Last Thursday, I was invited to the Resolve meeting at UCHC to give a short talk on Optimizing Nutrition for Fertility and Weight Loss.
I am a western science researcher with over 20 years of experience in endocrine infertility research and in the IVF lab. In the last decade, I became a Chinese Medicine Practitioner and Acupuncturist. Integrating eastern and western medicines using evidence-based science is my passion and it is the way I work in my practice.
In this blog I present a brief overview of some common support practices that can help optimize both fertility and healthy weight, in a way that underlines their common ground. A healthy weight reflects a healthy lifestyle which in turn promotes fertility. Fertility and weight management are integrally intwined and are not separate goals.
I call them the 7 SUPPORTS, or 7-S's, as they all provide a foundational support for your being consistent with your healthy lifestyle. These are in line with the Eastern Medicine concept of whole body approach to healing.
7 SUPPORTS TO OPTIMIZE FERTILITY and WEIGHT LOSS
SUPPORT #1 -- SENSIBLE EATING
In Chinese Medicine, our core essence is strengthened by the foods we eat. We can look at food as medicinal herbs that are taken 3 times a day. Being mindful of what we put at the end of the fork helps us maintain our internal balance and prevent disease - on a daily basis. Today, evidence-based science is telling us that the health of our gut is associated with a healthy immune system. And 75% of our lymphatic system is in our gut! A healthy immune system supports fertility and reduces the risks of miscarriage.
I like the 80/20 rule!
* Are you eating healthy 80% of the times?
* Put your fork down when your stomach feels 80% full.
* 80% of the times choose unprocessed/organic/grass fed/free range non-GMO foods.
* Make 80% of your plate plant based, from local, fresh, organic, nutrient-dense, colorful high antioxidant vegetables. Of that try to eat 80% raw and fermented veggies specially in spring and summer.
Make sure you have included good FATS and healthy proteins with every meal. Avocados, omega 3 fish oils, olives ( and their unfiltered oils), coconut oil, nuts and seeds (ex:walnuts, almonds, sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds, hemp and chia seeds), grass fed butter and ghee are some good examples of healthy fats. Healthy fats not only help with weight loss by making us feel full faster, they also help to balance insulin balance, and heal our gut system. Omega 3 fats are anti-inflammatory and help our immune system. In regards to fertility, many hormones are fat soluble and are made from cholesterol, so you need good fats for healthy hormone balance.
SUPPORT #2 -- SIMPLE CARBS AND SUGARS
Be mindful of your daily intake of sugars and simple carbs. All simple carbs turn into sugar in the body and that adversely affects the balance of your sex hormones, your insulin, cortisol, and thyroid hormones and most importantly your leptin. In Chinese medicine, it is held that overconsumption of carbs and sugars damages the digestive system and creates dampness -this in turn leads to weight gain which can contribute to infertility and increased chances of miscarriage.
SUPPORT #3 -- STOP/PAUSE
When you are tempted or on the verge of stress eating try a STOP/PAUSE button and check in with your self... connect with your gut instincts ... walk outside in nature for even just a few minutes, or connect with Nature from a window ... take a few deep breaths.
A STOP/PAUSE can help re-set neuronal patterns. This allows you to re-direct your energy to supporting your health!
SUPPORT #4 -- SLEEP
Are you getting 7-9 hrs of sleep? Is your sleep interrupted? Do you have regular sleep patterns? Improving sleep can increase your longevity markers, the telomeres. And good sleep balances your sex hormones, cortisol, insulin and most importantly leptin - the hormone that tells you to put down the fork ...I am full! Once these hormones are more in balance your fertility is also optimized. Good sleep = less hunger, and a healthy weight= enhancement of fertility.
SUPPORT #5 -- STRESS / STATE OF MIND How do you deal with perceived stress? Did you know that stress increases your biological age markers by TEN YEARS? This was found in a study by Elizabeth Blackburn, Noble laureate, performed on women in their 20s, 30s and 40s on the effects of stress. If stress increases your biological age marker by ten years ... what do you think that is doing to your eggs or sperm?
Do you see the cup of your life half empty or full? Try practicing gratitude - right now - for the simple things in your life that bring you joy. Evidence-based science is showing that even this simple act can start increasing your good neurotransmitters and reduce your cortisol production.
Try deep BREATHING! With just 8 deep breaths you enter into a parasympathetic state of rest and digest, which is the optimal state for conception and fertility as well as weight loss. In nature, wild animals do not breed if they are in danger. Human fertility is affected by stress as well.
In Eastern/Chinese Medicine practices using Breath work and qi gong meditation as tools to reduce stress and improve the state of mind are the core and root concept of every treatment, particularly in relation to fertility enhancement. Going to the root cause of an imbalance and treating the whole body is the pillar of Chinese medicine.These medicines have been around for thousands of years. Practices that work stay around. Practices that don’t work don’t stay around and become mere fads. Today, evidence-based science is proving these ancient practices. A recent study at Harvard Gratitude Do you see the cup of your life half empty or full? Try practicing gratitude - right now - for the simple things in your life that bring you joy. Evidence-based science is showing that even this simple act can start increasing your good neurotransmitters and reduce your cortisol production. Medical school has showed meditation improved the cortical density (of the prefrontal cortex) - in simple language this translates into improving our impulse control, leading to better decision making. Why? because most of the time we actually do know what to do, but our impulses get in the way!
SUPPORT #6 -- SEDENTARY LIFE
In Eastern Medicine Philosophy, no movement is equal to stagnation and an accumulation of imbalances, leading to dis-ease in the body. Start with 5 minutes daily and gradually move on to 30 minutes of daily activity. Make it fun. Put your favorite music and dance to it - if walking outside or going to the gym is not your thing. Try yoga or tai chi, both are movements with a focus on breath work, and both enhance stress reduction as well.
SUPPORT #7 -- SOCIAL AND SUPPORT SYSTEMS
Calling your girlfriend is the perfect medicine! We humans (and especially us women) are social creatures. A study at Stamford University showed that women who have girl friends tend to make more oxytocin. Getting 8 hugs/day will do that too! This leads to a reduction in your cortisol. Cortisol is our stress hormone, and it is very needed when we are in danger. But chronic perceived stress leads to over-production or an imbalance of cortisol, that may leave us tired but wired in the evening, with low energy during the day. High cortisol has many damaging affects including insulin resistance, weight gain, estrogen dominance and other hormonal imbalance,which can affect fertility. Get support, and have fun doing it.
Raw Chia pudding for Fertility and weight loss -- Great breakfast for 2!: 1/3-1/2 C chia seeds soaked in 2 C coconut milk or almond milk keep in fridge over night. Mix well. In the morning add 1 C blueberries (fresh or thaw frozen), 6Tb hemp seeds. Sweeten to taste with a few drops of stevia or 1-2 tsp maple syrup. This pudding is loaded with over 6 grams of healthy omega 3 oils (chia and hemp seeds), high antioxidant berries, over 30gr of protein (again, chia and hemp seeds) and hormone balancing coconut milk and oil.