Sue Bedford (MSc Nutritional Therapy)
One of the most important parts of the IVF process is in the preparation, not just physically, but also mentally
It is recommended that you should give yourself 90 days prior to starting treatment (if possible) and here we talk about preparing the body for fertility treatment. We will explore detoxifying the body and some dietary ‘tweaks’ that you can make prior to treatment to hopefully get the best possible outcome.
Ever considered a gentle detox?
A good way to start if you do have 90 days to prepare for fertility treatment is with a gentle 3-4 week detox (please note that detoxing should not happen if you think you may be pregnant or during any stage of fertility treatment- always check with your G.P before hand). The basic principle of a detox prior to fertility treatment is to remove toxic chemicals from the body which may disrupt hormones before conception takes place.
The main aim of detoxing is to try to support the main organs in the body that are involved in detoxification (such as the liver, kidneys and skin) by nourishing the body with nutrient rich food whilst avoiding non nourishing drink and food such as alcohol, sugar and white flour products. Toxins are stored in fat cells, the liver, brain and bone to name a few. The liver is one of the main organs involved in detoxification process and is vital in the breakdown of the products of metabolism, hormones, drugs and alcohol. It is therefore vital to ensure that it is kept as healthy as possible pre- conception/prior to fertility treatment (the liver processes the fertility drugs!).
There are specific toxins that are known to negatively affect fertility such as alcohol, certain medications, toxins found in cigarettes, pesticides, some beauty products and synthetic hormones from the contraceptive pill (to name a few). It is therefore a good idea to try to remove these from the body to ensure the healthiest possible sperm and egg cells prior to conception (this is equally as important for men and women).
What are the signs to indicate that you may benefit from a detox?
- Craving sugar
- Feeling tired/sluggish a lot of the time
- Have digestive issues such as bloating and constipation
- Have skin issues
Some key toxins to remove from the body during a detox
- Caffeine – found in tea, coffee, energy drinks, soft drinks (coke, diet coke)
- Alcohol (remove anyway from lifestyle if trying to conceive)
- Cigarettes (aim to stop smoking altogether if you do smoke)
- Refined sugars – sweets, cakes, biscuits, chocolate, soft drinks
- Foods containing trans fats
- Wheat, gluten, yeast– bread, pasta
- Processed foods (theses often contain a lot of salt too)
- Spreads – jam, chocolate spreads, peanut butter etc
- No artificially produced flavourings: tomato ketchup, vinegar, mustard, etc
Try to include the following foods in your pre fertility treatment diet
Hopefully you will just continue on with these foods as part of your daily diet, if you don’t already include them
- Eat organically raised dairy, poultry and meat (but limit red meat) in order to limit exposure to antibiotics and hormones. These are an excellent source of protein, omega 3, iron and vitamin B12.
- Wild caught fish – aim for 3 portions oily fish per week (salmon, mackerel, sardines. Avoid consuming farmed fish if possible.
- Organic eggs – excellent source of protein, vitamin D and B12.
- Eat whole foods – organic vegetables and fruit, healthy fats such as olive oil.
- Avoid sweets, fast food, additives, preservatives and artificial sweeteners.
- Raw foods – plant based as these are rich in nutrients and chlorophyll.Vegetables – particularly organic dark leafy green vegetables (spinach, broccoli, kale, watercress etc). These are an excellent source of iron, folic acid, B6, vitamin E and fibre.
- Fresh vegetable juices – these contain plenty of vitamin B6 and antioxidants
- Drink plenty of water- add some lemon (at least 2 litres of filtered water not fizzy).
- Nuts and seeds – (especially pumpkin, sesame, walnuts, almonds, brazil nuts). These are an excellent source of omega 3, zinc, vitamin E, protein and selenium.
- Berries (blueberries, raspberries, blackcurrants and strawberries). These contain high amounts of vitamin C (antioxidants) and flavonoids.
- Lentils and beans. These contain good amounts of iron, folic acid and protein.
- Low GI (glycemic index) carbohydrates (such as sweet potato, butternut squash, quinoa, brown rice). These are an excellent source of vitamin C, vitamin A, magnesium and fibre.
Five foods that help detox (go for organic where possible)
- Apples… contain a good amount of fibre, vitamin C, potassium and many beneficial phytochemicals, flavonoids and terpenoids. These are all useful in the detoxification process. One flavonoid called Phlorizidin, is thought to help stimulate bile production which helps the liver remove toxins. Apples are also a good source pectin (which is a soluble fibre) and can help detox metals and food additives from your body.
- Avocados contain many vital nutrients and are a good source of: vitamin B5, vitamin K, fibre copper, folate, vitamin B6, vitamin E, potassium, and vitamin C. They also contain many phytonutrients including: carotenoids, flavonoids, phytosterols. They also contain the important fats: oleic acid and alpha – linolenic (an omega 3 fatty acid). Avocados contain a nutrient called glutathione, which blocks at least 30 different carcinogens while helping the liver detoxify synthetic chemicals.
- Beetroot – contain a unique mixture of natural plant chemicals (phytochemicals) and minerals that make them superb fighters of infection, blood purifiers, and liver cleansers. They also help boost the body’s cellular intake of oxygen, making beetroot an excellent overall body cleanser.
- Broccoli sprouts – contain important phytochemicals that are released when they’re chopped, chewed, fermented, or digested. The substances are released then break down into sulfurophanes, indole-3-carbinol and D-glucarate, which all have a specific role in detoxification.
- Coriander – contains large amounts of antioxidants. Coriander helps move mercury and other metals out of the tissue so it can attach to it other compounds and be excreted from the body.