This post is part of the Natural Living Series. Guest Moira shares her family’s journey to healthy eating which helped them conceive after years of infertility. Moira now teaches Dr. Sears’s L.E.A.N. Start classes to help other family’s build a healthy lifestyle. For more information about Moira, be sure to check out the bottom of this post and for more posts on Eating Naturally, check out our week of Eating Naturally posts.
Eight years ago my husband and I ate a typical, middle-of-the-road diet. We occasionally ate out, we ate ice cream when we wanted to, and we ate some fast food but not too much. We ate fruits and/or veggies with every meal, but we didn’t worry about pesticides, GMOs, or synthetic ingredients and chemicals. We certainly didn’t buy organic produce or food. Eight years ago we started trying to get pregnant. (Some links below are affiliate links.)
After a year, we realized that we needed to make some changes to our health – a big part of that change was our diet. In the beginning we just tried to eat more organic produce. Another year passed and we still weren’t able to get pregnant, even with intervention. So we started reading books like The Fertility Diet to help us figure out how to change our diet in a way that would improve our overall health and boost our chances of conception.
With all of this research, we discovered that the chemicals and hormones found in many common food products today can greatly impact our health and, not surprisingly, our fertility. Think about it like this. Say you buy a regular whole chicken at the grocery store. If it isn’t organic, it was likely fed hormones to plump it up – don’t most consumers want a nice, juicy chicken? The hormones given to the chicken are then passed on to you when you consume the chicken. That wouldn’t be too bad, except that you probably aren’t just eating chicken; you are eating beef and pork during a given week as well. Now your body has to figure out what to do with all of these extra hormones and your health and fertility become compromised. Remember that the brain communicates and functions via chemicals and hormones. If we are constantly bombarding our brain and endocrine system with external sources of hormones it stops functioning optimally.
Because of the potential health effects (e.g., disease, cancer) of non-organic foods on the human body, we chose to eat an almost completely organic diet. After 5 years, we were able to conceive without intervention and carry the pregnancy to term. We are now enjoying our wonderful almost-2-year-old and are already teaching him how to be healthy. We don’t want him to struggle some day if he chooses to have a family.
Improving your health and fertility with diet
Whether you are reading this post because you are trying to conceive or are just curious about improving your health, the path is the same. Whenever possible try to eat certified organic foods. It can be pricey to eat an entirely organic diet so the Environmental Working Group has compiled a list of “Dirty” and “Clean” Produce. They have even rated the 48 most common produce buys based on the amount of pesticide residue they are likely to have. If you have to make choices, and most families do, choose to buy the organic versions of the foods on the Dirty Dozen list. When you buy meat try to buy organic or natural cuts. You are specifically looking for animal products that were raised cage free (when applicable), without hormones and antibiotics, and are grass-fed (when applicable). Beware that the term “natural” is only meaningful when we are talking about animal products; other uses are simply a marketing ploy. Finally, when shopping for fish, aim for fish high in Omega-3’s such as salmon. When possible, try to buy wild fish from Alaska. Alaska has pristine water and a lot of regulations surrounding fishing. These regulations make their fish the “fish of choice”. Farm raised fish tends to have fewer Omega-3’s, higher levels of antibiotics, and is not always farmed in a sustainable way. These are just a few of the differences between farmed and wild fish. If you don’t have local access to wild Alaskan fish, online retailers such as Vital Choice are excellent options.
Making changes without letting “healthy” food go to waste.
Sometimes when we start making healthier choices such as those listed above, family members balk. When your family isn’t completely on board with the changes they can reject the new foods and preparation techniques you are using, which leads to wasted food. This can be a tricky problem. Making any kind of significant change to your diet takes time. I suggest that you choose one small change to introduce. Talk about why you are making the change with your family. Ask them to come up with ideas for how to cook/prepare the new food you are trying. If your family is involved in the change they will be more likely to accept the change. Just keep making these small changes. Over time you may find that your family begins to take the initiative in making these changes.
Remember that with any change to your diet or exercise routine you should consult your healthcare provider. Not all changes are ideal for each person so you will need to find the solution that works for your specific situation. My husband and I have found that by changing our diet, our hormone levels have normalized, we both experience fewer migraines, our mood is more stable, and our energy levels are higher. There are so many benefits to healthy eating and living that I encourage you to take the first step today toward a healthier lifestyle.
Julia here! If you are local, I just wanted to encourage you to consider taking Moira’s classes. We took the L.E.A.N. Start class and learned so much! We have used what we learn to make healthier choices and to teach Marcella more about eating well. The class gives you tools to use with your children and there is an activity book as well you can get. Marcella really loved the activity book and internalized the healthy messages about food it taught.
Moira Hanna, Ph.D., is a certified L.E.A.N. Health Coach through the Dr. Sears Wellness Institute, a psychology professor at Greenville Technical College, a Digital Faculty Consultant for McGraw-Hill Companies, a wife, and a stay-at-home mama to an energetic little boy. She is committed to building a healthier South Carolina Upstate through her Human Growth and Development classes at Greenville Tech and L.E.A.N. Workshops for parents and expectant/nursing moms. She blogs, posts recipes on Twitter, and can be found posting pictures of her latest CSA produce boxes on Facebook.