Fertility Diet & Lifestyle

You’ve heard it a million times, “you are what you eat”… that’s why following a healthy fertility diet and lifestyle protocol is SO important when you’re trying to conceive. If you’re looking for information about how to get pregnant, I would strongly suggest starting with a solid fertility diet geared towards removing toxins, reducing inflammation, balancing hormones and priming your body to make a baby! That said, the fertility diet should be paired with fertility LIFESTYLE changes that aim to clean up your environment in preparation for baby as well. Following a fertility diet and lifestyle protocol in the months leading up to trying to conceive can radically increase your chances of getting pregnant, and getting pregnant FAST!

I have successfully balanced my hormones naturally and conceived two healthy babies without trying, so needless to say I feel I have some authority to talk on the subject (and probably not much authority to preach on birth control). Almost everything I’ve included is info you probably won’t get from your regular OB (btw, I have an OB and I love her). I truly believe that conventional medicine has a place, but I’ve found that as a general rule, it prioritizes drugs and surgery over nutrition and lifestyle.  I’m here to tell you that nutrition and lifestyle can CURE, whereas many times drugs and surgery act as a Band-Aid for bigger, systemic issues. I believe that God designed our bodies to heal themselves if we could JUST get out of our own way.

Several years ago I endured one of the most taxing years of my life. I got engaged, planned a wedding, bought and renovated a house, got married, started a new job and lost my mom all in a matter of about eight months. By the time it was all over, I was spent. I could feel my health deteriorating as a result of all of the stress, and I knew my hormones were suffering for it. Everything was “off”. I was exhausted, I started gaining weight at a rapid pace, I was plagued with “brain fog” and I had a host of strange unpleasant symptoms like HAIR LOSS… so lovely. I knew that the stress had thrown my hormones out of balance and it was time to get proactive about it. I had heard nightmare stories of infertility (most of which were ultimately reversed through lifestyle changes… yay!) and I wanted to spare myself any potential stress by prioritizing my health in advance. We had planned to start a family within a couple of years and I wanted to get my body back in balance ASAP so I’d be ready when the time came.

I got busy learning everything I could about naturally balancing female hormones and optimizing fertility through diet and lifestyle. I grilled doctors, read a million books, articles, listened to podcasts and webinars…. let’s just say I put in the time. Probably too much time… but I’m thrilled to say that it paid off. I found a functional medicine doctor who ordered a thorough panel of bloodwork and a salivary cortisol test and SURE ENOUGH, I was just as out of balance as I felt.   After a few months of dietary and lifestyle changes, I started feeling like myself again and shortly after that we found out we were expecting our first baby.

*side note: one of the books I read was called Woman Code by holistic health coach Alisa Vitti, which I would recommend to EVERY WOMAN weather you’re planning to have children or not. It is essentially an owners manual for the female reproductive system (like that?) that will teach you all of the things you never knew about maintaining optimal health as a woman. This book is pure gold.

I am not a doctor and I have no professional medical training, so this post is based solely on information I’ve gathered throughout the years via doctors, excessive research and personal experience. I don’t believe that everyone needs to go through the trouble of seeing a functional medicine doctor and having bloodwork done, but if you feel there’s a problem I would certainly encourage it.  Below is my “How To Get Pregnant 10-Step Crash Course”, an outline of the incredibly valuable fertility diet and lifestyle information I’ve gathered over the years on my baby making journey. Without further ado, the MASTER LIST of ways to hack your fertility, heal your hormones and GET PREGNANT! Here it goes:

 

Fertility Diet & Lifestyle Protocol

1. Heal Your Gut

There’s been a lot of buzz lately on the importance of a balanced gut microbiome, which is why you may have noticed an increase in probiotic advertisements over the last year or so (even conventional medicine is catching on to this one). Most people are aware of the benefits of healthy, balanced bacteria for healthy digestion and immune function, but did you know that an imbalance in the healthy bacteria in your gut can actually lead to hormonal issues as well? While I would suggest getting on a high quality probiotic supplement if you’re not already (I use Garden of Life Primal Defense Ultra), I wouldn’t stop there. If you suspect you’re dealing with compromised gut function, I would consider following a gut healing protocol to get things back in order. There are many gut healing programs available (check out Dr. Axe, the gut healing guru), but you can also find a lot of information by doing some basic research. For those who feel less compelled to do the digging themselves, I’ll give you the highlights: follow a whole food diet, stop birth control pills (obv), stop antibiotic overuse, drink bone broth, start taking a HIGH QUALITY probiotic supplement, consider an elimination diet to rule out any potential irritants and allow your gut time to heal.

2. Repair Your Immune System

There is a ton of evidence that shows some of the common conditions linked to infertility, like PCOS, Endometriosis and thyroid issues, are actually autoimmune in nature. Repairing and resetting your immune system is critical not only for optimal fertility, but for optimal health in general. Over 80% of your immune system is in your gut… isn’t that crazy?! If you’re a person with a lot of stomach problems, you may notice these issues coincide with symptoms of a compromised immune system like rashes, frequent colds, inability to fight off infection, etc.  Many people today suffer with compromised immune function as a result of our modern lifestyle – processed foods, birth control pills and overuse of antibiotics are just a few gut-damaging practices that many Americans engage in. As part of your fertility diet protocol, load up on vitamins, especially C and D3, as well as a good probiotic and Omega-3 supplement with DHA & EPA (I use Metagenics Omegagenics EPA DHA, recommended by my functional medicine doctor). Most importantly, repair any damage that’s been done to your gut. Refer to number 1 for gut healing tips.

3. Balance Cortisol Rhythms

There are too many modern stressors to count: high-stress jobs (motherhood counts), sleep deprivation, excessive caffeine, nonstop stimulation from smartphones and other modern distractions… I could go on. Cortisol, the “stress hormone,” plays a major role in the regulation of important hormones necessary for conception. Wonky cortisol rhythms can cause a host of problems including anovulatory cycles and progesterone deficiency. There is a book by Dr. Alan Christianson called The Adrenal Reset Diet that discusses the importance of healthy cortisol rhythms and how to naturally (and easily) regulate cortisol by tweaking your diet and lifestyle. The ideal cortisol pattern is high in the morning and low in the evening before bed. As it turns out, cortisol output directly correlates with insulin production, so Dr. Christianson recommends gradually increasing high quality carb intake throughout the day in order to gradually decrease the amount of cortisol output (low carb breakfast, moderate carb lunch, higher carb dinner). This form of carb cycling is a little-known key to a hormone-balancing fertility diet. He also emphasizes the importance of proper sleep and sleep hygiene, eliminating or limiting caffeine, as well as the role electronics play in disrupting our cortisol rhythms. If you’re feeling burned out, you suffer with insomnia, brain fog or low energy in general, I would highly recommend reading the Adrenal Reset Diet – it worked WONDERS for my energy and sleep. It can be found here.

4. Up Your Protein Intake

This is HUGE. Protein is the cornerstone of any scientifically backed fertility diet. It will help keep your blood sugar balanced, which is important for balanced cortisol and overall hormone function BUT even more importantly, adequate protein intake can significantly improve the quality of your eggs, increasing your chances of conception.  Dr. Jeffrey Russell, MD from the Delaware Institute for Reproductive medicine conducted studies to test the affect of macronutrient ratios on fertility, and concluded that optimally healthy eggs can’t thrive in a high glucose environment. Dr. Russell reported in a study that a protein intake over 25% combined with a low carbohydrate intake (under 40%) increased pregnancy rate by 80%.  Mind your macros.

5. Hydrate Clean

We all know the importance of drinking water to stay hydrated and keep detoxification pathways open. However, if you’re loading up on tap water there’s an excellent chance you’re also loading up on the chemicals, toxins and hormones that are plaguing our modern water supply. The fluoride alone in our water supply has been proven to disrupt thyroid function, which can lead to other hormonal imbalances.  GET A HIGH QUALITY WATER FILTER. Your body and your baby will thank you. (I use an AlexaPure filter – find it here).

6. Clean Up Your Beauty Routine

The endocrine-disrupting chemicals in modern-day beauty products can wreak havoc on your hormones. If you’re a beauty junkie with a cabinet full of fragrance, makeup, lotions and hair products, I would DEFINITELY suggest cleaning up your beauty routine or at least significantly cutting back on some of the more potent products. I have a pretty low-toxin daily makeup and beauty routine, and I bring out the big guns (incredible but not-so-clean beauty products) for special occasions (or when I’m really in a pinch). The Environmental Working Group website is an excellent resource for finding nontoxic (or at least less toxic) beauty products for everyday use. There is a place on the website that rates product safety on a scale of 1-10 (1 being the safest, 10 being the most toxic). I will say, I have tried a bunch of “clean” personal care and beauty products that were either absolute garbage, or turned out to be deceptively toxic based on their EWG rating. Through trial and error, and a fair amount of research, I came up with a list of favorites which I’ve linked below. All of these products are wonderful, safe and deliver as promised. I’ve also their EWG rating:

Avalon Organics Shampoo & Conditioner: 1

Tom’s of Maine Fluoride-Free Whitening Toothpaste: 1

Tom’s of Maine Women’s Antiperspirant: 1

Tarte BB Tinted Treatment w/Primer & SPF30: 1

E.L.F. Cosmetics Blush: 2

Bare Minerals Warmth Bronzer: 2

Physician’s Formula Organic Wear Mascara: 1

7. Eliminate or Limit Alcohol, Caffeine, Sugar & Trans Fats

I know, it’s the hardest one. One of the goals of the fertility diet is to reduce inflammation, and inflammatory substances like alcohol, caffeine, sugar and trans fats have all been proven to disrupt hormone balance. If you are dead-set on healing and balancing your hormones naturally in order to conceive, I’d strongly recommend ridding yourself of all of these for a while.

8. Follow a Whole Food Diet Protocol

By default, this will eliminate many of the endocrine-disrupting toxins in our food supply. Have you ever heard the saying “don’t eat anything your great-grandmother wouldn’t recognize”? That’s step 1A on any good fertility diet protocol. It’s a little harder to do today than it was back in the day, but it’s certainly possible. You want to avoid all of the obvious processed food traps, but if you want the full benefit of eating like grandma, you’ll need to take it a step further. My great-grandmother was raised on the Irish countryside… they didn’t need to specify that the eggs need to be “free range” or that the beef and diary be “grass fed and organic,” they just were. Sad, right? Long story short, it will take a bit more effort and maybe a bit more resources, but it will be worth it.

ALSO! Following a fertility diet requires increasing your intake of “fertility superfoods”! Foods like avocado, leafy greens, berries, yams, free range organic eggs, grass-fed beef, grass-fed butter, chia seeds, pumpkin seeds, walnuts, beans, lentils, etc. can help to enhance your fertility by providing nutrients critical for healthy hormones. These foods contain a host of critical nutritional components including Omega-3’s and important vitamins and minerals like calcium, magnesium and iron.

9. Find A Corrective Chiropractor

Here’s one you may not have heard before. Compromised nerve supply to the pelvis and reproductive organs can inhibit reproductive function and make it more difficult to conceive naturally. Not only is chiropractic care excellent for overall health before pregnancy, but it’s incredible for pregnant women. Maintaining proper pelvic alignment during pregnancy can make for a faster, easier labor and delivery. I continued to get adjusted through my pregnancy and I believe chiropractic care contributed to my incredible labor and delivery experience.

10. Improve Liver Function

If you’re living in the 21st century, there’s an excellent chance your liver could use a boost. Your liver is responsible for processing and eliminating all of the excess toxins and hormones to keep you clean and balanced. Incorporate foods to support healthy liver function and detoxification. Foods like lemons, grapefruits, apples, carrots, onions, garlic and dandelion tea all promote healthy liver function. Liver cleansing tip: start every day with fresh juiced lemon water!

 

BONUS: I know too many people who have struggled to get pregnant. While I believe that this has a lot to do with our modern lifestyle (the poison we put in/on/around our bodies), I also believe that there is a “fear factor” we’re failing to address. Everyone knows of a couple who tried for years to get pregnant and finally gave up and adopted… only to find out shortly after that they had another miracle on the way.  This is a mystery that can’t fully be explained. I truly believe that there is a spiritual component and fear is the most crippling force. As a Christian, I believe that children are a blessing and we were designed to procreate. There is evidence throughout the Bible that shows God WANTS US to have lots of perfect babies and healthy, happy families (Gen 1:28, Ps 127:3, Ps 128:3, Deut 7:14, John 15:7-8, etc).  We live in a fallen world and we have an enemy who has come to steal, kill and destroy – but God is greater. Don’t let it happen… change your belief system. Refuse to allow fear to come into your family, and make God’s words priority. (check out the book Supernatural Childbirth by Jackie Mize for inspiration and scriptures to stand on).

Even if you’re not a Christian, there are countless secular sources that support this belief.  There are books, videos, podcasts and YouTube channels dedicated to the new age “law of attraction” movement.  There are neuroscientists who have proven the affect of thought patterns on physical health.  I believe science is finally catching up with what God said thousands of years ago, but you be the judge. Check out these books by neuroscientist Dr. Caroline Leaf: Who Turned Off My Brain? , The Gift In You, Switch On Your Brain.

 

There you have it, my “How To Get Pregnant” 10-step fertility diet & lifestyle crash course! I could’ve written a book on this, so these steps are simply a 1,000 foot overview of what I believe to be the most important components of optimum fertility. If you have any questions, please leave them in the comments below and I’d be happy to elaborate! Thank you so much for reading… happy baby making!  Lexi

 

And once you’ve successfully conceived, check out my post on staying healthy and maintaining/losing weight during pregnancy!

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1 COMMENT

  1. Johny Jackson | 11th Jan 18

    Awesome article.

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