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Nutrition for Fertility: Vitamins and Nutrients

As you go through your day-to-day routine, it can be hard to keep track of your vitamin intake. Plus, when you eat out more than you eat in, it makes it even harder to know what nutrients you are lacking.

On the other hand, when you’re trying to get pregnant (or be healthier in general) there are certain essential nutrients you want to include in your diet. Maybe you already knew that, but did you know that supplements like iron and Vitamin E might reduce the risk of miscarriage? Also, did you know that a deficiency of zinc could reduce testosterone levels, shrink testicle size, and produce unhealthy sperm in men? Lucky for you, we have some healthy tips and a delicious recipe for a fertility-boosting diet.

Fertility-Boosting Nutrients:

Iron

• Helps prevent miscarriage
• Is the main component of hemoglobin, which transport oxygen to all the parts of the body
• During pregnancy, a woman’s blood supply increases to supply nutrition to the growing fetus
• Coffee and tobacco inhibit the absorption of iron

You can get it from: leafy greens like spinach, broccoli, fish, strawberries, lean organic meats, whole grains, dried fruit like prunes, nuts, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds. How much: it can range anywhere from 20 mg/day to 120 mg/day (if diagnosed with iron deficiency)

Folic acid

• Necessary to produce and protect your baby’s genes (DNA and RNA)
• Can prevent brain and spinal cord issues from developing in an embryo
• Vitamin C aids in absorption

You can get it from: dark leafy veggies, milk, asparagus, oatmeal, avocados, oranges, broccoli, organ meats, whole grains, oysters, salmon, dried figs, legumes. How much: 200 mg/day to 400 mg/day, depending on where you are in your pregnancy

Calcium

• Essential to keep your bones strong during pregnancy
• Helps build your baby’s skeleton properly

You can get it from: milk, yogurt, tofu and soy products, edamame, broccoli, leafy green veggies, sesame seeds. How much: 1200 mg/day

Zinc

• In women, it helps your body make use of necessary reproductive hormones (maintaining the menstrual cycle)
• In men, it can raise sperm count and is needed in the outer layer and tail of sperm
• Deficiency can damage chromosomes (which reduces fertility and risks miscarriage) as well as reduce testosterone levels, shrink testicle size, and produce unhealthy sperm in men
• Important for cell division

You can find it in: beef, venison, poultry, seafood, eggs, whole grains, beans, whole fat dairy products, seeds like sunflower and pumpkin, almonds, oysters, rye, oats, mushrooms, molasses. How much: around 15 mg/day

Manganese

• A baby-making essential
• Deficiency could cause faulty ovulation and prevent the making of necessary hormones
• Vitamin C aid absorption

You can find it in: whole grains, green leafy veggies like spinach, carrots, bananas, broccoli, pineapple, legumes, nuts, eggs, oats, and rye. How much: around 2 mg/day

Vitamin B6 (pyridoxine)

• B6 is essential for proper creation and functioning of female sex hormones (encourages production of progesterone)
• Shown to improve fertility rates if taken over a 6 month period
• Deficiency can cause irregular menstrual cycles, an imbalance of hormones, and poor egg and sperm development
• Zinc is needed for absorption of B6
• You will quickly use up your store of B6 by smoking, drinking lots of caffeine, and eating white flour and refined bread products

You can find it in: whole grains, nuts, seeds, brown rice, green leafy veggies, organ meats, egg yolks, fish, poultry, legumes. How much: RDA is around 2 mg/day, but could be much more

Vitamin E

• Plays a significant role in sperm production and hormone production
• Deficiency may cause miscarriage and faulty sperm
• Take with Vitamin C and selenium to improve ovulation and boost health of the uterine lining
• Consult a doctor if taking with blood thinners

You can find it in: cold pressed oils, wheat germ, organ meats, eggs, sweet potatoes, leafy veggies, nuts, seeds, whole grains, avocados, molasses. How much: 400 mg/day

Omega-3 fats

• Essential for healthy growth and development of your baby
• Crucial for healthy hormone functioning (hormone regulator)
• Increases cervical fluid and blood flow to reproductive organs
• Promotes healthy ovulation in women and healthy semen production in men
• Consult a doctor if taking blood thinners

You can find it in: flaxseed, fish oil, nuts like walnuts, green leafy veggies, fish like salmon, tuna, and mackerel.
How much: 700 mg/day to 1000 mg/day

Fertility-Boosting Recipe: Spinach Lentil Soup

Ingredients:

1 cup carrots, shredded
1 large onion, chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil
6 cups water
1 (16 oz) jar of your favorite salsa
1 ¼ cups dried lentils, rinsed
¾ teaspoon salt
1 (10 oz) package fresh spinach, torn

How you’ll make it:

1. In a large saucepan or Dutch oven, sauté carrots and onion in oil until tender.
2. Add water, salsa, lentils, and salt; bring to a boil.
3. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 50 minutes to 1 hour or until lentils are tender.
4. Stir in spinach and simmer 5-10 minutes longer or until spinach is wilted. Recipe yields 6 servings.
5. Serve and enjoy!

Holistic Treatment of PCOS

Two of the biggest barriers to fertility are high stress levels and an unhealthy diet.  This is especially true for those women who have been diagnosed with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, or PCOS.

Although the exact cause of PCOS is unknown, women with PCOS tend to have sustained, abnormally high activity of the sympathetic nervous system and tend to be insulin resistant. At CNY Healing Arts, we offer acupuncture, massage, herbs and supplements that when combined with lifestyle changes such as relaxation practices, a healthy diet and regular exercise help to regulate both sympathetic nervous system activities and blood sugar levels.

The sympathetic nervous system has many functions but is best known as being responsible for our stress response, our “fight or flight” mode, where blood flow is diverted to skeletal muscles and lungs to allow for quick response to a perceived threat. With this, blood flow is shifted away from other systems deemed unnecessary at the time, including our digestive, reproductive and immune systems. Also, the rush of adrenaline from the adrenal glands signals the body to release glucose into the bloodstream to allow for a quick supply of energy. The sympathetic nervous system, once activated, is slow to deactivate and return control of bodily systems to the parasympathetic system which operates under the familiar adage, “rest and digest.” In women with PCOS, chronically high blood levels of stress hormones cause imbalances of reproductive system hormones, or sex hormones, where excessive androgens are produced, most often cited is testosterone, and production of LH and FSH is stunted such that the ovaries do not produce mature eggs appropriately and multiple cysts result. The presence of these cysts leads to a failure of the release of mature follicles from the ovaries, or anovulation. With a lack of ovulation comes amenorrhea, or a failure to menstruate. Additionally, the constant presence of high levels of glucose in the bloodstream leads to insulin resistance as the cells’ receptors to insulin become desensitized as more and more insulin is released from the pancreas in an attempt to lower blood sugar levels by ushering glucose into cells for storage.

Infertility is common in women with PCOS due to a lack of ovulation, irregular menstrual cycles, and insulin resistance that often leads to weight gain. A Swedish study published in 2009 found that acupuncture reduced the stress response brought about by chronically triggered sympathetic nervous system activity and allowed the body to more easily remain in a state of relaxation. Reducing the chronic stress response leads to lower blood sugar levels and decreases insulin resistance which often allows for weight loss.

PCOS, in Chinese medicine, is often seen as a pattern that includes Kidney deficiency with blood and qi stagnation and excessive dampness. Those with a Kidney deficiency may experience fatigue and low back and/or knee pain. Qi and blood stagnation can be caused by stress and can lead to irregular menstruation and irritability. Excessive dampness is indicated by the presence of cysts and increased body weight. The herbal formula Feminine Care 2, carried at all CNY Healing Arts centers, treats this presentation and can be an important part of a treatment plan for correcting the imbalances seen with PCOS. Additionally, supplements such as zinc and Chasteberry (Vitex agnus-castus) can help to regulate reproductive hormone levels and encourage ovulation.

A holistic approach to the treatment of PCOS and its resultant infertility may include several therapies. At CNY Healing Arts, we offer many different services allowing you the tools to create a customized plan perfect for your particular healing and wellness needs. Acupuncture, massage, herbs and supplements can help to de-stress and regulate menstrual cycles. Nutritional counseling can help to outline a low-glycemic diet plan that will allow for more balanced blood sugar levels. Yoga classes offer the dual benefits of exercise and relaxation. And, support groups and counseling offer tools to deal with the emotional stressors involved in the struggle of infertility.

If you would like to learn more about the holistic approach to treating PCOS at CNY Healing Arts, please do not hesitate to call or set up a consult with one of our practitioners. And, as always, please speak with a trained herbalist before beginning any herbal or supplement regimen to avoid side effects and potential interactions with fertility medications.

Kari Gardner, L.Ac. MSAOM, HHP
315.671.5755

What Can Fish Oil Do For You?

If you’re interested in enhancing your fertility, you’ve probably heard about fish oil. It’s in the news, in fertility books and health care providers are talking about it more and more.

What it comes down to is fish oil is full of Omega-3 Essential Fatty Acids (EFAs).  Omega-3 EFAs are important because doctor and health care providers are discovering they help suppress natural killer cells, moderate rheumatoid arthritis, help reduce endometriosis, decrease inflammation and increase uterine blood flow to prevent clotting (which in some cases leads to miscarriage). Once you’re pregnant, they help by creating an environment in the body that is conducive to a healthy brain and nervous system in the fetus.

Like many vitamins and supplements all fish oil capsules are not equal in quality or benefit. Lower grades of fish oil not only taste funny, but may be created with parts of the fish that contain high levels of toxins. And vegetable forms of Omega-3 EFAs are not digested as well leaving a lot of potential benefit wasted. However, pharmaceutical grade fish oils, such as the Usana brand that CNY Fertility Center has available to clients (Biomega 3), not only have a wonderful citrus aftertaste, but are certified to be free of all the things you don’t want such as heavy metal toxins.

As an acupuncturist, I’m often prescribing fish oil to clients who are in the fertility process. Any one who has painful periods, scar tissue, endometriosis, fibroids, cysts or autoimmune issues, I suggest they take Biomega 3 2000-4000mg/day.  For all females trying to conceive I suggest 2000mg/day. For men with varicocele or morphology issues, I recommend 2000mg/day along with herbs and Proflavanol 90 http://www.cnyfertility.usana.com/.
Healthy Wishes,
Heather Smith L.a.c.