10 Foods to Increase Female Fertility

Female Fertility Diet

In this article we examine foods to increase female fertility.

Preparing your body to have a baby is a process many people don’t realise can start well before the window of conception. There are certain foods that can be used to increase female fertility and are more effective if introduced into the diet before falling pregnant.

When to Begin

On average, a woman needs up to 4 months to intentionally start taking care of her body (also known as ‘baby prepping’) if she wants to encourage the healthiest method to fall pregnant.

It is worth seeking professional health-care advice when looking to introduce new foods and supplements into your diet, particularly if having difficulties with conception and fertility.

It’s also important to note that there is no specific diet that will without fail, result in pregnancy, however food and lifestyle choices do have a significant impact on fertility health in both men and women.

There are many supplement recommendations to target specific hormone and nutrient areas however we are looking at how, outside the world of supplements and vitamins, female fertility can be increased specifically by the foods consumed.

Here are 10 Foods to Increase Female Fertility:

1. Beans and Lentils

Foods to Increase Female FertilityLentils and beans are high in protein, and it’s suggested that consuming more plant-based proteins instead of meat-based proteins actually have a positive impact on fertility health.

For example, a study has shown that female infertility may decrease by over 50% when just 5 percent of total calories are sourced from plants instead of animals, emphasis on red meats and chicken.

Beans and lentils are also a strong source of fibre and folic acid, which help maintain a healthy hormonal balance in the body and improve ovulation, increasing female fertility.

2. Sunflower Seeds

Sunflower seeds are small, easy snacks that are luckily jam-packed with nutrients that are beneficial to fertility in women. These seeds are rich in antioxidants such as Vitamin E, zinc, folic acid and selenium.

This all work towards improving the quality of eggs, and the overall health and function of the ovaries, menstrual cycle and ovulation.

A study (published by PubMed Central PMC 2014) was conducted to express that a higher folic acid intake in women led to higher chances of conception and carrying a pregnancy to full term.

3. Fruit

Fruits are so beneficial, not just to increase female fertility, but for ensuring the baby and mother keeps healthy and gets the right vitamins throughout pregnancy.

Citrus fruits such as oranges and grapefruits are a great source of Vitamin C and folic acid.

Other fruits and berries such as raspberries, blueberries and strawberries naturally contain antioxidants and phytonutrients, which work to increase immunity in the body and encourage gentle detoxing, creating an environment beneficial to female fertility.

4. Avocados

Avocados are a form of ‘healthy fats’, also known as monounsaturated fats, that provide the female body with fibre and folic acid, essential nutrients in the conception stages of pregnancy.

They also give the body a variety of other nutrients like folate, Vitamin K and potassium which may help the body regulate blood pressure and increase nutrient absorption, assisting in the foundation of increasing female fertility.

5. Full-Fat Dairy

Consuming full-fat dairy such as whole milk, certain cheese and Greek yoghurt have substantial benefits on fertility health, particularly when replacing low-fat dairy products.

Full-fat dairy consumption leads to a lesser likelihood of having problems with ovulation as they are a great source of the Vitamins D, A, K and E, along with a source of calcium and probiotics.

Low-fat dairy products, such as skim or low-fat milk can increase the chance of infertility problems in women as they can be detrimental to ovulation and the menstrual cycle.

6. Salmon

Increased female fertility can be encouraged by salmon, with particular emphasis on wild-caught salmon to minimise the consumption of mercury.

Salmon is a food found on most superfood lists and is rich with healthy fats, a natural source of protein and omega-3s, which are shown to be beneficial to fertility health in both men and women, along with an abundant source of selenium and Vitamin D.

In fact, one serving of salmon can equate up to 97% of the daily recommended intake of Vitamin D, important as infertility problems can be associated with not having enough natural Vitamin D incorporated into the diet.

7. Asparagus

Another food to increase female fertility is asparagus, as it contains nutrients vital for healthy conception and pregnancy growth.

It has been shown that just a one cup serving of asparagus, can provide the body with the full daily amount of recommended Vitamin K, 60% of the daily recommended servings of folate and at least 20% of vitamins such as A, B and C, all working to strengthen the female reproductive system.

8. Walnuts

Walnuts for fertilityWalnuts, similar to wild-caught salmon, are full of healthy fats, omega-3s and omega-6s. These work together to regulate hormones, therefore improving ovulation, and maintain healthy brain function.

Whilst this is essential for reproductive systems in women, walnuts are known to support and improve the semen health in men, especially.

9. Egg Yolks

The yolk is in some ways the most important part of the egg as it is the primary source of Vitamin A, and contains almost all of the egg’s iron, calcium, folate, zinc and vitamins B and B12.

Eggs can also provide omega-3s and folic acid that work to help create red blood cells and to maintain the fetal development after the conception stages.

All these nutrients assist with increasing female fertility, along with eggs being a source of protein and choline, which some studies suggest can reduce the chance of some birth defects, however is still a controversial idea.

10. Oysters

A less common, yet helpful food to increase female fertility is oysters. This is because the nutrients oysters offer is specifically beneficial to the reproductive system.

For example, six oysters in a serving provide the daily recommended sources of Vitamin B12, zinc and selenium by around double what’s needed, and can equate to at least 43% of daily recommend iron, boosting a woman’s ovulation and egg health.

Reflecting on Foods to Increase Female Fertility

To conclude, fertility health can be influenced massively by diet and certain foods may increase female fertility well before a woman may even be thinking about conceiving.

Other factors that are suggested to help natural conception include making breakfast the biggest and most energy-inducing meal of the day and lowering your caffeine intake.

Vacation Fertility Food Plan Tested

Fertility Diet

The fertility diet was taking hold. The holidays came and went with an outpouring of support from family and friends. They adjusted menus, cancelled chocolate gifts, and offered me support instead of cookies. It wasn’t until I went on vacation that my fertility food plan was tested.


Having a Fertility Food Plan Whilst On Vacation

It was going great!

That is until I left for a one week ski trip.

Here I am hiking up in search of great snow – found it.

Eating right while on vacation is of course hard. I know that. But I planned ahead. I packed the car with two huge boxes of food for lunches and a hot plate. Each lunch was planned out and I contacted the hotel in advance to make sure the cook knew how to prepare gluten free meals for dinner.

I was all set.

Fertility Food PlanBut that was theory and then there was reality.

The hotel breakfast didn’t offer anything gluten free or balanced in terms of carbs/protein/and fat – not that I expected it. It was, after all, France and keeping with tradition the breakfast consisted of nothing but white bread and to die for pastries of every kind.

But I had plenty of extra food with me so every morning along with making a hot lunch for my thermos; I made two hard boiled eggs to go with the gluten free bread, fruit and nuts I brought. Breakfast and lunch: balanced, healthy and right on target.

Dinner, however, was made by the hotel cook.

I had emailed ahead and talked to the owner the night we arrived. He said they have cooked gluten free before and it was no problem.

Sounded promising, but he was so relaxed about it, I had to probe him some more to make sure he really knew what gluten free was.

“We’ve done this before,” he reassured me.

So, I trusted him and sat down to dinner.

The food was great. They served me a different soup and my main meal was missing the obvious gluten items like pasta and bread.

“I think they just might know what they are doing,” I thought cautiously.


My Fertility Food Plan Goes Out the Window!

Then came dessert.

I hadn’t planned on having dessert. But they set a large pear in front of me covered in some tasty looking sauce and said it was gluten free.

“One little pear. It’s not that bad,” the rebel inside me said. The rest is history.

Each night they placed what they always called a gluten free dessert in front of me. And I’m talking desserts that even people with super hero willpower can’t resist, like chocolate mouse – how in the hell do you turn down chocolate mouse placed under your nose? Not me. I caved.

And then came the price tag. My digestive system began to revolt first – not the greatest thing for a backcountry ski trip. And then I woke up in the middle of the night with a terribly itchy chin and when I looked in the mirror in the morning my reflection resembled that of an acne plagued teenager (except for the crow’s feet).


Feeling Guilty and Letting it Go

It was too late. I couldn’t take it back. I’m home now with acne, an unhappy digestive system and I bleed when I go to the bathroom. The damage is done.

I should have drilled the cook harder and made sure they really knew what gluten free was. I should have resisted dessert. But I didn’t. I’m human and, I screw up.

So, now all I can do is forgive myself. Mentally beating myself up is not going to help me – or my fertility for that matter. There is no undo button so I’m going to hereby stop dwelling and start healing (At least I am going to try my best).

I know I’m not alone in this guilt and blame game. A lot of us suffering from infertility are busy beating ourselves up.

“I shouldn’t have waited so long to try and get pregnant.”

“I should eat better.” “I should lose weight.”

“I should have taken better care of myself,” etc, etc.

It’s time to let go. It’s time to forgive ourselves. Only then can we heal.


Diet and fertility

How Diet Affects Fertility

my fertility diet

Over the past several months I’ve been researching how diet affects fertility and continuously modifying what I put into my mouth in an effort to kick-start my reproductive system.

It’s been interesting.

Some of the changes have been welcomed by my body and others have been, well, to say it lightly, rejected.


My Fertility Diet

While there are still several books and numerous studies I plan on reviewing; I have developed this initial set of diet principles.

My fertility diet  must:

  • promote a healthy digestive system (with regular, healthy bowel movements)
  • promote healthy blood sugar levels
  • exclude all toxins
  • provide all the nutrients my body needs

Achieving each principle individually required me to make some changes to my diet, but turned out to b

how diet affects fertility


e relatively straightforward. Changing my diet to incorporate all of these principles simultaneously, however, has led my body to some moments of protest (most notably constipation and weight loss).

Now, I do have to admit that my diet is more complicated than most since I used to be a vegetarian and now include fish, but still do not eat meat or poultry (which is likely to change soon).


Changes I Had to Make to My Diet to Maximize


So what went wrong?

Well, I found out what nutrients needed to be in my diet and how to avoid toxins. Then I promoted a healthy digestive system which, for me, was a bit of a challenge, but doable.

A few of the changes I made for this, for example, were to eliminate all cheeses and to increase my vegetable intake, especially including regular servings of parsley and the green leafy vegetable called rocket or arugula.

These changes were helpful in making me regular, but not quite enough.

So on days when my system was slow or non-responsive, I made myself a big bowel of vegetable soup in the morning – yes, I ate vegetable soup for breakfast (without a side of orange juice). This inevitably kick-started my system and sent me to the bathroom for a healthy bowel movement in the morning hours.

Discovering How Diet Affects Fertility and Problems I Encountered

So what’s the problem?

Well, after increasing my intake of vegetables and having vegetable soup for breakfast a couple times a week, I lost weight.

For me, this is totally counter productive. The simple answer to counter weight loss would be to increase calories. This proved difficult, however, since adding calories as a non-meat eater lead to conflicts with the other diet principles.

Here are a few of the problems I faced:

  • adding too many carbohydrates (even quality carbohydrates like beans and brown rice) is counterproductive to maintaining a healthy blood sugar level
  • eating more fish sent my digestive system into a full stop mode (and potentially adds too many toxins due to mercury – fish twice a week is the recommended dosage)
  • adding nuts wasn’t enough calories and also not easy on my digestive system
  • adding more healthy fats from their natural source was tough since I have excluded dairy (majority of my research points to dairy as harmful to fertility)


The Solution

The only solution that I currently see to this conundrum is to add poultry and/or meat to my diet for fertility. (It’s been about 5 years since I last ate poultry and about 15 years since I ate meat.) As long as this big move away from the vegetarian diet agrees with my digestive system, it will make meeting the principles of my fertility diet easier.


What I Discovered: How Diet Affects Fertility Main Principles

  1. Choose ‘good’ carbohydrates, including whole grains and vegetables- all essential for energy, vitamins and minerals and bowel movement
  2. Eliminate trans-fats and include high quality ones such as Omega -3 Fatty Acids
  3. Add more plant protein to the mix
  4. Take a premium multivitamin with pro fertility ingredients
  5. Swap out sugar sweetened beverages for water

Discovering how diet affects fertility has been an iterative process. Let’s see where this next step takes me.

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Infertility and Celiac Disease

Celiac Disease and Infertility

In this article we look at the link between infertility and Celiac Disease. Numerous studies have indicated that celiac disease may be more common in people with unexplained infertility, and that treatment may help restore fertility. Celiac has been linked to recurrent miscarriage, premature babies, and low-birth-weight babies.


What’s gluten?

Gluten is a protein found in wheat, rye and barley. It turns out that in approximately 1 out of 100 healthy Americans the immune system responds to the consumption of this protein by attacking the wall of the small intestine – harming its ability to absorb nutrients from food. An astonishing 97% of these people, however, do not even know they have this condition – called celiac disease. (1)


The Link Between Infertility and Celiac Disease

A lot! In fact, the University of Chicago says, “Any individual who has experienced persistent miscarriage or infertility where a medical cause could not be found needs to be tested for celiac disease.”(2) And they are not alone in their recommendation: The Wm. K. Warren Medical Research Center for Celiac Disease recommends 16 situations and/or conditions for which celiac should be considered, one of which is: “unexplained infertility or miscarriage” (3).

And although the probability of having celiac disease is around 1% for the average healthy American, the probability increases to 6% for women with unexplained infertility (1).


A Case of Infertility and Celiac Disease

infertility and celiac diseaseStacey Roberts from Sharkey’s Healing Center shared a case in her August 2008 newsletter that she had of a couple who had been trying to conceive for three years and received the diagnosis of unexplained infertility.

After one failed IVF cycle and a few months of herbs from the healing center with no success, the center recommend that the woman get tested for celiac disease since she had also mentioned having mild digestive problems (which did not respond to diet adjustments).

Her doctor was opposed to the idea, but did the tests anyway. The tests came back positive and after three months on a gluten-free diet the couple conceived and was in their second trimester when the newsletter was published.


Celiac Disease

Haven’t heard of celiac disease? This isn’t because it’s rare – it’s more common than Crohn’s Disease, Cystic Fibrosis, Multiple Sclerosis and Parkinson’s disease – combined (4). But this disease is not well known by the general public, or well understood by general practitioners, nor is it easy to diagnose: the average delay in diagnosis in the United States after the onset of symptoms is four years (1).

There are more than 200 signs and symptoms of celiac disease (2), but only 10% of patients have what are considered typical symptoms (5) and 41% of patients have no symptoms at all (1).

The Wm. K. Warren Medical Research Center for Celiac Disease at the University of California, San Diego states that the symptoms for celiac disease are varied, but may include any of the following (3):

  • Bloating, gas or abdominal pain
  • Diarrhea or constipation
  • Chronic fatigue and weakness
  • Indigestion
  • Itchy skin rash
  • Fatigue and weakness
  • Irritability or behavior change
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Delayed growth
  • Mouth ulcers
  • Tingling or numbness in hands & feet


How is Celiac Disease Treated?

The treatment of celiac disease is a gluten-free diet for life. But experts strongly discourage going on a gluten-free diet until a firm diagnosis has been made since a gluten-free diet (even for just a month) makes a diagnosis difficult (6).


Is a Gluten-free Diet Everyone’s Solution?

No. Absolutely not. But since it’s not recognized well by doctors, it may be up to the patient to pay attention to their own signs and symptoms and suggest the testing.


Why am I so Interested in Infertility and Celiac Disease?

infertility and celiacI’ve been suffering from digestive issues for a while now. They include bloating, constipation, and blood in the stool. Unfortunately, I started a gluten-free diet before I being tested.

Gluten Challenge

If I wanted a definitive diagnosis now, after a gluten-free diet, I would have to do what is called a gluten challenge and eat gluten for 2-4 weeks before taking the tests.

If I have celiac disease, this would mean damaging my intestine to get a diagnosis. And not all patients can even test at the end of the four week challenge: some may have to wait years to relapse (7). I don’t have years in terms of fertility. So I’ve decided against going through this for a diagnosis.

Not Sticking to the Diet

Over the past few months, I’ve fallen off the gluten-free diet a bit. I’ve traveled a lot which leads to eating out, which leads to unintentionally ingesting gluten – if you’ve been on a gluten-free diet you know how easily this happens with gluten hiding in everything from spices, to pasta sauces, to grilled fish.

I’ve also been unknowingly including another food item that many experts think may not be safe – oats. I’ve had them almost every morning for breakfast.

Sticking with a Gluten Free Diet

I’m on a 100% gluten-free diet now though. For the last week I’ve strictly followed it – no eating out and no items with any questionable ingredients (it takes only ¼ gram of wheat to cause damage (8)).

The blood in my stool has completely disappeared and I haven’t had any spells of fatigue, nor found any sources that mention a link between gluten and blood in the stool, but I have tested it time and time again and for me it’s linked.

I haven’t been able to gain any weight, yet, but perhaps that’s coming. We’ll see how this 100% gluten-free diet goes. I do wish I had gotten a diagnosis first, though.

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Vegetarian Diet and Fertility- Will It Work?

meat diet and fertility

It’s official. I’m no longer a vegetarian. Not because I crave meat, not because I changed my mind about animal treatment, but because I believe that a vegetarian diet does not boost fertility. Or to put it more bluntly: I believe that a vegetarian diet and fertility don’t go together and contribute to infertility.

This is not the conclusion I wanted to come to as a vegetarian. But at the end of the day the facts and evidence point to animal protein as part of a healthy fertility diet. So after happily avoiding poultry for the past five years and red meat for the past fifteen years, I’m putting them back on my plate.

How did I come to this, for me, a radical decision? Research and experimentation.


Insulin Regulation is Vital to Fertility

vegetarian diet and fertilitySifting through books and articles on fertility and health I’ve come across various studies on the effects of animal and vegetable protein on fertility. There is, however, no consensus on which source is best for improving your changes of conception. What doctors and researchers do agree on, though, is that insulin regulation is vital to fertility.


What is Insulin Exactly?

When you eat easily digested carbohydrates – like potatoes or white bread – they’re broken down into sugar and enter the bloodstream. To lower this high blood sugar level the body produces insulin which escorts the sugar out of the bloodstream and into your cells. Sounds like a good system, but the insulin spikes caused by such easily digested carbohydrates reek havoc on your reproductive system.


Linked: Reproductive System, Insulin and Protein 

Dr. Ernest Zeringue from the Davis Fertility Clinic has successfully been using nutrition to control insulin with his fertility patients for years, and he describes the effect of elevated insulin levels on fertility by stating, “The insulin can interfere with the development of the eggs as they’re growing, as well as interfere with the establishment of a pregnancy inside the uterus.” (1)

Protein is key to controlling insulin levels.

Dr. Jeremy Groll, fertility doctor, research scientist and author of the book Fertility Foods recommends a diet and exercise program that “will improve your insulin sensitivity and make you more fertile.” For this, he points out, protein is critical: “Our goal in this plan is to promote lean body mass to reduce insulin, and you can’t do that without protein.” 


Vegetarian Diet and Fertility- Why is Animal Protein Necessary?

What we know then is that protein is key to regulating insulin and insulin regulation is key to boosting fertility. So why can’t insulin be regulated without animal protein?

Dr. Groll admits that getting enough protein (without dramatically increasing carbs) and getting all the essential amino acids is harder for vegetarians. He does believe it’s possible, but several other fertility specialists and I disagree. And here’s why:

There are a limited number of vegetable sources of protein and each source poses a unique problem to fertility. A high reliance on beans comes with a full load of carbohydrates, which can cause an imbalance in insulin levels. Dairy and soy are very controversial as to their role in infertility with numerous fertility specialists recommending these be kept to a minimum until the jury is out. That leaves nuts which shouldn’t be relied on too heavily because they deliver a lot of fat.

I’ve tried everything as a vegetarian to make a higher protein/lower carb fertility diet work, but for me, it was a dead end (see my blog: 4 Fertility Diet Principles).

Initially, I even tried adding fish as a protein source but it wasn’t enough because the weekly recommendation is limited to just two servings a week due to mercury contamination.

It’s important to point out that vegetarians certainly can, and do, get pregnant. But for those of us struggling with infertility, adding meat into our diet to control insulin could be the missing link that our body needs.

Some vegetarians may feel like this isn’t an option due to their beliefs, but for me it’s about the treatment of animals and buying only organic ensures that the animals are treated properly and are free of toxins.


Vegetarian Diet and Fertility- Making the Leap!

I can report that I’ve made the leap. Just the other night I made baked organic chicken with ginger and steamed vegetables on the side, not quite as tasty looking as the creations on the food channel, however, still worth a photo session. I have to say that I haven’t missed having poultry over the past 5 years, but you know what, I thought it tasted really good.

Organic red meat was supposed to be next. But I chickened out. I bought it and it’s been sitting in my freezer for the past several days. I can’t bring myself to cook it. My husband has volunteered to make something “yummy”, but I’m skeptical, of the meat, not the cooking of course!

But seriously, I can better meet my four fertility diet principles (for more see my blog: 4 Fertility Diet Principles) with poultry and meat on my menu and hopefully it will bring my body into balance.

If you enjoyed reading my blog, please write a comment here or bookmark it to a social bookmarking site by using the link below. Thanks!

Digestive Enzymes, Probiotics and Fertility

foods good for fertility

Digestive enzymes, probiotics and fertility- how are these connected?

Why do I want to upgrade a fertility diet that has done such amazing things for my body so far – like shorten my menstrual cycles, increase my energy, eliminate my acne and regulate my digestive system?

Because it seems like there’s still a piece of the puzzle missing.


Something is Not Quite Right

My cycles are still too long (at 36 days), I have a few days of spotting before my period each month, my luteal phase is short (at around 10 days), I still have an occasional bout of fatigue, and my hands and feet are extremely dry and cracked.

And for the last, more information than you wanted, observation: my stool sometimes looks very undigested. Why am I not totally digesting my food? It’s normal to see certain food in your stool, like corn (which is a good way to test the transient time of your digestive tract), but I can see all kinds of veggies. OK, I’ll stop with the ‘too much information’.


But How can I Improve My Digestion?

I turned to the books on my shelf that harbor a wealth of information. Expecting to be immersed in them for weeks to find out how to improve my digestion, I spotted a new book that I’ve been meaning to crack open for weeks: Diets for Healthy Healing.

With only a half-hour before I planned on heading to bed, I thought I’d just flip through the chapters to get a start on what the topics were. An hour-and-a-half later, I was still glued to the book.

I love when a crystal clear picture emerges.

It hit me that two of the five things the author recommended for improving digestion were missing from my diet: probiotic bacteria and digestive enzymes.


Digestive Enzymes, Probiotics and Fertility

Probiotic Bacteria

probiotics and fertilityProbiotic bacteria are the friendly bacteria that live in our digestive systems. They are vital to our health and well being and are responsible for breaking down our food, manufacturing many vitamins like the B-complex vitamins and producing antibiotics that prevent colonization of the harmful bacteria.

And it’s no stretch of the imagination to think that probiotic bacteria could affect our fertility: indirectly through proper digestion and directly since these bacteria break down and rebuild hormones such as estrogen.

Digestive Enzymes

Digestive enzymes are also critically important to our bodies. They’re found throughout our digestive system and are responsible for breaking down food to make the nutrients available to our bodies.

Our bodies produce digestive enzymes, however, enzymes are also found in certain foods.

Without enzymes our bodies can become depleted and we suffer from gas, indigestion, bloating, discomfort, undigested food in our stools, undigested fat in our stools and food sensitivities.


What Do the Experts Say About Enzymes, Probiotics and Fertility?

The funny thing is that probiotic bacteria and digestive enzymes aren’t new to me. I’ve come across them before as an essential part of a healing diet.

Clinical Nutritionalist, Elizabeth Lipski, emphasizes the importance of both in her book, Digestive Wellness; Jordan Rubin presents both as vital components to his amazing recovering from Crohn’s Disease in his book, The Maker’s Diet; and naturopath Linda Page has been using them successfully with her patients and presents this in her book, Diets for Healthy Healing.

The thing is though, neither probiotics nor enzymes are highlighted as important components to a healthy diet in scientifically based nutritional books, like Eat, Drink and Be Healthy from Harvard Medical School researcher, Dr. Walter Willett.

This is why I never added them. The hard science is still outstanding.

But the reality of nutrition is that we do not understand everything – not even close.

Dr. Willett even says in the book, Eat, Drink and Be Healthy, “It will be decades before we have identified all of the complex compounds in food and even longer before we truly understand how they interact with one another and what they do in our bodies”.


Taking Action

So, I’ve decided not to wait a few decades before I upgrade my fertility diet to include foods in my diet with probiotic bacteria and digestive enzymes. There’s enough evidence and – interestingly – fermented foods, which contain probiotics and enzymes, have long been recognized as an integral part of a healthy diet, like Miso in Japan, Lassi drinks in India, Kimchi in Asia and sauerkraut in Europe.

Most importantly, I’ve come across nothing to say that adding probiotics and enzymes in their natural form can in any way be harmful (nor did I find anything about them being harmful in supplemental form  – but I’m going to start al natural).

The bottom line is that I’m interested in healing myself… and as the saying goes, “The one who heals, is the one who’s right”.


Digestive Enzymes, Probiotics and Fertility Conclusion

In my upcoming blogs you’ll find me writing about which foods naturally contain probiotic bacteria and digestive enzymes, what exactly they do in the body, and how I’ll be adding them to my diet. I’ll also be writing about the effect this diet upgrade is (or is not having) on my system. Let’s see what happens…

Probiotics and Fertility Part 1

fertility probiotics

In this post I’ll be covering probiotics and fertility- that is, the little beneficial critters that live in our gut!

Life is returning to normal, so I’m back to upgrading my fertility diet. I mentioned in my blog, Digestive Enzymes, Probiotics and Fertility, that I’ll be adding two critical – and missing – components to my fertility diet: probiotic bacteria and enzymes.


What are Probiotic Bacteria?

Probiotic bacteria are the friendly bacteria that live in our digestive systems. Doctors and nutritionists agree that these bacteria are one of the most important aspects to our overall health and well being.

Dr. McDougall refers to them in his book, Digestive Tune-up, as “so important to our health and survival that they should be thought of as a vital organ”. In her book, Allergies, by Carolee Bateson-Koch writes that the cultivation of these bacteria “can mean the difference between radiant health and chronic debilitating conditions”.


Benefits of Probiotic Bacteria

probiotics and fertilityIt’s not a surprise that these little inhibitors are so important to us given the slew of responsibilities they have. Just to name a few of these responsibilities of probiotic bacteria:

  • Break down our food
  • Manufacture vitamins like biotin, niacin, folic acid and B-6
  • Increase the absorption of minerals
  • Normalize bowel transit time
  • Produce antibiotics that prevent colonization of the harmful bacteria

A Micro-biome of Life in Our Digestive Tract

Interestingly, this micro flora isn’t just a few bacteria scattered throughout our digestive tract. Trillions of bacteria inhabit our digestive system. The bacteria weigh a total of about four pounds and account for half of the volume of the contents of our large intestine.

Where Does Our Gut Biome Come From?

These bacteria begin to colonize our bodies at birth; finding their way into our system through the air we breathe, the breast milk we drink and the things we put in our mouths.

We need to continuously replenish these bacteria, though, as many don’t set up camp permanently. They regularly exit our digestive systems – making up over half of the dry weight of feces – many of which are still living (if you who weren’t grossed out enough).


What Destroys Probiotics and Fertility?

Excretion isn’t the only factor affecting the bacteria balance in our gut. Bacterial infections, hormones, antibiotics (which kill the good and the bad bacteria), high stress levels, steroid drugs, excessive alcohol intake, poor diet, and a number of other factors can throw the beneficial bacteria out of balance.


Symptoms of Improper Balance of Probiotic Bacteria

This improper balance of flora can cause the following symptoms:

  • Acne
  • Arthritis
  • Asthma
  • Ear infection
  • Fatigue
  • Headaches
  • Hormonal disturbances
  • Intestinal symptoms
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Low back pain
  • Nervousness
  • Rashes

So, probiotic bacteria are important to our health but what do they have to do with fertility?


Probiotics and Fertility- Can it Help?

There don’t seem to be any studies yet that directly link probiotic bacteria to fertility, but there are two aspects that make it very likely that these bacteria play a role.

  1. Probiotic bacteria influence our hormones. They break down and rebuild, for example, hormones such as estrogen. Knowing that an imbalance of estrogen can make getting pregnant harder it seems quite likely that a healthy bacteria balance will create a more fertile body.
  2. Probiotic bacteria manufacture important vitamins like biotin, niacin, folic acid and B-6. And not that it’s a surprise, but a recent study shows that vitamins may play an important role in getting pregnant (not to mention that folic acid is important for a healthy baby – reducing the chances of having a baby with neural tube defects).

Probiotics and Fertility Diet Part 2

fertility foods

If you haven’t read part 1 of this blog yet, you might want to start there (it covers the basics and the potential connection to fertility): Probiotics and Fertility Diet Part 1.

Otherwise more on those critters in our gut…

Probiotics and Fertility- An Unbalanced Vaginal Microbiome

Research has found a connection between the microbiome and fertility and how probiotics improve fertility. The abnormal vaginal microbiota has been found to negatively impact the birth rate.


Probiotics and Fertility DietA Danish study of 130 women undergoing in vitro fertilization (IVF), researchers found that those who had abnormal vaginal microbiota had a harder time getting pregnant.

Of the 84 patients who completed IVF treatment, 29 were able to get pregnant. Only 9% of those who had abnormal vaginal microbiota obtained a clinical pregnancy, whilst 44% of the women with normal microbiota bacteria were able to get pregnant.

A Philadelphian study of 1,950 women found that a diagnosis of a common infection (bacterial vaginosis) in the first trimester more than doubled the risk of spontaneous pregnancy loss in the next trimester. It also found that the low levels of the Lactobacillus bacteria in the first trimester also significantly increased the risk of pregnancy loss.

A BJOG Publication Study with over 700 pregnant women, found that those with abnormal vaginal flora – specifically those lacking lactobacilli bacteria – were 75% more likely to have a preterm birth. Also, the risk of miscarriage was significantly increased.

Create a Healthy Digestive System with Probiotic Bacteria

The importance of probiotic bacteria in our bodies is uncontested, but how, and to what extent, we can influence this delicate balance is still being researched.

The research results are very encouraging though. Many experts recommend we ‘cultivate the garden within’ for a healthy body by adopting the right diet, reducing stress, avoiding antibiotics whenever possible, and in some cases supplementing with probiotics and prebiotics.

Foods that Contain Probiotic Bacteria and Prebiotics

We may be able to influence the balance of bacteria in our bodies with food in two ways: by eating foods that contain the good bacteria and by eating the types of food that good bacteria feed off of (prebiotics).

Choose Carefully: not all traditionally fermented foods contain these helpful bacteria. Industrialization of fermentation has lead to efficiency in production and more consistent tasting products, however, it ruins some of the healthful benefits by killing the probiotic bacteria. Pasteurizing, for example, effectively kills all the healthful bacteria.

Foods that naturally contain probiotic bacteria are cultured/fermented foods.

Foods with Probiotic Bacteria

  • Raw Sauerkraut
  • Kimchi
  • Cottage cheese
  • Kefir
  • Yogurt
  • Tofu
  • Miso
  • Tamari sauce
  • Soy sauce
  • Tempeh
  • Pickles (made with brine not vinegar)
  • Pickled ginger
  • Beer
  • Wine
  • Vinegar

Interestingly, cultured foods have long been recognized as an integral part of a healthy diet like Miso in Japan, Lassi drinks in India, Kimchi in Asia and sauerkraut in Europe – just to name a few.

The second way to boost probiotic bacteria is to eat foods that provide prebiotics. Two well documented prebiotics are FOS and inulin, which are naturally occurring carbohydrates found in the following foods.

Fertility Boosting FoodsFoods that Contain Prebiotics

  • Asparagus
  • Chicory
  • Chinese chive
  • Burdock root
  • Eggplant
  • Fruit (especially bananas)
  • Garlic
  • Jerusalem artichokes
  • Leeks
  • Legumes
  • Onions
  • Peas
  • Soybeans
  • Sugar maple
  • Tomatoes

Probiotic Supplements

Probiotic supplements are high doses of specific strains of beneficial bacteria in an easy to take form (liquid, power, or capsule). Initial studies are encouraging and suggest that probiotic supplements can be used to treat various health issues.

Numerous doctors, naturopaths and nutritionists recommend probiotics for this reason, however, the extent of the claims being made has not yet been rigorously proven through research.

Elizabeth Lipski, author of Digestive Wellness, recommends that already healthy people can maintain their healthy bacteria by eating cultured foods, but says supplements are necessary when disease producing microbes have colonized.

Dr. Haas makes a similar recommendation in his book, Staying Healthy with Nutrition, by recommending probiotics for use after a course of antibiotics or to treat yeast overgrowth, otherwise, he says, “I recommend them for one to two weeks once or twice a year…”.

It’s important to note that probiotics do not all have the same quality.

Some guidelines for choosing probiotics are:

  • Probiotics requiring refrigeration at the store and at home tend to be the best
  • Accompanying probiotics with prebiotics may be more effective since this provides food for the bacteria once they they enter your digestive system
  • Probiotics that include several strains are helpful

Elizabeth Lipski also emphasizes in her book, Digestive Wellness the following tips:

  • Different combinations will work for different people and to a greater or lesser effect.
  • You’ll have to experiment with different brands and see which are most helpful.
  • Remember to begin with a small dosage and increase slowly. You are changing your gut ecology and you want to do it gradually.

Another important aspect to taking probiotics that Elizabeth Lipski points out is that it’s not necessarily a bad sign if the supplements cause a sudden bloating, diarrhea, gas, or worsening of symptoms. She explains that, as the bad bacteria and fungus die, they release chemicals that aggravate symptoms. If this happens, she recommends beginning again and building up slowly.

Naturopath Linda Page suggests that probiotic supplements are not for everyone because each person’s digestive system is highly individual. She recommends getting probiotic bacteria from food and by supplementing with prebiotics.

The good side to this new dietary supplement is that probiotics have no toxic effects and the American Cancer Society addresses the safety of one of the more popular probiotics strains, Lactobacillus acidophilus, by stating that; except in rare cases acidophilus is safe.

Probiotics and Fertility Conclusion

Although, I haven’t covered them in detail here prebiotics are also available in supplemental form.

For my next blog I’ll be writing about how I’m getting probiotics and prebiotics, how my body likes/dislikes them along with a list of some helpful resources. Until then, happy bacteria consumption.

Fertility Liver Detox: You Did What?

Fertility Liver Cleansing

I’m tired and weak. But then I knew this is how I would feel today after doing a fertility liver detox.

Last night, immediately before bed, I voluntarily drank 1/2 cup olive oil mixed with 3/4 cup grapefruit juice. Disgusting? Not really. Nausea inducing? Absolutely!

So the hundred dollar question: Why? Why would I subject my body to this – twice? (In December of last year and again now.)

All in the name of flushing my gallbladder and cleansing my liver, of course.

Yes, I too think this is a totally crazy and questionable thing to do. But what if it helps me have a baby?

I have yet to come across any direct scientific evidence that this is going to boost my fertility, but – and here is the big but – it might!

Why the Liver is Important to Reproductive Health

Fertility Liver DetoxZita West (a midwife, nutritionist, and acupuncturist specializing in fertility) in her book, Fertility & Conception, spells out just why the liver is so important for reproductive health:

“The hormonal balance needed for fertility depends on good liver function. Your liver detoxifies many substances…It chemically alters excess or used hormones for recirculation.”

Zita recommends cleansing the liver – not like I did last night – but with a 10-day liver detox diet that includes foods that are good for the liver, or those that do not make the liver work hard to digest.

My Fertility Liver Detox

This is something I’ve already tried though. Unfortunately, it did not clear my skin of acne, balance my hormones or make my cycle regular (symptoms potentially related to poor liver function). No, I needed something more.

So, for the past several weeks I’ve been drinking herb tinctures (from sensiblehealth.com) and following a restricted diet.

Then in the week, before the flush, I drank a liter of apple juice spaced between meals throughout the day (as recommended by Andreas Moritz in his book, The Liver and Gallbladder Miracle Cleanse).

Last night came the ‘grand finale’, as Richard called it, when I drank the tasty concoction of olive oil and grapefruit juice.

If you never drank this before, I can tell you that it’s followed by the most overwhelming urge to, well, vomit. And the first time I did this cleanse, I gave in around 2:00 a.m. to this urge – my wood floor still reminds me of this!

This time, though, I was awake half the night with nausea, but was able keep the contents of my stomach from reappearing.

Gall Bladder Flush

In the morning, I got up and drank Epsom salts – and here is where the results are supposed to be apparent! You succeeded in flushing your gallbladder when you actually pass gallbladder stones.

Now this is a totally controversial topic because there seems to be no scientific evidence to say that the pebbles that come out, are really gallbladder stones, nor have I found evidence that this really cleanses the liver.

However, what I did find is that there is no indication that this is harmful to your health. Even those sources that feel the cleanse is not effective believe the worst case scenario is nausea.

So, I was hoping that I would pass stones like the ones pictured in Andreas Moritz’s book, or be able to write an infertility testimonial like the ones on sensiblehealth.com.

But there were no stones to be seen. And, yes, I checked thoroughly (except for when I went to the bathroom once in the middle of the night: I was too nauseas to look very long so I just gave it a quick once over).

I also can’t say that I feel any different or notice any observable health improvement.

Will I Do Another Fertility Liver Detox Again?

So well, that’s it. Can’t imagine doing a fertility liver detox again – but, then again, I said that last time didn’t I? Really though, I’m done. I suppose the effects could still surface, like if my cycle were regular this month or my acne cleared up. But since I’ll be moving on to other treatments it would be tough to truly attribute anything to this treatment.

For me, the liver cleanse is what I consider a wildcard. It’s a treatment that has not been scientifically proven or disproven. And since I didn’t feel it endangered my health, I was willing to try it.

Maybe it works for other people. Maybe one day it will come under scientific scrutiny, but until then, I’m done with it. For me, it seems to have been a dead end. I’m heading back into the realm of more founded methods. I’m turning my attention back now to a nutrition plan, a fertility diet.

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