How To Eat To Support Your Fertility

Whether you’re trying to conceive or are exploring fertility treatment, what you eat matters. Following her own fertility struggles, nutritional therapist Charlotte Grand now specialises in supporting women looking to optimise their fertility. From the role blood sugar plays to the importance of healthy fats, here’s what she wants you to know…
By Tor West /

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It All Starts With A Healthy Gut

“When you think about supporting your fertility, you may be focused on your reproductive system because we’re used to the idea that individual body systems can be treated in isolation. However, our bodies are far more complex and multiple systems work together for healthy fertility. Optimal digestion is vital for absorbing nutrients from your food, which in turn are essential for supporting fertility and a healthy pregnancy. If you’re not digesting and absorbing well, it doesn’t matter how healthy your diet is – it’s unlikely you’ll be getting the nutrients required to fully support your fertility. If you regularly experience bloating, wind, discomfort after eating, heartburn, stomach cramps, diarrhoea or constipation, skin problems like acne, rosacea and eczema, or have endometriosis, PCOS, or have struggled with implantation failure or unexplained fertility, consider taking steps to support your gut health. Eating a rich variety of vegetables (at least 30 different plants per week) and fermented foods is a good place to start. Also include food rich in nutrients that restore the gut lining, such as bone broth, slow-cooked meat on the bone and eggs.”

Optimal Digestion Relies On Relaxation

“Stress and anxiety shift you into fight or flight – in this state, your body prioritises survival, and digestion will be put on the back burner. The stress response can be triggered in a single instant, so it’s not ideal to eat while working, looking at your phone, or if you’re feeling anxious.”

Food Intolerances Could Play A Part

“Consistently eating foods you are sensitive to leaves the immune system in a constant state of alarm, resulting in a leaky gut and chronic inflammation. You may find that despite your best efforts to improve your health, you still don’t manage to conceive. By uncovering food sensitivities, you may dramatically improve your situation. If you suspect you may be sensitive to either gluten or dairy, you can test for sensitivity by removing each food group completely for at least 30 days. You can remove them altogether, but if this feels too overwhelming, remove one at a time. Then, add foods within each group back in systematically, each for two to three days at a time. Observe how you feel based on symptoms in the couple of hours after eating the food and over the next two to three days. If you experience any of the symptoms listed above, continue to avoid them, and try to reintroduce in another 30 days.” 

If you’re not digesting well, it DOESN'T MATTER HOW HEALTHY YOUR DIET IS – it’s unlikely you’ll be getting the nutrients required to support fertility.

Blood Sugar Is Linked To Egg Quality

“Diets high in sugar and simple carbohydrates correspond with an increased risk of ovulatory infertility. Insulin resistance is associated with poor follicle and egg cell development, implantation failure and poor embryo development. Blood sugar imbalances may also lead to increased production of the stress hormone cortisol, sex hormone imbalances and thyroid dysfunction, all of which can affect fertility. One of the most important changes you can make is to significantly reduce or remove sugar from your diet. To support balanced blood sugar, eat a protein-rich breakfast and include healthy fat such as avocado, nuts, nut butter or seeds; and aim for three well-balanced meals a day, containing high-quality protein, healthy fat and plenty of fibre.”

Avoiding White Carbs Can Help With PCOS

“If you have polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), it’s important to keep your blood sugar balanced by avoiding sugar and refined carbs as much as possible. Taking steps to support gut health, lower inflammation and support liver detoxification can also be helpful to support hormone balance. You can optimise liver function by eating plenty of cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, kale and watercress); high-quality protein with every meal (your liver needs protein for the amino acids that power its detoxification pathways); and healthy fats from olive oil, avocados, oily fish, nuts and seeds. These fats support bile production, which helps excrete toxins.” 

Your Thyroid Produces Hormones Too

“Normal thyroid function is essential to conceive and sustain a healthy pregnancy. An undiagnosed or poorly managed thyroid condition can affect fertility in various ways, resulting in anovulatory cycles (lack of ovulation), luteal phase defect, high prolactin levels and sex hormone imbalances. When your prolactin levels are high, this can interfere with normal production of other hormones, and affect fertility by preventing ovulation and causing irregular or missed periods. To support optimal thyroid function, ensure you are eating adequate iodine, iron, magnesium, selenium and zinc, which are needed to make thyroid hormones. Dulse seaweed flakes are a great source of iodine – include two teaspoons a day and sprinkle onto soups, salads or stir fries. Iron is also crucial – the most bioavailable iron is haem iron from red meat, the darker meat from poultry, oily fish and eggs. Iron is better absorbed with vitamin C, so include vitamin C-rich foods (berries, peppers, citrus, kiwi) at the same time.” 

Going Organic Can Help

“Switching to organic produce will minimise your exposure to pesticides and toxic metals and naturally increase nutrient density. If budget is an issue, look for organic frozen fruit and vegetables, which can be cheaper. Bear in mind that seasonal organic produce will cost less than vegetables that are out of season. Your body runs on nutrients from food, so it makes sense that good-quality food should provide the foundation of your nutritional intake. Growing a baby is hard work, so by eating a nutrient-rich diet you will equip yourself with the building blocks your body needs.” 

Liver Is Worth Including In Your Diet

“Liver and other organ meats are worth including in your diet if you eat meat. In particular, liver scores highly in the fertility stakes – gram for gram, it contains more nutrients than any other food. If you haven’t eaten liver before, start including it once a week and choose organic chicken liver, which has the mildest flavour. Hide small amounts in your favourite recipes by puréeing or freezing, grating and adding it to the pot for the last minute or two of cooking time. Liver works well in recipes like bolognese, chilli and curries.”

Eggs Are A Great Breakfast Choice

“Eggs are a rich source of complete protein and healthy fats, and the yolks contain an abundance of important fertility nutrients. Plus, eggs pair well with vegetables – for something different, try a turmeric-spiced frittata or green shakshuka. When planning meals, variety is key. I typically recommend eggs for breakfast, fish at lunch and then meat at dinner.”  

Growing a baby is HARD WORK, so by eating a NUTRIENT-RICH DIET you will equip yourself with the building blocks your body needs.

A Prenatal Multivitamin Is Essential

“A prenatal multivitamin is important because it provides a wide range of essential nutrients, helps build nutrient stores and correct deficiencies that may impact fertility and pregnancy. It could also be worth taking an additional vitamin D supplement as the amount found in most prenatal formulas is far less than we need daily. Deficiency is linked to a higher risk of infertility, poor outcomes during fertility treatment and chronic conditions that affect reproductive health like PCOS and endometriosis. Research shows that vitamin D3 is the best form to supplement with and 4000 IU is both a safe and effective dose for women who are trying to conceive or are already pregnant.” 

Where Possible, Reduce Your Plastic Use

“A growing body of evidence links certain chemicals to fertility issues. Endocrine disruptors appear to be the worst offenders in relation to fertility. These chemicals imitate our hormones and are found in human tissue in much higher concentrations than the hormones our bodies make. They can overstimulate, block or disrupt our hormones’ natural actions. It can feel overwhelming to reduce toxin exposure, but this is an area that can be fine-tuned over time. Start by storing leftovers in glass or ceramic instead of plastic containers; using a glass or stainless steel water bottle; replacing plastic wrap and tin foil with beeswax wrap or vegan food wrap; and replacing baking paper with plastic-free parchment.”

The Fertility Kitchen is available to buy now. For more information or to work with Charlotte, visit TheFertilityKitchen.co.uk & follow her @TheFertilityKitchen.

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