During the COVID- 19 pandemic we realise it has been a very difficult time. Particularly a difficult time for our patients who have had to put their fertility decisions and IVF cycles on hold. However, I have also heard from many of you that self-isolation has given you an unexpected opportunity for self- care. I hope you can continue these practices as our pre-pandemic lives start to return.
If you are now looking towards a future IVF cycle, self-care and good nutrition are key. Our gut function and gut symptoms can also profoundly affect our fertility and IVF success. Several studies have correlated a link between IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome), Coeliac Disease and IBD (Inflammatory Bowel Disease) with reduced fertility, miscarriage and ectopic pregnancy. Poor gut health can increase inflammatory mechanisms that impact upon the absorption of necessary nutrients. We also know that women with endometriosis, a history of miscarriage, undergoing IVF and women with gut issues can commonly be deficient in many key nutrients. These key nutrients are necessary for their fertility. They include iron, B12, zinc, iodine, essential fatty acids and vitamin D. Furthermore, medications and hormonal treatments can also impact on the health of our gut microbiome. In turn, this may affect digestive enzyme pathways, absorption of nutrients and the crucial detoxification of oestrogen.
What is the best diet for fertility?
Evidence definitely suggests that a Mediterranean diet correlates with better fertility. The diet is high in essential fatty acids, fibre and has an emphasis on plant based foods that correlates with better reproductive health outcomes. Trying to eat about 30 different plant foods each week can help with the absorption and availability of key fertility nutrients. This also plays a role with the diversity of our microbiome. Good quality animal protein can also help to provide vital amino acids and essential fatty acids.
Nutritional supplements for IVF
Supplementation of nutrition alongside IVF is now widely accepted. It is even being promoted on several IVF websites. Nutrients that can assist conception alongside IVF include:
Antioxidants: can protect cells from damage by free radicals in the environment and possibly being generated through the IVF process.
Zinc: one of the most important nutrients for a healthy reproductive system in men and women and very commonly deficient in the sub- fertile population.
Selenium: an antioxidant that supports male and female fertility and thyroid health.
Coenzyme (Q10): an important antioxidant that promotes energy within every cell.
Vitamin E: an antioxidant that may promote circulation to the reproductive system, endometrium and the developing placenta.
Vitamin C: an important antioxidant for the ovarian environment. A developing egg needs vitamin C to mature and ovulate and more vitamin C is required at the time of ovulation.
Mixed carotenoids: Vitamin A is involved in creating healthy DNA.
Manganese: involved in enzyme functions needed for antioxidant effects and DNA synthesis.
Omega-3 fatty acids: necessary for conception, first trimester health and an optimal breast feeding experience.
B vitamins and choline: for healthy DNA synthesis.
Please remember that if you feel you need to give your gut health and fertility diet some more personalised attention, Carmen and Claire offer fertility coaching sessions. These sessions can help fine tune your diet, give you great shopping ideas/meal plans and advice around the products you use in your house and on your body. We are thinking of all our wonderful patients heading back into IVF and encourage you to remember the influence your diet, nutrition and self-care can have during this time.
Warmest, Amanda x