In the first trimester of pregnancy, your growing embryo will increase 20 million times. In the first eight weeks, your baby’s organs, hands, fingers, legs, feet, head, eyes, nose, ears, et cetera, are also being formed.
To ensure that the best foundations are laid down during this phase, you want to make sure that the body contains plenty of the right nutrients.
What does a fertility diet contain?
An optimal fertility diet is about what to avoid and what to include in it. A fertility diet should be as fresh as possible and organic wherever possible. The key elements are good quality protein sources ( most likely vegetable sources of protein) and good fats.
What should you eat?
Organic meat in small quantities, game, small deep-sea fish, such as sardines and red snapper, home cooked organic legumes (not canned).
Whole grains, nuts, seeds, vegetables that are better not raw, very small amount of fruits to be eaten before 4pm in the evening, organic where possible.
Increase your consumption of good fats and avoid dangerous fats. Good fats include monounsaturated fats in olive oil, polyunsaturated fats in oily fish and nuts and mid-chain fatty acids found in coconut oil.
For cooking, use clarified butter (ghee) or coconut butter (without flavour) as they do not become unstable when heated. For non-heated oil requirements, such as salads, olive oil, flaxseed oil and nut oils.
Avoid dangerous fats
Did you know that consuming trans fats hidden in foods, such as doughnuts, biscuits, candies, chocolate, chips, pies and fries may increase your risk of infertility by as much as 70 per cent? Scientists from the Harvard University School of Public Health advise women who want to get pregnant to avoid all trans fats.
The sole purpose of adding trans fats to food is to extend its shelf life. To minimise your consumption of trans fats, be diligent about reading the labels on ingredients and avoid the most likely culprits altogether. Trans fats are mostly listed as’ hydrogenated fat’ or ‘hardened vegetable fat’ or simply ‘vegetable fat.’
Minimise animal-derived estrogens
Dairy products account for between 60 and 70 per cent of estrogens consumed. Human beings consume milk from cows in the second half of pregnancy when the animals’ estrogen levels are high. We usually associate dairy and drinking milk with calcium and never think about what else we may be consuming along with the calcium (by the way, dairy milk is not the best source of calcium).
A list of hormones that is found in cow milk include prolactin, somatostatin, melatonin, oxytocin, growth hormone, lutenising releasing hormone, thyroid stimulating hormone, estrogens, erogesterone, insulin, corticosteroids and many others.
Do you think an excess consumption of all these hormones could disrupt your own hormonal balance? You bet! The consumption of milk has been linked to certain cases of male infertility. Excess estrogen and exposure to pesticide have been linked to PCOS and endometriosis. Studies have found higher concentrations of pesticides in cheese than in non-organically grown fruit and vegetables.
The first line of naturopathic treatment I recommend for PCOS and endometriosis is to minimise the intake of animal products. Animal products have a high content of hormones, pesticides and herbicides, which are known as endocrine disruptors. They play havoc with your hormones and this can lead to an ovulation.
Avoid the two most common allergens
The link between food intolerances and anti-sperm antibodies is now well established. Studies have found that women with multiple allergies and food intolerances are more likely to suffer miscarriage. An overactive immune system is more likely to attack its own body cells. From an immunological point of view, an embryo and sperm cell are foreign bodies. But Mother Nature was clever. She programmed our immune systems to distinguish between an everyday invader and a sperm cell or embryo. A normal and healthy immune response to an embryo or sperm cell is orchestrated by Th2 cytokines. They suppress your killer cells (that’s what they are called) to leave the embryo unharmed. Because of this protection many pregnant women are poor wound healers and can come down really badly with a cold or flu. Your natural protection has been suppressed so that your baby can develop properly.
An abnormal immune response to the implantation of the fertilised egg is orchestrated by Th1 cytokines. Rather than suppressing your killer cells, they stimulate their activity. This can lead to defects and the loss of the fetus. The two most widely spread food intolerances are gluten and dairy.
I recommend that all my patients have an IgG immunoglobulin test done to check if they are dairy and gluten intolerant. But since most people have some level of allergy to gluten or dairy, it is advisable to avoid gluten and dairy products altogether during the preconception and pregnancy period.