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Can eating certain foods during different phases of your cycle enhance your fertility?
Menstruation is a good time to remember to focus on foods rich in iron, a nutrient of real concern among women in their childbearing years. Many women struggle to get enough iron in their diets, and women with heavy periods and/or who follow vegetarian or vegan diets are particularly at risk for iron deficiency.
Healthy Meats, beans, fish, leafy green vegetables and seeds. Most of these foods are rich in iron, protein or both, which is especially important if you have endometriosis or bleed heavily. And some (like fish, seeds and leafy greens) have anti-inflammatory properties, which can help mitigate cramps by encouraging healthy blood flow. Another tip: eat plenty of bell peppers, tomatoes, broccoli, kiwi, citrus and other food sources that are high in vitamin C. “Vitamin C helps the body absorb iron from beans, whole grains.
If your periods are clotted and painful avoid alcohol, caffeine and spicy foods, which can make bleeding even heavier.
The claim about “cold” foods appears to refer to the notion of “cold” vs “hot” foods from Traditional Chinese Medicine and other cultural practices. This does not refer to the actual temperature of the food, instead to innate properties/energy different foods possess.
“During the follicular phase, your body is working hard to develop a dominant follicle and estrogen levels are on the rise. Unfortunately, women who are struggling with fibroids and endometriosis often have too much estrogen (a condition called estrogen dominance). “Cruciferous veggies like broccoli, kale, cabbage and cauliflower contain a phytonutrient called di-indolylmethane (DIM), which can help women metabolize estrogen better. In fact, DIM binds to environmental estrogens like pesticides and hormones in meat and dairy products, helping rid the body of excess estrogen. Just don’t forget to have some olive oil, avocado, nuts and seeds with those leafy greens. These foods are loaded with vitamin E, which is found in the fluid of the follicle that’s housing your egg.
As you near ovulation, the body needs plenty of B vitamins and other nutrients to support the release of the egg and promote implantation. “Zinc can help with cell division and progesterone production and vitamin C is found in high quantities in the follicle after the egg is released and may play a role in progesterone production as well.
A small amount of zinc (8-11 mg daily) is required for a variety of processes in the body. It is not clear what role or the impact of the potential role it plays in progesterone production, so the advice to significantly increase zinc intake should be interpreted with caution.
“Essential fatty acids (EFAs) are also crucial during this phase. The best source: omega-3s from fish and fish oil supplements. These EFAs are best known for promoting blood flow to the uterus and supporting the opening of the follicle to release the egg. They also open up the tiny blood vessels in your nether regions, which can ensure you’re primed and ready for action. “Fish oil thins out your blood and increases circulation to your body parts,” Plus, fish oil boosts the testosterone in your body—yes, women have this hormone too.
When talking about adequate intake of essential fatty acids, it is the omega-3s (alpha-linolenic acid, eicosapentaenoic acid and docosahexaenoic acid) that are the most valuable and hardest to get. Omega-6 fatty acids are widely available in the diet, whereas sources of omega-3s can be more limited. At present the ideal ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acids is not known, but scientific consensus is that we should increase our intake of omega-3s. Fatty, cold water fishes and their oils are excellent sources of these healthy fats, however canola oil, flax seeds, pumpkin seeds, and some nuts are also good sources (so no need to eat nothing but salmon until you get pregnant).
Carrots maximize your body’s baby making juices because they’re alkaline (the opposite of acidic). The body is a tightly regulated system that can maintain appropriate pH levels of its fluids almost entirely without regard for your diet.
Now is the time to load up on nutrients that encourage cell growth. Beta-carotene, which is commonly found in leafy greens as well as yellow and orange foods (e.g., carrots, cantaloupe and sweet potatoes), helps keep your hormones in check and prevents early miscarriage. In fact, the corpus luteum, which helps produce the progesterone necessary to sustain a pregnancy, is loaded with the powerful nutrient.
Dark green and orange vegetables and fruits are always a good idea, no matter the phase of your cycle. These foods are also great sources of nutrients like folic acid, which is very important for preventing neural tube defects like Spina Bifida.
One food that gets a lot of attention during this phase is pineapple. In addition to beta-carotene, pineapple contains a substance called bromelain, which has been shown to mildly support implantation through its anti-inflammatory properties.
Avoid cold or raw foods, especially ice cream and frozen yogurt. The luteal phase is a time when you want to promote growth and expansion; cold constricts.
Do you suffer from estrogen dominance? Foods to eat and foods to avoid
Many of you read with fascination about xenoestrogens and the affect on our health and waistlines last week. We’ve followed up this week with a Part 2 to Dave Catudal’s popular post: a handy lists of foods to eat and avoid to help balance your hormones to achieve optimal health.
What is the one thing you do everyday? You eat. And that is the number one way that xenoestrogens — those nasty, estrogen-imitating compounds which threaten our health — get into your system.
As you learned last week, conventional meat and dairy products, produced by cows fed a diet rich in estrogen grains, are loaded with hormones. Other bad guys included are soy isoflavones (move over edamame), refined sugars, colorings, additives, preservatives, processed foods and beverages, grains and beer (fermented barley and other grains).
So, what’s left to eat Dave? You asked and I listened. Here is my list of 10 types of foods you should eat in abundance.
1. Cruciferous vegetables
Bok choy, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, kale and cauliflower are just some of the superstars from the cruciferous group of vegetables that contain powerful phytonutrients that ward off xenoestrogens. Their power lies in sulforphane, shown to stimulate the body’s production of detoxification enzymes that help to eliminate toxic estrogens and xenoestrogens. Eat raw for optimum effect and chew well to activate the sulforaphane and ensure it is released.
2. Citrus fruits
Containing powerful anti-inflammatory flavanoids, lemon, grapefruit, oranges and tangerines are among some of the best fruits in your diet.
3. Quality caught fish
Be careful here: on one hand fish from quality sources can be a wonderful source of omega-3 fatty acids; on the other hand, some farmed fish are pumped full of antibiotics.
4. Flax seeds
Flax seeds contain a beneficial phytoestrogen called lignans, found to be anti-carcinogenic and inhibit the growth of breast cancer cells. They’ve also been shown in studies to help the body rid itself of certain forms of estrogen.
5. Leafy greens
Dark leafy greens like spinach are another type of food rich in phytoestrogens which you should up in your diet. These plant-based estrogen compounds bind to the same estrogen receptor sites that xenoestrogens try to, so the idea is that if a receptor site is already occupied by a phytoestrogen, xenoestrogens cannot attach to it.
6. Green Tea The polyphenols in green tea help eliminate xenoestrogens and support the liver in metabolizing fats and hormones.
7. Seaweed and other iodine-rich foods
Seaweed is yet another powerful phytoestrogen. High in iodine, which helps to kick out xenoestrogen nasties out of the body by blocking their absorption, they’ve long been known as a miracle food.8. Selenium rich (Brazil nuts)
If you’re estrogen dominant it’s highly likely you’re lacking in selenium which is likely to elevate aromatase significantly
9. Sesame seeds
Containing powerful nutrients and minerals like copper, manganese, calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, iron, zinc, molybdenum, vitamin B1, selenium and dietary fiber, sesame seeds should be another food in your anti-xenoestrogen arsenal which helps to eliminate this toxic compound from the body.
10. Turmeric and cayenne pepper
Turmeric contains curcumin, a powerful anti-inflammatory for the body which helps the liver eliminate and detoxify cancer-causing estrogens and xenoestrogens. Cayenne pepper is another spice rich in an anti-inflammatory compound known as capsaicin.
Of course, food is not the only way that xenoestrogens pass into our bodies. Chemicals in our environment also play a huge role. Follow MAYYA Movement’s handy chart below to learn how you can avoid these toxic compounds in your food, beauty regime and at home.
~Hippocrates: Fertility is the ability to fully inhabit a moment, to be completely present. That is where life happens—and that is the creative force of the mother. When we can learn how to connect consciously with what is happening in each moment, however painful, allowing and trusting the unfolding of life on life’s terms—rather than controlling and forcing outcomes—we more simply open, to life. ~
While Chinese physicians have been treating infertility with diet for centuries, Western science is just starting to catch up to the significant role that diet plays in the ovulatory causes of infertility. A landmark study published in 2008, based on the Harvard Nurses Study, makes startling connections between diet and conception. As the most comprehensive research to date on diet and fertility, this study associates a slow carb, whole food, mostly plant based diet with a six-fold increase in fertility.
The diet includes meal plans, recipes, shopping lists, and tips on mindful eating to help you get started. But before you launch into this diet (or any other), you might want to take a minute to think about the following. In my clinical practice women ask me daily about what foods to eat and what foods to avoid in order to lose weight and to be fertile. And to my surprise, when I pursue this question further with them, they all seem to already know the answers. So I began to wonder why, when we have tons of information about nutrition and diet, we still eat in ways that we know are not healthy for us? Even Oprah, with her access to the very best nutritional expertise, can’t maintain a healthy weight. What’s going on? I think Bob Greene (Oprah’s trainer) is onto something when he says “that when someone overeats, they are hungry—but what they really crave isn’t necessarily food.” He goes on to say that “people often turn to food as their drug of choice” when that can’t get what they need in other areas of their life. I was inspired to reconsider the whole issue of healthy eating and weight loss when I attended a presentation by Paul Pitchford, author of Healing with Whole Foods – Asian Traditions in Modern Nutrition. During his years of experience counseling people on diet, Paul realized that getting someone to change their diet was like getting them to convert to a new religion. And most people don’t have the discipline it takes to make that change. He found that if he took the focus off diet and instead concentrated on getting his patients to exercise more and take care of their well-being through meditation and walks in nature, they began to feel better emotionally and could then naturally gravitate to eating better. This was an AHA! moment for me. I was in the process of developing the Acubalance Fertile Diet. But despite providing all the great resources it contains, I knew the trick would be in helping my clients feel motivated to make the change to this new way of eating. It became clear to me that you don’t first focus on changing eating habits; rather, you start by “feeding” the underlying aspects of body, mind, and spirit that are undernourished. You need to find balance and emotional and spiritual satisfaction in other areas of your life so you won’t be so inclined to use food to fill a void. This led me to come up with three simple steps to feeling better and getting on the path to healthy, joyful, fertile living.
Move, Nurture, and Connect.
1. Move your body Exercise. Move your body. When you exercise, your body rewards you by releasing a cascade of feel-good hormones (endorphins). These endorphins are Mother Nature’s antidepressants, lowering your stress and boosting your sense of well-being. And exercise burns calories and helps regulate your insulin levels, reversing some of the metabolic imbalances that are contributing to your weight gain and your fertility issues. Just walking for 30 minutes every day has a positive effect. You can also make an effort to incorporate more activity into your daily routine by parking your car a few blocks from work or your destination, taking stairs instead of an elevator, or hiring a trainer.
2. Nurture You can’t be positive or give to others if your own basket isn’t full and you are feeling depleted. So the first thing to do is put yourself on your agenda. Take time to nurture yourself: read an inspiring book, have a massage, go to the spa, keep a journal, garden, pamper yourself with a bubble bath with candles and music, or have a walk in nature. Take time each day to meditate and connect to what’s important to you and what you have to be grateful about.
3. Connect Humans are social beings, and studies have shown that having a supportive community of family and friends is the most important determinant of mental and physical health. Malcolm Gladwell tells a fascinating story in his book The Outliers. He describes a small town called Rosetta in the US that had been settled by immigrants from a village in Italy. The town is renowned for the health and longevity of its inhabitants. Residents of Rosetta are astonishingly immune to the normal North American diseases like heart disease and cancer. Researchers were at a loss to explain this phenomena as they could find nothing different in the diet or genetics of Rosseta compared to other towns in the region. Finally, they identified the differentiating factor—the community itself. Three generations of families often lived together. Everyone knew their neighbors and people felt safe and supported. Whenever a family or individual was in difficulty, neighbors rallied together to take care of them. The researcher finally concluded that it was this culture of caring for each other that was the source of the remarkable health of the residents. More and more studies are showing that feeling connected is a potent elixir of health—lowering blood pressure, boosting your immune system and creating feelings of happiness and well-being. Start combining all three: Move, Nurture, and Connect by going for a walk in nature with family or friends at least once a week, and then come home for a tasty lunch or dinner made from some of the recipes we have in this book.
The essence of research and ancient practice is that healthy eating for fertility is based on a natural, whole foods, plant based, anti-inflammatory diet that includes the following:
Whole foods are minimally processed and refined as little as possible before being eaten. Whole foods provide maximum nutrients, fibre, enzymes, antioxidants and taste without added artificial flavours, colours, preservatives, sweeteners or trans fats. Whole foods are simple, local, unrefined foods, where processing is limited to enhancing digestibility (soaking, fermenting) or to food preservation such as canning, smoking, curing and drying. Slow Carbs Slow carbohydrates are a group of carbohydrates that are slowly digested causing a slower and lower rise in blood sugar after being eaten. They include beans, peas, lentils, whole grains and most vegetables. Eating slow carbs help to minimize insulin resistance, regulate blood sugar, improve fertility and prevent gestational diabetes. Plant Based Foods Plant based foods include a rainbow of high fibre, high antioxidant fruits and vegetables, legumes, nuts, seeds and whole grains. A plant based diet means that most (but not necessarily all) of the diet is based on plant foods and is associated with health promotion, disease prevention and longevity around the world. It may be vegan, vegetarian or include small amounts of meat, fish, poultry, eggs and dairy.
High antioxidant fruits, vegetables, herbs and spices help to decrease oxidative stress and cellular inflammation associated with decreased fertility. Organic produce has been shown to be higher in antioxidants. Healthy Fats Healthy fats and oils that are pressed (slow, low temperature & unrefined – free of chemical solvents) expressed? (suggests expeller-pressed oils are unrefined, which is not the case) naturally from whole plant foods (coconuts, nuts, seeds, avocado, olives) and found in wild, deep sea, short-lived fish. Healthy fats combat cellular inflammation, and improve hormonal sensitivity. High Quality Dairy Small amounts of full fat (non-homogenized) dairy products – particularly live culture plain yogurt and kefir, and high quality artisan (naturally fermented) organic cheese.
Mindful eating as a way of eating that can help you slow down and tune in to your body, mind and spirit. It offers a daily way to practice mindfulness (paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, without judgment), which has been shown to be helpful to manage stress, blood sugar, blood pressure, anxiety, depression and unbalanced (disordered) eating. The secret to long life, health, and fertility in Chinese medicine is cultivating a way of life that promotes inner balance, puts you in harmony with nature and conserves your essential jing or energy. According to Chinese medicine theory we have three sources of energy that keep us alive: the air we breathe, the food we eat, and the inherited jing essence we are born with. Each of us receives a finite amount of jing essence from our parents which enables us to develop in the womb. After birth this essence is stored where it becomes the material for our growth, development, and reproduction. While we supply our daily needs for energy with the food, water, and air we consume, our essential jing— our “family trust fund”– provides us with backup energy we can call on for health emergencies and for reproduction. To maintain health and promote longevity we must replenish our daily energy with nourishing foods and conserve that “jing” essence as much as possible through proper lifestyle and relaxation.
Known as the “root of life,” in Chinese Medicine the kidneys govern over birth, growth, and reproduction. Kidneys are described as housing the essence and being the root of yin and yang for the entire body-mind. The kidney involve all the physiological functions included in the Kidney-Urinary system along with the endocrine systems and the adrenal glands. However, for many of us living in the West, our frenetic pace of life, high stress levels, and poor nutrition forces our bodies to live beyond our daily income of energy supplied by food and air and to dip into our “jing account” on a regular basis. Living beyond our daily income, we are continually depleting our essential source of vitality, accelerating aging and reducing fertility. Kidney energy or Qi is the source of sexual desire, fertility, reproduction, and growth. If we were to draw a parallel between Chinese and Western physiology, we might compare Kidney Qi with the endocrine system that controls the hormonal balance. Substances that stress the adrenal glands are draining to Kidney Qi. Deficient Kidney Qi could mean issues with infertility, slow growth and low libido, Adrenal exhaustion or “burn out” is a common complaint of modern day life. The adrenal glands–those glands that supply our body with the juice we need to respond to dangers and emergencies –are on continual high alert, pouring out adrenalin and cortisol in response to the threats and fears that we are constantly bombarded with. Over time our adrenal system becomes worn out and less able to respond to real threats like infections, illness, and aging. Fertility declines as the endocrine system divert hormones from the reproductive system. For the last 2000 years Chinese Medicine has developed ways of conserving jing and promoting increased health and longevity by a daoist practice of self-care called yang sheng. According to the Tao Te Ching (Chinese classic text written around the 6th century BC), those who practice yang sheng know how to preserve their jing, prevent disease and optimize their qi through proper diet, lifestyle and mental and spiritual attitude. Fertility, in this view, is the natural outgrowth of balance and vitality. Embracing a way of living that “nourishes life” can reduce the leakage of jing and build up your natural fertile vitality. The Chinese character of “yang” in yang sheng means to nurture, take care of, and nourish; “sheng” means life, birth, and vitality. Together “yang sheng” means Nourish Life — fostering health and well being by nurturing body, mind and spirit in harmony with the natural rhythms of nature.
The principles of yang sheng are: • Practice loving compassion
• Live in harmony with the laws of nature
• Develop mindfulness through cultivating a calm and serene state of mind
• Care for your body through proper nourishment, rest, relaxation and daily exercise Loving Compassion According to the Tao Te Ching virtues such as kindness, loyalty, love, and compassion benefit both the individual and the society. Those who practice these virtues are more likely to enjoy a happy, long life. It is interesting that Western research is finding tangible health benefits in people performing acts of kindness. In The Healing Power of Doing Good: The Health and Spiritual Benefits of Helping Others Allan Luks shows the health benefits for those who perform selfless act of kindness. These include:
• Helper’s high – the release of feel good endorphins that happens after doing an act of kindness produces a heightened sense of well being. This is often followed by an extended period of calm.
• Reduced stress –helping others reduces feelings of depression, hostility and isolation and can lower blood pressure and reduce levels of stress hormones like cortisol.
• Recurring benefit–acts of kindness don’t just affect you at the time you do them Each time you remember the kind act you are flooded with good feeling that enhance your sense of well being for hours or days.
• Happy thoughts – Helping others can increase feelings of joyfulness, emotional resilience, well-being and optimism.
• Affiliate connection – acts of kindness make you feel more connected to others–and this sense of connection can have a positive effect on your health by lowering blood pressure and strengthening the immune system. If you shift your focus from yourself to others, extend your concern to others, and cultivate the thought of caring for the well-being of others, then this will have the immediate effect of opening up your life and helping you to reach out. ~ His Holiness the Dalai Lama Nature According to Chinese medicine being close to nature attunes you to the daily and seasonal rhythms of the natural world– the dao. The research of environmental psychologists like Roger Ulrich into the psychological effects of environment on people’s health confirms this age-old wisdom.
Studies have shown that direct contact with nature, living plants and even photos of nature increase the rate and extent of recovery from stress. Mindfulness Frequent emotional upsets, excessive worry, and anger can undermine your health and seriously deplete your jing essence according to Chinese medicine. This is in accord with the modern medicine’s understanding of the havoc that prolonged stress plays with your endocrine and adrenal system. Constantly high levels of cortisol can eventually exhaust your body’s ability to adapt to stress, compromise your immune system and cause your reproductive system to shut down. Cultivating mindfulness through mind-body practices like meditation, qi gong, and yoga every day help nourish emotional calm and foster a serene and optimistic outlook. Diet and Lifestyle A nourishing diet has long been considered the cornerstone of health and longevity in Chinese medicine.
For thousands of years food, according to Chinese medicine, has been the primary way to preserve health and the first line of treatment in treating illness. Where Western views of diet tend to focus on the chemical properties of food –vitamins and antioxidants for example- Chinese medicine considers the energetic qualities of food: the balance of yin and yang, the qualities of taste, texture, and colour. The combinations of foods, as well as season, method of preparation and geographic location all contribute to its healing power. Yang sheng advocates a locally grown, mostly vegetarian diet with simple, balanced flavors without alcohol consumption or cigarette smoking. Grains, beans, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and fruits comprise the foundation of the diet. For the human body to remain in a healthy and balanced state, nothing else is required but to care about its nourishment. Sun Si Miao —
The five basic principles of yang sheng eating are
1. Mindful eating: Relax, eat slowly, and enjoy your food
2. Whole food: Eat food as nature intended it in as unadulterated a state as possible
3. Local food: Eat food that has been grown close to home minimizing your environmental impact and maximizing the freshness and energetic quality of the food. Try practicing the 100 Mile Diet as much as possible.
4. Seasonal food: Nature provides just the right foods for the season. Summer vegetables and fruits tend to be cooling and lighter while winter produce tends to be more warming and denser in nutrition.
5. Moderate Eating Eat only when you are hungry, stopping before you are completely full.
Exercise Incorporate regular, consistent physical exercise into your lifestyle. Physical exercise can strengthen the body, improve the mind, stimulate digestion, increase circulation, improve insulin response, reduce stress, and build up your immunity.
Functional Medicine is a systems biology–based approach that focuses on identifying and addressing the root cause of disease. Each symptom or differential diagnosis may be one of many contributing to an individual’s illness.
A diagnosis can be the result of more than one cause. For example, infertility can be caused by many different factors, including inflammation. Likewise, a cause such as inflammation may lead to a number of different diagnoses, including infertility. The precise manifestation of each cause depends on the individual’s genes, environment, and lifestyle, and only treatments that address the right cause will have lasting benefit beyond symptom suppression.
The Fertility journey has its ups and downs. It can feel like you are alone with many unknowns, and never sure what is coming next.
It feels good to have someone that you feel safe with to turn to for all your questions.