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Fertility Nutrition

Nutrition

“Just like everything in the body, a woman’s ability to build a uterine lining, ovulate, conceive and have a healthy pregnancy has so much to do with nutrition. If you think about it, a baby is literally made from the building blocks that start out as proteins, fats, vitamins and minerals in the diet. So, it makes sense that what we eat profoundly impacts fertility.”


“I think nutrition should be a “first resort” intervention, especially when it comes to fertility. I believe in preconception care and taking the time to increase nutrients stores, balance hormones and put your body in the best possible position for pregnancy.”


“By addressing the root cause, and building fertility with good nutrition, most women will go on to have successful pregnancies. And, they might be in a better nutritional position than someone who didn’t use nutrition as part of their preconception planning.” 


Fertility Diet For Women, Fertility Nutrition 

Perhaps you haven’t thought about your own fertility yet or it’s all you think about, but fertility is about more about your health as a woman than merely having a baby. For example, a regular, comfortable menstrual cycle is a sign of health and vitality, which is why in functional medicine; it’s often considered a vital sign like your temperature or pulse rate. 

Just like everything in the body, a woman’s ability to build a uterine lining, ovulate, conceive and have a healthy pregnancy has so much to do with nutrition. If you think about it, a baby is literally made from the building blocks that start out as proteins, fats, vitamins and minerals in the diet. So, it makes sense that what we eat profoundly impacts fertility. And, whether you are thinking about a baby or not, it always makes sense to put good nutrition in place because the impacts are so far reaching. 

“My patient JC has told me numerous times that knowledge is power in the pregnancy business. When I met JC she was stressed and her body showed signs of severe inflammation and oxidative stress. She was that patient who wanted to know everything and then took it to the kitchen. I asked her to take a few supplements and make lifestyle changes that supported her body. We talked about what that meant, and she began cooking to conceive with vibrant nutrient dense foods that supported fertility; she called to let me know she was pregnant about 18 weeks later. I think the single most important thing we did was cut out processed foods and sugar in her diet and replace it with antioxidant rich plant based foods. The kind you’re going to learn about here.” ~ Chyrl 


In this article, you will learn more about:

Functional Medicine For Fertility

It’s been reported that US fertility rates are at an “all time low.” An estimated 10-18 percent of couples have a hard time getting pregnant. 


Infertility is defined as when a woman tries to get pregnant, for at least a year, without success. Then, your doctor will likely do some testing and refer you to a fertility specialist for treatment. For women age 35 to 40, the time frame is shortened to 6 months. 

Interestingly, many women don’t think about nutrition and functional medicine approaches until they haven’t had success with more conventional fertility treatments. Sometimes women come to me as a “last resort.”


I think nutrition should be a “first resort” intervention, especially when it comes to fertility. I believe in preconception care and taking the time to increase nutrient stores, balance hormones and put your body in the best possible position for pregnancy. 


As a functional medicine clinician, I’m looking for the root cause of reproductive health issues and some include:

By addressing the root cause, and building fertility with good nutrition, most women will go on to have successful pregnancies. And, they might be in a better nutritional position than someone who didn’t use nutrition as part of their preconception planning. 

How Diet Affects Fertility In Women

Can diet affect fertility? Absolutely! If we look at traditional cultures around the globe, we see many traditions of giving the most nutrient-dense foods – such as fish eggs or organ meat – to young couples before they marry or conceive, and then for a woman throughout pregnancy and nursing. 


What you eat, or don’t eat, affects the root causes we talked about. Food is information for your cells and food provides the nutrients your body needs to develop a healthy egg and baby. These are just some of ways diet affects fertility. 


One study looked at dietary intake of certain foods as it relates to the time it took women to become pregnant, and included both women that conceived naturally and those who conceived with medical assistance. The study found that lower fruit intake and higher fast food intake were both associated with an increased time to conception and rates of infertility. 


I also want to mention that what a mother eats before conception, as well as during pregnancy, has been found to impact not only the health of her baby, but also the health of her baby later in life. We are still learning all of the reasons behind these connections, but it has to do with how the mother influences the epigenetics, or how genes are expressed, during these critical times. 


You may be wondering about the best diet for fertility and wanting to follow a fertility diet plan, so let’s get into the details. 


Best Diet For PCOS And Fertility

What is the best diet for PCOS and fertility? Is a vegan diet good for fertility? What about keto? 

When it comes to fertility nutrition, there really isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach. Personalized nutrition helps to address each woman’s root causes and there may be a place for therapeutic diets during the preconception period. However, it is also important to nourish the body with nutrient-dense food instead of overly restrict categories of food in order to build nutrient stores and support the hormones that support fertility. 

Here are the most important pieces for putting together your own fertility diet:

  1. Eat real food. As food is processed, key nutrients are stripped away. Not only is it important to balance protein, carbs and fat for your unique needs, but it is also essential to make sure your body is getting all of the micronutrients – vitamins and minerals - to support fertility and pregnancy. If a lot of your diet is composed of processed, packaged food than now is the time to get back into the kitchen and start building lifestyle habits around cooking for yourself and eating mostly fresh and unprocessed options. 
  1. Balance blood sugar. PCOS, polycystic ovarian syndrome, is a common reason for infertility in women and many with PCOS experience insulin resistance and elevated blood sugar. (You can read more about my PCOS diet and lifestyle protocol here). Whether you are following a PCOS fertility diet or PCOS isn’t a concern for you, balanced blood sugar is an important component for any fertility plan. This means limiting refined carbohydrates, pairing carbohydrates with fat and protein and focusing on real food.
  1. Up the plants. Plant foods are an important source of micronutrients and plant compounds, many of which act as antioxidants in the body protecting your cells from oxidative stress that causes damage to your body and to your eggs as they mature. Antioxidants have been shown to support fertility and are often recommended for a variety of reproductive issues. 
  1. Eat breakfast. In a study in women with PCOS, the women were fed the same daily diet with either a big breakfast or a big dinner. Those who ate the big breakfast and a smaller dinner had improved insulin sensitivity and improved detoxification, both of which influence ovulation. While there are many contradictory opinions online about nutrition, the preconception period is one time to not skimp on this important meal and take the opportunity to start your day with a high level of nourishment. 
  1. Choose quality protein. Meeting your daily protein needs, which is typically 80 grams per day or higher for many women (depending on your size) is important for fertility. While there are high quality animals sources such as grass-fed beef, wild fish and pastured eggs that provide important micronutrients along with protein, don’t underestimate the addition of plant protein. One study showed that replacing 5 percent of calories from animal protein with plant protein reduced the risk of ovulatory infertility by 50 percent!
  1. Choose quality fats. Ditch the processed vegetable oils and trans fats in favor of quality, anti-inflammatory fats that include avocados, olive oil, coconut, nuts, seeds and wild fish. Fats make up the cell walls of every cell and are important for hormonal balance and cellular communication. Not to mention, that women have more body fat than men because fat is so important for fertility, pregnancy and nursing. 


In addition to the foods to add in, it is often helpful to remove excess sugar, sodas, trans fats and other highly processed foods that are low in nutrition. Some women improve fertility by avoiding gluten and other food sensitivities. Undiagnosed celiac disease is a possible reason for unexplained infertility. 


Fertility Vitamins And Supplements

In addition to creating a solid foundation of nutrition from food, I find fertility vitamins and supplements to be a quite helpful addition to a fertility diet for women. Here are my recommendations. 

  1. A high quality prenatal vitamin. This will cover your basis for micronutrients essential for fertility and should be taken 3-6 months (or longer) prior to conception, throughout pregnancy and while breastfeeding. A prenatal vitamin differs from a typical multivitamin in that it is higher in folate, which is essential for DNA replication and creating new cells. If you are taking a multivitamin, you may want to add in additional folate so you are getting around 800mcg of methylfolate daily. Note: you want the active form of methylfolate instead of the synthetic folic acid, which many women have a hard time metabolizing effectively. 

I like this one

And this one


  1. Omega 3’s. Omega 3 fats are anti-inflammatory and fertility supportive. DHA is of particular importance during pregnancy for the developing brain of the baby. Further, the use of omega 3 supplementation prior to conception may be particularly beneficial for women with PCOS in order to prevent complications of the syndrome, including infertility concerns. 

I like this one


  1. Mitochondrial support. A woman’s egg has over 10,000 mitochondria compared to other cells in the body that may have a few hundred. Mitochondria are the parts of the cells responsible for energy production and are very susceptible to damage from toxins and stress. So, as you can see, the health of the mitochondria are very important for the health of a woman’s eggs and fertility. Supplements including acetyl-l-carnitine, d, CoQ10 and others support mitochondrial health and help to improve egg quality. 


These are supplements I often suggest to patients



  1. Vitamin D. Since vitamin D is so important for a healthy pregnancy, and there is growing evidence on vitamin D’s role in fertility, I always recommend optimizing vitamin D levels prior to conception. Most of my patients, even those who get adequate sun exposure outside, show low levels of vitamin D in blood tests and supplementation is the most effective way to bring levels up into a healthy range. Vitamin D is one of the most important fertility vitamins for women!


The combination of a personalized fertility diet with fertility vitamins is an effective therapeutic approach to address reproductive issues and fertility challenges. Whether you are not yet thinking about kids, planning a family or undergoing fertility treatments, now is a good time to make some positive changes in your diet to improve your health and wellness. I’m here to support you from a functional medicine perspective. Please do not hesitate to reach out



 References: 

  1. Grieger, J. A., Grzeskowiak, L. E., Bianco-Miotto, T., Jankovic-Karasoulos, T., Moran, L. J., Wilson, R. L., Leemaqz, S. Y., Poston, L., McCowan, L., Kenny, L. C., Myers, J., Walker, J. J., Norman, R. J., Dekker, G. A., & Roberts, C. T. (2018). Pre-pregnancy fast food and fruit intake is associated with time to pregnancy. Human reproduction (Oxford, England), 33(6), 1063–1070. Full text: https://academic.oup.com/humrep/article/33/6/1063/4989162 
  2. Agarwal, A., Gupta, S., & Sharma, R. K. (2005). Role of oxidative stress in female reproduction. Reproductive biology and endocrinology : RB&E, 3, 28. Full text: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1215514/ 
  3. Jakubowicz, D., Barnea, M., Wainstein, J., & Froy, O. (2013). Effects of caloric intake timing on insulin resistance and hyperandrogenism in lean women with polycystic ovary syndrome. Clinical science (London, England : 1979), 125(9), 423–432. Abstract: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23688334/ 
  4. Chavarro, J. E., Rich-Edwards, J. W., Rosner, B. A., & Willett, W. C. (2008). Protein intake and ovulatory infertility. American journal of obstetrics and gynecology, 198(2), 210.e1–210.e2107. Full text: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3066040/ 
  5. Collin, P., Vilska, S., Heinonen, P. K., Hällström, O., & Pikkarainen, P. (1996). Infertility and coeliac disease. Gut, 39(3), 382–384. Full text: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1383343/ 
  6. Salek, M., Clark, C., Taghizadeh, M., & Jafarnejad, S. (2019). N-3 fatty acids as preventive and therapeutic agents in attenuating PCOS complications. EXCLI journal, 18, 558–575. Full text: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6785778/ 
  7. Shaum, K. M., & Polotsky, A. J. (2013). Nutrition and reproduction: is there evidence to support a "Fertility Diet" to improve mitochondrial function?. Maturitas, 74(4), 309–312. Full text: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4019337/ 
  8. Pilz, S., Zittermann, A., Obeid, R., Hahn, A., Pludowski, P., Trummer, C., Lerchbaum, E., Pérez-López, F. R., Karras, S. N., & März, W. (2018). The Role of Vitamin D in Fertility and during Pregnancy and Lactation: A Review of Clinical Data. International journal of environmental research and public health, 15(10), 2241. Full text: 

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6210343/ 

LOCATION

The Fork Functional Medicine
4159 Old Hillsboro Rd.
Franklin, TN 37064

Phone: (615) 721-8008
Fax: (615) 237-8331‬

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Monday: 9am - 5pm
Tuesday: 9am - 5pm
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Call: 615-721-8008info@theforkclinic.com