Can Diet and Alternative Treatments Effect IVF Success
Alternative medicine, acupuncture, supplements, and herbs can increase the odds that IVF will work, but beware of alcohol.

I love the idea of complementary or integrative medicine. It suits my personality. I see both sides of almost any issue–sometimes to a fault. I hate to commit to one thing if it means excluding something else. So, as you might imagine, I’ve dabbled in alternative medicine, but usually at the same time I’m pursuing more traditional medical care (otherwise known as a complimentary or integrative approach).

In the area of alternative medicine, the “see all sides, try all things” part of my nature has to struggle with the research geek part because unfortunately the research on the effectiveness of alternative medicine is all over the board. Imagine my happiness on yesterday’s show when I found a Western trained reproductive endocrinologist (infertility doctor) who encourages integrative medicine and was totally up to date on all the research. Even better,  Dr. Carmelo Sgarlata, a Reproductive Endocrinologist and the  Director of Integrative Medicine at the Reproductive Science Center of the Bay Area, is good at translating medical-speak into every day language. We talked about all aspects of the use of alternative medicine in infertility treatment, including acupuncture, herbs, supplements (yes, he named names), yoga, meditation, and diet.


All Things in Moderation

The “see all sides” part of my nature feeds my “most things in moderation” approach to life. It is truly a part of my DNA, and I use it to inform all aspects of my life from diet, to exercise, to work. Given my basic inclination, I wasn’t surprised when Dr. Sgarlata said that there is strong evidence that shows that a Mediterranean Diet, which focuses on lots of vegetables and fruit, healthy oil (olive oil), whole grains, and limited protein from animals, improves fertility and success rates with in vitro fertilization (IVF). Many studies have found that this diet is good for overall health, so it makes sense that it would be good for infertility treatment.

Moderate alcohol consumption is also a part of the Mediterranean diet, so I was pretty sure I knew the answer when I asked Dr. Sgarlata about alcohol use prior to IVF. He surprised me when he said the most recent research doesn’t support even moderate alcohol consumption for those fertility patients going through IVF. Crash! (The sound of my preconceived ideas biting the dust.) I enjoy a glass of wine with dinner when we have a calm unhurried dinner, which, sad to say, is a rare event in my life. It seems so…civilized, so…well, moderate. (Yep, I also love all research that says chocolate and coffee are good for you.)

Harvard Kills Moderation

Hating to hear any evidence against moderation, I found the study Dr. Sgarlata was referring to. This study, out of Harvard, was well designed and large, following 2,545 couples going through 4,729 IVF cycles. “Forty-one percent of women and 58% of men drank one to six drinks per week. Women drinking at least four drinks per week had 16% less odds of a live birth rate compared with those who drank fewer than four drinks per week. For couples in which both partners drank at least four drinks per week, the odds of live birth were 21% lower compared with couples in which both drank fewer than four drinks per week.” Researchers concluded that consumption by either the man or woman of four or more alcoholic drinks per week was associated with a decrease in IVF live birth rate. Interesting. Sometime research is so uncivilized!

Other Creating a Family Podcasts on Alternative Medicine & Infertility

Using alternative medicine in the treatment of infertility has been of great interest to our audience, and we get a lot of requests for shows on this topic. We aim to please, so listen or download the following one hour podcasts.

What life style changes have you made when trying to get pregnant? Have you used complimentary or alternative treatment?

Image credit: beavela