There’s plenty of solid scientific evidence that suggests that your fertility is strongly influenced by your lifestyle (what you eat, what you do, your environment and how you live).
Focusing on your natural fertility doesn’t have to be a stand-alone tactic – it can be done before (or simultaneously with) any medical interventions.
Natural fertility is about taking the toxins out of your food and your environment, adopting healthy habits (in your thoughts, emotions and physical actions) and trying to get in tune with your body’s rhythms.
While low-level toxins can build up from a diet of highly processed food, there are also strong connections between a variety of common environmental chemicals and infertility, with certain household cleaners and plastics linked with fertility problems in numerous studies.
Natural fertility: getting in tune with your body
Natural fertility methods are a way to observe the changes that occur in your body during the course of your menstrual cycle so that you can identify what part of your cycle you are presently in and what part of your cycle is likely to come next.
Natural fertility methods encourage you to get in touch with the signs that your body gives you at different stages of the cycle.
Some of the main signs are the changes in cervical mucus, your basal body temperature, physical symptoms (like headaches, cramps or tiredness) and even your emotional state (such as your level of emotional sensitivity, irritability and sexual arousal).
When you are in tune with your body’s usual cycle, you are more likely to identify your most fertile time and plan intercourse accordingly.
Natural fertility: healthy activity levels
In natural fertility, women are encouraged to have a healthy level of exercise; regular physical activity which raises the heartbeat for at least thirty minutes a day will assist your body to maintain good fertility.
However, it’s important to get the balance right.
Lowered fertility has been associate both with very high levels of physical activity (such as several hours of high-intensity training each day) and with very low levels of exercise (long periods of inactivity).
Natural fertility: eating right
Many couples consult a nutritionist, a dietician or a naturopath to get advice on enhancing their natural fertility and there are plenty of ‘fertility diets’ around which encourage healthy eating.
If you can afford to choose only organically grown foods and chemical-free meats, you’re probably going to give your natural fertility a boost, as these foods tend to be higher in nutritional value and lower in toxins.
In general, most ‘healthy eating’ guidelines also apply to those wanting to enhance their natural fertility.
Your diet should include:
- Two to three serves of protein a day (both meat and vegetable proteins combined)
- ideally, organically fed poultry and lean meats, and eggs from organically fed free range chickens (to avoid artificial hormones and antibiotics used in some farms)
- Several small servings of a variety of nuts, grains or seeds and legumes or pulses
- several serves each day of cold-pressed oils such as extra virgin olive oil or flaxseed oil – e.g. in salad dressing
- try spreads of fresh hummus, tahini, avocado and banana rather than margarine or butter
- low glycaemic carbohydrates (most non-starchy vegetables, pulses, wholegrains – use wholegrain breads where possible)
- three serves of fish weekly, particularly less polluted deep sea or ocean fish or wild fish rather than farmed, avoid raw fish if possible; avoid fish which may be high in mercury
- plenty of vegetables, dark leafy greens, organic if possible, well washed if not, both raw and cooked – ideally should make up half of your daily food intake
- two to three pieces of fresh, well-washed fruit each day
- foods known as ‘phyto-oestrogens’ – e.g. fermented soy, parsley, cucumber, wholegrains and seeds, alfalfa, fennel – particularly if you have endometriosis
- plenty of water, purified if the water quality in your area isn’t good
You should limit your intake of:
- highly processed or sugary foods, or high GI foods which can disrupt hormones
- nutella and peanut butter spreads
- cow’s milk and most dairy foods, particularly if you have endometriosis
- soy milk and soy products (unless certified organically grown and GM free)
- dried fruits – high in sugar, sometimes containing preservatives or mould
You should avoid:
- coffee – more than two espressos per day can impact natural fertility
- alcohol – shown to significantly lower conception rates in both males and females
- smoking – again, linked to low fertility
- cooking or storing food in plastic containers
- fast food or junk food
- saturated and ‘trans’ fats – these have been shown to alter the balance of hormones and prostaglandins
- margarines which contain saturated fats
- fried foods such as batters, donuts and pastries, often high in trans fats
- unpasteurised goat’s milk products
- soft cheeses & those kept unsealed in water (which may contain bacteria)
- delicatessen meats (often high in fats and hormone-disrupting preservatives)
- pre-prepared salads if you’re not sure of their freshness (can contain mould)
Natural fertility and common chemicals
Our natural fertility cycle is determined by the actions of a number of hormones which interact with each other in an intricate balance. Hormones themselves are naturally-occurring chemicals which are produced, and used as messengers within, the human endocrine system.
It’s not surprising to find that any substance which affects our hormones can have a negative impact on natural fertility.
Studies from around the world are now identifying that many commonly used chemicals can have a disruptive effect on hormones.
Some of the most common ‘problem’ chemicals which reduce natural fertility include:
- Bisphenol A (BPA): used in polycarbonate plastics including food containers and cooking utensils. Similar to oestrogen and thought to disrupt oestrogen receptors in the body.
- Chlorinated Dibenzo-p-dioxins: used in common chlorine/bleach cleaning agents; linked with miscarriage in animals
- Polychlorinated Biphenyls: now discontinued in most products but present in some car cleaning products and old electrical items; linked to immune and reproductive system problems
- Phthalates: a component of PVC, used in nail-polish and as solvents in pesticides and some cleaning products, with strong links to hormone disruption and lowered male fertility.
- Parabens: used in thousands of personal care products like shampoos, moisturisers, toothpaste and in cleaning products. They can have oestrogen-mimicking properties linked to hormonal disruption.
Natural fertility: avoiding problem chemicals
There are often low levels throughout our environment of chemicals which disrupt our natural fertility.
And with many of these toxins commonly used in the home, it is possible to lower your exposure to these chemicals by changing the way you clean, the personal care products you buy and the way you cook and store food.
With increasing evidence linking toxins in common cleaning products, food storage and cookware items, natural fertility specialists often recommend that you switch to chemical-free cleaning products and completely natural personal care items to raise your natural fertility levels.
Food should be stored in glass rather than plastic containers, and cooked in copper, stainless steel or cast iron cookware rather than using aluminium or plastic cooking containers or utensils.
For more information see Increase Fertility.
By Fran Molloy, journalist and mum of four
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