Infertility is a rising problem in today’s society. I tried to find accurate info on how much is spent annually on infertility treatments, and I kept getting results for ways to finance infertility treatment. The saddest part is that in many cases, the body can reverse infertility if given the right resources. Infertility, like any disease, is simply a sign that something is not right inside the body and must be fixed.
I have worked with a lot of women on this issue, and have seen very few health related problems that cause such pain and anxiety as wanting to have a child and not being able to. The good news is that all the women who I have worked with who have changed diet and lifestyle factors have eventually conceived. Yes, all of them…. ages 21 to 45. That is a 100% success rate in people I’ve worked with personally, and last I saw, the success rate for invitro fertilization was just over 20%. Also, did I mention that changing diet/lifestyle costs about $20,000 less than invitro?
Infertility is often a complex problem with a simple solution. There are so many confounding factors that can cause or contribute to infertility, which is why conventional treatment is rarely as effective… it simply can’t address all the possible causes. Fertility drugs and artificial hormones of any kind, including birth control, can make underlying problems even worse and make future fertility more difficult (this is sad, because hormonal birth control is often prescribed for various hormonal imbalances and problems).
What Causes Infertility?
Infertility can be caused by a huge number of factors: hormone imbalance, Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, Endometriosis, Anovulatory Cycles, physical blockage, inadequate hormone production, short luteal phase, lack of lutenizing hormone, high levels or prolactin, and many others.
Poor nutrition often plays a major role, as does exposure to toxins. Age plays less of a role before menopause than was originally thought. While there are many wonderful naturally minded fertility specialists out there, in many cases it is not possible for them to test for and address any of these possible underlying issues. Extreme fertility treatments do work for some, but can be very emotionally and physically exhausting, not to mention very expensive. Given the choice, every woman I have worked with would always prefer to conceive naturally, with just her husband in the room!
The great news is that dietary and lifestyle changes can make a tremendous difference in fertility, and often help with other issues like excess weight, lack of energy, blood sugar problems, skin issues, and insomnia in the process.
How to Reverse Infertility
This is the specific system I use when working with women on fertility, but it is also very useful for helping with PMS, cramping, fatigue, heavy periods and other hormone related problems. It is designed to address all issues that can contribute, and short of a physical inability to conceive, it will work.
Step 1: Nutrition
This is by far the most important step. Most of us these days are undernourished, despite being overweight. The body simply will not allow conception to occur or a pregnancy to continue if it doesn’t have the basic foundation it needs to sustain a pregnancy. Many women turn to a low-fat, high fiber diet in an attempt to increase health and lose weight. Weight loss has been shown to increase fertility, but losing weight in this way is rarely effective for increasing fertility because it deprives the body of the necessary proteins and fats necessary for hormone production.
To optimize fertility through nutrition:
- Remove grains, processed foods, sugars and starches from the diet. Obtain necessary carbohydrates from vegetables, some fruits and starchy sources like sweet potatoes and squash.
- Increase healthy fats in the diet especially from sources like coconuts, coconut oil, olives and olive oil, butter, grass-fed meats, eggs, avocado and nuts.
- Get enough protein especially from grass fed meats, eggs, and nuts.
- Eat a lot of vegetables, especially green leafy varieties like lettuce, spinach, broccoli, cauliflower, kale, collard, chard, cabbage, Brussels sprouts and similar veggies.
- Avoid processed dairy and if you eat dairy, eat raw, organic dairy from sources like butter, ghee, and heavy cream.
- Drink enough water- your urine should be very lightly colored. For most women, this is around 4 quarts a day.
- Get insulin levels under control- even if you don’t have Type II diabetes, a high carbohydrate diet often goes hand-in-hand with some level of insulin resistance. Optimizing dietary factors with the above methods will help make your body more sensitive to insulin, which will help production of other hormones and proper function of the body.
For some women, these steps alone will optimize fertility and allow conception. It is very important to continue these things once pregnant, and not stop giving yourself proper nutrition, which is even more vital for the growth of an unborn child. Of course, pregnancy is not a license to revert to a bad diet! The biggest dietary factor that often contributes to infertility is lack of enough essential fats and proteins in the diet. Your body can’t make the hormones it needs without proteins and fats, and often this factor alone can prevent conception.
Step 2: Lifestyle Factors
Any doctor, or even a Google search, should reveal that habits like smoking, drug use, and high caffeine intake can severely impair fertility. There are many other lifestyle factors that contribute as well:
- Lack of sleep
- Exposure to toxins
- Lack of exercise or too much exercise
- High stress levels
- Certain medications or supplements
Most lifestyle factors are also easy to fix with a little effort. The most common lifestyle factors that can increase fertility are:
- Getting enough sleep- Sleep plays a vital role in production of many hormones. Studies have shown that women with low melatonin and serotonin levels have a shorter luteal pahse (time between ovulation and menstruation) and consequently have a lower chance of conceiving. Lack of sleep also impairs the body’s ability to properly regulate adrenaline, cortisol and insulin, making conception very difficult. Make sleep a priority and get enough to feel rested, not just awake. This may mean taking a nap during the day or going to bed a few hours earlier. A completely dark sleep environment may also help melatonin levels and sleep.
- Minimize exposure to toxins- this should be a book in itself, but most women notice improvement from limiting exposure to household chemicals, plastic water bottles and conventional cosmetic and beauty products. (I’ll cover this later in a more detailed post.)
- Get the right amount of exercise- Getting adequate exercise is important for fertility, but too much can have the opposite effect. Most women do well with several hours of recreational activity a week (walking, fun sports, or swimming) and a few weight training sessions. Too much moderate/intensive exercise will keep the body from ovulation if done regularly. While weight loss can greatly help fertility, having too little body fat (below 15-18%) can make the body go into an anovulatory state.
- Limit Stress- Easier said than done, especially for anyone who is going through the emotions of fertility difficulties. You’ve probably been told that if you can relax, you will get pregnant. While this is certainly not true for everyone, reducing stress is a good idea. Often, the ideas above will help with many of the physical causes of stress, leaving you more time to (hopefully) relax.
- Check with your doctor to see if any medications you are taking could impair fertility. Steroids and antidepressants have been known to do so, as well as any other hormone containing or affecting medications.
Step 3: Supplements
While diet and lifestyle alone often reverse infertility, some women notice better or faster results with the aid of natural supplements and herbs. The single most important supplement that I’ve seen help women increase fertility, is Fermented Cod Liver Oil, which is also excellent for a developing baby and a healthy pregnancy. Personally, I take 8+ capsules a day during pre-conception, pregnancy and nursing to make sure baby and I are both getting the nutrients needed. The beneficial fats in Fermented Cod Liver Oil and the high Omega-3 content can help reduce inflammation and boost proper hormone production.
I’ve seen women take the following herbs with good success:
- Red Raspberry Leaf- A well know fertility herb that is also good during pregnancy. It has a high nutrient profile and is especially high in calcium and is a uterine tonic. It is available in capsule form, but makes an excellent hot or cold tea.
- Nettle Leaf- Has a very high mineral content. It contains lots of chlorophyll and is nourishing to the adrenals and kidneys. It helps reduce stress and is a powerful uterine tonic. Once pregnant, it is great for getting enough nutrients during pregnancy and has a high vitamin K content to prevent hemorrhage. I add nettle leaf to a tea that I drink before and during pregnancy.
- Dandelion- Contains vitamins A and C as well as trace minerals. The root is beneficial to the liver and the leaf is mildly diuretic. Can help cleanse the body and remove toxins.
- Alfalfa- Has vitamins A, D, E and K and 8 digestive enzymes. Contains trace minerals and vitamin K and is often added to commercial vitamins because of its high vitamin profile.
- Red Clover- Has a very high vitamin content and contains almost every trace mineral. It has been known to help balance hormones and restore fertility.
- Maca- A hormone balancing herb that is known throughout the world for its fertility and vitality promoting properties. Good for both men and women to increase fertility, though women should only take between menses and ovulation and discontinue to make sure it is not taken during pregnancy. It is a very potent herb that often has very noticeable effects on fertility. It comes in powder form or capsule form.
- Vitex/Chaste Tree Berry- Nourishes the pituitary gland and helps lengthen the luteal phase. It lowers prolactin and raises progesterone. For some women, this alone will increase fertility.
- Natural Progesterone Cream- Infertility struggles can often be linked to specific hormone imbalances. Especially for those with short cycles or short second phase of their cycle (ovulation through start of menses), progesterone can be the issue. I’ve seen people add only natural progesterone cream and conceive and carry a healthy pregnancy within a month or two. If you do use progesterone cream, do your own research, make sure you have a good brand that is soy-free and only use for the second half of your cycle (ovulation through menses). Some sources, including a midwife and a doctor I trust, suggest continuing the progesterone cream through the first three months of pregnancy and then tapering off to make sure the body has adequate progesterone to continue the pregnancy until the placenta takes over production in the second trimester. Do your research on this as well.
IMPORTANT: Do not take any of these herbs in combination with fertility drugs, hormone treatments, or hormonal birth control! As with any herbs, supplements, or medication, consult a doctor or health care professional about your specific case and do your own research!
Vitamins that promote fertility:
- Vitamin D- Vitamin D deficiency is very common in America, especially during the winter, and can be very detrimental to overall health. Recent studies link inadequate vitamin D with infertility and miscarriage. Have your levels checked to find out how much you need.
- Vitamin C- A potent antioxidant, vitamin C is good for both male and female infertility. Aim for at least 2,000 mg a day pre-conception.
- Folic Acid- Folic acid is well known as a necessary vitamin in early pregnancy to prevent complications, but it is most beneficial when taken for several month before the pregnancy as well as during. It helps cell division and promotes ovulation. Some natural doctors recommend taking up to 5,000 micrograms a day and women hoping to get pregnant should take at least 2,000 micrograms a day.
- Zinc- Very important for cell division including sperm production and ovulation. Best when taken in combination with b-vitamins.
- Selenium- Helps protect the body from free radicals and protects sperm and egg. Known to help cell division and might prevent miscarriage.
- B-Vitamins- Deficiency of b-vitamins is common in anyone who consumes large amounts of processed foods, grains or sugars. Optimizing b vitamin levels can increase lutenizing hormone and follicle stimulating hormone to improve fertility.
For couples, struggles with infertility can be agonizing. Proper diet and nutrition can greatly aid the body in conceiving and carrying a healthy baby, and are beneficial in overall health. While sometimes medical treatment is necessary, couples should at least consider dietary changes first to support the body. The above system is also helpful for women struggling with PMS, PCOS, endometriosis, heavy periods or other hormonal problems.
Have you struggled with infertility? Do you get pregnant just by washing your laundry with your husband? Please tell me about it below, and share how you have overcome infertility or what you still struggle with.