So, so, so many people around me have hormone issues and fertility challenges. It breaks my heart. The sense of loss is palpable. I recently read stats from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare that at least 1 in 4 (and it’s getting closer to 3) women in Australia will not have kids…this is for all kinds of reasons that aren’t always about health.
But it doesn’t take away from the fact that health is fundamental to giving an aging body the best crack at conception. Some of you might recognise Nat Kringoudis’ name from the forums. She’s a fantastic acupuncturist, herbalist, natural fertility educator, writer, blogger and natural health expert who’s devoted her career to helping people get their body baby-ready. Nat owns The Pagoda Tree, a natural health and fertility clinic in Melbourne, and I’ve asked her to share the best diet shifts you can make to get things on the right track….
Diet and lifestyles are major contributors to our growing fertility problem. Of course, diet won’t solve 100% of the problem but it will undoubtedly help your body get more fertile. Before I go on, know this. If you hear the word ‘fertility’ and back up a few steps, keep reading. Fertility doesn’t immediately equate to babies. Fertility is an extension of your health, the potential to conceive. It’s not limited to conception but extends to all reproductive health including health menstrual cycles right through to your bowel movements!
1. Pump up the protein
Your hormones are made up of fats and protein, and it is for this reason that we need to ensure we are getting enough animal and plant protein to support fertility. I’m talking 50% of each meal. Sounds a lot, but do the math – a serve of fish and salad or a quiche with salad. There you go. Not hard at all.
- invest in a pea or rice protein powder to boost your levels and blend yourself a morning smoothie. I’m loving sun warrior brand for it’s quality.
- add chia seeds to salads, smoothies and cakes – they are a complete meal! (highest plant based source of omegas, fiber and protein)
2. Never fear fat
As I mentioned, fats go in the mix to make up our hormones. When we rob our body of these vital ingredients, it goes into a frenzy and shuts down our reproductive functions. Let’s face it, we don’t need our fertility to survive. So ensure what’s on your fork has quality therapeutic fats – think oily fish and eggs (omega 3’s & 6’s), animal and plant fats (coconut butter, salmon, milk). Not only will your loins love you, your skin will show how kind you are being to yourself and your brain will tick like you’re five again.
- Look no further than eggs. They will provide the best balance of fat and protein. Contrary to what you’ve probably been told, you can’t have too many. Ever.
These are the key to optimal health – and since your gut is the pivot of your health, maximizing absorption of vitamins and minerals is where it’s at. Get onto these superfoods:
- Macca – high on my superfood list, it goes great guns on balancing hormones and enhancing libido. Pop a scoop into your smoothie, or sprinkle on your salad.
- Use Mesquite – another superfood available from loving earth – to stabilize insulin, it’s the highest anti-oxidant on the planet. It’s important to balance insulin for reproductive health – especially in those with poly cystic ovarian syndrome and thyroid troubles.
- Come one step further – Gubinge. It’s native to Australia and is the king of superfoods. You can get your hands on it here. Also add this to your smoothie or add to baking to really fire things up. I particularly love this because it’s local – and local produce will benefit those most who live in the same habitat. Same goes for eating with the seasons.
4. Hydrate, and then some
Quality water is a must. Preferably filtered – especially in areas where water is recycled and treated where it’s difficult to filter out hormones and medicines (think the pill and antibiotics). Good news is – a bench top jug does a good job of eliminating these nasties.
- Be mindful of water coolers – they are ok sporadically but many of them use copper piping which sets the hormones way out of whack and can be a sole contributing factor to infertility.
5. Ditch the plastics
Bisphenol A (BPA) is a chemical used in plastics which is doing terrible things to our fertility. This is because BPA mimics oestrogen, which can do terrible things to the menstrual cycle in women, and also deform sperm, making it impossible for conception. I suggest investing in some quality glass containers with plastic lids. Good news is you can now buy plastic that is BPA free – meaning you can still store your leftovers. My view is, glass is the best alternative. You can reuse your glass food jars and do your bit for the environment at the same time. There’s more info here if you’re keen.
- Never drink water from a plastic water bottle that’s been sitting in the sun – this is a sure way to ingest BPA.
- BPA is also found in certain brands of cling film – to be sure, avoid having your food pressed against it and find an alternative way to store it.
6. Sleep for fertility
Sleep between the hours of 10pm – 6am will absolutely lower and balance hormones. Hormones are easily pushed out of kilter when we don’t rest adequately. Our bodies work on a the circadian rhythm (aka 24hr cycle), the inner time keeper responsible for day & night body function. One of it’s main jobs is hormone production. The receptors in our eyes tell our bodies when it is time to rest and time to wake. Alteration to this cycle disrupts our body function. Regularly disrupting this patter will affect the bodies normal working order – fertility included. Most of the secretion of hormones is controlled by the circadian clock and sleep is one of the only things that will affect this, so we need to sleep at the right time.
- Women who sleep less than 5 hours per night are more likely to be overweight and drink more coffee. Both affect fertility.
- Lack of sleep will also make you more hungry (I suspect as our body craves the right balance – and we look for it in the wrong place)
7. Fresh is best – and always go with what’s in season
There are specific qualities that certain veggies contain that can help to treat menstrual irregularities and hormone imbalances. By increasing your intake and variety of fresh produce, you will do your health and fertility big favors.
- Recent research shows that when a woman eats one avocado a week, it balances hormones, sheds unwanted birth weight, and prevents cervical cancers. And how profound is this: It takes exactly nine months to grow an avocado from blossom to ripened fruit – not just a pretty fruit, but a lovely symbol of fertility and gestation.
- Adding olives to your plate is useful to assist in maintaining a healthy reproductive environment and nourishing the reproductive organs. You’re body is clever – stress will absolutely lower fertility, and so adding foods to help our body work well and cope better with stress is essential in our busy lives.
- Figs are also great for male fertility. Figs are full of seeds and hang in twos when they grow – just like… you guessed it. Figs increase the mobility of male sperm and increase the numbers too. This means this magic, luscious fruit helps to overcome male sterility. Figs are historically known as an aphrodisiac to, and feeling like lovin’ does just as much for fertility levels as all the eating well in the world!
8. Go organic
We know that organic food is free from harmful chemicals and pesticides, which are making us sick, causing us to gain weight and again, mucking up fertility as our guts can’t absorb the nutrients in their presence. Where possible, go organic.
9. Treat yourself – have a drink
You can have wine, and you can have coffee! Just make sure it’s quality and you don’t go overboard (ground beans – say no more to the instant variety ). A quality coffee a day will not make you barren. As for alcohol, stick to low consumption.
- For women – 2 glasses per week – any more can affect ovulation.
- Men can tolerate a little more – 2 drinks every second day as a maximum. For men it can affect sperm quality and quantity. Just be mindful of how much is too much.
10. Say goodbye to soy
Soy is in everything, and it’s doing whacky things to our fertility. Minimise intake of processed soy products – a little is ok but it’s estrogen-mimicking properties don’t do your hormones and ovulation any favours. High levels of oestrogen will stop other hormones – luteinizing hormone and follicle stimulating hormone, from being secreted (essentially what the pill is made up of). These hormones are necessary for ovulation to occur and in their absence, the entire menstrual cycle suffers. Same goes for men – high oestrogen will affect hormone secretion and affect over-all health as well as semen quality.
Tried all this and it’s still not working? Perhaps allow yourself a visit to your Natural Fertility Specialist for a specific treatment plan that works for you. And if you’re in Melbourne, why not contact Nat and her team at The Pagoda Tree.