Making dietary changes is one of the most important things that you can do to boost your fertility.
Broadly speaking, you should try to eat more whole foods, fresh, organic produce and healthy fats from sources such as olive oil, nuts, avocados and oily fish (choose smaller fish as large fish such as tuna can contain high mercury levels). It is important to eat a balanced diet and be sure to include enough macro and micronutrients, and take a folic acid supplement if you are female.
Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) also places great importance on dietary therapy. What you eat and how you eat it strongly influences your health, and this everyday medicine can be used to enhance your treatment between acupuncture appointments.
For fertility support, dietary therapy can be extremely helpful. Healthy qi, blood and essence are all essential for good fertility. These can be nourished by eating foods which benefit the Spleen, Kidneys, Heart and Liver.
The Spleen in Chinese Medicine
The Spleen is a very important organ in every aspect of Chinese dietary therapy. This is because, along with the Stomach, the Spleen is responsible for digestion. Its role is to break down nutrients, known as gu qi (grain qi), from food and transform them into a state that can be used by the body. Because of this role, having a healthy Spleen is essential to the formation of qi and blood, both of which are needed for healthy conception and pregnancy.
Eating to Nourish the Spleen
Foods which specifically benefit the Spleen are often yellow or orange in color and have a sweet flavor. These foods have the effect of supporting digestion and crating harmony between other foods in the diet.
According to TCM, there are two categories of sweet tasting foods. The first category is considered nourishing and strengthening. It includes most meat, pulses, nuts, dairy products, rice, potatoes and sweet potatoes.
The second category of sweet foods is more cooling and includes fruit, honey and sugar. Most of the sweet foods in your diet should come from the first category, with foods from the second category eaten in moderation.
Because of the Spleen's important role in digestion, it is also important to pay attention to the way you eat your meals. A good breakfast is vital as the Spleen is said to function at its peak in the morning. Be sure to include some form of protein and avoid high sugar breakfast cereals which can upset your hormonal balance. Avoid eating late, and keep your evening meal light to avoid putting an extra strain on your digestion.
Regular, light meals are easier to digest than large portions eaten at erratic intervals. Stick to eating at roughly the same time each day, and snack on nuts or fruit between meals if necessary. Take time out to enjoy your meals and avoid eating at your desk or on the go. Chew each mouthful properly and savor the taste of your food. Eating should be a relaxing experience, not something to be crammed in between other tasks.
In TCM theory, warm foods are said to nourish the Spleen, while cold and raw foods can hinder digestion. Eat cooked food for the majority of your meals and if you do eat a salad, have a small bowl of soup or a warm drink at the same time. Foods such as stews, soups and congee are all great for nourishing the Spleen as they are very easy to digest.
Fatty or fried foods, dairy products and fruit juices are considered harmful to the Spleen as they are difficult to digest and can lead to internal dampness.
The Kidneys in Chinese Medicine
The Kidneys are one of the most important organs for fertility. In TCM, the Kidney system includes the adrenal glands and reproductive organs as well as the kidneys themselves. The Kidneys play an important role in qi and blood formation, and also store essence. Essence is very important when it comes to fertility. In women it is related to the menstrual cycle and egg production, and in men it is related to sperm and semen.
Eating to Nourish the Kidneys
The best foods for the Kidneys are black in color and have a salty flavor. Black beans, black olives, black rice, black sesame seeds and soy sauce are all great, as are dark colored berries such as blueberries and blackberries. Adding a small amount of salt to food can benefit the Kidneys, but be careful not to overdo it. Choose a good quality sea salt as this is salt in its purest form and much better for the Kidneys than regular table salt.
Other foods which benefit the Kidneys are walnuts, pistachios, shellfish, small fish with edible bones, lamb (slow cooked on the bone is best), kidneys, seaweed and asparagus. One of the best foods for specifically nourishing essence is bone broth.
The Heart in Chinese Medicine
The Heart plays an important role in fertility through its relationship with the blood. Having plentiful blood is essential for a healthy menstrual cycle and for building the endometrial lining in preparation for pregnancy.
Eating to Nourish the Heart
The best foods for the Heart are red in color or bitter in nature. Cherries and berries, beets, watermelon, red beans, lentils and dark chocolate are all good examples. Eggs are also good for the Heart as well as many other organs and can be a useful part of your fertility diet.
The Liver in Chinese Medicine
The Liver also has an important relationship with blood. It stores and enriches it, and ensures it is circulated smoothly throughout the body along with qi. A healthy Liver will ensure a healthy menstrual cycle, and any woman with problematic periods should look at taking steps to restore balance to this organ.
Eating to Nourish the Liver
The best foods for the Liver are green in color or have a sour flavor. All green vegetables have a beneficial effect on the Liver, especially broccoli, celery and leeks. Sour fruits such as gooseberries, plums, citrus fruit and raspberries are also good. Adding a little vinegar to your meals is another way to help your Liver to function better from a TCM perspective.
Foods that Nourish Blood
As we have already discussed, blood is one of the most important substances when it comes to fertility. As well as foods which nourish the Spleen, Kidneys, Heart and Liver, you can include some foods in your diet which are specifically for building the blood.
These are foods which, from a western medical perspective are rich in iron. They are mostly dark in color and have a rich taste. Some of the best foods for nourishing blood include beef, liver, bone marrow, eggs, dates, seaweed, spinach, kale and beets.
Dietary Therapy for Fertility Support
The most important thing to remember when eating for fertility support is that balance is key. Eat a variety of different colors and flavors with each meal to ensure that you are getting a good range of nutrients. Be sure to incorporate some foods which will nourish the Spleen, Kidneys, Heart and Liver and some foods which you enjoy too. Pay attention to how you eat as well as what, and you will be taking the first steps towards better health and increased fertility.