Learn about natural infertility treatment: nutrition, and herbs, naturopathic treatment, and acupuncture.
Infertility is frustrating. In fact, it is named as one of the top most stressful diagnoses behind cancer. The options out there are endless and can end up costing thousands and thousands of dollars, failed attempts, and lost time. Our society has become so dried out, toxic, and blah that we; both women and men, are becoming less fertile by the day. Yet somehow; miraculously, most couples will conceive within a year of trying. Why wait until the 1-year mark to go through a battery of testing that will likely lead to “unexplained”, Clomid, then IVF, or IUI?
There are countless methods to boost your fertility, naturally. The urge to have a child comes with the connection with the spirit of the child. If you find a doctor that can be present and listen to your souls communicating, your child will come… with patience. Sometimes, you don’t know what to ask your doctor. Sometimes, you simply do not have the time to manage your personal life, home life, and work life.
Maybe there is a supplement that you can take, maybe a dietary change, maybe a magical delicious fertility latte. Having the information and support to make choices that fit your lifestyle helps lift the weight of information overload off of your shoulders so that you can focus on preparing your baby rooms (both your womb and your home) and yourself. Stepping into the best version of a mother that you can envision is the greatest gift you can give to your child.
Having accountability and support to make space out of your busy weeks will be critical. Perfection is not attainable, but having the feeling of being enough is. If you are afraid that you are not able to get pregnant or raise a healthy child, then this article is for you. It is my hope that it will help you gain clarity and the understanding that there is more than one scientific approach to fertility.
Read on to learn about my Fertility Group and Individual Packages… But first, let’s take a look at what is traditionally offered in fertility treatment.
What are traditional infertility treatment options?
The first step in infertility, after not conceiving for a year, is sperm testing, and egg and uterine health assessment. In natural medicine, I say it is 50/50 male and female contributing factors. In conventional Medicine, they say 33/33/33 male, female, and unexplained. In natural medicine, we go beyond unexplained with more advanced testing and assessment.
After testing, you will likely be recommended clomid/letrozole to force ovulation. After a few months of this medication, the next step is IUI, or intrauterine insemination. This means that the doctor selectively chooses sperm that look the healthiest, and basically uses a turkey baster to deliver the sperm to the uterus. After a couple of rounds without a successful pregnancy, or carrying to term, the next step is IVF, in vitro fertilization.
There are a number of different IVF methods depending on your age, risk factors, and assessment.
Conventional fertility clinics do not offer medical assistance to optimize DNA for the healthiest baby possible… basic nutrition and supplements, and optimizing blood flow to the uterus. There are so many basic well-studied supplementation protocols; including emotional support, that help combat the shifting environment’s effect on infertility and other obstacles to having a healthy baby in your arms.
What about (prescription?) medical pills and their side effects?
Most risks that come with medications for fertility and assisted reproductive technology (ART) are correlated with the level of intervention. The thing that I find most frustrating for my patients undergoing STIM/IVF is that they often are not walked through the protocols and the risk factors in order to be able to make decisions and have clarity on what to expect.
For one, let’s discuss ICSI, or assisted hatching, in which the reproductive endocrinologist (RE) agitates the egg so that selected sperm join with the egg faster and easier. Our bodies are wise. In fact, our eggs select the sperm naturally according to the sperm’s health and even have a chance to transform the sperm to be healthier on the spot before joining. The RE chooses sperm based on morphology and often does not assess DNA fragmentation, nor do they have the intuition and wisdom that the egg does. There are new studies emerging that ICSI can increase the risk of developmental delays in males and females and obesity in females. ICSI can also increase chromosomal abnormalities and syndromal DNA diseases. Yet, most REs choose ICSI for you instead of discussing the option.
The first protocol using clomid or letrozole can thin the lining of the uterus, and also affect cervical mucus. In addition, there are other effects such as hot flashes, lack of sleep, and anxiety. I often recommend Black Cohosh and NAC (N-Acetyl Cysteine) alongside clomid to help mitigate these side effects. Letrozole leaves your body faster than clomid, reducing the risk for multiple gestation.
There are too many medication choices during stimulation to discuss here, so I will do my best to keep it clear and concise. The stimulation objective is to try and mimic and control the natural cycle as closely as possible.
Hyperstimulation risks: increased ovarian cysts
If you are under the age of 35, have PCOS, AFC (Antral Follicle Count) >20, FSH <10, lean BMI, or a history of hyperstimulation, be sure to discuss with your doctor about hyperstimulation syndrome so you do not end up with huge cysts on your ovaries. There are nutrients to help prevent this, but mostly it is up to your RE to help you choose a fit medication such as a GnRH antagonist.
You can be given a poor responder protocol if you have an AFC <5, FSH >12 mIU /mL, or prior IVF cancellation due to Estradiol <500 pg/ML or <3-5 oocytes retrieved. You often have the option of using OCPs (or birth control) before the GnRH agonist/antagonist is given, which can come with its own set of side effects, and has become less popular of a protocol in reproductive clinics.
Many women have major issues rebalancing their hormones after undergoing stimulation protocols. It is imperative to take time between protocols to recover egg health, uterine health, and emotional health.
There are studies with assisted nutrients to expedite healing and mitigate side effects of hormone imbalances associated with IVF/IUI discussed below.
Are there alternative treatment options?
A natural approach to fertility is cost-effective as an alternative to IVF, or to use in conjunction with IVF to increase the chances of a viable pregnancy. With conventional IVF, women take medications to stimulate egg production for egg retrieval. When natural medicine (nutrition, herbs, supplementation) is also used, you can take a gentler approach to egg stimulation.
What does that mean? It means that you can experience much fewer injections and side effects. If IVF is necessary or preferred, natural fertility boosting methods can also give you a greater safety net to choose Natural IVF, a lower hormone alternative to conventional IVF, in which the fertility center offers fewer hormones and retrieves fewer eggs.
Who is a candidate for alternative treatment options?
Women and men of all ages and weights.
Yet there are certain cases in which a natural approach to infertility treatments may be preferred:
- If you do not react well to medication or dislike medication
- If you are interested in a low-cost alternative to fertility
- If you have regular, normal menstrual cycles
- If you are unable to produce the optimal number of eggs despite medication
- If you have been told that you have a thin uterine lining
- If you prefer to have a healing journey to prepare for parenthood
- If you are curious about a Fertility Detoxification Program
- If you prefer emotional support during your fertility journey
There are additional cases in which women may choose to follow a natural fertility journey:
- Women who have PCOS and would like to address regulating cycles before pregnancy
- Parents who prefer to gain health while achieving pregnancy
- Women who have endometriosis
- Unexplained infertility management
- Parents who prefer to detox their home and body before carrying a healthy pregnancy
- Parents who wish to increase the success rate of an IVF retrieval and successful implantation/pregnancy (85% increase of viable deliveries to date!)
- Parents who wish to optimize their children’s genes through their own preconception health journey (epigenetics)
How can I prepare for alternative treatment options?
If you knew you could increase your chances of successfully conceiving faster, would you want to know how? Here are some basic tips for anyone trying to conceive. Don’t forget to ask your partner to supplement alongside you, as fertility and building a family takes two.
- Would you take a prenatal vitamin to help guard against miscarriage and preterm birth? At the same time, you are protecting your baby from neural tube defects and autism. 400 mcg of methylfolate in a prenatal vitamin is recommended for the best protection. And you can add fish oil and 1,000-2,000 units daily of vitamin D3 to enhance your health now and optimize your fertility.
- Would you eliminate mercury from your diet? Yes, mercury. It’s in tuna and other fish. This metal goes straight to your baby and can wreak havoc on neurologic and hormonal systems. The Environmental Working Group’s list can tell you which other types of fish to beware of!
- Would you watch out for what gets in through your skin? Conventional make-up products are full of toxins, including lead. With your skin being your biggest organ, would you commit to reading the labels on your eyeliner and lipstick to prevent these chemicals from being transmitted to your baby? And, switching to clean skin-care products can improve your hormonal balance and improve your fertility.
- Would you try to eat more organic food? Maybe a total overhaul feels a bit overwhelming, but could you commit to avoiding the “The Dirty Dozen”, the 12 foods with the highest levels of pesticides? This provides protection for your baby’s future mental health and helps to optimize your chances of conceiving. And conventional meats are full of hormones that negatively affect your delicate hormonal balance as you are trying to get pregnant.
- Would you strive to get to your optimal weight, whatever that means for you? For some, it means committing to an exercise routine that you love to lose some extra pounds. For others, gaining some weight may optimize your chances of getting pregnant. This is something to discuss with your integrative fertility doctor who can customize an eating plan that will improve your overall health, your baby’s future health, and increase your fertility.
- Would you cut down on your stress? Because approximately 80% of health problems are caused by stress, and stress negatively impacts your hormonal balance and fertility, would you commit to finding a tool that works for you? Maybe it’s yoga, meditation, exercise, or all of the above. I offer Somatic Experiencing to help your body integrate stress and manage any unresolved trauma. I have seen it dramatically improve fertility when used in combination with natural fertility treatments and I love to call this “preparing your baby room.”
- Would you learn about how to improve your gut health? Everyone’s talking about it these days! That’s because if you improve your gut microbiome now, you not only improve your fertility but you also set the stage for your baby to have healthy gut flora, which impacts their life-long health. Avoiding antibiotics, taking a good probiotic, and eating lots of greens and fermented foods is a great place to start. And I can take you much deeper into gut health with an eating plan designed with your specific needs in mind. In general, the Mediterranean diet is the best studied diet on fertility. Read about the Perfect Fertility Diet here. I often recommend gluten-light, dairy-light, and organic-plant based foods. Organic is not always cost effective, so if you choose to focus on meats, then the dirty dozen and clean 15, you will avoid most toxins that affect fertility. There are numerous studies on the uterine microbiome, which is directly affected by the GI microbiome. A healthy uterine microbiome is likely linked to a healthy pregnancy through implantation, and throughout the pregnancy.
How does a naturopathic doctor treat infertility?
Natural conception, or applying naturopathic methods to infertility treatments, helps increase healthy pregnancy success rates and parenthood satisfaction. Preparing the baby rooms… from your home, to your womb, as well as your relationship is the greatest gift you can give to the next generation. This includes a home, mind, and body detoxification or “clean up”.
Applying a scientific approach to natural fertility methods can help you conceive naturally or amplify your IVF/IUI treatments. Using WHO Data, I look at lab values from an optimal, rather than “normal” perspective that is used in conventional medicine. This can include thyroid assessment, sex hormone, toxic burden, and adrenal assessment and digging deep into the lab result to solve the unexplained mysteries.
What are different types of natural treatments?
As a fertility integrative specialist, I thrive in venturing into the unexplained. Often, your lab values are marked with outdated research, rather than using the latest WHO (World Health Organization) lab values for optimal fertility, which are very different from the traditional laboratory approach.
There are many answers to infertility. At times, there are simple nutrients and supplements that are missing in your daily life. My whole-body, family, and home approach sets you up for success in a way that not only leads to a baby, but also changes your entire family dynamic to be healthier.
Somatics, targeted nutrients, and lifestyle prepare your egg and sperm health. Therefore, your baby is more likely to inherit the healthiest of both parents’ familial lines. As epigenetic shifts take place in-utero and in development, you prepare your home to be a nontoxic environment. Your preparation of both baby rooms ensures that your dear child has the best environment in place to grow in true health.
And there’s more…many of my clients benefit from Mercier Therapy.
I am trained in Mercier Therapy, which is an effective complement to any fertility journey and natural conception. Mercier is site-specific, manual soft tissue therapy which is a deep pelvic visceral manipulation protocol that helps to bring about better organ mobility and restore overall blood flow so that optimal pelvic function can return. I believe wholeheartedly in this safe, effective, healthy approach. Mercier Fertility is flexible enough to be used alone in your journey to becoming pregnant, or in preparation for a more medically assisted cycle such as IUI or IVF.
Mercier Therapy promotes:
- Natural fertility preparation (or can be used to complement IVF, IUI, etc.)
- Regulation of menstrual cycle and ovulation
- Normalization hormone and endocrine systems
- Improvement of ovarian and hormone function for better quality follicles/eggs
- Increase of uterine blood flow and lining
- Deeply relaxation – reduction of anxiety & stress
- Improvement of the success of IVF, IUI, and other technologies
- Decrease in miscarriage rates
It also addresses High FSH, Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS), Premature Ovarian Failure, Luteal Phase defects, Endometriosis, Autoimmune infertility.
What kind of diet/nutrition improves fertility?
Studies have found that simply shifting food and including exercise can improve fertility. Any diet that focuses on stress, targets insulin resistance, includes quality protein, vegetables, carbs, and fat will improve your chances at conceiving. Even if the diet does not lead to weight loss, it reduces inflammation, cravings, menstrual irregularities and those pesky androgen-dominant symptoms. This can only increase fertility.
Every Meal should look like the Mediterranean diet including:
- A palm sized of Protein, aiming for 100g a day, which is a lot!
- A palm sized of complex carb veggie (sweet potato, squash, seeded gluten free bread, millet, corn with bean, etc)
- ½ your plate in veggies,
- and a healthy fat, as healthy fat makes healthy hormones (½ avocado, 1 tbsp ghee, 1 tsp-1 tbl Olive/ Coconut/Avocado Oil)
Each Day’s Focus:
Regular Meals, as to reduce blood sugar dysregulation.
½+ your body weight in oz of filtered water
Blood Sugar Healthy Snacks (a handful of nuts, turkey wraps, lower glycemic fruit smoothies, greek yogurt with fruit, broth, protein smoothies)
Fertility + Food Facts
- Men who eat organic foods produce 43% more sperm than men who don’t.
- Austrian study = GMO foods linked to trouble conceiving
- Fathers’ obesity at time of conception affects embryo health.
- Caffeine over 300 mg a day are twice as likely to suffer from delayed conception
Which natural supplements and vitamins improve fertility?
These micronutrients are crucial; not only in terms of your overall health but also for optimizing fertility. Vitamins and minerals improve energy production and promote detoxification. They give you a defense against antioxidants and enhance your nervous system health. And, they improve egg health as well as pregnancy rates. So, do you want to know more?
The top supplements for balancing hormones and supporting fertility nutrition are:
- Inositol– is especially effective for PCOS-related infertility because it can help to increase insulin levels and balance hormones
- NAC– important for protecting cells from free radicals which improves fertility
- Zinc– helps to increase egg health and enhances fertilization and is necessary for healthy sperm
- Selenium– is needed for thyroid hormone production and metabolism and also improves egg quality
- CoQ10– necessary for mitochondrial energy production and is thought to slow the aging process in reproductive cells (especially important for those women over age 35)
- Vitex– helps to normalize progesterone levels which helps to improve the chances of successfully conceiving
- Acetyl L-Carnitine– helps to convert fat into energy which helps eggs divide
- Vitamin D– is important because normal vitamin D levels are linked to higher pregnancy rates
- Folic Acid– lowers the risk of neural tube birth defects and is associated with higher pregnancy rates for those in fertility treatments
How are herbs used to improve fertility?
Most Doctors focus on herbs for progesterone. The reality is we need to focus on our entire cycle to promote progesterone, which helps you progestate, or maintain pregnancy. I use herbs in a biphasic plan (Link to products here ?) in order to help your entire hormone system heal throughout your cycle. The first half of your cycle is the follicular phase, from bleed to ovulation. After that comes the luteal phase (ovulation to bleed).
During the follicular phase, we build estrogen. Estrogen is the hormone that helps us identify as WOMEN. She is a hormone of flexibility and juiciness. And a very anabolic hormone.
How is healthy estrogen made? The brain signals to the follicles in our ovaries to begin making estrogen. At the same time, the ovaries holler that they need more estrogen to the brain in order to develop healthy follicles. The granulosa cells in the ovaries actually aromatize other hormones in order to create estrogen. Estrogen does her job by creating healthy fertile cervical mucus (juicy, white, and egg white-like), helping the brain function, creating more flexibility in ligaments and tissues, and more.
Your metabolism and cortisol shift throughout the cycle, shifting your temperature, capacity for stress, and energy. Your metabolism shifts from higher during menstruation of the follicular phase to slower during the second half of the follicular phase. Your stress hormone, cortisol, is also not as high during this time. As you keep building to ovulation, you can use this anabolic time to build a healthy uterine lining, healthy cervical mucus, more muscle, and hone in on building/ organizing projects.
During this time, you can consume fewer calories or perhaps use fasting as a method to build healthy stem cells, which then in turn, help you build healthy muscle. As you build muscle, you increase mitochondria, therefore, increasing energy and detoxification capacity.
During the shedding period of your follicular phase (menstruation), your metabolism is slightly higher. This is a time to eat cleansing, warming, and blood-building foods such as dark leafy greens, sweet potatoes, beets, game meats, organ meats, etc. This makes total logical sense since we get “the period eats”. I have found that cravings are more intense if you withhold your natural tendency to eat more in sync with your cycle. I’m not talking about ice cream and bonbons. Although, there is no shame in indulgence. I am talking about more healthy carbs such as millet, sweet potatoes, and beets, healthy proteins such as bison, and healthy fibers such as chia pudding treats and greens.
Herbs I would recommend during this period of follicular phase are Maca, Tulsi, Motherwort, Peony, Dong Quai, Lady’s Mantle, Licorice, and Rose, Fennel, Alfalfa. To learn more about how herbs are used to treat infertility, see this article.
In my biphasic line, I created an estrogen balancing formula, the Follicular Blend, to target a healthy ovulation. This formula is not simply composed of estrogenic herbs, but it also targets cortisol regulation (HPA Axis), radioactive protection, fertility-building herbs, uterine-tonifying herbs. Stay tuned, herb geeks, I will have more content for each herb soon! Essentially, each herb was carefully chosen to balance the complete symphony of hormones in your system, and provide protection from endocrine disrupting chemicals and radiation.
The second half of your cycle looks totally different. During the Luteal Phase, estrogen begins to decline and progesterone comes in to refine uterine lining. Ovulation basically occurs at the intersection of estrogen and progesterone, and progesterone takes over as the primary sex hormone at this point. The shining star follicle that had been working so hard with estrogen to develop, releases her egg, and the left over “egg shell” or corpus luteum begins to release progesterone. Progesterone is what maintains the uterine lining after estrogen has built it. Because estrogen is lower, and progesterone is higher, you can think of this as the catabolic state. Cortisol is generally higher during this period of time and so is your metabolism.
Before moving onto the rest of the luteal phase, let’s throw testosterone into the mix. Many women’s health advocates fail to put testosterone into biphasic sex hormone equations. Testosterone (T) mostly peaks the day before your period and right around ovulation. You know that you have T peaking at a healthy level if your sex drive increases and you feel extra productive and focused during these two times. Use these times to great have sex…before your period to not get pregnant and at ovulation to get pregnant ;-). Okay, back to pre period preparations…
Logistically, if you are more annoyed, frustrated, or anxious, you may be able to look into a cortisol and progesterone connection. This is because cortisol can take over your sex hormone pathway and steal all of the healthy fats to create more cortisol. Before your period, it is recommended to minimize all stressors to your system. This includes your food intake: fast less or fast for fewer hours, increase healthy carbohydrates, and continue eating a balance of fiber, fats, protein, and carbohydrates. If you continue to fast and are calorie-restricted during the luteal phase, you can end up with more stress hormones and hormonal mayhem. This is also a time to decrease your exercise duration and intensity. Get curious about focusing on restorative exercises such as Yoga, meditation, moderate hiking, and walking during this time of the month.
Herbs I recommend during the Luteal Phase: Tulsi, Vitex, Licorice, Wild Yam, Sarsaparilla, Maca, Motherwort, Schizandra, Evening Primrose, Ashwagandha.
In my bi-phasic formula, “Luteal Blend,” I created a balance of herbs that promote progesterone in order to help ease premenstrual tension and create a balance for you to be more embodied during this cortisol shift. Just like the follicular blend, this blend supports the whole body, yet has more motherwort in it to ease PMS symptoms, Vitex to support LH/FSH and progesterone. Licorice and Schizandra help support the conversion of hormones to build healthy progesterone levels and give you more ease while you prepare for your bleed.
How is acupuncture used to improve fertility?
Acupuncture can be used to help maintain energy and blood flow to the uterus. I often use 5-element protocols for the energetic and spiritual body accompanied by Mercier therapy to help improve the likelihood of conceiving naturally.
Whether you are trying to conceive naturally without stress, or have been through multiple failed IVF/IUI attempts, I can help you become more clear on your options. I walk through your journey with you and offer a support system… physically, emotionally, and spiritually; depending on your individual needs. We will prepare both baby rooms (your womb and your home) on this sacred journey.
As you work with me for two to three months, you will find that you are more body- literate and can rely on yourself as an ovulation calculator and be more confident about when to have sex while trying to conceive.
If you are curious about a fertility journey with me; or what your best options are for your individual needs, you can book a discovery call. Because of the sensitive and intimate nature of this work, I require an initial consultation, during which a full medical history will be obtained. I will also take a manual pelvic organ mobility evaluation.
Also during this initial consultation, we can discuss fertility packages in more detail— including the length of time you’d like to work together. I’m available to answer any questions you have about the program, possible outcomes, as well as to direct you to resources to help you make your decision. To learn more about causes of infertility, read here.
To see more about reawakening intimacy and fertility read here, or schedule an initial visit.