Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Fertility Recipe: Vietnamese Chicken Noodle Soup

If you live in the northern hemisphere, where it's the middle of winter, a hot, nourishing bowl of soup right now will soothe and comfort your body. Here's a simple-to-make recipe from our book, The Fertile Kitchen(R) Cookbook.


2 chicken breasts (12 to 16 oz)
1/4 onion, sliced
About 10 broccoli florets (6 to 8 oz)
5 oz thin rice noodles
2 cubes of vegetable broth
1 jalapeno
1/4 bunch of cilantro
Soy sauce (on the side)
1.5 quarts of water
10 leaves of fresh basil
1 lemon


  1. Cut chicken breast into 1/2-inch cubes.
  2. Cut onion into slices.
  3. Cut broccoli into thumb-sized pieces.
  4. Place water and vegetable broth in a pot and bring to a boil on high heat.
  5. Add chicken and onion and let boil for 2 minutes.
  6. Add rice noodles and cook for another 2 minutes.
  7. Add broccoli and cook for another 1 minute.
  8. Serve soup with soy sauce, sliced jalapeno, cilantro, basil leaves and lemon on the side.

NOTE: You can also add these ingredients directly to the soup before serving, according to taste. Add jalapeno with caution (it’s hot!).

Stay warm and be healthy.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

10 Tips for Sticking with Your Fertility Diet through the Holidays

Sticking with your fertility diet and routine over the long run can be challenging under any circumstances, but it’s especially taxing during the holidays.

Gatherings of friends and family, especially if they include children, can bring up emotional stress and pain. And then there’s all the holiday food and sweets—at the office, at home, at parties, at dinner events. How do we resist the temptation to munch on food that doesn’t nourish us, and stay on the path of bringing our baby home?

Here are a few tips and tools to help: 

# 1. KEEP YOUR EYE ON THE PRIZE. In a moment of weakness when you just want that cup of coffee or piece of cake, ask yourself, “Which do I want more? This coffee or a baby?”  This has helped Renee Bornfreund, author of Persevering Through Infertility, get through many moments during her fertility journey.

# 2. PRACTICE VISUALIZATIONS to strengthen your resolve. Imagine your baby already in your arms, snuggling against you. Visualizations, like these, are powerful and effective, especially when repeated over time. When you reach for the glass of champagne, an image of your baby might remind you only to take a sip, or none at all.

# 3. KEEP HEALTHY SNACKS ON HAND. To combat the onslaught of happy, holiday foods, such as cranberry sauce, gravy, and all manner of sugary confections, keep lots of happy, healthy snacks around. These include almonds and raisins, chopped celery and carrots, hummus and non-wheat crackers (the beans in hummus are especially good for fertility), and fresh fruits and veggies. Prepare healthy meals ahead of time as well. Also see Prepping for a Fertility Diet for more.

# 4. BRING YOUR OWN HEALTHY DISH TO AN EVENT. If you’re attending a party in which you know the food won’t work for your fertility diet, bring your own side dish or main dish, as appropriate. One of our most popular party dishes is the Spicy Garbanzo Beans. A good, main dish for winter months is our Chicken with Portobello Mushrooms.

# 5. LET IT BE OK TO NOT ATTEND EVENTS. Don’t be afraid to say “No” to family and friends if you know attending an event will be painful, or if it will cause too much temptation to eat what you shouldn’t. Those who care about you and know what you’re going through will understand. For those who don’t know, you can always tell them you don’t feel well or you're not up to attending. This is YOUR time. You need to nourish and take care of yourself right now—which is all part of putting your body in the best possible position for conception.

# 6. DON'T GIVE UP. Just because you “slipped” one day and ate a pint of ice cream or missed fertility yoga doesn’t mean it’s time to forget even trying. What you do over the long run is more important. Every day presents a fresh start, so don’t let one day, or even one moment, defeat you.

# 7. BE KIND TO YOURSELF. Likewise, don’t beat yourself up for doing or not doing something. This doesn’t help and only hurts. Instead, remind yourself that you’re doing the best you can to move toward parenthood, take corrective action if needed, and nurture yourself.

# 8. GET SUPPORT. Not only does this help to not feel so alone on the journey, but it can also offer the strength of having a team behind you. Support can come from many places: your friends and family, your partner, organizations like Resolve, and numerous online support groups. The latter is where I found comfort and strength, just reading others’ stories. A favorite is Fertility Community.

# 9. PRACTICE MIND-BODY TECHNIQUES. Alice Domar, PhD, a fertility mind-body expert, recommends doing “mini relaxation exercises” whenever confronted with a stressful situation. These help to elicit a relaxation response, essentially bringing you back to inner peace. (Stress is fertility’s #1 enemy, so any healthy way of managing it is vital!) So if you see your very pregnant friend at a party, or plates of candy all over the room, causing stress or anxiety, first take ten, slow, deep breaths. For other mind-body techniques, click here and here.

# 10. KEEP UP (OR START) YOUR AFFIRMATIONS. Affirmations help us stay positive and on track. You can find a few examples of fertility affirmations here and here.

Keep your eye on the prize!! OK, we’ve already mentioned this, but it’s worth repeating. Almost any woman who has travelled down the thorny, gut-wrenching path of infertility and come out the other side with a baby—after years or even decades of struggle—will tell you that their child (no matter how he/she got there) is worth it. There is nothing like the overwhelming love you feel for the child you so badly wanted. And deserved! Remember always, that your child is waiting for you.

I wish you all the best on your fertility journey, through the holidays and beyond.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Reversing POF and Getting Pregnant!

Michelle Adams of Loving Heart Yoga shares her amazing, inspiring fertility success story with us.

When Michelle was 35, doctors diagnosed her with an assortment of ailments: hypothyroidism, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), interstitial cystitis (painful bladder syndrome), and, told on her birthday, Premature Ovarian Failure (POF). At the time Michelle had two daughters, ages 2 and 5, but, as she put it, “There was something in my heart that told me I wasn’t done having kids.”

A doctor told her that the only way she could have another child is through adoption or surrogacy. “I was told I wouldn’t be able to carry a baby because of my hormones,” she says.

At 35, Michelle had almost no eggs, and her FSH was over 100.

She had to do something! And not only because she wanted another child. Besides the emotional pain of this shocking news, Michelle also suffered serious physical pain and discomfort from her ailments. “I had to have a catheter placed in my urethra two to three times a week so that my urine didn’t burn. It was awful!

Michelle had already believed in a mind-body connection. In her 20’s, she had read Andrew Weil’s book, Spontaneous Healing, and explored the subject further.

“I knew there was a possibility to heal, but I had to tap into it,” she said. In response to her diagnoses, she started studying yoga, Tai Chi, and Chi gong.

“I went deep with the yoga because that’s what resonated with me, and it had the tools for me to heal,” she says. She started yoga therapy training at Loyola Marymount University and became certified to teach yoga to children. She also worked with U.C. Medical Center physicians as part of her training.

“The body is meant to heal and finding the tools and ways to get the mind out of the way is what it’s about,” she said.

At the same time, Michelle became much cleaner with her diet. She had always eaten whole foods, but she began to eat more of it organic. She gave up alcohol and chocolate. She was still eating meat and gluten at the time, though. (She no longer does.)

“Once I stopped all those things, my body got lighter.”

With all her healing work, Michelle was able to get her stress response under control. By age 39, she no longer needed to be treated for interstitial cystitis and in fact had stopped all her medications except those to treat her thyroid condition. She was still on the Prometrium and Estrogen, though, and this gave her a kind of cycle: bleeding each month, but without ovulation. The way it works with your body, she explains, “it’s kind of like being on birth control.”

So, at 39 and a half, when she started feeling tired and her breasts were tender, she laughed at herself for buying a pregnancy test. “I was just doing it for fun; I hadn’t taken a pregnancy test for seven or eight years.”

Imagine her shock when the test showed positive. Her doctor couldn’t believe it and had her come in. “My doctor said this just doesn’t happen. I’m the only one.”

Her daughters were 8 and 10 at the time, and she was pregnant with her son, Mathew. After learning she was pregnant, she went off the Estrogen and Prometrium, and her hormones improved overall.

“The experience was the best blessing I could have asked for,” Michelle says now. Through her work, not only did she achieve lasting peace, but it also gave her a sense of purpose and inspired her life’s work: to share the healing benefits of yoga.

At her fertility yoga practice in Southern California, 90% of the students in her “Heartfully Breathing, Receiving and Conceiving” program are pregnant in the first 12 weeks.

“It’s funny how things happen for a reason,” Michelle says.

Reflecting on why some of us have fertility issues, she adds, “Lessons don’t come to us when we are handed all that we desire. For couples who are dealing with infertility, it is a chance to grow as a person and as a couple.

“...Yoga, in particular, gives students the tools to illicit the relaxation response which ultimately improves their chances for fertility.  But the tools we give them in class, carry them throughout their lives…. It is all about being in an optimal space, both physically, emotionally and spiritually, the majority of the day.”

Michelle also adds, “You can’t get to that place without a super clean diet; you can’t sit still in your body without it.”

After the birth of her son, when her hormones dipped again, she says she had to boost the healthy fats in her diet, get off all sugars, eat organic, have just a few grains. “If I had done more [for this diet] sooner,” she says, “I would have been pregnant sooner.”

What one piece of advice does she have for others struggling with fertility today?

“You never say never because you just don’t know… There is always hope, there is always an option. You do the work—the yoga, diet, and so on—and then you release and let go. You leave it to a higher power. Because ultimately, it’s not up to you.”

Michelle offers a phrase from yoga: “Ishvara-pranidhana,” which means surrender to the divinity within you.

To learn more about her yoga practice and philosophy, visit her website:

Monday, February 25, 2013

Fertility Diet and Coconut Products

For this blog post, I turned to our Advisory Board Nutritionist, Virgina Watkins, who is experienced in educating women trying to conceive, as well as moms, on optimal nutrition. Here, we excerpt her newsletter on the topic of Coconut's Comeback. Thank you, Virginia, for this informative article!

Here are three possible benefits of eating coconut that may surprise you.
1.     Assists in weight loss
2.     Increases energy
3.     Boosts immunity

How did we have it all wrong?
It was only a few years ago that the food police vilified coconut oil as a major culprit in the rise of obesity and heart disease in the U.S. Now many of these nutritionists and doctors are back peddling. It turns out that most of the coconut oil they were looking at was hydrogenated. Hydrogenated oils can wreak havoc on cardiovascular health. Food manufacturers love them for their ability to prolong shelf-life and because they are cheap, compared to unprocessed fats such as butter and virgin coconut oil.

The saturated fat in coconut raises both HDL cholesterol levels and LDL cholesterol in the blood, and is not thought to negatively affect the ratio of the two. Experts now understand that the ratio is a better indicator of risk for heart disease than the LDL (sometimes called the “bad” cholesterol) levels, or the sum of HDL and LDL levels.

Weight loss benefit?
The jars of virgin coconut oil that fill the shelves in health food stores are primarily saturated fat, but on-going research since the late 1990’s shows that its unique properties can help with weight loss. Scientists have learned that the medium-chain fatty acids in coconut oil are sent directly to the liver and are absorbed more efficiently than long-chain fatty acids such as canola and vegetable oils.  The existing studies are not large enough to be conclusive, but even if doesn’t assist in weight loss, the mild, slightly nutty and vanillin flavor of coconut oil tastes delicious and is a great alternative to butter for those who are sensitive to dairy.

Immune booster for you and your family?
Coconut oil is high in lauric acid which is also very high in breast milk. Lauric acid fights against viruses and bacteria. If mother nature could weigh in here, she might add that coconuts grow in the warm, wet tropical climates where bacteria and viruses thrive, so it’s not surprising that the indigenous people in places such as the Philippines, Indonesia, and India- where most of the world’s coconuts are grown- eat a lot of coconut.

Which coconut products should I use and how? Are there any I should avoid?
Canned coconut milk is made from grated mature coconut. The canned coconut milk sold in the U.S. often has a layer of thick cream on top and a more milky substance underneath; use both. This type of coconut milk is traditionally used for making tasty curries. Try blending coconut milk with roasted winter squash for a tasty soup. Look for Native Forest brand on your grocer’s shelf; it is the only organic, BPA-free canned coconut milk available.

Refrigerated coconut milk is thinned and blended with water for a consistency more similar to cow’s milk. Manufacturers fortify it with vitamins A and D, and other vitamins and minerals, making it a milk alternative for those allergic or sensitive to dairy. So Delicious makes an Unsweetened, Original and Vanilla version. If you are allergic or sensitive to dairy, I recommend switching to a refrigerated coconut milk over almond, rice and other milk alternatives, if you enjoy the taste. Mix the Unsweetened variety with the Original or Vanilla to cut down on sugar.

Coconut oil is the fat from the coconut and is solid at room temperature. Look for organic virgin coconut oil. Use it as you would butter; add a couple of teaspoons to cooked rice, or steamed vegetables; use it instead of canola oil for stir-frying, or melt it and toss it with vegetables and sea salt for roasting. It has a higher smoke point than butter or olive oil so it won’t burn over high heat.

Coconut water is made from the liquid of young, immature coconuts. It does not contain fat and is high in potassium and electrolytes making it a great recovery drink for athletes or anyone who enjoys exercising.

Cindy speaking now: Please note that if you are in the San Francisco Bay Area, you can attend one of Virginia's fun, informative cooking classes. For more info, visit

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Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Inspirations at Fertility Planit Show

It was a real pleasure to attend the first ever Fertility Planit Show a couple of weeks ago in L.A. I heard amazing stories of hope and inspiration, humor and insight, and of course there was a wealth of information to take home. It was an uplifting, positive experience. I even made some new friends, with whom I exchanged heartfelt stories.

If you could not make it to this year’s event, all their sessions are now available online for free! See And think about attending next year.
Here is a random list of quotes from sessions I attended, stories I heard, or conversations I had.
From the “Street:”
  • “If you want to be a parent, you will. It just might not come in the way you expect it.” Karin Thayer, founder of Fertility Planit.
  • “You have to have hope… It’s important being positive through the process… we are not statistics.” Molly Nichols, owner of Mind-Belly Connection.
  • I learned about Michelle Adams, who used yoga and diet to reverse her POF (Premature Ovarian Failure) and conceive.
 From the Fertility When You’re Over 40 Session…
  • “Everybody always gets there eventually.” Dr. Catherine Deugarte, Pacific Fertility Center.
  • “If you’re going to make a copy [a mini-you, a baby], you don’t have a lot of time, so you want to get it right. …Stress level plays a huge role.” Dr. Dao, author of The Tao of Fertility, sharing about the need to reduce stress, and other lifestyle factors.
  • So much of infertility feels out of control. Psychologically, if you can do something, [it really helps].” Author and moderator, Monica Corcoran.
  • I loved hearing that a Reproductive Endocrinologist (a fertility doctor), Dr. Catherine Deugarte, recommended wheatgrass and other natural supplements, such as Royal Jelly, to boost fertility.
 From the Diet Nutrition and Lifestyle Session…
  • Ashley Koff, RD (Registered Dietician) talked about the need to treat the body as a whole.
  • “Small changes with diet, exercise and lifestyle can make you healthy.” Mandy Ingber, founder of Yogalosophy.
  • “Health begins in our digestive track.” Dr. Prudence Hall, founder of Hall Center Venice. She recommends eliminating gluten and flour because these cause inflammation.  Watch the video of this session for additional, more specific recommendations, including supplements to take.
  • “You want to create a relaxed, stress free environment.” Mandy Ingber.
  • “You do have control over what you put in your body.” Stacie Krajchir-Tom, writer and moderator.
  • Ashley’s advice: “Improve the quality of what you’re eating, within whatever culture. …Get balance.”
  • “Avoid an environment that is overly acidic with too much sugar and animal protein.” (Didn’t note which of the speakers said this, but it’s definitely good advice!)
From the Mind-Body Balance for Fertility Session…

This session featured Dr. Randine Lewis, author of The Infertility Cure and founder of the Fertile Soul, in conversation with Suzanne Rico, a health correspondent and one of Dr. Lewis’ former Fertile Soul participants.
  • “How to face a challenge: you dance with it. ..You figure out how to live your best life along with those things.” Suzanne Rico & Dr. Randine Lewis.
  • “Fertility is an inside job. … The only healer is in the heart.” Dr. Randine Lewis
  • “I need to take a step back and accept what happens. …Fertility can teach lessons about life.” Suzanne Rico.
  • “Fertility issues will steal your time. Don’t let it!” Suzane Rico.
  • "Be an inspired participant in your journey. …How are you in harmony with everything in your life? …Not how do I get out of it, but here I am in it… don’t resist it, live it, feel it. …a moment that shifts everything.” Dr. Randine Lewis.
  • Final words from Dr. Lewis: “Go out and believe.”
 photo: me, Shannon Giordano, and Molly Nichols at the Fertility Planit Show

Friday, August 10, 2012

Fertility Diet Trumps Statistics

I attended a seminar at a wonderful local fertility clinic on the topic of PGD and PGS in IVF. It was fascinating, especially to see how far such testing has come in recent years, and it was very well-presented. However, I found myself getting increasingly uncomfortable with all the charts and tables that showed the age-related, over-the-cliff drop-off of successful pregnancies in women in their late 30’s, early 40’s and mid-40’s. (They don’t even bother with late 40’s.)

Here’s a chart of how the rate of having an abnormal embryo increases tremendously at 40, and just look what happens at 45! And here’s another showing the dismal percentage of live births from IVF for women in their 40’s.

I was not just uncomfortable, but also felt a deepening sense of panic or anguish, or something dark and heavy in my stomach that I just couldn’t name. And then it hit me: I was reliving my own story. It was as if I was in that doctor’s office seven years ago when I had just turned 40, listening to the fertility doctor tell me I had only a 2% chance of conceiving on my own. I was recalling all the medical literature that tells you it becomes practically impossible to get pregnant and deliver a healthy baby in your 40’s. I was feeling that same sense of dread, panic and sudden depression.

It made me want to grab the statistics off the presentation slide and smash them on the wall.

So, I want to chat a little about statistics here, and set a few things straight—for all those coming after me who want a baby so badly, are older, and face these dismal numbers fertility clinics routinely hand out.

First, it’s important to know and accept that the statistics do serve a purpose. Fertility clinics don’t pass them out with the intent of deflating your hope (although that’s what often results). They want to give you a realistic picture of what the medical-scientific community has generally found to be true so that you can make informed decisions on how to proceed with treatment and family planning. They want to appropriately set your expectations.

HOWEVER, statistics are tricky things, because their meaning is all about perception and how you respond to them.

When my husband and I were told we had a 2% chance of conceiving on our own, I was not only devastated, I was angry. The first question I asked myself was: Who are these people that comprise these statistics? Who chooses them? And on what basis? Who are they?

I once listened to a recording of an herbalogist who said the prognosis listed in the bible of medical books for some dismal diseases were pretty grim, but they applied to the average American. His response: “Don’t be the average American!” Which is to say, don’t be someone who consumes a lot of saturated or trans fat, doesn’t exercise, watches too much TV, is overly stressed, and so on. Being a totally different kind of American, one who has consistently healthy habits for mind, body and spirit, you could seriously shake up a prognosis in your favor.

And YOU have the power to do that individually for yourself when it comes to your fertility as well. You can choose to do all that you have power over to tilt the stats in your favor, to make the difference—perhaps to make ALL the difference.

Sitting and watching this presentation, knowing what I know now, I thought: If all the people that comprise those stats were on fertility friendly diets, did acupuncture, meditated and practiced other mind-body work on a regular basis—all of which have been proven to aid fertility—I’ll bet we’d be looking at a whole new set of statistics, ones that are a LOT more promising!

Back when I was given that 2% chance of conceiving, the second question I asked myself was: what can I do to be in that 2% ?  How can I make a difference for myself to stand above the others. It was my attitude in response to that statistic that drove my actions. I wanted to be able to say I did everything I could to get pregnant on my own before considering other paths.

Attitude is important, and so is belief: I believed I could make a difference in my own fertility, and by trying, I had everything to gain, and very little to lose.

As you may know from my blog or book, four months later we naturally conceived our son, Julien.

My story was different five years later when I tried for baby #2 and I was 45. I understood the general truth of the stats and knew it wouldn’t be easy. I had already failed one IVF and although I naturally conceived close to my 44th birthday, I miscarried at 10 weeks. I knew it was possible, that I could eventually get pregnant naturally and knew women in their mid-40’s who had. But I also knew that it was not common, and that it could take a lot of time and effort, and how much more time and energy did I have to give, without a guarantee?

So, for our second child, I chose to use donor eggs. (If curious, you can read about that journey here.) I couldn’t be happier with this choice. Our resulting daughter is a huge joy!

The moral is: don’t accept statistics at face value. Think about their meaning, where they come from, what they mean to you, and how you want to respond to them. Statistics for embryo abnormalities by age say that when you’re 35 and pregnant, you have a 1 in 178 chance of having a child/embryo with a chromosomal abnormality. By 40 that number goes to 1 in 63. Yes, that’s a dramatic drop, and that’s important to note! But it is also important to note that 1 in 63 is equal to a 2% chance, which means at 40 you also have a 98% chance of having a perfectly healthy baby.

TIP: If negative stats are making you hot and angry while you’re trying to stay purely optimistic, consider Julia Indichova’s method: imagine a large metal shield protecting your body when you visit the fertility doctor. Imagine negative statistics just bouncing off the shield as you champion the fight of your life.

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Thursday, August 18, 2011

Can Desserts Mix with a Fertility Diet?

Sugar can cause a lot of issues for fertility, and our general health. (For more on sugar and why it's bad for fertility, see a previous blog: But it is really hard for many to give up, and understandably so. The following are some questions I've gotten about desserts, and what's "allowed" on a fertility diet, along with my answers.

Before diving into them, I wanted to suggest a great resource for healthy desserts that was sent in by a reader. Check it out: Sweetie Cakes Co. provides organic, vegan products and recipes that use natural sugar (such as juice concentrate) to help out those with a sweet tooth. Still, choose carefully.

QUESTION 1: What kind of frozen desserts can I have? Can I do frozen fruit bars, frozen rice milk product called Dream Rice or frozen coconut milk? 

ANSWER 1: Frozen desserts are out, as you need to eat and drink foods at least at room temperature. Foods (and drinks) that are too cold or too spicy hot overly tax digestion, which is to be avoided when trying to conceive. You want to be as easy on digestion as possible. Also, most desserts have sugar or too much natural sugar, and sugar really needs to go when trying to conceive  This is very important. Whole fruits are great substitutes!

QUESTION 2: Are gluten free desserts OK, or should I avoid them since they have sugar?

ANSWER 2: That’s fine as long as the sugar used is a natural sugar, such as pure, all-natural honey, maple syrup, brown rice syrup, agave nectar, for example, and the natural sugar is used in moderate amounts. You also want to make sure the other ingredients are fine too. I recommend no dairy, so look for a substitute (such as soy or rice milk) in the recipe. This would mean no butter or cream, either. FYI, in our house we substitute butter with olive oil. If you personally choose to keep dairy in your diet, or if you make exceptions for butter here and there, just make sure it’s organic because non-organic versions of dairy have growth hormones, which affect our own hormones negatively, as well as antibiotics in them. Some dairy is better than others in terms of impact on digestion. If you must, a little organic butter here and there is probably OK (unless of course you have an allergy or sensitivity to dairy). But do stay away from milk and cheese.

QUESTION 3: Is unrefined, unbleached Rapunzel sugar ok to eat in recipes? Also, what about molasses?

ANSWER 3: It’s important to cut out or at least avoid sugar as much as possible while trying to conceive. Rapunzel can be a good source of unrefined sugar and it’s okay to have every once in a great while in very small quantities--if you must. Keep in mind, though, that although it’s definitely better than white table sugar, it is still sugar. For molasses, black-strap molasses is a good choice; it’s a very good source of iron. Just use in moderation.
Wishing you all the best!

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