Anti inflammatory foods for fertility

Inflammation and fertility

Inflammation is your body’s natural response to injury or illness. However, prolonged inflammation can lead to insulin resistance and studies suggest it is linked to many conditions that may affect fertility, such as endometriosis, PCOS, implantation failure and recurrent miscarriage.

One of the greatest obstacles to successful implantation of the embryos and the reason why IVF fails in some women is an inflammatory environment, which can be caused by autoimmune and other pro-inflammatory conditions of the immune system. If there is inflammation in the body, it could damage embryos and prevent successful implantation. At the Zita West Clinic we do specialist blood tests to see if this is the case or not. If inflammation is detected, we don’t simply rely on medication to reduce this; the internal environment can also be optimised through appropriate nutrition and improvement in lifestyle. It is also extremely important to reduce the effect of stress, which can impact the immune system, and we use other, holistic treatments – such as acupuncture and hypnotherapy – to help with that.

Reducing inflammation through diet

There are certain foods that are inflammatory and others that help reduce inflammation in the body. Let’s start with the good stuff. Try to increase the following in your diet, because these foods are anti-inflammatory:

  • Oily fish – levels of omega-3 fatty acids in oily fish help to counteract the inflammatory effects of omega-6 fats that are found in most meat.
  • Certain nuts, like macadamia nuts, which are high in omega-9 fats and seeds like flaxseed, chia and hemp.
  • Fruit and vegetables – high antioxidant foods help stem the action of free radicals, which cause inflammation. Orange and dark green vegetables are especially important for their beta-carotene levels.
  • Olive oil, which in its raw state contains omega-9 healthy fats and a chemical called oleocanthal, both of which have anti-inflammatory actions on the body. However, once you heat olive oil it becomes pro-inflammatory, so opt for seed oils for cooking instead.
  • Spices such as turmeric, garlic and ginger help to prevent pro-inflammatory enzymes from acting on your body.
  • Green tea
  • Pineapple
  • Rosemary
  • Propolis (honey bee resin) is a source of caffeic acid phenethyl ester (CAPE), which has been found to inhibit NF-kB, which promotes inflammation.
  • Apples, onions, berries, brassicas and capers are a good source of quercetin, an important anti-inflammatory antioxidant.
  • Fermented foods, such as kimchi, sauerkraut, kefir, kombucha and yoghurt, should be included regularly in your diet. The gut is an important site for the development and maintenance of immune health and modulating inflammation. Therefore maintaining a healthy digestion is important for addressing long-term inflammation.
  • Vitamin D-rich foods, such as oily fish, shellfish, egg yolk and mushrooms.
  • Coconut oil contains a beneficial fatty acid called lauric acid, which is also found in human breast milk. Lauric acid converts in the body to a compound called monolaurin, which may help support the immune system. Other fatty acids include capric and caprylic acids, which have antimicrobial properties.
  • Vitamin A-rich foods, such as organic liver and eggs.

In addition, try to eat more white fish, beans and pulses as your main protein sources, rather than poultry and red meat. Although turkey and chicken are fine in moderation, in general animal protein is considered more inflammatory for the body than fish and plant protein. You may wish to limit your intake of red meat and dairy products, as they contain arachidonic acid, which the body can use to make inflammatory eicosanoids.

Unsurprisingly, the pro-inflammatory foods in our diet comprise refined carbohydrates and sugars, excess saturated fats, processed foods, junk foods and hydrogenised (or partially hydrogenised) fats. Avoid them as often as you can. Caffeine and alcohol are pro-inflammatory, too.

Finally, avoid stress. Although this isn’t a dietary cause of inflammation, stress is almost certainly contributing to inflammation in your body. Support all the good work you’re doing with your diet by adapting your lifestyle to reduce stress, too.

For a detailed nutrition consultation tailored for you either in the clinic or by phone, contact us here.

Embrace the new season

In Traditional Chinese Medicine, it is believed that the changes that occur in nature in the Autumn are also reflected within changes in our bodies. The organs Traditional Chinese Medicine focus on in Autumn are the lungs and colon, and the element associated with autumn is metal. Now is the time to go inside as the evenings draw in, eating the warm, colourful foods nature provides at this time such and pumpkins and squash which are rich in beta carotene and great for ovary health. Fermented foods are also great to eat at this time of year and are important for gut health.

Make the most of beautiful autumn days and focus on breathing and the lungs, topping up with your vitamin D levels to boost your immune system ready for the winter.

The energy of the lungs is all about “letting go”, so let go of grief and anger, repair old relationships or prune and cut out what you are not happy with in your life. This is the season to make the changes and prepare for the harvest!

Tips for early pregnancy

With the lovely news from Harry and Meghan, we thought we’d share with you some tips for getting through the first few months. Early pregnancy, especially the first time around, is a very exciting time but it is also easy for anxiety to creep in and many women can feel overwhelmed. The first few weeks of pregnancy can be exhausting on so many levels; emotionally, physically and mentally. No matter who you are you, Duchess or not, your emotions at this time will be the same and this is something I see on a daily basis. If you have never been pregnant before it’s a steep learning curve, and as a midwife there are many common questions I am asked in early pregnancy:

How do I know I’m still pregnant?
This can be a really emotional time, not just because of the hormones but all of the worries about whether it will be ok with the pregnancy, especially if you are older. Before you start showing in these early days it can be so hard to actually ‘feel’ pregnant. One day you experience nausea, the next day you don’t, and new hormones are kicking in that you have never experienced before making you emotionally fragile. The exhaustion you’ll feel in your first 12 weeks, especially having to work and adapt to the pregnancy without telling anybody can really take its toll. Even if Meghan doesn’t suffer as much as her sister-in-law, nausea affects 70% of women which can sap energy further.

I’m not eating as well as I should…
Eating a good diet can be hard in the beginning as you are getting used to what your body needs with when and what to eat. Sometimes it is not always the healthiest of choices with many women craving carbs where they have tried to avoid these foods before. Plus with nausea kicking in it can mean eating what you are able to to get through the first few weeks which is fine. This is why it’s so important to build up a good store of nutrients before you get pregnant.

I feel worried all of the time, can stress affect my baby?
While Meghan is no different biologically to any other pregnant woman, she does have the added pressure of getting through engagements and having the world watching her. Constant stress on a daily basis may affect your baby, so learning to manage stress in early pregnancy is key.

Tips for getting through first trimester

  • Look at what’s going on in your life and what you can cut back on. If you work long hours, try to cut down here, and limit yourself to lots of commitments that can exhaust you.
  • Make sure you have early nights where possible to build your reserves and get you through the next day.
  • Accept that this this will only be for a couple of months and you’ll soon be feeling much better, give in to it where you can.
  • Don’t have any alcohol or coffee in the first trimester.
  • Eat little and often to keep your blood sugar balanced. In early pregnancy you need to tune in to what your body requires. Nausea and tiredness can be a vicious cycle: you feel sick so you don’t want to eat, but if you don’t eat then your blood sugar drops and nausea sets in. When it gets to this point it is hard to quell, so have snacks at hand throughout the day and I also encourage women to have something to eat just before bed to balance the blood sugar through the night. It’s a long time from dinner until breakfast which is why many women wake in the morning with nausea.
  • You need carbohydrates for energy and the developing baby, but for so many women I see they have been used to cutting carbs out and are nervous about how they crave them in pregnancy.
  • Deal with your stress early on. Chronic stress can be detrimental so make sure you manage this. The best way is to practice visualisation or meditation for 20 per day, but if your issues are greater then make sure you seek help through counselling.
  • Take a multivitamin and mineral continuing folate, as well as omega 3. Many women worry in early pregnancy that they are not eating as well as they should, so top your nutrients up with supplements.
  • Nurture yourself. In my experience this is the one time that women really feel they can pamper and nurture themselves. Rest whenever you feel you need to, get as much sleep as you can, and look after yourself from within.
  • Don’t listen to any labour horror stories – concentrate on the positive and if anyone starts to tell you their story, ask if it’s positive, and if not, then continue that conversation post birth!

5 Things To Consider When Dealing with Secondary Infertility

One of the things I’m often asked about is secondary infertility. This is when a woman who’s previously had a baby is struggling to get pregnant again.

And it’s far from uncommon. Every day we see women who have fallen pregnant the first time without even thinking about it and quite often in a short space of time, and then they struggle the second time around and are naturally very shocked that conception is not happening.

Take a look at the five key areas that I look at when a woman’s struggling to conceive the second time around.

As always, here’s your cheat sheet summarising my best advice.

  1. Age:  Age is a really important factor. Many women that are getting pregnant later in life are very keen to try for a second baby quite quickly. Age and how long you’ve been trying are key to understanding your fertility status the second time around.
  2. Sex: You absolutely have to have more sex to get pregnant a second time, usually at least three times a week. Many women I see just aren’t having enough sex because they are exhausted and often trying to juggle looking after a toddler with work, and they just don’t have the energy for sex.
  3. Nutrition and diet: Many mums, especially if they’re working, aren’t getting the proper nutrition. They get home from work, they have a baby to bathe and put to bed, and they don’t nourish themselves enough. Looking at diet and nutrition is really important as this can impact egg quality.
  4. Supplements: I’m a huge believer in supplements. Alongside a healthy diet, multi-vitamins and minerals, like Omega 3 and Folate, provide key nutrients to your body in preparation for getting pregnant.  
  5. Exhaustion: If you’re a working mum, you are exhausted by the time the weekend comes, so catching up on your sleep and having a bit of time to yourself is vital.

Happily, many women who are struggling the second time round do go on and get pregnant naturally but for those of you that are older, it’s about working within a timeframe, and most importantly, setting yourself a limit to when you will seek help and more assistance.

For weekly tips, advice and wisdom on natural fertility and IVF, subscribe to our Fertility Show on YouTube.

Book now

Consultations are available at our Clinic in London or via Video Conferencing from the comfort of your own home.

Connect with us

Call us on 0808 196 4060 or email us at clinics@zitawest.com

Could these four things be hindering your chances of conception?

I often talk about what you put in your body and how you treat it can have a big impact on your chances to conceive. 

So this week I am sharing 4 things things that may be hindering your chances of conceiving without you even knowing it… 

1. Too much caffeine

For women, caffeine can put stress on the adrenals and cause blood sugar to rollercoaster with high peaks and low troughs which also affects energy levels, mood and irritability. Some studies also show links between miscarriage and caffeine consumption in women who consume five or more caffeinated drinks a day. However, researchers don’t yet know for certain how caffeine levels relate to conception itself.

Coffee, tea, over-the-counter medications, chocolate and fizzy drinks all contain caffeine – and don’t forget that your latte or flat white might well contain more than one espresso-size shot. My advice is to try to cut back on caffeine-containing foods and drinks during the week, treating yourself at weekends. If you do need a shot of caffeine, take it from tea, which has much lower caffeine levels than coffee.

  1. Excessive amount of alcohol

For women alcohol may contribute to irregular periods, irregular ovulation and luteal phase defects, reducing chances of conception. Studies show that if neither you nor your partner drinks at all you will typically get pregnant more quickly than couples who drink regularly. However, I’m a realist – it’s fine if alcohol forms part of your normal life, as long as you drink at the lower limits of what is recommended for your age and gender.

Try to drink fewer than six units of alcohol per week remember every one metabolises alcohol in a different way (a pint of beer is two units; a large 250ml/9fl oz glass of wine is three) having alcohol free days also important

  1. Being overweight

Being underweight or overweight affects fertility in both women and men, so I advise that you try to do 30 to 60 minutes of exercise daily. Regular exercise ensures that endorphins – feel-good hormones – circulate your body and improves general circulation.

Better circulation means that more nutrients can reach your ovaries (in a woman) or testes (in a man); and will improve your blood-sugar balance, which will be good for your fertility.

  1. Taking the pill

So many of the young women I see at the clinic in their thirties have gone on the pill at fifteen, and don’t come off until they’re in their 30s and starting to try for a baby. It’s very easy for them to get quite panicked about their cycles and their fertility returning, and how quickly your cycle gets back to normal varies from person to person.

The first month after you stop taking the pill is usually a particularly fertile cycle. After this ovulation can be disrupted for a few months in most women. For others it may take longer for ovulation to return to a normal pattern, despite regular periods.

For weekly tips, advice and wisdom on natural fertility and IVF, subscribe to our Fertility Show on YouTube.

Book now

Consultations are available at our Clinic in London or via Video Conferencing from the comfort of your own home.

Connect with us

Call us on 0808 196 4060 or email us at clinics@zitawest.com

 

The most important thing is understanding the delays to fertility and looking back with no regrets

One of the most common questions I get asked is: ‘How long I have got before it will be too late for me to ever have a child of my own.’

Different couples have different challenges when it comes to thinking about planning to have a baby, and questions like this one are difficult to answer, as fertility isn’t black and white: there are so many shades of grey.  

Having said this, planning as much of your fertility journey as you can is something I recommend highly. And as we end the year, I want to talk about the importance of having no regrets.

One of the most painful set of circumstances I see at the clinic is when women sit in front of me thinking of what they should have done differently. Normally – and I say this from having helped thousands of couples – they wish they had started trying sooner or had sought help sooner. I have lost count of the number of times I have heard couples say that to me.

In helping women with their fertility, I spend a lot of time trying make them aware of the possible delays in the process and the consequences of delay, and how they need to be strategic in their decisions. The reason? To ensure that they don’t feel this regret.

Quite often, women will come and see me at the age of 35 and say that they’re going to wait a year or two before they start trying. I always encourage them to start as soon as they can, because you can see at 35 how you can get to 37 or 38 before you’ve even had a baby.

So instead it’s about making a rational decision about how many children you want, but also understanding the delays and the pitfalls that can happen along the way. Although there are a lot of tests now that can help you gage your fertility, the hard thing about it is there are so many shades of grey and no guarantees.

Women are great at managing so many aspects of their lives, but often not when it comes to managing fertility.

Then they feel under huge pressure – after a couple of months of not conceiving, it’s easy become obsessed about measurements, timings and gadgets, especially around ovulation.  It can affect relationships badly: I see men on a daily basis with nothing wrong with them other than they can’t perform because they feel under pressure to do so.  

The good news is couples increasingly want to do all they can to help themselves. They want to feel proactive, even against a backdrop of having to manage uncertainty.

At the end of the day, I think it’s about looking ahead and thinking how many children you want and then factoring in all the delays in fertility and making a plan accordingly.