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Which foods can boost women’s fertility? Learn what to eat and why

Keeping hormones in check is vital. One way to boost estrogen naturally is through peppermint tea

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An organic, plant-based diet could help keep hormones in check and boost women’s fertility, experts have said. Stephanie Karl, a nutritionist at the Dubai-based JTS Medical Center, added that “a normal low-glycemic eating plan” is a “good idea.”

The diet, based on foods that have a minimal change in circulating glucose levels, “reduces inflammation in the body, and gives the opportunity to eat all foods that have antioxidants to keep your liver functioning well,” said Karl.

“Inflammation is like a slow-burning fire - your body will always be stressed. As far as fertility is concerned, you don’t want that, as it can alter hormones and not just the reproductive ones.”

Whole-grain and high-fiber vegetables such as cruciferous kale, broccoli and cabbage, and other vegetables such as onion and garlic, are “supportive of the pancreatic function, liver, gallbladder,” and keep “inflammation down.”

These “processing organs” - the pancreas, liver and gallbladder - need to be kept healthy with the right food.

“Whenever a person comes to see me regarding fertility, I focus on getting digestion sorted,” she said, recommending “having a lot of sulfur-rich vegetables, good vitamin C, good oils and fats, and fiber.”

Kim Ross, a New York-based nutritionist, recommends the “optimal fertility” diet, which “for most people would consist of a whole-food natural diet that’s organic and plant-based.”

Ross, who helped on the nutrition side of “The Whole Life Fertility Plan” book released in January, said: “It doesn’t mean vegan or vegetarian, but means it’s mostly food from the earth such as fruit, vegetables, beans, whole grains, and healthy fat such as avocado and nuts.” If it is meat, fish or dairy, they should be “organic and free-range.”

Women should avoid low-fat dairy products. A U.S. study published in the journal Human Reproduction in 2007 said eating low-fat dairy everyday can reduce a woman’s fertility by affecting ovulation.

The study showed that women who ate more than two portions a day of low-fat dairy were 85 percent more likely to be infertile due to ovulatory disorders than those who ate it less than once a week.

Karl described “nuts, avocado, coconut and olive oil as probably the best fats,” and recommended a “whole-food and plant-based diet” instead of sugars and carbohydrates.

Oxidative stress is essentially an imbalance between the production of free radicals and the ability of the body to counteract or detoxify their harmful effects through neutralization by antioxidants.

“Oxidative stress in female reproduction has been associated with polycystic ovarian syndrome and endometriosis. Needless to say, these pathologies negatively affect pregnancy rates and IVF outcomes,” read the article “Power of Proteomics in Linking Oxidative Stress and Female Infertility,” published by the U.S. National Library of Medicine and the National Institutes of Health.

Endometriosis, PCOS and unexplained infertility are the most common diseases rendering large numbers of women infertile worldwide.

“Either way you try, whether by natural or alternatives methods such as IVF, nutrition plays an important role,” Ross said.
Women’s weight should not be “too heavy or too thin. When they get to the appropriate weight with a healthy diet, they can conceive a very healthy baby.”

Hormones, PH

Keeping hormones in check is vital. One way to boost estrogen naturally is through peppermint tea.

“A lot of research involves drinking peppermint tea, two cups a day, and taking a supplement called inositol, which used to be a vitamin but now is a stand-alone molecule,” Karl said, also recommending “fruits, vegetables, green tea, ginger, turmeric, and some spices and herbs.”

Sustaining a balanced body PH, including creating a friendlier cervical mucus, is also key. “There’s a balance between acidic and alkaline that we need to maintain. The standard American diet tends to be more acidic because of processed food,” Ross said. “People who eat a lot of animal products tend to have acidic bodies.”

Coffee, alcohol

Studies have linked too much caffeine with lowered fertility and increased risk of miscarriage.

The general conception is that alcohol affects the baby only after a woman is pregnant, but it can also affect women’s fertility.

“There’s a link between drinking and fertility, although exactly how alcohol makes women less fertile isn’t understood clearly,” said Dr Anthony Rutherford, a consultant in reproductive medicine and chairman of the British Fertility Society. “Many studies have shown that even drinking lightly can have an effect.”

A 2009 study, done at Harvard University, of couples undergoing IVF showed that women who drank more than six units of alcohol per week were 18 percent less likely to conceive.

Stress, pollutants

“Not worrying, having time to de-stress is important. Often people with fertility issue are quite stressed,” Karl said, also recommending food that is as “unadulterated as possible, not salted, not roasted, not deep fried.”

Ross advised against “putting a laptop on one’s lap, or using creams or artificial chemicals because it goes directly in the pores.” She recommended house plants to clear the air.

“When you’re worried and too busy, that can affect fertility level. Meditate, practice yoga, do some visualizations, create a loving, calm, quiet space for a child to come in.”

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