I’m not a natural fertility expert, but I have learned some interesting things in regards to fertility in the last couple of years, including what kinds of foods promote fertility, which is what I want to share here.
My heart goes out to those who are struggling with infertility. I know some people may have problems more complicated than something that can be fixed with exercise, detoxing, losing weight and eating right, but I also know that many couples can improve their fertility by improving their health through nutrition.
The typical American diet is not a fertility-promoting diet, and I believe it is a major cause of infertility in the U.S. Thankfully, traditional fertility wisdom has been recorded from societies that took fertility very seriously. Different traditional groups that have been studied had many common “sacred” foods that they would eat more of when hoping to get pregnant. These always included organ meats–especially liver–and seafood. Eggs were also a common sacred food. For a list of fertility foods based on both traditional wisdom and and modern nutritional wisdom, please read Diet for Pregnant and Nursing Mothers. I recommend this as a basic guideline, not only for fertility but also for good health in general.
So here’s my story. For several months before I planned to get pregnant for the first time, I got myself into shape, I reduced some of the toxins in my life, and I went on the Candida diet to try to improve my health. While I was on the Candida diet, I did not eat sugar, I ate some whole grains and cheese but my diet was much more focused on meat and vegetables. I ate a lot of greens and seafood, too, especially shrimp, drenched in butter. I ate whole fat plain greek yogurt and a lot of nuts. I didn’t know it at the time, but I was eating a fertility diet! It wasn’t a perfect fertility diet, but it was good enough to get me pregnant on the first shot. Oh, and I think I had PCOS, which is a common cause of infertility. Maybe not a severe case, but I had a lot of the symptoms. I just think that’s interesting.
So six weeks into my pregnancy, morning sickness destroyed my diet. I stopped eating vegetables and meat and lived off of crackers, cookies, and Ensure. I then suffered from constipation and heartburn from early on. It became a perpetual cycle of feeling sick, eating bad, lying in bed, feeling sick, eating bad, lying in bed… It is no wonder my health deteriorated–I was not supporting my body at all! (Well, aside from giving it lots of rest.)
I also had this kidney problem that surfaced during pregnancy and did not resolve itself completely after pregnancy. I also got really bad adrenal fatigue and high blood pressure a couple years into motherhood (I was eating better postpartum, but not nearly well enough). Even my teeth were getting bad. I was in a downward spiral, and emotionally I was a mess, too. As I have made efforts to improve my health over the last 1.5 years, I noticed that everything I needed to get healthy physically was also everything I needed to get healthy mentally, and it was pretty much the same stuff for fixing my oral health and for getting my body ready to get pregnant again–which I very much wanted to do a second time. Basically I was improving my health in multiple areas all at once. I’m pretty convinced these foods are really important to eat!
Since I don’t love liver and seafood is expensive and I don’t feel like preparing greens all the time, the diet has been hard for me to do 100%. So I would keep looking for other options. For example, I know folate is an important nutrient for fertility, so I’d look up folate on this handy dandy iPhone app I have, and guess what the top source of folate is? Liver. What comes after liver? Greens! Hahaha, no cheating there. What to eat to get enough magnesium (which reduces morning sickness, by the way)? Greens and seafood. Selenium? Turkey giblets are the top source listed, followed by…seafood! (Actually you can cheat on this one and eat a brazil nut every day.) Iron is important, too, and you can find that in liver, oysters and red meat. Eggs are usually not too far down on the list for nutrients important in fertility, so it makes sense to include those, too (they are a great source of choline, but then again, so are liver and seafood). I’d also see a lot of beans, legumes and lentils not too far down the list for many fertility nutrients. But basically what I noticed is that all the “sacred” foods would keep popping up and often be at the very top of the list. I think all those traditional people knew what they were talking about.
I’ve also realized that ferments are a really nice addition for fertility nutrition, too. Fermented foods such as natural pickles, sauerkraut and other fermented veggies, as well as yogurt and kefir, and the fermented beverage kombucha all have higher levels of nutrients than their non-fermented counterparts, including B-vitamins (which means folate! and B6 which helps with morning sickness!) and vitamin K2. Vitamin K2 is generally found in grassfed dairy, meat and eggs and ferments.
There are, of course, other nutrients that important for fertility, but by and large you will find them in organ meats, seafood, greens, eggs, ferments, beef, and dairy as major sources, and also whole grains, nuts, seeds, legumes, beans, a variety of vegetables, bone broth and cod liver oil as complimentary sources. Personally, I would not eat a vegetarian diet when wanting to get pregnant. I know it can be done, but you miss out on a lot of top sources for important nutrients when you do so. And fertility isn’t just about making a baby–it’s about making a healthy baby. Why not try to make the healthiest baby you can?
I really like this page The Natural Fertility Diet: How to Eat for Optimal Fertility. It talks about nutrients and foods and comes to the same conclusions I came to about what to eat for good fertility, with the exception that they don’t mention ferments.
Another good page listing fertility foods is Fertility Diet: Part 2.1 (Super Foods for Fertility). Naturally Knocked Up is a great site with resources, a blog, and even an ebook (which I’ve started reading). She has a free fertility food checklist that you can access if you subscribe to her blog.
I’m convinced these foods are really important for good health and fertility and making healthy babies. I know it’s hard to switch over to a fertility diet, but I can’t think of a simpler way to make a healthy baby.
(P.S. If you really can’t stomach liver, you can buy liver capsules.)
(P.P.S Don’t eat fish that has high levels of mercury. Check before you eat it.)