Taking a TCM Approach to Your Diet to Enhance Fertility
Today we will be covering one of my personal subjects in life, food! Food therapy has always been part of Traditional Chinese Medicine. It can be really easy to initiate your own healing simply by eating for your current TCM disharmony. I will share with you some easy life solutions and three different approaches that you can start with your very next meal. Food has a lot of ties to our belief system, our past, and emotions we have yet to feel. Changing the way you eat can seem very overwhelming, so today I invite you to just pick a few from these three ideas that suit you and your life.
To share your own fertility story, please email me at email@example.com. I look forward to connecting with you, as you are what this podcast is all about.
[2:34] This can be a really hot topic for some people. I think most of my patients would rather me ask them who they voted for and how much money they make than for a weekly food journal. The reason why is food has a lot of ties for many of us. It’s got our belief systems all wrapped up in it, this is good, that’s bad, I can never follow a diet, I’ll get fat if I eat that, I’ll feel better if I eat that over there, I’ll eat in secret and no one will know, and so on. And it’s highly tribal and social. Most of us were comforted by food when we were little and as adults in the western world, it is often the center of many social gatherings. So when we start poking at it, and suddenly trying to change the way we eat, it can get a little unnerving.
[5:42] If you do have blood sugar instability and you test positive for gestational diabetes, you could pass that insulin instability down two generations. That’s right, your unborn grandchildren could have trouble with their blood sugar or even PCOS. This is because insulin can compete with your hormones trying to dock in your ovaries, reducing egg quality, or even stopping ovulation. We have the power to affect the health of the next two generations by what we put into our bodies up to one full year prior to getting pregnant.
[6:01] I would rather encourage you to make positive small changes that feel right to you rather than your feeling like your eating is one more thing you have to try and be perfect at. The implications of your DNA occur one full year before you get pregnant.
[8:25] Even a 2% change a day has a cumulative effect. It’s important to start small and adopt habits and a diet that feels positive and nourishing. If you pick what feels right at this stage of the game, you can work with suits you now and always circle back to more of them. If it doesn’t feel good, you are going to make an excuse not to.
[8:39] Pick what feels right for you and your partner, and start small.
[10:24] The first approach is from Daoshing Ni, from his book The Tao of Fertility. He thinks of the menstrual cycle as a season, and there is a systematic way to eat accordingly along with the phases. This can be helpful to improve egg quality, sperm quality, and your menstrual lining. It might be a bit difficult if you are a creature of habit or have a tendency to grab raw cold food as this is pretty much prohibited on the diet. It is a simple approach that can drastically make a difference in less than three months.
[12:10] The second is a general list of what not to eat, and a meal order solution like Green Chef or Hello Fresh. This is great for the on-the-go person that is working too much or overwhelmed by the idea of shopping and cooking. However, it can get pricey, especially if you cave and order take out when you have organic food sitting in your fridge.
[13:09] Third, is the pattern diagnosis of TCM by symptoms that tell you how to eat based on TCM. This will often help you feel the best the quickest and make your overall constitution stronger helping you to achieve optimal fertility. It can be difficult if both of you have completely different imbalances or constitutions. It’s a win if you love strict rules. It gives a list of don’ts and dos.
[14:20] In the Tao of Fertility approach, you think of your menses as the season of winter. Shedding, ending and contracting. The week after your period is like spring where plants and flowers are budding and blooming, and the ovulatory phase is summer. The luteal phase is akin to autumn, the idea that Earth is filled with activity and where the temperature is beginning to drop as we come towards Winter. During the first two weeks of your “seasons,” you want to incorporate foods that will strengthen your egg quality and energy. This includes grains, high protein foods like eggs, meat, and beans. It’s important the food is warm for digestion. If you feel extra fatigued and weak during menstruation, you want to eat a lot of blood-nourishing foods like bone broth. The second phase after ovulation shifts to leafy green vegetables like spinach, kale, chard, and berries.
[23:15] Build healthy blood through the addition of foods like eggs, avocados, seeds (chia, flax, sunflower, and pumpkin) and nuts (with the exception of peanuts), unrefined coconut, and full-fat organic grass-fed dairy (as long as there is no intolerance or allergy). Healthy blood encourages good circulation to nourish egg follicles and to build healthy endothelial lining. Must of us go out of our way to make our baby's first nursery the best it could be, really though our womb is really baby’s first home, so let's make the most of it!
[25:44] Always choose full-fat instead of fat-free. Often times when they take the fat out, they replace it with sugar and other unhealthy additives.
[26:40] Method 3 is pattern diagnosis of TCM by symptoms that tell you how to eat for your fertility based on TCM. This will often help you feel the best the quickest and make your overall constitution stronger helping you to achieve optimal fertility. It can be difficult if both of you have completely different imbalances or constitutions. It’s a win if you love strict rules and are good at abiding by a list of do’s and don’ts.
[29:22] I go through the patterns of foods and symptoms depending on the body types, symptoms and deficiencies. You can also download the food quiz here on the website for a further dive into what you should be eating for your specific constitution.
[29:51] In TCM, Chi is translated very loosely to “circulating life force energy.” Kidney Chi deficiency can range from not enough energy, feeling low mood or stagnant, lower back pain, and stale menstrual blood. Foods that are useful in building up the kidney energy include raspberries, seeds, and nuts, venison, and lamb, shellfish and such as basil, fennel, and horseradish.
[32:53] Spleen Chi deficiency can look like changes in appetite, bruising easily, excessive worry, and cramps that feel as though they are bearing down. It can lead to an inability to lose belly fat and water retention. You will want to avoid cold foods, deep fried foods, and dairy. Foods that help are cinnamon, clove, garlic, chestnuts, and all the foods in the kidney yung pattern such as shellfish, roasting chicken or lamb and roasted vegetables.
[36:31] Yin is responsible for moistening and cooling, and foods that rebuild these cooling fluids are things are fish dishes with coconut milk, omelets, sweet potatoes, duck, string beans, fruit smoothies. You want to avoid caffeine, alcohol, sugar and pungent spices.
[39:37] Liver Chi stagnation is basically stress and shows up by being prone to depression, irritability, and possibly nipple discharge which is a sign of high levels of stress and hormonal imbalance.
[41:09] Blood stasis or deficiency can show up as more anxiety or a low pain threshold, numb hands and feet, and fibroids or endometriosis. Foods that help to increase blood and decrease stasis include dark leafy greens, alfalfa sprouts, mushrooms, watercress, barley, apricots, kidney beans, mussels, oysters, tuna, and pate.
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Special Thanks to Christopher Lloyd Clarke for music