One of the most frustrating aspects of struggling with fertility can be feeling helpless or feeling like your body is not in your control. However, managing your diet and controlling your blood sugar is a concrete step you can take! Research shows that having irregular or consistently high blood sugar can negatively impact your hormonal health and your fertility outcomes.
As a fertility acupuncturist I see a lot of women who hadn’t learned how to eat properly to support fertility. Our American lifestyle works against us — we have overly stressful and fast-paced lives with little time to eat, many processed and unhealthy foods at our disposal, and too little time to pay close attention to the foundations of our health.
For fertility, what and when we eat really does make a difference.
What to Eat
Studies show that for most people eating a Mediterranean style diet is most supportive of our health. This means a focus on fresh fruits and vegetables (think about filling half your plate with fruits and veg), whole grains, lean meats and fish (or beans and nuts) for protein, and plenty of healthy fats including avocado, coconut, olive, and nuts. Ideally your diet would eliminate or severely restrict any processed foods (think of foods out of a package, or foods that have an ingredient list). You’ll also want to limited refined grains (think white rice, white bread). We all love some indulgence, so periodically having a little bit of sweets or alcohol is ok as a treat.
When you consider your food sources, where possible, consume organic fruits, vegetables, and meats. Commonly used pesticides can impact thyroid hormones (which affects fertility) and can increase the risk of miscarriage and preterm birth.
Limit takeout food, both because it’s typically not organic and can have unhealthy fats and sugars, and because most takeout food containers contain phthalates which are endocrine disrupting chemicals (shown to negatively impact fertility).
When to Eat
Studies show that spikes in blood sugar (high blood sugar followed by low blood sugar) can create stress on our body and cause our body to release cortisol (one of the primary stress hormones). Cortisol can negatively affect fertility by impacting ovulation. Blood sugar is raised by eating sugars and sweets but also by eating simple carbohydrates such as fruits and refined grains. It’s best to limit sugars and sweets and to pair simple carbohydrates with fat and protein so the food doesn’t raise your blood sugar as much. Think — crackers with cheese, fruit with nut butter, veggies with hummus.
You’ll also want to eat at regular times. It’s best to have a consistent breakfast, lunch, and dinner, each about 4-5 hours apart. Meals should all include protein, fat, and carbohydrate, so that you keep energy levels and blood sugar relatively stable.
Sustainably Eating for Fertility
There are a number of tools we can use to get into the habit of eating whole, healthy foods:
- Pre-cook a batch of meals on the weekend.
- Have healthy snacks on hand — prepare glass tins of healthy snacks on the weekend that you can grab throughout the week.
- Sign up for an organic meal kit service that sends you the recipes and the food to cook.
- Keep it simple – find 5-8 good easy recipes that include a protein source, vegetables, and whole grains, and cook these on repeat so that you don’t have to work hard at it.
Nourishing yourself for fertility will also help you learn to nourish yourself during the postpartum and early parenting phases of life when the demands on your time become even greater.
For additional fertility support, supplements, herbal medicine, and acupuncture can be very beneficial. Find my favorite fertility supplements at my Fullscript account here: https://us.fullscript.com/welcome/janetthomson1. Here’s to your health!