I think that one of the most common questions I get asked in clinic by patients preparing for IVF is what they should eat/not eat. Here are some of my answers.
This is simply a collection of research on foods that appear to help fertility outcomes. You don't have to eat everything, but if you like some of the foods on this list, then you have one more reason to eat them 🙂
The big takeaway:
The main idea around eating for fertility (IVF/IUI or Natural) is to focus on an anti-inflammatory, plant based diet (lots of greens, cruciferous and colourful vegetables), with some good quality protein (free range eggs, grass-fed meat and legumes) , healthy fats (fresh avocados, nuts and seeds, cold pressed olive and avocado oils) and plenty of water (dehydration means less blood flow to your ovaries and uterus). Boring, but simple.
Eat food your grandparent would recognize. The less processed it is, the less likely it will be inflammatory. Buy the vegetable, protein or fat in the form closest to how it looked in nature. Cut up the vegetables and fruits yourself and cook them yourself if you can. Make big pots of stew, soup or sauces and freeze them for the days you don't have time to cook. Meal planning and prep is more than half of the battle. We like to believe there is a magical fruit or vegetable that will heal us or make us super fertile, but the reality is that it is what and how we eat day in and day out.
But.....since you probably still want a few suggestions...here are some.
Foods To Eat
Avocados. Research (1): Harvard School of Public health noted that women who consumed the highest amount of monosaturated fat were 3.4 times more likely to have a child after IVF. Avocados are among the foods with the highest monosaturated fats. Jorge E Chavarro, the lead author, has also published other studies on ovulatory infertility and the benefits of diets high in monosaturated fat. So, avocados, here we come!
Mediterranean diet Research (2): There was a 40% increase in positive assisted reproductive technology (ART) outcomes in people who consumed a Mediterranean diet pre-pregnancy. Again, this was due to the fact the diet was rich in good fats, vegetables, low mercury types of fish, and legumes.
The Chinese Medicine approach: Eat warm, easy to digest foods. Chinese medicine advises that we avoid foods that are cold and difficult to digest, like raw vegetables, ice cream and frozen smoothies. The idea being that cold and raw foods require more energy and focus by the body to break down and absorb (raw vegetables also have a cellulose outer shell that requires extra work to breakdown) and this takes away from the body’s ability to focus on reproductive functions. One salad or frozen smoothie on transfer day won't likely change your pregnancy outcome, but over months, the extra attention and energy used on digestion may create a deficit in other areas like your ovaries and endometrial lining.
Internet suggestions to ignore:
Pineapple. Ugh...this comes up so much. The key enzyme that made this fruit so internet famous for IVF is bromelain. Dosing is an issue when affecting implantation. Too much isn't good, not enough doesn't do anything, and many people have sensitivities to pineapple, so I suggest you skip this one.
Bonus tip for transfer day:
Funny movies! Research: Laughter was shown to increase implantation rates on transfer day. The study was actually done with medical clowns (is that really a thing?)...which makes me wonder if it wasn't actually straight up fear rather than laughter, since clowns scare the life out of me....so ya, maybe just a funny movie or a call to your funniest friend for a little post transfer laugh is best.
Dr. Emilie Salomons Dr. TCM, FABORM, OBAAM, Doula.