We are what we eat.
We get told this so often, but in the case of a good fertility diet plan, it is actually true.
If you want to cure PCOS, endometriosis or conceive with unexplained infertility you HAVE to look at your diet.
There are some specific fertility foods and supplements that help you get pregnant, but there are also good quality foods that simply improve your overall health and will help boost your fertility naturally.
The foundation of infertility is often a broken body, one that has been set up to fail.
It is not your fault.
Our parents and grandparents ate badly, our earth is becoming more and more toxic by the day, and what we have been sold as a ‘healthy’ diet is actually leaving us depleted, fat and sad.
Today I will show you what you have been missing and why these foods will help your body heal from the inside out.
You can encourage your body to start functioning the way it is supposed to.
Here we look at:
- Unexplained Infertility
- An Overview of a Fertility Diet
- Super Fertility Foods
- Fertility Diet Meal Plan
What is PCOS?
PCOS stands for polycystic ovarian syndrome and it is the leading cause of infertility in females in the western world. The statistics range from 5-20% of the US female population of childbearing age, depending on where you look. Either way, it affects millions of women on a daily basis.
The classic symptoms of PCOS are:
- Irregular periods
- Excess hair growth (hirsutism) on the face and body
- Weight gain and increased difficulty in losing weight
- Acne and oily skin
- Hair loss
- Low libido
- Difficulty sleeping
PCOS is also linked with gluten intolerance, psoriasis, migraines and diabetes.
Not everyone with PCOS actually has the ovarian cysts, and not everyone with ovarian cysts has PCOS, but a high fertility diet will not harm you either way, so it is worth giving it a good try.
The symptoms we experience from PCOS largely are related to
1) high testosterone/androgens and
2) high serum (blood levels) of insulin.
3) high levels of estrogen vs progesterone
The cause of PCOS is not fully understood. It does tend to run in families and a gene influencing the development of the condition has been identified. It is thought that other factors also influence its development including:
- Excessive levels of male hormones (androgens) being made in the ovaries
- A problem with the enzymes involved in male hormone production
- A problem with insulin metabolism known as insulin resistance – which causes the body to produce excess insulin, which may cause the ovaries to produce too much androgen (female testosterone), which can prevent normal ovulation.
How is our Diet Involved in PCOS?
PCOS is a state of inflammation associated with insulin resistance. Women with PCOS have higher markers of inflammation than women without the syndrome.
Insulin resistance simply means your cells have shut down some of their insulin docking sites, which means your body produces more and more insulin to try and get the same effect that it used to have.
All this extra insulin running around your body stimulates your ovaries to produce more testosterone, and at the same time insulin can bind to some testosterone receptors as well, so it can basically act as testosterone on some cells.
The aim of a fertility diet for PCOS is to
1) Remove inflammation
2) Stabilize blood sugar levels
3) Replace the missing nutrients
Endometriosis – What is it?
Endometriosis is a common inflammatory disease estimated to affect 176 million girls and women worldwide, that is about 1/10 in the western world!
It occurs when tissue similar to the lining of the uterus (endometrium), is found in places outside of the uterus. This means when you have your period, these other areas of endometruim tissue bleeds too. This can cause severe pain for some ladies.
Endometriosis is most commonly found in the pelvic region on the thin pelvic lining called the peritoneum. It may be also be found on the pelvic ligaments, ovaries and bowel. It is also occasionally found in places outside the pelvis such as in scar tissue, the bellybutton or lungs.
Symptoms of Endometriosis
- Pain with periods – most common symptom.
- Bowel problems like bloating, diarrhoea, constipation, pain with bowel movements, painful wind
- Painful intercourse
- Pain in other places such as the lower back
- Pain with ovulation or intermittently throughout the month
- Abnormal menstrual bleeding
- Bladder troubles like interstitial cystitis (IC)
How does Diet Help with Endometriosis?
To relieve endometriosis symptoms naturally, begin by eliminating foods that lead to inflammation.
This includes dairy, processed foods, refined sugars, caffeine and carbohydrates, Alcohol, soy and other high-estrogen foods should also be eliminated from your diet because of their estrogenic effects.
What is Unexplained Infertility?
Unexplained infertility are cases in which the standard infertility testing has not found a cause. It is also referred to as idiopathic infertility or as I like to call it – the “doctors can’t figure it out” group.
Unexplained infertility becomes more common in women over 35, and even more so in women over 38.
This can often be a super frustrating diagnosis for couples, who naturally want to know, ‘If everything is coming back okay, then why aren’t we falling pregnant?’
How can Diet Help Fix Unexplained Infertility?
There are so many many factors in the process of getting pregnant, and fertility tests really only cover the basics.
If you have unexplained infertility, it is well worth improving your diet and lifestyle and focus on giving your body all the good quality building blocks that it needs to rebuild and function.
Decreasing the inflammation in your body, and at the same time providing a nutrient dense diet has helped many people with unexplained infertility to get pregnant. It is worth a try!
An Overview of a Fertility Diet
Far from the food pyramid you were probably brought up on is the fertility diet pyramid. You will note there are some food groups missing, that is on purpose.
You want to aim for less than 40% of your calories to come from carbohydrates, at least 25% of your calories should come from protein. The rest should be made up with healthy fats. This ratio has been shown to boost fertility significantly by Dr Jeffrey Russell.
To keep track of your food macro-nutrient ratios I like to use a free account on myfitnesspal.
Side note: The American food pyramid was decided on by politicians, not dietitians, and it has a heavy emphasis on grains and dairy thanks to the big agricultural industry lobbying (buying out) the politicians at the time. You can read more here.
Everyday, eat high quality, unprocessed foods from each of the following four groups:
- Animal foods: meat, poultry, fish, eggs, organ meats
- Grains and legumes: whole grains (not wheat, barley or rye), breakfast porridges, beans all soaked before use
- Fruits and Vegetables: preferably fresh or frozen
- Fats and Oils: unrefined saturated and monounsaturated fats including butter and other animal fats, palm oil and coconut oil, olive oil and peanut oil, walnuts and flax seeds/linseed are great sources of healthy fats
- Eat sparingly (or avoid totally): sweets, white flour products, soft drinks, processed foods, polyunsaturated and partially hydrogenated vegetable oils and fried foods.
Fresh wild salmon, shellfish and fish eggs. You should aim to eat fresh wild seafood 2-4 times per week. These are high in Omega 3, selenium and antioxidants, all of which our body needs to make healthy reproductive cells like eggs and sperm.
If you are like me and cannot have seafood, then replace it with pasture raised meats, using mineral salt rather than table salt and taking chia and flax seed daily for the essential fatty acids. It is a poor replacement, but it is better than skipping it out totally.
Your body uses the omega 3 as an anti inflammatory and they are required for the production of healthy cells.
Organ meats have fallen out of favor. Indigenous cultures respected their food a lot more than we in modern society do. Part of this respect was to eat and use every single part of the animal. Organ meats like the liver, brain and kidney are also full of very beneficial nutrients.
Liver is a super food containing an easily absorbed form of iron, all of the B vitamins (including B12 and folic acid in significant amounts), balanced quantities of vitamin A, many trace elements and minerals including copper, zinc, chromium, phosphorous and selenium, essential fatty acids EPA, DHA.
No bottled supplement made with synthetic nutrients will ever beat getting the nutrients from the whole-food source.
Egg yolk, butter, virgin olive oil, saturated fat (lard, dripping, tallow), virgin coconut oil and sustainably produced palm oil are all good, healthy, body building, nutrient giving fats. These fats are very satisfying (you cannot eat too much at once) and they help us absorb essential, fertility-boosting fat-soluble vitamins like vitamin A and D.
Daily you should try and consume 3-5 walnuts and 1 teaspoon of ground flax seeds/linseed as they are a fantastic source of omega 3’s and other healthy fats.
Bone broth should be consumed daily. It is full of minerals and gelatin that your body use as building blocks for bones and cartilage.
Dr Mercola has a good video on making bone broth here.
Keep the yummy fat on that steak! Red meat supplies haem-iron, the type that is more easily absorbed, as well as protein and many amino acids and nutrients.
Eat lots of leafy greens, preferably in their raw state. Eat a wide range of colors of vegetables. Like flavors, colors are reflective of the nutrients inside. Most vegetables are much better for us raw as they contain enzymes to help us digest them.
Foods to Avoid When Trying to Get Pregnant
It has been suggested that daily consumption of wheat products and other related cereal grains may contribute to chronic inflammation and autoimmune diseases.
So they are off the table for at least the first 12 weeks of your new fertility diet. This includes wheat, rye and barley. Small quantities of oats are OK as long as they have been soaked over night before consuming.
If after 12 weeks you want to try and re-introduce them, you may do so, but watch carefully for any sign that your body is not handling them well. Signs may include bloating, upset stomach/bowels, headaches, puffiness in the face, hands or feet, nausea or fatigue.
Dairy has been shown to increase insulin levels in your blood. We are trying to avoid insulin spikes, and are aiming to re-sensitize your body to insulin, so we need to keep it low. Also, what we consume as “dairy” these days is often over processed rubbish, so we will just leave it out for now.
Sugar causes spikes in blood sugar, cravings and weight gain. None of these things are good. It also puts a lot of strain on your liver, and we actually don’t need it, sugar is simply empty calories with no good up side.
This liver connection we will go in to elsewhere, but basically your body needs the liver to metabolize your spent hormones and when you throw sugar in to the mix it cannot do it’s job.
This results in us getting a backlog of half metabolized (but still active) estrogen and testosterone running around in our bodies wreaking havoc.
Soy and soy products
I know that soy is touted as a super amazing food source. The reality is that we have been sold this idea by an agricultural system that stands to make so very much money off of us. Don’t be sucked in.
Soy contains a number of phytoestrogens, a plant chemical that acts like estrogen in the body. In a few, very specific circumstances this can be beneficial, but generally MORE estrogen is the opposite of what we need!
There are suspicions that the volume of soy we are consuming is to (at least partly) blame for the steep decline in male fertility.
The exception to the rule is if you are eating a small amount of traditionally fermented soy product occasionally in your diet, this is OK.
Bad fats are all trans-fats, margarine, industrial oils – canola, corn and soya – anything deep fried and most commercially baked goods.
The problem with these fats is that your body cannot work out exactly how to process them, so it doesn’t.
It incorporates the fats into your cell walls instead. Because these fats aren’t the same shape as real fats, it alters the surface of our cell walls, this can misalign our receptors and mean that the cells no longer function how they should be.
Imagine a hormone coming along and it needed 3 receptors in a row to bind to to make that hormone work, but now, your cell’s receptors are in a triangle shape. That just ain’t gonna work right.
Caffeine, cigarette smoke, recreational drugs and some prescription drugs all also influence your ability to get pregnant, as well as raising your toxic load and affecting your entire body.
Super Fertility Foods we Should Include in Our Diet
Pasture raised butter is full of goodness including vitamin K2 which we need to absorb many nutrients from vegetables. See, Granny was right putting that butter on the broccoli after all.
Butter is also high in Vitamin A and D.
Individuals that get optimal vitamin A from the time of conception have broad ‘handsome’ faces, strong straight teeth, and excellent bone structure. Vitamin A also plays an important role in the development of the sex characteristics (1).
You can also get a high vitamin butter oil / cod liver oil combo which is the ultimate powerhouse of awesome.
Cod liver oil
Cod liver oil helps to regulate hormones, increases good cervical fluid, and even protect sperm from damaging free radicals. It’s naturally occurring and liquid forms are best, but it also comes in capsule form, which certainly tastes better!
Pumpkin seeds are a fabulous source of zinc, which helps assist in healthy sperm and egg development. Proper levels of zinc are essential at the time of conception, because it plays a role in normal cell division at the embryonic stage. Other foods that are high in zinc are almonds, peas, and oats.
A Day in the Life of a Fertility Diet
2 teaspoons of high vitamin cod liver oil (pre breakfast) – chase it with a swig of OJ if you must.
2 eggs cooked in, or served with, 1 Tablespoon of butter
A selection of vegetables also lightly sauted in butter – spinach, tomatoes, mushrooms are good choices
Bacon if you like (who doesn’t like bacon??)
Morning tea (optional – you are probably still be full from breakfast)
Smoothie made from 1 teaspoon of chia, 1/2 cup berries (frozen is fine), 1/4 cup coconut milk, 1/2 cup water.
1 serving of meat or fish cooked as you like
Salad or soup made from seasonal vegetables
1 cup of bone broth – either to drink or in the soup
Beef or lamb cooked in 1 Tablespoon of coconut oil
Salad or other vegetables
Snack or Supper
Nuts with a small volume of dried fruit if you feel you need something sweet.
Whipped coconut cream with some berry fruit and chopped nuts sprinkled on top.
A Fertility Diet: How to Beat PCOS, Endometriosis + Unexplained Infertility through a healthy, natural diet.
These conditions may be deemed ‘incurable’ by modern medicine. What they really mean is ‘we don’t have any medication that we can sell you that works’. These conditions are largely genetic, triggered by lifestyle factors. YOU have the power to help improve them, if not totally reverse them.
Got any comments or questions? Let me know in the comments below.