Courtesy Monica Cox, FDN-P, Fertility Health Coaching
An autoimmune disease is a condition where the body cannot tell the difference between healthy tissue and foreign invaders. Your immune system becomes “touchy”—to say the least—and starts to overreact and self-attacking. This could have been going on silently for years until you start getting symptoms or a full-blown autoimmune disease develops. There are more than 80 types of “official” autoimmune disorders and take place in areas all over the body, including the thyroid gland, brain tissue and the salivary glands.
As you can imagine, autoimmune diseases such as autoimmune thyroid disease, inflammatory bowel disease, celiac disease, type 1 diabetes and psoriasis can have an effect on a women’s fertility. These diseases are linked to the most common fertility issues including PCOS, endometriosis, premature ovarian aging (POA) and unexplained infertility (1,2). When you’re dealing with autoimmunity, it’s important to rebalance peace within the body. Because let’s face it: A body attacking itself is not a hospitable environment for your baby to thrive in!
I went years without knowing I had an autoimmune issue that was not only affecting my fertility but also making me infertile. For me, it was High Natural Killer Cells (overactive immune system). After five years of never getting pregnant, two failed IVFs and no other obvious signs, I finally got tested and found the root cause of my infertility. Luckily I had already decided to change my diet and lifestyle, so when I found out I had an autoimmune issue, the transition to Autoimmune Protocol (AIP) was that much easier.
So why get onto an AIP diet for your fertility? If you’re dealing with an autoimmune disease or dealing with fertility issues, the AIP diet helps to heal the intestinal mucosa and support low inflammation in the body. Using the AIP diet for six to eight weeks (three months for optimal egg and sperm quality) before trying naturally or using medical support will help to reduce inflammation in the intestines, calm inflammation in the gut and also calm inflammation throughout the body. Your body’s immune system starts to relax, you hormones start to rebalance and your body starts to go back into a homeostasis state of being!
There are many different interpretations of an AIP diet and this is because we are all different. Your genetics, how long and how deep your autoimmune disease goes all play a big part in how much and how long you have to cut out certain food for. We’ll all react differently; some will have to eliminate everything on the AIP list forever, while others can re-introduce certain foods and be able to tolerate them in small quantities. For me, at the moment it’s still nightshades, especially paprika and tomatoes. But I can handle chocolate, rice and nuts (though I still limit myself on these). AIP becomes a lifestyle and you alter it to fit your body’s needs; you’re in control!
My fertility journey exposed my autoimmune issue. You maybe be thinking, “This sounds like me,” or maybe not. But by making steps to a clean-eating lifestyle or all the way AIP, you’ll be restoring the peace inside your body and achieving your dream family (along with limiting the medical support you may need). It’s not the easiest thing to do, but it’s FREE, you can do it in your own time and no one is looking up your lady parts!
– Take it slow and don’t beat yourself up if/when you fall short. Make improvements each day. “Little by little, a little becomes a lot.” – Tanzania Proverb
– Group support is key when you’re trying to make a BIG change in diet and lifestyle.
– Food is a powerful way to reduce inflammation and calm the immune system. Additional supplements, testing and support are usually required in finding the root cause of your issue and fully healing the gut. Don’t give up on a clean eating diet, but do find a practitioner knowledgeable in this field who can look beyond diet and help you dig deeper in finding the true cause of your infertility.
We all know you need to get your green, leafy vegetables in, so let’s skip that one!
Liver—you know you loved it. Okay, love is a strong word and I know it’s hard for most to go there, but it’s a must to improve overall health and to optimize fertility. Liver is perhaps one of the most nutrient-dense foods as it is a rich source of folate, vitamin B12, pantothenic acid, riboflavin, niacin and vitamin A. You only need 3-4oz of liver once or twice a week, so it’s achievable! Mince it, pâté it or hide it—just try your best to get it down!
Oily fish such as mackerel, herring, wild salmon, sardines, anchovies, mollusks and shellfish are one of the best sources of omega 3 (aka healthy fat), including DHA and EPA. Plus, oily fish is loaded with selenium, Vitamin D and vitamin B12. Omega-3s are also anti-inflammatory, therefore helping to reduce inflammation in the body. Obviously, when eating fish you need to be aware of mercury levels and try your best to get it from nature, i.e. a line-caught source.
Bone Broth or Meat Broth
Bone broth is a rich source of the amino acids proline, glycine, glutamine and arginine. The gelatin found bone broth is a deeply nourishing and helps to heal and seal your gut and promoting healthy digestion. If bone broth doesn’t work for you, use a GAPS meat stock; you’ll get lots of the important minerals, amino acids, gelatin, etc. without the high histamine and glutamic acid found in bone broth.
Coconut Oil and Ghee
Between the two of these, you’ll be getting K2, fat-soluble vitamins A, D and E and lauric acid, which is an antioxidant with anti-viral properties and supports our immune systems. These are also a great source of saturated fat, which helps our bodies build up their own fat stores, which is key to maintaining consistent energy while preparing for and maintaining a healthy pregnancy. High-quality fats like coconut oil and ghee are also crucial for the development of your baby’s brain, so keep eating them throughout pregnancy. Both of these are great to cook with or meltdown and use in a hot drink. I keep a tub of coconut oil in the bathroom to use as lotion and makeup remover.
It all starts in the gut. A healthy gut dramatically improves health and fertility. Also, your growing baby’s digestive tract will be colonized by the same bacteria in your gut—how amazing is that? Lacto-fermented foods provide beneficial bacteria, enzymes and lauric acid, which promote a happy digestive tract. You can easily make them at home or if you buy them, make sure you buy from a source that uses traditional fermentation techniques and are raw and unpasteurized. Make sure you keep an eye on how you feel when eating lacto-fermented foods; not everyone can tolerate them at first.
Please remember that this is simply my story and what I have gone through. These are my opinions that I have formed over the years, through trial and error, study, reading, listening and observing. I am open to change, challenges and new scientific developments. What works for me, may not work for you. I am not a doctor and all medical advice should be obtained from a qualified professional. If you feel like your doctor isn’t reading from the same nutrition and lifestyle book as you are (or want to be), go find one that is!
Monica is a little bit obsessed with real food and can be often seen cooking with a spoon full of ghee or putting bones into the slow cooker. Her new lifestyle evolved slowly during her long journey to create a beautiful child of her own. Tired of hearing the poor nutrition advice for women and men going through infertility, Monica founded Fertility Health Coaching to promote and help others understand the importance of clean eating.
She is a qualified Functional Diagnostic Nutrition® Practitioner, which means she’s here to help identify and eliminate the underlying causes of your fertility health issues.