A Holistic Nutritionist’s Guide to Fertility
Hey, friends! Tomorrow is the spring equinox, a time of metaphorical (and literal) birth and reawakening so I thought it would be fitting to continue my women’s health series with a post on nutrition for fertility!
Did you know that studies have shown that most women are nutritionally deficient during their childbearing years?
It sounds crazy, but it’s true. Many new moms or women who are planning on trying to conceive in the near future also don’t realize that eating sweets and fried foods during pregnancy is likely to be just as detrimental as smoking and drinking.
So this is why in today’s blog I’m going to outline dietary, supplemental, and lifestyle changes one can make to improve fertility, even well before pregnancy happens. Think of it as priming your body to create the healthiest baby you can. This blog is mostly geared towards women, but I’ve sprinkled in a few tips for guys because making a healthy baby depends a lot on the health of both parents!
But before I get into my recommendations, I want to make one thing clear: this blog is for women of childbearing age (why does that always sound so medieval, lol) that want to improve their reproductive health because they plan to get pregnant in the next few years. This is not a blog geared towards couples experiencing difficulties getting pregnant- that is NOT my expertise! Additionally, I haven’t written this blog to shame any moms (past, present, or future) and their decisions when it comes to diet and lifestyle. I only want to share what I’ve learned about improving fertility through holistic nutrition!
Let’s jump right into my three top recommendations to improve fertility.
- Eat a healthy baby diet
If you and your partner are planning on trying to conceive in the next few years, congrats! That’s so exciting. The number one place to start to improve your reproductive health and turn your body into a healthy home for your future babies is by focusing on a diet rich in nutrient-dense foods with an emphasis on foods that contain specific vitamins and minerals.
It’s also important to eliminate foods that wreak havoc on your system; the pro-inflammatory, microbiome-damaging foods like processed and refined sugar and oils, fried foods, too much alcohol, and too much caffeine. As mentioned above, these foods can really have a detrimental effect on the future health of your children. Sadly, for all you future dads out there- you’re not off the hook. Ensuring that both mom and dad are in an optimal nutritional state is so important!
Foods that you and your partner should focus on consuming are those high in minerals like selenium and zinc (hands down the two most important minerals when it comes to reproductive and hormone health for both women and men) and antioxidants like vitamins C and E. It’s also important to consider eating according to traditional wisdom and the diet that your specific ancestors have been eating for hundreds of years. In general, the most nutrient-dense foods are organic meats, meats and fish cooked on the bone, fresh vegetables, fruits, and fermented foods.
So what does a heathy baby diet look like, you ask? Here’s an example of a one-day meal plan I’d recommend to someone who is trying to boost their fertility (or just for reproductive health in general!) As you can see, I lean more towards a Mediterranean diet mostly because I love olive oil, fish, lamb, and all the other mainstays of this diet, but if it’s not your jam, this meal plan can easily be tweaked to your preferred flavours.
The plan below also contains both gluten and dairy (gasp!!) because I believe good-quality sourdough breads and full-fat/fermented dairy products have a place in a balanced diet. Of course, if you know these foods don’t agree with you, they can easily be omitted or replaced. This diet is also very low in sugar and contains no refined oils.
- Smart supplementation
If eating a consistently healthy diet is something you struggle with, or if you want to really improve your reproductive health, I recommend a bit of strategic supplementation.
If you are planning on getting pregnant in the next two years or so, it’s a good idea to start taking a good quality prenatal vitamin and mineral blend sooner rather than later. Future dads can also take a male-focused prenatal vitamin, to make sure they’re reproductive systems are as healthy as possible as well!
When choosing a prenatal vitamin, make sure to find one that contains folate instead of folic acid. Folic acid is a synthetic form of folate found in many prenatal vitamins that can be problematic if your body is unable to convert it to folate. This may be due to a common gene mutation of the MTHFR enzyme (which I happen to have- hence why I will be seeking out a folate-containing prenatal in the future) or if you’re taking DHFR blocking medications. Folate is in its active form and can be directly used by the body without conversion by the MTHFR enzyme, so to be on the safe side, find yourself a prenatal with folate instead of folic acid.
I would also recommend adding a good cod liver oil supplement to your daily routine. I think a lot of people hear “cod liver oil” and are instantly grossed out and are concerned it’ll taste fishy. Luckily there are some really good brands out there that make cod liver oil capsules that have absolutely no taste or smell, like Nordic Naturals. I recommend this supplement to almost everyone as it’s a great source of anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids like EPA and DHA but also contain bioavailable forms of vitamins A, D, and E, which are all extremely important for the development of a fetus (among many other things like brain health, skin health, etc.). Both future mom and dad can take cod liver oil but a word of caution: once you get pregnant, taking preformed vitamin A can cause serious health issues for your baby so you should stop your cod liver oil supplementation until you’ve spoken with your doctor.
- Stress management
Finally, as always, finding stress coping techniques that work for you is so crucial for the health of every single body system- especially when you’re trying to improve fertility! The body is wise- if you’re majorly stressed out, your body will know that it isn’t a great time to take on a long-term building project (e.g., make a baby!), and will “protect” you from this possibility by creating hormone imbalances which cease ovulation (amenorrhea) or decrease libido to keep you from wanting to do the deed in the first place.
So the best thing you can do to keep stress levels as low and as manageable as possible are to have several go to preventative coping mechanisms and several go to corrective coping mechanisms. Preventative stress management is the activities you do to keep that chronic low-level stress that we all experience to a minimum. Examples of this includes daily breathwork, meditation, gratitude journaling, exercise, “me-time” (whatever that looks like for you), walks in nature, therapy, etc.
Corrective coping mechanisms are more for acute stress and anxiety. These are the things you do to calm yourself down from a possible anxiety or panic attack, like taking ten deep belly breaths, getting out for a walk, listing the things you’re grateful for, etc. Chances are, if you deal with acute stress and anxiety, you probably already have a good toolbox full of these techniques!
There you have it! If you liked this post and want more like it, let me know in the comments below. If you’re interested in seeing more meal plans like the one above, or if you want to work with me to create a personalized meal plan custom to you and your main health concerns/goals, either leave a comment or shoot me an email at email@example.com!