Today’s post is all about how to tailor the fertility diet, and it’s a guest post from my friend, Anna Rapp from To Make a Mommy. If you’ve been around for a while, you’ll know that I’m an advocate of listening to your body, and that there isn’t a one size fits all approach to what works for you. You can check out this post, and this post to read more, or you can grab a copy of my whopper 90 page book, Fertility Warrior in the Kitchen.
Case in point: Anna and her journey. Anna soon realised that the fertility diet (which is based on one of the largest nutritional studies on fertility) didn’t suit her circumstances, and then after researching more, worked out how to tailor it to what her body needed. Hot tip: It has a happy ending! Here’s Anna’s story:
I started trying to conceive like anyone else – I stopped taking the pill, and we thought we’d get pregnant quickly! When we didn’t, I quickly dove into the world of cycle charting, and constantly researching new tips on trying to conceive. I started eating what the internet told me was a “Fertility Diet.” Whole milk dairy, prenatal vitamins, meat, vegetables, fruits, and I started limiting my consumption of alcohol, caffeine, and sugar. Unless, you know, it was the holidays or a birthday or other special event.
After one year I got pregnant. We were thrilled and then devastated- it ended with a miscarriage at six weeks and an emergency surgery for what they thought was an ectopic (it wasn’t). They noticed moderate endometriosis during the surgery and later offered to perform additional surgery if I wanted it.
After that I spent another six months trying and had two more very early losses. I was finally sent to the specialists. I was so excited! I was sure they would do some tests, figure out what was wrong, give me a pill for it, and then I would get pregnant! Surely these reproductive endocrinologists would have the answer!
When we went in to get our test results we sat in stunned silence as they told us that I might not be able to ever have children with my own eggs. My FSH was very high and my AMH was incredibly low. They suggested we immediately start an IVF cycle and that we also freeze eggs for the future. I left the meeting overwhelmed and sobbing. It was worse when they emailed us the price tag later! $8500 for an egg freeze and $9800 for an IVF cycle!
We got a second opinion from a well-known and very large fertility group in the area. The doctor said the same thing only he added that IVF probably would not work and that I would need donor eggs. The cost was greater with them- around $25,000 with all the recommended add-ons we would need. We said we would think about it and went home to look at our finances.
All the hope that I had rushed out of me. The pent-up anxiety and frustration that had been pent up inside of me let loose in a torrent of tears. I sobbed as my husband and I talked about next steps. I truly did not want to do IVF or donor eggs. I wanted to be pregnant naturally! The old-fashioned way!
We took a couple months break and I came back with a renewed motivation. We would spend three months doing everything possible to get my eggs in tip-top condition and then we would try IVF instead of donor eggs.
I did everything I possible could- mind-body therapies, eliminating toxins, prayer, and . . . I figured out how to deconflict all the diet information to make the perfect fertility diet FOR ME!
I started by reading everything I could get my hands on that talked about diet and my conditions- High FSH, low AMH, Endometriosis, MTHFR, and recurrent early loss. I noticed many recurrent themes- I needed to increase my protein and fat intake and reduce inflammation. I started making lists and charts of what food was good for which diagnosis, and what was bad for which. My new Traditional Chinese Medicine acupuncturist through me for a loop when she said I need to avoid raw foods as well. Eventually I came up with a detailed list of what was in . . . and what was out.
The hardest mental hurdle for me was dairy. For years I had been reading that full fat dairy was good for fertility, and so even though I was lactose intolerant I was chugging it away and taking my lactaid pills. After talking with a number of healers, and thinking about the way my body reacted to dairy, I began to suspect I was both lactose and casein (the milk protein) intolerant. I realized that even though full-fat dairy is very beneficial for some, especially those who don’t ovulate, it was actually causing an inflammatory response in me. I cut all dairy out and lost 8 pounds and felt great!
Through research I also realized that although grass-fed, organic red meat can be helpful for some people struggling with infertility, but it could also make endometriosis worse. So, I cut it to only once or twice a month. I started eating a primarily plant-based diet, with the occasional organic chicken. I couldn’t believe the change in my periods! I went from three days of awful cramping to about 1.5 hours of moderate cramping on the first day!
In addition to these personal tweaks, I fully committed to a clean, organic, whole foods diet. I didn’t just “moderate” my sugar consumption- I completely eliminated it! I totally avoided all sugar, sugar substitutes, sweeteners, processed food, caffeine, coffee (even decaf), alcohol, simple carbs (white rice, pasta, white wheat), and soy. Although some people need to eliminate gluten, I went through rigorous testing with my doctor to see if I had any identifiable celiac issues. When I didn’t, I decided to only eat organic, whole grains, to avoid the pesticides that are so common in regular wheat products.
I also ate superfoods that were tailored to my diagnoses- wheatgrass for my high FSH, spirulina for my diminished ovarian reserve, and lots of leafy greens for all my diagnoses! I also drank a daily herbal infusion of nettles, red raspberry, and oat straw.
It was a lot of work- but I had success! First, I lost weight, felt great, and my periods got easier. Then- my blood pressure dropped! Finally, at exactly three months into the diet I learned that I was four weeks pregnant. I had a great pregnancy and birth, and my little miracle is now almost two years old. We are gearing up to start trying again soon!
Anna – Blogger at To Make a Mommy
Anna beat the odds and got pregnant naturally after the doctors said it wasn’t possible. She blogs about how she did it and encourages her readers to empower themselves and take charge of their fertility journey. She is passionate about clean, green, healthy living for fertility and shares tips on how to eliminate fertility-harming toxins from your lifestyle, eat a clean, organic, whole-foods diet, and develop a daily mind-body practice for fertility. She is also the author of the free e-book, Your Perfect Fertility Diet, Creating a Tailored Diet for YOU based on YOUR needs.