Top 5 Resources to Improve Your Chances of IVF Success

To support you on your fertility journey, I have gathered my Top 5 resources to improve your chances of IVF success. When you are preparing for an IVF cycle, it can sometimes feel like your body is a bit out of your control. You want your time, energy and investment to result in a healthy pregnancy, but it seems like most of the decisions are in the doctor’s hands. However, there are still things you can do to improve the odds.

This is the time to invest in your well-being and prepare your body to be a vessel for new life. If simple things like having acupuncture on the day of embryo transfer can increase IVF pregnancy rates from 26% to 42% (as was indicated in one study), imagine how much a combination of eating well, stretching and mentally preparing for IVF could make a difference! The clients I have worked with who have done some or all of these thing have had the best results. These 5 things help improve your response to the medications, build a healthy endometrial lining and increase your receptivity to the developing embryo.

1. Optimize your diet and supplements - You can eat your way to better fertility! I love the clear, concise and research-based program Chris Kresser has put together in The Healthy Baby Code. 
And book an appointment to see a Naturopathic Doctor to make sure the supplements you are taking are right for you. Check in with Dr. Rachel Stewart of Dr. Jenny Ma at Living Wellness Centre

2. Move, stretch, massage and open – Getting exercise helps to move your energy around so it doesn’t get stuck, which is prone to happening with the tension of the early morning clinic visits and pressure of the cycle.
In Surrey, see Elena or Salveen at Origin’s Health for osteopathic manual practice in the first half of your cycle. 
Spend 30 minutes a day doing a yoga for fertility DVD.

3. Give your feelings some space – It’s common to feel a little sensitive during this process! The people around you will likely have well intentioned advice about staying positive, which can backfire and set you up for feeling guilty for all of the anxieties and negative feelings you may be having.
Reserve some time to get all of these feelings out of your system. If you hold them in, even unconsciously, they can block up your system and leave you feeling drained and crabby. Blogging or journalling are a couple of great ways to keep it flowing. Or tell your story in writing with Firefly.

4. See it happening - Visualize each step as it is happening, your healthy eggs growing in the follicles, nourished by ample blood flow and wonderful nutrition. Your lining thickening with rich blood, becoming lush and receptive. The moment you share the positive result with your loved ones. Download a free relaxation meditation or buy the fertility meditation series from Circle and Bloom and listen to it when you are feeling overwhelmed and alone.

5. Get some Acupuncture – Acupuncture has been extensively studied for the beneficial effects is has in supporting IVF. Studies show acupuncture before and after embryo transfer can increase the success rate of in vitro fertilization (IVF) to 42%, compared with 26% in the control group. Women who had acupuncture often report feeling less anxious, more relaxed and at peace during their IVF cycle. Optimal care for IVF clients includes at least 8 acupuncture sessions before your egg retrieval. Contact Raeghan Siemens to book your sessions.

By Tanya Smith

http://www.tanyasmith.com

Going Gluten Free

A Few Tips to Starting a Gluten Free Diet

While many may have seen or read about the benefits of gluten free diet sometimes the hardest thing to do is start. When you’re new to food choices and lifestyle changes, knowing how to start and what to expect can be a bit challenging. Whether you’re attempting this because you have celiac disease, gluten intolerance, allergies, or other inflammatory diseases, starting this diet can be very beneficial to your overall health. Below are a few tips on how to best approach this new way of eating.

What is Gluten?

Gluten is typically found in barley, wheat, and rye and therefore avoiding those grain types is vital. However, there are other items that are less obvious that also have gluten as an ingredient. However, the FDA has regulated to major food companies that they must clearly label whether wheat and/or gluten were used in the products, however, there are ways around this. There are lots of additives that can contain gluten which is why you must learn to read labels early on so that you know exactly what to look out for. In the beginning it may be best to eat all natural fruits, vegetables, and lean meats as these are naturally gluten free.

·         Know What Contains Gluten – The first order of business it to first educate yourself on what gluten is and where it can be found. You should check online for health sites that list where gluten can be found so that you can avoid these things when shopping.

·         Create a Replacement List – Now everything that you absolutely love to eat but you’ve found out from research contains gluten you will need to find a replacement to avoid slipping back into eating those foods. Write down a list of foods that you can easily switch to meet your needs.

·         Read Labels – When shopping at your local grocery store you’re going to have to be cautious of what you purchase. Since your shopping trips will take you a lot longer your first few times around it is best to go when you’re not hungry and when there is not a crowd so that you don’t feel rushed or stressed. When choosing food items, be sure to check the label to determine if there is any gluten.

·         Plan Your Meals – A great idea for those starting a gluten free diet is to find a few recipes online and begin planning your meals out weekly.

Deciding to eat gluten free is a great lifestyle choice for those who are either suffering from some disease or simply looking to lead a better quality of life. Prior to starting this diet it is always best to consult with either a nutritionist or your doctor to ensure that what you’re doing is safe.

PCOS

Polycystic ovarian syndrome ( PCOS) is a common condition, affecting approximately 5-10% of women, which is thought to have a genetic origin. This condition arises when ovulation does not occur regularly, resulting in multiple “cysts” in the ovary. These cysts are actually follicles which have not undergone regular maturation and ovulation in previous cycles. Not every woman with PCOS will have multiple cysts, but they all will exhibit certain hormonal characteristics and will have difficulty with regular ovulation. Fortunately, effective PCOS treatment is now available, and most women with this disorder are able to achieve a more regular cycle, improved hormonal symptoms and increased fertility with the right care.

PCOS often correlates with a condition known as insulin resistance, when the tissues and cells in the body do not respond normally to the presence of insulin. This happens from either genetic or lifestyle and dietary factors. Insulin normally converts glucose which is in the blood into energy. In insulin resistance, the excess glucose is then taken up by the liver and converted into fat, increasing overall fatty tissue. Patients with PCOS are more prone to being overweight, however even lean patients with PCOS have a propensity to insulin resistance.

In addition to effects on fat production,  there are also direct effects on the ovaries.  When the body is resistant to insulin, the blood sugar will rise, and the pancreas will produce even more insulin in an attempt to reduce the blood sugar.  In many cases the higher amount of insulin is enough to keep the blood sugar within a normal range, however it does cause other problems. This elevated blood insulin causes the ovaries to increase production of testosterone by a large amount.  High levels of testosterone slow or stop ovulation, and this is where the anovulatory cycles begin.

The elevated insulin levels also have effects on the conversion of male hormones into estrogen in the fatty tissue which causes even more trouble.  High insulin levels cause testosterone to be excessively converted into estrogens which cause sensitivity of the pituitary and increases in LH.  Elevated LH levels in some patients also cause increased production of testosterone.    High estrogens cause negative feedback on FSH production from the pituitary, resulting in poor follicle development.  And so as you can see, a very vicious cycle develops.

In most patients, the insulin resistance also must be targeted directly in order to see great improvements with ovulation and fertility.   This kind of PCOS treatment addresses the underlying cause of the condition – focusing on breaking the cycle of hormonal imbalance, and restoring metabolic health.  In patients who are in the overweight PCOS category, it is very helpful to embark on a healthy weight loss protocol, often involving low glycemic index, paleo, or low carbohydrate nutritional programs.

Effective PCOS treatment involves acupuncture and electroacupuncture on the ovaries, and supplements to target insulin resistance at the cellular level.
Nutrition and diet is of the utmost importance, and a PCOS diet is required to ensure healthy insulin balance along with a regular exercise program.

Symptoms of PCOS:

Symptoms tend to be mild at first. You may have only a few symptoms or a lot of them. The most common symptoms are:

Acne.
Weight gain and trouble losing weight.
Extra hair on the face and body. Often women get thicker and darker facial hair and more hair on the chest, belly, and back.
Thinning hair on the scalp.
Irregular periods. Often women with PCOS have fewer than nine periods a year. Some women have no periods. Others have very heavy bleeding.
Fertility problems. Many women who have PCOS have trouble getting pregnant (infertility).
Depression.

PCOS Diet

PCOS Diet Guidelines

1. Go Gluten Free

Gluten disrupts your already imbalanced hormone system

Gluten containing products are often refined with a high glycemic load and will probably cause a spike in your insulin levels

Gluten intolerance causes chronic inflammation and could be contributing to your insulin resistance.

Read the Wheat Belly

 

2. Balance your daily protein with equal amount carbohydrates – follow a Paleo Diet

This will help to eliminate the insulin yo-yo. When you eat equal amounts of proteins and carbohydrates this helps to keep your insulin at a balanced level, thus increasing your fertility.

Make sure the proteins you are eating are complete and organic. Organic meats and dairy contain essential fatty acids and will not contribute to any hormonal imbalances.

Use this cook book – Practical Paleo: A Customized Approach To Health And A Whole-foods Lifestyle     by Diane Sanfilippo

3. Eat foods low on the glycemic index and glycemic load list

Blood glucose rises and then falls when you eat a meal containing carbs. How high it rises and how long it remains high depends on the kind of carbs (glycemic index GI) and the amount you ate (glycemic load GL). Low glycemic index foods are carbohydrates that break down slowly in the body, and don’t cause such a dramatic spike and then drop in insulin levels. The glycemic load takes into consideration the amount of the glycemic index food you consumed and how that affects your blood sugar. The glycemic load combines both the quality and quantity of carbohydrate into one ‘number’. It’s the best way to predict blood glucose values of different types and amounts of food.

The serving size of the amount of carbohydrates consumed really matter here. Be sure to eat no more than 100g of low glycemic index carbohydrates a day if you have insulin resistant PCOS and are overweight. Increase the amount of low glycemic index carbohydrates consumed a day to over 100g if you are thinner or underweight.

Some examples of low glycemic index foods are:

 

  • Kale, broccoli, asparagus
  • Beans and lentils
  • Unprocessed foods
  • Grapefruit and apples
  • Walnuts and almonds

 

Processed carbohydrates that break down quickly are likely to make the insulin levels jump dramatically.

Avoid foods that have a high glycemic index such as sugary and starchy foods: pancakes, syrups, sugar, white potatoes, jams, scones, white bread products, pasta.

4. Eat a diet high in fiber

Fiber helps in two ways with PCOS. The first way they help is by slowing down the digestion of sugars in the body, so there is no spike in insulin. The second way they help is by promoting healthy estrogen metabolism which aids in the reduction of elevated levels of androgens.

Great sources of fiber are: broccoli, celery, apples, whole grains, and dark leafy greens.

5. Eat 5 meals a day

By eating more often, the body will not go into fasting mode. When you look at the way most Americans eat, it is usually three big meals a day. With such a large gap of time between meals the body goes into fasting mode which causes the metabolism to become imbalanced.

The five meals a day should consist of three regular meals and two healthy snacks or 5 small meals. The first snack should be eaten in the mid-morning before lunch and the second snack to be eaten less than an hour before bed. Between eating 5 meals a day and eating a serving of protein (3-4 ounces), low GI/GL carbohydrate (1/4-1/2 cup or serving size), vegetables (1/2 cup to 1 cup) each meal.

Here is what the 5 meals a day could look like:

 

  • Breakfast (right away, when you wake up): 2 eggs scrambled in 1 tsp. coconut oil with spinach and 1/2 cup of black beans
  • Snack: Smoothie with unsweetened coconut or almond milk, peaches, 1/4 tsp. of ground cinnamon, hemp protein powder and spirulina
  • Lunch: Organic Turkey lettuce wrap with celery sticks and hummus on the side
  • Dinner: Organic chicken with steamed broccoli and half a cup of baked yam
  • Snack (less than an hour before bed): organic unsweetened yogurt with half a serving of low glycemic index fruit (blueberries, raspberries, papaya) and 1/2 tsp. chia seeds

 

Alternately, you could have your last snack between lunch and dinner, eating your dinner right before bed. Find out what works best with your lifestyle.

6. Exercise 30 min. 5 days a week

Exercise helps PCOS by improving your insulin sensitivity, increasing your metabolism and helping to shed any excess weight. Both aerobic and resistance exercises are good. Researchers found that participants of resistance exercises showed better improvement in insulin sensitivity than with aerobic exercise alone.

You could walk and lift weights or take a Pilates class and run on the treadmill. Discover what you enjoy doing and do this 5 days a week for at least thirty minutes.

7. Eat Organic

You will be eating a high protein diet, so it is essential that any animal proteins (meats and dairy) you are eating are organic. In commercial meats there are large amounts of added hormones (estrogens) that make the animals grow bigger, faster, and produce more milk. With PCOS there is usually a progesterone deficiency and adding more estrogens can make it even worse.

Studies have shown that organic foodscontain more vitamins, minerals and healthier proteins.

8. Quit Coffee

Caffeine increases estrogenlevels. A study from Fertility and Sterility shows that drinking just two cups of coffee a day boosts levels of estradiol, a natural estrogen. Women who drink 4-5 cups of coffee a day produce 70% more estrogen in the follicular phase of the menstrual cycle (when the body is trying to produce a viable follicle for ovulation, which is already and issue in women with PCOS.)

 

 

The Waiting Game

Whether you have tried naturally to conceive or had an IVF (in vitro fertilization), the wait until you can find out if you are pregnant can be long and filled with emotional highs and lows. Women often ask “is there anything I can do to improve my chance of becoming pregnant?” The following are a few ideas how you can help this process:

  • Stay warm at all costs, use a hot water bottle, warm teas and soups.
  • Do deep belly breathing to really increase the flow of energy to your
  • uterus.
  • And some think eating pineapple, particularly the core, can be helpful.
  • Keep exercise to low impact.
  • Watch comedies, studies have shown laughing after an IVF can increase your chance of becoming pregnant.

 

Good Luck!