b vitamins & pcos

b vitamins & pcos

Today I’m really excited to talk to you about a group of vitamins really vital for female health useful for ladies particularly with hormone dysregulation, PCOS and weight issues.

The B vitamins are very important in helping to improve the symptoms of PCOS. In nature if we get a balanced diet we get lots of the B vitamins in things like Meat, Fish, Eggs, Milk and green leafy veggies. If you want to have them in one source ie a vitamin, Its really important to make sure you have these vitamins in a combined formula as they all work together on different elements!
Vitamins B2, B3, B5 and B6 are particularly useful for weight and maintaining and managing it. One of the B vitamins – Vitamin B2( riboflavin) helps to turn the food you eat via fat, sugar and protein to the energy we need to survive(its also the one that turns your wee bright yellow!)  B3 another vitamin, s an important co-factor in supporting glucose tolerance factor (GTF), GTF is something  that allows your body to keep an eye on blood sugar . It needs vitamin B3 to help this process, almost like food for your GTF! Vitamin B5 is also important as it helps your body metabolises fat, so important if you are overweight and need to lose weight to qualify for fertility support!  B6 is also marvellous as it supports proper hormonal balance and may be one deficiency present if you suffer from PMT. It helps to maintain blood sugar, oestrogen and also progesterone and helps in mood regulation via serotonin. Many women with PCOS have deficiencies in this and also low progesterone, so worth topping up your levels with B6 in this case. B6 is also part of a ‘gang’ with B2 and B3, that will help your body to make and move thyroxine, needed for normal thyroid hormone production.

Let’s not forget folate B9! Many of you maybe on folic acid for your fertility as this is the basic component of many B complex vitamins. However I like to super charge my ladies and always go for the superior version of folate called Methlyfolate. Folate is such an important substance, its not just needed for helping to prevent Spina Bifida and Neural tube defects, its needed for all our cells to replicate which happens hundreds of thousands of times a second in our bodies, so vital for health, not just to get it in supplement form but in natural forms through leafy greens!

Folate works in conjunction with B12 also a co-factor and together they help to reduce a substance or by-product of methylation called homocysteine. This can have implications of cardiovascular issues if too high and homocysteine can creep up if taking metformin, without replacing both B12 and folate in the diet.

Deficiencies in these vitamins can happen easily if you have an inflammatory condition like PCOS, so having a great combined  B vitamin will enable the body to maintain balance more easily so it can do its job!

B12 is an important vitamin and many people are deficient in this mineral. It is found in lots of foods such as Meats, fish and dairy, so often vegetarians can become deficient in this vitamin,  particularly people who don’t eat a healthy diet. B12 together with folate is really needed by the body to help cell replication and DNA, which we need constantly as cells die and are replenished. When we eat protein B12 is released and is then further broken down by something called intrinsic factor which helps B12 to get absorbed into the blood stream. You need good levels of Hydrochloric acid for B12 to be released so for many this may be the issue of constant low B12 despite supplementation. So taking some cider vinegar in war water before food helps with stomach acid support.  B12 becomes deficient in the body by using metformin, so it really important to take this to help red blood cells and oxygenated blood travel round the body. Thorne Research Basic B has a super absorbable B12 called Methylcobalamin in it, which is an excellent version of B12, and one of only 2 I recommend together with Adenosyl cobalamin and Hydroxocobalamin. I’m not a fan of the standard  B12 forms you see in most supplements – Cyanocobalamin. I’ll be honest it isn’t my favourite form as it uses cyanide as a binding factor instead of more natural forms. It is a very small amount and we do have naturally occurring cyanide in some food, however I like my B12 without a side order of poison personally!  So if you, like me, are not into this, always read the labels of supplements to see what’s in them and if possible go for active b Methylfolate.

The B vitamins are also essential for the liver , which has 2 phases. The first one processes substances such as hormones and toxins and metabolises them – B vitamins particular B2, B3, B6, B9 and B12, are important at this stage. The second stage is where these substances are ‘ conjugated’ . B vitamins do their thing at this stage also and help the liver to get rid of  excess and old hormones so they can be eliminated by the body. If you have PCOS its more than likely you have an excess of oestrogen, so this is where B vitamins can really help your liver!

Here a diagram to show how well absorbed methylfolate is in the body compared to folic acid as well as where B12 and Homocysteine come into things as we break the vitamins down via food and supplements for the body to use.

Many ladies with PCOS I’m working with are having great results combining this supplement with Inositol which also helps regulate blood sugar via the insulin receptors. It also works on the liver to support its function and in trial has supported reducing higher FSH and reducing oestrogen. In trails particularly for IVF this has helped egg quality and also improved outcome in IVF. There are also loads of studies on using Inositol for PCOS.


1.    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15644580

2.    http://www.obgyn.net/polycystic-ovary-syndrome-pcos/hormone-levels-and-pcos

3.    http://www.naturalnews.com/027045_vitamin_B12_cyanocobalamin_methylcobalamin.html#  
4.    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11304860 B12  

5.    http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/85/1/265S.full 

6.    http://pubget.com/paper/17952759/myo-inositol-in-patients-with-polycystic-ovary-syndrome-a-novel-method-for-ovulation-induction 

7.    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21300338

8.    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21463230 

9.    http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJM199904293401703 

10.  http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18854115 

11.  http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18854115 

12.  http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18854115

vitamin d and fertility

vitamin d and fertility

As we move into Spring and in the UK, with temps raising the mercury in the summer ( heres hoping!), I thought it was time I talked about how important the sun is in terms of how it creates the right environment for this specific hormone to work its magic in the body.  The reason I’m talking about this now is that the rays you gathered from when the clocks go forward, will have the desired effect you need to help all sorts of processes in your body come Autumn and Winter.

Can I get vitamin D all year, even if it’s a sunny day? – In a word no. The further away you are from the equator, the less chance for your body to feel the rays.  When the clocks go back, the sun is further away and you get way less UVB, which is what you need for you to produce vitamin D. In this situation even on what feels like a sunny day,  I wouldn’t bother getting you kit off in the cold for such a miniscule amount!

Over the years vitamin D has hit the headlines many times, and with empirical data evidencing the importance of it in the body, it has widely been accepted and embraced by the medical community and as such it’s no coincidence that in the UK GPs are now testing routinely for this and prescribing it to everyone from little ones to the elderly. Vitamin D is also on my mind as headlines last year look at how the right levels can help asthma.

Our main source of Vitamin D comes from our absorption of sunlight that mixes with saturated fats in our bodies, to create Vitamin D.

As the year progresses and we enter spring, the sun gets higher in the sky and therefore produces more intense UV rays, and its the UVBs that we all need!

With more intense sunlight we get more exposure to the rays, and therefore more opportunity to manufacture this important nutrient.

For those of us in northern hemisphere we are often plunged into often up to 8 months of the year of low rays, making it almost impossible to get enough sunlight, something we all need. Sunlight is so important for us a species and as UK peeps wait and watch, many summers in the past just haven’t cut it, and due to this there have been huge health consequences. This has promoted scientists to look into issues with long term health – a few summers ago there were children presenting in doctors surgeries with aches and pain and getting all sorts of illness, this was also linked to cases of rickets, https://www.theguardian.com/society/2017/dec/23/poorer-children-disproportionately-need-hospital-treatment  which is shocking to hear, but just shows how important it is to get outdoors when we have any sun and stop covering kids up with sun factor 50 in the summer!

It amazes me every summer when I start to feel the heat of the sun on my body, just how far away it is and yet it can make a huge impact on us and even cause sun burn! Sadly as the ozone layer began to thin and places like Australia and New Zealand were reporting cases of sun cancer as early as 1980s the campaign and worldwide demonization of the sun began.

I understand with skin cancer on the rise why the sun is so vilified to some extent. But we could not have evolved past single cells organisms without it – we’ve forgotten that photosynthesis supports most of the food chain on this planet.  And as mammals we use photosynthesis to make vit D as our first stop, instead of ‘fortified foods’.  The ‘skin Cancer’  message has been loud and clear, and has hit parents hugely. Even in places like the UK parents are slapping factor 50 on their little ones ( don’t get me started on parents using what can only be described as ‘ scuba suits’ for kids when they actually do go to hotter climates ( apart from Australia where you do need this!) No wonder there is a childhood epidemic of low vitamin D levels and Doctors force feeding drops down poor kids neck!  As much as I like supplements, the real deal is so much better!

More relevantly and as I get to the point  – the sun is vital for fertility.  Studies have looked into peak conception rates and this can be traced back to the summer month, not surprisingly when the sun is in full force! https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/05/170523084302.htm

There are many reasons for this, but new research highlights vitamin D as a key to higher conception rates.

Vitamin D is often referred to as a vitamin, it is in fact a steroid hormone and is important for good overall health and particularly to help build strong and healthy bones. It’s also an important factor in making sure your muscles, heart, lungs and brain work well and that your body can fight infection. We have vitamin D receptors in loads of areas of our bodies and some of us even have mutations on these receptor ( I’m one of them and I found this out by looking into my genes at 23andme )

Recent research has alluded to ways in which Vitamin D can cause issues with our health including a role in chronic diseases like diabetes, obesity and autoimmune conditions as well as cardiovascular disease and cancer.  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26068917

Vitamin D status affects different cells in our body and more specifically organs. It does this as it actively turns on and off genes, which can mean cell growth or death.

Your body can make its own vitamin D from sunlight. You can also get vitamin D from supplements and a very small amount comes from a few foods you eat.

The vitamin D that you get in your skin from sunlight, and the vitamin D from supplements, has to be changed by your body a number of times before it can be used. Once it’s been converted the vitamin D receptors (VDR) in your body use it to manage the amount of calcium in your blood, bones and gut and to help cells all over your body to communicate properly.

Vitamin D is linked to so many issues:

Vitamin D is a natural antibiotic that assists White Blood Cells in clearing infections. It does this by stimulating immune cells.  This does not happen well in our gut, but works really well in our skin with UV rays as the catalyst. Many of my clients have issues with Natural Killer Cells, and I could almost bet their Vitamin D levels are low in this instance, which is what maybe the ‘ heightened’ immune response is all about!

There is also a school of though that looks at vitamin D and chronic inflammation and illness. There are some clinicians studying Vitamin D and as mentioned above its always best to look at both markers of active and stored vitamin D as systemic inflammation may cause an alteration in that dynamic. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs00011-014-0755-z

Age will decrease your skin’s ability to make vitamin D3 from sunlight and cholesterol. As we go from 20 to 60 years old, we lose the ability to convert Vitamin D hugely. So as we age, we need more sun or supplementation.

If we have  autoimmune diseases, we need much higher levels of Vitamin D from sunshine. Autoimmune conditions that are often associated with vitamin D deficiencies. Issues like endometriosis, PCOS https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/?term=vitamin+D+and+PCOS  and thyroid issues, which in these cases will mean  you need a higher amount of Vitamin D, for your bones, muscles, oestrogen and immunity to work in the way it was designed to do. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25407646

A report in the European Journal of Endocrinology mentioned a few key facts in relation to vitamin Ds importance in women.

One that is often overlooked by many IVF clinics is that vitamin D has an impact in terms of Invitro fertiliation (IVF) outcome and a quick scout around pubmed typing in IVF and Vitamin D will show up lots of published studies on this!

Anecdotally I haven’t ever had a client with PCOS without dangerously low levels of Vitamin D. In terms of the endocrine system and hormones, the root of all fertility, vitamin D is important to boost levels of progesterone and oestrogen, which regulate menstrual cycles and improve chances of conception.

Both genders require Vitamin D for different things in the body. In men, vitamin D is essential for the healthy development of the nucleus of the sperm cell, and it supports semen quality and count. Vitamin D also increases levels of testosterone needed for sperm development and sex drive.

Vitamin D is always hitting the headlines for all sorts of issues. In 2008, Australian fertility specialist Dr. Anne Clark found almost one-third of the 800 infertile men included in her study had lower than normal levels of vitamin D. She also looked at folate levels in conjunction with Vitamin D. When men made adjustments to lifestyle with dietary and supplement changes, fertility markers were dramatically improved.

If you’re Struggling with Infertility, it may not be the overall reason for fertility issues, as it is never just one things as we are complex beings, however it won’t harm you to do some checking under the hood, so I would speak to a practitioner to get Your Vitamin D Levels checked.

Vitamin D is so crucial to health that as a practitioner its in all my initial test grade panel! Doctors commonly use vitamin D which in clinical terms is  25(OH)D  However, this is not the final picture, and a truly knowledgeable physician would look at the Parathyroid Hormone level ( PTH) and  25(OH)D, together with  1,25(OH)2D  to get a true picture, as well as bone density as a third marker of how well the sunshine vitamin is being utilized in your body.

Vitamin D and skin colour

Many practitioners will tell you vitamin D is often seen as more important the darker your skin. However if you do live in a sunny climate ( and get out in the sun) you need to be careful drawing conclusions about a simple lab test that only show 25(oh) d levels.  Tribally when tested many massai warriors in African had a borderline level of 25(OH)D and great bone density. Showing possibly that its not as black and white as just looking at one marker, as living with so many hours of sunlight, logically we would assume a higher amount of Vitamin D! This may mean that that ethnicity and where we live may also change this picture and we naturally adjust to what levels we need when living in sunny climates and outdoors a lot.

What will show a true picture of this important hormone?

I’m often asked this and as mentioned above, its never one marker that determines the truth in the body, as we just aren’t as simple as this! As a practitioner I recommend working with someone more closely, who can work through your bio individual situation. They should test initially 25(OH)D and with  1,25(OH)2D  to get a true picture.  if the 25(OH)D  is lower than 50, then you need to look at Parathyroid levels PTH. If PTH is less than 30, you may not need to supplement as the Parathyroid gland is adequately using vitamin D in the body.  If PTH is under 20 then by all means all systems go for higher supplementation and UV exposure!  ( or splash out on a holiday! ( practitioners orders! 😉

If your levels of the stored Vitamin D are over 60 then then you don’t need extra vit D supplement. If your Test shows a 25(OH)D  of over 70, adjust diet take out supplements with over 1000Ius and stay indoors a little! Too high a levels is just as damaging as too low!  Also another word of caution – I would be vary of blindly going out and buying supplements with over 3000ius as vitamin d, as it can build up, so it’s only wise to supplement if your know the true picture.

Speaking for supplements can I get Vitamin D from a supplement, or is it better to get it from food?

There are very few foods that actually have therapeutic levels of vitamin D naturally and even fortified foods don’t contain enough vitamin D to support your body. However for those in areas like Australia where the ozone layer is very thin, its vital you do make sure your skin is not exposed for even a short time. Even 5 mins in the 11am sun can do harm. I experienced this myself in 2004 when I visited. Its funny as it really is a totally different experience in regards to the sun in Over in Aus and NZ.   My flight arrived early in February the height of their summer, and my room wasn’t ready. So I sat on Manley Beach in Sydney and the only thing that wasn’t covered was one foot! Ouch! 5 mins in and my foot was burnt for the full 3 week holiday! My advice here is that its good to build up your vitamin D levels in spring in this part of the world and only for a short amount of time and not in the full swing of summer!

How long you need to stay in the sun varies massively  depending on the factors below:
Antioxidant level and diet
Skin Colour/ tan level
Latitude and altitude
Ozone Layer
Use of sunscreen
Cloud Cover
Surface reflexion

Sun cream is also another tricky one… What to go for?

In the UK factor 50 isn’t necessary despite it going up to 30 degrees c this year. With a  SP factor as high as 50 you are blocking your ability to get any vitamin D. I would opt for a sun screen that ranges from 15 – 30 SPF. There are some amazing ranges out there at present, including ranges for children such as Oganii, Biosolis and Green People as these are some camps that argue that the chemicals in the sun cream are a contributing factor to disease, including hormone disruption! The above are free from all sorts of nasties, so at least you know you aren’t going down this route.

Diet is an interesting one, If you can’t get access to the sun then diet is the only option. Here are some sources

Cod liver oil
Beef or calf liver.
Egg yolks

But if you have low levels, to get them up quickly – you only really only have one option if you want to raise your levels and that is to take a vitamin D supplement. As a general guideline,  after testing – if  your levels are 50ng/ml then I would take 1000-3000 IUs for one month and see what your levels are like after 1-2 months of this level. I’m not a fan of huge 1 week 20,000IU doses. Its also likely that if you have issues digesting food, or are overweight and have had a gall bladder removed, you may have issues with fat and assimilating it, so this type of approach won’t help, and in the long term could possibly lead to kidney stones as your parathyroid tries to cope with this amount!  If you do opt for a vitamin D supplement, please remember that you also need to boost your intake of  vitamin K2 through food and/or a supplement, as well as Magnesium. If you’re getting your vitamin D from the sun, this isn’t necessary. ( however its always good to get some leafy greens in right?)

Like anything all vitamins need  to be balanced out (as they would in nature)  so if you are getting less than optimal sun and have to resort to supplements, make sure you are supplying your body with the means to self regulate with enough vitamin A, K and other minerals’ such as calcium and magnesium, zinc, boron.

That way you will be winning in the Vitamin D stakes and have one less thing to worry about in regards to fertility.


vitamin a – is it safe in pregnancy?

vitamin a – is it safe in pregnancy?

The new year has started off with a bang! Lots of clients who have been working with me for 3 months or more are now pregnant – Yay! As most are new mums a few have got in touch about Midwives and Drs misconceptions and concerns about vitamins and minerals, as this is where the medical community start to get involved. One of the concerns is about Vitamin A and its ability to cause birth defects; so let me respond and shed some light on this..


I have looked into this issues myself quite thoroughly and the research links I have cited below mention that the research is over 30 years old in regards to the potential causes of birth defects. I will say that again…. In time frame only 18 cases have been cited where this has caused deformities. 

I’m sure you are aware that any adverse reaction to drugs need to be reported.  All medicines are reported under the medical misuse category.

Drugs cause death and other health conditions by the hundreds of thousands annually. vitamins don’t cause death http://bit.ly/1Ogey41  We don’t have anything for supplements to report on this, but as always if anything does show ‘Teratogenicity ie potential for birth defects it has to be reported as such.

A basic look into drugs commonly used to help women conceive and to help those with sticky platelet, such as Aspirin have far more potential to cause birth defects, http://www.mayoclinic.org/drugs-supplements/analgesic-combination-acetaminophen-salicylate-oral-route/before-using/drg-20069948 and not to mention fertility drugs that many use unwittingly without looking into the small print, that can also cause deformities and also death. http://www.drugs.com/pro/clomid.html  My point here, is many of my clients are getting all wound up about something, without looking into the issues more closely, and colleagues in the medical profession are making a point of issuing notice on Vitamin A without also mentioning that drugs, many of them used in fertility circles, have far more of a chance of giving ladies birth defects,  And those were taken at the correct dosage!

Of the 18 reported cases over the last 30 years who had babies with deformities all of the women in regards to Vitamin A took over 25,000IUs of Vitamin A, which exceeds the RDA on this by an exponential amount. As always the devil is in the detail. Most  supplements will show 2 forms of Vitamin A – the one that can cause more damaging effects at high levels  is retinol only and not a mixed between Retinol and beta carotene,  which is what most supplements have in them.

It is worth noting also in this instance that Natural Vitamin A ( retinol) is found in high doses in organ meat, such as liver. Which up until the 1970s was consumed and readily available. Many children, like our parents who, were born after the war were given cod liver oil daily, to ensure they didn’t have deficiencies. This form of fish oil has a much higher form of Vitamin A.

One of the sources of this information is NHS choices website. In this website, which I find extremely unhelpful and very uniformed it says things like ‘ you should be able to get all you need nutrients from your diet and don’t need any extra vitamin A’. Also rather unhelpfully in the article they put the measurement in Mgs not IUs, which is the standard international unit used to measure Vitamin A, so right from the start shows a fundamental misunderstanding about vitamin A.  http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/vitamins-minerals/Pages/Vitamin-A.aspx

In terms of its use in pregnancy it is vital and essential nutrient and the most important and well known role of vitamin A is in relation to eye function. Vitamin A is necessary to prevent drying of the eye ( Xerophthalmia) and corneal changes. It is also used for retina function. 500,000 people lose their site each year due to vitamin A deficiency. Vitamin A levels are also inportant in thyroid health as it is needed for the uptake of idone and is required for thyroid hormone triiodothyroxine (T3) to bind to intracellular receptors. 

Vitamin A is needed in pregnancy for:  – Growth, Immunity, epithelial tissue maintenance and during cell proliferation, ie foetal growth!

I work with many clients and look into deeper analysis of fertility issues and pregnancy complications and one area I am fascinated in is Epigenetics. Many people who have polymorphisms in their BCMO1 gene have an issue converting beta carotene into retinol. So I welcome the use of mixed vitamin A for them in a retinol base, as they will have a problem converting Beta Carotene in the body http://www.ion.ac.uk/blog/anonymous/tue-2014-06-17-0954/are-you-converting-enough-beta-carotene-vitamin-55-people-may-not  Many of the studies on the populations in the human genome project also had the potential for poor eye sight also so were really in need of vitamin A, should the gene express.

I ask questions about eyesight as part of my consultations and also look at this from a family health position, as there is the potential here also to pass this on to off spring! One anecdotal thing I’m noticing much more than when I was a child is that there seems to be a huge amount of kids with glasses at a young age. I only remember a few in my whole school growing up, so I’m wondering if reduced amounts of vitamin A in pregnancy are a result of this?

WHO recommendations. More recent than 1995 http://www.who.int/elena/titles/vitamina_pregnancy/en/
American Teratology Society information on Vitamin A http://www.teratology.org/pubs/vitamina.htm

Further information on Vitamin A http://lpi.oregonstate.edu/mic/vitamins/vitamin-A#safety

On a personal note. I have used many American supplements for the last 8  years of working with women all of which have mixed vitamin A around 5000IUs and I have confidence on these levels of Vitamin A.  I have worked with hundreds of ladies and so far no issues with this, with my recommendations!

I hope this helps you to make a more informed decision about vitamin A and its use in pregnancy and preconception.


2.Teratogenicity of high vitamin A intake. N Engl J Med. 1995 Nov 23 ;333(21):1369-73 
Wiegand, et al. 
3.Safety of vitamin A: recent results. Int J Vitam Nutr Res. 1998;68(6):411-6. Rothman, et al. 
4.Teratogenicity of high vitamin A intake. NEJM. 1995 Nov 23;333(21)1369-73. 3. Miller, et al.
5.Preconceptional vitamin A use. Reprod Toxicol. 1998 Jan-Feb; 12(1)75-88 
6.Tolerable levels of 10,000IUs https://umm.edu/health/medical/altmed/supplement/vitamin-a-retinol

are you getting enough protein to build yourself a baby?

are you getting enough protein to build yourself a baby?

One thing I always seem to do at the start of seeing new clients is always get a food diary. I don’t know what it is, but women in particular always seem to be lacking in protein when we work through their daily food intake. I know its all about veg and protein, but what’s this all about? Possibly that they have forgotten the vital part protein plays in ensuring life and also the importance of this in the preconception diet to give the body the signals that there is enough ‘fuel’ to maintain a new life and
sustain hormonal health too! Men on the other hand are all too happy to be given my recipes which contain more meat, beans and legumes ( although to be fair sometimes the legumes make them a bit more unsociable if not told how to properly prepare them!!)

In order to perform as a human being it is vital that we gain ‘fuel’ to sustain life. I’m sure you read allabout this in biology at school, but as a trip down memory lane, here is a bit about why we need protein.

The Word protein was coined by a Dutch chemist in 1833 and comes from the Greek word ‘Protos’which means of prime importance. After water the body is primarily made up of protein. Protein isused by the body to build, repair and for growth of new tissue andto maintain muscle. Protein is madeup of amino acids or the building blocks. There are approximately 20, of these 9 are considered essential, as they cannot be made by the body and therefore must be supplied by diet.

If you don’t have adequate protein, your body will begin to break down its tissue. Our bodies are in a constant state of building up and breaking down tissue and to do this they need protein. There are many thousands of combinations of amino acids needed to perform the necessary ‘transfers’ in the body for tissue and neurotransmitters which all require sequences that are very different from the amino acid needed to complete this process.

According to loads of nutrition textbooks healthy people should have at least 0.8g of protein a day per body weight. This is particularly important for those trying to get pregnant, as hormones are made uplargely of protein!

Unfortunately this calculation isn’t accurate for everyone as we all have different levels of activity, stress in our life and we also have to be careful of acidity of the protein!

If you are deficient I would recommend upping this to 1.21.8g per body weight. However if you have inflammation in the body as seen on blood tests in high amounts of Creactive protein, in this instance excess protein will be harmful to the liver.

Another important thing to consider iswhat kind of protein are you having? You always need toconsume the highest amount of bioavailable protein with the full package of amino acids. Nutritional Scientists will rate this using a scale called theProteinEnergy Ration. (PER) and Biological Value(BV) ratings of proteins, which measure how well the body utilizes amino acids in a protein. Here’show the main proteins rate (from highest to lowest) by how well they are utilized in the body.

– Whey Protein
– Egg Whites
– Fish
– Dairy Products
– Chicken
– Beef
– Legumes

For me Whey is out, as its just so mucus forming and lots of people lose the enzyme to digest this past 3 years of age, I do however like raw prepared and fermented kefir and I’m really starting to become obsessed about fermented food ( more about this in later posts)

However  – Top of my list is always Eggs! At least 2 daily, and if lacto ovo veggie 3-4 daily.

Cold water fish, great, but with caution large fishes build up heavy metals in their tissue so only go for wild caught or in non polluted areas.

Chicken, quite a substantial amount of protein! So please add this also but make sure its free range and organic.

Grass fed and organic red meat, such as lamb and beef and buffalo at least once weekly

Beans and Legumes – and make sure these are produced organically! Huge amounts of folate, prepare by popping a piece of seaweed in the pot while cooking t absorb the gas. Also pre-soak and rinse a few times.

Other forms of ‘protein’

I don’t like soya at all, i’m sure you have heard me banging on about this! – unfortunately this is creeping into the UK quite rapidly, and many with dairy intolerances are having this as an alternative to lactose! Also it is used almost without a thought by a lot of vegetarians in some form as it has been touted as a ‘ health food’  and is a source of protein. Soya can have a very strong effect on your thyroid disrupting vital hormones here and disturbing fertility. Soya is also a low sulphur based amino acid, and sulphur is the compound that is vital for glutathione to get a kick start, and support your methylation cycle, which is one of the most important things that happens in the body billions of times a second in order to survive and replicate our own DNA. Glutathione is one of the most important substances in this process as it helps with detoxification, so is the ‘ cleaner’ so to speak and gets rid of excess nasties in the body and is a major antioxidant. Other proteins do have sulphur bases, and most meat has the complete package! Soya is also not a good choice for sperm health as it has been cited as reducing count in some studies, and is very detrimental as a whole, so if you are using soya, as milk substitute or to increase protein as a veggie or vegan, consider the other options of hemp, beans and legumes instead.

Do vegans get enough protein and is this a wise choice to follow for preconception and pregnancy?

Speaking of vegans, this is one group that eat and have a fantastic knowledge of food combining and in my experience have the basic foundations for an excellent diet! However as much of what they eat is lacking in B12 deficiencies can build up, so its wise to always take a B12 supplement such as Methylcobalamin ( low dose, to begin with) It sounds factitious to say this but the level of veggies vegans eat is enviable, however – the proteins to help sustain the metabolic processes in the body are incomplete and over time this may pose health issues. Thankfully many do keep an eye on the protein levels they eat, and also if you are vegan, its worth going for regular vitamin and mineral blood tests as well as having regular Full blood counts to see if inflammation is setting in.

Personally I recommend a diet from a paleo perspective, with a mixture of animal and vegetable protein but modified depending on your circumstances where you may have more need for it during times of stress or illness and heavy exercise. Pregnancy is a time where you may need initially less protein as the liver and kidneys are under a tremendous amount of stress hormonally. At different times of your life will have more need for certain things and a balance ratio of carbs to protein based on your situation.

I’m not about ‘ one size fits all’ as your genetics will also play into this and if you have MTHFR and other mutations expressing your need for folate will be huge and the diet will need to reflect this ( beans and legumes must be had here until coming our your ears!). Some may also may have compromised digestive systems and need digestive enzymes to help them to break the food down in order to optimize absorption of the amino acids in the protein. As I always say everyone is a snowflake, and your level of protein needs to be a safe 50-70g as a woman ( if average weight and not overweight  and 70g + as a man in a similar situation. To be safe try the calculation mentioned above 0.8x kg weight and start off at a lower amount I mentioned and build up to your level. If you find this is too much, you may have weaker kidneys and anything more than that may be too much for your kidneys to process. However you need to try this and see how you get on with it before throwing higher protein away as a lifestyle and preconception model suggestion!




the importance of a good diet and supplementation during pregnancy

the importance of a good diet and supplementation during pregnancy

 There is a magic formula for a healthy pregnancy: diet! You have to eat well and supplement. As in previous posts, the nine months in utero can be the most consequential in a person’s life, determining genetic predisposition, illness, and even the hard wiring of the brain. So, it makes sense to have laid the groundwork before even trying. The basic principals of healthy eating remain the same as when you were eating well and supplementing prior to trying for a baby, although nutrient needs to change a little each trimester. A few nutrients in pregnancy do deserve a special mention. Here’s what’s at the top of the list:



The recommended daily intake of iron (RDI) during pregnancy is 22-36mg (10-20mg more than in non-pregnant state). The amount needed depends on the amount of iron the mother has ‘stored’ in her body prior to pregnancy. If a woman’s iron stores are very low, she may need to get more from a supplement. I have a client at the moment carrying twins; her iron levels at first trimester are very low. Iron supplements are regularly provided for pregnant women, as its often difficult to get enough iron from food, especially in the absence of red meat. Unfortunately, iron supplements in the inorganic ‘sulphate’ format (often given by doctors) can cause constipation, so seek professional help here, and don’t routinely add iron as it builds up in the body, and too much of a good thing is no longer any good! Never self-prescribe iron as some people have a predisposition for iron build up in the body – you want to be tested regularly for your levels, preventing this from happening. More on this topic can be found here: http://healthybabycode.com/5-myths-about-pregnancy-nutrition-2-all-women-should-take-iron-during-pregnancy 


The RDI of calcium during pregnancy is 1200mg per day; 300mg more than for non-pregnant women. During the third trimester of pregnancy, there is a large shift of calcium to the baby, as it starts to develop and strengthen its bones. If the mother isn’t getting enough calcium in her diet, the calcium needed by the baby is drawn from the mother’s own bones. This can have a negative impact on the mother’s bone health years later, leading to osteopenia and potentially osteoperosis, which women can already be predisposed to develop. Low calcium intake during pregnancy may also cause the baby to have weak bones, and impaired bone development. Dietary sources of calcium include: pine nuts, sesame seeds and tahini, sardines (with bones), seaweed (e.g. kombu and nori), salmon, almonds, figs, spinach and watercress. These all yield higher calcium uptake levels than milk!



Zinc is an extremely important mineral to take across all trimesters, and should be in a good prenatal diet too. Prior to preconception, zinc is involved in over 100 enzymatic reactions in the body and vital for immunity, hormonal function, and bone development. 

Zinc is also vital for male fertility, as it helps improve motility, sperm count and the morphology (structure) of the sperm. If you are low in this mineral, it can affect your mood; mothers with post-natal depression have been tested, and generally show low levels of zinc.

Zinc is also needed to help heal and repair tissues after birth, and a massive dose is taken from the mother’s own stores by the baby immediately prior to birth, leaving the mother very low.

Zinc is needed specifically by the newborns. If you have low levels when breastfeeding, this can lead to an unsettled, unhappy baby.


A decent intake of Omega-3 fatty acids is essential in maintaining the balanced production of hormone-like substances called prostaglandins. Prostaglandins help regulate many important physiological functions including blood pressure, blood clotting, nerve transmission, the inflammatory and allergic responses, as well as the function of the kidneys, gastrointestinal tract, and production of other hormones.

Large amounts of omega-3s are needed during pregnancy to help ensure the growing foetus has enough fats to develop. omega-3s have been found to be essential for both neurological and early visual development of the baby. However, the standard western diet is severely deficient in these critical nutrients. This omega-3 dietary deficiency is compounded by the fact that pregnant women become depleted when the foetus uses fatty acids to grow its nervous system.  Omega-3s are also used after birth to make breast milk.

Research has confirmed that if pregnant women supplement their diet with EPA and DHA, it has a positive effect on visual and cognitive development of the baby. Studies have also shown that higher consumption of omega-3 fatty acids may reduce the risk of allergies in infants. Omega-3 fatty acids have positive effects on the pregnancy itself. Increased intake of EPA and DHA have been shown to prevent pre-term labour and delivery, lower the risk of pre-eclampsia, and may increase birth weight. 



Folate is a B-group vitamin. Insufficient folate intake during pregnancy has been linked to neural tube defects, such as spina bifida in the unborn baby, and other issues such as facial clefts. To counteract the higher levels of spina bifida pre 1990s, some governments apply a mandatory enforcement of fortification of flour with folic acid. In the UK, some food industry giants have adopted this on their own, but in countries such as the US, Canada and Costa Rica, this has been in place for some time. Australia introduced mandatory folic acid fortification in 2009. In the UK there are some concerns that folic acid on its own increases colorectal cancer, and cause B12 deficiency, so the debate continues in spite of a recent push for mandating folic acid – it has get to come into force.

Folate should be taken prior to conception, and throughout the entire pregnancy (contrary to advice!). If this is implemented it can prevent 7/10 cases of neural tube defects. Low folate intake also increases the risk of multiple births (twins). Women who are in the early stages of pregnancy (or likely to become pregnant) should take folate supplements daily, and a good prenatal should provide this.

My professional advice would be against taking folic acid or methyl-folate on its own, as this imbalances other B vitamins, but as part of a good prenatal. Important whole-food sources of folate include: leafy green vegetables (like spinach, kale and collard greens), broccoli, asparagus, legumes, nuts and avocados.



Some people may not be able to absorb folic acid, and in many cases without knowing this, giving them the synthetic form of folate (ie folic acid) as a supplement may be detrimental to their health. About 40-60% of the population has a genetic polymorphism that impairs the conversion of supplemental folic acid to its active form, l-methylfolate. In vivo, the body converts dietary folic acid to l-methylfolate through a series of enzymatic processes. The final stage is done with enzym methyletrahydrofolate reductase (MTHFR). Those with certain polymorphisms have inadequate MTHFR activity and should opt for a methyl-folate supplement instead.



As well as iron and calcium, the other nutrients that should be boosted in the first and second trimesters include: vitamin C, B vitamins, vitamin D and magnesium. Vitamin D deficiency is at quite and alarming rate, particularly in the UK, so get your levels tested for this, and if low supplement with a therapeutic amount of vitamin D3 as suggested by your nutritionist or naturopath.

sperm health – what’s in and what’s out!

sperm health – what’s in and what’s out!

Ice cream, tofu, low-fat milk, to use or not to use fish oils, vitamin C? There is a wealth of information out there on this topic, and I have put together most of the more prevalent (and well researched) arguments around food, vitamins and minerals, as well as environmental issues that can have an impact on sperm health.



Almonst every aspect of our health is related to the types of fatty acids that make up our cells and tissues. It appears that most of us are not intaking the right kinds of fatty acids, or nearly enough. There is a debate amongst the medical community as to the benefits of fish oils obtained as a supplement, rather than from a whole food source. Studies show conflicting results. Personally, I have found that the benefits of these supplements could well be enhanced when dietary changes are made, predominantly through reducing sugar intake (or other simple carbohydrates) and minimizing the intake of unhealthy foods.

Fish oils are harvested from cold-water fish. Some great examples of these are salmon, trout, sardines, and anchovies. Fish oils contain high concentrations of omega-3 fatty acids, which make up eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). These two major hitters play a role together (alongside other key nutrients) in overall fertility for both women and men. However, today is about the men! Often neglected in fertility, but with recent reportings of ever-decreasing sperm levels across Western cultures, its time to start looking at this more closely.


Docosahexanoic acid, which is a component of omega-3 fatty acids, plays a key role in movement of sperm, or its motility – often measured on sperm tests. The journey sperm face (which was recorded in the recent Channel 4 production ‘The Great Sperm Race’ was likened to climbing Everest with a super heavy load!) Sperm hasn’t been studied at great depths until more recently, over the last few decades, but during these studies it has been calculated that of the many million sperm produced from a single ejaculation, only a hundred or so make it along the arduous journey. Like a budding mountain climber, preparation is key!

DHA plays a huge role in the development of healthy sperm. Studies have found that males deficient in this fatty acid produce poor sperm that are less likely to fertilise the egg. Others also noted the role of omega-3 fatty acids in thinning the blood, which then allows blood to flow to the genitals, leading to better production of sperm, and better performance during sex.


There are several Omega-3 fatty acids. They are named alpha linolenic acid (ALA), eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA_ and docosahexanoic acid (DHA). ALA is found in plant sources such as flaxseed oil, whereas EPA and DHA are found in fish and algae oils. ALA is converted by the body into EPA and then DHA, but the process of doing so takes several enzymatic steps within the body, and not every body can do so efficiently (particularly so, as we age). 

The bottom line is, as a practitioner, I advice the use of fish oils over flaxseed, although small amounts of flaxseed oil can also be useful. For those of you who do not want to buy animal products, DHA from algae oil as a separate product is an adequate alternative.



Whether marine algae supplements provide the same benefits as fish oil is still unclear: marine algae and fish oil vary greatly in the ratio of both EPA and DHA. Most marine algae supplements provide more DHA than EPA. 

Although DHA is the predominant fatty acid recommended for fertility, some EPA is needed as well, and algae oil very often does not contain any EPA whatsoever. To accomodate for this, supplements will add another plant oil fatty acids (not from algae) – SDA – which can be converted into smaller quantities of EPA. For this reason, algae oil may not be an exact substitute for high quality fish oil, the ratio being not quite as optimal.



In a study of 80 healthy men, aged 22 to 80, those older than 40 who consume the most vitamin C, vitmain E, zinc and folate, had less sperm DNA damage than those who consumed the lowest amounts



Diet in general also plays a major role in sperm count. It is possible that high sugar intake, or high blood sugar, may damage sperm. A diet heavy in soy products, due to their ‘phytoestrogenic’ properties, could also reduce sperm count.



In a recent study research found that women in the US who eat a lot of beef while pregnant gave birth to sons who grew up to have a low sperm count. This may be down to hormonal disruption, or contaminants in the cattle feed, as well as the GMO in soya that is fed to cattle in larger farms. Chemicals can build up in the fat of the animals consuming contaminated feeds or grasses, not to mention regular hormonal injections many animals are given to boost their growth. In sons of ‘high beef consumers’ (more than 7 meals per week) sperm concentration was far lower. http://www.reuters.com/article/2007/03/28/us-sperm-beef-idUSN273873720070328



Dr. Tina Kold Jensen of Rigshospitalet in Copenhagen, Denmark, included 2,500 young men in a study on the effects of cola on sperm health. Those in the study who did not drink cola had better sperm qualtiy, averaging 50 million sperm per millilter, and tended to have a healthier lifestyle overall. In contrast, the 93 men who drank more than 1l of cola per day had only 35 million sperm per millilitre. These participants ate more fast foods, and less fruits and vegetables. When looking at caffeine from other sources (such as coffee and tea) the decrease in sperm quality was much less pronounced. It is still not clear if the cola or the unhealthy overall lifestyle is to blame. American Journal of Epidermology, online March 25th, 2010.



Obese men tend to have less motile sperm that thinner males, in a study of ‘Fertility and Sterility’ online January 7th, 2010.



Men who get moderate amounts of exercise have better motility than men who are less active. Sitting for prolonged periods (such as watching TV), reduces sperm count.



Eating excessive amounts of soy based foods could also lower a man’s sperm count. Soy based foods contain pytoestrogens, a plant-derived equivelant of oestrogens found within the human body. Dr.  Jorge Chavarro of Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, found that men who consumed the highest amounds of soy-based foods had a lower sperm count comparative to those who did not consume soy at all. Men in the highest intake category of soy products had 40 million sperm per milliliter less than those who did not consume soy.

Overweight men tended to have lower sperm counts, which could also be linked to oestrogens produced by fat cells. Journal of Human Reproduction, 2008. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2721724/



Dr. Jaime Mendiola of Instituto Bernabeu in Alicante, Spain, claims that men who eat lots of processed meats and full fat dairy have poorer sperm quality than those who eat a higher percentage of fruits and vegetables, alongside low-fat dairy products instead. He hosted a study on 61 men visiting a fertility clinic; half of these men had poor semen quality and generally had a higher intake of processed meat and high-fat dairy products than the 31 men with normal sperm counts. The men with higher-quality sperm tended to consume more fruits, vegetables and skimmed milk, or no milk at all. The antioxidants found in fruits and vegetables likely help protect the sperm from oxidative damage. Meat and high-fat foods may expose men to higher level of substances known as xenobiotics, which include steroids and various other chemicals that have oestrogenic effects (such as certain pesticides and PCBs). Xenobiotics accumulate in high-fat foods, which in term accumulate in men with high-fat diets. Fertility and Sterility, March 2009. http://channels.isp.netscape.com/whatsnew/package.jsp?name=fte/damagesperm/damagesperm&floc=wn-nx

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