This global crisis has left many of us feeling scared and lost; having to put your life on hold for an unknown amount of time can feel incredibly frustrating, especially if you are in the process of trying to conceive.
At Yinova we are here to support you. Whether you are trying to conceive naturally, are going through Assisted Reproductive Techniques, or have had to take a forced break from IVF/IUI, this time can be used as an amazing opportunity to focus on self-care & fertility.
If you are unable to try at home at or have to wait until your next IVF/IUI cycle, we want to help you focus on detoxifying and prepping your body so that you can be at your best for when you are ready to start a new cycle. Here is my advice on how to optimize your time at home so that you can continue to work on improving your fertility, no matter what phase you’re in.
Your Menstrual Cycle, from a Chinese medicine perspective
The beauty of Chinese medicine is that it looks at the body as a microcosm of the universe. The ancient Chinese were insightful because when we balance the phases in the menstrual cycle, we are in fact balancing the hormones. Before we dive deeper, let’s do a quick review of the phases of the menstrual cycle:
During this part of your cycle, your energy is at its lowest because the blood is leaving the body. This is a good time to rest and eat blood-nourishing foods (more on that later!). For women who have painful periods, using warm baths and heating pads to move and circulate the blood can help to reduce pain.
During this time, eating blood nourishing foods can help support follicle and lining growth. Excessive worry and poor sleep can cause blood stagnation, so try to avoid both of those things if you can. A good indication that you are about to ovulate is the presence of fertile Cervical Fluid, which is produced by the cervix during this phase in response to rising estrogen levels and a ripening follicle.
This is a time of movement as the follicle is released from the ovary. The liver qi is responsible for moving the qi throughout the body. If it becomes stuck from physical or emotional stress, ovulation can be inhibited. This is an ideal time for gentle movements like walking and yoga. Meditation and breathing exercises can be used to relieve stress and will allow qi to move freely. While movement is recommended, excessive exercise is a stress on the body and can have a negative impact on the smooth flow of qi.
This is the “bun in the oven” phase of the cycle. Progesterone “locks” in the lining and warms the uterus. When the egg is fertilized it develops into an embryo, travels down the fallopian tube and implants into the lining. This entire journey takes around 5-7 days. At this time we want to avoid excessive and intense exercising and focus on warming foods.
As mentioned in the Follicular Phase section, the biggest indicator of fertility is your cervical fluid. Aim to begin checking your cervical fluid the day after your period ends, and from there try to check at least three times a day. Keep in mind that it’s important to do this when you are not sexually aroused. A good time to do this would be when you go to the bathroom, for example. If you do not have much mucus, get into the habit of doing Kegel exercises on the way to the bathroom to encourage your mucus to flow. The chart below outlines the progressions of the fluid and when it’s indicating that your body is at peak fertility. It’s a great way to understand the cycle!
Fertility Support at Home
Cooking at home
Since we are all stuck inside, I can’t think of a better time to start cooking. A little hidden benefit is that we will be exposed to fewer toxins in plastic take-out containers (Yay!) When cooking your next masterpiece, try to incorporate some of these foods throughout your cycle:
Blood Nourishing Foods during the Period and Follicular Phase:
- Protein: broths, bone marrow, eggs, fermented bean products (miso, tempeh), high quality organic/free-range meat (beef, chicken, liver, pork), mussel, oyster, stocks,
- Vegetables: beets, broccoli, carrots, green leafy vegetables (beet greens, chard, kale, mustard greens, spinach), parsley, seaweed, spirulina, wheatgrass
- Fruits: kiwi, oranges, strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, blackcurrants, lychee, coconut, goji berries
- Complex Carbs/Whole Grains: Black beans, legumes, lentils, rice, quinoa
- Miscellaneous – Black sesame seeds, flaxseed, molasses (regular, blackstrap), products high in yeast (stout beer, marmite, vegemite)
Moving Foods to support you through Ovulation and Period:
- Protein – small amounts of organic free-range meats and high-quality fish.
- Vegetables – Onions, mustard greens, watercress, asparagus, taro, cabbage, turnip, cauliflower, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, kale, chard, mustard greens, beets, Jerusalem artichoke, pickles
- Fruits – citrus, sour cherries, plums
- Complex Carbs/Whole Grains – sprouted grains, sourdough rye bread
- Spices – turmeric, basil, mint, peppermint, horseradish, pepper, cardamom, cumin, fennel, dill, ginger, garlic, extra virgin olive oil, vinegar, molasses
- Drinks – small amounts of wine or rice wine, coffee (one cup a day only.)
Warming Foods that support the Luteal Phase:
- Protein – chicken, beef, lamb, prawn, shrimp, chestnut, lamb, liver, kidney, mackerel, tuna, mussels, anchovy, salmon
- Vegetables – pumpkin, sweet potato, squash, carrot, corn, parsnip, radish, mushrooms, capers, seaweeds, yams, peas, sprouts, leek, garlic, onion, turnip
- Complex Carbs/Whole Grains – brown rice, oats, barley, spelt, kidney beans, adzuki beans, lentils, chickpeas, black beans,
- Spices – pepper, fresh and dried ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, fennel seed, clove, cardamom, cayenne, fenugreek, rosemary, chili peppers, curry, turmeric, star anise, molasses, dates, stewed fruit
- Nuts and seeds – pistachio, sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, walnuts.
Remember all of these foods are healthy and appropriate regardless of where you are in the cycle. When you are in the Blood Moving or Warming aspect of your cycle, try to give additional emphasis on these foods.
Foods to always avoid throughout the whole cycle
A fertile body is a warm body, so try to avoid cold foods like ice cream and raw vegetables like salads and smoothies. Also, reduce alcohol and caffeine intake.
Chinese Herbal Consultations
Chinese herbs can support your cycles through your cycle, too. Here at Yinova, we offer virtual consultations where we are able to update you on your treatment plan and set new goals with you. We will also be able to prescribe herbal formulas tailored to your unique pattern, recommend appropriate vitamins & supplements, and offer you advice, support, and dietary suggestions.