Fertility and Naturopathic Medicine – Nutrition and Other Factors
'Infertility' is defined as 12 months of unprotected intercourse without pregnancy, and there are usually many factors at play. In this article I will touch on what naturopathic medicine recommends to eat as well as other factors that can help you become more fertile. Trying to conceive can become all-consuming and emotionally draining, and going the allopathic route can be hard on your body. In this and associated articles, I will offer safe and effective alternatives; it is my wish that they will give you hope and inspiration to achieve a healthier body and a happier mind. This can only improve your chances of natural conception.
What to Eat
Eating according to your metabolic type balances your hormonal system. Metabolic-typing questionnaire results can be an eye-opener as to what kind of diet is more optimal for your metabolism. There are three main metabolic types: carbohydrate, protein and mixed. For example, a protein type would do better on a paleo diet instead of a vegetarian diet. A low fat diet is not recommended as hormones are made from cholesterol. A vegetarian diet has to be planned out carefully so as to include all necessary nutrients, especially iron, B12 and fat-soluble vitamins.
Eat organic food, especially organic animal products and organic foods from the "dirty dozen" list (in decreasing order of contamination: apples, celery, sweet bell peppers, peaches, strawberries, nectarines, grapes, spinach, lettuce, cucumbers, blueberries and potatoes).
Essential fatty acids improve the quality of your cervical mucus; have a good quality fish oil daily.
Add fiber, like chia or flax seeds to help excrete excess estrogens from your body.
Drink Japanese green tea to reduce binding of excess estrogens to estrogen receptors.
Drink filtered water, and avoid store bought plastic water bottles.
Only organic and fermented soy products like miso, organic tamari soy sauce, tempeh and natto are safe. Soy milk should not be consumed even if organic as it prevents protein digestion and causes mineral malabsorption. Almond milk, coconut milk and coconut water are good alternatives.
Raw cheese is a good option for those who can take dairy products.
Vitamins and Minerals Important for Hormonal Health
The fat-soluble vitamins are A, D, E and K; they work together to ensure optimal health, including reproduction. The best sources are organic animal products and supplementation. These vitamins can accumulate in your body so please consult your naturopath before starting supplementation.
Before conception as well as during pregnancy, folate and vitamin B12 are essential and should be taken together as folate needs B12 to work. There is a big difference between folate and folic acid, the former being the natural, active (methylated) form found in food, and the latter being the inactive, non-methylated form, usually found in supplements. 50% of people have one chromosome defective for expressing an enzyme MTHFR that methylates folic acid and makes it active. Eat organic leafy greens as they contain the active form of folate.
Anemia can cause problems, especially in the third trimester, and can make delivery more painful. Ferritin is a storage form of iron and its level is much better at showing the true iron status than hemoglobin alone. If your ferritin is low, highly absorbable iron supplements should be considered. Magnesium is deficient in 80% of people, and is a common deficiency in infertility. Food sources include leafy greens, nuts and seeds, and cocoa. Selenium is important for detoxification and thyroid function; two Brazil nuts per day cover your daily needs.
Other Female Factors
Have your doctor rule out ovarian failure, damage to fallopian tubes, uterine fibroids and endometriosis. Healthy cervical mucus enables the sperm to survive for 3-5 days in the female reproductive tract. This enhances your chances of pregnancy as ovulation only occurs for one day of every menstrual cycle. Charting your body temperature first thing in the morning and monitoring daily cervical mucus production/quality is important, as temperature should increase and mucus should have an egg white quality at ovulation.
Male factors can be low sperm count, low sperm motility or poor sperm morphology. A naturopathic doctor would attempt to find the root cause of the problem: there could be chronic infection, environmental factors at play like overheating of testicles, prostate enlargement, or dietary deficiencies like low zinc. As mentioned in a previous article, pesticides in particular affect quality of the sperm, so organic food is highly recommended.
For both sexes, exercise should be moderate; if in excess, it could imbalance hormones.
Some prescription medications have been identified to contribute to infertility, for example statins, calcium channel blockers, antihistamines and birth control pills.
Rule out sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) in both partners.
Upon comprehensive naturopathic assessment, herbs and homeopathy could be chosen to balance hormones and/or help with detoxification. Homeopathic remedies can also be prescribed "constitutionally" and help balance your body and mind. Castor oil packs enhance detoxification, improve circulation and immunity. Light therapy can enhance fertility as light affects pituitary secretion of hormones e.g. sleeping with the light on from day 12-14. Stress can be greatly reduced with progressive relaxation and limbic breathing techniques, taught in our clinic.
By Dr. Olja Keserovic, Naturopathic Doctor
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