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Vegetarian In Need of Gluten Free Alternatives

I’m 40. I’m  a vegetarian. A lot of my diet has been based around corn products, which I’ve been told is not gluten-free? Can you recommend an alternative safe food as I’m struggling with a meal plan?

A: Diet is a really important topic as far as helping couples improve their fertility, improve egg quality again and ensure that the best possible chance of conception. Unfortunately vegetarianism  can not always provide the level of nutrition needed. People often end up eating way more carbohydrates than really would be ideal

As a natural fertility specialist I’ve seen the correlation between being vegetarian and women who were having difficulty conceiving or keeping a healthy pregnancy to term. The essential amino acids which we often  get through meats and animal-based protein, are extremely important as a foundation for the kind of amino acid base that we need for optimizing fertility.

What we find is that couples who are vegetarians generally have a huge imbalance in their own biochemical levels of essential amino acids. That is often a problem because what’s going to happen is that we are going to increase the risk of not having the right types of foundations or building blocks for egg and sperm quality, but also that deficiency or depletion if you like is also going to increase the risk of miscarriage.

That’s where becoming a vegetarian can be problematic.

Now of course for some people being a vegetarian is very much part of their personality. For some people, it’s impractical to say that all of a sudden, they’re going to start to eat meat. If you do need to do grains or legumes then you really want to stick to gluten-free grains wherever possible. Those are your corn, buckwheat,quinoa, millet,  even though millet can have a high impact on thyroid function.  It’s similar in some ways to how soy negatively impacts thyroid, so you need to be very careful. If you have a thyroid predisposition, sub-clinical thyroid or borderline thyroid insufficiency, that’s going to be certainly something to avoid.

What we generally do in practice is we get couples tested. For couples that are vegetarian, a woman or man, we get them tested for amino acid deficiencies. Once we’ve tested for amino acid deficiency, then we understand what actually is going on, then we actually create a very customized supplementation regime with specific amino acid balance that that person needs exactly in order to improve and create a replete situation as far as nutrients are concerned. That’s essentially how we approach that aspect of being a vegetarian.

I’ve had couples over the years who were so deficient in their amino acid levels that a pregnancy was not possible up until the time that was rectified. I’ve had one patient who literally had the most severe amino acid deficiency that I’ve had ever seen. She had one baby that didn’t survive unfortunately and it took her quite a while after many, many miscarriages to actually get things to work as effectively as it needed.

We were able to actually make that happen for her and help her achieve that outcome in combination with adjusting a whole lot of other minor factors that were getting in the way too. I truly believe being vegetarian was one of the big pieces of the puzzle for her in regards to what’s actually needed to happen or needed to change in order for her to change the outcome that she wanted.

I certainly would recommend revisiting your choice of food intake and if you can start to incorporate some animal proteins, that definitely would be a good direction. If not, then obviously supplementation with custom-prescribed amino acids, which generally I would only ever do after actually doing a proper test.

Vegetarianism truly is not my favourite option when couples are struggling to conceive, particularly when they have been trying to conceive for a very long time, although as I said generally we don’t go against that particular behaviour as long as we can balance the amino acids intake into the body. We can certainly improve that through testing and tailored supplementation.



Gabriela Rosa MScM, ND

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