Omega-3 Fatty Acids: Impact on Fertility

By Margaret Eich, MS, RDN

In recent years, we’ve been learning about the impact of quality of fats on our health. The focus should be on including healthy fats, instead of on following a low fat diet. The same is true for fertility. We learned in the Nurses’ Health Study that higher intake of trans fats was associated with ovulatory infertility. In addition, omega-3 fatty acids seem to impact fertility in a variety of ways.

Let’s back up and review the different types of omega-3 fatty acids. The plant source omega-3 fatty acid (like walnuts, chia seeds, and flaxseed) is called alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), and the animal source omega-3 fatty acids (like cold water fatty fish, eggs, and grassfed beef) are EPA and DHA. EPA and DHA may have beneficial impacts on our health and fertility. Our body is able to convert a small amount of ALA into EPA and DHA, but this conversion is inefficient. Going right to the source by getting EPA and DHA from fish, eggs, and supplements is your best bet.

Studies have looked at the impact of omega-3 fatty acids on embryo quality, PCOS, endometriosis, and sperm quality. Higher intake of omega-3 fatty acids has been associated with better embryo quality when doing IVF. An additional animal study showed similar results. In a randomized controlled trial of men with low sperm count, motility, and morphology, EPA and DHA supplementation improved all three of these sperm parameters compared to placebo. In PCOS, omega-3 fatty acids may help lower LDL cholesterol and triglycerides and reduce insulin resistance. Higher intakes of omega-3 fatty acids have also been associated with lower risk for endometriosis, and in an animal model of endometriosis, omega-3 fatty acids helped induced regression of endometriosis lesions.

Omega-3 fatty acids, EPA and DHA, have many potential fertility benefits. Eating low mercury fatty fish is beneficial, however it’s important to keep even low mercury fish intake to 12 oz per week. Thus EPA and DHA supplementation is often recommended in order to take in omega-3 fatty acids on a daily basis.

Try our EPA/DHA in July and save 20% while supplies last!  Use promo code EPA20 when checking out in our online store here.

References

Hammiche F, Vujkovic M, Wijburg W, et al. Increased preconception omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid intake improves embryo morphology. Fertility and Sterility. 2011; 95(5):1820-1823.

Yang K, Zeng L, Bao T, et al. Effectiveness of omega-3 fatty acids for polycystic ovarian syndrome: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Reprod Biol Endocrinol. 2018;16:27.

Safarinejad MR. Effect of omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid supplementation on semen profile and enzymatic antioxidant capacity of seminal plasma in infertile men with idiopathic oligoasthenoteratospermia: a double-blind, placebo-controlled, randomized trial. Andrologia. 2010;43:38-47.

Summer Produce to Help Maximize Your Fertility

By Margaret Eich, MS, RDN

Now that late summer is here, the local produce is abundant. Visit your local farmer’s market for the best tomatoes of the year, and stock up on some raspberries and zucchini. These summer fruits and vegetables can help support your overall health and fertility. Check out some specific items to emphasize below:

Summer Fruit: Berries pack a strong antioxidant punch and tend to be high on the priority list of farmer’s market shoppers. Watermelon, cherries, and peaches also grow here in the Midwest, and the juicy summer sweetness makes for great desserts without the added sugar.

Broccoli and Kale: These cruciferous vegetables may help balance estrogen levels and contain important nutrients like calcium, folate, and vitamin C.

Zucchini: Zucchini tends to be abundant and cheap at the farmer’s market. Use a spiralizer to make zoodles (zucchini “noodles”) and top with chicken or white beans, pesto, fresh tomatoes, and sautéed kale for a nutrient-rich summer meal.

Herbs: Don’t forget the herbs like chives, cilantro, oregano, basil, and dill. Herbs are antioxidant-rich and thus may help to prevent free radical damage to eggs and sperm. Add any of these herbs to salads, salad dressings, or eggs for extra flavor. Use basil to make pesto or in Thai dishes with cilantro. Use cilantro in tacos or other Mexican dishes.

Eggs: You can get some of the best eggs at the farmer’s market – the kind of eggs that come from chickens that have been running around eating bugs and vegetable scraps. These eggs have a deep orange yolk, due to higher levels of beta-carotene. Eggs are a healthy and nutrient-rich protein source and are great way to ensure you get enough protein at breakfast.

Learn more about healthy exercise and nutrition while trying to conceive, during pregnancy, and beyond at the Two Week Walk with co-founder, Beth Heller!  Reserve your spot here.

Keeping Your Fertility Friendly Eating Going During the Summer Months

By Margaret Eich, MS, RDN

It’s both easier and harder to eat healthy during the summer. Local fruits and vegetables are abundant, especially leafy and greens and berries, which are nutritional powerhouses. On the other hand, there are also lots of opportunities for less healthy options due to eating more meals out on vacations and attending more parties and barbecues.

The key is not to take the enjoyment of these events, but to make choices that are consistent with your goals with the knowledge that there is no such thing as the perfect diet, and that it’s perfectly fine and normal to indulge sometimes. That being said, what’s the best way to handle events during the summer? Follow these tips, and see what you can apply to your life:

Have a plan in mind for events or meals out. Often when we’ve decided ahead of time what we plan to eat, it goes better than when we make decisions in the moment. When eating out at restaurant, check the menu online ahead of time. At  other events, try to load up your half your plate with vegetables.

Bring a healthy dish. Potlucks tend to be light on the veggies, so bring a veggie dish if you can. Alternatively, bring fruit or a healthy protein.

Manage your appetite. Make sure you don’t arrive to restaurants, parties, or events ravenously hungry. When we’re overly hungry, it’s SO much harder to make healthier food choices, and it’s much easier to overeat.

When you’re on vacation, rent a place with a kitchen. That way, you can prepare some of your own meals. Seek out a local farmers market for fruits and vegetables, and pick up some local fresh fish if you’re somewhere on the water. Make a point of prepping 1-2 meals per day where you’re staying, so that you can have healthier options and feel your best.

On road trips, you use apps to find restaurants nearby. Using the signs on the freeway pretty much ensures you’ll be eating at fast food restaurants. Apps like Yelp will show you what restaurants are nearby, and you can even peruse menu from the car (not while you’re driving, of course) and get directions.

Remember to keep it all in perspective. What you eat most of the time is what matters the most to your health and fertility. Eating also shouldn’t be a source of stress in our already stressful lives, so do your best and let the rest go. It’s ok and totally normal to indulge and eat more meals at restaurants on vacation. Choose healthier options most of the time, indulge sometimes, and eat until your satisfied, but not overly full, and make peace with your decisions without guilt.

 

Looking for more ways to use your diet to positively impact your fertility or to fit healthy eating into your busy life, book a nutrition appointment today!

 

Fast Food, Fruit, and Your Fertility

By Margaret Eich, MS, RDN

A recent study looked at women’s diets while they were trying to conceive and found that certain aspects of their diet impacted their fertility. 5628 women with no previous pregnancies recalled their intake of certain foods leading up to conception when they were 14-16 weeks pregnant. The two factors that were found to impact time to pregnancy (how long it took to get pregnant) were fast food intake and fruit intake.

Fruit

Eating fruit 1-3 times per month as compared to 1-6 times per week was associated with an 11% increase in time to pregnancy. Eating fruit 1-3 times per month compared to 3 times daily was associated with 19% longer time to pregnancy.

Fast food

Eating fast food at least 4 times per week was associated with a 24% increase in time to pregnancy as compared to women who eat no fast food.  Risk of infertility was 41% higher in the group of women who ate fast food at least 4 times per week compared to those who ate no fast food.

It’s important to keep these results in perspective, as the time to pregnancy increase with high fast food intake or low fruit consumption was only about 0.6-0.9 months, which isn’t a huge difference. The increase in risk of infertility is definitely concerning. The bottom line is that we already know that fast food is harmful to our overall health, but it is also seems to impact fertility, which could be through the intake of unhealthy fats in fried foods and just a generally nutrient poor diet high in refined carbs and added sugars.

It’s important not to stress when you read these studies! Fertility is affected by many factors, so worrying about your fast food intake or lack of fruit intake is definitely counterproductive. Instead look forward and work on small changes that that will improve your overall health and potentially your fertility moving forward.

If you are eating fast food regularly, focus on one step you could make towards healthier eating. It could be cooking up 1 one-pot meal with leftovers per week, such as soup or chili that you could eat for multiple meals during the week. Alternatively, it could be choosing healthier fast food options with more whole foods such as tacos, a salad with protein, or a burrito bowls that include vegetables and omits fried foods. Adding some fruit can be as simple as taking the step of bringing an easy fruit with you to work or adding a fruit after dinner in the evening. Clementines, bananas, and apples are all pretty easy and portable. Berries pack a good antioxidant punch and would also make a great addition.

Need help making changes to your diet to maximize your fertility? Schedule a nutrition appointment today! Get outside this summer with others TTC and learn more about nutrition for fertility with Mia Zarlengo at the FREE Two Week Walk event in Chicago on July 21st! 

 

Is it Hot in Here?!

By Dr Helena Para LAc, DACM, MSTOM

With the quickly approaching summer, and Chicago’s humid tendencies already underway, some people may be getting concerned about staying cool. One such population would be women with a tendency towards hot flashes. While we most often associate hot flashes with menopause and ladies over 45, there are other reasons for this bothersome temperature dysregulation. Pregnancy, menstruation, premature menopause and anxiety can all be causes of hot flashes, and some individuals are just heat intolerant overall. Interestingly, Traditional Chinese Medicine pays particular attention to your body’s internal and external temperature, and you may find that your acupuncturist often asks about temperature even when you don’t have any complaints associated with it.

The best way to balance temperature and clear heat is the integration of acupuncture into your health care routine. Your acupuncturist can determine the root cause of the fluctuations you are experiencing and bring your body back into balance. If you want to carry on the heat clearing outside of the treatment room- you can also eat foods that are “cooling” in nature.

Alfalfa sprouts Apple

Artichoke Apricot

Asparagus Avocado

Bamboo Shoots Banana

Beets Blueberry

Bok Choy Cantaloupe

Broccoli Cranberry

Cabbage Fig

Carrots Grapefruit

Cauliflower Lemon

Cilantro Lime

Collards Orange

Cucumber Peach

Daikon Pear

Dandelion Persimmon

Mushroom Strawberry

Potato Tomato

Seaweed Watermelon

Snow Pea Barley

Spinach Kamut

Squash Millet

Watercress Rice

Try a Nutrition Consultation in June AND a follow-up session for only $99!  It is great for general health, your fertility treatment plan, during pregnancy, and postpartum. Learn more here.

Don’t miss the opportunity to meet Helena in Sept for our FREE Points to Ponder:  Acupuncture, Community, and Stress Reduction session in Chicago! Have more questions about how acupuncture can help you or want to schedule an initial consultation?  Call us today at: 312-321-0004.

Choosing the right kind of fats to support fertility

By Mia Zarlengo, MS RD

Do you know the different types of healthy fats that support a diet that fights off inflammation in the body ? Since science has begun to debunk the myth that a “low-fat diet” is the healthiest diet, we can look to focus more on which fats are actually healthy that we should include in our daily intake.

One of the key components of a diet that supports reproductive health is being anti-inflammatory. Many sources of fats can support fighting inflammation, while some are actually pro-inflammatory. Navigating these different choices is a great first step in adopting a more anti-inflammatory, fertility friendly diet.

Fats to avoid that can cause inflammation:

Trans-fats: Luckily, trans-fats for the most part have been taken out of our food system in America. However, it’s still important to always check your food labels and be sure there are 0 grams of trans fats!

Corn and Soybean oil: These oils are often used as cheap fillers in processed foods. However, these processed vegetables oils are heavy in omega-6 fatty acids; when our omega-6 levels exceed omega-3’s, the result is an increase in inflammation. Swap out processed vegetable oils with some of the healthy options below!

Healthy fats that support an anti-inflammatory diet:

Avocados: One of the easiest anti-inflammatory foods I tell patients to add to their plate are avocados! They are easy to pack on the go, go well with all sorts of meals, and are a nutrient-dense source of healthy fats to help fight off inflammation! They also provide fiber, potassium, and many other micronutrients essential for health.

Olive oil: Olive oil, especially in its raw state, is a great source of healthy fats. I suggest using this as a salad dressing or a finishing sauce, to avoid burning off the healthy properties of the oil that can happen at high temperatures.

Salmon: This fish is packed with omega-3’s, great for fighting off inflammation in the body. This is a great source of protein that will also add a healthy dose of good fats to your plate!

Walnuts: Walnuts are especially high in omega-3’s for a nut, and a great addition to salads, snacks, and smoothies! They also provide fiber, another essential nutrient for a fertility-friendly diet.

Chia Seeds: These tiny little seeds pack a mean punch of nutrients! They are high in healthy fats, fiber, and protein. Try adding these to your smoothie, oatmeal, or yogurt to create a more nutrient-dense meal!

In addition to a diet filled with antioxidants from vibrant, colorful vegetables and fruits, fiber from vegetables and whole grains, and foods low in added sugars, healthy fats are a great addition to your diet to help support reproductive health and fight off any internal inflammation. Trying adding a healthy fat source to all of your meals today and notice how you feel!

Book a nutrition appointment today to learn more ways to adopt an anti-inflammatory lifestyle through diet and supplementation to support hormonal health!  Don’t miss your chance to meet Mia in-person at our Chicago office for the FREE Two Week Walk event July 21st!

CoQ10 Improves Egg and Embryo Quality

 

By Margaret Eich, MS, RDN

An exciting new study shows promising results for CoQ10 supplementation in women with poor ovarian reserve doing IVF. In the study, 186 women under age 35 with poor ovarian reserve, defined as Anti-Müllerian hormone (AMH) < 1.2 ng/mL, and antral follicle count (AFC) < 5, were randomized to receive either treatment with 600 mg CoQ10 (200 mg 3 times per day) or control (no treatment) for 60 days leading up to their IVF cycle.

The results were pretty striking. The CoQ10 group had significantly more high quality day 3 embryos (1 vs. 0 in the control group), significantly less gonadotropins needed for stimulation, significantly more eggs retrieved (4 vs. 2 in the control group), and significantly higher fertilization rate (67% vs. 45% in the control group). In addition, significantly more patients who took CoQ10 had embryos to freeze (18.4% vs. 4.3% in the control group). The CoQ10 group also had higher pregnancy rates (32% vs. 17% in the control group) and higher live birth rates (29% vs. 16% in the control group), but these results were not statistically significant.

CoQ10 is an antioxidant and plays an essential in energy production in our body cells, including maturing eggs. CoQ10 is thought to exert its beneficial effects by neutralizing free radicals that could damage the DNA or other structures within the egg. Damage to DNA can prevent fertilization or result in a nonviable embryo. In addition, because of CoQ10’s role in energy production, CoQ10 likely also supports the energy needs of maturing eggs, thus leading to better quality eggs and embryos.  CoQ10 tends to be a safe and well-tolerated supplement, and in this study, there were no adverse effects reports from supplementing with CoQ10.

Absorption of CoQ10 is best when the dose is divided into 3 doses with meals during the day. Because CoQ10 is fat-soluble, having fat with CoQ10 increases the absorption. Learn more about our CoQ10 supplement here.  

Reference: Xu Y, Nisenblat V, Cuiling L, et al. Pretreatment with coenzyme Q10 improves ovarian response and embryo quality in low-prognosis young women with decreased ovarian reserve: a randomized controlled trial. Reproductive Biology and Endocrinology. 2018;16:29.

**Save 25% off CoQ10 in June with the promo code EGG25! Available in-center and online while supplies last.

Nutrients for Thyroid Support

Nutrients for Thyroid Support

By Margaret Eich, MS, RDN

Did you know there a number of nutrients required for your thyroid to function properly? At Pulling Down the Moon, we’re interested in helping you ensure your thyroid is functioning optimally, because thyroid health is integral to fertility. Here are some of the key nutrients to focus on to support thyroid health:

Iodine is an essential mineral for thyroid hormone production, and 30% of women of childbearing age are iodine deficient. A recent study also noted that women with sub-optimal iodine levels had reduced fertility. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends women who are pregnant take a prenatal vitamin with 150 mcg iodine. To learn more about the impact of iodine on fertility, read this post . Food sources of iodine include seafood, seaweed, meat, eggs, dairy, grains, and iodized salt.

Selenium is another essential mineral required for the conversion of T4 to T3. T3 is the active form of thyroid hormone. In addition, a few studies have shown that supplementation with selenium reduced the levels of antibodies in people with Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, an autoimmune cause of hypothyroidism. Food sources of selenium include Brazil nuts, meat, and seafood.

Iron is also essential for thyroid hormone production. Iron requirements for women of childbearing age are quite high at 18 mg and even higher at 27 mg during pregnancy. Given iron needs are so high, it’s not that difficult for iron stores to become depleted, especially if you are a vegetarian or vegan, because iron isn’t as well-absorbed from plant sources as from animal sources. In addition, heavy periods can make it more likely that your iron stores become depleted. Food sources of iron include meat, poultry, fish, legumes, leafy greens, whole grains, nuts, and seeds.

It can be difficult to make sure you’re getting enough of these nutrients on a daily basis, thus it’s important to take a prenatal vitamin while trying to conceive and during pregnanct that covers your bases. The Pulling Down the Moon prenatal vitamins ( Supplement Pack while trying to conceive and the Prenatal Pack once pregnant) contain 175 mcg iodine, 200 mcg selenium, and 30 mg of iron to help support your thyroid along with a healthy diet.

Looking for more ways to support your thyroid with nutrition? Make a nutrition appointment today!

Tips to Help Stop Stress Eating

By Margaret Eich, MS, RDN

Imagine this scene. You worked late to finish a project at work. You ordered in some takeout while you were working, and now it’s finally time to go home. You’re exhausted and stressed. When you get home, you start raiding the fridge and cabinets for things to eat. You really aren’t hungry at all since you ate dinner at work, but you’re looking for comfort in the cupboards.

I think most people can relate to this, and I would venture to guess that most of us have been in this or a similar situation before. In times of stress, we tend to turn to food as a coping mechanism. Food is readily available and processed high sugar, high fat foods tend to give us a quick, but very short-lived, boost that often leaves us feeling worse or just simply that we haven’t acted in a way that is consistent with our long-term goals. No matter how good our intentions are, stress from a variety of sources can tend to deplete our resolve and decision-making capability. In addition to the daily stresses of work, family, and finances, struggling to conceive adds significant stress. People have varying degrees of stress or emotional eating, and these habits can take significant effort and time to change. Here are some tips to help get you started:

1) Check-in with yourself to determine whether you’re feeling physical “stomach” hunger or “head” hunger. Sometimes our head is telling us to eat even though our stomach isn’t hungry. Physical hunger comes on gradually and is felt in the stomach, and can be satisfied by most foods. In contrast “head hunger,” tends to come on quickly with very specific cravings. In addition with “head hunger,” it may not be very long since you last ate, and your stomach isn’t giving you any hunger cues.

2) Find alternative coping mechanisms to manage stress and find comfort other than eating. It’s helpful to make a list of things you can do when you want to eat when you’re stressed, but not actually hungry. There are a wide variety of options including ways to simply distract yourself or ways to actually help you unwind and manage your stress. Examples include: go for a walk, take deep breaths, meditate, do a few yoga poses, take a bath, call a friend, read a book or magazine, go outside and get some fresh air, etc. It’s helpful to make your own list of 5 things that you can do when you find yourself turning to food for comfort.

3) Be kind to yourself. In those moments when you eat something that you wish you hadn’t or feel uncomfortable because you ate too much, practice being kind to yourself instead of berating or beating yourself up or feeling guilty. As much as we think our guilt about our eating habits helps us do better next time, it actually holds us back and keeps up trapped in the cycle of stress eating. Instead, practice being kind to yourself as you would to a dear friend or family member. Then move on, and return to your healthy eating instead of letting it spiral out of control or deciding to restrict at the next meal. Restricting at the next meal only causes the cycle to repeat, as becoming overly hungry combined with stress makes it much more likely that we have a harder time making healthy choices moving forward.

Reducing stress and emotional eating takes time, so be patient with yourself. Know that progress often comes in fits and starts, and we often take 2 steps forward and 1 step back along the way.

Need to take a break? Try a four week nutrition, yoga, and coaching dextox program! Learn more about “Spring Cleaning: Using Nutrition and Yoga to Cleanse” and all our community events here .

Does Iodine Deficiency Reduce Fertility?

By Margaret Eich, MS, RDN

A recent study, the first of its kind, investigated the impact of iodine deficiency on fertility. Iodine isn’t a nutrient that you hear very much about, but it’s essential for proper thyroid function. The thyroid is the master regulator in the body, governing metabolism in all the body’s cells. In addition, during pregnancy, adequate iodine is essential for baby’s brain development. About 30% of women of childbearing age (who aren’t pregnant) aren’t getting enough iodine. This study measured levels of iodine in the urine of more than 450 women as they were starting to try to conceive and looked at how long it took these women to conceive. (Iodine in the urine is considered to be reflective of the iodine status of the body.)

The results: A whopping 44% of women had iodine levels below sufficiency and 23% where moderately or severely iodine deficient. Women who were moderately or severely iodine deficient were 46% less likely to get pregnant per cycle than when with sufficient iodine levels. This is a striking result and definitely points to a need to ensure you’re getting enough iodine while trying to conceive. Iodine deficiency may cause your thyroid to not function optimally, which impairs fertility.

Iodine is in a variety of foods including seafood, seaweed, meat, eggs, dairy, grains, and iodized salt. Vegetarians and vegans are most at risk for iodine deficiency. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends women who are pregnant and breastfeeding take a prenatal vitamin with 150 mcg iodine in order prevent iodine deficiency. Both Pulling Down the Moon prenatal vitamins contain 175 mcg of iodine, so either would be a great choice to ensure adequate iodine intake. It’s important to note that certain types of seaweed are very high in iodine, and people with Hashimoto’s thyroiditis should avoid high iodine intake, as it may make Hashimoto’s worse.

Are you wondering if you’re getting enough iodine and other nutrients in your diet to support optimal fertility? Book an appointment today with one of our nutritionists.

Reference: Mills JL, et al. Delayed conception in women with low urinary iodine concentrations: a population-based prospective cohort study. Human Reproduction. 33(3): 426-433.

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