Dairy & Fertility: Getting to the Bottom of it

As a fertility acupuncturist, I constantly find myself researching and learning information regarding fertility. Luckily, even though there are varying opinions out there, in the natural medicine world of fertility there aren’t too many extreme conflicts of information - at least not in my experience. In regards to fertility, I knew it would be really important for me to be able to guide my patients on diet which is one thing that is more in their control than anything. So I wanted to address the one topic that continuously causes confusion for my patients, and that is dairy. Specifically milk products.

In Chinese medicine, dairy can cause phlegm which is why we suggest to keep it to a minimum. Dairy has also been an issue for certain people who cannot digest it properly. Yoghurt seems to be a lot more compatible with our digestion because it has healthy bacteria which is healthy for the gut.

In a book called The Fertility Diet, the authors share information that was retrieved from the most comprehensive study to date from the long-standing Nurses’ Health Study on how a certain foods can affect fertility. In this book they say that skim or reduced fat dairy can have adverse effects on fertility. On the other hand, full fat yoghurt or milk has shown to increase chances of conception. My understanding for the reason there are so many conflicting reports on this is that some milk products add hormones which are known to disrupt the endocrine system therefore causing fertility challenges. It can also be that people who have noted adverse responses due to reduced fat dairy, which has been shown to reduce the rates of fertility, associated it with dairy as a whole.

So according to these studies, if you are to have dairy make sure it’s whole and full fat. Fat is actually an important part of our diets and it is found to be a lot more beneficial than we have thought for the past several decades. Healthy fats are also listed as the foods necessary for improved conception in the The Fertility Diet.

As an Oriental Medicine practitioner, I look at the person’s individual constitution. If they have phlegm damp symptoms I would not recommend dairy. And if the person doesn’t have any symptoms of phlegm damp, is not lactose intolerant or sensitive to dairy, I would suggest full fat organic yoghurt once a day if they are looking to get pregnant. This will give their bodies a needed serving of fat which is shown to increase fertility. I would also suggest to drop sugar which is another ingredient that is associated with poor fertility outcomes.

Image by Nikolai Chernichenko