For females it is essential to ensure optimal bowel function. This includes going to the toilet daily but also ensuring optimal digestion and absorption of food and ensuring there is no damage or inflammation occurring in the bowels. This is essential as 60 to 70% of the immune system is located around the gastrointestinal tract. Any pathogens or inflammatory mediators in the bowels create an overactive or sensitised immune system. This may contribute to increased NK (immune) cells that are seen in some cases of miscarriage.
Dietary analysis of many women who cannot get pregnant or successfully carry to full term reveals an over reliance on oats, dairy and wheat for nutrition. Typical breakfasts of gluten containing sugary breakfast cereal, sandwiches for lunch and pasta for dinner is common, and there is often times a lack of poultry, fish and vegetables. Gluten is probably the most common food intolerance and simply cutting this out of the diet and allowing the gut and immune system to de-sensitise can be a huge step towards successful pregnancy. London nutritionist Steve Hines can help design a diet to improve your chance of conceiving.
Next any hormone dysfunctions needs to be corrected. Any imbalance in hormone levels, particularly oestrogen and progesterone, will affect the ability to maintain a pregnancy. Your doctor should be able to test this; however research is demonstrating that females with a higher distribution of fat on the buttocks and thighs may be oestrogen dominant.
Many other women suffer from PCOS, a condition where insulin is poorly controlled, raising levels of testosterone that affect ovulation. It is also common for women to have low thyroid function or PMS.
Balancing blood sugar with regular healthy meals and snacks will help to balance these hormonal problems. For example eggs, homemade muesli and soymilk or almond milk, fish such as smoked salmon, nuts and berries are much better breakfasts that provide a good serving of protein and healthy fats that will help stabilise blood sugar but also provide essential nutrients such as antioxidants, vitamins and minerals. Mid morning and mid afternoon snacks of nuts, low GL fruits, such as apples, pears, plums or berries, seeds or hummus with crudités will take the edge off your hunger and take away the temptation for chocolate and crisps. Simply switching to “free from” bread for sandwiches at lunch and including more fish such as mackerel and sardines in sandwiches will remove the gluten and reduce bowel irritation. Increasing meat, fish or seafood with salads and vegetables at evening meals whilst reducing grains and pasta will also help. With all of the meals it’s important to increase nutrient intake. A growing foetus needs a host of nutrients such as zinc, calcium, carnitine and omega 3 fatty acids. If the mother is depleted of these nutrients there may be a higher risk of infertility or miscarriage.
To improve the health of the thyroid and adrenals is critical as they also as these glands play an important role in regulating body function from metabolism to the immune system. Eat fish, onions and asparagus for iodine, and poultry, fish, almonds, pumpkin seeds and sesame seeds for tyrosine. These nutrients are essential to make thyroid hormones. Foods containing selenium, zinc, vitamin A, D, E and B6 also help the conversion of T4 to the active form T3. Employ the tips described on page 90 to help the adrenals.