Top 5 Fertility Tips

Top 5 Fertility Tips from a Nutritionist via Food by Mars

When I reflect back at all that I’ve learned and tried when it comes to fertility in my own personal journey and via nutrition school, I have to seriously GO BACK TO THE BASICS. Before we get caught up with all the herbs, pills, and all the rest… there is some serious foundational ground to cover. I’m sharing my 5 top fertility tips that are crucial to your health and without these… it’s common to still struggle even with all the add-ons. Believe me, I’ve been there and am sharing what finally unlocked the door for me. That’s not to say there aren’t some great interventions and help to try, but my recommendation is to use the below tips to boost fertility naturally and let it serve as a checklist FIRST and FOREMOST. Use it to make sure you’re feeling pretty good about the path you’re on with each as your foundation before you build the house.

Top 5 Fertility Tips from a Nutritionist via Food by Mars

free AIP PALEO MEAL PLAN AND MEAL PREP GUIDE

ONE. Balance Your Blood Sugar

What does blood sugar have to do with fertility? SO MUCH. Because your blood sugar health is foundational to your hormone health and thus, fertility. I grew up on the Standard American Diet… cereal for breakfast, a sandwich for lunch with chips, meat and potatoes or rice for dinner with some sad microwaved vegetables doused in Ranch dressing to get me to eat them. As I grew up, went to college, and started wanting to feel and look good… I knew nutrition had to be an important piece of that. So I like most of us, started experimenting. I tried smoothies, whole wheat wraps, and 100 calorie packs. Cut to NOW when I know that clearly wasn’t “it” either because I was still eating highly inflammatory foods and way too much sugar. I had no idea how much sugar was in my caramel macchiato I used to keep me awake for early classes and internships, and eventually my job! I didn’t realize all the preservatives lurking in my Lean Cuisines… or that the smoothies I thought were healthy, were PACKED with sugar from not just fruit, but additives.

So cut to YEARS later of me trying to navigate all that, wondering why a lifetime of painful periods and PCOS plagued me and being on the birth control pill as my “only option”… I finally had enough.

I started eating more Paleo in style for food sensitivities which helped with so many things… but I still wasn’t quite there. When I learned that balancing my blood sugar was the key to helping my menstrual issues, energy, and hormones… it was a huge AHA-moment for me. Everything changed from that moment on. I ditched the sweet, high-carb breakfasts and opted for high-quality protein, fats, and greens… or as I like to call it “START SAVORY” (click here for a FREE start savory download).

This immediately sets you on a path for success in the morning and means you won’t be spiking your blood sugar first thing in the morning. If you’re thinking, “I thought I should have a lot of carbs int he morning to burn it off all day”, yet you’re struggling with hormones and fertility… I’m going to ask you to banish that thinking for a second and TRY ANOTHER WAY. You may have insulin resistance or sensitivity, and not realize how much sugar in the morning is okay for you. So by taking it out of the equation by having unsweetened coffee/tea, with protein, fat and lower carbs… your body may likely respond extremely well to this type of Adrenal reset.

Beyond breakfast, I’d focus on staying well-hydrated in between meals and have 1 or 2 starchy carbs at lunch and dinner along with again, the high-quality proteins and fats to keep me energized, satiated, and strong.

ditched refined sugar for reals, and took it easy with all the “Paleo treats” to supplement what I was really missing… comfort; and instead, crowded it out with WHOLE FOODS. Fruit and 90% dark chocolate became my desserts that I’d enjoy frequently without spiking my blood sugar. And of course, on occasion, homemade treats where I could control the sweetness. Before long, my SUPER painful periods started to ease up a bit.

My energy improved. My mood improved. And I could think more clearly.

On the inside, what this was effectively doing was removing a MAJOR STRESS to my body, thus recruiting my adrenals too much = SUGAR. The constant spikes we endure on a Standard American Diet or even a “healthy” but high sugar diet… leads to massive stress on the adrenals, forcing your body to prioritize your adrenals ABOVE it all. “Sorry, ovaries — not enough progesterone and estrogen for you this month, because we need to give everything we’ve got to the adrenals to make cortisol, adrenaline, and noradrenaline… ya know, to keep you ALIVE.” — The body is EXTREMELY smart at prioritizing a vital function, our fight or flight state that support the kind of lifestyle we have when we are riding the blood sugar rollercoaster all day.

BREAK THAT CYCLE. 

KNOW WHAT’S IN YOUR FOOD AND DITCH THE REFINED SUGAR.

START SAVORY.

CROWD YOUR WORLD WITH WHOLE FOODS, FRUITS, AND VEGETABLES AND MINIMAL SUGAR, even the “healthy” sweets/sugars – leave them as they are, OCCASIONAL TREATS.

Is it easy? Heck no! But you CAN do it.

4-week reset balance blood sugar


TWO. Food as Medicine

When our hormones are out of balance, that means we may have MORE of some things, and LESS of others. To help normalize this, our body naturally detoxes. Too much estrogen? No problem, let’s flush that right out! Unless… your body is so bombarded by the caffeine, alcohol, meds, and whatever else that it just can’t do it all, right? 

To help with this, you can support detox and elimination by adding in detoxifying foods that are packed with nutrients and fiber, some of my favorites include:

  • bitter, leafy greens (dandelion, arugula, kale)
  • cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, etc.)
  • beets
  • broccoli sprouts
  • chia seeds
  • flax seeds

You also want to make sure you’re getting your fatty acids in, this is huge in supporting health at the cellular level… because our cells are literally WRAPPED IN FAT! So we need those good, healthful fats to support us at the most minute level. It’s also crucial for hormone health, blood sugar regulation, and much more. Here are some favorite sources to mix up…

  • wild-caught salmon (with the skin or grey part)
  • animal fats (tallow, lard to cook with from sustainably sourced, grass-fed and finished animals would be best)
  • ghee (clarified butter, ideal for lactose-intolerance instead of butter)
  • extra-virgin olive oil (raw or minimally heated is ideal; if cooking with it, just don’t let it smoke or you’ll ruin it)
  • virgin coconut oil (better to cook with or use raw)
  • coconut milk (full-fat, unsweetened)
  • a serving of nuts like almonds, cashews, brazil nuts, etc. 

Another biggie is protein (just the building blocks of our muscles, no big deal) and IRON. I used to be anemic and guys, it wasn’t fun. Iron is hugely important to fertility AND pregnancy. The most bio-available and easily used iron is from animal sources such as the liver. If you absolutely can’t eat it, I’d recommend supplementing with it especially if you’re low.

  • grass-fed and finished red meat such as beef, lamb, bison (if beef constipates you, bison or lamb are great alternatives)
  • organic, pasture-raised poultry and eggs
  • wild-caught fish (preferably lower in mercury)

See where I shop to save money on these ingredients in the article below

eat healthy on a budget

Lastly, Seed Cycling

It’s a great way to use food as medicine that is gentle on the body and supports what your body naturally wants to do. I tried this for several months and it really helped with regulating my cycle a bit more. Plus it was really easy! You can have fun with it and make little balls and recipes with the seeds, or just take it easy and toss the seeds on top of your breakfast each morning! Below is how it works, and you can learn more here.

{Boosting Estrogen} The first 14 days of your cycle (starting with Day 1 of your menstruation), preferably at the same time each day so it’s easy to remember, you’ll eat 1 Tablespoon of each:

  • GROUND FLAXSEED
  • GROUND PUMPKIN SEEDS

{Boosting Progesterone} The remaining days of your cycle (mine was often longer than another 14 days…), you’ll eat 1 Tablespoon of each:

  • GROUND SUNFLOWER SEEDS
  • GROUND SESAME SEEDS

You can simply buy these seeds whole, store them in the fridge to keep them fresh, and grind them up for the week (just pulse in a food processor). Then, use them as a topping to your savory breakfasts! That’s what I did to keep it simple and consistent.


THREE. Know Your Body

It really saddens me to know how LITTLE women tend to understand their own bodies. In health class, which is sometimes ALL THE EDUCATION we get on our bodies… it was all about how to NOT get pregnant by exploring birth control options. Cool, thanks – anything else though?

YES. LIKE A LOT MORE.

My whole life, I was told I just had a “bad period” and more recently, a “low thyroid” with my Hashimoto’s and brushed aside with pills. I grew tired of that treatment from society and knew that both conditions I had were going to make it more challenging to get pregnant… I wasn’t about to take that lying down, not anymore. It really drove me to want to understand my body that much more! And I’m sure you’re reading this right now because you’re feeling the same way! These are my must-have reads to get schooled:

And of course, I had to get on the road to healing my Hashimoto’s.

I had it in my head that I had to be fully in remission to get pregnant, but that certainly wasn’t the case for me or many women. Always get your thyroid checked, PLEASE before you conceive. Just know what you’re dealing with, because you don’t want to find out mid-way during pregnancy if you can avoid it. Read my article here to learn more about my recommendations for managing Hashimoto’s Disease and thyroid issues.

Lastly, I got some support by way of technology.

Three months before conceiving naturally, I started using the AVA fertility tracker to help me even more with understanding what days I was fertile or not. Since things weren’t yet “perfect” (my cycle was still not super predictable, etc.), I wanted to try it out and knew it might take a little longer for the watch to predict my fertile days. Well, very much to my surprise… I got pregnant way earlier than I thought I would! Using multiple factors vs. just the basal body temperature (which was a challenge for me to do with thyroid issues), this thing hits the nail on the head. I also have a discount code below if you’re interested in trying it!


You can learn more about the AVA tracker here.

Use code BYMARSBLOG for $20 off at avawomen.com *

For anyone like me with fertility challenges, PCOS, Hashimoto’s, and/or irregular menstrual cycles, you can read more here about using AVA in conjunction with that.


FOUR. Manage Your Stress with Relaxing Activities, Self-care, Movement, Sleep, and Meditation.

Remember the “fight or flight” state I talked about with sugar stressing the body out? Well, how about all your other stress? Perceived, underground or otherwise… we all have it. And this perhaps can be the most challenging of all because it’s not food on a plate to control. It’s sometimes nebulous, it’s sometimes disconnected, and we are SO used to it by now. This is where proactive stress management comes into play. It’s not just about how to handle stress when it happens (because it will, so don’t wait)… it’s about proactively planning for it by building in stress management to our daily lives.

One way I love to do with is with a daily 10-minute meditation and yoga. You can try a meditation app (I love the CALM app and EXPECTFUL app for fertility and pregnancy), try it still or walking, whatever suits you! Schedule your self-care time in so it ACTUALLY HAPPENS like an appointment on your calendar. Find joy in your movement (not just kicking your own ass at the gym – ask yourself if that’s actually causing more stress than anything…) and of course just fun, relaxing activities like meeting up with a friend for tea or calling up someone you haven’t spoken to in a while.

Can we also really chat about SLEEP for a second? We NEED IT consistently. Some people find pairing meditation at night before bed helps them unwind for sleep, creating a general routine of shutting off all the lights and resting for a couple of hours leading up to sleep is important to get your body ready as well. We are so over-stimulated all the time and it’s hard to unwind… dim lights on devices, set a device curfew and use an alarm clock instead of your phone in your room.

Evaluate what makes you happy and what or who is toxic in your life that needs to go.

How many times have you heard “and once I moved, quit my job, got a pet, etc. – I just got pregnant… so much time is spent worrying while trying to conceive when it’s stressful and we’re trying to get our health in a good spot, but we forget one of the most important keys to all of this is JUST LETTING GO and TRUSTING OUR BODY to do its thing.

I personally got pregnant the second I leaped into my dream career head first, full-time and walked away from my previous career that was comfortable, stable, and paid well… I was mortified but knew the stress of working 3 jobs and spending most of my time somewhere that didn’t bring me joy was really draining me. It was time, and literally 2 weeks later, we unknowingly conceived. Of course, you can see all the other things I put into place leading up to that… with food/nutrition and managing my autoimmune disease, but without the stress management… I’d just be at the door without the key (so to speak). Stress blocks us from so much, and our body will literally perceive us as being in too much danger to be able to have a baby. This is a primal instinct to not bring a newborn into danger… so whether it’s work stress, toxic relationships, or whatever… it’s the same stress on the body as if you were on the run in the woods, basically.


FIVE. Have sex

Let’s just state the obvious, yet not so obvious thing here people… you need to have sex to get pregnant. I have this listed as my 5th tip because when everything above is OUT OF WHACK… so might our libidos. When trying to get pregnant becomes a job, there’s nothing relaxing or FERTILE about it! So re-read that part about stress management above, because I really, really mean it. And it’s not JUST about you… it’s about your partner, too. They might be feeling the pressure and stress whether you know it or not, causing their libido to decline.

Can you take a trip to freshen things up and get a change of scenery?

Can you talk it out? Vent?

Can you make sex more about the love you have for each other and less about “fertile days”?

Can you carve in more frequent “date nights”?

What is going to move the needle here? Brainstorm solo, together, whatever… just get it done! Loosen up.


Don’t let this list overwhelm you! Trying just 1 or 2 things in EACH of the 5 areas will already strengthen fertility. Do what’s manageable so you don’t create more “to-do lists” and more stress in your life. Evaluate where you’re mostly lacking and prioritize that first.

 

Photos of me by Stephanie Cowan

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