Getting Back To Basics
My approach to fertility in my own life, and also to the women I have helped along the way, is to start with the basics. I know infertility stats are on the rise and the number of remedies and possible (hefty) solutions are too. That’s why I really encourage women to look at small habits and changes they can make in their everyday lives that have the potential to make a BIG difference.
There are some key nutrients that are required to help build a healthy baby, but also to get our body into a state that is a safe environment for pregnancy. This is of the utmost importance.
We can learn a lot from traditional cultures who have not let modern food commerce infiltrate their systems. These cultures have a history of not just health in general, but healthy pregnancy outcomes. Populations such as the Swiss, Gaelics, Eskimos, Maoris, and tribes in Eastern and Central Africa are great examples of this. They kept their nutrition simple, believed in a ‘nose to tail’ approach of eating, and included the foods listed below regularly.
Top Fertile Food Recommendations
My top 5 fertility food recommendations (in no particular order):
- Eggs: this little powerhouse is packed with a number of nutrients that promote fertility and a healthy baby like choline, DHA, folate, iodine and selenium. They are great for brain development, DNA synthesis and reducing oxidative stress (which is very important when it comes to fertility). I suggest mixing it up between good quality organic and free-range chicken and quail eggs.
- Liver: now this one can be a little bit controversial because of its vitamin A content, but studies done on toxicity have only ever looked at synthetic forms, rather than real food. Vitamin A coming from real food is used by the body in a completely different way. It is so jam packed with vitamins and minerals that it is sometimes referred to as nature’s multivitamin. Iron, B12, vitamin A and folate all come under its nutrient banner. Preventing neural tube defects, preeclampsia and miscarriages are some of its known benefits, and because it’s so rich in other fat-soluble vitamins like D and K, its ability to help us become super nourished is superior to many other food sources.
- Green leafy veg: this one may seem obvious but let’s look at a couple of specific reasons why. Once again, they are nutrient powerhouses, containing things like folate, vitamin C, trace minerals, fibre and B vitamins. The key to absorbing all this goodness and actually making them taste delicious is to cook them or consume them with fat. A couple of examples of this would be sautéing kale or spinach in butter or coconut oil with some lemon and salt. Delish!
- Sustainable oily fish: if mercury toxicity or plastic contamination is a concern for you, be rest assured that Australia has some of the cleanest oceans in the world. You can also download an app called ‘Good Fish’ which tells you which are the more sustainable and environmentally friendly to consume. Wild caught sardines on some gf crackers were a staple for me in my first trimester. Omega 3s contain fat soluble vitamins which help us to better absorb the rest of the nutrients we consume. They also help increase blood flow to the uterus and improve sperm health in general (motility, morphology, count and composition).
- Slow cooked meats and bone broth: another nutrient party in your mouth here, with lots of amino acids oozing into the broth, especially when cooked on the bone. A great way to bulk cook and have meals for the next few days. Specifically, L-arginine improves blood flow and circulation to the reproductive organs and L-carnitine has been shown to improve sperm and egg health from a mitochondrial perspective.
For those of you really paying attention, you may have noticed that a large majority of that list would be considered ‘risky’ by conventional standards. Please read here why this is not the case so you do not miss out on important nutrients during your preconception and pregnancy journey.
That gives you an idea what some of the best bang for your buck foods are in terms of nutrient density and making an effort to incorporate at least one of them every day is a step in the right direction on your fertility journey.
Let’s switch gears now and talk about foods that might actually be working against us when it comes to a healthy preconception and pregnancy.
- Glyphosate: this is the stuff they spray on crops, especially wheat, soy and corn to keep them growing at the rapid rate needed to keep their well-oiled money-making machines churning. It’s found in the weed killer known as ‘Round Up’ and it is potent shit. It is known to wreak havoc on the digestive system because of its impact on the gut lining so my advice would be to steer clear of it at all costs. ‘How do I do that?’ I hear you ask. The easiest way is to avoid processed grains, especially if they are not organic. Those are the ones that have most likely been sprayed with herbicides and pesticides, creating an overactive immune response in our body.
- Soy: there seems to still be a little confusion about this one but there are some good reasons why it should be avoided. The only time I say it is beneficial is if it’s fermented and organic- like miso, natto and tempeh. Soy contains phytic acid, which is a compound that actually blocks the absorption of important minerals in the body like zinc, iron and magnesium. All of these minerals are important for a healthy fertility and pregnancy journey, and we know that once bub starts growing in there, they are calling on mamas stores to help them grow. Soy also has the ability to disrupt thyroid function (due to blocking iodine absorption), and mimic estrogen in the body. When it comes to fertility in general, this food compound can interfere with normal reproduction capability, affect reproductive organ development in the foetus and impact a woman’s ability to carry a pregnancy to term.
- Processed Sugar: this one may seem like a bit of a no brainer, but we should treat it seriously. If we are dealing with gut issues like intestinal permeability or gut dysbiosis, both exacerbated by excessive sugar intake, it can have a direct impact on our hormone production, and therefore affect fertility. In mice studies, excessive sugar intake during pregnancy has been linked to behavioural problems later in life such as ADHD and low attention span.
This is by no means advice to completely remove all of these straight away. It is about creating awareness so you can implement gradual small changes or find healthier alternatives. Check out a couple of my fave TNN recipes for when cravings hit here and here.
When it comes to getting our bodies into an optimal state to conceive and stay pregnant, food quality and quantity matter a lot. Eating 100% organic would be my recommendation, but hey, I’m also a realist. That’s why I propose downloading the EWG “Dirty Dozen Clean Fifteen’ list and using that as a guide in relation to what should definitely be purchased organic, at a bare minimum.
Shifting to a Fertile Mindset
I want to really drive home my final point ladies. When we decide to go on a fertility and conception journey, what a beautiful decision we have made. I encourage you to let go of any previous expectations or concepts around body image and looking a certain way, and fully embrace the notion of super nourishment for creating a safe space for a growing bubba.
Low calories are perceived as a stress by the body and when it comes to fertility, we want to down regulate stress as much as possible. Cortisol, our main stress hormone, is made from progesterone, one of our most important fertility hormones. So, if more cortisol is being made, it is coming at a cost to progesterone, that precious conception and pregnancy hormone.
Even just adding one extra small meal per day can be a step in the right direction and bring you closer to your pregnancy and mamahood aspirations. Our beautiful bodies, when given the right tools, were made for this precious gift.
Kaboli Kafshgiri S, Farkhondeh T, Miri-Moghaddam E. Glyphosate effects on the female reproductive systems: a systematic review [published online ahead of print, 2021 Jul 15]. Rev Environ Health. 2021;10.1515/reveh-2021-0029. doi:10.1515/reveh-2021-0029
Choi CS, Kim P, Park JH, et al. High sucrose consumption during pregnancy induced ADHD-like behavioral phenotypes in mice offspring. J Nutr Biochem. 2015;26(12):1520-1526. doi:10.1016/j.jnutbio.2015.07.018
Bar-El DS, Reifen R. Soy as an endocrine disruptor: cause for caution?. J Pediatr Endocrinol Metab. 2010;23(9):855-861. doi:10.1515/jpem.2010.138