Food (and Family)

What kinds of diet modifications have people done to “treat” IF? Something I’ve been thinking about a lot recently.

Sometime into the ttc journey, I found a book titled The Infertility Diet, and tried to modify my eating according to the standards there. I became a vegetarian, eliminated chocolate and alcohol (I’d already eliminated almost all caffeine from my diet), went towards an organic whole-foods approach as much as I could. In addition, I tried to avoid a long list of “bad” foods as recommended in this book. These included ginger, peas, all dairy products (expect perhaps local organic – same for meat), and I forget what else. On the “good” list were: alfalfa sprouts, yams (not sweet potatoes, but yams from Africa), kelp, and lots more.

I followed this diet for about eight months, I think, after which I gave up and switched to the Zone, which I’d followed for about 2 years right after getting married and had been pleased with the effects. Having been doing this organic whole foods thing for awhile, I have kept to that as much as possible, and just limited carb portions (still avoiding processed carbs like white flour, sugar, etc.) while increasing vegetable-based protein (tofu and beans) and adding in low-fat cheese, eggs, and fish. I actually felt increased strength and energy after adding in the additional protein, and my fingernails started growing faster. I lost a little weight, but gained muscle (so although weight didn’t change much, the fit of my clothes changed noticeably) because I started grad school and began walking a hell of a lot more, along with my normal Pilates/yoga routine. The only really weird thing I noticed was that a lot of hair started falling out – or maybe I just noticed it more in a carpeted apartment? I dunno. It seems back to normal now.

I have to say some days I just don’t feel like eating meat, so I won’t. But I have dramatically increased my dark chocolate intake!!! Dark chocolate has become my drug of choice. I use it as incentive to finish reading assignments, as reward, as consolation, etc. I adore dark chocolate.

What this brings me to, though, is that there is so much doubt involved in the food thing. The recent article going around about high-fat dairy prompted me to go out and buy some really good smoked gouda (I don’t like ice cream) instead of the usual lowfat cheese I usually eat. I see mention in a lot of blogs about avoiding chocolate and alcohol. Granted, I usually avoid alcohol during the 2ww, but when I started school and took a break from ttc I definitely started drinking socially again, mostly to take the edge off my social anxiety. Never more than 2 drinks in an evening, or 4 in a week (well, except on the occasional cd1 when Hope had been by for a spell). So I’m curious what other people have tried or modifications made while ttc?

The other part of this story is a little less straightforward; a big reason that I even looked at food/diet is that my sister is a passionate believer in whole foods/vegetarianism for basically all health-related issues; she doesn’t really believe in western medicine at all. So I have been strongly influenced by her passion, yet at the same time I do reserve judgement on western medicine wholesale. We haven’t really talked about my decision to try Clomid/IUI, but I have a pretty clear idea of what her views are in general (probably why we haven’t really talked about it…) I know she was disappointed that I started eating meat and dairy again.

So this relates also to my questions in the previous post: how do you deal with family and friends who don’t agree with the choices you make regarding infertility and conception? How do you manage to stay close to people who are important to you when your decisions/ideals don’t match up? I guess my strategy thus far in life has been to avoid those topics where there are conflicting viewpoints (so I don’t discuss my views on the war in Iraq with any of my cousins, or my views on Christianity with my parents). It seems harder when it’s something this huge and this intensely personal.

I would welcome all thoughts and comments on this.


4 Responses to “Food (and Family)”

  1. The Town Criers Says:

    I don’t deny myself or force myself to eat many foods, mostly because I feel like too many other things are being denied therefore, I’m not willing to make things any harder 🙂 Probably not a good reason. I don’t drink alcohol very often anyway, so it isn’t a big deal to give it up during a cycle. I drink a lot of green tea in the first half of the cycle. I don’t know if it actually does anything, but it makes me feel proactive. And I’m a vegetarian in general, but I have to say, if they next came out with a study that said meat-eaters conceive easier, I probably wouldn’t be able to bring myself to eat meat. It’s a short life and I can only do so much, you know? And forcing myself into places I’m uncomfortable is hard when I’m already in a place where I’m sad.

    Oooh, the navigation of relationships where the person doesn’t agree…that’s a hard one. I think I try to keep the tone pleasant, but emphatic. So there isn’t room for discussion. I have no problem with someone offering out an idea. It’s just the statements that come with judgment that get to me. And I don’t expect people outside my situation to always understand my decisions. But they need to believe that if they were in my shoes, they may be making the same ones…

  2. Samantha Says:

    You’ve asked a lot of tough questions in your last two posts.

    I have to say that I originally went into treatment expecting never to do IVF and here I am on my third try. I never even did an IUI, but suddenly found myself during the second timed intercourse cycle using injectibles being told, “Do IVF or else cancel the cycle.” I discovered at that moment that I didn’t want to waste all of that effort my body had done to produce a lot of follicles, and that I really wanted to get pregnant. IVF, which had always seemed like something I would never do, was suddenly the right choice for me. So I think your DH is right about waiting to make any final decisions, although I think it’s good to know where you’re leaning.

    Most of the family members and friends I have told have been very supportive of our attempts, and never brought up any ethical concerns. There are some family members who I have just made the decision that they will not know–this has not been difficult since they don’t live nearby. If you find yourself faced with someone trying to convince you you’re doing the wrong thing, I agree with the town criers advice. You’re doing what you’re doing, end of story. It’s too close to have a discussion of whether it’s right or wrong.

    Food: I eat just about anything I want, within trying to keep a balanced diet. I eat lots of fruits and vegetables, and LOVE dairy–I eat yogurt every day for lunch, and frequently have cheese and milk, which is low-fat. The things I do avoid–mercury-contaiminated fish, although I eat plenty of other fish and seafood; undercooked meat, which makes me gag anyway; and artificial sweeteners, which I hate the taste of. Shortly before starting a cycle, I cut out all alcohol and almost all caffeine, and have my DH cut out alcohol too, since I read a study stating that alcohol use by both the woman and the man can reduce the effectiveness of IVF cycles.

    Well, this is a post in and of itself. At the same time I’m giving you this advice, I’d also say that you should try to do what works for you, and not go crazy about it. For example, I have heard that acupuncture is supposed to be helpful for IVF, but I can’t stand to stick more needles into myself. I can however, cut out alcohol. Just do what you can do. If you want to drink alcohol, do it in moderation.

  3. SaraS-P Says:

    I also have The Infertility Diet. It is important to remember that it is self-published and written by someone who is not a fertility specialist, just a person who happened to conceive after having difficulty doing so.

    Another book, Fertility Foods, gives almost opposite advice to TID. It says do high-protein, low carb.

    I am certain that doctors know almost NOTHING about how diet really affects fertility. It is so frustrating!

    There is evidence that reducing body weight in overweight women enhances fertility, so I am working towards that goal, but through exercise more than dieting.

    I think reducing caffeine, alcohol, artifical sweeteners, saturated fat, and processed foods is a good idea.

    Someone needs to answer the food-fertility question once and for all!

  4. Elizabeth Says:

    Yeah, seriously – I did have some reservations about the “scienticity” of TID. Seems like general principles of good health should be good enough. I could drive myself crazy with the thought, “WHAT IF I had followed this to the letter for a whole year? Would I be pg by now? WHAT IF I’ve been sabotaging myself all along by eating/not eating xyz?” I think it is a truly under-researched area.

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