Nutrition can truly help to improve fertility. I use the Mediterranean Diet as a foundation and then add foods and nutrients that help to improve egg quality and ovarian function, and of course, bespoke it to my client’s particular needs. As much as I can I try to follow an evidence-based approach but sometimes there are just not the trials (yet) to absolutely support something, but if it makes common sense and looks as if it will help, then I use it.
Moreover, I can also advise you on all the fertility improving strategies that are out there on the internet – milk or no milk, soya or no soya, is DHEA right for you, how do I use melatonin, what about wheatgrass, maca and royal jelly? You can drive yourself mad adding more and more and more things to your supplement list. Between us you will go on the right plan for YOU.
Women are always being told there is nothing that can improve the quality of their eggs. And while we are all born with the eggs we shall ever have in our lifetimes, the environment in which that eggs matures is fundamental to its quality, so this assertion is not strictly true. We know that smoking ages eggs and now even that sitting down for long periods of time adds 8 years biologically to the chronological age of a woman; does this makes eggs even older than we are?! However, if things can affect eggs negatively, they can also affect eggs positively. And now that more older women are wanting to have babies, more research is being conducted into preserving egg quality. The mitochondria of a cell, essentially the ‘battery’, the powerhouse, is where the research is being concentrated so supplements like Ubiquinol and certain foods may really help. Essentially, this my project “Peachy, Plumptious Eggs” plan!
PCOS, Endometriosis, Fibroids
These sometimes quite distressing conditions interfere significantly with fertility but they can be managed through diet very effectively. There is research showing that very specific nutrients and the removal of certain dietary factors can make a huge difference to the pain and inflammation of endometriosis.
PCOS can be improved by both weight loss, and specific foods and supplements designed to manage blood sugar through insulin control, while reducing hormones like testosterone which are responsible for the side effects like acne. PCOS can affect very slim people too and although weight loss would be inappropriate, other strategies can definitely help.
Fibroids are difficult to completely cure, but dietary manipulation and lifestyle changes may reduce both the size and severity.
For a pregnancy to occur after fertilisation, a woman’s immune system will down-shift and communicate with the embryo, thereby accommodating the ‘non-self’ DNA of the father and allowing the pregnancy to progress. Reproductive immunology is a relatively new field of medicine, based on the concept that, for not well understood reasons, the immune system rejects an implanting embryo because it doesn’t recognize it as ‘self’ but rather as a foreign invader such as a cancerous tumour. This prompts the recruitment of the aptly named specialised natural killer (NK) cells, which secrete tumour necrosis factor (TNFα) to effectively destroy the invader / embryo. Other chemicals secreted in response to a perceived immune attack are cytokines, messengers that are part of our normal immune response as well, that are believed to almost ‘go rogue’ picking up the wrong messages and re-sending them incorrectly to the immune system. This is essentially what happens when people suffer from auto-immune diseases, and certainly there may be some evidence that having such a condition or a family history may pre-dispose a woman to this reproductive immunological mix-up.
However, the medicines that treat such conditions are fairly heavy duty, used for serious auto-immune conditions like rheumatoid arthritis, and malaria for example, they include infusions of IVIG, and intra-lipids, anti-clotting drugs and steroids, often accompanied by stomach acid supressing drugs (a case of a drug treating a side effect of another drug). These can have potential side effects which women must be aware of. A lowering of immune response to infection, bone damage, eye problems, stomach problems, reduction in absorption of some nutrients like vitamin B12, calcium and vitamin D are just a few.
Although my nutritional advice may help with more gentle ways of dealing with the immune issues by removing inflammatory dietary factors and replacing with anti-inflammatory nutrients, I will also advise you how to manage the potential side effects of the drugs. Any treatment from me is entirely supportive, compatible and complementary with immune treatment from your clinic.
Undeniably, IVF is an extremely stressful process for both partners. So, we shall go through all the factors that may influence the treatment, and you will have lots of lifestyle and dietary advice to support you throughout.
From environmental chemicals to circadian rhythms, from exercise, stress management and acupuncture, to exercise and sleep, I can hopefully give you a plan that will help you manage your IVF cycle throughout.
You will know exactly when and what supplements to stop, and what to start when during the cycle, for example CoQ10 is for egg quality so you will stop that after egg collection, but folate and vitamin D will support you throughout. I will never prescribe anything that would be dangerous either in pregnancy or alongside IVF drugs. I have worked in this area for a very long time, everything I suggest will be bespoke for you and completely safe and compatible.
Weight, Body Fat and Fertility: too much or too little
Calculate your BMI
If you are having IVF, it is desirable to have a Body Mass Index (BMI) of under 30 (although some NHS clinics cut off at 35), and over 19. (Between 20 and 25 is ideal) with the correct level of body fat. Both too much and too little body fat can affect both fertility, IVF success and miscarriage risk. The ‘pear’ below is the ideal shape, but unfortunately as women we don’t really want to be a pear! So, I will make a plan for you that helps you meet your accepted weight in a healthy ‘fertility-friendly’ way.
I do prescribe supplements because some are well researched and very useful and I try to keep well up to date with what’s out there as research grows in this area. But for me diet is absolutely key. However, I pass on ALL my practitioner wholesale discount to my clients from the companies that I have accounts with; I will never profit from prescribing you supplements.