We are happy to have Cecily Yousaf as a guest blogger to discuss fertility & Nutrition. Cecily is the owner of Fertile Ground Healthcare. She practices Traditional Chinese Medicine and has been specializing in reproductive medicine and endocrinology since 2006. Her background includes a degree in biology and special studies in cellular biology, reproductive medicine, pregnancy and human lactation.
“You can enrich hormone balance and nourish the cells of your reproductive system, and the cells that will become your baby, with the foods that you choose to eat. Upgrading your nutrition can have great effect on your fertility outcomes, optimizing hormone levels, improving egg and sperm quality, balancing blood sugar levels, improving fertility lab values and enriching uterine lining. Wherever you are in your fertility treatment journey, be it IUI, IVF or timed intercourse, upgrading your nutrition can greatly enhance your fertility.
There are some basic guidelines to a fertile diet but not one formula that works for every body. Eating real food and listening to the body’s responses guides individuals into becoming skilled in honoring their unique dietary needs. Fad diets, rigid menus, shakes and pills are not sustainable nutrition plans, and can set the metabolism and hormones up for imbalance. Fertile nutrition is about delicious foods prepared with self-care at the individual level of preference, time and budget.
Along with improved fertility outcomes, adjustments to nutrition can help patients experience: improved sleep, reduction of painful periods, less headaches, weight balance, decreased anxiety, lowered cholesterol and triglyceride levels, stronger hair and nails, healthier looking skin, less food cravings, reduced reliance upon medications, lowered inflammation levels and decreased stress levels.
Here are the top 5 out of Cecily’s 10 basic tips to improve fertility through nutrition:
1. Add a wide variety of vegetables and strive for at least 5 full servings of veggies per day. Add some greens each day; add a variety of colors of veggies, and some starchy vegetables like winter squashes and root vegetables like sweet potatoes and turnips. WHY? Vegetables help your amazing liver to function more effectively at filtering your hormones from your body. When your hormones are filtered more effectively, they will then be at ideal levels and be able to communicate in the correct amounts with your glands that send messages to your body.
2. Add optimal fats -or lipids since so many of us have an unhappy association with the word fat. Here are some ideal choices: Coconut oil, hormone free butter, ghee, avocado oil, and extra -virgin olive oil (med to low heat only.) Eat foods that contain good fats like avocados, raw or soaked and dried nuts, dark chocolate (85% or more is best), whole pasture raised eggs, seeds, and small amounts of full fat dairy. WHY? Lipids are extraordinarily important in hormone communication, they help reproductive hormones get in and out of cells, thus regulating hormone levels. Your insulin will be in a more balanced state when you eat quality lipids and your hormones will be able to better communicate with one another. *Eating fat does not make us fat, and eating cholesterol does NOT lead to high cholesterol levels unless inflammatory foods (i.e. processed foods) are being consumed along with them. Avoid processed foods as much as possible. (Packaged cookies, crackers, cereals, breads, candy etc.) *If you feel like snacking choose nuts. My favorite nuts are a wide variety, as each type has different benefits, for example Brazil nuts contain lots of important selenium and almonds are rich in calcium. It is preferable that nuts are in a raw and organic form. Many roasted nuts are heated to high temperatures, which can destroy some of the benefits of the healthy fats in them. Buying nuts raw and soaking them and then seasoning and dehydrating them is a delicious and ideal way to have nuts. Also, soaking the nuts in water reduces Phytic acid content and all of the healthy oils stay tact when the nuts are not over-heated.
3. Improve your animal proteins-Use 100% grass-fed beef as much as possible. Purchase pastures raised eggs only, and always have the yolks and whites together. Consume wild fish rather than farm raised fish, eat natural chicken, lamb and pork raised without antibiotics and added hormones. Make sure your sausage, bacon, salami etc. are prepared without preservatives and nitrates. Try palm sized portions of meats but be flexible with your body. Some days your body might be craving a bit more meat or less meat each day. WHY? Protein is the building block of every cell including your reproductive cells! Meat and eggs from animals raised the way they were meant to contains the types of proteins and especially the correct balance of omega fats that our bodies are looking for. Animals who have been raised in unhealthy environments have the need to be on antibiotics and are often be injected with synthetic growth hormones. Antibiotics and synthetic growth hormones can harm our internal gut flora and changes our hormone to levels that are not ideal for our system. Make it your priority to find animal products that are as natural as possible.
4. Stick to lower sugar fruits and avoid refined sugars and sweeteners.Have lots of organic berries, they are rich in antioxidants and tend to be lower in naturally occurring sugars. Apples and pears are a bit lower in sugar as well, but go for the green variety of apples and pears that are not over-ripe. Pomegranate seeds are wonderful and full of antioxidants. Use higher sugar fruits very sparingly. Eat higher sugar fruits when you are having protein or fat to keep your blood sugar and insulin stable. Eat fruit when it is in season; in the summer have a small bit of melon, mango, or pineapple etc. Just enjoy your sugar fruits with a bit of fat and protein. Avoid added sugars or concentrated sources of sugar like fruit juices. WHY? We need to keep our major hormone (insulin) as level as possible so that our other hormones can stay within range more easily. Balancing insulin helps balance our stress hormones as well as our sex hormones.
5. Eat full fat dairy only and not too much. Use dairy rather sparingly, try not to make dairy the main source of protein in your diet. Eat full fat organic and raw cheese. Avoid all high sugar yogurts. Yogurt may have plenty of protein but check the sugar content, it’s typically 15-30 grams (that equals 3-7 teaspoons) of sugar per serving, this is more sugar grams than you need all day! Eat real butter from grass fed cows. WHY? Low fat dairy sets us up for hormone imbalance as the “female” sex hormone components are centrifuged out in the fat. We are simply not meant to eat altered dairy products. Studies clearly demonstrate the hormone disruptive properties of low fat dairy products. Low fat dairy products contain ingredients that act as thickeners etc. to have a better taste and consistency; these are not real food!
These guidelines are a brief overview and a good place to begin for fertile nutrition. For additional information contact Cecily at Fertile Ground Wellness Center or at 303-248-3481.”
Thank you Cecily for these great tips. Since 2006 Cecily has been helping patients to conceive and has done extensive studies in nutrition at the cellular and sub-cellular levels, designing nutrition guidelines to improve the very health of the body’s cells. She guides fertility patients into treatment plans that are optimal, sustainable and specific for them.
If you are having trouble conceiving and are in need of consultation call Denver Fertility Albrecht Women’s care at 720-420-1570.