Have you ever been curious about your fertility health? Maybe you’ve wondered how your day-to-day choices affect your reproductive hormones? Or how your age truly impacts your ability to conceive?
I have women asking me these questions (and more!) on a daily basis, and I want to help everyone who I don’t get to see in my practice! Using my clinical experience helping hundreds of women get pregnant and fix hormonal chaos, and through my own hormonal imbalance journey, I’ve come up with thirteen, easy to digest categories that can influence your fertility health. Here’s the good news – all of these areas CAN be changed through dietary and lifestyle changes! Let me break it down for you:
Your hormones affect everything – your fertility, mood, energy, weight, and even your happiness! Estrogen and progesterone are two of the most important hormones for optimal fertility – they need to be happy and balanced to prepare your body for pregnancy.
When your estrogen and progesterone are out of balance, you experience things like breast tenderness, irritability, low libido, mood swings, insomnia, irregular menstrual cycles, recurrent miscarriages, painful periods, and yes – infertility.
While progesterone and estrogen are two key hormones for your fertility health, there are several others that need be in sync as well. During the course of a menstrual cycle various hormones are working together in a complex symphony to trigger the components of ovulation and menstruation.
To determine where your hormones are at, and which ones might be out of balance, I always recommend doing a comprehensive hormone test so we can get a baseline read of your hormone levels. These results will help us understand the root cause of your hormonal issues and the area(s) that is causing the most harm.
Risk factors such as age, weight, reproductive history and length of time trying to conceive can have a significant impact on your odds of getting pregnant and having a healthy, full term pregnancy without any complications.
Unfortunately your age really does matter when it comes to fertility … At age 30, the average woman’s chance of conceiving during any one cycle is 20%. By age 40, that chance drops to a low 5% (!!). Those are some crazy statistics right?
Weight can also be a major fertility factor – being excessively thin or overweight can lead to infertility problems. Estrogen is partially produced in our fat cells – so too much or too little fat on the body can wreak havoc on estrogen levels.
Being diagnosed with certain reproductive conditions such as endometriosis, low ovarian reserve, fibroids, or a thyroid disorder most definitely affects your fertility health. It’s super important to talk with your doctor and make sure you’re getting the proper treatment necessary BEFORE trying to conceive.
Did you know that 1 in 8 women will develop a thyroid disorder during her lifetime? Thyroid disorders are very common in women with unexplained infertility, premature ovarian failure (a condition in which the number and quality of eggs severely limits fertility), ovulation disorders, and recurrent miscarriage.
There have been plenty of recent studies confirming that having an autoimmune thyroid disorder (such as Hashimoto’s or Graves disease) significantly increases the risk of miscarriage – 36% in women who tested positive to thyroid antibodies, compared to just 1.8% for those without thyroid antibodies.
What do symptoms of a thyroid disorder look like? You should be on the lookout for things like rising cholesterol, hair loss, weight gain, fatigue, low sex drive and depression or moodiness.
The adrenal glands support a proper stress response and play a key role in hormonal balance. One of the main jobs of the adrenal glands is to release hormones in response to stress, such as intense emotion, physical injury, overexertion, or through environmental factors such as eating unhealthy foods and chemical exposure.
Chronic stress affects fertility by signaling to your body that conditions are not ideal for conception. The part of the brain that governs reproduction is the reptilian brain, it perceives things in your life as it always has, it doesn’t differentiate modern day “stress” any differently than “primal” stress. In other words, if you’re constantly stressed out, your body perceives that stress the same as if you’re running from a bear – your environment is not safe to bring forth new life and it diverts all your energy away from the reproductive system and instead directs it to the organs necessary for survival – muscles, heart, brain, etc..
We live in a time where stress levels are out of control, so it’s important to do something every day to support your adrenal glands by counterbalancing the stress you experience.
High Quality Food
We’ve all heard the saying ‘You are what you eat!’ But what you DON’T eat is equally as important. What you choose to eat plays a huge role in supporting your fertility health so you can experience a healthy (and enjoyable!) pregnancy. Consuming toxin-free food is essential to your health and wellbeing – specifically when it comes to fertility health.
Eating toxin-free foods means that the foods you choose to eat are grown and raised without chemicals (pesticides, herbicides, insecticides), hormones, antibiotics or steroids, and are not genetically modified. Many of the pesticides, chemicals, and hormones used in conventional farming contain synthetic estrogen-like substances. All of this excess estrogen exposure wreaks havoc on your body’s delicate hormonal system.
In men, pesticides have been shown to negatively affect sperm health, sperm motility, sperm count, overall male fertility, and hormonal balance.
In women, pesticides negatively affect fertility by disrupting hormone production, hormone release and storage, thyroid function, and the central nervous system. This is totally avoidable!
We may not have control over the air we breathe, or the environment we live in, but we have absolute control over what we choose to put in our mouths every day. Choosing organic, pasture-raised meats, organic fruits & veggies, and clean fats and oils is important to feed your reproductive system what it needs!
One of the key goals of an optimal fertility diet is to keep your blood sugar level nice and steady. This makes sure you’re not creating extra stress for your body. You do this by choosing the right kinds of carbohydrates.
To get off the blood sugar roller coaster that keeps you spiking and crashing all day, it’s important to limit your consumption of refined, processed carbohydrates (pasta, bread, cookies, dessert, pretzels… all the good stuff).
When we eat processed carbohydrates and sugar, we get a rapid rise in glucose levels causing the body to overcompensate by sending out a huge release of insulin in an effort to get all the sugar out of the bloodstream and into the cells where it can be burned and used for energy. We’ve all experienced this before – the high you feel from the sugar rush, followed by the sugar crash – headache, exhaustion, irritability, anxiety, and more.
The best way to balance blood sugar levels is to choose high quality fats, clean protein and lots of veggies at every meal and snack! This guarantees nice and steady blood sugar levels throughout the day, keeping your hormones happy :).
Eating PLENTY of healthy fats is essential for getting your hormone system in shape in preparation for pregnancy. And once you’re pregnant, fats are critical for the development and growth of your baby’s brain and entire central nervous system, as well as YOUR emotional health during and after pregnancy! Healthy fats keep you satiated and feeling full longer so you’re not hungry all the time, eliminating the need to snack all day.
Another very important thing to note about fats is that all of our major reproductive hormones – specifically estrogen, progesterone, testosterone and cortisol – are made from cholesterol. Cholesterol is literally the mother hormone that turns into each of the necessary hormones to make a baby.
Without enough fats and cholesterol in the diet, it’s like trying to build a house without bricks. It just doesn’t work! We need enough cholesterol coming in on a consistent basis to build reproductive hormones. This is why it’s so important to consume lots of high quality fats (i.e. cholesterol). Examples of super good-for-you fats include: eggs + egg yolks, coconut oil, wild caught fish and seafood, avocados, grass-fed butter and ghee, and raw nuts and seeds.
Caffeine & Alcohol
Heavy caffeine and alcohol use should be avoided while trying to get pregnant. There’s no evidence that a few drinks a week will affect your fertility, but doctors do caution against heavy drinking – more than one drink a day for women – which has been linked to an increased risk for ovulation disorders.
A 2004 Swedish study that tracked more than 7,000 women found that the heaviest drinkers were more likely to have sought out fertility treatment. Studies have also shown that regular caffeine consumption increases the length of time it takes to become pregnant.
It takes upwards of 90 days for changes you make today to affect your future egg health. If you are actively trying to get pregnant, or hope to be pregnant in the near future, I suggest making changes sooner rather than later.
Finding an alternative to caffeine to get some pep in your step in the morning could benefit your fertility health long-term. My favorite is cold showers and fresh air first thing in the morning!
And while you’re changing up your morning routine, it may be helpful to look at how you wind down in the evenings as well. Consider choosing a hot bath and a book instead of that glass of wine … or two. Decreasing your alcohol consumption now will not only positively affect your fertility health, but your overall health and wellbeing.
Nutrients and Supplements
Nutritional deficiencies have been linked to ovulation issues, hormonal imbalance, poor egg quality, low sperm count and so much more. Certain nutrients such as Vitamin D, folate, fish oil, CoQ10, and prenatal vitamins specifically promote fertility health and prepare your body for a healthy pregnancy.
Prenatal Pro Essential Packets contain the only prenatal on the market to use NatureFolate, a blend of natural folates in place of synthetic folic acid. With the combination of this multivitamin and an additional multimineral, these packets feature true mineral chelates with far superior absorption compared to minerals typically found in prenatal multivitamins. Minerals such as calcium, magnesium, iron, and zinc play such integral roles in the health of both mom and baby. A high potency, purified fish oil is included to provide women with high potency EPA and DHA omega-3s, essential for healthy brain development of the fetus.
Vitamin D is all the rage these days, especially when it comes to fertility health. Studies show a significant correlation between vitamin D levels and fertility: low levels of vitamin D negatively impacts fertility.
Studies also show that omega-3 essential fatty acids (found in fish oil) not only support healthy fertility, but proper formation of your baby’s nervous system, brain, eyes and heart. Omega-3’s are also potent antioxidants, which protect fragile egg and sperm health.
Folate is needed by the young fetus before you can even detect pregnancy, and a deficiency in this nutrient can cause serious birth defects.
CoQ10 has been shown in studies to improve both egg and sperm health, while playing a key role in protecting DNA at a cellular level. CoQ10 is especially important if you’ve been diagnosed with poor egg health, or are over the age of 40.
Here’s the main takeaway when it comes to nutrients and supplements – supplementing with specific high quality fertility-boosting nutrients is mega important to your fertility!
When we’re under stress our bodies respond by producing the hormone cortisol. Cortisol is often referred to as the “stress hormone”, and with good reason! Cortisol is made in the adrenal glands and is produced and secreted in response to stress. This can be any kind of stress – physical, mental, emotional, structural, etc.
The thing is, our sex steroid hormones are made from the same raw materials as cortisol, so when the body has to make extra cortisol, you run the risk of decreasing your other steroid hormones on behalf of cortisol production, including progesterone, estrogen and testosterone.
Cortisol also shuts down all unnecessary functions for survival (like your reproductive system), in order to allow the body to direct all energies toward dealing with the stress at hand. When your reproductive system is shut down, it wreaks havoc on your reproductive hormones – leading to missed periods (and ovulation!), weight gain, altered sleep patterns … all of which can negatively affect your fertility.
While you can’t just eliminate stress from your life completely, you can be proactive in managing your daily stressors. Start with baby steps – take 10 deep belly breaths every time you start to feel stressed, anxious or tense. Make sure you get outside to exercise every day – sweating on a regular basis is an excellent stress reliever! Lastly, get a GOOD night sleep – while you sleep, your body is able to restore and heal.
Taking steps to decrease stress in your life will help support a healthy balance of hormones – which in turn, supports your fertility health!
Consistent exercise should be one of the first steps in optimizing fertility and improving uterine health. Walking and yoga are two of the best ways to promote circulation and improve strength and flexibility of the muscles surrounding the uterus.
Leading an inactive lifestyle with little to no exercise limits blood flow to the uterus and other reproductive organs. The main artery that supplies blood to our legs is also responsible for supplying blood to our uterus, ovaries and vagina. If we sit around a lot, the blood flow to our uterus may be compromised. So get movin’!
On the flip side, exercising too much can have a negative impact on ovulation. It’s not just an issue that affects very thin athletes either. Remember that excess intense exercise creates stress on the body – which takes vital energy away from the reproductive system.
Various dietary and lifestyle factors have the ability to affect your fertility and hormones, but sleep – quality and quantity – is a TOP priority factor. Unfortunately, studies have shown that upwards of 35% of Americans don’t get enough quality sleep. That’s HUGE! Interrupted sleep patterns can suppress ovulation, negatively affect your thyroid and adrenal glands, and consequently create hormonal chaos and decreased fertility.
Sleep affects the production of our key fertility hormones including estrogen, progesterone, luteinizing hormone (LH) and follicle stimulating hormone (FSH). Proper sleep is critical to keep these hormones in balance and in check. But there is another hormone that is a vital link between fertility and sleep – Leptin.
Regular sleep is required to produce proper amounts of Leptin, which regulates your menstrual cycle and intimately affects ovulation. Research shows that getting less than seven to eight hours of sleep has been associated with reduced leptin levels the following day.
Also, disturbances in leptin concentrations have been linked with poor egg quality. YIKES! And just a side note here – leptin is also the hormone responsible for telling our brains when we’re FULL and have had enough to eat. So without proper leptin production, our brain never gets the message that our stomach is full and we just keep eating and eating.
This is a topic that definitely doesn’t get enough attention. In our modern world, we are exposed to more chemicals than ever before in history. And unfortunately many of these chemicals are estrogen based, meaning your hormone and fertility health are the first to suffer.
Get this – research shows that exposure to pollutants, pesticides, and industrial chemicals can decrease a couple’s ability to conceive by up to 29%! Yes, FOR REAL!
These chemicals include PCBs (which have been banned since 1979 but still exist in older products), pesticides, plastics, phthalates (often found in personal care items and beauty products like shampoo, deodorant, perfumes and nail polishes), sulfates (found in most of the lotions and potions we put on our skin) and BPAs (found in canned goods and plastics). It’s super important to clean up your environment when preparing your body for conception.
How do you rid your environment of toxins? There are a few easy steps to get you started: always filter your water, don’t drink out of plastic water bottles or use plastics for storing food, avoid aluminum and canned goods; and always purchase organic meats, fruits and vegetables. This will keep your exposure to chemicals minimal, which will positively affect your fertility health.
So there you have it – thirteen, easy to digest categories that can influence your fertility health. These are all areas that CAN be changed through diet and lifestyle modifications. As with any big changes, I recommend baby steps – making huge changes all at once can be overwhelming and hard to stick with. Take a deep breath, and remember that even small changes will benefit your fertility health greatly, increasing your chances of becoming pregnant and having a healthy pregnancy!
And, to take it one step further, let me introduce you to The Fertility Code!
The Fertility Code is a 12-week protocol designed to increase your fertility health and prepare your body for conception and a graceful journey into a healthy, full-term pregnancy. Each week a new module is introduced, building upon each other so you’re just getting the core essentials of what to do RIGHT NOW, and the exact next steps to take each week.
The 12 modules cover everything you need to know to optimize your hormones, support your gut, thyroid & adrenal health, reduce the toxins in your environment that are robbing your fertility, learn how to move your body in a way that supports conception, incorporate the best mind/body therapies to optimize your chances of success, understand exactly what supplements and nutrients you should be using and why quality matters the most here, how to utilize conscious conception techniques to shift thought patterns and behaviors to create space in your life for a baby to come in, and SO MUCH MORE.
Each module covers the Science so you understand the WHY, and the Solution laid out in easy-to-implement steps so you can execute the HOW. You’ll have access to tons of done-for-you resources like cycle tracking tools, a daily fertility checklist, shopping lists, recipes, meal ideas, a daily supplement menu, and a ton more. Research shows that what you eat and how you live ABSOLUTELY determines how fertile you are, but you need a plan of action that works. The Fertility Code is exactly that ;).
I’d love to use this space as a forum of sorts, providing inspiration and community among my readers, so … I want to hear from you!
Are you concerned about your fertility health?
Are you actively trying to get pregnant?
Spread some fertility lovin’! Sharing is caring, and I bet you have some friends who would love to read this too :).
Don’t forget to check out my brand new ebook about how to Heal Hormonal Chaos and Increase Fertility Naturally, Without Drugs & Expensive Treatments! In this eye opening ebook, you will discover my top natural remedies to heal the six most common hormone conditions that affect your fertility.
Research shows you have the power to shift your hormonal health and optimize your fertility with FOOD, and I’ll teach you how here!
Looking to have a more in-depth conversation about your fertility? Schedule a consultation with me!