In my work as a functional nutrition and hormone expert, I see more and more women facing fertility challenges. I also find women are increasingly struggling with precursors to fertility problems while in their teens and twenties, in the form of Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS), fibroids, endometriosis, amenorrhea, dysmenorrhea, and ovarian cysts.
Part of the problem is that there's an unprecedented amount of chemical exposure in our environment, which not only raises our estrogen levels but also interferes with our natural endocrine function.
That’s the bad news. The good news is that there are a number of things you can do now to not only rid yourself of problematic period issues today, but also set yourself up to be maximally fertile when you're ready to have a baby.
Why should you care about your fertility now? The truth is that egg freezing is expensive and IVF treatments are not a guarantee, given their success rates. And even if you have to use those technologies, you need to make sure that you are doing everything possible to optimize your internal fertile ecosystem through food and lifestyle habits that you can instill now.
After all, the research shows that how you eat, exercise, and manage stress are critical factors in enhancing and preserving fertility.
When I was diagnosed with PCOS at the age of 20, I was told that not only would I need to rely on artificial hormones and medications to manage my symptoms, but that I’d never conceive naturally. I’m happy to report that 17 years later, I’m the mother of a healthy baby girl who I conceived without medication or IVF. I consider it due to the nutritional and lifestyle work I put in after my diagnosis.
When I was hormonally imbalanced, I found it really disturbing that there was no place I could turn to for trusted guidance. That's why I'm hoping to shine a long-overdue light on the facts about female hormonal function and how food can help the body regain and maintain balance.
It’s not rocket science, but it’s science every woman needs to know in order to live her best life.
Here are a few simple steps you can take in your 20s to help your hormones and start laying the groundwork for optimal fertility down the line:
1. Go off the Pill to address hormonal issues.
Of course, many women are on the Pill to avoid pregnancy. But if you’re using hormonal birth control mainly to regulate your periods or clear your acne, it’s only acting as a Band-Aid and masking the real hormonal chaos underlying those issues.
That's why I recommend talking to your doctor about alternative contraceptive measures and breaking up with your Pill for at least three months. Artificial hormones suppress your body’s natural hormonal symphony and keep you from addressing real issues that can affect fertility, like PCOS.
Don’t wait until you’re ready to be a mom to ditch the Pill. Abandon ship now and start healing your hormonal symptoms through food and lifestyle changes. (You can learn more here about naturally managing your PCOS.)
2. Learn how to manage stress.
Everyone experiences stress — it’s a perfectly normal part of everyday life. What’s not normal is allowing chronic stress to rule your life, elevate your cortisol, and wreak havoc on your entire endocrine system.
If you haven’t already, find an outlet for your stress, whether it’s regular exercise, meditation, yoga, or journaling. Discover a method that works for you and schedule it into your routine — no excuses.
3. Eat a healthy diet for your hormones.
I teach my clients that truly achieving hormonal balance means eating in a way that supports and enhances your body’s natural functions.
If you’re ready to start right this second, slowly start incorporating nourishing, fertility-boosting foods into your diet. That includes buckwheat (it contains inositol, which helps fertility), foods with high amounts of monounsaturated fats (like avocado and sunflower seeds), fresh fruits and vegetables, and Brazil nuts (they contain selenium, important for women's fertility).
Eating for your cycle is also an important way to ensure your body is getting the right micronutrients at the right times to carry out all the important endocrine functions, like ovulation and menstruation.
It's easier than you think to sync your diet with your cycle. To get started, I recommend adding some quinoa during your follicular phase, green juice during ovulation, sweet potato right before your period, and plenty of avocado during menstruation.
4. Get rid of endocrine disruptors in your cleaning and beauty products.
Research shows that many of the chemicals found in everyday house-cleaning and beauty products are very toxic and bio-accumulative.
This means that once they’re in your system, they stay there, allowing for increased free radical damage and making you more vulnerable to health problems.
That's why I only use Seventh Generation cleaning products or natural options like baking soda. I also make sure all my beauty products are free of the top endocrine-disrupting ingredients, including butyl alcohol and lithium chloride.
If you want to do everything in your power to improve your chances of becoming a mom, then we want to help you optimize your fertility. Click here to download my free guide, The 5 Health Foods to Avoid to Get and Stay Pregnant.
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