But what do we know for sure?
Women who eat healthy diets have increased fertility, higher rates of conception, and better outcomes involving implantation, pregnancy, labor, and delivery. That's about the only thing we all agree on! The individual metrics and kilo-calories and macronutrients needed to accomplish all of that in your diet are where you'll find the great debate.
Let's look at this from a different vantage point though: epigenetics (and inflammation)
There is new evidence to support the fact that a mother's diet actually has the ability to change the gene expression in the DNA of her children. There aren't many studies on this topic yet, but the ones that have been done provide a new way to look at the diet of women who are trying to conceive. You can click HERE to read the latest research on this topic. It's an article summarizing a study regarding mothers' diets pre-conception and post-conception and how it seems to have the ability to silence or activate certain genes in their offspring. It's a fascinating research topic and it makes me wonder if we're going about nutrition the right way as it relates to fertility.
One of the things that I love about NaPro medical care is that diet and nutrition are a big part of the conversation form the beginning. All of the NaPro doctors I've interacted with care a great deal about their female patients' diets. And I think that's for several reasons, especially in terms of treating infertility and how food sensitivities have an impact on fertility because of the inflammation they cause. This is not to say that every doctor will be well-versed in the science of how your nutrition impacts your individual fertility... but it's a great topic to bring up with your doctor, NaPro trained or not!
Many people don't realize the serious and negative impact that un-diagnosed food sensitivities can have on their fertility. Modern medicine only paid attention to the life-threatening food allergies for years, but as we've learned more about the human immune system (which lives primarily in the gut!)...emerging research has pointed to the lesser food sensitivities being of importance as well.
Have you ever experienced itchiness in your mouth after eating a tomato? Or had the roof of your mouth peel after eating eggplant? Or gotten an unexplained rash after eating something? All of these reactions are a sign of a food sensitivity. Now let's look at the bigger picture: food sensitivities cause inflammation. And inflammation causes your body stress (and modulates metabolism, impacts insulin resistance, etc.). A normal stress response involves multiple organ systems and hormonal biofeedback loops, some of which involve the adrenals (cortisol and adrenaline), thyroid (T3, T4, etc.), ovaries (estradiol and progesterone), the neurotransmitters, and your hypothalamic and pituitary functioning. An abnormal stress response involves your body's immune system attacking itself (also known as auto-immune disease). All of these components play an important role in a woman's fertility, so addressing food sensitivities seems an important part of addressing fertility. It seems a very realistic hypothesis that 13-20 low level food sensitivities might have the same inflammatory impact as a few moderate allergies or one life-threatening allergy...but I digress.
So here is my real question regarding the new research involving nutrition, dietary intake, and epigenetics: If food choices have the ability to impact gene expression in offspring and food sensitivities have the ability to negatively impact fertility.... are we correctly looking at the epigenetic impact of a mother's overall nutrition on her child pre- and post- conception? Is it enough to just focus on folate for the prevention of neural tube defects? I think not. There is a lot to be learned still and I think we're going to be surprised when we learn the answers to these questions.