Part 2: Optimize Your Body for Fertility
The 6 health foundations I optimized to get pregnant when Western Medicine told me it was impossible
This is part one of two on how I got pregnant when Western Medicine told me it was impossible. Part 1: Taking My Own Medicine is here.
Listen closely– Infertility is trying to tell you something. Infertility is a symptom, not a root cause, of deeper health issues. Likewise, menstrual cycles (which influence so much more than fertility) are considered a fifth vital sign for women and an indicator of overall health.
While I never focused on fertility, over the years, many of my clients joked that pregnancy was a side effect of working with me since so many have become pregnant during or after their work with me when this was not their goal of our work together.
With this, I came to see and understand how fertility and periods corrected themselves as the root causes of fighting food, depression, and other health issues were addressed.
And so when I was having difficulty becoming pregnant and my own cycles became out of whack after 1) the personal trauma I experienced from the 2016 election, 2) coming to learn I was in early menopause from childhood chemotherapy, and 3) my own failed experiment with Intermittent Fasting (IF), I did a “foundational health audit” with myself to course correct.
I am a believer in alternative therapies like supplements and acupuncture. I used both (and other lifestyle adjustments) as a means to strengthen my foundational health. Still, without focusing on the foundations of health, no supplements or tweaks will be as effective, including fertility assistance like IUI or IVF. I recommend talking to your Western Medicine fertility provider to get clear on the success rates of these choices so you are emotionally and financially prepared.
These foundational areas will support your odds for conception and carrying to term for whatever pregnancy path you choose.
The 6 Health Foundations That Support Fertility
This is the most potent lever to pull… but this is often easier said than done. If you feel out of control around food and unable to implement nutrition advice, your fertility may be the challenge to spur the emotional and personal development work to resolve the root cause of what is driving your eating patterns. Here and here are a few resources to get started on the path to rebuilding your nutritional patterns and finding what foods work for your body.
If you are in a place to implement nutrition advice, now is the time to start working on a clean diet that works for your body. Additionally, you can try these dietary tweaks to best support your period health and overall fertility.
Having completed my own Truce with Food journey, my nutrition had been solid and consistent for about 10 years. Still, two years prior, I briefly experimented with Intermittent Fasting (IF). IF did not work for my body and this nutritional experiment did impact my fertility— I actually thought I was pregnant with missed periods and daytime sweats! I know many others for whom IF worked very well, so it’s always important to realize what works for your body and be in tune with how different things impact how you feel and your cycles.
What I did learn from my IF experiment was that if my lifestyle tweaks contributed to these irregular cycles, I might be able to course correct. (Discussed more in depth below)
Over-exercising can inhibit fertility. This is another reason that those at war with food who may try to exercise off excess calories or overexercise when they’re being “good” can unintentionally impact fertility. There is a way to exercise when you’re trying to conceive.
For me, while I had previously over exercised to make up for excess calories, post making a Truce with Food, the temptation for extreme or over exercising was no longer there or a part of my routine.
I found over time that my ideal exercise was walking outdoors, doing barre classes and some yoga. These gentle exercises helped to support my overall mood and health and I believe contributed to my overall fertility prospects.
3. Reduce Environmental Toxins:
Reducing our toxic load supports fertility. Lara Alder is a great resource for accessible ways to reduce environmental toxins.
My husband and I eat mostly organic and I cleaned up my skincare and household products about 10 years ago, so a few additional refinements to reduce my exposure to toxins wasn’t a dramatic lifestyle switch. We eat mostly at home, but when we do dine out and there aren’t organic options, I stay away from the dirty dozen. We also filter our water (fluoride included) with a Berkey Filter, which was an investment we made when we originally moved back to Pittsburgh because of the poor water quality here.
Lots of lifestyle switches and attempts to be “perfect” can also create stress which adversely impacts fertility (more on that below) so I recommend implementing what is low hanging fruit or fun for you first and thinking about the lowest stress course of action (i.e. some may rejoice at the opportunity to clean out their bathroom cabinet and go on a clean beauty shopping spree, while others may find ordering a good water filtration system or switching to organic groceries has the highest ROI to stress ratio for them). Reducing toxicity is important for your health regardless of whether or not you ever plan to get pregnant.
4. Reduce Stress:
This one is hard for most people because stress isn’t easily measured. And, most health-care professionals don’t know how to adequately support people to “stress less”.
What I have found through my own education and research, is that “stress less” isn’t enough. It’s about seeing stress as Optimal Conflict. Most people fall off track with healthy habits when they are “stressed” and think they have to wait until the stress is over to get back on track. Learning to use stress to uplevel your health and life supports most of the other recommendations on this page (Season 8, Episode 7 of Insatiable teaches how to do this). I attribute my fertility success to learning how to do this. This skill had a ripple effect on just about every other aspect of my overall health.
Sleep is a crucial pillar of health. And one thing I was learning coincidentally during my fertility journey was the importance of addressing light hygiene, which is critical to sleep, thyroid functions, and every bodily process.
For me, insomnia hit right after the 2016 election (which was also the start of my post-miscarriage fertility struggle). I’d awaken in the middle of the night, hungry and unable to fall asleep for 2 or 4 hours. I knew my blood sugar was deregulated. I couldn’t understand why and attributed it to the stress of the election and what’s still happening in this country. I do believe that stress was a large part of this. My later fertility workup would reveal I was also in perimenopause/menopause which explained the blood-sugar deregulation.
To support better sleep, I spent 30 minutes outside every morning walking my dog to facilitate natural melatonin production. I also put a filter on my electronics to reduce blue light exposure and wore blue light blocking glasses at my computer all day. I started walking more outdoors for exercise.
These changes and support from alternative medicine practitioners (more below) got my sleep and cycles back to normal
For maximum chances of pregnancy and to carry to term, your thyroid is ideally between 0.5 -2.0 TSH, with corresponding healthy Free T3, T3, and T4 levels.
Unfortunately, “normal” thyroid levels in America are based on a bell-curve from what a majority unhealthy population. Most doctors won’t consider your thyroid an issue if your TSH is not under 0.5 or above 4.0. And I’ve found it to be hit or miss if they even test for Free T3, T3, and T4.
Previously, my thyroid TSH was at 3.5. I’ve always wondered if my “normal” thyroid levels were why I miscarried two years prior?
At the start of this journey, I didn’t think there was much that could be done here. I’ve always had a sluggish thyroid. I assumed the radiation I had 26 years prior and a family history of hypothyroid and Synthroid users (Pittsburgh’s industrial past makes it one of the top places for thyroid dysfunction in the country) made my only choice to consider Synthroid. Because my other health foundations were solid (which also support thyroid health), I looked to alternative therapies to tweak this.
Alternative Therapies I Used to Support and Promote Foundational Health
I found that having well-trained, complementary health care professionals with a proven track record who can hold the possibility of pregnancy for me mattered.
Neither my naturopath or acupuncturist saw any reason I couldn’t get pregnant if I was willing to give their treatments time. They understand the bodies resilience and the limiting stories of Western Medicine (like 35 years old is some magical line where your fertility drops off) in a way that gave me hope. I went into these treatments with full acceptance that no path, Western or Eastern or in between is certain.
After eight months of working with her, much to my amazement, my thyroid TSH got down to 2.0 for the first time (probably) since my cancer treatments. While I was seeing subtle results at month 6, I still wasn’t convinced my thyroid could correct via alternative medicine and I wanted to take Synthroid. My naturopath asked for two more months and knowing from my own work with clients the exponential results that proceed with more time, I agreed to wait. I’m so glad that I did. My TSH is now 1.7. I am still slightly shocked at the turnaround of this issue that has haunted me for years and I believed was unfixable.
According to Dr. Joy, my sluggish thyroid was caused by heavy metal toxicity from my mercury fillings and vaccinations. We cleared that up with supplements and homeopathic detox tinctures, all very mild. What worked for my body won’t work for yours and the Bio Energetic modality enables her to customize what will work for each person’s body.
I also had the bacteria that Lyme carry. I did not have Lyme disease but the bacteria they carry were affecting my thyroid. We used homeopathy to clear this bacteria (unlike antibiotics, we killed off the bad bugs and preserved the good ones!). I had no symptoms from the die-off which I attribute to my foundation being strong.
My acupuncturist focused on my weak kidney meridian (which rules fertility), which are the metrics Chinese Medicine uses to promote well-being. After a couple of months of consistent work with her, my periods regulated and my sleep improved significantly. I was in disbelief, but it was another day at the office for her!
We added in some herbs that matched my body and her expertise and my cycles became regular for the first time in about a year and a half, making it much easier to track ovulation and if it was occurring (you can be getting a period but not ovulating).
About nine months later, I was pregnant with a baby boy!
We are thrilled. Grateful. Humbled by the great mystery.
The 40-year-old me who did the work to heal her relationship with food, learn her body and unlearn all the half-truths about what our bodies are capable of (and has seen hundreds of client “miracles” over the years), knows there can be many more stories like mine.
Here’s a few Truce with Food fertility “side-effects”:
Jess: figuring out what foods worked best for her (and supported her Endometriosis) and the mindset tools to eat consistently that years later, facilitated an easy pregnancy.
Krista: ending her bingeing to be consistent with healthy eating and getting her first natural period ever.
Nicole: getting to the root causes of why she was put on birth control in the first place and learning to regulate her cycle on her own (and losing 20 pounds!).
To creative possibilities,