When you’re working with a new mom and her little one, you learn a lot the moment you step into her house. True? You are sometimes the only one who finds out all the details, mishaps, and wonders of her entire pregnancy & birth journey, which may have started years before she even got pregnant.
One of the things you might notice as you’re assessing some of the possible struggles a mom has gone through, is that her diet may have had a role in her difficulties. This is important to take note of, even if nutrition isn’t your strong-suit, professionally. For example, I am a holistic fertility and birth expert, and I work generally from the more mental and emotional/spiritual end of things. So my expertise is in supporting women psychologically (because I know it’ll make their pregnancy, birth and transition into mom-dom physically easier – that’s why the word “holistic” enters the scene). But nutrition still plays a key role in my understanding of my clients on more concrete levels. And I firmly believe that nutrition is something ALL birth experts, no matter their specialty, need to know a little about!
So I want to alert you to a few red flags, especially if when working with a mom you’ve gathered that she struggled with infertility or miscarriages at any point in her past. Listed below are the worst fertility-sabotaging offenders – the five food groups you DON’T want to be seeing in your client’s kitchen.
1. Soy – No thank you!
Found In: burgers, fake cheeses, protein powders, soy “milk”.
The Issue: It messes up her hormones… you know the things that most women don’t think about until menopause? If her hormone levels are off, her entire body will be impacted, including her reproductive organs. Soy “mimics” estrogen in the body, which really confuses things. Not good.
Alternatives: If someone is using soy as a part of a vegetarian diet, there are plenty of alternatives available if they’re willing to hunt a bit. If a person is not a vegetarian, why in the world are they eating it anyway? The problem really isn’t that soy is so tough to avoid, it’s just that people think soy is a HEALTH food (good marketing, soy industry!) so they go out of their way to add it in to recipes, coffees, and cereal. My recommendation to you? Just say no… and don’t let your clients eat soy either.
The only exception is fermented soy, i.e.: miso, tempeh, and soy sauce. All that stuff is A-okay.
2. Caffeine – Nuh-uh!
No surprises here. You know where caffeine is found: coffee, black tea, soda, chocolate… The truth is that caffeine (and, well, everything on this list) is bad for everyone. People tend to justify more caffeine consumption in their minds while more coffee-shops pop up on the block. The fact is, caffeine is another hormone thrower-offer, and impacts regular, healthy ovulation. Caffeine “usage” is also connected to higher chances of miscarriages.
Alternatives: most alternatives (decaf coffee, caffeine-free soda, etc) are problematic in themselves, so it really is best to recommend that your clients take a caffeine holiday well before they want to get pregnant.
If your client shows signs of being addicted to caffeine, which many people are (I’m not kidding!), they need to get some support with quitting. Some people run up against some real difficulties here, which means there’s more to the picture than meets the eye. We can go into that more another time, but there’s no reason a mama needs to be spending all her extra energy trying not to obsess about coffee.
3. Sugar – I have to say no!
The issue: When it comes to sugar, hopefully you understand just how toxic refined sugars are for healthy body parts, clear thinking, energy that lasts through the day, etc. What you may not realize is that it can still throw a woman’s body chemistry waaayy off to use a bunch of honey, maple syrup, agave, or a number of other high glucose products. Moderation. If a client craaaaves sugar, it means something’s out of balance. And if things are that out of balance, then it probably means it’s sugar has had a negative impact on her hormones etc., already. What she’ll need to do, in one way or another, is rebalance things at the source rather than just switch from sugar to agave to feed her sweet tooth.
Biggest Culprits: Soda, sweets, bottled orange or apple juices, alcohol, fat free foods (they add sugar to make them taste okay).
Alternatives: Fruit, foods sweetened without refined sugar or chemicals (look for agave, date paste, etc. on their labels or in the recipe). As for drinks, try fruit flavored teas, mint infused water, and when a sugar-lover really needs a sweet treat, fresh fruit juice is perfect… When clients make these changes for a few weeks, they’ll notice sweet cravings dwindle as their bodies get back to normal.
4. Restaurant Food – I’ll pass!
The reality is that very few restaurants are committed to serving foods without GMOs… especially the chains. If you know anything about the food industry, you know that chains in particular run on frozen or highly processed recipe starters in order to make sure dishes are identical in all of their locations.
Counting calories at a restaurant isn’t sufficient. Even an otherwise healthy salad, if it’s ordered from 98% of restaurants, is full of GMO/non-organic veggies and unclean meat. Which means, it’s not good for a woman’s lady-parts – too many toxins!
Alternatives: It really is best for women who have struggled with conception or pregnancy related issues to eat at home with organic products, as much as possible, especially during future preconception and pregnancy stages.
5. Processed Food – I don’t think so!
This is important. It takes some effort to eat whole, healthy foods when there are grocery stores full of cheap, quick, frozen, and boxed meal options. Clients need to know that their body pays a price for convenience with every bite. Fertility suffers when eating substandard food, and a woman’s eggs (“age” and quality) will be impacted for 3months – minimum.
Think about the foods we all saw in grandma’s cupboard growing up… we’re all healthiest when we stick to those.
Alternatives: Tell clients, in the name of simplicity, to shop only the sections of the grocery store located along the walls. And, encourage them to take the time to cook at least once per day. It’ll make a huge difference.
The Bottom Line: If a client had complications before or during her pregnancy, and you can see that her diet was comprised of these 5 Poor Food Groups, look for the right time to educate her on choices she might consider for later down the road. Ask if it’s okay to give her some basic food recommendations, then pick one or two suggestions to make at a time.
But remember, anyone who is consuming caffeine, sugar, soy, restaurant-y (yes I made that word up), or processed foods, is compromising their body’s capacity to do its job.
Mary Goyer, M.S., believes that fertility challenges don’t have to be tied to pain and struggle. She works with hopeful moms to increase their personal “fertility factors,” get pregnant with greater ease and carry healthy pregnancies full-term. Mary draws upon both her traditional training in marriage & family therapy and her specialty in holistic, mind-body techniques to offer a new way of approaching fertility & wellness for women.
Her approach, first used to heal herself of cervical cancer, is now offered internationally programs for women, providing proven holistic tools to quickly and naturally boost fertility. These techniques take into consideration nutrition, environmental factors, and build an understanding of how internal thoughts and feelings impact fertility. Learn more about Mary and sign up for your “Pregnancy Prep Checklist” at www.aufertility.com.