Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Your Fertility: 10 Ways to Improve Your Egg and Sperm Quality Naturally

This week I'm honored and thrilled to have Iva Keene write a guest blog for us. Iva Keene is a qualified, accredited and internationally recognized naturopathic physician and natural fertility specialist, author and speaker who has helped thousands of couples with fertility problems on their path to pregnancy. Based in Switzerland, Iva is a compassionate and highly ethical practitioner and a strong advocate of natural fertility education. Iva has taught her safe, effective Natural Fertility Prescription (NFP) method to couples in more than a dozen countries. For more information on her work, visit her website at:

The natural approach to treating infertility aims to address its root causes, by addressing all of the body systems, rather than just focusing solely on the reproductive system. Many couples who can’t fall pregnant suffer from a combination of sub-clinicalconditions. These conditions can’t cause infertility on their own but – in combination – they can substantially reduce a couple’s probability of conceiving naturally and with IVF.

The rate of success of IVF is (on average) 25% per single attempt. Studies show that by following a natural preconception program prior to attempting IVF the success rate is increased to 47.1% per single attempt. I always advise couples to undertake a preconception program as a first step to improve their egg and sperm health. By following this approach if IVF is still needed the success rate of each attempt is nearly doubled by combining it with a natural preconception program.

Here are 10 strategies you can immediately implement to; improve your egg and sperm health, boost fertility naturally and increase your IVF success.
1. Minimize your exposure to toxic chemicals. Exposure to environmental toxins (in the form of industrial chemicals) both in utero and neonatally may dramatically affect adult fertility. Most chemicals used in everyday life do not go through the same checks medicines do. Consequently; poisonous chemicals end up circulating in our environment, food supply, air and water.

Occasional exposure to one of these chemical is not of concern. What is of concern is accumulation of these chemicals over a long period.

2. Try to drink filtered water whenever possible. Unfortunately, our waterways are constantly being polluted by industrial waste and byproducts, pharmaceutical drugs, pesticides and herbicides and commercial cleaning products. Heavy metals are the most common of the reprotoxins reaching our water supply through industrial waste, jet fuel exhaust residue and a variety of other sources. And increasingly pharmaceutical drugs are increasingly being detected in tap water.

3. Aim to eat an optimal fertility diet. An optimal fertility diet is about what to avoid as much as it is about what to include. A fertility diet should be as fresh and organic wherever possible. Key elements include: (i) good quality protein sources (favor vegetable sources of protein) and; (ii) good fats. Here is a suggested list of types of foods to consider:
  • Organic meat in small quantities, game, small deep sea fish like sardines and red snapper, organic legumes home cooked (not canned).
  • Whole grains, nuts, seeds, vegetables and fruit in season, organic where possible.
  • Increase your consumption of good fats and avoid dangerous fats. Good fats include; monounsaturated fats in olive oil, polyunsaturated fats in oily fish and nuts and mid-chain fatty acids found in coconut oil.
  • For cooking use clarified butter (ghee) or coconut butter (without flavor) as they do not become unstable when heated.
  • For non heated oil requirements (salads etc) use cold pressed olive oil, flaxseed oil and nut oils.

 4. Avoid trans fats. Did you know that consuming trans fats hidden in foods, such as doughnuts, biscuits, lollies, candy, chocolate, chips, pies, fries, and thousands of other foods may increase your risk of infertility by as much as 70%? Scientists from the Harvard University School of Public Health advise women wanting to get pregnant to avoid all trans fats. Trans fats are mostly listed as ‘hydrogenated fat’ or ‘hardened vegetable fat’ or simply ‘vegetable fat’.

5. Minimize animal derived estrogens. Dairy products account on average for 60-70% of estrogens consumed. Humans consume milk from cows in the second half of pregnancy when cows estrogen levels are high. We usually associate dairy and drinking milk with calcium, and never think about what else we may be consuming along with it (and dairy, by the way is not the best source of calcium). Hormones that have been found in cows milk include prolactin, somatostatin, melatonin, oxytocin, growth hormone, lutenizing releasing hormone, thyroid stimulating hormone, estrogens, progesterone, insulin, corticosteroids and many more. Do you think an excess consumption of all these hormones could disrupt your own hormonal balance? You bet! Consumption of milk has been linked to certain cases of male infertility.

6. Avoid the two most common allergens. The link between food intolerances and anti-sperm antibodies is now well established. Studies have found that women with multiple allergies and food intolerances were more likely to miscarry. An overactive immune system is more likely to attack its own body cells. From an immunological point of view an embryo and sperm cell are foreign bodies. But Mother Nature was clever; she programmed our immune systems to distinguish between an everyday invader and a sperm cell or embryo.

The two most widely spread food intolerances are gluten and dairy. I recommend all my patients have an IgG immunoglobulin test done to check if you are dairy and gluten intolerant. But since most people have some level of allergy to gluten and/or dairy, it’s advisable to avoid gluten and dairy altogether during the preconception and pregnancy period.

7. Have an STD check. Most people believe both they and their partner are STD free. However there are some STDs which can be asymptomatic, meaning that you may not be aware you have them, as there are no obvious symptoms. One such STD is a Chlamydia infection. In men, a Chlamydia infection can lead to sperm abnormalities including sperm antibodies. In women, it can lead to scarring,blocked tubes and miscarriage. Most STD’s are easy to treat, so it pays for both partners to have an STD check.

8. Implement stress reduction exercises into your daily wellness routine. It is has been confirmed that stress has an enormous negative influence on our reproductive health. In addition, difficulties with trying to conceive produce as much stress as someone facing a life-threatening health problem or situation. It’s imperative to implement strategies to reduce stress on a daily basis. There are plenty of ways to do this, and include such things as regular exercise, deep breathing techniques, yoga or other slow-stretching exercises, and meditation. The folks at Circle +Bloom specialize in daily relaxation and mind-body exercises to implement to help reduce stress and unlock the powers of the mind’s healing power. They have a free MP3 fertility relaxation program to begin immediately.

9. Minimize intake of coffee and alcohol. Stop smoking immediately. The studies and research findings of the effects of coffee on your fertility are mixed. But one study showed an alarming result. It found as little as 1 cup of coffee per day increases the risk of not conceiving by 55%. Try switching your daily caffeine with a healthy alternative like green tea. Alcohol has also been shown to be harmful to women’s eggs and men’s sperm. And although it’s been known for a long time that drinking while pregnant is a no-no, drinking before pregnancy has been largely ignored.

Smoking and recreational drugs can also reduce your odds of conception. A study tested the effects of cigarette smoking on semen quality in men and found that sperm motility (ability to propel forward) decreased in light smokers while heavy smoking produced abnormal sperm shape. Scientists have discovered that quitting smoking may increase sperm count in men who quit smoking for 5-15 months by 50% – 800% respectively.

10. Take a good quality preconception and pregnancy supplement. Regardless of whether you are eating organic produce and a healthy diet, you are unlikely to be getting all the nutrients your body needs for optimal fertility from your diet. This is why supplementation is important. Getting pregnant and growing a new
human being with your own reserves, requires a surplus of nutrients and energy. In your body’s accounting terms, pregnancy is a luxury, a splurge of energy and nutrients.

For more detailed information on treating infertility naturally including specific information on all fertility nutrients, the right dosages, fertility diet, what to avoid, and the influence of stress and sleep on fertility, please refer to my fertility program The Natural Fertility Prescription which goes into much more detail on this topic. If you want to undertake a preconception program or address a specific fertility condition naturally, I highly suggest you buy the actual NFP program – see my website for more info.