By Karen McElroy, Naturopath & Medical Herbalist
So you are trying to get pregnant and wonder whether you should take a vitamin supplement or just focus on a healthy diet?
There are many opinions in the debate about this topic with some people arguing that we get all the nutrients we need from the average diet and that supplements are just a waste of money. But what is the real story behind supplements and is there any way that we can get everything we need from our food?
Supplements For Fertility
Nutritional supplements are a popular way of improving the dietary intake of nutrients. Key supplements to boost fertility are geared towards both enhancing reproductive function, egg and sperm quality and preventing birth defects in developing babies. Folate is the best known of these, but there are many other nutrients that are essential for healthy egg and sperm and also support the early development of the embryo and foetus. Nutrients that are involved in these important processes range from vitamins and minerals to proteins and essential fatty acids.
Most supplements are chemically altered or synthetic versions of the vitamin found in nature. This allows for a higher potency per tablet and enables the combination of different nutrients together. It is essential to remember that supplements are only useful, as their name suggests, to supplement a healthy diet. Whilst I do use professional and quality supplements with all my fertility patients to facilitate specific health outcomes, I also stress that they do not replace or make up for poor dietary choices. Hence, I always spend a lot of time with my clients on promoting dietary change, providing ideas, recipes, and inspiration to make healthy choices.
Whole Foods For Fertility
Indeed, there are many things found in natural foods that science has yet to discover and nature generally provides a perfect combination of nutrients together in whole natural foods that can enhance their benefits to us when eaten. There is no substitute for a really nourishing diet. Unfortunately, the average Australian diet is a far cry from a really healthy diet; and in most cases it will not contain all the nutrients needed in the right amounts.
Processed, packaged and artificially preserved foods form a large part of many people’s diets and they offer little vitality or nutrients for our body and often add to inflammation and dysfunction. Soils are very depleted of minerals and trace elements due to decades of chemical fertilisers, pesticides and overfarming. Our foods are suffering the consequences, having much less nutrients than in previous centuries.
Moreover, modern lifestyles tend to have increased levels of chemicals and pollution as well as mental and emotional stress – all of which will also increase the demands your body has for key nutrients. The egg and sperm are very delicate cells that are easily affected by these types of environmental impacts; nutrients such as antioxidants, vitamins and minerals are needed to protect them.
A Proper Dietary Health Assessment
While a broad spectrum multi-vitamin designed for fertility is a good basic supplement to consider, it is far better to have a proper dietary and health assessment to identify areas of concern. This means you can have a personalised dietary approach as well as being able to access professional supplements to provide nutrients in the right amounts and forms to ensure they work. Some supplements contain the right nutrients but in much smaller amounts than what was found to be effective in clinical research trials. Taking nutrients in a sub-optimal dose will never create the change that is possible with the right dose.
Remember that above all, increasing your intake of foods that are rich in fertility enhancing nutrients (including amino acids and essential fats) will be far more useful than taking a supplement, while continuing to eat an imbalanced diet. So, if you want to optimise your health and fertility choose fresh, whole, organic and natural foods every day. Your body will always appreciate these goodies straight from nature far more than a synthetic vitamin trying to make up for a depleted processed diet.
To ensure you get the best possible dietary tips and quality supplements to deal with your individual case and reproductive issues, it is also a good idea to have a consultation and health assessment with a qualified natural health professional.
You can learn more and get in touch with Karen at her website at www.karenmcelroy.com.au.