Just waltzing into your doctor’s office for IVF won’t guarantee success—you also need to alter your lifestyle if you want to get pregnant, especially your diet. Here are some tips from Dr Anand Nanavati to help you out
They say, you are what you eat. Diet plays an undeniable role in determining just how healthy we are. From our immunity and body strength to just how energetic we feel on any given day—the food we eat dictates it all. It’s no surprise then that our diet also impacts our reproductive health. Even more so, if you’re trying to get pregnant—with IVF or otherwise.
Says Dr Anand Nanavati, director of Create IVF & Fertility Centre (Lokhandwala and Andheri West, Mumbai ): “Diet plays a very important role not only for those undergoing IVF, but also those who are trying to get pregnant naturally. Having a balanced diet with lots of natural foods, like vegetables and fruits, is very important.”
So whether you’re just starting your fertility journey, consulting with a specialist to go in for ART techniques like IUI or IVF, or simply trying to get your reproductive health on track—these diet tips from Dr Nanavati.
Put your faith in nature’s bounty
Palak and methi might not seem like the most delicious foods out there, but they can do wonders for health. Explains Dr Nanavati, who has a decade’s experience in obstetrics & gynaecology: “Green leafy vegetables are rich in antioxidants and offer a protective mechanism on the ovarian reserve”.
If you have a regular cycle and have little to no complaints in the reproductive health department, then you might be wondering why you should be worrying about your ovarian reserve to begin with, but here’s the thing: stressful lives and diets rich in processed foods and fats can impact your ovarian reserve. “We’ve been seeing ovarian ageing happening very quickly in the younger generation. Obviously, more studies need to be done to exactly link diet to this, but it does play a role,” says the expert.
Green leafies aren’t the only foods that can make a difference. Dr Nanavati also suggests incorporating fruits like pomegranates, oranges, and berries into your balanced diet. “Berries are excellent sources of antioxidants which prevent ovarian ageing from taking place at a rapid rate,” he adds.
Non-vegetarian foods aren’t out of bounds, but there’s a caveat
Be it your favourite biryani or butter chicken—meat doesn’t have to be banned from your diet. But you’ve got to choose your meats carefully. Says Dr Nanavati: “A lot of couples ask me if they can have meat. Yes, they can—but my advice to them always is to try to include free-range, organic meat products in their diet whenever they can. Abroad, they recommend free range products as well because those animals aren’t being given any antibiotics or steroids.”
He also suggests choosing white meat, like chicken and fish over red meat for the sake of your fertility health.
Embrace healthy seeds
We hardly think of seeds as foods that can make a big difference to our health. But did you know certain seeds that can actually aid your hormonal health? “Certain seeds have natural hormones,” says Dr Nanavati, adding: “Flax seeds and pumpkin seeds have natural oestrogen in them. So even when we are preparing the patients for their embryo transfer, in the first half of the cycle we ask them to consume these seeds so that the estradiol levels in their body are optimal, which helps prepare the lining of the womb.”
But flax and pumpkin seeds aren’t the only ones that can help. Dr Nanavati also recommends sesame and sesame seeds, which have natural progesterone. “After the lining has reached a particular thickness when we are starting the hormone called progesterone, we ask the patients to consume sunflower and sesame seeds,” he says.
Including seeds in your diet like this—flax and pumpkin till ovulation, and sesame and sunflower after ovulation—is also beneficial for women who are trying naturally. PCOS patients too can benefit from consuming these seeds, suggests Dr Nanavati.
Avoid excessive sugar
The key to good health? Eat everything in moderation—especially sugar. “I always tell my patients to avoid excessive sweets, processed sugars, and simple carbohydrates which can really increase your blood sugar levels,” says the expert.
Stressing on the need for following an individualised diet—one that is tailor-made for your body, keeping your health concerns in mind—Dr Nanavati suggests for people who have PCOS or those who are at a higher risk of getting diabetes in the future to avoid eating too many sugars and carb-heavy foods like rice and potatoes need to be controlled especially at night.
Go easy on the caffeine
If you’re someone who cannot start the day without a cup of piping hot coffee, then you NEED to read this. “A few studies have shown that less than 12 ounces or 200 milligrams of coffee a day is recommended for patients who are undergoing fertility treatments like IVF. An increased caffeine intake hampers fertility and IVF success rates,” explains Dr Nanavati.
Twelve ounces of coffee roughly translates to one cup a day, so if you’re a caffeine fiend—it’s time to stop yourself from reaching for another cup after your morning or evening fix.
BONUS: Keep your belly fat in check
Getting your weight under control is the key to a healthy lifestyle and optimal fertility—there is absolutely no doubt about that. But here’s one thing you need to pay extra attention to your belly fat. Says Dr Nanavati: “Studies have shown that abdominal fat releases a lot of chemicals and free radicals that cause oxidative stress in the ovaries. This also negatively impacts the egg quality.”
So while you’re on a healthy diet, you also need to exercise to keep belly flab away. “Just a 30- to 45-minute walk every day should suffice to keep your weight under check. Although, if you’re targeting the abdominal area I would recommend high intensity and core workouts,” he concludes.