Supplementing your fertility
Cupboards filled with half opened bottles of vitamins and supplements and jars of exotic-sounding, expensively nutritious food that you don’t really know what to do with…sound familiar?
The food and supplements industry are really honing in on creating products to best support fertility and pregnancy and shelves in health food stores as well as standard supermarkets are stocked with goods that claim to be essential for optimum fertility, but with all this choice and multiple places to receive sometimes conflicting advice, how do you know what’s beneficial, safe and effective for you?
The first thing to be careful of is what’s right for one person in terms of nutritional support may be damaging for someone else, so getting really specific tailored advice from a healthcare professional is the best way to go.
As an example, I remember one of my friends swearing by DHEA (dehydroepiandrosterone) as she felt that it had improved her ovarian reserve, quality of eggs and ultimately allowed her to conceive naturally. After hearing this, I was all over the Internet trying to get hold of the stuff before another friend suggested I might want to check it with a doctor first, as DHEA essentially mimicks hormones and as I have endometriosis; a disease related to hormone imbalance it might be that I needed to tread carefully.
It was a wise suggestion.
After discussion with my doctor, she explained that DHEA wouldn’t be right for me as it can make endometriosis worse by increasing production of oestrogen and also, as low ovarian reserve wasn’t necessarily the issue for me, it could be even more damaging.
This episode really made me stop and take a good look at what I was putting into my body and where I was getting my advice. I didn’t want to keep mindlessly reaching for the tablets every morning without really understanding what was in them and whether they were beneficial for my specific needs so I consulted a fertility nutritionist who was attached to my IVF clinic and she helped to guide me through the essential nutrients that I needed and at which levels I needed to supplement them to give my body the optimum chance of success.
As we know, tackling infertility is not one treatment for all, we all have tailored surgeries, drug types and doses depending on the issues we’re facing and our blood work results at that specific moment in time – even from one year to the next we might have to take a completely different regimen as our bodies are constantly shifting and changing, so the same must apply to adapting our nutrition.
There are, of course, some general good practices around nutrition and fertility/pregnancy that I’m sure we are all well aware of ie. having a high protein intake, lowering the amount of saturated fats we consume, keeping well hydrated on water and cutting down on caffeine but be wary of starting supplements without getting professional advice first.
HOW TO BATTLE THROUGH THE MINEFIELD OF NUTRITIONAL SUPPLEMENTATION
- Most import thing: don’t just buy supplements on friend recommendations! While it’s always good to chat about what people are taking, your friend is not your doctor….
- Try and seek just one consistent professional source of nutritional advice to avoid conflicting information and confusion. This maybe your GP, fertility doctor, fertility nutritionist or trained acupuncturist.
- Always consult your doctor before starting any new diet or supplement if you’re pregnant. Some of these products can be really strong and damaging to yourself or your child so even though they’re available without prescription, double check everything first with your doctor.
- Some supplements may counteract fertility drugs so before starting fertility treatment always speak to your doctor about which supplements you’re taking or planning to take.
- Keep a sensible head when considering adding or removing certain food groups to your diet and don’t rush to just eat green juice every mealtime for months on end! Your body needs a good balance of all food groups to stay healthy so while introducing super foods can be helpful, the key thing is “everything in moderation”.
For more info, you can read and listen to Zita West and Isabelle Obert, experts in the field of nutrition and fertility here: https://www.zitawest.com/natural-fertility/nutrition-and-fertility/
I’ve cut down on a lot of the supplements I was taking during my IVF treatment and now only have a pregnancy multivitamin which includes folic acid, a probiotic to keep the good bacteria going and Omega 3, but that’s just me….!
Are you struggling to work your way through all the advice and recommendations on supplementation and nutrition in fertility? What are your key sources of information? Wherever you are on your journey, I’d love to hear from you!