Do pineapples really aid conception and do brazil nuts assist with implantation?
Does pomegranate juice really increase blood flow to the uterus and does maca powder really help balance hormones?
There is a lot of information out there in the diet-culture that we live in when it comes to nutrition and weight-loss. Then throw infertility in the mix. We are left with so much confusion and so many questions!
The BIG question: Are the foods we’re consuming effecting fertility?
When I received my infertility diagnosis, I instantly started making more conscious food choices and began doing a lot of research on so-called “fertile foods” and their benefits. I cut out all artificial sweeteners and processed foods. I made sure to eat as many whole foods as possible, including lots of green vegetables, fruits like pineapple and pomegranate seeds and teas like red raspberry. I cut back to one cup of coffee, instead of my usual three. I cut out dairy, meat, soy and alcohol. My focus shifted to becoming the healthiest I could be, but it hasn’t been that easy and I am far from perfect.
Let’s face it, cycling on and off fertility drugs not only make us feel crazy, but can cause weight gain and some significant changes in our bodies. I know hormones cause a lot of cravings for me. There is no doubt that the hormones can cause bloating, a change on the scale, and make your pants feel tight, but I think some of us can also be our own worst enemies when it comes to our diets as we journey through IVF.
It’s easy to start to feel sorry for ourselves and give ourselves permission to eat the whole sleeve of cookies, because after all, we deserve it for going through the agony of poking ourselves with needles every single night. OR maybe, you’ve been eating super healthy throughout the whole process and get the dreaded BFN and BAM, all your willpower goes out the window and you say “F*ck it, mine as well eat everything in my kitchen cabinets.” Yup, I’ve been there.
So, if you’ve been having a hard time following a healthy diet during your IVF treatments and all of the ups and downs that come along with it, know that you are not alone.
Below, I list some helpful tips that I have been implementing throughout my IVF journey.
Disclaimer: I am not a Registered Dietician or health care provider, but I’ve been a fitness professional for over 12 years and studied the science of moving the body. With that, has come a ton of research on nutrition and lots of trial and error in my own life. I’ve worked with dozens of clients offering personalized meal plans and nutrition guidance, but it has always been geared toward weight loss. Personally, I’ve tried every diet in the book. I have followed paleo, low carb, high protein, gluten free, juice cleanses, have “bulk-dieted” to increase muscle mass, and then restricted my calories for a long period of time to obtain a bodybuilding physique with a very low body fat percentage. I have tracked every bite of food meticulously for YEARS and also tried intuitive-mindful eating.
What I have learned and continue to learn, is no matter how much you try to manipulate your calories and no matter how many diet books you buy, your body is your biggest teacher (more on this topic in my last blog post). In addition to listening to your body, having the right information is also key. With so much information out there, where do you begin?
Tip #1 Eat foods that make you feel good. Do you want your body to be functioning at its best? Foods that are processed like chips, cookies, and candy are delicious, but if you are eating them every single day or in large quantities, your body isn’t going to feel good and your energy will be low.
Tip #2 No foods should be off limits (accept if you have food intolerances and allergies, or foods forbidden by your doctor like alcohol). Try not to label your food “good” or “bad”. Restricting yourself from “bad” foods for a long period of time can often lead to weight gain, as your body will naturally respond to the deprivation and want to EAT ALL THE FOODS. Yo-yo dieting has the same effect and in extreme cases, can cause an eating disorder, as it did for me. Do not restrict the cookies, but don’t eat the whole bag either! I enjoy my healthy kale and salmon salad and if I want something sweet I will enjoy a mini chocolate bar for desert, savoring every bite. Close your eyes and make love to that chocolate bar!
Tip #3 Eat the rainbow. Eat lots of bright colors and less neutral colors like brown and beige. Think of poop. Some of these foods are legit “shit” for your body. Doughnuts are delicious, but if you are eating them every single day, your body isn’t going to function at it’s best. (But this goes back to rule #2 – do not restrict these foods. Eating a doughnut once in a blue moon is totally OK!)
Tip #4 One good habit will not outweigh 10 bad habits. You can eat all the pineapple cores and brazil nuts, but you must look at nutrition as a whole. Are you drinking pomegranate juice throughout the day, but then binge eating on fried food for dinner? Make sure you are eating a healthy-balanced meal plan including lots of whole foods, and load up on your veggies!
Tip #5 Be an investigator when it comes to food cravings. Whenever I get a craving, I ask myself this question. Why do I want ice cream? Am I physically hungry? If my answer is NO, then I’ll ask, does this food mean more to me than my goal of having a baby? I know it seems extreme, but I’ve talked myself out of my Son’s snack cabinet more times than I can count, just by asking myself this simple question. Sometimes, I want ice cream, because I’m sad and tired and when I decide instead to have a nice cup of warm tea and cozy up with a good book instead, I always feel so much happier making a better choice for myself. This might not be as simple for everyone, so write down your goals on sticky notes and place them all over your cabinets or in your fridge! Whatever does the trick!
Tip #6 To develop new habits, you must be willing to try new things. I eat the weirdest shit. Peanut butter smothered sweet potatoes, cauliflower crumbles mixed in my oatmeal, avocado ice cream sprinkled with crushed almonds, which I eat with a spoon and pretend its Ben n’ Jerrys (believe it or not, to me it tastes just as good)! We are all creatures of habit, but you will be surprised at how many healthy foods can become a staple in your diet, just by getting a little creative. Plus, you’ll never get bored! I am a huge fan of eating breakfast for dinner, eating veggies at breakfast and honoring what feels good for me.
Nutrition is not one-size-fits all. Listen to your body, make one healthy change a week and don’t beat yourself up, as you try to figure out what works for you.
So, the question remains: Will eating the so-called fertility superfoods like pomegranate juice, maca powder, pineapple core and brazil nuts increase your chances of conceiving?
Ultimately, our diets might not be the only thing that will change the course of our journey. There are just too many factors involved. The way I see it, whether eating these foods will help or not, it doesn’t hurt to add them to your meal plan. If anything, being more mindful of what you’re consuming and changing your diet to benefit your health, is totally worth it. Just make sure you actually enjoy eating these foods, and aren’t choking down the “fertile juice” while holding your nose, just because it could be the one thing that changes everything this time!
Be kind to yourself and eat your vegetables.