We all know it’s important to eat a healthy diet, but how important is it for my fertility…really?
If you experience PMS, have an irregular menstrual cycle, are having trouble getting pregnant, or if you’ve been diagnosed with PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome), my answer is VERY.
Here’s how it works: When one eats a diet that consists mostly of food from the cupboard instead of food from the fridge, i.e. high glycemic refined carbs and little to no nutrients, one’s blood sugar spikes and drops, spikes and drops, 5-7 times a day, every day.
Each spike requires one’s body to produce insulin to store all the excess sugar, thus causing a sugar crash where one craves more sugar.
Over time, this vicious cycle takes its toll on the pancreas, who produces the insulin, and the insulin receptors, who get overworked and close up shop. This is called insulin resistance, metabolic syndrome or pre-diabetes.
So how does this effect your fertility?
Spiking your blood sugar in this manner (add in some stress) encourages the production of inflammatory chemicals in your body which are partly to blame for your PMS symptoms like cramps, fluid retention, headaches, insomnia, aches and pains, etc.
Insulin resistance also causes production of excess androgens (male hormones) in the body, which interfere with the delicate balance of female hormones, specifically by preventing nourishment to developing follicles in your ovaries which can lead to irregular cycles and infertility, a condition known as PCOS.
If any of these symptoms sound familiar, the most important thing you can do to recover your fertility and bring your hormones into balance is change your diet.
Fertility enhancing dietary recommendations:
- Eliminate or greatly reduce highly refined (high glycemic) carbs like bread, pasta, cookies, crackers, chips, cake, etc.
- Instead choose whole grains like brown rice, quinoa, oats, barley, etc. If you can see the whole grain, then it’s whole. If the “whole grain” is powdered, it’s refined, despite what it says on the label.
- Your diet should consist mostly of fresh veggies, moderate amount of whole grains, lean protein (chicken, fish, eggs, legumes), healthy fats (nuts, seeds, avocado, olive oil, coconut), and small amounts of fresh, low-glycemic fruit like berries and stone fruits (nectarines, cherries).
- Reduce or eliminate dairy products. From a Chinese medicine point of view, dairy products produce “phlegm” and “stagnation” in the body which severely interferes with female hormone production and balance. From a western perspective, it’s best to avoid the added hormones and antibiotics.
- Add in cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, turnips, kale, spinach, collard greens, and cabbage, which help the body to properly excrete estrogen. Excess estrogen is also what causes PMS symptoms as well as other conditions such as endometriosis and fibroids. Increasing your fiber and water intake also helps with the excretion of excess estrogen.
- Limit your red meat intake to once a month. The week after your period is a great time to eat red meat to help replenish blood loss. If you are going to eat red meat, make sure it’s organic and grass-fed. Red meat and egg yolks both contain arachidonic acid which can increase menstrual cramping, as well as increase inflammation in the body due to high levels of saturated fats.
- Reduce or eliminate alcohol and caffeine intake. In Chinese medicine, caffeine and alcohol have a negative effect on the Liver, which plays a crucial role in regulating your menstrual cycle. From a western perspective, the liver metabolizes female sex hormones and is crucial in maintaining proper insulin balance. If you would like caffeine, choose green tea instead of coffee, no more than one cup a day. If you want a drink, choose organic red wine and aim for 1-3 per week.
Cheers to your fertility!
Click here to be the first in line for my Fertile Woman online program, coming Spring 2014. (Click here for program details.) When you join the wait list, you’ll get instant access to our first class that teaches you how to properly chart your cycle. Enjoy!
Women’s Bodies, Women’s Wisdom by Christiane Northrup M.D.
The Infertility Cure by Randine Lewis Ph.D, Dipl. OM
Woman Code by Alisa Vitti HHC