One thing you might want to consider is eating Mediterranean Diet to increase fertility while trying to get pregnant. Although the ultimate mechanism behind it needs yet to be determined (several studies exist already, please follow the references below), preliminary data clearly show that couples eating diets high in whole grains, fish fruits and vegetables have less trouble getting pregnant. Moreover, there have been additional ties to decreased rates of heart disease, obesity, and diabetes.
Mediterranean Diet to increase fertility
Just this morning I’ve read a few papers published in the past several months on Mediterranean diet and was more then surprised by how fast positive evidence accumulates on this topic!
1. An observational study with data from 10 Mediterranean countries aimed to explore a relationship between the incidence of gestational diabetes and the Mediterranean pattern of eating. Authors found out that adherence to a mediterranean kitchen was associated NOT ONLY with lower incidence of gestational diabetes, but also with a better degree of glucose tolerance, even in women without gestational diabetes. They therefore conclude that using this eating style may be used for the prevention of gestational diabetes and recommend further testing with intervention studies.
2. Another recent study conducted in Granada, Spain set on to anayse the factors associated with the level of adherence to a Mediterranean dietary pattern in 1175 healthy Spanish women. They found that higher age ment better adherence with diet recommendations – younger women invited to adhere to mediterranean diet between 20th-22nd gestational week were clearly less compliant. In summary: higher age, educational level, and social standing of the women were associated with a higher level of adherence to the Mediterranean diet, whereas younger age, lower social standing, basic educational level, especially in combination with smoking and lack of exercise were associated with low adherence to the Mediterranean diet.
3. I can’t resist mentioning one research paper which is slightly older (2012), but comes from my favorite research group which i cite a lot throughout the blog and in my book, because they made many important findings. This team of researchers based in Netherlands investigated how early nutritional exposures affect future health (in other words, how stuff which mothers eat affect various characteristics of their babies). This particular paper shows associations of dietary habits in first half of pregnancy with fetal size, placental and birth weight, in a prospective observational study of 3207 pregnant women. Mediterranean eating style was characterised by higher intakes of fruit, vegetables, vegetable oil, fish, pasta and rice, and lower intakes of meat, potatoes and fatty sauces.
So, all three studies positively correlate eating Mediterranean diet with increased fertility in women and/or improved chances of having healthy pregnancies and babies. But that’s not all.
A few more nutritional tricks to help you get pregnant faster
Diet and nutrition quite logically seem to play a role in increasing fertility and improving pregnancy chances. A few simple changes might make all the difference. What have you got to lose? You eat some tasty meals that you’ve never had before, get to feel better as a side effect, and increase your chances of getting pregnant as a side-effect.
There is a growing body of evidence that previously might have been dismissed as an “Old Wives Tales” class of superstitions. This is specifically with regard to how various foods can affect your ability to become pregnant.
Research points to the conclusion that vegetable sourced protein in place of animal sourced protein can reduce the incidence of ovulatory infertility. In addition, evidence indicates that high fat dairy products help avoid the issue of ovulatory infertility, and that low fat dairy actually exacerbates the problem. Drink whole milk, rather than skim; if you’re still drinking coffee, use full cream rather than milk; if you want a treat, have some real ice cream.
Other factors noted to reduce ovulatory infertility include taking vitamin supplements with a particular emphasis on those that contain folic acid. This nutrient, taken weeks before conception, helps to protect the fetus from neurological problems with brain and spinal cord. Eating whole grains to add essential B vitamins, vitamin E, and fiber is strongly advised; increasing intake of fruits and vegetables, not only for the vitamins, but for the antioxidants; and increasing your intake if Omega-3 fatty acids, with flax seed, walnuts, salmon, or canned tuna.
Choline potentially reduces harmful gene anomalies that could result in birth defects, as well as being vital for brain function. It is essential to prevent neural tube defects in babies. Most women do not get enough choline and many prenatal vitamins do not even contain it. It can be found in egg yolks, cauliflower, and the best source, beef liver.
Choline is used by the body to make an essential element called acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter in our brains and nervous system. It is essential for attention and arousal in the Central Nervous System. In the Peripheral Nervous System it activates our muscles for us. Some snake-type poisons act to disrupt acetylcholine so the muscles for breathing and heartbeat cease functioning. Use a little vinegar in your diet, too, to provide the other half of the molecule in the form of acetic acid. It’s available in salad dressings, ketchup, or you can use that old Canadian favourite, and drip some straight vinegar on your fries/chips or deep fried fish, in place of mayonnaise or lemon juice or whatever you ordinarily use.
Naturally you are going to want to avoid fish with even slightly significant levels of mercury. The ocean fish most susceptible include swordfish, King Mackerel, shark and tilefish, but any fish can be a source depending on the environment it was taken from. Freshwater fish are not intrinsically safer, and in fact, due to closer association with humans and our rivers, might be a worse source. Check with the local agency responsible for rivers and waterways for information on safe rivers if you like to catch your own, and opt for farm-raised fish when buying, or those sourced from known sites, if possible.
Hydrate yourself. Drink plenty of fluids as it prevents thickening of the cervical fluid; this is an aid to the sperm seeking your target egg. And as mentioned earlier, caffeine is actually detrimental to conception since it is a diuretic, the precise opposite of hydrating yourself. You might even want to think about eliminating caffeine altogether. This includes coffee and tea, of course, but also unsuspected sources such as soda pop drinks that you might never suspect of being loaded with caffeine.
Make sure your male counterpart is optimizing his diet during this time, too. Check to see that he’s getting enough vitamin C & D, zinc and folic acid. Smoking and drinking can compromise sperm motility; and if he’s sufficiently hydrated, those little guys can swim faster and farther, too, increasing your chances.
Once you get pregnant
Omega-3s aid in the development of a baby’s brain and nervous system. There seems to be a correlation between increased omega-3 intake and a reduced danger of premature birth.
Do not stop taking folic acid after you become pregnant. Four hundred micrograms of folic acid daily decreases the risk of brain and spinal cord defects in the first trimester.
Folic acid (and a few good books about Mediterranean kitchen):
- Karamanos B, Thanopoulou A, Anastasiou E, Assaad-Khalil S, Albache N, Bachaoui M, Slama CB, El Ghomari H, Jotic A, Lalic N, Lapolla A, Saab C, Marre M, Vassallo J, Savona-Ventura C; MGSD-GDM Study Group. Relation of the Mediterranean diet with the incidence of gestational diabetes. Eur J Clin Nutr. 2014 Jan;68(1):8-13. doi: 10.1038/ejcn.2013.177. Epub 2013 Oct 2.
- Olmedo-Requena R, Fernández JG, Prieto CA, Moreno JM, Bueno-Cavanillas 1, Jiménez-Moleón JJ. Factors associated with a low adherence to a Mediterranean diet pattern in healthy Spanish women before pregnancy. Public Health Nutr. 2014 Mar;17(3):648-56. doi: 10.1017/S1368980013000657. Epub 2013 Mar 18.
- Timmermans S, Steegers-Theunissen RP, Vujkovic M, den Breeijen H, Russcher H, Lindemans J, Mackenbach J, Hofman A, Lesaffre EE, Jaddoe VV, Steegers EA. The Mediterranean diet and fetal size parameters: the Generation R Study. Br J Nutr. 2012 Oct 28;108(8):1399-409. doi: 10.1017/S000711451100691X. Epub 2012 Feb 21.
- Gaskins AJ, Rovner AJ, Mumford SL, Yeung E, Browne RW, Trevisan M, Perkins NJ, Wactawski-Wende J, Schisterman EF; BioCycle Study Group. Adherence to a Mediterranean diet and plasma concentrations of lipid peroxidation in premenopausal women. Am J Clin Nutr. 2010 Dec;92(6):1461-7. doi: 10.3945/ajcn.110.000026. Epub 2010 Oct 13.