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Natural Solutions to Infertility

by Marilyn Glenville, Ph.D.

listed in women's health

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What Should You Eat?

Essential Fats

Unfortunately fat has got itself a bad name, although it's actually only saturated fats that are harmful. Many women now consciously avoid all fats as a matter of course. But there are some fats which are vital for your health – and your fertility.

These are called essential fatty acids and they are found in foods such as nuts, seeds and oily fish. These essential fats are a vital component of every human cell and the body needs them to balance hormones, insulate nerve cells, keep the skin and arteries supple, and keep itself warm.

Unsaturated fats can be divided into monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. Monounsaturated fats are not classed as essential fatty acids. Olive oil is high in these monounsaturated fats, which are thought to lower the risks of heart attacks and other circulatory problems.

Polyunsaturated fats can be split into Omega 3 oils (found in unrefined safflower, corn, sesame and sunflower oils) and Omega 6 oils (found in fish oils and linseed or flax oil). The body makes beneficial prostaglandins (hormone-like regulating substances) from Omega 3 oils, so that is why they are particularly useful for increasing fertility.

If you are not getting enough of these essential fatty acids, you may notice symptoms such as:

* Dry skin* Cracked skin on heels or fingertips* Hair falling out* Poor wound healing* Dry, difficult hair* Dandruff* Irritability* Soft or brittle nails* Allergies* Fatigue* Hyperactivity* Difficulty losing weight* High blood pressure* Arthritis* Pre-menstrual syndrome* Painful breasts

If you have several of the above symptoms they may also be due to thyroid imbalance which can also affect your fertility, so it is worth checking with your doctor.

Essential Fatty Acid Supplements

Most of us don't eat enough essential fats, so when you are trying to maximise your fertility it's a good idea to add them to your diet in supplement form (see page 84). Research has shown the benefits of supplementing with essential fatty acids during pregnancy to avoid low birthweight and also the advantages to the growing baby in terms of brain development.

To achieve a satisfactory intake of essential fatty acids, have a daily handful of nuts or use a salad dressing made with a good-quality nut or seed oil. You can also eat oily fish (such as mackerel or sardines) and take an essential fatty acid supplement (see page 84).

Choosing and Using Oils

Oils can easily get damaged so you need to take care when choosing, storing and using them. If oils are over-heated, left in sunlight or re-used after cooking, they are open to attack by free radicals (which have been linked to cancer, coronary heart disease, rheumatoid arthritis and premature ageing).

To avoid the formation of free radicals, always choose cold-pressed unrefined nut or seed oils or extra-virgin olive oil. A number of supermarkets now have organic oils. Unfortunately, non-organic standard supermarket oils are manufactured and extracted using chemicals and heat. This destroys the quality of the oil and its nutritional content. Store your oil away from sunlight and do not be tempted to re-use it after cooking.

Do not fry polyunsaturated fats, as they can become oxidised when heated. Use olive oil or butter for frying. Monounsaturated olive oil is less likely to create free radicals and butter will not because it is a saturated fat. Reduce the cooking temperature to minimise oxidation. Keep all fats to a minimum when frying. Try to bake or grill instead.


We need fibre to keep our bowels healthy and prevent constipation but fibre is also vital for our fertility.

The fibre contained in wholegrains, fruit and vegetables reduces excess oestrogen levels, clearing out old hormone residues. It does this by preventing oestrogens that have been excreted in the bile from being reabsorbed back into the blood.

Studies have shown that women who eat a vegetarian diet excrete three times more 'old', detoxified oestrogens than women who also eat meat. The meat-eaters also reabsorb more oestrogen. So, for both men and women aiming to keep their reproductive systems in optimum balance, it makes sense to ensure that you are getting enough fibre in your diet.

Contrary to popular belief, the best way to do this is not to add bran to your food. Whatever you may have read or heard about its benefits, bran can actually block the absorption of vital nutrients such as iron, zinc, calcium and magnesium. It is much better to eat it in its natural form (as wholegrains) instead.

To increase your fibre intake, you need to eat plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables (cooked and raw), wholegrains (brown rice, wholemeal bread, oats, wholegrain crackers and wholemeal pasta), beans, nuts and seeds.

You should also avoid refined carbohydrates (such as cakes, white bread and biscuits, and anything containing white flour and sugar). Don't be tempted to eat bran on its own or when added or made into breakfast cereal.

It is important for your bowels to work efficiently so that 'old' hormones can be quickly excreted and also so that food does not end up putrefying (which it may do if it stays in your bowel too long). Proper bowel function also helps you get rid of chemicals, pesticides, heavy toxic metals and other toxins that can affect your fertility.

I have found that even patients diagnosed with high lead levels, caused by daily commuting to work through London, soon start to get rid of the excess lead once they are on a healthy, high-fibre diet.

Help for Constipation

What can you use instead of bran? First try increasing your intake of fresh fruit and vegetables. If you need extra help then either sprinkle 1 tablespoon of linseeds onto your breakfast cereal in the mornings or soak 1 tablespoon of linseeds in a small amount of water and swallow. Vitamin C can also be used to help soften stools. Try taking 1,000mg per day, and increase by 500mg at a time until your stools are manageable, soft and comfortable.

Extracted with permission

Sandra Goodman PhD
Piatkus Books

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