MANY WOMEN FEEL THAT NUTRITION IS THE ONLY FACTOR WHEN IT COMES TO INFERTILITY, BUT IT’S FAR FROM THE WHOLE STORY.
So many women struggle with infertility. It’s often a private and silent heartache. We feel like somehow if we publicize our fertility struggles, it’s a shame, it’s our fault, and we somehow are to blame because we haven’t taken care of our bodies enough to become fertile. As a dietitian, I’ve seen so many women desperate to conceive and the truth is, nutrition is far from the whole story. However, it certainly is a mediating factor. The best approach to a fertility problem is multidisciplinary: a board-certified reproductive endocrinologist (I adore Dr. Carolina Sueldo in Coral Gables; she has the bedside manner of an angel), a sleep therapist, a licensed psychologist to cope with stress, and of course, a registered dietitian. While no foods will render one instantly fertile or barren, nutrition and lifestyle can mediate fertility.
First, get to a healthy weight. Even a 5% weight loss, with a sound, balanced eating program (no fad diets!) can improve fertility. Being underweight is not ideal, either. Underweight women often have issues with conception. Extra folate (400 micrograms per day from fortified whole grains, dark leafy greens, nuts, seeds, and beans), and a B vitamin may increase your chances of getting pregnant. Maintaining adequate iron levels (grass-fed meats, spinach, beans) can prevent ovulatory infertility. If you’re thinking of conceiving, it’s best to start a prenatal vitamin that has DHA (omega-3 fatty acids) in it as soon as possible!
Studies show that more plant-based meals (revolving around beans and complex starches paired as protein) may be better than a heavy animal protein diet. Speaking of complex starches – choose these over refined starches! Refined, or white, starches rapidly turn to sugar in the bloodstream and can promote inflammation. Opt for quinoa, sweet potato, squash, beans, oats, wheatberry, freekeh, teff, amaranth, spelt, and brown rice instead of white grains and starch. Also, increasing omega-3 fatty acids and monounsaturated fats (“good fats”) in your diet may increase fertility. You’ll especially want to avoid (trans fats), which are pro-inflammatory (found in shortening).
Additionally, you’ll want to get groovin’! Bedroom romps count, technically! Healthy activity promotes fertility, so aim for 60 minutes of moderate exercise, about 4-5 days per week.
For beverages, avoid soda (and diet soda!). These are both associated with infertility. Your body only needs water! Reach for grass-fed, full fat dairy, especially yogurt and kefir, that also have probiotics to balance your gut microbiota (which are linked to stress – which we know contributes to infertility!), to boost your pregnancy chances.
Lastly, don’t forget your sperm donor! Men who are overweight and do not eat fruits and vegetables (which have high antioxidant loads which may increase sperm count) are at risk of infertility. Being overweight is associated with lower sperm count and quality. Above all, have patience. The more anxiety and stress surrounding this process, the more difficult it will be! Nourish yourself regardless if you are with or without child.
By MONICA AUSLANDER, MS, RDN
Essence Nutrition, essencenutritionmiami.com