In the modern world of IUI's, IVF, hormone treatments, egg freezing, and later-in-life marriages, the experience of getting pregnant has changed for the modern womb-possessing person—and not in a fun way. But thankfully, there are numerous simple and inexpensive home-based ways to increase your chances of conceiving and carrying to term.
While I've established mostly as a special diet chef and writer, I'm also a certified nutritionist and wellness expert who assists clients with health problems. I’ve helped people recover from major illnesses, tone up for a tour, and more. On three separate occasions in the last five years, I utilized easy, natural methods to facilitate a celebrity client’s successful IVF in just one round each, after she spent years on continuous failed attempts. The results? Five healthy babies, consisting of two sets of twins and one single child. I've also worked successfully with non-celebs to get their bodies into states that would facilitate pregnancy. And, not shockingly, after hearing about my clients’ success I’ve worked closely with several friends to help them conceive as well.
So, what are the magic tools needed to become a parent later in life? There’s just one key to the treasure box, and it’s something we hear about often in all facets of wellness: inflammation. On multiple fronts, inflammation is inhibiting pregnancy. Our ovaries are aging faster and inflaming early. Beyond the inflammation caused by our bodies alone, stress—that feeling we’ve all become so troublesomely accustomed to, especially lately—plays a part in up to 90 percent of all illnesses. Stress causes inflammation, and inflammation, in turn, ravages our wellness. Ergo reducing inflammation will work best when also reducing stress. Let’s examine how to tackle inflammation and stress to improve conception and carrying prospects.
Mainstream health professionals often suggest an aspirin regimen because it's been shown to boost fertility via reducing systemic inflammation. Daily aspirin may seem like an innocuous solution, but it comes with its own side effects, namely increased risk of strokes and gastrointestinal bleeding. Preferring to take an approach with lower risk, in my work I always turn to food first.
Many foods, especially refined foods, can increase inflammation. Because of that, it’s a lovely idea to eat less of those. However, that can prove difficult and, well, stressful, which then makes stress reduction impossible, which then makes your body inflamed, thus defeating your intent. Because no one needs an endless spiral of shame and stress, I prefer to focus on what we can add to our diets rather than what we must take away. Here are some anti-inflammatory foods you may benefit from eating more of.
Tomatoes: No one needs to educate you about how to eat this well-loved food! From caprese to bolognese, it’s the lycopene in tomatoes--the antioxidant compound that colors them red—that’s been shown to lower inflammatory markers.
Fatty Fish: Omega-3 is a bit of a wonder nutrient, improving brain function and triglyceride levels along with easing inflammation. It’s found in foods like sardines and salmon. If fish isn’t for you and you’d rather pop a pill, choose a high quality krill oil over generic “fish” oil.
Bone Broth: It’s the gelatin content of bone broth that contributes the bulk of its anti-inflammatory properties. It’s a food I’m so passionate about (I wrote my first book on it), and I was a multi-decade vegetarian at the time. I saw it change clients’ lives, my fertility clients included, and it completely shifted my views on consuming animal products by making me realize that many foods besides plants have life altering benefits.
Leafy Greens: Real talk: Sometimes I can’t stand eating these veggies. When I get burned out on kale, spinach, and other ridiculously healthful greens that reduce inflammation, I blend them into my smoothies. You can add up to three cups of baby spinach into a smoothie without even tasting it, provided you mix it with strongly flavored fruit like bananas, berries, and/or mango.
Olive Oil: Wondering what to drizzle that caprese salad with? Olive oil is the natural answer, and is one of the main reasons the Mediterranean diet is so popular. EVOO is delicious, and it holds up to studies for its anti-inflammatory properties. One caveat: It’s better to use in raw or lower temp cooking applications than high heat ones, as it oxidizes in an unhealthy way.
Turmeric: Popular in the West for mere decades, the use of Ayurvedic root turmeric dates back multiple millenia. We’ve co-opted it without much credit to Eastern practitioners and cooks who’ve considered turmeric a vital part of their food, religion, and healing, such as with the renaming of turmeric-based drinks “lattes.” Turmeric is a potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory so, true to western culture, we’ve extracted its active component, curcumin, for pills. Unfortunately, that doesn’t lead to the same results as consuming turmeric in its whole food form.
Ginger: Also a root, and also used in Eastern Medicine for millennia, ginger too is a potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory. As America has caught on to the health benefits of consuming turmeric and ginger together, the combo can be found as juice shots, pills, and spice mix combos. My favorite use of it, as a tea, isn’t unique, but the method of ingestion is less common. I suggest making a tea concentrate (either sliced fresh root or bagged tea, whatever fits your life), keeping it in the fridge for a week at a time, and adding small amounts to every glass or bottle of water you drink throughout the day. This notion of telling your body to “calm down” more often seems to have a quicker effect. That’s anecdotal, but it won’t cost you any extra to try.
No matter how much you improve your diet to make it more anti-inflammatory, if you function daily through a lens of stress the battle will be an uphill one due to how stress contributes to inflammation. Feeling well no matter how not-well your life and health may be going is a subject I’m even more passionate about than bone broth, and one that I also wrote a whole book about. There is a wide variety of free and quick ways to improve your mindset, which in turn reduces stress and improves wellness. A few of my top-line favorites in that category below.
Breathing: I bet just by reading that word, you suddenly noticed how you’re breathing. Breathwork can begin right there! Sure, there are lots of methods that are more complicated, and they do some amazing things for your stress pathways and parasympathetic nervous system, but the simple act of noticing your breathing helps you slow it down and breathe more deeply. That alone improves your nervous system function.
Body Befriending: Of all the things I’ve done in my life, from dealing with a half decade of chronic illness doctors said I wouldn’t recover from to appearing on national t.v., having and loving a body has been the single most challenging. When your body isn’t doing what you want it to, whether that’s conceiving or losing weight or running faster, it’s natural to get angry and frustrated at it. However, that causes stress, and makes your possibility of accomplishing what you’re seeking less, not more. Doing the work to see your body as your friend, rather than your enemy, can be life changing.
Touch: Newsflash: you don’t even need another human to reap the benefits of positive touch. The act of hugging reduces cortisol even when what you’re hugging is a device, not a person or animal. If you’re affectionate by nature and have a partner you enjoy touching, do more of that! And if you’re alone, you can do everything from rubbing your arms or thighs to hugging a pillow while video-conferencing.
With this arsenal of affordable and easy weapons that facilitate fertility, you can be on track in mere moments to the baby-making journey you desire.