Improving egg quality for fertility consists of increasing nutrients, reducing or eliminating environmental toxins, and addressing daily stressors. These are important steps in any preconception plan. In this article I'll be sharing how to improve egg quality naturally, including steps you can take right now.
When couples are wishing to conceive there are several areas that I feel are important to address to ensure they are doing everything possible to have a healthy pregnancy and baby. It's important for both partners to decrease environmental chemical exposure, reduce inflammation, and tackle any chronic health or hormonal problems before pregnancy.
In this article we'll be covering improving egg quality for female fertility. If you're interested in exploring ways to improve male fertility please read this article.
Fertility Diet to Improve Egg Quality?
As a nutritional biochemist with concurrent training in clinical nutrition, diet is always foundational in my treatment approach.
Nutrition can have a huge impact on fertility, successful uncomplicated full-term pregnancies, and healthy happy babies. Whether you're trying to conceive naturally or undergoing IUI or IVF, what you eat sets the stage for not only your health, but babies health in utero and beyond.
The ideal time to begin preconception care is a minimum of 6 months in advance with 2 years being the ideal. I know that can be a bit of a shocker, but when you understand that the egg you will become pregnant with took 3 months to mature then you can see why we'd want a minimum of at least 6 months. This is also the ideal time to start a quality prenatal.
Increasing your daily servings of plants, which are an excellent source of folate, as well as consuming fruits that are rich in antioxidants can offer your body and future baby what it needs.
How to Improve Egg Quality:
- Eat foods that support healthy hormone balance
- Increase dietary antioxidants
- Reduce environmental toxins
- Improve stress reduction practices
- Consider supplements to support diet and lifestyle practices
Foods to Balance Hormones
Why would you want to balance hormones before becoming pregnant? Well, a symptom of hormone imbalance is a sign of an underlying issue. Low progesterone, high testosterone, low thyroid hormone, and insulin resistance are a few examples of imbalances that can make it more difficult to get pregnant and impact ovulation.
To Balance Hormones & Improve Fertility Eat:
- Healthy hormone building fats: Avocados, avocado oil, grass fed meats, nuts, seeds, olive oil, coconut oil
- Nutrient dense vegetables: Sweet potatoes, chard, kale, broccoli, cabbage, spinach
- Antioxidant loaded fruits: Pomegranates, grapes, apples, oranges, grapefruit, kiwi
- Microbiome loving ferments: Sauerkraut, Kim chi, pickles, beet kvass
- Blood sugar balancing proteins: Nuts, seeds, pasture raised meats, fish, shellfish, lentils
Best Foods to Improve Egg Quality
Many women are often surprised to hear that some of the most ideal foods for women wishing to conceive are eggs, grass fed butter, wild caught cold water fish, beef heart and liver. Fats are how you build your hormones and without them, your body will have a difficult time create the hormones you need. These are also sources of vitamin A, omega-3 fatty acids, CoQ10, and other fertility supporting nutrients.
The importance of healthy fats cannot be understated!
For one thing, we need fats, especially cholesterol to make hormones. Your liver makes the cholesterol you need in you body, but these fats also deliver fat soluble nutrients. Your fertility and pregnancy require a particular balance of hormones and fats help supply the body with building blocks for hormones.
Quality of fats is important. You can read more about which fats are best here.
Healthy fats impact fertilization.
A newly fertilized egg traveling down the fallopian tube begins to scan its environment for the nutrients available. It is hypothesized that it does this to determine how safe it would be to implant in the uterus and if the there is adequate nutrition to grow in that environment. If these healthy fats and nutrients aren’t present it could lead to altered implantation and growth of the embryo.
We need a lot more research to understand the complexity of fertility, fertilization, and implantation. But these studies do suggest your nutrition status is important.
Foods I Tell My Patients to Eat to Boost Fertility
- Organic eggs
- Leafy green vegetables
- Nuts and seeds
- Organic, grass-fed meats
- Sauerkraut, kim chi, and other fermented foods
- Wild caught, cold water fish
- Organic organ meats
- Organic berries
- Macadamia oil, cold pressed olive oil, coconut oil and other health fats
Organ Meats Are Some of the Most Nutrient Dense Foods on the Planet
Liver is one of the most nutrient dense foods! It is a concentrated source of vitamin A, abundant in B vitamins including B12 and folate, and an excellent source of iron and trace minerals. All of these are incredibly important nutrients for egg health and needed for baby’s development.
Beef heart is one of the best sources of CoQ10. CoQ10 is an antioxidant that supports egg health and is protective against free radical damage.
I know that eating organ meats might not sound appealing, but there are ways to sneak them in! For example, eating liver as a pate' or as part of a stir fry with other proteins can help you get it in. It only takes a few ounces to get the benefit.
When it comes to beef heart, I tell my patients to ask the butcher to grind 25% grass-fed beef heart with 75% grass-fed ground beef so that they can be made into burgers or meatballs.
If you're vegan or vegetarian, don't feel pressured to jump into eat organ meats. This is educational information and you ultimately get to decide what suits you.
Improve Egg Quality Support the Mitochondria
When I am working with a woman on improving egg quality my treatments are heavily focused on supporting the mitochondria.
Why support the mitochondria?
One of the main roles of mitochondria is the production of ATP, which is the main source of energy for all of our cells. It also controls intracellular pH, which improves fertilization of the egg.
And it is responsible for spindle formation. I won’t go into too much biology, but briefly, spindles are responsible for helping equally divide chromosomes in a parent cell. This is hugely important, as it is the main reason doctors are so worried about Down’s syndrome and other chromosomal disorders that can occur in the offspring of women over 35.
If chromosomes don’t separate correctly, these genetic disorders could be the result. Older women have less mitochondria per egg so it is more difficult to do all the tasks required of it, including proper chromosomal separation.
Some of the most important nutrients for mitochondrial health are…
- B vitamins
- Fish oil and other health fats
- CoQ10 (there's that beef heart again) 😉
- N-Acetyl Cysteine (NAC)
- Alpha Lipoic Acid
The Role of Antioxidants
CoQ10 is one of the most effective nutrients in preconception because of its ability to protect the mitochondria from oxidative stress.
The best form to take is ubiquinol and the recommended dosage is 300 mg daily. Higher doses should be taken with other forms of CoQ10.
Glutathione is another antioxidant that provides protection to the mitochondria and therefore, protects egg health. It is also a cofactor for many antioxidant and detoxification systems throughout the body, which helps you eliminate toxins and give baby the best environment.
Taking its precursor N-Acetyl cysteine or NAC, as well as eating sulfur rich foods can boost glutathione as well. As a side, NAC can also improve insulin resistance and balance hormones. Read more about the benefits of NAC here.
In my clinic we use 900-1800 mg of NAC starting 6 months or more prior to conception. It is important to note that NAC will give you the most wicked heartburn if you take it on an empty stomach. This a must take with food kind of supplement to avoid that.
Preconception care, including diet, lifestyle and supplement changes should be started at minimum 6 months before trying to conceive, but again 1-2 years is much more ideal.
Reduce Toxin Exposure
In addition to taking supplements that improve mitochondrial function women and men should do their best to reduce exposure to mitochondrial toxins.
Top Mitochondrial Toxins
- Stress hormones like cortisol
- Pain relief and anti-inflammatories drugs
- Certain prescriptions such as metformin
- Cholesterol lowering medications
- Anti-anxiety medication
Read more about common hormone disrupting chemicals.
Improve Egg Quality in 90 Days
Your egg takes 90 days to mature, which means it will take at least 90 days of a focused preconception protocol in order for you to make significant changes in your egg quality.
I create a custom lifestyle, nutrition and supplementation plan for each of my patients based on their body’s needs. But universally, women need more antioxidant support, specific B vitamins, and many of my patients require digestive and detoxification support prior to pregnancy.
As part of this protocol we ensure every woman is taking a quality prenatal vitamin. You can read what to look for in a prenatal vitamin here.
Steps You Can Take Today
Here are 3 steps I have every patient take to improve their fertility and egg quality:
- Prenatal Plus 3 caps twice daily
- Whole foods diet with an emphasis on loading veggies, healthy fats, and protein (you can grab the meal plan + recipes as part of the Hormone Balancing Starter Kit)
- 5 minutes of daily meditation + nightly journaling
To help you start eating an antioxidant rich diet, definitely grab my free recipe guide and try this bonus recipe to boost your nutrients!
- 1 large handful dark leafy greens (spinach, kale, chard, spring mix)
- 1 cup berries of choice
- 2 TBSP pumpkin seeds
- ½ an avocado
- 1 lime, skin cut off
- 1 cup or more of almond, coconut, hemp, rice or other milk
- Optional: handful of ice cubes
Blend until creamy and enjoy
Using food based medicine, along with targeted nutritional supplementation and lifestyle medicine, I’ve helped many couples succeed in becoming pregnant and creating an amazing pregnancy experience.
Wishing you the best in on your fertility journey!
Dr. Jolene Brighten
Physiological and molecular determinants of embryo implantation – Molecular Aspects of Medicine
Adaptive responses of the embryo to maternal diet and consequences for post-implantation development – Reproduction, Fertility, and Development
Mitochondrial DNA turnover occurs during preimplantation development and can be modulated by environmental factors – Reproductive biomedicine online
The Role of Mitochondria from Mature Oocyte to Viable Blastocyst – Obstetrics and Gynecology International
Mitochondrial functions on oocytes and preimplantation embryos – Journal of Zhejiang University Science
Coenzyme Q10 Supplementation and Oocyte Aneuploidy in Women Undergoing IVF–ICSI Treatment – Clinical Medicine Insights: Reproductive Health
Mitochondrial Toxicity – MitoAction
Metformin-Induced Mitochondrial Complex I Inhibition: Facts, Uncertainties, and Consequences – Frontiers in endocrinology