How to improve fertility naturally with nutrition
I’m not a baby person. I’m the kind of person, when offered a baby to hold, leans back and says, “No, um, that’s okay.”
All the same, I feel a deep desire to help couples and individuals improve their fertility naturally, thanks to my teacher at the Nutritional Therapy Association, Caroline Barringer. In her practice, she specialized in helping couples to improve fertility with preconception nutrition.
She sparked something in my soul when she discussed the fertility challenges facing our culture. She shared how the artificial reproductive technologies we now rely on dishonor the wisdom of the body, and alternatively we can use nutrition and lifestyle to support a healthy conception and pregnancy.
I want to participate in the creation of this new generation by providing support for natural conception and healthy babies. If we improve the health of babies coming into this world, the positive impacts reach further than we can imagine.
Healthy parents make healthy babies. Healthy babies are more likely to grow into healthy, happy children — children who thrive mentally and emotionally, with a reduced risk of chronic health disorders, or the need for medication.
In this article, I primarily address women who wish to improve or prolong their fertility. However, the issue of nutrition, health, and fertility applies to the male partners, as well as same-sex couples seeking birth options.
Fertility Myth #1: Nutrition only impacts a baby when a woman is pregnant
TRUTH: Preconception nutrition, of both the mother and father, impacts the health of their children. Parental nutrition influences not only their own children, but generations to come.
Dr. Weston Price, a dentist with a passion for nutrition, traveled the globe to discover the secrets of healthy, happy people. He recorded his findings in the 30’s in the landmark book, Nutrition and Physical Degeneration. From the Inuit in Alaska to the Maori in New Zealand, Dr. Price revealed that the diets traditional to each culture, although dependent on geography, followed a strict set of dietary laws.
When cultures obeyed the diets of their ancestors, they experienced stunning beauty and radiant health. Degenerative disease was nearly unknown, as was tooth decay, and the need for orthodonture. However, when cultures strayed from ancestral nutrition, they experienced disease, tooth decay, and birth defects.
One cross-cultural dietary “law” in ancient cultures was special nutrition for couples prior to conception. These fertility-boosting foods were revered and obtained often at great lengths. For example, natives in the Andes brought dried fish roe from sea level to their mountain homes, to feed those of childbearing years.
These ancient cultures all intuited that nutrition played a role in a healthy baby long before the baby was conceived. For more information on ancient fertility foods, read this post from my colleague, Jill Tieman.
In addition to ancient wisdom, we can learn from a landmark study referred to as, “Pottenger’s Cats”. This research illustrates how the parents’ nutrient intake influences the following generations.
In this study, cats were divided into groups with different diets, with the subsequent results:
- The Control Group ate the standard diet (raw milk, raw meat, and cod liver oil) with additional raw meat. This was considered the optimal diet. When bred for three generations, all the cats experienced physical health, optimal moods, and fertility.
- Experimental Groups ate the standard diet, with the addition of cooked meat, pasteurized milk, evaporated milk, or sweetened condensed milk. These diets were considered nutrient deficient. When bred for three generations, health declined visibly in the experimental groups. Arthritis, lethargy, poor coordination, dental deterioration, nervousness, skeletal deformities, and infertility resulted.
You can see the early documentary of this study below, and observe the health and frailty of the different cats. I believe this footage offers a valuable wake-up call, contrasting the physical and behavioral differences of healthy and unhealthy cats that can be extrapolated to studying the health of children.
Since we lack a “control group” of vibrantly healthy kids, we have forgotten what health looks like. As a culture, we perceive our children’s health and behavioral challenges within a range of recognized “normal” experiences — we expect them, to some degree. For instance, we perceive it as normal rather than abnormal for a child to experience allergies, asthma, constipation, anxiety, depression, and hyperactivity.
This study also showed that proper nutrition would restore health. However, it took four generations of cats being fed an optimal diet before they regained the original level of wellbeing.
Cats are not humans, and obviously, their nutritional needs are not the same as ours, but we can deduce important implications for human health from this study. I believe this study indicates that the nutritional sufficiency of parents has a great impact on their children and grandchildren.
Fertility Myth #2: Artificial Reproductive Technologies and Egg Freezing are suitable to treat infertility or prolong fertility.
TRUTH: Nutrition and lifestyle are the best ways to address infertility and prolong your fertility.
Mainstream fertility treatments include reproductive technologies like artificial insemination (IVF). When we force conception the body isn’t conceiving naturally, in fact, we’re overriding the body’s wisdom.
Weston Price supported the idea of the body’s innate wisdom when he said: Life in all its fullness is mother nature obeyed.
Mother Nature has her own mechanisms of quality control. When conception doesn’t happen naturally, it is usually because the egg, and/or the sperm, is not healthy enough to make a healthy baby.
IVF works by fertilizing a healthy-looking egg with a healthy-looking sperm. However, “healthy- looking” does not mean the DNA contained within the egg or sperm is in optimal condition. If that egg or sperm has matured in a nutritionally deficient environment, the embryo may be compromised.
Also, conception may not be occurring naturally because the woman’s body does not have adequate nutrient stores to support a healthy pregnancy. She may have other health challenges that could compromise pregnancy, or her partner’s sperm may be compromised. It makes sense, then, that artificial reproduction leads to increased rates of birth defects (source).
Egg freezing also raises health and ethical challenges. An overview of the process illustrates how profoundly unnatural it is.
- First, the woman ingests a series of synthetic hormones to disrupt the rhythm of estrogen. This alters your menstrual cycle and in turn disrupts the cascade of hormones throughout the body. Daily injections of a hormone-altering chemical, Lupron, are used to ensure that ovulation doesn’t happen according to the body’s timing.
- When it is time to stimulate ovulation, another hormone, human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG), is administered. Eggs are harvested after this artificially stimulated ovulation.
- To prevent ice crystals forming in the egg, which would damage it, the egg is first dehydrated and then saturated with an anti-freeze solution. The eggs are then frozen and placed in storage.
- At the time of fertilization, the eggs are thawed and fertilized with a sperm in a laboratory.
- After fertilization, the woman undergoes a procedure where Valium is administered to aid with relaxation, and the embryo is inserted into her uterus.
- Synthetic hormone treatment continues during the first trimester of the woman’s pregnancy, because her body is working according to an artificial hormone cycle rather than its natural hormone cycle. (Summarized from this FAQ on egg freezing)
I encourage you to use your intuitive sense when considering if egg freezing and IVF are the appropriate and healthy choices in your fertility journey.
Infertility is incredibly challenging — emotionally, mentally and physically. However, it does not mean the body is broken. The body is always doing the best it can with the environment and the materials we give it. If we want conception to happen naturally, nutrition and lifestyle changes offer increased potential to address this condition.
A nutritional approach to fertility not only encourages the possibility of conception, it also supports an easier pregnancy, labor, and the health of the baby. If prolonging fertility is desired, I believe nutrition is safer and more powerful than egg freezing.
In her practice, Caroline has helped many couples reverse infertility and experience a natural conception. Other nutritional therapy practitioners and holistic fertility specialists do the same. I asked my colleagues for their recommendations to nutrition-based fertility specialists, and I provide these referrals for you if you are seeking a practitioner:
- Sara Russel, NTP — works with clients remotely
- Joey Anderson, NTP, CGP — works with clients remotely or in-person near Berkeley, CA
- Brynn D’Avello, NTP — works with clients remotely or in-person near Waco, TX
- Lucy Flamiatos, NTP — works with clients remotely or in-person near Seattle, WA
Healthy conception, for a couple, is a teamwork project. I mention this because our mainstream perspective towards fertility tends to focus primarily on the woman. Both the mother and father contribute 50% of the DNA to the baby, and both partners have a responsibility to contribute optimal genetic material in their egg or sperm.
Fertility Myth #3: A child’s physical, emotional, and mental health is largely a game of chance and genetics.
TRUTH: Preconception and pregnancy nutrition influences a child’s physical, emotional, and mental development.
Our culture acknowledges that smoking, drinking, stress and drug use all affect an embryo’s development, and the future child’s physical, emotional, and mental wellbeing.
Why do we fail to make the logical connection to nutrition? Indeed, prenatal and natal nutrition profoundly impacts on a child’s health and development.
While genetics do play a role in health, many conditions we perceive as a “game of genetics” are often a result of prenatal and natal nutrient deficiencies. We think that a child’s need for orthodonture, removal of wisdom teeth, and glasses are simply the luck of the draw, but this is not the case.
For example, cultures adhering to their ancestral dietary wisdom, as documented by Weston Price, experienced proper facial bone structure. In contrast, cultures that added refined flour, sugar, and oil experienced the facial development challenges we see widely in the modern world.
Bone structure does not simply mean classical and symmetrical beauty, it also relates to health. Proper bone structure correlates with:
- Room for teeth to grow in straight. This eliminates the need for braces or orthodonture.
- A spacious sinus cavity. This allows drainage of the Eustachian tube, preventing sinus and ear infections
- Properly spaced eyes. This ensures optimal eyesight and reduces the need for glasses. (Source)
The power of nutrition to improve fertility
I created Empowered Sustenance to champion the power nutrition. Many of you know my story:
At 18, I was nearly bedridden due to this disease. Even the most potent medications, including an anti-cancer drug used to suppress the immune system, failed me. My doctors told me I would likely require the partial removal of my large intestine.
When I began a dietary protocol, my acute symptoms disappeared in three days. Within months, I was off all my medications.
I believed I experienced a miraculous recovery through nutrition. But now I know my recovery was a normal, natural phenomena given the power of nutrition.
Using nutrition for fertility may produce seemingly miraculous results, but it is no miracle. Nutrition is the most time-trusted and cross-cultural technique for healthy fertility and conception.
Holistic resources to improve fertility with naturally
- Beautiful Babies book — Inspired by Dr. Price’s research, Michaelis outlines how to use nutrition for preconception preparation, as well as natal health.
- Re-Balancing after Hormonal Birth Control— If you presently take hormonal birth control, no matter where you are in your family planning, I highly suggest you cease using it. I would recommend, encouraging your body to find its natural cycle rhythm with natural hormone balancing techniques.
- Natural Cycles App — I use and recommend the Natural Cycles App for tracking your cycles. It tracks your fertile and non-fertile days using your morning temperature, and takes into account your unique cycle patterns. This app is also an effective form of hormone-free birth control.
- Energy Medicine— Tapping, The Emotion Code, and daily energy balancing techniques are powerful ways to support fertility. Shifting our energy patterns, trapped emotions, and subconscious beliefs often produce radical shifts in wellness. I discuss how to immediately implement these energy medicine modalities here.
- Acupuncture — This is another form of energy medicine, but more widely known and accepted. A skilled practitioner can provide support alongside your nutrition and lifestyle changes.
- The Mama Natural Week-By-Week Guide to Pregnancy and Child Birth— This essential guide outlines natal nutrition, natural remedies, and the appropriate (and inappropriate) use of interventions.