Nutritional medicine and natural health strategies for preconception and general wellbeing
by Edan Willing – Nutritional and Dietetic Medicine Student
There is plenty of talk about the do’s and dont’s of pregnancy. However, there is minimal talk about the simple changes you can implement during the preconception phase to not only optimise your wellbeing but to ensure a healthy fertilisation and development of your little one. Understandably, some of us do not have the chance to plan ahead, so you will be pleased to know that these simple steps can be implemented throughout all stages of pregnancy.
Increase nutrient dense foods
There are an abundance of nutrient dense fruits and veggies that play a vital role in fertility. Simply pop down to the markets and pick up some locally sourced avocados, kiwi fruits, sweet potatoes or pumpkins. These powerhouse foods are rich in fatty acids, Vitamin A, E & C and calcium which are all essential for enhancing female fertility and supporting embryonic development.
Quit the bad habits
Active and passive smoking both have a detrimental effect on fertility particularly relating to the length of time it may take to conceive. If you or your partner smoke, making the decision to quit together is an excellent way to increase the likelihood of a healthier conception.
Exposure to high intakes of alcohol has also been shown to increase the risk of infertility by lowering reproductive hormone concentrations, therefore disrupting the ovulation cycle. Reducing your alcohol consumption not only enhances your likelihood of fertility but also give your liver a much-needed detox. If you feel the need to unwind with a glass of wine after a long day, opt for a good organic quality red wine to take advantage of its potent antioxidant properties.
Reach a healthy weight
Females who are within the BMI category >25 are more likely to produce less ovulation regulating hormones. Studies have also shown that overweight women undergoing in vitro treatment tend to respond more poorly to ovarian stimulation and produce fewer eggs. A gradual steady weight loss program, incorporating healthy dietary changes and an exercise routine, is key. Crash dieting will only detriment your health.
Limit toxin exposures
Studies have shown that repeated exposure to toxins such as mercury, pesticides, synthetic fragrances, and a variety of chemical cleaning products may impact fertility and increase the risk of miscarriage and neural birth defects. Where possible, limit seafood products high in mercury, thoroughly wash your fruit and veggies, buy organic where possible, reduce use of fragranced perfumes, and swap to chemical free household cleaning products.
Heal your gut
Hippocrates once said ‘all disease begins in the gut’ and boy did he hit the nail on the head. An unhappy gut environment may increase the chances of poorer nutrient absorption, suboptimal hormone production, toxicity build up and an unbalance of friendly gut bacteria, all of which affect fertility. Our guts are also closely correlated with our powerhouse immune system. With over 70% of our body’s immune system cells residing in the gut, it is vital that we nurture the gut during the preconception phase to fight off any unwanted nasty bugs as well as reduce overall inflammation.
It is very simple. An unhappy gut = weakened immunity. Weakened immunity = reduced fertility.
There are many things you can implement into your daily routine to support your gut health; whether it be taking a quality probiotic in the morning, eating fermented foods such as sauerkraut or kombucha that are rich in good bacteria or a homemade bone broth rich in gelatine to help reseal and support our gut lining.
Chronic levels of stress can have detrimental effects on reproduction as well as aggravate the gut and immune system. It also has the ability to trigger hormonal related changes that impact ovulation5. For this reason, it is essential that stress management techniques be put into place during all phases of pregnancy. A brisk walk on the beach whilst breathing in the salty air, practicing yoga or immersing yourself in your favourite book… whatever it may be, it is worth doing.
In preparation for your pregnancy, try introducing these dietary and lifestyle suggestions into your daily routine to enhance your health and hopefully give your little one the best start to their life. Enjoy every minute of this beautiful time.
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