If you and your partner are wanting to have children, there are many steps that both of you can take to ensure your bodies are in optimal health to prepare for pregnancy. The environment of both parents during pre-conception can lead to changes in gene expression through epigenetics. In 2010, roughly 48.5 million couples worldwide were infertile, which has risen by 5.5 million since 1990. 50% of these cases were due to the male partner being infertile.
You may in fact be able to repair epigenetic alterations through your environment and lifestyle. Whether you are aiming to conceive naturally or via IVF, the following points are equally important for both men and women, as they will increase your ability to conceive,
- Eat a real food diet
By eating a ‘real food’ diet, it helps to assist the growth of beneficial gut bacteria, which will be passed onto your baby via a natural birth. It will also mean that you will be eating a lot more nutritionally dense foods to support you and your baby. This will help reduce any inflammation during the pregnancy, and therefore increase your immune system and overall health.A real food, anti-inflammatory diet will benefit you and your baby, and has been shown to play a critical role in fertility in both male and females. Read more about the importance of a healthy gut and consuming an anti-inflammatory diet here
A real food diet consists of food that ISN’T ‘man-made modern food’ such as the modern wheat, gluten, corn, soy, vegetable oils, margarine or foods that contain artificial flavours, preservatives or colours. Instead move towards a diet which contains foods in their completely natural whole state, such as organic/grass fed/free range meats fruits and vegetables especially green ones, as well as nuts, seeds and grains which have been prepared correctly through soaking and/or fermenting.
Eat organic food where possible, as this will limit your exposure to agriculture chemicals such as glyphosate which is found in Roundup. Research has found that it has a detrimental effect to your health, and therefore your child, as well as traces of glyphosate have been found in food. Changing Habits’ Hunter Gatherer protocol or the 21 Step Reset may be a great place to start if you need some support in making these changes.
Foods in particular to incorporate in your diet are;
- Cod liver oil – to lower inflammation and provide an abundance of Omega 3, vitamins A, E and D
- Camu camu – to support your adrenals during stress, protect your immune system and lower inflammation
- Colloidal minerals – to ensure you are getting your daily dose of crucial minerals
- Green blend including chlorella and/or spirulina – for gentle detoxification, folate, iron, zinc and vitamin A
- Probiotics or a range of fermented foods – to support gut bacteria, immune system, absorption of vitamins and minerals and to reduce inflammation
- Liver – to ensure you are getting an abundance of iron, B vitamins, folate and biotin. Read tips to include more liver in your diet here
- Fats, including saturated fat – egg yolks, butter or ghee, coconut oil, grass fed and organic animal fats, olive oil and avocados. These fats will help to nourish you and your baby.
- Introduce a daily regime to gently detoxify your body
It is crucial to note that you avoid being on an intense detox regime right before or during pregnancy, as this can expose your child to even more toxins that may lie within you. However, gentle detox methods that allow your body to bring out toxins from your body is okay. This includes incorporating a few foods and techniques to lower you and your baby’s exposure to toxins.
Some methods include having regular infrared saunas, Epsom salt baths, movement and lymphatic drainage. Foods to incorporate for gentle detoxification are quality fats such as coconut oil and ghee, chlorella, spirulina and regularly eating leafy green vegetables, brassica vegetables and fresh herbs.
Another method of detoxification is to use bentonite clay, which will simply help to remove toxins from your body. Bentonite clay moves through your digestive tract, and binds to toxins which assists in their elimination. This process makes the clay a powerful detoxifier, as well as lowering your daily exposure to toxins.
Directions – Drink ½ to 1 tsp of bentonite clay mixed in water, 1-2 hours away from food, supplements or medications. The best time to take it is either first thing in the morning or last thing at night. This will help begin the elimination of toxins within your body, like heavy metals, as well as many of the 287 toxins detected in the umbilical cord blood. These chemicals have been linked to serious health problems such as cancer, cognitive and behavioural impairments, endocrine (hormonal) disruption, reproductive abnormalities, diabetes, asthma and obesity.
- Take a high quality food based probiotic
Probiotics have been shown to play a protective role in conditions such as preeclampsia, gestational diabetes mellitus, vaginal infections, maternal and infant weight gain and allergic diseases. Good bacteria are absolutely crucial, because the bacteria within your digestive tract will be passed onto your baby. The microbes living within you and on you are absolutely crucial for detoxification, your immune system, your mood, energy and the absorption of vitamins and minerals. All of which are crucial for conception and a successful pregnancy. Microbial imbalances are the cause of many health issues we have today, so supporting your gut microbes with beneficial bacteria is very important. It’s also advisable to consume plenty of fermented foods such as kefir, sauerkraut and beet kvass. Read more about the importance of eating fermented foods here.
- Become aware and stop using products containing hidden chemicals
There are a number of things in our environment (especially our home) that we can improve to make it healthier. This in turn will improve the health of our bodies as well as our future babies. Our environment not only includes what is around us, it also includes the foods we eat, our skincare products, cleaning products, as well as how stressed or emotional we are.
Endocrine disrupters are chemicals that are worth mentioning, as they interfere with your hormonal system which can affect both you and your child. Many ingredients have their own side effects, though one example is phenols (particularly parabens and triclosan) that are found in many cosmetics, health products, or toothpastes and soaps which can lead to a disruption in the fetal growth of boys.
Your skin is your largest organ and absorbs much of what you place on it, therefore use shampoos, conditioners, moisturisers and makeup that will not increase your toxin exposure. Brands I love include Inika, La Mav, Twenty8 and Abode Cleaning Products.
- Reduce stress to calm down your nervous system
Start finding methods to calm down your nervous system. Although this may seem insignificant, it is crucial for you and your child’s health. Start by discovering things that make you happy and remove stress from your life. Try and incorporate some of these into your day to day routine :- meditation, reading a book, deep belly breathing, yoga, a walk along the beach or in nature, and other stress reducing activities.
High stress levels during pregnancy has been linked to an increased risk for pregnancy complications as well as urgent care and emergency department visits. Additionally, increased stress and cortisol activity during pregnancy has been shown to lead to higher cortisol levels in infants. Therefore, by adapting strategies now and making them habitual in your daily life, it may make things a little less overwhelming for you once you become pregnant.
Another technique to calm your nervous system down, is to take adaptogenic herbs, which are known as nature’s stress and fatigue fighters. These special herbs such as ginseng, Ashwagandha, liquorice root and tulsi have the unique ability to “adapt” their function according to your body’s specific needs. They will help to improve and support the health of your adrenal system, the system that’s in charge of managing your body’s hormonal response to stress. You can read more benefits here.
Of course, there is a lot more than can be done leading up to a pregnancy, however, these would be my top tips to get you started and will make the world of difference to you and your baby’s health.
Have you made any of the above changes already and noticed any changes in your health?
Happy changing habits
Changing Habits Nutritionist