Debi Cale, Fertile Nutrition, is a registered Nutritional Therapist specialising in fertility, reproductive health for men and women, pre-conception and hormones. www.fertilenutrition.co.uk
The lead up to any fertility treatment can be a stressful time, one that can leave you feeling like you are not in control. Food and dietary changes may be something you can incorporate into your self-care routine to help improve your overall health before any treatment commences. It takes around three months to see changes in both egg and sperm quality so bear this in mind when planning your fertility treatment.
Whether you are female or male, these are some easy ideas of things to incorporate into your diet to prepare your body (and mind) for any fertility treatment.
5 top tips for helping you prepare:
Strong detoxing isn’t recommended unless you are working with a professional. It can take time and sometimes make things worse before they get better and you don’t want any severe reactions in the lead up to treatment. Here are some safe, basic ways to naturally aid your body’s own detoxification.
Keep hydrated. Drink at least 2 litres a day of water. This can be filtered water, coconut water or a hot lemon and ginger.
Herbal teas are great too, choose a decaffeinated option. Dandelion tea has great benefits for liver detoxification and nettle tea is my favourite as it has good levels of iron and vitamins A, C, D & K.
Cruciferous vegetables are natural detoxifiers so incorporate these into your diet on a daily basis. These include broccoli, cauliflower, kale, watercress, brussel sprouts, cabbage, radish, bok choy and spinach.
Eat plenty of fibre to help keep your bowel movements regular which eliminates toxins. Include nuts, seeds, beans, houmous, chickpeas, lentil pasta, wholegrain rice, quinoa, legumes and jacket potatoes.
Add plenty of herbs and spices (fresh or dried). Many herbs, for example parsley and coriander, act as a natural detoxifer so throw them into anything you cook.
Even though it’s likely you’ll be taking medication that affect your natural hormones, it’s good to start from a point of balance.
Maca powder is great for both sexes as it helps maintain hormonal balance, it’s also known to increase libido!
Avoid anything heated in plastics and drinking from plastic water bottles as they mimic hormones in the body and can disrupt them.
Good fats are a crucial element for hormones. Omega 3 are essential fats for hormone production, but most of us don’t get enough.
Omega 3 sources:
Oily fish – Salmon (wild not farmed), Mackerel, Anchovies, Sardines, Herring (SMASH). Choose these smaller fish and avoid bigger fish such as Tuna, which contain high mercury levels.
Plant based omega 3 sources: avocados, olive oil, flaxseeds, chia seeds, walnuts, brazil nuts.
3.Stress and anxiety
Did you know food affects mood? Stress levels will undoubtably be high already so anything that helps this naturally can only be a good thing.
It’s important to get enough protein into your diet as it not only builds hormones, blood proteins and enzymes but it prevents increases in stress cortisol levels.
Best sources: Nuts, seeds, eggs, good quality vegan protein powder. If you eat meat, make sure it’s lean protein – chicken, turkey, grass-fed beef (choose organic meat where possible).
Naturally calming foods sources: mango, oats, bananas, turkey, chamomile tea, lemon balm tea (be careful with lemon balm if you have a thyroid condition). Avoid caffeine as much as possible as this can stress your system at a time you want to keep as calm as possible.
4. Eat more fruit and vegetables
You might have heard the saying ‘Eat the Rainbow’. It’s an easy guide to follow to get a variety of the nutrients your body needs by eating vegetables and fruit from every colour.
Red – tomatoes (lycopene for sperm DNA), strawberries, raspberries, cherries (natural melatonin).
Orange – carrots (beta carotene for sperm DNA), sweet potato
Yellow – bell peppers (vitamin C), pineapple (bromelain), lemon
Green – cruciferous vegetables, leafy greens contain the all-important folate and also are an effective antioxidant
Blue/ Purple – Aubergine, blueberries, blackberries, blackcurrants, pomegranate. Beetroot – get in as much of this as you can as it’s great for the blood and is high in folate.
White – Mushrooms are high in zinc, this is top dog for reproductive health. Try shiitake, but the classic button mushroom is ample enough.
A great way to ‘eat the rainbow’ is to get a veg box delivered. Most companies mix up what you receive each week, so you’ll be getting in lots of variety. I love finding new recipes online about how to cook and prepare vegetables you may never have tried before. We are all creatures of habit but to get the wide nutrient intake that your body needs, you need to mix it up.
Eating organically where possible also reduces any excess stress on your body prior to treatment. An organic veg box can often cut the cost.
Eating warm foods is optimal as the body takes more energy to break down cold, raw foods. Think soups, broths, stews, casseroles etc.
5.Things to remove, limit or avoid from your diet
You may find yourself wanting to eat all the junk food (perfectly natural at this stressful time), but if you try to stick to the 80/20 rule – 80% healthy and 20% of your diet as treats you’ll be doing well. Also, try not to let food become a stress on top of everything else and see it as something fun and a way to try new things.
Avoid the things known to cause stress and inflammation in the body like too much processed food, trans fats, high salt intake, high sugar intake, high alcohol intake and excess caffeine. I also recommend avoiding or limiting the amount of soya eaten, it has been found to reduce sperm and affects hormonal balance.
Bonus Tip: Eating well if you are going abroad for treatment
If you are travelling abroad for treatment, it’s good to do your research into local supermarkets, farmers markets and restaurants. Even if you are making the most of being abroad and mainly eating out, it’s good to have healthy snacks available and ready for the time you may be recovering or resting.
I would suggest using local searches on a map app such as ‘organic food’, ‘health shop’, ‘vegan shops’, they might seem specific but these are usually the best stores to find fresh fruit, vegetables, nuts, seeds, free-from options, organic food and protein powders.
These are all good starting points but if you are able to, then an appointment with a Nutritional Therapist would help you delve deeper and get an individualised plan based on your history, personal situation and a full dietary analysis.
For appointments and further information: