Laura Thompson is a local Nutritional Therapist, Acupuncturist and creator of the Healthy Gut Plan, offering advice on a range of health issues
Fertility is often something that we take for granted, putting off starting a family until we have that great career, house or even because we just haven't met that perfect partner to settle down with.
However, for 15% of couples infertility is a real problem. A woman's fertility begins to dip from the age of 30. Recently many women have started to freeze their eggs in an attempt to protect their chances of having a baby. A bit radical and expensive, but it is gaining popularity.
I have specialised in treating infertility for many years, combining good nutrition with acupuncture to help improve a couple’s chances of conceiving and to help with assisted fertility practices like IVF, which can be very rewarding but can sometimes be disappointing as not every couple has been successful.
So what can you do to boost your fertility naturally?
First of all, for your body to even begin to reproduce you need to be in good health. Here are some ways to ensure that:
* Eat foods high in Antioxidants. These are compounds produced in your body and found in foods. They are important for defending your cells from damage caused by potentially harmful molecules known as free radicals. When there is an increase in free radicals they may cause damage to your body, increasing your risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes and cancer.
A lot of foods that contain antioxidants are rich in colour. Here are just a few:
- Dark Chocolate: great for those chocoholics but this means a cocoa content of 85% - not the sweet dairy kind!
- Blueberries, blackberries and blackcurrants are low in calories and a great source of fibre - perfect for feeding those friendly bacteria in the gut.
- Green, leafy vegetables such as spinach, kale and cabbages.
- Carrots, sweet potatoes and squash.
- Beetroots, avocados an pomegranates.
The list is too long to go through but as a rule of thumb, add as much colour as you can to your diet.
* It is important to be a healthy weight - not too skinny or too fat. Reduce your intake of saturated fats and trans-fats , these are in a lot of processed foods and takeaways.
* Be sure, however, to consume plenty of the good fats such as oily fish , flax seeds, nuts and avocados.
* Exercise regularly but do not overdo it.
* Avoid stress as much as possible; take up yoga or practice mindfulness.
* Avoid Alcohol.
* Stop smoking .
* Reduce caffeine.
* For men, avoid wearing tight underwear and jeans (keeping the testes cool is very important).
* There are some supplements that can help to improve fertility but nothing replaces a healthy diet, here are a few to try:
- Zinc is very important for healthy sperm and often lacking in our diets due to intensive farming methods.
- Selenium assists with cognitive function and fertility. Often lacking in people with thyroid conditions.
- Folic Acid is an absolute must for every woman considering a pregnancy. It reduces the risk of birth defects and may lower the risk of pre eclampsia and early labour.
- Magnesium is great for relaxation and controlling blood pressure. When undergoing fertility treatments, such as IVF, magnesium can increase the chances of a successful conception and healthy pregnancy.
- Fish oil: it is worth spending more for a quality product harvested from a clean source (check with your health food shop)
- Probiotic is essential: I use one called Merlak but there are several good ones on the market.
* Always have a thorough check up with your doctor, particularly checking your thyroid function, many women suffer from thyroid issues which can affect fertility. Also conditions like Poly Cystic Ovaries and Endometriosis can be a factor so some medical intervention may be required.
* Acupuncture is great for fertility, it regulates the flow of energy in your body and helps bring it back into balance. In the treatment of fertility specifically, it helps to increase blood flow to the uterus, regulate reproductive hormones and reduce inflammation to increase chances of pregnancy.
Finally, try not to get too stressed: stress will make conception much harder.