Many of our patients pair their IVF treatments with traditional Chinese medicine. For those people, it is important to know some general traditional principles to help facilitate the process and make things easier and clearer. If you are one of these patients, in addition to your regular acupuncture regimen I would also suggest dietary therapy. Dietary therapy, which applies nutrition to treat conditions, can help to support each step of the IVF process.
Some steps of IVF use medications to shut down or down-regulate the ovaries. This can be to help synchronize your menstrual cycle and/or to help promote more follicular growth during the stimulation phase.
Often I see patients who are prescribed Lupron or the birth control pill. In the case of Lupron or other antagonists, some people experience symptoms such as irritability, hot flashes, night sweats, and headaches. In traditional Chinese medicine, we characterize these symptoms as heat. In order to stave that heat, a diet full of neutral and cool foods can help to cool the body and let off some steam.
Some examples of cooling foods include:
- Lightly sautéed dark green leafy vegetables
- Grains such as millet, quinoa, brown rice
- Lean Proteins
- Berries such as blueberries, strawberries
- Green apples
Just as there are foods you should try and eat, there are also some foods you should try to avoid:
- Avoid spicy, greasy and deep-fried foods
- Avoid meat and dairy that are not free-range or organic
- Avoid coffee, alcohol, and sugar
Some people are put on over-the-counter birth control pills. In Chinese Medicine, the pill can cause stagnation. Because of this, a diet based on foods that move the Qi and blood are recommended.
Some examples of blood and qi moving foods include:
- Small portions of salads with cooked foods inside
- Lean proteins
- Dark, green leafy vegetables
- Apple cider Vinegar
- Onions, garlic
- Bitter greens
- Cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, brussels sprouts
Once you begin the stimulation portion of IVF you will need to make sure that you are adequately hydrated and that you are eating enough proteins and brightly colored foods high in anti-oxidants. During the stim phase of a regular IVF, most people are doing at least two injections – twice daily to stimulate the ovaries.
During this time we suggest food that nourishes the follicles while reducing water retention and bloating. Along with water, of course, I think that coconut water is a great and natural way to balance electrolytes in the body. You are asking your body to do a year’s worth of work in about 10 days so make sure you get enough sleep and hydrate, hydrate, hydrate.
I personally prefer organic food or local farm-raised food as the pesticides and growth hormones are minimized. Organic food is pricier but you are making an investment into your health.
Here are some food suggestions to help support the follicles:
- Wild Salmon or Arctic Char
- Cod liver oil
- Full fat butter (unless you are a waterlogged person)
Fruits and vegetables nourish the follicles and support ovarian growth while reducing water retention.
Suggested fruits are:
- Lychee nuts
- Vegetables: lightly steamed and sautéed
As with everything, there are certain things you should avoid, such as:
- Highly acidic vegetables like the night-shades
- Processed foods
- Overly salty food
- Artificial colors and sweeteners
- Coffee and alcohol – even decaf coffee can be drying for the body.
You can, and also should apply heat with a water bottle during the stimulation phase only.
It is important to get a good night’s sleep before retrieval. A five minute guided meditation is a good way to say goodnight as well as start the day.
Some of my patients report feeling bloated after retrieval. Again, coconut water, Gatorade, or even your own electrolyte drink will help regulate your fluids. You can also create your own drink with apple cider vinegar, maple syrup, and water.
During the next few days when you are awaiting transfer, it is very important to still eat well. Don’t fall off the wagon because the eggs have been retrieved. A diet rich in healthy fats, protein, grains, fruits, and vegetables is highly recommended.
Once you transfer, discontinue using the hot water bottle on your abdomen but sill keep your uterus energetically warm by consuming warm foods. Try to avoid icy drinks like smoothies, ice cream, and lots of cold raw foods.
Pineapple is high in the enzyme Bromelain which has been used for thousands of years as a meat tenderizer. Bromelain is highly concentrated in the core of the pineapple. Studies have shown that bromelain can support implantation by relaxing the muscles of the uterine wall. Wives tale or not, pineapple is pretty easy to eat and for those of you who run very cold, you can grill the pineapple on the barbecue.
Other pieces of Advice
It is important to breathe deeply and try to remain as positive as possible. Set yourself a daily goal that is easy to accomplish. Try to turn in early and put your health as the number one priority. Eating well is just another way to thank your body and mind.