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Five Fertility Foods to Add to Your Diet

Monday, June 22, 2015

 

Fertility struggles can leave you feeling alone and lost, and at war with your body. There is so much information out there — competing, confusing, contradictory. A huge part of my practice is treating and coaching fertility patients. I help balance their hormones with acupuncture, restore ovulation, treat endometriosis and PCOS with herbal medicine, and treat Hashimoto’s with nutrition therapy. A lot of what I do, however, is to help my patients disseminate all of the information that they hear, see and read. 

To boost your fertility, you need to do a few things. First of all, stop googling! Second of all, don’t take the advice of the one person who swears that if you eat pepperoni pizza right before sex you’ll get pregnant because that’s what happened for her. Thirdly, you need to focus on you. Getting pregnant is not the goal. Having a healthy pregnancy and a healthy baby is the goal. One of the only factors you can absolutely control is diet. Making sure you eat the right foods pre-pregnancy is a great way to boost your fertility, and to improve the health of your future baby. Here are a few foods to add to your diet to increase fertility:

Maca

This superfood found in the Andes mountains of Peru is making headlines. Indigenous people have eaten maca root for thousands of years as a way to promote energy, virility and fertility. Unlike fertility drugs, maca works by supporting and balancing your endocrine (hormone) system. So while it doesn’t contain any progesterone or estrogen, it does contain an inordinate number of nutrients that support healthy thyroid, pituitary and adrenal health — all of which will help with the health of your sex hormones. In animal studies maca has been shown to normalize estrogen and progesterone levels, essential both to conception and to preventing early miscarriage.

Maca is classified as an adaptogen, which is “a nontoxic substance and especially a plant extract that is held to increase the body's ability to resist the damaging effects of stress and promote or restore normal physiological functioning.” To be classified as an adaptogen, and herb needs to be safe enough to take for long periods of time. 

Royal Jelly

Royal jelly is the food that is fed to the queen bee, who is known in the wild for her ability to produce many eggs and to live much longer than does the average bee. This superfood is packed full of nutrients, from vitamins A, B, C, D and E to amino acids to iron and calcium. All of these things can benefit your overall health, but royal jelly is thought to be especially helpful in boosting egg health, and in potentially increasing estrogen levels and uterine lining in women who have low estrogen. It is often recommended for women over 35 who are trying to conceive.

Broccoli

Unlike maca and royal jelly, broccoli is prized for its ability to cleanse your body. This cruciferous vegetable is best eaten slightly steamed — just until it reaches its most vibrant green color, as this is a signal that its nutrients are the most bioavailable. Broccoli is absolutely dense in nutrients: Vitamin C, K, B vitamins, calcium, iron, and zinc. But the real magic may come from the fact that broccoli can assist your liver in detoxing many harmful substances out of your body. The detox pathway that broccoli supports is also key in supporting thyroid health, and an under-active thyroid is one of the most common conditions I see in my fertility patients.

For men, there may be added benefits to sperm health from broccoli. According to a study published in Fertility and Sterility, men over the age of 44 who consume higher amounts of antioxidants, such as Vitamin C, E, and zinc have the same amount of sperm DNA damage as do men who are younger. This is 20% less damage than seen in men of the same age who consume fewer of these antioxidants.

Pumpkin Seeds and Sunflower Seeds

These two seeds are beneficial additions to your diet on their own, as both are rich in fatty acids, zinc, magnesium and fiber. One of the most common recommendations for incorporating these two seeds into your diet if you are struggling to conceive is by using a method called seed cycling. Seed cycling is effective because the hulls of the seeds contain something called lignans, which are thought to regulate hormonal pathways. These seeds are also rich in EFAs (Essential Fatty Acids) which are the building blocks for sex hormones.

Seed cycling can be done according to the menstrual cycle if it is pretty regular, or if it is irregular or absent, you can do the cycling according to the phases of the moon.

From days 1-14 of the menstrual cycle (or from the new moon to the full moon) eat 1-2 Tbsp/day of ground pumpkin seeds. These seeds support the estrogen dominant part of your cycle.

From days 15-28 of the menstrual cycle (or from the full moon to the new moon), eat 1-2 Tbsp/day of freshly ground sunflower seeds. These support the progesterone peaks of your cycle. 

Water

I know that water is not technically a food, but it is probably one of the most important things to get in adequate amounts to boost your fertility. The human body relies on sufficient amounts of water for every cell to properly function. This includes egg and sperm cells. This includes the division and subsequent multiplying of cells into an embryo. 

The other more noticeable benefit of staying well-hydrated is that you may notice a thinning and an increase in fertile cervical mucous at ovulation. Noticeable amounts of stretchy cervical mucous at ovulation is the number one way to know when to time sex for optimal chances at conception. Start your day with glass of water that has some lemon or apple cider vinegar in it, and not only will you be on your way to optimal hydration, but you’ll also help boost your digestive juices so that you can get the most nutrition out of the foods you eat.

All in all, eating healthy, organically grown whole foods are the best way to prep your body for pregnancy and to boost your fertility. Add in a couple of these specific foods so that you can reclaim some control over your health. 

Erin Brockmeyer, LAc, is owner and acupuncturist at Solstice Natural Health in downtown Portland, Oregon.  She creates custom health plans for patients to help them tackle their most complicated health concerns, including infertility, prenatal care, fibromyalgia, thyroid conditions and chronic and acute pain conditions.  Visit her website for more information and to download her free e-book 5 Simple Ways to Improve Your Health Today.

 

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