• Simplifying the Best Diet for Fertility

    By Robin Miller RDN

    There seems to be so much information out there about diets and foods to consume and not consume while trying to conceive and during pregnancy. But what really is the best diet when it comes to fertility? 

     

    We know that food likely plays a role in fertility and our ability to conceive, but is there a specific diet per se, that will lead to pregnancy? Unfortunately, it’s not that simple, however the research does suggest that including specific food groups and foods, while eliminating others can increase chances of pregnancy.

    One recent study* showed that couples undergoing IVF, in vitro fertilization, had almost three times the chance of a successful pregnancy when they closely adhered to the Mediterranean Diet, which is consists on a high intake of whole grains, nuts, seeds, fruits and vegetables and a low intake of red meat. Let’s dig deeper and look at specific foods to include in our daily diets to help improve overall fertility.

    1. Berries:  strawberries, blueberries, raspberries and blackberries are filled with antioxidants that limit inflammation in the body as well as protect our cells from aging and environmental damage.  
    2. Cruciferous Vegetables:  broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, collards, kale, kohlrabi, mustard greens, turnip greens, turnips and rutabaga.  These vegetables contain a compound called indole-3-carbinol that regulates estrogen metabolism and helps convert “bad estrogens” into good ones.
    3. Healthy Fats:  The fats we eat play a very important role in fertility.  They are incorporated into our cell membranes (think egg and sperm) and make up the backbone of many important molecules in our body.   Monounsaturated fats help to lower levels of harmful LDL cholesterol and are found in olive oil, avocado and most nuts.  Omega-3 fats are key to lowering the level of inflammation in our body and are found in fatty fish, dark leafy vegetables, walnuts, chia and flax seeds.  
    4. Beans/Lentils:  Besides being a good source of protein, beans and lentils contain soluble fiber, which helps bind excess hormones and remove them from the body.
    5. Whole Grains:  Whole grains are a rich source of fiber and B-vitamins.  B-vitamins are crucial for optimal egg development and ovulation. 
    6. Lean Protein:  Choose lean proteins like organic chicken, turkey, grass-fed red meats, and organically raised eggs.  

    To learn more about specific foods and food groups to include in a fertility-friendly diet and improve your overall nutrition; schedule a nutrition consult online here or call us to learn more at: 312-321-0004 today!

    *https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29390148

  • Tips to Feel your Best During the Holidays

    By Margaret Eich, MS, RDN

    This time of year onslaught of sweets seems to start with Halloween and doesn’t end until New Year’s resolutions. We like to talk a lot about adjusting your food environment to set you up for success by only keeping fruits and vegetables on the counter at home, for example. It also helps to keep tempting foods that you’d rather not eat out of your house. This tends to get more challenging as food treats abound around the holidays, and if it’s not at home, the treats are in full force at work or at holiday gatherings. By no means do I mean to imply we shouldn’t have any treats around the holidays. It’s really fun to have the treats that only come around once a year. Where we can run into trouble is when instead of having those treats on a few holidays, we end up eating these foods that make us feel sluggish and aren’t consistent with our long-term goals consistently over a 1-month or longer time period.

    Here are some tips to try to keep your eating around the holidays as healthy as possible:

    1. Stock your house with seasonal fruits and vegetables. Now is the time for delicious citrus and pomegranates and Brussels sprouts to name a few. Enjoy these healthy nutrient and antioxidant rich foods as part of daily eating, but they also work great incorporated into holiday meals.

     

    1. Try nuts in the shell, like walnuts. Nuts in the shell become more widely available in grocery stores. If you haven’t tried nuts in the shell, they often taste so much fresher than shelled nuts, such that they taste like a real treat! Plus it takes time to crack and remove the shell from nuts, which helps us eat more slowly and mindfully.

     

    1. Make dishes with butternut and acorn squash. These winter squashes are nutrient-rich and are lower in carbs than regular potatoes. There’s nothing wrong with having some regular potatoes. It’s just that white potatoes tend to dominate our plates along with other starchy dishes at holiday meals. Winter squashes are also rich in fiber, vitamin E, folate, and beta-carotene.

     

    1. Eat mindfully. Work on eating slowly and checking in with your hunger and fullness cues before and while eating. Avoid distractions like your computer, cell phone, or TV, as we often eat more when we aren’t focused on the eating experience.

     

    1. Avoid eating sweets on an empty stomach. Save sweets for after meals or after a satisfying snack with protein. You’ll be less likely to overeat sweets that way, and your blood sugar will rise more slowly such that you can avoid being on a blood sugar roller coaster.

    6. Don’t skimp on sleep. It can be tempting to sleep less when we’re so busy, but less sleep often leads to overeating and more difficulty making healthy     choices.

    What to learn more? Book a nutrition consult today!  Get support and save this month on an Initial Nutrition Consultation, Initial Acupuncture Consultation, Fertility-Enhancing Massage, or Yoga for Fertility series with the $99 Wild Card!

  • Celebrating the Arrival of Spring Produce

    By Margaret Eich, MS, RDN

    Spring is finally here in the Midwest, and things are starting to get greener. Crocuses and daffodils are blooming, and it seems people are starting to have a little more of a spring in their step as the promise of summer and warmer weather approaches. That also means that soon we will have local fruits and vegetables once again.

    Focusing on increasing fruits and vegetables, especially from local sources is a great way to focus on improving your overall health and fertility. Certain fruits and vegetables like leafy greens, avocados, and oranges are rich in folate, which is important for preventing neural tube defects. In general, fruits and vegetables are rich in vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and potential anti-inflammatory compounds. These may be supportive of both female and male fertility. Did you know that women going through ART have higher levels of oxidative stress that may be offset with antioxidants? Loading up on the fruits and vegetables is a great way to do this. Increasing fruits and vegetables also increases your fiber intake, which feeds your beneficial gut bacteria (fertility nutrition starts in the gut!). Try to choose organic when possible, as eating higher pesticide fruits and vegetables has been linked to longer time to pregnancy.

    Farmer’s markets are great way to work eating more fruits and vegetables, as the freshness and quality is often superior to the produce found in grocery stores, where it may have been shipped many miles. At the farmer’s market, your produce may have been picked just that morning or the previous day! Another great option is gardening if you have the space. Studies on gardening show that it may help combat stress, boost your mood, and it’s good exercise! Live in an apartment or condo and don’t have outside space? Seek a community garden, or try growing some herbs in your window or in a pot on your balcony. Other options for a deck or balcony could be salad mix in a pot.

    Eating more vegetables is a great way to boost your overall health and fertility, by increasing fiber and nutrient density of your diet.

    Try these tips to increase the amount of vegetables you’re eating:

    1. Add vegetables to your eggs at breakfast (or any time of day).
    2. Add cauliflower rice to chili, curry, or stir-fry.
    3. Add greens like kale to soups, chili, taco meat, or stir-fry toward the end of the cooking time.
    4. Have a big meal salad with protein.
    5. Add sautéed onions, mushrooms, and greens (like spinach, kale, or chard) to tomato sauce.
    6. Use spaghetti squash or oodles instead of pasta.
    7. Add cucumber, celery, and/or greens to a smoothie.
    8. Use cauliflower, spaghetti squash, or zucchini to make pizza crust.
    9. Use zucchini or eggplant instead of noodles in lasagna.
    10. Roast carrots, beets, broccoli, or cauliflower with olive oil.

    Check out some seasonal nutrition recipes! Learn more by consulting with a nutritionist!  Book today!  Questions?  Call us at: 312-321-0004.

     

  • 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.

  • Supplements to Improve Egg Quality?

    Beth Heller, MS, RYT

    Update from 2019:  When we wrote this blog in 2011 we had no idea it would be our most-read and most linked blog of all times – earning an average of 17,000 views per year!   One of the things that I love most about the Moon is that we’re always trying to innovate and we were definitely ahead of the curve with this one.  At the time we wrote this blog, word on the street was that egg quality was immovable and that once a diagnosis of poor egg quality was given, that was it.  Yet the core services we offer (Traditional Chinese Medicine, yoga, nutrition, massage) argue that we can change health outcomes by creating balance in the body, in effect improving the environment in which bodily processes occur.  So, it made perfect sense to us that supplements that support balancing hormones, improving sleep, lowering inflammation and providing better raw materials through healthy food could make an impact.  If you want to read more from our library regarding egg quality, click here!  

    At the Moon we are constantly striving to increase our E.Q.I.Q. (Egg Quality I.Q.) and for years we have believed that nutrition can play a role in eqq quality. However, until recently there were few studies to support this claim so we needed to temper our recommendations with the phrase “but there isn’t any clinical evidence for this yet.” Now, several new investigations have shown that, yes, certain nutritional supplements may make a difference in egg quality. The goal of this blog is to summarize the latest clinical news, discuss the substances that are now showing potential benefits for women with poor egg quality and help you make choices about which supplements may be right for you. As with any supplement protocol, you should always consult your physician before starting.

    1. Myo-inositol

    Very recently two clinical trials were published that clarified a lot of the unknowns about myo-inositol, a product we use at PDtM under the name of Ovasitol. Myo-inositol (MI) is a part of the B vitamin complex and is a known insulin-sensitizer. It has also been shown to improve both physical (hirsutism and acne) and reproductive (anovulation and amenorrhea) manifestations of Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS). In addition, myo-inositol plays a role in cell growth and early studies indicated that higher levels of MI in the follicular fluid was associated with better egg quality.

    Several exciting new studies have emerged that have shed new light on MI and its role in fertility, particularly Assisted Reproductive Technology. The latest study of interest demonstrated that treatment with 4 g per day of MI for three months prior to IVF improved egg quality in women who had failed a previous IVF due to poor egg quality. In this study the treatment also included 3mg per day of melatonin, which I will talk about next.

    The supplement we carry at PDtM includes both myo–inositol and d-chiro inositol because clinical research we have seen to date on PCOS, egg and embryo quality suggest a combination approach is most effective.  On another happy note, MI has also been shown to have a positive therapeutic effect on mood disorders that are responsive to SSRI’s (serotonin selective reuptake inhibitors) including depression, panic and OCD – a potential plus for the anxious, depressed fertility patient!

    2. Melatonin

    Melatonin is a hormone that is secreted by the pineal gland. It regulates our sleep/wake cycle as well as other hormones, in particular the hormones of the female reproductive cycle. New studies like the one above suggest that melatonin supplementation at a level of 3 mg per day may help to improve egg quality when taken with MI for several months prior to IVF.

    There are caveats to the use of melatonin. Side-effects may include exacerbation of depression symptoms and patients who struggle with depression should make sure to discuss this side-effect with their physician. Melatonin should not be used with patients using thyroid medication as it can impact thyroid hormone levels. It can also suppress ovulation at high doses so in general we only recommend this supplement for women who will be using ART and a trigger shot to stimulate ovulation and/or retrieval.

    Finally, melatonin should NOT be taken while pregnant or nursing. In general we do not recommend melatonin use for longer than 3 months without taking a break. It can also cause marked drowsiness and is best taken just before bedtime.

    3. DHEA

    DHEA (not to be confused with the omega-3 fatty acid DHA ) is a hormone that serves as a precursor of steroid hormones testosterone and estrogen. Research indicates it may also stimulate follicular development. Several studies have shown supplementation with 75 mg of DHEA daily to improve egg quality and pregnancy outcome in women who were “poor responders” to IVF stimulation medication. Another study suggests that DHEA supplementation may reduce the risk of aneupoloidy.

    DHEA should be used with caution as it is a pretty powerful hormone and when used at high levels and over a long term it may damage the liver. Women who are pregnant or nursing should not take DHEA, nor should women with PCOS as this could exacerbate the condition. Like melatonin, we recommend a three month treatment period.

    4. CoQ10

    CoQ10 is a naturally occurring fat-soluble nutrient that is essential for energy production. CoQ10 has potent antioxidant properties and cell membrane stabilizing effects that make it beneficial for egg and sperm quality, specifically sperm motility. CoQ10 works within the mitochondria (the cellular power stations) in the cells and is essential for energy production. Until recently, CoQ10 was not thought to be a nutrient that required supplementation, as all normal tissue manufactures its own CoQ10; however, this production decreases naturally with age and is also lowered by certain drugs, including statins. When CoQ10 levels in the cells are low, energy production may be reduced and oxidative stress increased as a result.

    CoQ10 has been shown to improve sperm quality and is now under investigation for potential use with women of advanced reproductive age undergoing ART to improve egg/embryo quality. The oocyte has among the highest concentrations of mitochondria of all body cells and uses immense amounts of energy in the process of maturation and ovulation. Researchers hypothesize that supporting the oocyte with CoQ10 may improve egg quality (Bentov et al. 2010).

    The recommended dosage for overall health is 100-300 mg/day, or as directed by a nutritionist. The dosage under investigation in studies looking at egg quality is higher: 600 mg/day. CoQ10 appears to be a safe supplement: Studies have used supplementation of CoQ10 up to levels of 3,000 mg per day without adverse side effects. At present, the only risk to taking CoQ is the cost, as this supplement can be pricey, and no data currently exists on its usage in high doses during pregnancy.

    5. Omega-3 Fatty Acid (EPA/DHA)

    There is still no direct clinical evidence that omega-3 fatty acids improve egg quality but we are convinced they are a good bet and include them in our Egg Quality Protocol. Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) forms the backbone of many of the chemicals that halt inflammation in our body and also serves to support the health of our cell membranes. Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) (not to be confused with DHEA above) is important for brain health and adequate stores of DHA are thought to be beneficial for the early cognitive development of the fetus. DHA may also be helpful for depression. Look for purity-tested products.

    This is exciting news indeed but you should always speak with your physician before beginning a supplementation regimen of any kind. Of course, we would also be remiss if we didn’t mention that providing your body with the highest quality diet is also important for fertility. If you are specifically seeking to improve your egg quality you should also consider re-thinking your diet to limit inflammation, achieve good blood sugar control and get ample antioxidant nutrients from food sources. Our nutritionists at Pulling Down the Moon are specialists and will tailor their recommendations to your fertility diagnosis.

    For more information about any of the supplements or info in this blog, please feel free to contact us at info@pullingdownthemoon.com or call us at: 312-321-0004.  These supplements are available individually at our online store.  We also offer an easy, one-click Egg Quality Supplement Bundle Package.