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Nutrition Makes a Difference!

While Chinese physicians have been treating infertility with diet for centuries, Western science is just starting to catch up to the significant role that diet plays in the ovulatory causes of infertility. A landmark study published in 2008 that followed over 18,000 women in a long-term research project, based on the Harvard Nurses Study, makes startling connections between diet and conception. As the most comprehensive research to date on diet and fertility, this study associates a slow carb, whole food, high antioxidant food, healthy fats and a mostly plant based diet with a six-fold increase in fertility. This research provided the foundation for the book, The Fertility Diet by Jorge Chavarro.

There is no doubt in our minds that nutrition plays a key role in our reproductive health that is why we incorporate diet and lifestyle counseling into our fertility program. Restoring optimal health permits the expression of our natural fertile state. Being sensible and responsible about one’s diet and lifestyle not only safeguards health but can pay huge dividends in gamete and embryo quality. We advise you to devour all the knowledge you can about fertility. Take control of your own health and trust yourself. No one is in tune with your body like you are.

You can conceive!

Along with your acupuncture treatment and Chinese herbal medicine, changes to your diet, nutritional supplementation and lifestyle are necessary in order to optimize your chances of conceiving and bringing your pregnancy to term. We can effectively stimulate the body’s hormonal system to do what it is supposed to do: secrete the right hormones at the right time in your menstrual cycle.

Let’s work together to accomplish this goal!

This resource, an overview of nutrition, diet and lifestyle, was prepared for our patients as an educational tool. It contains tips, recommendations, and general advice that you can use to achieve maximum health. The goal of our dietary advice is to bring your body back into homeostatic balance. Maintaining and restoring balance is at the heart of diagnosis and treatment in Chinese Medicine.

We will go over all of this information with you, and remember, we are with you every step of the way.

Here are some general dietary recommendations to enhance fertility:
Contemporary research and ancient practice both demonstrate that healthy eating for fertility is based on a natural, whole foods, plant based, anti-inflammatory diet that includes the following:

Whole Foods
Whole foods are minimally processed and refined as little as possible before being eaten. Whole foods provide maximum nutrients, fiber, enzymes, antioxidants and taste without added artificial flavors, colors, preservatives, sweeteners or trans fats. (Trans fats are artificial fats that cause damage to cells and contribute to inflammation and disease, and are a powerful deterrent to ovulation and conception.) Whole foods are simple, local, unrefined foods, where processing is limited to enhancing digestibility (soaking, fermenting) or to food preservation such as canning, smoking, curing and drying. We highly suggest eating foods that are not genetically modified and are organic. Simply put, food loses its essence and qi as it moves away from its source. Gluten free foods are also recommended as it vastly reduces inflammation in the body, a culprit in many cases of infertility.

Slow Carbs
Slow carbohydrates are a group of carbohydrates that are slowly digested causing a slower and lower rise in blood sugar after being eaten. They have a low GI – glycemic index. They include kidney beans, chickpeas, lentils, quinoa, buckwheat, sprouted grain bread, oat bran, sweet potato and most vegetables. Red potato, couscous and brown rice (slightly higher GI) are also acceptable. Eating slow carbs help to minimize insulin resistance, regulate blood sugar, improve fertility and prevent gestational diabetes. When blood sugar and insulin levels rise too high, they disrupt ovulation, so stay clear of fast carbs.

Fast carbs include foods made with white flour and refined sugar, potatoes, white rice, French fries, energy bars and sports drinks, most breakfast cereals, pancakes, waffles, bagels, white pasta, granola bars, alcohol, candy, cookies, pastries, doughnuts, chips, and sodas. As well as avoiding sugar and refined sugar / carbohydrates, avoid products that contain high fructose corn syrup (read your food labels), any junk food, fast food, processed foods, fried food, fruit juices, most dairy products, processed soy products, artificial colors, flavors, preservatives, sweeteners.

For a complete listing of the glycemic index of more foods, see www.glycemicindex.com . Don’t get too lost in the glycemic index. The important part is to focus on eating more legumes, whole grains and vegetables in place of fruit, juice or processed grains (breads, muffins, cakes, cookies).

Plant Based Foods
Plant based foods include a rainbow of high fiber, high antioxidant fruits and vegetables, legumes, nuts, seeds and whole grains. A plant based diet means that most (but not necessarily all) of the diet is based on plant foods and is associated with health promotion, disease prevention and longevity around the world. It may be vegan, vegetarian or include small amounts of meat, fish, poultry, eggs and dairy. Findings from the Nurses’ Health Study indicate that getting more protein from plants and less from animals is an important step towards optimizing your fertility.

Legumes (beans, peas, lentils) are plant proteins that are rich in fiber, iron and B vitamins. Studies have shown that adding more cruciferous vegetables like cabbage, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and cauliflower to your diet are beneficial. They contain DIM – di-indolylmethane, a compound that stimulates more efficient use of estrogen by increasing the metabolism of estradiol.

Healthy Fats
Healthy fats and oils are pressed (slow, low temperature & unrefined – free of chemical solvents) expressed naturally from whole plant foods (coconuts, nuts, seeds, avocado, olives) and found in wild, deep sea, short-lived fish. Healthy fats combat cellular inflammation, and improve hormonal sensitivity. Omega 3 fatty acids, found in deep-sea fish oil (not farm raised), increases blood flow to the uterus. Avoid corn, safflower, sunflower and soybean oils that are high in omega 6 fatty acids and contribute to cellular inflammation. Avoid oils with labels using the term expeller-pressed, as it still designates that the oil has been industrially processed or expeller-pressed using friction heat & is damaged. Instead use Cold-pressed Extra-Virgin Olive Oil, Unrefined Sesame Oil, Cold-pressed Flaxseed or Hempseed Oil, and/or Unrefined or Cold-pressed Black Currant, Avocado or Hazelnut.

Include Omega-3 Fats (small amount with each meal) such as Deep sea short lived fish (such as mackerel, sardines, salmon, and halibut, walnuts, hempseeds, hempseed butter or hemp oil, olives or cold-pressed olive oil, flaxseed meal or flax seed oil.

Also, linoleic acid and alpha-linoleic acid are key factors in ovulation. Good sources are fish, fish oil, flax seed and pumpkin seed oils, eggs, raw nuts and seeds, dark green and winter vegetables (steamed) like broccoli, cauliflower, beets, carrots, kale, collards, cabbage, turnips, and Brussels sprouts.

High Quality Dairy
Small amounts of full fat (non-homogenized) dairy products – particularly live culture plain yogurt and kefir, and high quality artisan (naturally fermented) organic cheese – as these are associated with increased fertility. In Chinese Medicine, dairy products are thought to create a dampness (mucous) that interferes with the flow of energy through the body, creating stagnation. If you have a Chinese diagnosis of “phlegm damp” or have endometriosis, you should eliminate dairy from your diet completely. Some research has shown that dairy products may increase prostaglandins, which stimulate estrogen. Estrogen is responsible for common endometrial symptoms such as painful menstrual cramps, as well as menorrhagia (heavy menses), diarrhea, nausea and vomiting.

Nuts and Seeds
Nuts and seeds are a great source of quick concentrated protein and good fats. Limit your daily intake to no more than one ounce (about 20 nuts) and choose natural organic products. For variety, try almond butter, cashew butter, and hazelnut butter in addition to natural peanut butter. Toss a tablespoon of ground flax seed on your oatmeal each morning. Try pumpkin seed butter, sunflower seed butter or hemp seed butter on your toast instead
of butter or margarine.

Animal Protein
Small amounts of organic animal protein can be part of a healthful fertility diet. If you choose to eat red meats, choose grass or pasture fed meat. Keep your serving size to no more than the size of the palm of your hand. Organic turkey and chicken are great sources of lean protein, especially when eaten without the skin. Organic eggs are an easy to digest inexpensive source of high quality protein. You can enjoy 3 – 5 eggs a week, even if your cholesterol is high. Don’t forget about eggs for a quick high protein dinner! Short lived, deep fish such as mackerel, trout, herring, sardines and wild salmon are all rich in omega-3 fatty acids shown to support healthy cells and immune function, manage weight and hormone balance and reduce pain associated with endometriosis.

High Antioxidant Foods
High antioxidant fruits, vegetables, herbs and spices help to decrease oxidative stress and cellular inflammation associated with decreased fertility. Organic produce has been shown to be higher in antioxidants. Eat foods that have a high ORAC, oxygen radical absorption capacity, which is a test tube measurement of the total amount of antioxidant activity of a particular food. The Highest ORAC foods are alfalfa, organic apple cider vinegar, applesauce, asparagus, avocado, basil, beans, beets, bell peppers, black eyed peas, black pepper, blue berry, blackberry, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cherries, chili powder, cilantro, cinnamon, cloves, cocoa, cranberry, dates, eggplant, elderberry, figs, Fiji apples, ginger, green tea, high quality olive oil, kale, nuts, oatmeal, oranges, oregano, parsley, peaches, pears, plums, pomegranate, prunes, purple cauliflower, purple sweet potato, raisins, raspberry, red cabbage, red grapes, red leaf lettuce, red potatoes, spinach, strawberry, tangerines, and turmeric.

Supplement your diet with a natural, high potency pre-natal multivitamin and mineral complex with iron, folic acid and B vitamins. The vitamins, minerals and antioxidants important for reproductive health (vitamins A, C, E, B complex, zinc and selenium) enhance fertility yet are lacking in the usual Western, highly processed diet. A great trace mineral supplement that you can also add to your daily diet is Celtic Sea Salt or Himalyan Pink Sea Salt.

Other foods and supplements we may recommend based on your pattern are Probiotics, Digestive Enzymes, Royal Jelly, Kelp and Seaweed (great source of iodine), Blue Green Algae, Chlorella, Spirulina, Wheatgrass, Coenzyme Q10, Pycnogenol (Pine Bark Extract), L-Arginine and L-Carnitine.

And Finally…
Drink plenty of pure water (minimum of half your body weight in ounces) and avoid caffeinated drinks, nicotine, and alcohol. Eat alkaline foods rather than acidic ones – such as non-citrus fruits, vegetables, sprouts, cereal grasses (wheatgrass, barley grass) to help provide the entire reproductive system with the right pH for conception and implantation.

SOURCE – The Fertility Diet by Jorge Chavarro