Infertility has been a growing problem for years now and may be caused by many different types of situations involving both men and women. Ten percent of fertile age couples today are facing difficulty conceiving and are not given any advice or options other than expensive and invasive fertility treatment. Stress, dietary and environmental toxins, and genetic predisposition all play a role in the body's overall health and must be addressed. Here at Tranquil Body in Charleston, SC acupuncture along with a variety of recommended supplements provide an alternative and holistic approach to successful conception.
Certain acupuncture points stimulate and regulate systems in our body, such as the Endocrine and Reproductive systems. Acupuncture points are selected based on individual needs for fertility. For females undergoing fertility acupuncture, blood flow is increased to the uterus, follicle development is stimulated, the endocrine system is balanced, and the thickness of the uterine lining can be increased and egg quality can be optimized. For males, fertility acupuncture increases sperm count, motility and morphology.
Acupuncture is known to help:
Poor Egg Quality
Fallopian Tube Blockage
Poor Cervical Mucous
Stress & Infertility
Stress is a big factor in infertility – the good news is that acupuncture is fantastic at reducing the effects of stress on the body. For both genders, fertility acupuncture helps to reduce stress, which is really important since stress makes it harder for the body to perform in all functions, including reproduction. When our body is acutely or chronically stressed, which is very common today, less blood circulates to our reproductive organs because it is needed elsewhere in the body. Additionally, stress causes a release of Corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH) which can then inhibit progesterone output in women. This explains how stress may eventually lead to a luteal phase defect. The process of trying to conceive itself is stressful. Each month can be a roller coaster ride of emotions, from hopeful for conception to disappointment when period arrives.
Acupuncture & IVF or IUI
Acupuncture is an effective compliment to assisted reproductive techniques. Acupuncture combined with IUI/IVF can increase conception up to 65%.
The fundamentals of preconception acupuncture focuses on enriching the body, reducing stress, balancing hormones, optimizing egg & sperm quality and addressing implantation issues to help couples achieve their full fertility potential and conceive a healthy baby. Ideally, acupuncture is done at weekly intervals for 3 cycles to help produce quality eggs and best prepare the body for conception.
A session is recommended the day prior to retrieval and before or after the transfer, to help increase blood flow to the uterus, reduce stress, and aid implantation. Some IVF clinics recommend 48 hours of bed rest so your acupuncture treatments will vary according to your availability.
Eating a fertility diet in preparation for pregnancy and to boost fertility is one of the most powerful health changes you can make. Numerous studies have shown that specific changes to the diet can improve fertility, prevent recurrent miscarriage and support a healthy pregnancy.
Nutrition plays a big roll when it comes to having a healthy body and reproductive system. The building blocks for hormones are found in the foods we eat. Antioxidants, which help to protect the egg and sperm from free radicals, are found in the foods that we eat. Just as nutrients in food can be helpful for fertility, there are some foods and chemicals added to foods that can be harmful for your health and fertility.
The Benefits of Eating a Natural Fertility Diet
Provides antioxidants, vitamins and minerals which help to protect egg and sperm health from the damage caused by free-radicals.
Helps the body maintain hormonal balance by providing the fats needed for hormone production and function.
Provides the body with an abundance of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and other nutrients needed for optimal health.
May decrease the chances of a miscarriage due to insulin resistance and damage from free-radicals to the ova (eggs), sperm and DNA.
Helps to build important nutrient stores for pregnancy.
Supports a healthy reproductive system.
Promotes energy and vitality.
The Natural Fertility Diet Nutrition Guidelines
Eat a lot of organic vegetables and fruits
Conventional produce contains harmful herbicides and pesticides which have been shown to negatively effect both male and female fertility. Studies have also shown organic vegetables and fruits to have more nutritional value
Eat organic, grass-fed, whole fat, raw dairy
Organic, grass-fed, whole fat, raw dairy is the best choice of dairy sources. Take note that dairy foods such as milk and cheese may be congesting to the body. In cases of congesting fertility issues such as PCOS and Endometriosis, dairy foods may aggravate the imbalance. Observe how your body does with it. Dairy that is not organic should be avoided as it contains added hormones and antibiotics which can contribute to increased estrogen levels in the body. There are many healthy alternatives to dairy such as fresh almond or hemp milk.
Try to eat mostly cold water fish
Fish supplies important essential fatty acids (omega 3) to our diet. These fatty acids aid in the production of hormones, reduce inflammation, and help regulate the menstrual cycle. Fish is also a great source of protein and vitamin A. Avoid large deep water fish such as ahi tuna, swordfish, and Chilean sea bass due to their potential concentrations of mercury, and focus on cold water fish such as wild Alaskan salmon, cod, and Alaskan halibut. Also when choosing salmon, avoid north Atlantic farmed salmon and choose wild salmon instead. Farmed salmon contains antibiotics and toxic food dyes
Choose meat that is Grass Fed and Organic
Conventionally raised cattle contain high levels of added hormones and antibiotics which can contribute to estrogen dominate conditions. Grass Fed meats, on the other hand, are a great source of essential fatty acids, are low in saturated fat, and are a great source of protein. If you are experiencing endometriosis you may want to reduce the amount of red meat that you eat as a study has shown a connection between high red meat consumption and endometriosis.
Choose only free range/Organic chicken
Conventionally raised chickens are kept in unclean, cramped housing conditions and are fed non-organic and often, genetically modified feed. When shopping for chicken, look for the words “cage free”, “free range”, or “organic” on the label. Ideally purchasing your chicken from a local farm with free-range practices is best.
Eat only grains in their whole, natural form
Whole grains are filled with fiber, important vitamins, and immune supporting properties. Fiber is important for helping the body to get rid of excess hormones and helps to keep the blood sugar balanced. Avoid processed and refined white foods and grains such as white bread, semolina pastas, and white rice. Instead choose whole wheat or sprouted bread, rice or whole wheat pasta, quinoa, and brown rice.
Eat high fiber foods with each meal
Fiber helps to regulate blood sugar levels which helps to reduce fertility issues such as PCOS, immunological issues, and promotes healthy hormonal balance. Some examples of high fiber foods are fruits, vegetables, dark leafy greens, and beans.
No soy of any form unless fermented such as miso and tempeh
Soy foods have been shown to contain estrogen mimicking properties. It is best to avoid processed soy foods such as soy milk, soy burgers, soy protein powder, soy chips, soy meats, and soy cheeses to avoid a negative impact on your hormonal balance. If you have hypothyroidism avoid soy completely.
Avoid refined sugars or fruit juices (unless freshly juiced)
Pasteurized juices such as bottled apple juice, orange juice, and other bottled fruit juices contain concentrated sugar, which can throw off your blood sugar levels and negatively effect your immune system. Also avoid any processed/refined and artificial sugars. Some great alternatives are stevia, honey, and maple syrup.
Drink lots of clean water
Be sure to drink at least half your body weight in ounces of clean, purified or filtered water daily. It is best to avoid bottled water as some of the plastics in the bottle can contribute to hormonal imbalance due to their estrogen mimicking chemicals. The best waters to choose from are reverse osmosis and distilled. Avoid tap water, as many recent studies have shown tap water to be laced with harmful pesticides from agricultural runoff.
Antioxidants, Vitamins & Minerals for Fertility
Vitamin D is needed to help the body create sex hormones which in turn affects ovulation and hormonal balance. Yale University School of Medicine conducted a study of 67 infertile women, where it was discovered that a mere 7% had normal Vitamin D levels.
Food sources: Eggs, fatty fish, dairy, and cod liver oil. You can also get vitamin D from sitting out in the sun for 15 to 20 minutes per day, but absorption is impacted by the darkness of your ski.
Vitamin E has been shown in studies to improve sperm health and motility in men. Vitamin E is also an important antioxidant to help protect sperm and egg DNA integrity.
Food sources: Sunflower seeds, almonds, olives, spinach, papaya, dark leafy greens.
CoQ10: Necessary for every cell in the body for energy production, CoQ10 has also been shown in studies to increase ova (egg) and sperm health. It is necessary for sperm motility in semen. It is also an important antioxidant that helps to protect cells from free radical damage; protecting DNA.
Food sources: Found in seafood and organ meats, though it is very difficult to obtain through the diet. CoQ10 Ubiquinol supplementation is the best way to obtain CoQ10. Amounts in the body decline with age.
Vitamin C improves hormone levels and increases fertility in women with luteal phase defect, according to a study published in Fertility and Sterility. As for men, vitamin C has been shown to improve sperm quality and protect sperm from DNA damage; helping to reduce the chance of miscarriage and chromosomal problems. Vitamin C also appears to keep sperm from clumping together, making them more motile.
Food sources: Abundant in plants and fruits including red peppers, broccoli, cranberries, cabbage, potatoes, tomatoes, and citrus fruit.
Lipoic acid is a very important antioxidant because it not only helps to protect the female reproductive organs and has been shown to improve sperm quality and motility, but it also helps the body to continually re-use the antioxidants in the body.
Food sources: In small amounts found in potatoes, spinach and red meat.
Vitamin B6 may be used as a hormone regulator. It also helps to regulate blood sugars, alleviates PMS, and may be useful in relieving symptoms of morning sickness. B6 has also been shown to help with Luteal Phase Defect.
Food sources: Tuna, banana, turkey, liver, salmon, cod, spinach, bell peppers, and turnip greens, collard greens, garlic, cauliflower, mustard greens, celery, cabbage, asparagus, broccoli, kale, Brussels sprouts, chard.
Vitamin B12 has been shown to improve sperm quality and production. It also may help to boost the endometrium lining in egg fertilization, decreasing the chances of miscarriage. Some studies have found that a deficiency of B12 may increase the chances of irregular ovulation, and in severe cases stop ovulation altogether.
Food sources: Clams, oysters, mussels, liver, caviar (fish eggs), fish, crab, lobster, beef, lamb, cheese, eggs.
Folic Acid/Folate: Perhaps one of the best known vitamins necessary for pregnancy is folic acid, the common supplement form of naturally occurring folate, which is found in many foods. This vitamin helps prevent neural tube defects as well as congenital heart defects, cleft lips, limb defects, and urinary tract anomalies in developing fetuses. Deficiency in folic acid may increase the risk of preterm labor, fetal growth retardation and low birth weight. Deficiency may also increase the homocysteine level in the blood, which can lead to spontaneous abortion and pregnancy complications, such as placental abruption and preeclampsia.
Food sources of folate: liver, lentils, pinto beans, garbanzo beans, asparagus, spinach, black beans, navy beans, kidney beans, collard greens.
Iron: Studies have shown that women who do not get sufficient amounts of iron may suffer anovulation (lack of ovulation) and possibly poor egg health, which can inhibit pregnancy at a rate 60% higher than those with sufficient iron stores in their blood.
Food sources: Lentils, spinach, sesame seeds, kidney beans, pumpkin seeds (raw), venison, garbanzo beans, navy beans, molasses, beef.
Selenium: Selenium is an antioxidant that helps to protect the eggs and sperm from free radicals. Free radicals can cause chromosomal damage which is known to be a cause of miscarriages and birth defects. Selenium is also necessary for the creation of sperm. In studies, men with low sperm counts have also been found to have low levels of selenium.
Food sources: Liver, snapper, cod, halibut, tuna, salmon, sardines, shrimp, crimini mushrooms, turkey, Brazil nuts (just one nut contains nearly 100% of the RDA for selenium).
Zinc: In women, zinc works with more than 300 different enzymes in the body to keep things working well. Without it, your cells can not divide properly; your estrogen and progesterone levels can get out of balance and your reproductive system may not be fully functioning. Low levels of zinc have been directly linked to miscarriage in the early stages of a pregnancy.
In men, zinc is considered one of the most important trace minerals to date for male fertility; increasing zinc levels in infertile men has been shown to boost sperm levels; improve the form, function and quality of male sperm and decrease male infertility.
Food sources: Calf liver, oysters, beef, lamb, venison, sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds, yogurt, turkey, green peas, shrimp. Zinc can be damaged by cooking so it is important to eat some foods high in zinc in their raw forms.
Essential Fatty Acids: Omega-3 acids have been shown to help fertility by helping to regulate hormones in the body, increase cervical mucous, promote ovulation and overall improve the quality of the uterus by increasing blood flow to the reproductive organs.
Omega-3 fats also contain two acids that are crucial to good health: DHA and EPA. These two acids have been shown to help many forms of disease. Low levels of DHA have been linked to depression and other mental health issues. During pregnancy, a lack of DHA may be associated with premature birth, low birth weight and hyperactivity in children.
Food sources: Flax seeds, walnuts, salmon, sardines, halibut, shrimp, snapper, scallops, chia seeds
In addition to the micro-nutrients, macro-nutrients are important as well. Getting enough protein, fiber, fat, carbohydrates, etc. is also very important. This is a time for nourishing and providing building blocks for your body in preparation for conception. The foods that should be focused on in a Natural Fertility Diet are nutrient dense foods which help to provide the following:
A wide variety of fats are very important for fertility and the development of the fetus. Not only are essential fatty acids important, but saturated fats and cholesterol are important as well. Cholesterol is a precursor to all hormones produced in the body, including progesterone. Just make sure it is from the right foods like coconut oil, grass-fed meats, fish, nuts and seeds and avoid hydrogenated oils and vegetable oils cooked at high heat.
Eating healthy amounts of protein from a wide variety of sources is an important part of a healthy fertility diet as amino acids are the building blocks for cells in the body. Make sure to include both animal sources and vegetable sources of protein daily.
Fiber helps assist the body in getting rid of excess estrogen and xenohormones in the system and keeps your digestive tract functioning properly.
Important Foods Specifically for Fertility
Take a look at the foods mentioned below and you will begin to notice that all of these foods are nutrient dense, meaning they pack a lot of nutrition per serving. They are also the foods most abundant in the nutrients mentioned in the Fertility Nutrients section of this guide.
Eggs – Vitamin D, B12, Protein
Make sure to find eggs which are farm fresh and have deep orange/yellow yolks. They are worth the extra cost as they provide much more nutrients and are cleaner than the general factory farmed egg. Some of the best places to find quality eggs are at the farmer’s market, neighbors or the health food store.
Nuts and Seeds – Omega 3, Zinc, Vitamin E, Protein
Eat nuts and seeds in their raw form as essential fatty acids and zinc are sensitive to heat and can be destroyed if cooked. I have listed amounts of nuts and seeds and their nutritional density so you can see how packed they are with nutrients.
Grass-fed meats – Omega 3, Iron, B12, Protein
Grass-fed meats come from animals which have grazed in grass pasture and eaten fresh grass for most of their life. This meat has less fat and has a little bit stronger taste than corn fed meats, but it provides a lot more nutrients because the animals have eaten their natural diet. Grass-fed meats are high in omega 3, have been raised without antibiotics and hormones. Regular grocery store, factory raised meats are higher in omega 6 (we already get too much of this) and have been raised on GMO corn which fattens them up, but is not their natural diet (GMO foods have been linked to infertility). They are also fed hormones and antibiotics regularly which can impact your hormonal balance and immune system.
Dark leafy Vegetables – Iron, Folic acid, B6, Vitamin E
Dark leafy vegetables are packed with minerals, antioxidants and vitamins essential to healthy fertility. Examples of dark leafy green vegetables are spinach, Swiss chard, kale, and collards.
Fruits are the foods highest in antioxidants per serving. Some of the fruits highest in antioxidants are prunes, pomegranates, raisins, blueberries and strawberries. Remember that antioxidants are heat sensitive, so to get their benefit eat your fruit fresh, ripe and raw.
The color of a vegetable will tell you what nutrients and benefits it will provide for your body. For instance vegetables that are red or green in color are high in vitamin C. Vegetables that are orange have high vitamin A. White vegetables tend to have sulfur, etc. The easiest way to get a ton of nutrients is to eat a wide variety of vegetables. Make sure you are eating a variety of colors daily. The easiest way to do this is to eat either a salad, stir-fry or fresh vegetable juice daily.
Fish and Shell Fish – Vitamin D, Omega 3, Zinc, Selenium, B12,
Raw dairy is basically milk products which have not been pasteurized, so they still have their important enzymes and delicate nutrients intact. Also, raw dairy comes from cows that are grass/pasture fed and do not receive hormones or antibiotics. I don’t have enough space here to go into all the benefits of raw milk and how it is VERY safe to drink, just know that it is a very different food from the milk that is available from grocery stores, even organic milk. I realize that many states do not sell raw milk at the store. If you live in one of those states, you can get raw milk straight from the farmer or you can culture your organic, pasteurized milk you buy from the store to help improve its nutritional profile and digestibility. There are some instances where milk should be avoided; instances where there is stagnation in the body like with endometriosis or if you have an allergy to it.
What about grains?
Grains is an area of the Natural Fertility Diet that we suggest you experiment with what works for you. There have been links to infertility in those who have gluten intolerance (celiac disease – you can get tested for this) as well as a possible link to immunological infertility and grains. In some people, grains will be a non-issue, but if you have made many changes yet have not seen results, this may be an area for you to look into. Grains and pseudo-grains that are gluten-free (amaranth, rice, quinoa, buckwheat, millet, etc.) are a great option and tend to be more nutrient dense than the general grains we are used to eating.
Foods to Avoid
Sugar, soda & pasteurized juices
Pasteurized juices such as bottled apple juice, orange juice, and other bottled fruit juices contain concentrated sugar, which can throw off your blood sugar levels and negatively effect your immune system and hormonal balance. Also avoid any processed/refined and artificial sugars. Some great alternatives are stevia, honey, and maple syrup.
Studies have shown that caffeine can affect your hormonal balance, increase your chances of a miscarriage and prevent you from ovulating.
Soy foods have been shown to contain estrogen mimicking properties. It is best to avoid processed soy foods such as soy milk, soy burgers, soy protein powder, soy chips, soy meats, and soy cheeses to avoid a negative impact on your hormonal balance. Both men and women are affected by soy.
Genetically Modified foods are becoming a real problem when it comes to fertility, causing an influx in worldwide infertility rates. Since the 1970’s alone, sperm counts among the world’s male population have declined as much as 40-50%, according to some studies. GMO foods may be one of the reasons. Look for the non-GMO verified label (see right) on foods you purchase and choose organic foods when you can.
Foods which are altered to be reduced in fat or fat-free are highly processed and high in sugar. When choosing foods always chose the foods as nature intended. Full fat dairy is one example that was shown in a study (Human Reproduction) to increase fertility over the fat-reduced options. Again, fat is what our bodies need to produce hormones.
Superfoods should be a part of every couples fertility diet to help bridge the gap for proper nutrition, nourish the egg and the sperm, and help to balance hormones. An easy way to get fertility superfoods into your diet daily is to drink fertility smoothies.
Maca is a wonderful superfood from Peru that helps to balance the hormones, increase egg health, increase sperm count and sperm health while also being a tonic for the endocrine system. Maca also helps increase progesterone if the body is low in this important hormone. Maca comes in capsules, powder and tincture. It can be taken everyday.
Royal jelly is another fertility specific superfood which may help increase egg health and general fertility. Royal jelly is the food that is fed to the queen bee that makes her the queen bee. She goes on to live 6 years and lays up to 2000 eggs per day. Most bees live less than two months.
Royal Jelly is rich in vitamins, A, B, C, D,and E. It is also contains minerals including calcium and iron, all of the essential amino acids, plus antibacterial and immune stimulating properties. It comes in capsules or in a base of honey. It can be taken everyday.
Bee propolis and bee pollen are two additional fertility super foods from our friend the bee. These foods are rich in nutrients. Bee pollen contains 50% more protein than beef and is rich in every vitamin and mineral. Bee Propolis is a powerful immune system stimulant and inflammation aid. It also helps women who have endometriosis.
Bee propolis and Bee Pollen are available in capsules or in a base of honey. They can be taken everyday.