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ART Recovery (or Prep) – Case Study

by Beth Heller M.S. and Laura Dubrule, R.D., L.D.N.

At Pulling Down the Moon we will often recommend a “cleanse” diet following a miscarriage or failed ART cycle.  While a cleanse can, at times, entail the elimination of one or more common food allergens like dairy, wheat and soy, elimination is not the basis of our program.  More often than not our cleanse consists of limiting processed sugar and other processed foods, artificial additives and colors while focusing on foods that support our body’s anti-inflammatory and detoxification processes.  The cleanse program at Pulling Down the Moon is individualized and takes into consideration a woman (or man’s) past and present digestive function, hormonal and other symptoms, medical history and current lifestyle.

One key element of our program is supporting hormone balance.  After a failed ART cycle or a miscarriage, a woman’s body must re-establish hormonal balance and function.  It may have been months since her last natural menstrual cycle. Weight gain during treatment may also impact hormone balance.  Yet another common symptom reported by our patients post-ART is anxiety and a lasting case of “the blues.”   It’s very easy to attribute these emotional side-effects to disappointment but there may also be a physical component.   The hormone medications used during the stimulation phase of an ART cycle, and the progesterone supplementation post-IUI and ET, can cause emotional side effects and these hormones can be slow to leave the body.  The liver is charged with processing these steroids before they can be excreted.  To do this it requires ample amounts of amino acids (in particular sulphur-containing amino acids), as well as the vitamins and minerals that work as co-factors in detoxification pathways.

Our ART Recovery/Prep Program focuses on limiting sources of external hormones by discouraging foods that contain hormones and hormone-like substances.  Chief offenders in this area include factory-farmed dairy and meat products which contain the hormones and growth factors used in production.  There are also hormone-like chemicals in pesticides and plastics.  By limiting these external sources of hormone-like substances and increasing the intake of foods that support good hormone function (fiber, lignans and lignins, a range of whole grains – not just wheat! – , healthy fats, cruciferous vegetables, antioxidant rich fruits and veg and added-hormone-free protein) we have the potential to bolster our body’s ability to metabolize and excrete excess hormones and restore balance in the reproductive cycle.

Our Rockville nutritionists Laura Dubrule, R.D. recently  shared a case with me that drove this message home.

My patient is 43 and had experienced two failed IVF cycles in quick succession (6 months time).  Her physician had noted several potential factors contributing to failure including egg quality and endometrial lining quality.  In addition, the patient had recently been diagnosed with PCOS.  Since her last IVF the patient was unable to lose the 8 pounds gained during IVF treatment despite eating a healthy diet and working out four times per week.

We discussed the impact of IVF medications on hormone levels as well as the impact of various dietary choices on her body’s ability to break down and clear excess hormones. We focused especially on tweaking her already health-supporting diet to include significant amounts of cruciferous vegetables and berries every day as well as a daily serving  of legumes.  I suggested she add two supplements, RePro Cleanse and FlowPro, to her regimen as well as vitamin D.

I was very surprised when the patient returned for follow-up having lost 8 lbs over the preceding two weeks.  At Pulling Down the Moon we are extremely careful not to encourage rapid weight loss but upon review of my patient’s diet it was clear that a reduction in calories was not a major factor in her weight loss. The patient reported feeling that the weight came off her abdominal area, that she had lost a bloated feeling, and that her clothes fit the way they used to.

The patient also told me about the resolution of another symptom she hadn’t mentioned in our initial consult. She had been experiencing high levels of anxiety while driving, especially on the highway.  This was not her experience historically, but had been a recent development.  Over the course of the two-week cleanse, this driving anxiety completely disappeared.

While we can’t be certain, we suspect that this rapid loss of water weight and alleviation of anxiety may have been due to an increased clearance of excess steroid hormones that had been circulating in her system.   Whatever the reason, the result was excellent.  While there is still work ahead, my patient is very pleased with the results of her cleanse and feels more like herself than she has in months.  We both agreed that anything we could do to reduce the lingering effects of ART would only help her feel more prepared for her next round of treatment.

We believe that a nutritional consultation can make a big difference in the fertility journey.   Our consultations are available in person in Chicago and the DC Metro area and by phone from almost anywhere else.  Call 312-321-0004 (Chicago) or 301-610-7755 (Rockville) for information.

RePro Cleanse includes kudzu, flax, rice protein and other micronutrients that support the liver’s detoxification processes. Because it contains plant estrogens and is designed to help balance and promote clearance of excess reproductive hormones, we do not use RePro Cleanse when a woman is on fertility medications or birth control.  We often recommend supplementation with Re Pro Cleanse when women are recovering from a failed cycle or miscarriage, or in cases of hormone-related conditions like fibroids or endometriosis.  We will also use RePro Cleanse when a woman’s IVF cycle is cancelled/postponed due to high baseline estrogen levels.   Used as directed over a period of 2-4 weeks we feel that this supplement can help jump start a woman’s recovery process in preparation for a subsequent cycle, be it ART or natural.  Of course we recommend that our patients clear any/all supplements with their physicians.

About Laura Dubrule

Laura brings an eclectic mix of passions to her nutrition counseling. Her years studying acting in New York taught her the importance of connecting with our bodies; this deep sense is fundamental to her understanding of diet and nutrition. Laura completed the program in Nutrition and Food Science at Hunter College in New York, and then went on to complete her dietetic internship at Stony Brook University, a program with an integrative and functional approach. She returned to the city and practiced in a worksite wellness program, delivering individualized nutrition counseling to bank employees in Manhattan and Brooklyn. Her vision for her clients could be called “whole foods meet real world.” She believes that food is meant to be enjoyed and works with her clients to find healthful approaches to eating that are satisfying and enjoyable.
Laura is thrilled to be working in concert with acupuncture, yoga and massage professionals because she believes that the nourishment and care of our hearts and souls is integral to the nourishment of our bodies. She considers it a privilege to be a resource to men and women on their fertility journeys and to celebrate every step long that path as an act of love and creation.