Nutrient balance is one of the most important factors to investigate if you are vegetarian and struggling to conceive because it will make a huge difference to the ability to conceive and keep a pregnancy to term.
I was on a vegetarian diet for about 12 years until I realized I just wasn’t getting the level of nutrition that that I really needed. For me the danger was that I ended up eating more carbohydrates than ideal, particularly given the fact that I have polycystic ovarian syndrome.
Research that shows that animal proteins help balance blood sugar regulation, blood sugar levels as well as hormones to a certain extent. Animal protein is also going to help to provide all of the essential and no
nessential amino acids that are required for optimal hormonal creation, hormonal balance, organ system function, which are crucial for fertility.
There are some very interesting studies out in the scientific literature that tells us that amino acid deficiency from being vegetarian or vegan or not eating animal protein is going to have an impact on egg quality, on sperm quality, on ability to conceive and ability to carry a pregnancy to term.
As I started practicing I began to see the correlation between vegetarian women, difficulty conceiving and keeping a healthy pregnancy to term. My experience in practice supports the research because the vast majority of vegetarians that present at my clinic, when tested show a significant imbalance in their biochemical levels of essential amino acids.
That’s where becoming a vegetarian can be problematic. You need to find a way to balance those amino acids as best as you can.
3 Considerations of Maintaining a Vegetarian Fertility Diet
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 completely 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 help that happen for her and help her achieve a healthy birth by adjusting a whole lot of other minor factors that were getting in the way.
#1 Consider Adding Animal Protein to Your Diet
If your vegetarian and struggling to conceive or carry a healthy pregnancy to term I first and foremost recommend revisiting your choice of food intake to include animal proteins – whether it’s from nuts, meats or eggs – at least every second meal. So it’s a couple of times a day, at least. A couple of times a week is just not going to be enough. For more information read How to incorporate more protein into your diet.
#2 Testing & Supplementation
If animal protein is not an option, then obviously supplementation with custom-prescribed amino acids is available, following proper testing. What we do in practice is we get couples tested for amino acid deficiencies. Once we’ve tested for amino acid deficiency and understand what is going on, then we can create a very customized supplementation regime with specific amino acid balance that that person needs in order to improve and create a replete situation as far as nutrients are concerned.
#3 Supplementary Food Options
Thirdly, in order to get even a balanced level of nonessential amino acids, you’d have to be combining different grains and proteins, which aren’t always the best way to replace meat in a person’s diet. But food replacement options is probably what I am most often asked about by vegetarians. The following questions were answered in a monthly series of free fertility Q & A that I ran during 2014 – 15 and reflect vegetarian diet questions I am often asked.
“I’m vegetarian. What is the minimum amount of animal products you would recommend eating? For example, is it enough to be eating two serves of fish per week and no meat? What about seaweeds?”
“Being 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?
What to Eat & What to Avoid in Vegetarian Diets
- Organic Eggs: unless you have digestive symptoms you can have one to two eggs a day . If you feel any discomfort, or pain it’s possible that you have an intolerance or insensitivity therefore, avoid eggs altogether. But if you feel good,eating eggs one to two times a day will definitely help to improve your amino acids intake.
- Fish: Twice a week is all that I would recommend. I do not recommend increasing the consumption of fish to increase protein intake because that would potentially increase your toxicity levels in your body. instead consider the egg option
- Seaweed is definitely not a protein store. It’s going to have other great, beneficial impact in regards to nutrients and iodine and other nutrients that are going to be great for general health, but it really isn’t going to do anything as far as protein or amino acids are concerned.
- Goat/Sheep Cheese: Even though on a fertility diet, I also don’t recommend dairy because of inflammatory issues. Dairy can be mucus forming in the epididymis and also in the fallopian tubes, which is not going to be great for conception. If you are okay with dairy, I recommend goat’s cheese as goat’s cheese is certainly more protein-rich.
- Grains & legumes: stick to gluten-free grains wherever possible – corn, millet, rice, quinoa, buckwheat.
Finally BEWARE that 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 to subclinical thyroid or borderline thyroid insufficiency, soy is going to be something to avoid.
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 restore the balance of amino acids intake into the body.
We provide a comprehensive testing procedure for our clients and understanding the results of testing is one of the many elements we cover during the free 14 Day Fertility Challenge, so that’s a great way to learn more about fertility testing, fertility health and optimising your diet when trying to conceive.