Whether you’re hoping to get pregnant soon or kids are more of a “someday” thing, how you eat can impact your fertility. So what should you be eating (and not eating) now to optimize your fertility? To answer these questions, and others about fertility and food, we spoke with Nimisha Gandhi, a functional medicine and Ayurvedic nutritionist. In her private practice, Moon Cycle Nutrition, she works with teenage girls, fertility, prenatal, and postpartum woman as well as autoimmune conditions and rebalancing the gut microbiome. Ancient healing practices and modern medicine have shaped Nimisha’s understanding of mind-body-spirit wellness since childhood.
Q: Nimisha, thank you so much for talking with us about this important topic. What should women be eating in order to increase their fertility?
Nimisha Gandhi: Women should definitely start nourishing their bodies before they get pregnant. It’s really important that women eat 3 nourishing meals a day that consists of whole-foods (those are foods which are as unprocessed as possible, and contain little to no artificial substances). Processed and fast foods are void of nutrients but high on calories and sugar which can impede fertility. Focus on eating foods that will give you the most nutrient-density, like leafy greens, fermented foods, avocados, sprouted nuts and seeds, berries, eggs, quinoa, amaranth, buckwheat, organ meats, and fatty fish.
Q: What should you try to avoid when you’re trying to optimize your fertility?
Nimisha Gandhi: Studies show that a subset of women who go off of gluten have a higher chance of conceiving in the next year, thus it’s prudent to try a gluten-free lifestyle while trying to conceive. Alcohol can delay the amount of time it takes to get pregnant. Caffeine can as well, so if you can’t eliminate it entirely, reduce it to 8 oz a day. Green tea, herbal tea, water, and bone broth are great alternative beverages. Avoid processed foods and sugar, and empty carbs like bread and cereal. We need fat, especially first thing in the morning to anchor our blood sugar, but make sure it’s good fats, like coconut oil, ghee, and olive oil.
Q: Finally, what can women do to reduce stress during this time?
Nimisha Gandhi: Seek out pleasure in your everyday life. Find joy in the foods you eat, conversations you have, and the sights and sounds you pass daily.
Think about how the food is going to nourish you, not just now, but in the long term. Stress-reduction does not need to include taking huge chunks of time out of your day, but it’s about being mindful of your actions, thoughts, and feelings. There is also a nice array of fertility meditations that can help put you in the right frame of mind.
Everyone is on their own timeline – try not to look at it as a competition when others are getting pregnant and you aren’t. Women tend to buy massive amounts of supplements to aid them in their fertility journey. It can be very costly and not necessarily beneficial. Often times, commercial and cheap supplements have additives, pesticides, metals, and toxins, which have a severely negative impact on your health. It’s always better to talk to a trained fertility professional before taking new supplements.
I want women to know that there is so much outside of the clinic that can be done to support their fertility and health. The first thing is to get to know your body and know what your body wants. Get all of the proper tests done and dig deeper until you get to the root of the problem. Sleep, nutrition, movement, and mindfulness can do wonders alone and all of these things can improve your chances of conceiving along with assisted reproductive technology.
Nimisha Gandhi holds a B.S. in Psychobiology from UCLA and has years of additional education in clinical research, gut microbiome, female, and environmental health. Her specialty includes teenage girls, fertility, prenatal, and postpartum woman as well as autoimmune conditions and rebalancing the gut microbiome. She is a functional medicine and Ayurvedic nutritionist as well as a Yoga Nidra Meditation teacher.
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