Feeding Fertility

Photography by Dean Batchelder

Feeding Fertility: Using Nutrition to Support Preconception Health
By Ami Chokshi, Integrative Nutrition Health Coach and Outreach Manager

“If we could give every individual the right amount of nourishment and exercise, not too little and not too much, we would have found the safest way to health.” – Hippocrates, 4th century BCE

Our diets have changed dramatically since Hippocrates. There are a multitude of approaches to eating these days including several popular diets, Paleo, Keto, Mediterranean, and Vegan. For women who are trying to conceive, it can be overwhelming to understand what to eat for fertility, preconception, and pregnancy.

Much of what we know about nutrition and fertility comes from the landmark Nurses’ Health Study, where 18,000 women who were trying to conceive tracked their nutritional and lifestyle habits over eight years. Following a plan that was highly plant-based – including fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and beans, protein-rich foods, healthy fats, and a small amount of full fat dairy – correlated to a 66% decreased risk of ovulatory infertility and a 27% lower risk from other causes.

Additional sources confirm that nutritional and lifestyle adjustments supports optimal preconception health. These guidelines suggest both men and women will benefit, so a couple trying to conceive can work together to optimize their fertility health.

Lower Pesticide Foods

A preconception and fertility diet looks similar to the one in the Nurses’ Health Study, but there is currently a greater emphasis on eating foods with a low-pesticide profile, typically found in organic foods, due to a January 2018 study in JAMA Internal Medicine.

The results found that the “in a cohort of 325 women undergoing infertility treatment with assisted reproductive technology, intake of high–pesticide residue fruits and vegetables was associated with a lower probability of live birth, while low–pesticide residue fruit and vegetable intake was not associated with this outcome.”

However, eating organic foods are often cost prohibitive. Fortunately, The Environmental Working Group (EWG) creates a yearly review of the most pesticide-ridden produce, called The Dirty Dozen, and well as the cleanest fruits and vegetables, called The Clean 15. There are pocket guides on its website (ewg.org) as well as an app for quick access when grocery shopping.

For 2018, The Clean 15, produce that are safe to be purchased conventionally, include pineapples, papayas, mangos, honeydew melon, kiwi, cabbage, onions, frozen sweet peas, asparagus eggplant, cauliflower, and broccoli.

The Dirty Dozen produce for 2018 are often those with thin, penetrable skins, including strawberries, nectarines, apples, grapes, peaches, cherries, pears, tomatoes, celery, potatoes, sweet bell peppers, and hot peppers.

What is A Fertility Diet?

The best options for a fertility diet is one that includes plenty of vegetables as well as fruits, whole grains, beans, healthy fats, and quality sources of proteins.

While fruit has been demonized recently with current keto craze, fruits offer powerful vitamins and antioxidants that help fight off oxidative stress caused by poor nutrition, emotional stress, and environmental factors. They are best eaten raw and ripe because they are heat sensitive and because the whole fruit contains blood sugar-stabilizing fiber. Examples include wild blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, prunes, and pomegranates. They can be eaten as a whole fruit or added to a smoothie, which preserves the beneficial fiber when blended (not juiced).

Vegetables, like leafy greens and crucifers, offer much needed minerals and fiber to support healthy blood sugar levels and optimal digestion. 2-3 servings or covering ½ of your plate with vegetables encourages satiety, crowds out junk food, fuels your cells with nutrients, and provides sustained energy throughout the day. It also keeps your mood stable, which is especially helpful when patients are experiencing the stress of several months of trying to conceive. Prebiotic fibers from vegetables help support digestive health and help move bowels and toxins that go with it.

Healthy fats support egg, sperm, and embryo health, provide energy, and protect organs. Some examples of food-based fats to eat include wild-caught salmon (farm-raised salmon should be avoided due to contaminants), nuts (walnuts, pecans, macadamias, almonds), seeds (pumpkin, chia, hemp, sunflower), avocadoes, olives, and coconut. Healthy fats are best eaten as a whole food. Healthy oils like avocado, coconut, olive, and grapeseed, are best when used in smaller amounts, i.e. for cooking, since oils are a processed food. Trans fats, which are often found in donuts, pastries, and french fries, should be avoided entirely.

Organic proteins should be about ¼ of a meal. These include meat, eggs, tofu, tempeh, and beans. Organic is again ideal to avoid the antibiotics and pesticides, that contribute to a greater toxic body burden. Specifically, these include grass-fed beef, free-range chicken, wild-caught salmon, turkey, and smaller, less contaminated fish. Since according to Michael Pollan, “you are what you eat eats,” it’s important to look at what the animal that we are eating is also consuming and source accordingly.

Gluten free whole grains like brown and black rice, quinoa (this is actually a protein-rich seed but often treated as a grain), buckwheat, amaranth, millet, and oatmeal are beneficial staples to a fertility diet. It’s the refined grains, like breads and pasta, that wreak havoc on blood sugar, add to bodily stress, and should be limited.

The focus on gluten free grains relates to how our wheat is produced in the US. The majority of wheat is mostly ridden with pesticides and is genetically-modified to be resistant to glyphosate, which is a carcinogenic herbicide found in Roundup.

How to combine these foods?

When combined appropriately, these foods support optimal blood sugar and prenatal nutrient needs. The aim here is to integrate fiber in the form of vegetables and protein into the three main meals. Typically, ½ of the plate is covered with mostly vegetables and some fruit, ¼ is a protein, and the remaining ¼ would be a healthy fat or a whole grain.

Patients often question how to integrate more vegetables into their meals; here are some examples. Some of these ingredients can be prepped ahead of time to be easily and quickly assembled later.

Breakfast: 2 eggs scrambled with 2 servings of your favorite veggies (spinach, broccoli, kale, etc…)
Adding 2 handfuls of spinach to a smoothie
Lunch: Make ahead soup with lots of veggies topped with diced avocado
A large green salad topped with wild-caught salmon
Dinner: Stir fry of veggies and chicken over steamed cauliflower rice
Dinner bowl with quinoa, sauteed veggies, a grass-fed steak, and a savory chimichurri sauce
Snacks: Carrots and Hummus
Celery slices with Almond Butter

Given that 1 in 8 women struggle with infertility, many are often seeking ways to better manage the ongoing stressors related to trying to conceive. Eating to support conception can not only be delicious and nutritious, it can support hormonal and digestive health, blood sugar regulation, a healthy inflammatory response, as well as level energy and better mood.

Free Fertility Event Announced

National Infertility Awareness Week is coming up next month, and we’re offering a free fertility assessment! This free event is open to women 30-42 years old. Each registrant will receive an AMH (Anti Mullerian Hormone) test, which is considered to be a strong indicator of fertility potential. The Center will schedule a phone call with participants to discuss the results of the test. All are free of charge. Learn more about this event and how to register here.

Alert: Egg Freezing Public Hearing

CT Public Hearing on Insurance Coverage for elective egg freezing

The Insurance and Real Estate Committee will hold a public hearing on Thursday, February 14, 2019 at 11:00 A.M. in Room 2D of the LOB.

Included on the agenda is: Proposed S.B. No. 339 AN ACT REQUIRING HEALTH INSURANCE COVERAGE FOR ELECTIVE FERTILITY PRESERVATION TREATMENTS.

We need your voice

How to testify at Connecticut Public Hearing and contact your state representative

https://www.cga.ct.gov/asp/Content/YourVoice.asp

About Egg Freezing

Egg freezing is an exciting technology that allows women to store frozen, unfertilized eggs that can be used for fertilization and pregnancy at a later time. Egg freezing benefits women in several ways. Egg supply and egg quality diminish as women age. Egg freezing allows women to store their eggs at a younger age for future use. Another benefit is that instead of storing embryos, this process eliminates some of the ethical and religious concerns that accompany embryo freezing, storage, and disposal. This unique program can help women who either want to delay conception for personal reasons or for women who have medical emergencies that may impact their ability to conceive.

During the egg freezing process, eggs are retrieved from a woman’s ovaries, frozen in a cryoprotective solution, and then thawed when she wishes to become pregnant. The thawed eggs are then warmed and fertilized through a process called intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI). The process includes taking fertility drugs that will help stimulate the ovaries to produce more eggs. The eggs are harvested by using a small needle inserted under ultrasound guidance into the vagina to reach the ovaries and aspirate the eggs out. Patients are asleep during this short outpatient procedure and then can go home the same day. These eggs then are immersed in a special cryoprotective solution and frozen in a liquid nitrogen tank that is stored in our IVF laboratory until they are ready to be fertilized to initiate a pregnancy. Egg freezing is not a new procedure and has been proven successful via many IRB approved clinical trials. Back in 2013, the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) Ethics Committee removed the “experimental” label from egg freezing.

A summer salad that’s great for the winter

Although this is a recipe for a summer salad, it’s really great in the Winter as well. From Ami Chokshi, the Center’s Fertility Health Coach in honor of Healthy Weight Week.

Are you getting 7-9 servings of veggies in a day to support your fertility? If not, the summer is a great season to get started because of the many fresh veggies available at the store, at farmers markets, and in your garden.

Not only are vegetables chock full of vitamins and minerals to ensure you are getting optimal daily nutrients for your fertility, but the fiber also supports healthy digestion and a steady energy level, which is vital when you are trying to conceive.

I chose these ingredients for this salad because they are in season, rich in fertility supporting nutrients, diverse and colorful, and support healthy digestion and elimination.

Consider doubling or tripling the ingredients and make a few salads for the week and store in the fridge. “Make once, eat twice” saves us time and energy.

Here are some benefits of the ingredients I chose –

  • Choose organic lettuce to reduce pesticides in our body. Green lettuce is rich in folate, an important B vitamin for fertility. Also, during colder months, wash lettuce under warm water to take the chill of the salad.
  • Beets and lemon juice support liver health and detoxification.
  • Carrots are rich in beta carotene. They support healthy blood pressure and steady nerves,
  • Avocado offers healthy and satiating fats, which have numerous benefits both to your health and fertility.
  • Cucumbers are hydrating and alkalinizing
  • Pumpkin seeds are rich in both zinc and magnesium.
  • Raw Honey is an antiviral food and is rich in amino acids, minerals, and enzymes.
  • Apple cider vinegar supports digestive health and hydrochloric acid production in the stomach.
  • I added additional protein (did you know veggies contain protein?) with the organic chicken. Protein plus the fiber of the salad support healthy blood sugar and energy levels. If you are a vegetarian and would like additional protein, try 1/4 cup of black beans or chickpeas.

A Fruitful Body Salad

Salad

2-3 cups of Organic Spring Mix

1/4 cup of Beets, roasted & cubed

1/4 cup Carrots, shredded or sliced

1/2 Avocado, sliced

1/4 cup Cucumbers

1 tsp of Pumpkin seeds

3 oz of Organic Chicken

**Add ingredients into a large bowl

 

Apple Cider Vinaigrette

2 T Fresh lemon juice

1/4 C ACV

1/3 C Olive

oil

1 Tablespoon raw honey

1 clove garlic, minced

1 T dijon mustard

1/4 tsp sea salt

Pepper to taste

1/4 cup olive oil

**Combine in a mason jar and shake it up well.

**Mix 2-3 tablespoons in with your salad

**Store the rest in the refrigerator.

Positive Fertility Magazine, Summer 2018

Photography by Dean Batchelder

Photography by Dean Batchelder

Around the Town of Branford

Thanks to “Around the Town of Branford with Henry and Frank” and Branford Community Television for the opportunity to come in and talk about our newest office opening in Branford. We’re accepting appointments now for March, so please call us at (203) 481-1707 to make yours.

Fertility Foods for Healthy Weight Week

In recognition of Healthy Weight Week, Ami Chokshi, the Center’s Fertility & IVF Health Coach offers some tips and recipes. As a former fertility patient, Ami uses her experience and education to help women and couples to optimize their health and fertility. She does it through nutrition, supplementation, and lifestyle shifts that maximize their chances of conception.

“Smoothies are a wonderful way to get a bunch of nutrients in one meal, but when winter arrives, keeping your core warm with warming foods and spices is a better option to support your fertility health and nourish your soul!

That’s why during the winter, I like to replace my cold smoothie with a warm blended soup. And, this dairy-free recipe is one of my favorites for many reasons. First, it’s quick and easy to make. And, you can replace the main ingredient with any vegetable on hand, like broccoli, squash, pumpkin, mushrooms, or asparagus.

Also, soups are a terrific way to get more veggies in. To optimize our nutrition, we should be eating a minimum of five servings a day. It’s even more important if you are trying to get pregnant. This can be challenging otherwise, but blending them can make this important fertility booster easier.

I know many who dislike veggies but love this recipe! Learning new ways to prepare vegetables and cooking them with different spices can make a huge difference in taste, especially if you’ve grown up on boiled, bland veggies. Spices, like the curry powder in this soup, enhance the flavors, build circulation, warm your core, and fuel your body’s detoxification systems.

Adding chicken bone broth instead of water or vegetable broth makes this soup a complete meal, having protein, fat, and carbohydrates. So, it can be a great breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Yes, I said breakfast. We are programmed to think that breakfast foods have to be traditional foods like eggs and cereal, but that’s not so. Rethink what you eat, and the doors will open to new ideas.

Bone broth is not only a fertility superfood. It also offers superior gut healing properties as well as much needed minerals. The collagen in the broth nourishes your intestinal lining and reduces inflammation.

I hope you enjoy this recipe as much as I do! I would love to know how you made it your own.

Winter Carrot Ginger Soup

Ingredients

1 Small Onion, diced

1 T of Coconut Oil

2 lbs of Carrots, chopped

1 T of fresh Ginger, peeled and grated

4 C of Chicken Bone Broth

1 T Apple Cider Vinegar

2 t Curry Powder (or Turmeric)

1 t Sea Salt

Directions

  1. Saute onion in coconut oil until soft, about 5-8 minutes
  2. Add Carrots, Ginger, Chicken Bone Broth, Apple Cider Vinegar, Salt, and Curry Powder. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to a simmer for about 20 minutes or until carrots are soft.
  3. Use a hand-held blender or a high-speed blender to blend the soup until smooth or desired consistency.
  4. Divide into bowls and adjust salt if necessary.
  5. Top with cilantro and/or hemp seeds.
  6. Save remaining soup in mason jars for another day’s meal.
  7. Enjoy!

Recipe published in the Dec. issue of Positive Fertility Magazine.

 

New Branford Office is Taking Appointments

Our new satellite location in Branford’s Stony Brook Medical Center at 6 Business Park Drive will officially open in March 2019. Appointments are now being taken.

The new Branford location joins the Center’s main facility in Farmington, plus two additional satellite locations in Hartford and New London. According to the Center’s CEO, Paul Verrastro, “We are excited to open our new Branford facility to better serve patients in New Haven county and surrounding areas. Fertility treatment can require many trips to our facilities, so we made sure our new office is designed specifically for patient convenience and comfort. Easily accessible off main highway routes, our new location offers free parking, private waiting areas, and comfortable, patient-friendly rooms.”

In 2015, the Center opened a state-of-the-art, custom-designed facility in Farmington featuring one of the most highly advanced IVF labs in the world including an innovative air purification and irradiation technology called the LifeAire System. New data from in vitro fertilization programs using LifeAire System demonstrates dramatic increases in clinical pregnancies through in vitro fertilization.

The Center for Reproductive Services is Connecticut’s largest fertility program, and one of the most successful in the country. Started in 1984, the Center employs over 100 individuals in the state and is responsible for the births of close to 13,000 babies. The Center is an academic affiliate of the University of Connecticut School of Medicine and runs the fellowship program in Reproductive Medicine and Infertility at the UConn School of Medicine. The Center for Advanced Reproductive Services is managed by In Vitro Sciences, Inc., a subsidiary of Women’s Health USA, Inc. (Whusa). Whusa is a family of companies dedicated to providing the best in business management solutions in partnership with physicians.

The Center’s Lab Receives Accreditation from College of American Pathologists

The Accreditation Committee of the College of American Pathologists (CAP) awarded accreditation to our laboratory here at The Center for Advanced Reproductive Services based on results of a recent on-site inspection conducted by CAP inspectors. The inspection team included practicing pathology and laboratory medicine professionals.

The CAP advised Claudio Benadiva, MD, HCLD of this national recognition and congratulated the laboratory for its excellence in the services being provided. Our laboratory is one of more than 8,000 CAP-accredited facilities worldwide.

The U.S. federal government recognizes the CAP Laboratory Accreditation Program, begun in the early 1960s, as being equal-to or more-stringent-than the government’s own inspection program.

During the CAP accreditation process, designed to ensure the highest standard of care for all laboratory patients, inspectors examine the laboratory’s records and quality control of procedures for the preceding two years. CAP inspectors also examine laboratory staff qualifications, equipment, facilities, safety program and record, and overall management.

Congratulations to every member of our team for this significant accomplishment that further demonstrates our commitment to high-quality patient care at the Center.

 About the College of American Pathologists

As the world’s largest organization of board-certified pathologists and leading provider of laboratory accreditation and proficiency testing programs, the College of American Pathologists (CAP) serves patients, pathologists, and the public by fostering and advocating excellence in the practice of pathology and laboratory medicine worldwide. For more information, read the CAP Annual Report at cap.org.

Thank You For The Sweet Treats!

We cannot express our gratitude enough when we are visited by those we were able to help. And especially when we’re greeted with sweet treats by a wonderful young man who, as his mom says, “loves to visit his special friends and deliver them treats.”