Monday, November 22, 2010

Can I Cheat on My Fertility Diet?

We are honored once again for acupuncturist and RN, Karen Reynolds, to provide a guest blog for us on this topic. And I love this post! Like Karen, I often get this question: Is it OK for me to cheat just a little on my fertility diet? Her response will help you make an informed decision on whether it's OK for you to deviate from the diet. Here is her post:

As an acupuncture fertility specialist, I hear this question every day from my patients. There is a complex answer to what seems like a simple question. Cheating has varying impacts depending upon your unique body. A pivotal question for you is do you have any autoimmune conditions? Are there active sources of inflammation in your system?

If not: that is great, yet it remains important to weigh what happens in your system when you do cheat. If so: here is some more information for you.

There are many conventional medicine diagnoses, which are considered autoimmune in nature. Autoimmune means that the body attacks its own tissues in one way or another. Here is a short, but not all-inclusive, list of typical autoimmune issues.
  • Addision disease
  • Alopecia areata
  • Hashimoto’s Disease
  • Chron’s disease
  • Celiac disease
  • Juvenile onset diabetes, aka Diabetes Type I
  • Endometriosis
  • Glomerulonephritis
  • Pernicious anemia
  • Polymyositis
  • Pulmonary fibroisis
  • Rhemuatoid Arthritis
  • Scleroderma
  • Systemic lupus erythematosus
  • Vitiligo
Why the question of autoimmunity related to a fertility diet? Much of what can happen potentially or currently in our bodies has to do with our genetic make up. We know that many people navigate this world with the genetic predisposition for certain disease entities. What is interesting is that some people can carry the genetic predisposition to rheumatoid arthritis, for example, but their gene for it is simply never “switched on”. For others the switch is flipped and the full set of symptoms happens.

Science is finding that many factors of daily life contribute to “flipping the switch." The beauty is that we can control some of the stressors, which inch that switch toward the “on”. Controlling stress factors includes: diet, emotional, and work triggers, as well as environmental exposures and habits. There are lab tests also which can evaluate your genetic predisposition to various conditions. These are tests, which I routinely order for my patients in my Mill Valley acupuncture practice.

Here is where nutrition is a factor.

Human bodies are sort of like lines of dominoes. The lines stay tidy and upright as long as they are not disturbed or bumped and pushing over one line will invariably impact many other lines. Some of us have Hollywood super star, body guarded lines of dominoes and some of us must contend with what seems like the bratty play ground bully just to keep the dominoes looking good. If you are a woman with thyroid issues like Hashimoto’s disease as one example, some of those dominoes are tipped already. The switch is “on” so the best option is to control for the various fires, which might be set in your system.

Gluten in the diet is the most typical dietary “cheat” and it is like gasoline thrown onto the autoimmune fire. This is the reason why. If you have an autoimmune condition your lymphocytes (white blood cells) are primed. They are highly activated and become more so when exposed to inflammatory substances like gluten. This is so even if you are not technically allergic to gluten.

One single exposure to gluten will rev up your lymphocytes for up to 8 months. In that time autoimmune flare-ups are more highly likely. A great deal of tissue destruction can happen when the body attacks itself during a given autoimmune flare up. When your body is handling this situation, falling pregnant will take a back seat to simple survival.

If you don’t have an autoimmune condition or predisposition to one, that is great. However it is best to determine if there are any other sources of inflammation in your body. Do you have old or lingering injuries, which seem not to resolve? Do you have digestive irregularities? Do you have joints that pop or click? Do you have skin, which easily breaks out or reacts? Do you have asthma? These are just a few examples of inflammation percolating in the body. Inflammation is worsened by gluten in the diet and if your body is busy about trying to clean up inflammation, it will not be focused on making a baby. Acupuncture has been found to reduce inflammation in the body, which is one reason it is so advantageous when trying to fall pregnant.

Sometimes women will say to me, “Can’t I have a piece of birthday cake on my birthday once per year?” The reality is that piece of birthday cake has the capacity to impact you for 8 months and most women seeing me for fertility support really want to be pregnant within 8 months. I sincerely hope this post is helpful to you on your journey to motherhood. You are a wise, capable woman in a wise, capable body and I wish for you the best in this world!

About Karen: Karen Reynolds specializes in the treatment of both male and female fertility, women’s health, and functional endocrinology. Drawing from her 22 years of experience as an ICU RN, she makes extensive use of lab testing, acupuncture, Chinese herbs, antioxidants, dietary changes and nutritional supplementation to optimize health, wellness and vitality for the amazing women and men who she has the great honor to treat.

If you have questions, please feel free to contact her at:

Balance Restored Center for Integrative Medicine

Phone: 415.381.8500 Ext. 4
See her blog for additional information: