Rule of thumb? Eat organic foods when possible and avoid meats that have been treated with hormones or fish that contains mercury.

Women need to eat food with essential fatty acids, e.g., soy products and wild caught salmon. Essential fatty acids are also found in non-hydrogenated cold pressed oils like flaxseed, winter vegetables, such as broccoli, cauliflower, and carrots, and all dark green vegetables. Avoid alcohol and caffeine.

If you have polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), the most common cause of infertility in women, say hello to whole grains. PCOS is a hormonal imbalance that gets worse when insulin levels in the bloodstream surge. Take a lucky guess at who instigates these dreaded insulin spikes. Yup. You got it: refined carbs. When you eat these refined carbs, insulin flows into the blood, feeds back to the ovaries, and can lead to irregular ovulation. Not to self, banish the bread basket.
Another cup of coffee? A Yale University School of Medicine study found that the risk of infertility was 55% higher for women drinking 1 cup of coffee per day, 100% higher for women drinking 1 and 1 – 3 cups, and 176% higher for those drinking more than 3 cups of coffee per day. Until science can positively disprove that caffeine affects fertility, why risk it? If you NEED your coffee, begin by replacing some of it daily with decaf. Eventually you can wean yourself off the caffeinated goodness.

Heavy bleeder? Load up on your iron now, because once baby sets up shop, you won’t be left with very much. Not to mention, if you go into pregnancy with low iron levels, you may develop post partum anemia, which will leave you feeling totally drained.

What about my baby daddy? Well, you can check out my article, Fertilize Your Man, but in the meantime, he can take a daily multivitamin that contains zinc and selenium for at least three months before conception. Why the three-month lag time? Because the sperm your honey ejaculates today was created over 90 days ago! It takes that long for sperm to fully develop and benefit from the supplementation.
Chinese medicine takes an energetic view of our bodies and our organs, meaning that bodily energy needs to move freely and stagnation causes problems. The energy of the kidney system is very important for reproduction. The philosophy behind a warming diet in traditional Chinese medicine is that it builds the energy and blood to have the strength to conceive, and carry out a healthy pregnancy. Following a warming diet also helps to increase blood circulation in the lower abdomen where the reproductive organs reside. By improving blood flow to this area, we are able to enhance fertility and tissue quality! A warming diet means consuming foods and drinks that are lightly cooked, as well as warm-propertied such as garlic, cinnamon, onions etc. A doctor of oriental medicine can help you determine if this dietary pattern is right for you. Below, I have outlined other dietary patterns that can improve fertility in both men and women.

For men and women, foods that nourish their kidney essence include: chicken or duck and eggs from both; seeds and nuts; oysters; seaweed and algae. For women, certain foods help nourish your bodies during the different phases of your cycle.

Foods that nourish Yin include: fruits such as raspberries, pineapples and grapes; vegetables such as asparagus and beans; adequate proteins, especially tofu and fish; and organ meats such as kidneys, brains and hearts. Avoid spicy, pungent foods.

Foods that nourish Yang include warming foods: ginger; ginger tea; beans; grains; and vegetables such as mustard greens, winter squash, cabbage and kale. Avoid ice cold drinks, ice cream and foods that are very cold. In general, it is a good idea to avoid ice water and ice cream during pregnancy attempts.

Foods that nourish blood include: fruits such as blackberries, raspberries and grapes; organic meats and poultry; soup stock made from the bones of the meat and poultry; and vegetables such as turnips, spinach and dark, leafy greens.

Love and serenity,

Dr. Zakes

About Dr. Carolina Zakes, DOM, AP

Fertility in women's health specialist.