Infertility Hindsight: Would Paleo Have Helped?

ANTIINFLAMMATORYDIETIf you read Lisa’s corner a few posts back (and when you read Elliana’s upcoming post) you know that our family has embraced the “paleo” eating lifestyle.

This is not a commercially packaged diet food regimen in the vein of Southbeach, Weight Watchers, etc.  This is good old fashioned “clean eating”.

Or maybe it’s new fashioned because the concept of clean eating is so out of vogue.

I never imagined such a simple thing would transform our family.

I am almost at my post high school weight and have as much energy as when I was in my twenties.  Lisa is not on blood pressure medication after 11 years and has gone from a size 16 to a size 6, and Elliana has more energy and focus than I have ever seen.  She also lost 20 pounds this summer.

We don’t get sick as much.  When we do, it doesn’t last very long.

When I see this transformation, I wonder–would this have helped us during our infertility days?

Lisa had horrible endometriosis during our infertility days.  She was also plagued by a fibroid that seemed to ebb and flow as time went on.

3 months after we started eating this way–her OBGYN discovered something remarkable.  The fibroid that he had been wanting to surgically remove for 10 years was gone.

He was stunned. We were thrilled that a future surgery could be ruled out.  After all the endo surgeries and the C-section with Elliana’s birth the last thing we wanted to do was see another assault on Lisa’s body.

Perhaps it’s pure coincidence, perhaps it’s not.

I have been seeing Dr. Oz talk about the value of anti-inflammatory diets on endometriosis–arguably one of the leading cited causes of infertility, and one that is characterized by inflammation.

We didn’t know anything about anti-inflammatory diets when we were going through infertility, and now I wonder if that could have been a game changer.

I did a quick google search to see if there is anything supporting the idea that clean eating may help fertility.

Here’s an article that caught my attention right away (written by Cecil Horwitz on Whole Family Health website, May 2, 2012).

These two paragraphs in particular caught my attention:

The foods we eat can be another major cause of chronic immune response in the body. The reason why you hear so much about the benefits of antioxidants is that they help to combat inflammation.

As a general rule, avoid artificial and processed foods, especially those high in sugar and other sweeteners, as well as refined carbohydrates (like white bread and pasta), saturated fats, caffeine, and alcohol. Instead, eat natural foods that are high in vitamins and omega-3 fatty acids.

The foods outlined for avoidance in the last sentence are all  ones we avoid as part of the paleo eating lifestyle.

Please note: the avoidance of the word “diet” is intentional when I refer to paleo eating.  American marketing has made the word “diet” synonymous with something that is done for temporary benefit.

Paleo is a permanent lifestyle change, that for us, has been a quality of health game changer. That’s why I think it is more appropriate to refer to it as the “paleo eating lifestyle.”

We did thousands of dollars worth of immune treatment when we started having recurrent miscarriages.  I keep wondering if those were even warranted.

What is inflammation? Inflammation is a natural immune response to injury or infection. But this response can also be triggered by lifestyle factors like diet, stress, and smoking.

As a result, many people experience chronic inflammation in various parts of their bodies because their immune systems are in constant overdrive.

More evidence of inflammation’s effects on infertility.

I even wonder now if my own eating habits may have contributed to the poor quality of my sperm. The doctors could never really come up with a reason why I had such a low count and poor morphology. Other than a health dose of good old American comfort food eating on a fairly regular basis, my lifestyle was pretty ‘clean’.  No smoking, infrequent alcohol consumption and no recreational drug use in my history.

The article points to inflammation as a potential cause of male factor fertility problems:

Did you know that one problem may be at the root of your fertility concerns ranging from endometriosis and PCOS, to poor sperm and egg quality, to recurrent miscarriage? The culprit – inflammation.

Lisa and I have often talked about how we hope to help couples who are struggling with infertility find the path to their child.

While the original intent of adopting the paleo eatcing  lifestyle was to improve our overall health, we are beginning to see its correlation to many of the challenges we faced when we were going through infertility.

I often wonder in hindsight–if we had known about paleo back then, would it have softened the pain of Lisa’s endometriosis while we were going through it? Would it have enabled us to conceive naturally?

I don’t know.

I wouldn’t change anything we did, knowing that Elliana was the result of all that extra medical effort.

I just know that the health benefit and transformation in our family from eating “clean” has been one of the most remarkable things I have seen in our family since Elliana was born

It seems like it would be worth trying for any couple with either unexplained infertility, or infertility that has been diagnosed as a result of low sperm counts, endometriosis, PCOS, or immune disorders, given how fast and quantifiable the results have been for us.

The fact that it doesn’t require any injections, blood draws, sample cups, or speculums doesn’t hurt either!








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