Chinese Medicine historically looks at Nutrition and diet in an entirely different way to our Western thinking. Each person has unique needs at different times in his or her life, women have different needs around the menstrual cycle, and each body and health condition requires very different dietary practices. Added to which eating seasonally is considered of primary importance in Chinese thinking. So pre-conception may be considered a special time for focus on which kinds of foods and ways of cooking are ideal, especially when there are problems conceiving.
For example the current fashion for raw fruit and veg smoothies does indeed deliver an impressive list of vitamins and minerals, and may be very beneficial for an overheated person or for any of us in the summer months, but may not suit everyone, or may need to be consumed not on a daily basis. Diets originating in other countries with a different climate to ours may need adapting for our cold and damper climes. Fasting is suitable for some body types, but disastrous for other more blood or Qi deficient people. the raw food style diets may be life changing for some, and quite depleting for others, such as people with a very cold internal condition.
I am going to give some general guidelines here, these can be adapted according to which kind of fertility problem you have, whether you may be a little under or overweight, whether you are a hot or a cold person, whether you are exhausted, or running on adrenalin. All of these issues and many others can be aided with some dietary tweaking. A word of caution here, there can be a danger in becoming overly focussed on what we are eating, its at least as important to enjoy your food, so eating the right things 80% of the time is fine!
In Chinese Medicine many fertility problems have some element of Kidney deficiency in the diagnosis, so I am going to focus on foods which nourish the kidneys. If you are lucky enough to already have good strong kidney energy then these ideas will do you no harm!
- Miso. I consider this a wonderful nourishing must have food. In Chinese dietary thought it is considered to have a salty flavour and the kidneys are nourished by that. This does not mean that you should add more salt to your diet in general, because too much salt actually damages the kidneys. Make miso soup a part of your every day diet, it is easily made with a spoon into a cup of boiling water. The delicate enzymes in Miso are damaged by actually boiling it, so careful if you are making a soup to keep the heat low.
- Dark coloured beans. The kidney has an affinity with and is nourished by dark coloured food, so that includes dark coloured berries and dark leafy greens too.
- Seaweed. we underuse this marvellous addition to a healthy diet, seaweeds are rich in minerals, and have the salty flavour that tonifies the kidneys. It also has a detoxifying effect on the body, and contains trace elements necessary for a lot of the hormonal activity in the body.
- Seeds. Seeds have a overall beneficial effect in terms of providing oils that are essential to good nutrition. They are a little less damp forming than nuts too, especially if toasted before using. Nuts are good too, in small quantities.
- Onions. The onion family includes garlic leeks, and spring onions are lovely warming foods for the kidneys, especially in the winter. They also have a decongesting effect where there is stagnation in the body.
- Spices. Cinnamon, ginger, cloves, star anise, cayenne and fennel seeds are some of the spices that are beneficial to the kidneys. They can be made into teas using the whole spices, added to porridge, or roasted vegetable, or made into a rub for fish.
- Fish. Coming from the sea, shellfish and fish (free from pollution) have an affinity with the kidneys which belong to the water element in Chinese medicine.
- Grains. Barley is an underused grain which has a tonic affect on the kidney, it can be added to long cooked stews in the winter.
- Walnuts. These are high in Omega 3 and nourish the brain and adrenals- both related to kidney function. Walnuts nourish the sperm, so a small handful per day for men is a great fertility booster.
- Stock. Made with bones from organic sources, ideally simmered for a long time with a splash of apple cider vinegar. This is a lovely kidney essence tonic, drank asa broth or added to soups.