ovulation to improve fertile mucus. It is not recommended to take this after ovulation as it can cause mild contractions in the uterus and prevent implantation.
Co Q 10: Improves ovulation and even rejuvenates eggs so that they act like younger eggs, can be linked to higher success rates in IVF. In men it is thought to have a protective action on sperm, improving the count and motility.
Exercising encourages hormonal balance which in turn increases your fertility, aim for 30 mins a day gentle exercise. Try incorporate Yoga or Pilates to de-stress.
Chronic stress leads to high levels of the hormone cortisol, however in order to continually make cortisol your body requires progesterone, decreasing the amount available for your fertility cycle. Stress can also affect the release of other hormones necessary for your cycle. It can also affect libido inevitably affecting chances of conceiving.
Detox your lifestyle
Avoid environmental toxins e.g. organic foods as much as possible, avoid plastic containers and bottles which contain xenoestrogens disrupting your hormone balance and instead use cast iron, steel or glass cookware.
Watch your weight
A certain amount of body fat is essential for conception however if too low you may stop ovulation. If it is too high, it can interfere with ovulation as excess fat causes imbalance in the ratios of reproductive hormones. Men being overweight can affect the quality and quantity of your sperm. Achieve optimal weight through healthy eating and exercise.
Coffee can delay conception for a year, its best to try to avoid completely if you can.
Alcohol may increase production of oestrogen. Alcohol may decrease fertility by half and increase risk of miscarriage. 1-2 glasses of wine ok if special occasion only, however if you experience any hormonal imbalances it is best to avoid completely.
Smoking may increase the risk of miscarriage; it may decrease oestrogen by interfering with ability of cells in the ovaries to make oestrogen. Smoking can increase the rate at which a woman loses eggs causing early onset of the menopause.
It is always best to try to get your daily Vitamins, Minerals and Essential fatty acid’s through food sources, but this is not always possible, this is when supplementation comes in.
Female Vitamins & Minerals to maximise Fertility
Pre-natal Multi Vitamin & Mineral – improves nutritional status
B complex – reduces stress and is a nervous system tonic
B6 – synthesis of RNA & DNA – will be in B complex
Folic Acid – 400mcg
EPA (essential fatty acids) – for healthy glandular function and hormone balancer
Selenium – deficiency is linked to infertility
Vitamin E – use D-alpha-topherol form, carries oxygen to sex glands
Zinc – for cell division
Vitamin C – improves hormone levels
Vitamin D – boost levels of progesterone and estrogen, which regulate the menstrual cycle & improve the likelihood of successful conception
Co-enzyme Q 10 – needed for basic functioning of cells and fertility benefit for women with low egg reserve
Royal Jelly – has been shown to help balance hormones, to increase libido and support egg health
Evening Primrose oil – improve fertile mucus
Male Vitamins & Minerals to maximise Fertility
Multi Vitamin & Mineral – to improve nutritional status
Vitamin E – increases sperm count and carries oxygen to sex organs – D-alpha-topherol form
Vitamin C – helps to manufacture healthy sperm, prevents sperm from sticking together and can improve their motility, can increase sperm up to 1/3 – 500mg twice a day
Vitamin D – essential for the healthy development of the nucleus of the sperm cell, and helps maintain semen quality and sperm count. Vitamin D also increases levels of testosterone, which may boost libido
Zinc – cell division and improves desire & ejaculation
Selenium – lack of selenium is linked with sterility
Vitamin B Complex – stress and nervous system tonic
L-Arginine & L-Carnitine – crucial for male fertility and sperm development
Coenzyme Q10 – energy for sperm
I treat fertility patients with Acupuncture and Naturopathy. For advice on recommended daily amounts, the best brands and where to get supplements please contact me.