THE one in six Irish couples who have difficulty conceiving may not have considered food as a solution, but nutritionist Sorcha Molloy says it could be part of the answer.
Optimal diet and lifestyle changes have been shown to help treat a range of conditions as diverse as type 2 diabetes, polycystic ovary syndrome, endometriosis and infertility.
“The most common cause of infertility is unexplained — in other words, couples have been told no medical problems have been identified. That is when diet and lifestyle can play a big role,” Molloy says.
She has believed passionately in the healing power of food since she trained as a chef in Ballymaloe 17 years ago.
Molloy has since gone on to complete a degree in nutrition at the University of Westminster and has just opened a clinic in Galway under the auspices of Dr Marilyn Glenville, one of the Britain’s leading women’s health nutritionists.
The clinic covers all aspects of women’s health, including menopause, PMS, endometriosis, pregnancy, weight problems as well as helping couples to conceive either naturally or with IVF.
“Fertility is a growing problem as lifestyles become more hectic and women delay having children due to work pressures or other personal reasons,” Molloy says.
Add to that increased exposure to chemicals and pesticides, which interfere with hormonal health, and the number of women — and men — with problems starts to mount up.
Sorcha Molloy advises couples to focus on their nutritional health in the three to four months before conception.
“Everything you do in that time can be as important as sex,” she says. “What you eat, drink, breathe, how stressed you are … it all matters.”
The Glenville Clinic says it screens for toxins before establishing any ‘anti-nutrients’ in a patient’s diet: alcohol and caffeine are top of the list.
Research has shown that caffeine can have an adverse effect on female fertility. Mothers-to-be are even advised to stay off decaff.
One study shows that drinking as little as one cup of coffee a day can halve your chance of conceiving and just two cups a day increases the risk of miscarriage.
While coffee is one of the worst offenders, it is also advised to cut out all caffeine-containing foods, including chocolate.
The changes might sound drastic but a study by the University of Surrey showed that couples with a previous history of infertility who made diet and lifestyle changes and took nutritional supplements had an 80% success rate.
Molloy has also seen the evidence that a nutrient-rich diet can help boost fertility at Glenville clinics in Dublin and Cork.
“Fertility is very complex and it will be different for every couple,” Molloy says. “But you can improve your chances by following certain guidelines and eating a Mediterranean-style diet. If you wouldn’t give it to your baby, then don’t give it to yourself.”
Processed foods should be replaced with fresh, whole foods, and organic where possible.
It is important to fill your diet with essential fatty acids, vitamin C (citrus fruits, kiwi and strawberries) and to eat lots of leafy green vegetables, which are high in vitamin B6.
* For tailored nutritional advice, two to three consultations are advised. The first costs €150 and subsequent visits €98.
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