I get asked about these foods often. There are forums and forums of information from women who have increased the consumption of these foods and had successful pregnancy stories.
There are plenty too that have had no success from including these foods, so how true is it, that eating these foods improves your chance of pregnancy with IVF?
I have a nutritional, research based and Chinese medicine viewpoint on this and some simple advice.
In Chinese medicine, pomegranates have a sweet and sour taste which means they have an effect on the digestion and the liver. The red colour of the fruit means it has an effect on blood and its circulation. From a nutrition point of view, pomegranate contains high levels of antioxidants, phytochemicals, vitamin C, B vitamins, iron, calcium, potassium and fiber. The down side is, they are very high in sugar. The juice especially and even more especially the store bought versions.
So pomegranate may have the potential to help with falling pregnant through boosting your immune system, soothing the liver energy (which in Chinese medicine has a big impact on your lining and menstrual cycle) and improving blood flow.
However, to really improve this function, I would mix your fresh pomegranate juice with a small amount of honey and a small sprinkle of cinnamon. These added ingredients will improve the blood and immune function of the pomegranate juice.
The only research available looking into the effects of pomegranate juice and fertility is a study on pomegranate seed oil extract for sperm quality in rats. Having up to 5000mg/kg of the oil did improve final embryo development. For a human weighing 70kg, that would be 350,000mg of pomegranate seed oil…eeek! (Niksevesht et al., 2015). Can’t imagine how many pomegranate’s that would be.
In nutritional medicine, Brazil nuts have the highest source of selenium out of any other foods by the same weight. Selenium is an antioxidant mineral that helps protect cells from damage. From a fertility point of view, this helps prevent sperm, eggs and embryos from cellular damage which may be associated with chromosomal damage and miscarriage.
There are currently no available studies I could find looking into the improved outcomes of pregnancy with IVF with Brazil nuts. If you find one, please send it to me, would be happy to update this post.
From a Chinese medicine perspective, Brazil nuts are considered a sweet and neutral to warm food. They have a positive influence on the energy of your digestion, kidney system and lung system. Your kidney system has a big influence on fertility and pregnancy in Chinese medicine, so any foods which support this system can help pregnancy success.
However, be aware that selenium in high doses can be toxic so please don’t go obsessively overboard on the Brazil nuts. Whilst they’re a great food to include after transfer, so are all the other nuts.
This tasty summer fruit core contains a helpful enzyme named bromelain. This enzyme helps aid digestion and may help reduce inflammation, pain and swelling. This all sounds very helpful for a fresh transfer after your egg retrieval procedure.
In Chinese medicine, this fruit is neutral in thermal nature and has sweet and sour flavours. It is used to remove excess heat from the liver system which is often seen as inflammation.
Some cautions with pineapple, is that it can cause increased bleeding so you will need to discuss this with your fertility specialist especially if you are taking aspirin or clexane injections.
It is reportedly (through online forums) helpful specifically for embryo implantation but I can’t find any research to back up that claim. I also couldn’t find any reliable research looking into the effect of pineapple on success rates of IVF at all.
So in summary – all three foods have great, healthy qualities. Are they specific to improved outcomes with IVF? I don’t think so.
In Chinese medicine, we never consider one particular food as being the fix for any conditions. It is always the combination with the rest of your diet.
My advice is to always eat a warm, balanced diet. Eat food in its most natural state, not in a concentrated juice or extract. Remember also, that these three foods aren’t the only sources of the nutrients they provide. Plenty of other nuts, fruit and vegetables contain these nutrients in a variety of amounts.
So whilst it won’t harm you to eat more of these foods after your embryo transfer, please don’t be obsessive in your consumption. Eat a variety of fruits, vegetables, nuts, starches and protein and you will be giving your body the best chance of health before, during and after your embryo transfer.
Lastly, if you’re eating fatty foods, other high sugar foods, not exercising, not sleeping well, not drinking enough water and not looking after your health in general, it is highly doubtful these foods on their own will make any difference to your IVF outcome.
Always happy to hear your thoughts.
Pitchford, P (2002) Health with whole foods: Asian traditions and modern nutrition. 3rd ed, North Atlantic Books
Niksevesht, M et al. (2015) Effects of pomegranate seed oil on the fertilisation potency of rat’s sperm, J Clin Diagn Res, Vol. 19, No. 12, doi 10.7860/JCDR/2015/12576.6853