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Lifestyle and Nutritional Guidelines to Enhance Your Fertility

Posted on January 23rd, 2013 by | 3 views
Suzanne Connole L.Ac.
Acupuncture and Chinese Herbs 108 Greenwich Street, 6th Floor New York, NY 10006 (917) [email protected]

written by Suzanne Connole, L.Ac.

There is an incredible amount of information and misinformation available to prospective parents: what to eat, what not to eat, what supplements to take, what to do and not do. And if you are having difficulty conceiving the terrain can become very confusing. Before diving into complex and invasive fertility testing, try making these simple lifestyle changes first. These guidelines are based on Traditional Chinese medicinal principles as well as modern medical research. The key is to eat sensibly and in moderation and to simplify life in order to achieve balance and health. These guidelines are suggested for both men and women.

Remember that everything you do now affects the quality your pregnancy and the health of your child. Healthy, happy and well-nourished parents will result in healthy babies!


Jing is the Chinese medicine term for the substance that is our life spring. It is often translated as essence, meaning the root or core of our being. Inherited from our parents, it sustains us through life and its cycles of development. It acts as a reserve in times of stress or deprivation. It is responsible for reproduction, and therefore the health of our children. In its physical form it is the egg and the sperm and the actual DNA that will develop into the embryo. The health of these requires the health and strength of the whole body. Healthy Jing is essential to achieving conception and healthy pregnancy.

The processes of life naturally consume Jing as we get older. Severe stress on the body throughout life can increase consumption of this vital energy. Injury, sickness, trauma, sleep deprivation, drug and alcohol use, and excessive activity can consume jing. It is essential to conserve and protect this essence by living a balanced life with proper rest and nutrition. This will be you child's inheritance; it will define his or her health, quality of life, and future reproduction.

Nutrition for Conception

General nutritional guidelines:

  •  - Whole foods, unprocessed and organic as often as possible. Meats and dairy products should be hormone and antibiotic free. When in doubt think unprocessed, unpackaged food that is as close to the source as possible.
  •  - Eat a wide variety of foods to ensure the full spectrum of vitamins and minerals. No one food or vitamin can get you pregnant! Focus on large amounts of fresh fruits and vegetables in different color groups balanced with whole grains and proteins.


Things to avoid:

  •  - Excess amounts of alcohol and all recreational drugs. Alcohol damages sperm and increases risk of miscarriage and birth defects.
  •  - Stop smoking! Nicotine restricts blood flow to reproductive organs, lowers sperm counts, lowers estrogen levels, and increases risk of miscarriage. .
  •  - Avoid all caffeine: studies have shown that high caffeine intake slows conception in women.
  •  - Avoid anti-inflammatory drugs: this includes both prescription painkillers and over the counter drugs; they can delay ovulation.
  •  - Avoid copper and aluminum cookware
  •  - Avoid chemical cleaning agents and pesticides as much as possible.


Nourishing Jing

  •  - Eggs (chicken, duck, fish), bee pollen, nuts and seeds, soups and stocks made from bones with marrow, oysters, seaweeds and algae, small fish with bones.


Specific Nutrients:

  •  - Calcium: Use only high quality dairy products: organic and whole fat (skim milk is devoid of the fat and enzymes needed for calcium absorption) Fermented dairy products are easier to digest: yogurt, cottage cheese, buttermilk. Goat's milk products are best.
  •  - Get sufficient vitamin D from sunshine: ideal is 20% of the skin for thirty minutes/day.
  •  - Eat calcium/magnesium and chlorophyll rich foods: grains, legumes, leafy greens and seaweeds.
  •  - Folic acid: asparagus, beets, broccoli, spinach, avocado, peas, brussel sprouts, lentils, soybeans, and oranges
  •  - Iron: apricots, clams, tofu, chickpea, lamb, beef, amaranth, prunes, oysters, crab, quinoa, and leafy greens, dried fruits
  •  - Vitamin E: broccoli, avocado, sunflower seeds, brazil nuts, peanuts, mangoes, almonds
  •  - Proteins: amino acids are the building blocks of cells: get high quality protein from organic meats, eggs, cheese, legumes
  •  - Fats: polyunsaturated fats are essential for hormonal health and fetal development. Get fats from olive oil, nuts and seeds, avocadoes, meat and eggs. Avoid saturated fats.
  •  - B-Vitamins: meat, poultry, fish, dairy products, nuts, seeds, green vegetables, legumes, oranges, bananas, avocado, whole grains
  •  - Vitamin C: citrus, tomatoes, red pepper, strawberries, kiwi


Weight is an important factor in our hormone balance and therefore our reproductive health. Restriction of caloric intake has an immediate effect on the pituitary hormones, which act on the ovaries. Extreme weight loss can cause irregular ovulation or cessation of ovulation completely. Low body fat is also an issue for many women. While active women and athletes may maintain healthy body weight, the excessive exercise may result in very low body fat. Body fat is necessary for proper storage and release of estrogen. Women should have between 17-25% body fat for healthy reproductive function. 20% is ideal for the average woman. If a woman insists on very low weight her body may decide that it cannot support the nutritional and caloric requirements of pregnancy and breastfeeding. Remember that our reproductive systems are not necessary for survival of the organism. It will shut down or function below optimum levels if there is not enough nutrition for all body systems.

On the other hand, excessive weight can also cause difficulties with hormonal functions. Metabolism and circulation is inhibited with excessive weight and can result in conditions like polycystic ovary syndrome, and other anovulatory conditions. Accumulation of fat in the body also leads to poor digestion and absorption. In Chinese medicine terms proper digestion is needed for the production of qi and blood, which fuel our bodies systems.


Very often a woman will have a complete fertility work-up and, be told there is nothing wrong, and yet she is still having trouble conceiving. At this point it is necessary to look at stress levels. While stress levels may not be visible on tests that conventional medicine performs, Chinese medicine doctors look at the more sublet manifestations of stress on the body. Consistent daily stress causes the release and build-up of stress hormones in the body, which can affect the balance of reproductive hormones. Mental stress can affect the circulation of the heart and liver which fertility depends on. Stress can cause stagnation and tension resulting in muscle spasms, narrowing of fallopian tubes, and unsmooth ovulation.

Focus on simplifying life, make changes now: shorten your hours, get more rest, and cut back on socializing or extracurricular activities. Try massage, acupuncture, and meditation to calm and relax the nervous system. By following a routine and creating a regular rhythm to life with a balance of work, play, and rest stress levels will reduce. In addition, you will feel better and be healthier. Basically give yourself a break, listen to your body, and it will respond in kind.


Sleep is the most important thing you can do for yourself, your pregnancy and your child. The benefits of good quality and quantity of sleep are often underrated in our culture and sleep deprivation is common and everyday. 8-9 hours a night is crucial to recuperating the body's stores of energy. 5 hours a night during the week and then sleeping all weekend does not make up for daily quality sleep. Lack of sufficient sleep affects the body's ability to metabolize food and nutrients, manage stress, balance hormones and keep immunity strong.


According to Chinese medicine principles, nothing will grow in a cold field, so be sure to keep your belly warm. This means not ingesting very cold beverages and food. Icy foods can cause qi circulation to stagnate in the abdomen leading to malfunctioning of body systems, including reproduction. In addition one should be sure to protect the abdomen and lower back from very cold temperatures by wearing clothes that cover the area. This is especially a danger in the summer when clothing becomes lighter but indoor air conditioning can be very cool.


Make space in your life for a new family member. This can be physically clearing space in the house or just making time in your life for it. Pregnancy, childbirth, breastfeeding and then having a baby will make significant demands on your time and energy. By starting to give up some things now you will be more prepared for the lifestyle changes later. And most importantly: make space in your heart for a new life.

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