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Five Lifestyle Tips to Maximize Fertility

A healthy diet is critical to women trying to conceive as well as those who are pregnant or breastfeeding, according to Victoria Maizes, M.D. She recommends a whole food diet, rich in vegetables and fruits, abundant in high omega 3 fatty acids, eggs, and vegetable sources of protein. “The diet should be low in processed foods, meat, and rapidly digesting, high glycemic index carbohydrates,” she says.

Maizes is the executive director of the University of Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine and a Professor of Medicine and Public Health. In her new book, Be Fruitful: The Essential Guide to Maximizing Fertility and Giving Birth to a Healthy Child, she outlines how the foods we eat, the toxins we ingest, and the overall lifestyle we lead has an effect on fertility and the health of our unborn children. Following are five tips to maximize fertility.

  1. Age matters! Today many women are putting off child bearing until later in life, and it is affecting their fertility when they do finally start trying to conceive. Women in their 20s have a 25% chance of conceiving each month while women in their early 40s have only a 5% chance.
  2. Don’t stop eating fish! While women should avoid fish that contain high levels of mercury, like shark, swordfish, king mackerel and tilefish, other fish - such as wild salmon and sardines - are safe and very important to the pregnant woman’s diet. Fish is the best source of omega 3 fatty acids, which are critical to a baby’s brain development and can even help prevent post-partum depression.
  3. Ditch the junk food! Processed foods are filled with exactly the wrong kinds of carbohydrates and fats that lead to high glycemic indices and interfere with fertility.
  4. Take folic acid! Taking multivitamins with folic acid before conception and through the third trimester helps protect against autism as well as neural tube, cardiovascular and limb defects.
  5. Be particular about containers! Stay away from plastic food containers, Tupperware and refillable water bottles while trying to conceive. Plastic contains BPA (bisphenol A), a chemical that has strong estrogen-like activity that interferes with normal hormone function. BPA is also found in the lining of many canned goods.

Maize’s advice begs the question: If a woman follows a balanced diet, and eats the "right" foods, can she undo damage done from previous years of unhealthy eating? “Changing your eating habits changes the overall milieu of your body. It takes about 120 days for a follicle to fully develop into a fertilizable egg, so that would be the minimum window for altering any unhealthy eating patterns,” she says. “And it takes just days to reduce the pesticides, Bisphenol A (BPA), and phthalates from your body,” she adds.

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