We all like a bit of a quiz, but don’t fret over doing this – it is designed to make you think about where the weaknesses lie. Remember, making changes don’t have to be huge, just a few tweaks here and there will help and pay dividends.
Food – and all the things it’s related to, from your digestion to your gut health – plays a crucial role in optimising your fertility. This is where preparing to make a baby begins, at the basics – the way your whole body works.
Quite simply, the right nutrients give you the right building blocks for making a baby. What then should you and your partner include and eliminate in your diet in order to optimise your chances of conceiving? However, I don’t want to be prescriptive; I think hard-and-fast rules are hard to stick to. Instead, I want to show you how nutrition and fertility are inextricably linked, so that you can make informed choices about your diet. Then, because your diet is one that you’ve carved out for yourself, you should be able to sustain it in the long term and so properly enhance your chances of conceiving.
First, though, I want you to assess what your nutrition looks like now, so that you have a better idea of why and how you need to make changes. (Note that, when I say ‘you’, I mean both of you.)
How healthy is your digestion?
Fertility starts in the gut – the hormones you need to be fertile require key nutrients from the food you eat. Take a look at the following statements and answer true or false for each.
• I frequently burp or suffer with flatulence.
• I suffer from bloating and/or abdominal pain especially after eating.
• I suffer from irritable bowel syndrome.
• I regularly take antibiotics.
• I frequently suffer with constipation and diarrhoea.
• I have food allergies or intolerances.
• My stools are pale in colour or float.
• I frequently suffer with heartburn.
Answering true to four or more statements could mean that your digestion may be influencing your chances of conceiving. Look at ways to improve your nutrient absorption (that is, the health of your gut). You may also need a detox.
How toxic are you?
A considerable amount of evidence suggests that ‘detoxing’ – eating pure foods for a couple of days a week – helps to regulate hormones, lower cholesterol, balance blood sugar and improve digestion. To assess your present toxicity, answer true or false to the following statements.
• My urine is dark and strong smelling.
• I have bowel movements less than once a day.
• I suffer with headaches, fatigue, muscle aches and/or concentration problems regularly.
• Even one cup of caffeine makes me feel jittery.
• I drink more than 14 units of alcohol each week and sometimes I binge drink.
• My diet includes large fish such as swordfish or tuna more than once a week.
• I regularly take medications, including pain killers.
• I drink bottled water from plastic containers, or unfiltered tap water.
• I eat lots of processed foods and foods containing lots of additives.
• I use chemicals such as those in some perfumes and cleaning agents.
If you answered true to five or more statements, you may benefit from a cleanse.
How stable is your blood sugar?
Your body breaks down carbohydrates (found in bread, pasta, potatoes, fruit juices, and so on) into sugars. These sugars are absorbed into your blood stream, triggering your pancreas to release the hormone insulin. High levels of insulin in the blood lead to fluctuations in your blood sugar, causing energy highs and lows, and in women increasing the production of testosterone – the so-called ‘male’ fertility hormone. The resulting hormonal imbalance in women can affect ovulation.
To assess your blood-sugar balance, answer true or false to the following statements.
• I get jittery or irritable and I suffer from headaches if I skip a meal.
• I crave sweet things at around 4pm.
• I feel sleepy in the afternoon.
• I regularly wake in the night.
If you answered true to three or more of these statements follow a diet to balance blood sugar.
What’s your acid–alkaline balance?
Although your body produces acids as a by-product of your metabolism, eating certain foods can increase your overall acidity. Too much acidic food in your diet places a strain on your liver and kidneys (your organs of elimination), leading to an increase in toxicity. The result is to deplete your body of nutrients vital for reproduction (among other things). In addition, sperm will survive longer in a slightly alkaline environment. Have a look at the following list of statement and answer true or false for each.
• I eat a lot of red meat and/or follow a high-protein diet.
• I eat sugary foods four or five times a week.
• I drink alcohol, fizzy sodas or caffeinated drinks four or five times a week.
• I eat fewer than two portions of fresh vegetables daily.
If you answered true to two or more of these statements, you may need to increase alkalising foods, such as green leafy vegetables, in your diet.
My book, Eat Yourself Pregnant contains 80 recipes created to provide the nutrients your body requires for optimum fertility. It is available for £14.99
Supplements can also be a useful source of nutrients to support your body’s needs during pre-conception.