Nutritional Advice For Infertility
In Chinese tradition, a meal is an opportunity to supply our organs with a balance of tastes and energies needed for optimum health
Women facing fertility challenges are often told that certain vitamins and dietry adjustments can restore hormonal function, reduce FSH levels, and ultimately help them get pregnant. Yet many women cut out red meat, refined sugars, and dairy products for a few weeks or supplement their diets with large doses of vitamins and don't notice a bit of difference.
It is well documented that body fat content has an effect on our fertility, lesser know known is how much role nutrition plays in our reproductive health.
Chinese tradition recognizes food as our main energy source. The spleen converts food into usable energy (including Chi, Blood, and Essence). Each food has different energetic qualities. For example hot spicy foods are more Yang in nature, while sweet foods are more Yin. Some foods build up the Blood; others help draw heat and dampness from the body.
The different tastes -sweet-spicy-sour, bitter, salty and aromatic have certain affects when taken in moderation. However if any of the above predominate, they can create imbalance in the body.
The effects of over indulging in some of these tastes are recognized in Western medicine, too. In Chinese culture, the salty flavour is considered necessary for the kidneys, but too much is considered to obstruct the flow of blood. In Western medicine, too much salt causes fluid retention, affecting the kidneys, and can also create problems with circulation of blood.
According to TCM (Tradition Chinese Medicine) philosophy, the Shen (translated as kidney and spirit) governs the reproductive system. If you are having problems conceiving, then there is a deficiency in shen energy. Symptoms of kidney/shen deficiency are lower back pain, weak legs dry mucous membranes, night sweats, cold feet, irregular menses, low libido, increased urinary frequency, and nighttime urination to name a few. During menopause, a woman's kidney/shen essence is diminished, and many of the same symptoms occur.
Foods that nourish the kidneys are walnuts, black sesame seeds, barley, tofu, soybean, wheatgerm, seaweeds, various beans, organ meats and wheatgrass.
Kidney essence, or shen encompasses Kidney Yin and Yang, and deficiencies of both of these can be helped with dietry changes.
The goal of every dietry prescription is to bring about balance, here are some dietry recommendations.
1. Eat alkaline rather than acidic foods.
To produce the right pH for conception and implantation an alkaline diet is highly recommended, the following will help this process, noncitrus fruits, vegetables, sprouts, cereal grasses(wheatgrass, barley grass), and herbs like Black Cohosh and valerian root provide the entire reproductive system with the correct pH.
Acidic foods (like red meat, dairy products, sugar/sweeteners, smoking and drinking alcohol) produce acidic environments. Acidic cervical mucous may become hostile to sperm which requires an alkaline environment to survive. Since saliva can have an alkaline effect chewing food well, and not drinking liquids with your meal, can be helpful.
Try to ensure that the bulk of your diet meat fruit and vegetables are organic which will also help the pH.
2. Get plenty of essential fatty acids.
Lineolic acid and alpha-lineolic acid are "essential" fatty acids to every living cell in the body. They play an important role in ovulation, specifically in the process of follicular eruption (release of the egg). Good sources are fish, fish oil, non-hydrogenated cold-pressed oils such as flaxseed and pumpkin seed oils, eggs, soy products, raw nuts and seeds, dark green winter vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, beets, carrots, kale, cabbage, turnips, and brussel sprouts. Eat these as quickly as possible as long term exposure to heat and light may turn EFA's into trans fatty acids which are toxic. Other TFA's are shortening, lard, margarine, and animal fats.
Omega 3 is another key EFA found in deep sea fish oil. These have been found to clear the blood of fat deposits, re3duce clotting, and encourage blood flow to the tissues, including the uterus. Omega-3 fatty acids also boost the immune system and have been found to reduce certain immune cells (NK, or natural killer, cells) which prevent the embryo's implantation in the uterus.
3. Eat organic foods and hormone-free meats whenever possible.
In natural food circles, organic foods are touted as necessary for optimal hormone function because many of the pesticides, chemicals and hormones used to treat produce and animal products contain synthetic oestrogen-like substances, which occupy oestrogen receptor sites and have negative effects on our organ and endocrine systems. However, Chinese medicine provides an additional reason for choosing organic food: food loses its Essence and Chi as it moves away from its source. We have all experience of this: the fruit off a tree tastes much better than from a supermarket shelf. And vine ripened tomatoes taste better than chilled ones.
The processing most food undergoes eliminates much of the natural nutrition present in its original form. When we eat pasta and white bread we are mostly eating processed leftovers; little of the original wheat is left. Processed fruit juices contain mostly sugar, and excess sugar damages the Spleen, which controls digestion. Frozen meals contain sodium which depletes the Kidneys. Most canned prepared foods contain preservatives and not much of their original food value.
Microwaving foods affects its molecular structure, and decreases Chi energy available in the food. Cooking on top of the stove or in the oven is preferable.
4. Add more cruciferous vegetables like cabbage, broccoli, brussel sprouts, and cauliflower to your diet.
Cruciferous vegetables contain di-indolylethane (DIM) a compound that stimulates more efficient use of oestrogen by increasing the metabolism of oestradiol. Excess oestradiol is associated with breast pain, weight gain, breast and uterine cancer, moodiness and low libido.
5. Supplement your diet with a natural, multivitamin and mineral complex with iron, folic acid, and B vitamins.
The vitamins and minerals important to reproductive health (vitamins A,C,E,B complex, zinc and selenium) enhance fertility yet are lacking in the usual Western highly processed diet. If these nutrients were adequately supplied through the diet, many fertility problems could be avoided.
Other supplements you might wish to try include the following:
Bee pollen and royal jelly is regenerative and tonifying. Studies have shown that supplementing with this nutrient improves menstrual problems. Studies using royal jelly in men proved that sperm production was significantly improved.
Bee pollen which is food for the worker bee is rich in vitamins, minerals nucleic acid and hormones which increase immunity and improve health. Royal jelly is food for the queen bee, whose job is to produce more infant bees. This nutritive tonic could be considered the bee equivalent to fertility drugs. Rich in amino acids, vitamins, enzymes, royal jelly helps the queen bee to produce millions of eggs and live longer than the worker bee.
Blue-green algae is the origin of life-giving nourishment on this planet. Micro algae contains chlorophyll, amino acids, minerals, vitamins and steroid building blocks.
Chlorella is freshwater green algae: Spirulina is saltwater green algae. Chlorella and Spirulina nourish the endocrine, nervous and immune systems; tonify Chi, Blood and Essence; regulate metabolism and repair tissue.
Wheatgrass is tonifying and curative. It nourishes Chi, Blood and Essence, enhances immunity, and restores hormone function.
Vitamin B6 helps the body metabolise excess oestrogen, produce adequate progesterone, and lower elevated prolactin levels.
Coenzyme Q-10 assists mitochondrial function (the powerhouse of each cell)
Folic acid is extremely important in cell division, in addition to supplementation; the diet should include foods high in folic acid content, like dark green leafy vegetables and natural orange foods such as oranges, mango, cantaloupe, yams and sweet potatoes.
6. Eliminate caffeine, nicotine and alcohol.
Caffeine, alcohol and other stimulants should be avoided. Nicotine concentrates in the uterine fluid, ages the ovaries, and makes eggs resistant to fertilization.
One study has shown that alcohol consumed during an IVF cycle reduced its chance of success by 50%.
Coffee constricts blood vessels while tea opens them. Green tea in particular also has an antioxidant benefit coffee does not share.
7. If possible avoid taking unnecessary medications and drugs.
Even non-steroidal anti-Inflammatories (NSAIDS) like Ibuprofen can block the synthesis of prostaglandins therefore inhibiting ovulation.
If you have scanty cervical mucous, you should avoid decongestants, antihistamines, and excess supplementation of vitamin C.
8. Avoid junk food, excessive stress, too little sleep, too much exercise.
In general you should give your body every chance to be at its strongest and healthiest so that it can nourish your child. Late hour's bad food or excessive stress means your body struggles to keep you healthy, instead of making a baby. Live healthfully until you conceive and carry your child to term.