Fertility Foundations: A 360 degree approach to fertility with Natasha Evans

Welcome to the latest series of Fertility Foundations, where we speak in depth with expert guests about how to prepare the foundations for healthy pregnancy. This week Sandra Greenbank is talking to Natasha Evans, Nutritional Therapist and Health Coach, about a fully holistic, 360 degree approach to fertility and what that actually entails.

Natasha firmly believes that the reason people are finding it increasingly difficult to conceive is because of the modern, unnatural world we’re currently living in. A core part of Natasha’s approach is to help people get back to nature, tune in to their body’s innate wisdom and reconnect with what their bodies were designed to do.

As a result of her work, Natasha has founded the ‘Fertility 360 Method: 9 Steps to 9 Months’, a holistic, 360 degree approach to fertility and examining diet, lifestyle, environment, and supplementation. Sandra and Natasha examine the pillars of this approach throughout the podcast.

Find Natasha Evans on Instagram here: www.instagram.com/nenutrition

And find Natasha’s website and a copy of her free guide ‘The Fertility 360 Method: 9 Steps to 9 Months’ here: www.nenutrition.co.uk

This podcast is sponsored by Invivo Healthcare, a human microbiome company. They specialise in accurate testing of different microbes such as the gut, vagina, oral and urinary, as well as a range of specially curated supplements focused on the microbiomes. They support healthcare providers and their clients navigate the complex world of the human microbiome and it’s one of the most used labs and supplements by our own fertility specialists at the Fertility Nutrition Centre. Visit the Invivo website for more information at www.invivohealthcare.com

Podcast transcript

Sandra  00:04

Hello and welcome to the fertility Foundation’s podcast where we go into detail about how to prepare the foundations for a healthy pregnancy. We dive deep into the underlying root causes for fertility issues and natural solutions. I want you to know that you’re not alone and you’re not broken. I hope that by sharing these episodes it will help you move from feeling overwhelmed and lost to feeling hopeful and empowered to take charge of your own path to parenthood, because there are actually lots of things that you can do to help rewrite your own story. I’m Sandra Greenbank nutritional therapist, functional medicine practitioner coach and educator, specialising in fertility, pregnancy and postpartum health. I’m also the founder of the fertility nutrition centre, where you can find fully trained experts in nutrition, lifestyle and functional approaches to healthy fertility and pregnancy. You can find out more information over at www.fertilitynutritioncentre.org and also book in a free strategy call with one of our experts. 

Today I’m speaking to Natasha Evans about what a fully holistic, 360 degree approach to fertility entails. Natasha is a registered Nutritional Therapist and Health Coach specialising in fertility. She’s a fellow member of the FNC and also sees clients through the innovative FEMtech company Daye where she advises clients on how to optimise their vaginal microbiomes and tackle period pain. In her own practice, she works with couples wanting to conceive naturally or individuals or couples going through assisted reproductive technology. Natasha is a firm believer that the reason people find it increasingly hard to conceive is because we’re living in a modern, unnatural world. A core part of Natasha’s approach is to help our clients get back to nature, tune into their body’s innate wisdom and reconnect with what their bodies were designed to do. Natasha is also the founder of the fertility 360 method, nine steps to nine months, a holistic, full 360 degree approach to fertility with optimisations across diet, lifestyle, environment, and supplementation.

This podcast is sponsored by Inivo Healthcare, a human microbiome company. They specialise in accurate testing of different microbiome such as the gut, vagina or a urinary tract, as well as a range of specially curated supplements focused on the microbiomes. They support healthcare providers and their clients navigate the complex world of the human microbiomes and is one of the most used labs and supplements by our fertility specialists. Visit their website for more information at www.invivohealthcare.com.

Now let’s get into today’s interview with Natasha. Hi, Natasha, thanks for joining us today on the podcast.

Natasha Evans  02:39

Thanks so much for having me.

Sandra  02:40

Could you please introduce yourself before we get started with the questions? So just to anyone who doesn’t know you yet? Yeah, of course. So,

Natasha Evans  02:48

I’m Natasha Evans, and I’m a registered nutritional therapist and health coach specialising in fertility, and one of the visibility nutritionist at the fertility nutrition centre. And I’m very passionate about helping my clients find the their unique underlying root causes of their fertility issues. So they can not only just improve, you know, optimise their chances of conceiving, but also create sustainable long term change in their health. I work with couples who are trying to conceive naturally, but also those who are going through IVF or another reproductive technology, and also work with individuals who have a fertility related condition. So things like PCOS and endometriosis. The way I work in clinic, I’ve got a very full, holistic 360 degree approach to fertility, which is where my signature methods of fertility 360 method, nine steps to nine months came from. And I’m very passionate about helping my clients reconnect with nature, and tune into their body’s innate wisdom, and what their bodies were designed to do.

Sandra  03:51

Great. Yeah, and today’s topic is going to focus on how and why the world around us and our actually our lifestyles are now becoming more unnatural, how that’s potentially affecting our fertility, and how we can kind of bring more balanced back and brick, take a sort of few steps back and sort of scale down on some of those fun natural areas or things that may be affecting us and get back to our fertile health. And I think what we’ll do is we’ll cover your nine steps. And as we talk about each step, we’re all kind of chatter a little bit about what’s what might be going on in the world around us and with our lifestyles and what we can do to kind of begin to impact those things ourselves.

04:44

Sounds great.

Sandra  04:45

I think there’s some of them. Some of them was interesting research actually looking at our lifestyles and how it’s changing in response to the changing world actually comes down to male sperm health, doesn’t it? And sperm numbers and stuff. and quality is it’s kind of actually falling off a cliff and has been doing so for the last, I think it’s 30 years, something like that. And the statistics are really frightening. We’ll talk a little bit about what that might mean or what why that might be. But let’s just go through your steps. And so step one is diet and digestion. Yeah,

Natasha Evans  05:23

which is a great place to start, especially considering the nutritionists. And the reason I’ve only got one step, which actually calls out diets, because we could, if you just went down and focused only on diet, I think you’d get about 50% 60% of the way. But all these other areas and the other steps, which will go on to later have such an important impact as well. And they all influence each other as well. So your diet influences how well you’re going to sleep at night, and how well you sleep at night is going to influence your food choices the next day. So all of these things have to be looked at. But diet is a great place to start. And the reason we’re interested in diet, and I think I don’t know about you, but still when I go to parties or something. When someone hears I’m a fertility nutritionist, they still say, what has diet got to do with fertility. And really, it’s got everything to do with fertility. If you think about our diet as a way to get the right nutrients into our body, to fuel every single process in our body, to be transported to every cell, every muscle, every organ in our body. And we used for different processes. That’s when you start to realise like you know how important diet is not just to our health, but also to our fertility. And I see fertility as a proxy of our overall health during our reproductive years. So optimising your health is optimising your fertility and diets a big part of that. So, with diets, what I’m looking for is, we want to make sure you’re getting all the nutrients in your diet that I used to fuel different processes and body so fueling energy production, fueling mitochondrial health fueling, hormone production, fueling our liver, detoxification, all these things that are really, really crucial. And I have four kind of key principles, four main food rules that I go by with my clients, just to sum it up in a very brief way, because we could spend the whole podcast talking about this. But number one, I want my clients to eat as close to nature as possible. And the reason for this is because we know that now, the Western diet is the energy intake, over 50% of it is from ultra processed foods. So we’re not eating natural foods anymore. And this is causing real issues. And we have so much evidence to back this up. But lots of the foods we’re eating are inflammatory. They are they contain chemicals that our body doesn’t really know what to do with them. Our diets changed more in the past 100 years than it has ever before, really. So I really like my clients to get as close to nature as possible. And by that I mean based on your diet around unprocessed foods, whole foods, plenty of colourful vegetables and fruits, nutrient dense meat, fish, seafood, eggs, dairy, healthy fats, herbs and spices, whole grains. And yeah, really basing it all around that to be as close to nature as possible. So that’s how we were deciding to eat. And another interesting element, I think around that is seasonality. So I do like my, my, my clients to prioritise seasonal foods, but not be too strict with that, because obviously, we don’t want to, you know, get too bogged down with it, but as much season on local food as possible as well, because that’s, again, how we were designed to eat. Yeah,

Sandra  08:46

I agree. And I think that, you know, I always advise my clients that actually, if you go to the supermarket, I mean a lot of people shop online now. But if you think about it, you can just go to the veg fruit and veg section, the meat section, get some eggs, and then go and get your grains and your nuts and seeds. And actually, you’re pretty much done. You don’t there’s like enormous sections of the supermarket that you don’t even have to go to but you don’t have to go to this Al’s like, you know, spend hours going up and down. And also, I wholeheartedly agree with you about eating seasonal because when you eat seasonally, you’re eating more locally, which means that not only is it better for the environment, I haven’t touched to transport all these foods, but also they’ve ripened on the plant as opposed to to being picked a month ahead of time or whatever. And I know you’re a massive fan of growing your own which I am as well you know, with varying varying sort of success, but it’s sowing like that. Yeah, it’s just so nice to eat something that is so fresh. You pick it and you eat it and it just tastes like it just didn’t get those kinds of foods in the supermarket anymore. And you know, I think just looking for a local veg box delay Every system, you know, where you can get kind of local foods or foods and season is a really good way of doing that. And I think also, we’ll talk about toxins in a minute. But actually, there was an article published yesterday by the Guardian about how if you live in the UK, now your food, so they are now in the UK permitting 36 more chemicals, or chemicals that are banned in the EU, or have either always been banned by the EU or have been banned since Brexit, and you know, all these promises that our food quality wouldn’t be compromised? You know? I mean, how long has it been since Brexit? It’s just gone out the window, and we’re now we don’t even know what’s in our food anymore? No. So I think that’s the other thing kind of provenance and looking at where is your food coming from? And how is it grown? And what is it? What are the farmers putting on that food?

Natasha Evans  10:57

Absolutely. It’s an absolute minefield. And that article is really shocking, actually. And it happens in other areas without us even knowing about it. So for example, wine can contain 70 different chemicals legally without having to declare it unpack. So you’ve no idea what’s in that bottle of wine unless it’s more natural or organic or something. And is it the actual alcohol that’s causing the issue? Or is it that combined with all these other chemicals, but it just Yeah, I have no idea what they are, there’s just no need that they don’t give consumers that transparency. And with the organic food, I think what’s really helpful is that we can look at the Dirty Dozen list, which is published online, anyone can go take a look at that, and prioritise where we buy organic. So don’t ask me everything, because let’s face it, it’s a little bit prohibitive. Price wise, the farming system is just completely upside down. But you can prioritise buying organic that with those, and I think even the smallest tweaks can make a massive difference.

Sandra  11:56

Yeah, just make just start small, you know. And I think Did you say you had another two?

Natasha Evans  12:01

Yeah, three was through them. The second one is eat as diverse a diet as possible. We’re very guilty in the UK of rotating the same three veg again and again. But we know that having diversity helps to encourage a healthy gut microbiome, which we’ll come on to later, and likely to help the vaginal microbiome as well, which plays a really significant role in fertility. And also, this particular one, you know, it will also mean if there’s any, if there are any food groups, you’re excluding for any particular reason, then you need to be more conscious about getting more near all the nutrients you need into your diet or relying on supplementation to back that up as well. And number three, eat nutrient dense foods. So I’m a big fan of things like awful. Also red meat, which I know is a controversial one. But I’m a big fan of getting getting bang for your buck with with these foods. And dark leafy greens are the most nutrient dense out of all the vegetables as well. So having a look at those nutrient dense foods and trying to get some of those into your week. Absolutely. And then the fourth rule is just to get 80 to 90%. Right in inverted commas, and worry less about the rest because we can’t be perfect. And perfection is probably going to add an extra stress stressing. Yeah, exactly. And you know, some of these other things give us so much pleasure. And sometimes I think even though there isn’t the science to back this up, the pleasure something like a gelato, I’ve just been to Italy. So it’s fresh in my mind that the gelato gives you is might outweigh any negatives that you might get from it. It’s just you know, we can’t underestimate that as well forget the 80 to 90%. Right, and just worry less about the rest. Yeah,

Sandra  13:45

absolutely. And actually, I, I’ve just been reading as Steven Bartlett’s book, and he talked about habit change. And he was saying that the more you focus on trying to avoid something, the harder it becomes, because you focus your mind. So if you’re just kind of focusing on putting all the good stuff in and not worrying too much about what else sneaks in, you’re kind of going to just feel better and do better anyway. Yeah, absolutely. And then so diet is linked for digestion. And obviously, without the healthy digestion, it doesn’t really matter what you’re putting in because if you can’t digest it and absorb it, you’ve lost the benefits.

Natasha Evans  14:24

Absolutely. It’s not just about what we eat, but it’s got what we absorb, and what we excrete. So I’m very passionate about optimising digestion so I had IBS for 10 years. And you know, if you’ve got irregular bowel movements, whether it’s diarrhoea or constipation, it’s going to be affecting your health or knock on impact, so that the more we can try and get that right, the better.

Sandra  14:47

Yeah, and I think also digestive issues are so so almost normalised now, and also it and we know this there’s the kind of highway but in your gut and your brain, and it’s, it definitely impacts your mental state, doesn’t it? Because even if you have a bout of diarrhoea, it just it, I think it really affects, it gets you down. And so, yeah, we need to look after our gut. And you know, as the old ancient Greeks said, you know, death begins in the gut. And we always as nutritionists, you know, it’s like, we’re just, you know, we have FOMC meetings, and, you know, we’re talking about all sorts of things, but you know, it always comes down to be check the gut, you know, because unless you’ve done that, unless you know what’s going on in the gut, it’s sort of pointless putting all the other sorts of maybe slightly more high tech tweaks in because, you know, the digestive system is so connected to every, every other area of your, your body. Exactly, exactly. Right. So we’ve covered that, and sort of whistlestop tour of diet and digestion. Number two is energy optimization. I want to hear about all your tips and tricks, because I feel like my energy is dipping after the summer holidays and trying to get back into it. Yes,

Natasha Evans  16:08

so with energy optimization, you know, I’ve tried to put a few different things under one bucket here, but I’m really referring to energy metabolism and three different things here. So the first one is blood sugar regulation. The second one is cellular energy, or mitochondrial health. And then the third area is tyroid. Health. So these are all three things. These are three things which are really crucial to fertility. And there’s a fantastic quote by Albert Einstein, which is everything is energy. And that’s all there is to it. And I absolutely love that. I think energy, you know, this part is really fascinating. And just to touch on blood sugar to begin with. So one thing we know is that people who who’ve got even slightly raised average blood glucose levels, it has a knock on detrimental effects in their facility. So getting blood sugar, right is a really important thing. And the way we do this is by really thinking about the composition of our plates, making sure we’re getting loads of good quality proteins and healthy fats, and they’re reducing the carbohydrate intake, but also opting for the right kinds of carbohydrates. And also changing the timing of carbohydrates across the day, I think is really important as well. So all of these things can really help the butcher side of things with cellular energy and mitochondrial health. I think this is one which most people haven’t heard of the mitochondria or they might, or they might remember the mitochondria has been scribbling things in your cells from GCSE. But I think these guys just don’t get enough attention. So what the mitochondria are is they’re these little energy organelles, and each of our cells, and each each cell has lots, I mean, it’s pretty much in every cell in the body. And there are lots of different ones in there. And they come in lots of different shapes and sizes, they seem to communicate with each other, sometimes they can join together, sometimes they can separate. Yeah, they’re always communicating with each other. And what they do is they create energy, which is really important because this is how we make energy as humans. And we need loads of cellular energy for fertility. So an example of just how much energy we need. The egg has 10 times more mitochondria than any other cell in the body. And the egg is a cell in case anyone didn’t know that. And the mitochondria also did things like help sperm swim, but there are much fewer mitochondria in the egg in the sperm and the egg, but it’s still really crucial that mitochondria health. And then if you think about just how much cellular energy is needed a reproduction to mature an egg, release an egg for the sperm to swim to meet the egg of the egg and sperm to use and then start multiplying into lots of different cells, and then build a baby. You need loads of cellular energy for this.

Sandra  18:54

Yeah. And that it’s the process of actually making that so you know, how have you seen the sort of stop motion films of an egg and a sperm meeting and then turning it into an embryo sort of the cell numbers doubles so fast, and that is powered by the mitochondria in the egg. And so you have to have a really healthy mitochondria within that egg to actually get to the blastocyst stage and, you know, so on and so forth. And actually, I think that also this becomes more important as we age and it’s partly one of the main reasons actually, I think our fertility declines as we age because mitochondria is linked with ageing.

Natasha Evans  19:36

Yes, absolutely.

Sandra  19:39

So there’s so much we can do to support the mitochondrial health naturally.

Natasha Evans  19:45

Absolutely. I think the stat is that by the age of 40, women’s eggs about a third of the mitochondria in a woman’s eggs aren’t working anymore, basically. So but yeah, as you say, there’s loads we can do to improve it and going back to this sort of unnatural world that we’re living in. Loads of things in modern day life impacts mitochondrial health. So for example, an ultra processed diet one, that’s one that’s really devoid of nutrients, you’re not getting all the nutrients that are needed to feel the mitochondria, the energy production that mitochondria, so things like Kochi, 10, B vitamins, magnesium, and omega three fatty acids. And also our food is way less nutrient dense than it used to be because of all these chemicals being used. So most people would have to supplement magnesium, even getting that tech piece and a lot of magnesium rich foods, not prioritising breath and sleep, being sedentary, your mitochondria like movement. They like light exposure, this is really important. We’ll come on to that. And step four, they toxins interfere with mitochondrial health. So mitochondria are probably suffering more now than ever before. And the same could be said with blood sugar regulation, because we eat a lot more carbohydrates. And we’re used to a lot more processed carbohydrates, a lot more sugars, diet, I know soft drinks or this kind of thing. Yeah, these areas are under attack more than ever before. But we really need to try and support them and get back to nature. In that respect. Absolutely.

Sandra  21:25

Yeah, I agree. And I think also mould exposure can be quite significant. And yeah. And like you said, the thyroid as well. You know, the thyroid is impacted, actually, by pretty much all of the same things that you mentioned, you know, nutrient deficiencies, by a deficiency in magnesium deficiency. Iodine deficiency and, you know, again, toxic exposure, stress, it’s actually the same, isn’t it? But we’re just coming at it from you know, direct health is much easier to check the mitochondrial health. Yeah. So, yeah, we might have to sort of make educated guesses about what our mitochondria looks like. But yeah, it’s really, really important to not let to focus on that as well. And then the third step is microbiome support. So what is the microbiome?

Natasha Evans  22:20

The microbiome refers to the trillions of microorganisms that live in and on our body, say, live on pretty much every surface in the body. And the vast majority of them live in the gut, in the gut, so in the large intestine, and the reason for this, because it’s a perfect environment for bacteria to thrive. And it’s bacteria and viruses, parasites, fungi, which sounds a bit scary, but actually, the vast majority of them are beneficial for our body. And we look after them, we bite into the home with food with water, and they look after us. So the gut is very rich in these microbes about, you know, trillions, trillions of them in there. And what we know is that the gut microbiome fulfil many roles for us, including regulating our immune system, which plays a key role in activity, regulating our mood by the gut brain access, producing energy molecules, regulating our hormones, including oestrogen and then also even influencing things like our cravings and our weight. But that’s just a very top level summary. But there are so many different things they do for us, it’s a really key area to look into, for anyone who’s trying to optimise their health, but also in facility, but given their far reaching roles. But I think the other interesting area with the microbiome is that we also, we there’s also the reproductive microbiomes. We’re not just thinking about the gut, although I kind of feel that God has been the control centre of the microbiome and the body because it’s so vast. So if you improve gut the gut microbiome, you’re likely to improve the reproductive microbiome to the reproductive microbiomes. What we’re talking about is the vaginal microbiome and the scene and microbiome, which you can test actually. And we know that imbalances in these areas have been linked to risk of miscarriage time to conceive IVF outcomes and even baby health as well. So really important areas to look into. And you might you know, if you’ve got any sort of unusual vaginal symptoms going on you it’s a great area to look into, but also you can be completely asymptomatic and still have an imbalance in the in the vaginal microbiome.

Sandra  24:37

Absolutely. And I think that, yeah, actually, it’s so important to check your microbial vaginal microbiome because you’re only symptom may be fertility problems. And, you know, it’s not to say that you’ve got a sexually transmitted disease, it’s not the same thing. It’s just, you know, the composition that that is In your vagina, and I think that and obviously, of course, we share our microbiome with with our partners, so our oral microbiome and our vaginal seminal microbiome. And I think that, you know, again, it’s so susceptible to damage from our modern lifestyles, you know, with all the with the medication, for example, antibiotics will wipe not just the bad stuff out and wipes everything out. The contraceptive pill affects your gut microbiome significantly. toxins in your diet stress, again, you know, we’re sort of just picking up the same things constantly. But it’s important to nurture that microbiome not only for your fertile health, but also for your long term health, and, and vitality. And also, your because your microbiome is shared with your baby, ultimately, and you want them to inherit healthy, they will, they will, sort of like a culture. So you know, they start off with what you pass on to them. And it’s not to say that, you know, it can’t be modulated that it can be quite hard to fix something that’s started off not quite right.

Natasha Evans  26:05

Yeah, absolutely. And it seems like the infant microbiome affects things like allergies, intolerances, even things like autism and stuff like that. So definitely a key area to work on in a preventative way as well. And I think, also going back to thinking about some of the the things in our natural modern world, which can be affecting our microbiome. So alcohol, we have drunk alcohol, 1000s of years, but the sort of sheer quantity and the culture of it now it’s kind of like a toxin going into the microbiome. Again, these processed foods is white carbohydrates, the sugars, they feed less helpful bacteria and the gut microbiome and vaginal microbiome, these bleached, and pesticide ridden period care products, which fortunately, most people using, you know, putting bleach in the vagina is not is not a good thing. It’s gonna ask

Sandra  27:03

you perfume.

Natasha Evans  27:07

Last plastics, exactly plastics, using soaps, because people are afraid or ashamed of how they smell or something like that, which actually could be a sign that you need to have a look at the vaginal microbiome anyway. And then all these like polyethylene or polyester underwear, I think most people have artificial fabrics these days. So lots of things. Use of thongs and G strings over briefs, I guess as well, that can be another thing. So actually, you know what, even waxing and laser hair removal? It seems like the theory is that the pubic hair is actually there to protect the microbiome. And actually, now most people are getting it like lots of people are getting rid of it. So does make you ask the question, What about without having the vaginal microbiome as well?

Sandra  27:52

Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. Right and upset about that. Talk about the microbiome is that actually each of these steps is a separate podcast in the zone. But, you know, I think it’s good to get an overview anyway. So step four circadian health. And I think that’s a really interesting one. Because during now, we’re recording now during PCOS Awareness Month, and particularly if there’s a cycle irregularity issue, this is a really important step, isn’t it? Absolutely.

Natasha Evans  28:21

So again, another thing that lots people haven’t heard of, but the circadian rhythm is our body’s internal 24 hour clock, it’s our sleep wake cycle, and determines when we’re awake and when we’re asleep it at any particular moment, but it’s actually crucial to the optimum functioning of every single cell in your body. Because every single cell uses this circadian rhythm to know what time it is when what particular roles it should be doing at one particular time. So if your circadian rhythm is out of whack is actually going to have a knock on impact and the optimal functioning of every single cell in your body. And that’s why we care about it. So it’s not just about optimising sleep, but it’s about optimising the optimal functioning of every single cell. And it influences the mitochondrial health significantly as well, just another way that they sort of linked together. But there are two key hormones that influences Kadian rhythm, its cortisol and melatonin. Again, it’s a quite a simplistic way of looking at it. But when you wake up in the morning called cortisol, which is a stress hormone as well. It tends to be at its highest and this is what gets you up in the morning. And then melatonin our sleeping hormone is at its lowest. And as the day goes on, melatonin rises, cortisol falls, and this results in us falling asleep, around 10pm an optimal day. And this happens every day. But the thing is that loads of things can shift our circadian rhythm out of balance. So for example, if cortisol is more elevated, so our stress hormones more elevated say for example, from chronic stress And then melatonin could be suppressed, it could whack this kid and wear them out of balance. So stress definitely plays a significant role. But also, you know, things like, I mean, the number one intervention I use and current clinic to support the circadian health is light exposure. Because our bodies are always looking for external signals to tell, tell it what time it is. And the number one signal it looks for is light. So your body wants to be exposed to natural lights during the daytime, particularly during the morning that wakes the body up. And, you know, receptors on your skin and receptors in the eye, I pick up on these light cues, which you can’t replicate indoors. And it tells the body that if daytime and everything starts sort of shifting into gear after that, and then at night, you want as little artificial light exposure as possible. Because that blocks melatonin production, it tells the body it’s still daytime, it’s very confusing.

Sandra  30:57

Yeah, that citizen is about the light that hits the back of the retina in your eye. And if you’re then using screens, when your body is supposed to be down regulating and getting ready for sleep, then your melatonin is going to be affected, isn’t it and then actually our ovaries love melatonin. It’s very, very, it’s an antioxidant that really helps support egg health. So this is why sleep is so important. But, you know, again, modern lifestyles, you know, people just sort of think the sleep is just, it’s not important, you know, it’s the first thing to go, isn’t it?

Natasha Evans  31:34

Yes, absolutely. And I think I saw a stat recently, which said that Americans spend 90% of their time indoors now. So people are going outside way less than ever before, it’s gonna be affecting their circadian rhythm. People are using screens way more than before, which is gonna be affecting their circadian rhythm. These are very unnatural things to the body. So the more we can get outside, if you have to prioritise a time morning is best if not then afternoon, but also sunrise and sunset, or anytime that sun’s too bright, a low angle and the sky, those are also really beneficial to that the more time you can spend outside, the better. And the more you can block artificial light at night, the better as well. Yeah,

Sandra  32:15

and there are apps and blue light blocking glasses and things you can use. And exactly notice, I tend to always say try and get off the screen about two hours before you’re due to go to bed. You know that sort of? It’s hard. It’s so hard, but you know, read a book like it’s so it’s such a nice way to wind down and that comes down to your sleep hygiene as well, doesn’t it? But we’re going to talk about sleep, I think. Yeah,

Natasha Evans  32:39

I think so sleep is kind of covered by the circadian health one because yeah, for that month under that stamp.

Sandra  32:44

Oh, yeah. Stress, I couldn’t read my handwriting.

Natasha Evans  32:50

Yeah, I mean, which also

Sandra  32:51

is impacted by sleep, in many ways, actually, the other way around, as well.

Natasha Evans  32:57

I mean, the thing I like to say around stress is that the body is always looking for a safe time to make a baby. And when we are in our fight or flight, it’s not a safe time to make a baby. Yeah. And we only have two different Nervous System States, our sympathetic nervous system, which is our fight or flight, and our parasympathetic nervous system, which is rest and digest, and you’re only ever done one or the other. So the issue is that most people seem to be operating predominantly in their sympathetic nervous system, their fight or flight these days, and most people are chronically stressed without even realising it. So I have clients who say, Yeah, you know, I’m not very stressed. And then we run some tests. And we say, well, actually, your body is very stressed right now. But we’ve just normalised it it’s another thing we’ve normalised. So we used to only ever get stressed when we were hungry, or when you were running away from danger, or looking for a mate. And now it is everything you know, it’s a stressful email at work. And the endless to do list is perfectionism. It’s the social media, social media, big one, and even the loud, polluted urban environment. We know that that’s the stressor on the body. These artificial foods are a stressor on the body. Toxins are a stress in the body. So all of these things are stressors, and they’re contributing to the state of chronic stress. And when we’re in our fight or flight, all our resources are directed towards the places of the body that are most essential in times of survival. So our muscles, our senses, your hearing and your sight, your brain, but it’s directed away from our digestive tract, which is going to affect our ability to absorb those nutrients from our wonderful diet and also from our reproductive organs because you don’t need to make a baby when you’re running away from danger. So this is why stress is so important, but it’s also I think, I find that is the thing that people are the most resistant to change, because we are very it almost becomes a part of your identity. You know being type A being a hustler being you know all these busy doing lots Yeah, being busy. But actually, we’re human beings, not doings and actually now we’re just doing way more of the doing rather than the actual being and being still. So this is something I love my clients to work on like really slowing down writing a self care menu thinking about taking off one or two things but self care menu every day, maybe doing some hormetic stressors, so definitely exercise, sometimes cold, cold showers or something like that if it works in the past and saunas, but not for men. And then also thinking about how they can reduce the stressors in your life, which is the hard thing to do. Like, can you say no to more projects at work? Can you put better place boundaries in place with people who stress you out? You know, offload the housework, someone else? Things like that, the more we can work on that

Sandra  35:54

the better. What about things like biohacking then so, you know, this is sort of next level, but what are some of the great things that you can do to kind of help shift that nervous system, even if it’s just in a moment? Yeah,

Natasha Evans  36:06

I mean, breathwork, I think is a really amazing tool. And it’s completely free, which a lot of things in biohacking aren’t. So I think breath works amazing. And we know that there’s one of the like, just focusing on your breath, and doing even five to 10 deep breaths, where the exhale is longer than the inhale. Because the exhale slows down the heart rate and helps increase the heart rate, then that’s a such an effective tool that just getting you into your parasympathetic nervous system. Yes, I think breath work is really, really key. Another one, I really go ahead. No,

Sandra  36:44

I was gonna say, even just noticing your breath. Because sometimes you can spend, you can go through an entire day, and you’ve been breathing from the top. And you’ve not really taken a deep breath all day. And so just becoming aware, and sort of going, you know, a Nobody needs to know, at work that, you know, it’s just something you can do anywhere and everywhere. Exactly. That’s an amazing tool. So step number six is move movement. And we sort of talked a little bit about that anyway, and sort of actually using movement to work for you. But obviously, not too much, because you don’t over exercise. Yeah, either. Yeah,

Natasha Evans  37:22

so the reason I’ve gone from movement here rather than exercise, it’s because, you know, humans were designed to move. And previously, actually, we would have just been moving more regularly during the day and actually didn’t, didn’t need to have these sort of scheduled 30 minute one hour exercise sessions. Some people would that would have, but actually, the main thing is that people were just moving a lot more. And now we’re largely sedentary. And the reason we need movement is because encourages blood flow. And we need a lot of blood flow through reproductive organs. It also supports our detoxification, and so many other things as well. And we’ve got loads of evidence behind this. So it’s not just about getting that exercising, but not over exercising. So anything that’s really stressful, so things like hit, even CrossFit. Things like that might be best to be parked when you’re trying to conceive. And for men, long distance cycling, probably not the best, but it tends to be over five hours a week, so not many people are getting there anyway. But on top of those that exercise, just setting an alarm or something to move every hour, at least walk around the house, make a tea, do some squats by the kettle, or something like that, just fidget as well. Moving regularly is key because that’s the that’s the killer. People just sitting down on the sofa all day and not moving. And it also for men as well. It increases the testicular temperature if you’ve sedentary all the time, which is not great for sperm health. So we want slightly lower intensity exercise, I’d say around three, three times a week, but also that regular movement, I think we can forget about that as well. It’s not just about this little windows.

Sandra  39:06

Yeah, I think it’s about getting up and moving around then because every time you sit, you’re cutting off the blood flow to your pelvic organs. And so and the blood is how your cells there and nourished and also how the toxins are removed. And so if it’s restricted, it’s going to restrict the health of the all the cells in the area. So the next step is number eight, and no, sorry, number seven toxic exposure. And we’ve talked a little bit about this already.

Natasha Evans  39:33

Yeah, yeah, gosh, it’s a big one. It’s

Sandra  39:37

probably the major, major thing that’s changed in our lifestyle. And it’s not just I don’t think it’s just about the toxins and we think about what’s on our food or what’s in the air that we breathe, but actually like toxic just generally sort of toxic social media exposure and so people can be so mean online and you You know, the toxic internal thoughts as well, you know, it’s not just about physical, but it can be about the mental toxicity as well that were subjected to, would you think? Oh,

Natasha Evans  40:12

gosh, absolutely. And I think Normally when people are going through their fertility journey, and so just thinking about alcohol and smoking, which is very important, very important to cut those out. Same with vaping. There’s a lot we didn’t know about that yet. But it seems to be pretty negative. But we’re not thinking about all these other things. We’re not thinking about the receipts that we’re touching every day. We’ve got, they’re all almost 200 papers out now on the effect of BPA, a chemical found in plastics on fertility, and it’s not good.

Sandra  40:47

And it’s also found on receipts, and there is a study that showed that accountants have a higher rate of ovarian cancers. Wow, alongside hairdressers, and other people who are exposed to toxins. And I’m wondering whether it’s got something to do with touching receipts, or hopefully not so much anymore. But I’m an ex accountant and bookkeeper. And, you know, certainly, I was processing receipts constantly and dread to think when actually even using those sort of handles actually, that sort of increases your exposure to the receipts that you then touch?

Natasha Evans  41:22

Oh, yeah. Wow, I hadn’t thought of that. And yeah, they’ve done studies on cashiers and people like that as well. And there is also really interesting studies on pollution. So they do these largely in China, because obviously, we’re working with extremes there. But yeah, pollution seems to have a really detrimental effects on male fertility. But very simple swaps, like just walking on the inside of the pavement can reduce your exposure to pollutants, taking the side roads rather than main roads. And again, I think with a man who’s trying to conceive, maybe cycling into work isn’t the best idea as well, because you’re not it’s not just the heat and the testicles, but it’s also the pollutants you’re exposed to in the city. But yeah, basically that everywhere, but I think that the smallest tweaks can make a massive difference. And so and you have to pick your battles as well. So for example, lots of my clients are very, very attached to their perfumes. And I say okay, fine, keep the perfume which the reason we’re interested in that is because of the Thalys which are endocrine disruptors, they can affect our hormones. But you know what, if you want keep the perfume but let’s change these things from instead let’s go take out the Dirty Dozen and take cap take off your shoes when you enter the house. Really easy one, let the air circulate in the home, keep the windows open, put the extractor fan on when you’re cooking, get some air filtering plants, see notes receipts, swap your plastic Tupperware for glass Tupperware, you know, maybe you know some of your I like to focus firstly on the kitchen, because anything that goes on in the kitchen, you’re probably gonna you’re likely to ingest at some point and the bathroom or like toiletries, because anything you put in your skin, you know, you can absorb up to 60% of that. So those two areas I like to focus on first really?

Sandra  43:16

Yeah, and that actually our indoor air can be so much more polluted than the air outside and so I’m a huge fan of air purifiers you know, certainly more or less toxic cleaning products. Yeah, and then also thinking about wet wiping your floors and having a HEPA filter in your Hoover’s if you’re you know don’t go out and buy any Hoover if you don’t need one but if you are buying a Hoover, make sure it’s got the HEPA filter, which then filters so it doesn’t, you know, the toxins that you hoovering up on things just plunged back into the air. And I think also considering perhaps when you’re trying to conceive isn’t the best time to do like a whole house redecoration because of paints and you know, sofas and mattresses and things like that they can contain quite a lot of toxins those put into the air so you know, sometimes just keeping hold of a an old sofa for a bit, you know, might be better for now. I I’ve seen I just think it’s sort of a disproportionate portion or number of my clients that I’ve worked with over the years have done this sort of mad redecoration extension thing before trying for a baby and I’m thinking is it got something to do? Has their issues got something to do with, you know, what they’ve been exposed to? I won’t know because, you know, we never look at just one thing, do we? So we always do everything that we can always sort of pinpoint. Like, what’s what’s going to be most important for each client and sort of start there but I think it’s really important to consider what you bring into the home. Definitely thing number eight supplementation, which may or may not be natural.

Natasha Evans  45:05

Yeah. So this is where I start to deviate a little bit. And that’s because, you know, there are incredible modern day technologies, whether it’s, you know, assisted reproductive technology, which I’m obsessed with. And actually, at the side nodes when I was studying with you, Sandra, I wasn’t I still wasn’t 100% Sure, I wanted to specialise in facility until the assisted reproductive technology module where it just like, absolutely blew my mind. But yeah, so even though my approach is about helping my clients get back to nature, and really connecting with all these things that we were designed to do, and these behaviours that we were designed to, to be basically, we can definitely lean on these modern technologies, including supplements, including testing, including IVF, etc. And I often get asked, you know, is it really essential to take supplements for fertility? And the answer, I think supplementation is essential. And the reason for this is that even though I advocate a diet first approach, really nutrient dense diet, I don’t think even that is good enough, because firstly, our soils are depleted of nutrients. These days, we know the pummeling of our soils with agricultural chemicals have led to far less nutritious soil, far less nutritious food. Also, we need extra support to cope with modern day life. So for example, stress depletes nutrients, we often force ourselves to stay awake past sunset, which is actually natural, and that suppresses melatonin production. And so again, we need to be more nutrients to support our hormones, our livers are working hard and never to detoxify. So it needs extra nutrients to support liver support the liver. And then also we’ve got loads of studies showing that supplementation is very supportive of fertility. So, you know, unless you were an absolute angel eating and really nutrient dense diet, all of your food was organic, it was all local and seasonal, you lived in a place with loads of sunshine all year round, your digestion is impeccable, you’re not stressed, and you have no toxic exposure, and you’re moving all the time, then maybe you could get away without supplementation. But I don’t think anyone falls into that category, or very few people do, including myself. So this is where supplements really helped to plug the gap. But we really need to think about quality and the right form of nutrients. And I think this is also where the NHS advice falls a little bit short. So for example, they promote further calcium supplementation. And I’m more in that we’re more in the folate camp, I guess.

Sandra  47:43

So synthetic versus natural forms of all of the supplements. And that’s where the quality comes into snatch, you know, we’re still looking at food, state supplementation as much as you can, removing fillers and things that really shouldn’t be in your supplements. For sure, and I agree with you, I mean, certainly, there are some nutrients that you actually can’t get enough through your diet without exposing yourself to access to toxicity such as omega three fats, we’ve talked about magnesium already, you can’t get enough magnesium, because the soils are so depleted now. And vitamin D is another one that, you know, you, you literally cannot eat enough vitamin D rich foods to get enough. So, you know, and that’s why babies from six month old are? Or is it even from birth now that they’re supposed to be taking vitamin D? And so yeah, there are some things but of course supplements can be very dangerous area to kind of self prescribe as well, because you can get it so wrong. And it can be so detrimental. Absolutely.

Natasha Evans  48:56

And I think just to add two other points, that’s the number one is that we are the age at which we tried to get pregnant was getting older and older. So again, supplements are great for health, great, the supporting mitochondria and other things that might be slipping as you do get older. So trying to combat that sort of the natural ageing that happens like an upgrade. We

Sandra  49:16

do recommend supplements. I wish I didn’t have to, you know, they come with an extra cost extra things to do if it doesn’t feel natural to pop a pill. But they do have a place. Although not before you’ve done all the other steps. Yeah, you can’t shortcut your fertility or sort of you just can’t kind of go because you know, so many people kind of get in touch that day and they go can you just tell me what to take? And it’s like, no, no, no, no, no. You know, we have to fix everything. Yeah,

Natasha Evans  49:50

absolutely. We have to make it into like personalised to you. It would be negligent if we just recommended the same supplements to have One. And one thing I’m a big fan of is genetic testing. Because they, you know, get both pictures to get the picture, basically this position, and then you get the current state of hell. And that really helps us understand how to personalise the cam to you. So we might see, for example, if you’ve got a 20 times higher need for B six, and the average person, that’s an amazing, you know, basically a gene for that an amazing piece of information. And with these modern supplements, we can now actually support you when we would have been able to do that before. So do you think that’s yeah,

Sandra  50:30

that’s so yeah, I agree. And I think particularly with something like vitamin D, you know, you can find out whether you have a high in need, you can find out whether you’re particularly good or bad at actually retaining the vitamin D and your diet, and, you know, all of these things, which governs how much you should take. Yeah, I think that’s really important. So the final step is number nine, which is mindset.

Natasha Evans  50:56

Yeah. So one question I like to ask my clients and connect is, do you believe you can actually get pregnant? And it’s remarkable how many people actually say no, you know, and this could be, maybe they sort of lean on that side of feeling a bit more negative about things in general, maybe they’ve had a really bad fertility journey. So far, maybe they’ve read that they’re too old, or they’ve got a family history of complications there. Or maybe they’re watching all their friends have babies, and that’s taking them a really long time. And now they don’t believe they can get pregnant and the body listens to their mind. So capturing these negative thought patterns, identifying them, and then rewiring your thoughts, I think is a really important aspect of facility, it’s not going to be none of these things are the only thing that’s going to make a difference. But I do think mindset plays a significant role. So I’m not a mindset coach. So in this area, I tend to refer to other people to help my clients optimise their mindset if we think it’s an issue. But some things we have tried in clinic are just really easy things like journaling, to make sense of your thoughts, identify those patterns, therapy, counselling, obviously refer out for that. And nervous system regulation techniques, I think, can be really helpful. And then also, with some of my clients, I’ve just made them choose a mantra, like maybe something like I have the most vital person in the world, or whatever it is, you choose what feels good for you. And they literally get up from bed in the morning, go outside for their morning walk. And they also do put their hands above their head. And they say their mantra a few times, and they feel so silly to begin with. But then they actually mean that one thing has actually changed their mindset. And I think that’s amazing. Just doing like a power stance and choosing your mantra, the one that sort of resonates with you. So yeah, mind, we, you know, largely focus on the body and the way that different things in the body can influence the mind. But I think that mindset is really important that also just make your fertility journey so much more bearable.

Sandra  52:58

Yeah. And I think that, you know, if you’re going into something believing it’s going to fail that you sort of set yourself up, haven’t you? You know, even if you’re thinking, because I recognise that when people come to you, and they go, I don’t think it’s gonna work. But I just want to make, I just want to know that I’ve ticked the box, because I will never forgive myself if I didn’t try everything. And it’s, and it’s like, okay, great, you know, great that you’re here. But let’s, you know, let’s ask some questions. Why, you know, why do you think it’s not going to work and you know, all this sort of, and also just kind of encouraging you to talk to yourself as you would talk to a friend because we can be so disparaging towards themselves. Whereas you would never speak to a friend how you speak to yourself. And I think the mantra mantras can be really, really useful, actually, and just kind of reminding yourself about those negative patterns that, you know, the negative thoughts that you might be telling yourself, but I talked to somebody who’s sort of an expert in that area, and I said, How do you? How do you come up with a mantra, that’s going to be good, you know, because and how, how do you sort of stop yourself from feeling so silly? And she said, that it’s really important that it feels that you can connect with it so that your internal voice isn’t going, No, you’re not. I’m fertile? No, you’re not, you know, or whatever it is. So you know, rather than saying I am fertile, you might want to say, every day I make choices to support my fertility or whatever it might be, you know, I’m making positive choices for to improve my fertile health, you know, and that might feel true to you, and that might then be easier to sort of grasp, but your subconscious mind I suppose. And I’m a huge fan of actually putting these on kind of like a like you said, like a pop up reminder on your phone. Or, you know, I have For my screen thing on my phone is a picture of my favourite beach. And that makes me happy. But you know, just little things to remind you of something that you want to sort of bring more of into your into your daily life. Or it could even be changing your passwords. When every time I put the password in here, you’re getting reminded of something positive.

Natasha Evans  55:20

I never thought that that that’s a great one. Yeah,

Sandra  55:23

I think I mean, I’ve changed all my passwords. And I’m, you know, it’s just, it’s just like, positive reinforcement. And, you know, I don’t know what the stats are. But I think your your brain needs to hear something 12 times more, something positive 12 times more to absorb it than what you know, then a negative comment or, you know, we’re so quick to take on negative comments or negative thoughts. And your your brain is always looking for the evidence, isn’t it? So your brain is looking for your mind is looking for the evidence that you’re fertile. But if he’s got lots of evidence already, that tells you that you’re not, for example, a doctor said to you that there’s something wrong with your eggs or you know, whatever it might be. You kind of have to override that proof that your mind is looking for. Yeah, little tiny reminders every day.

Natasha Evans  56:11

Definitely. Yeah, better times. It’s partly best time to start with yesterday, second best time is today. It’s indisputable

Sandra  56:18

that we’re sort of moving so far away now from our natural state. And, you know, there are so many little things that we can do to bring it back, bring us back into balance and back to us. But I think that modern tech isn’t all bad, either. I mean, there are things we can do to use it to in our favour as well. Absolutely, yeah. We’ll need to go and live in a field.

Natasha Evans  56:46

No, I mean, if you want to live in a cave, go for it. But no, I mean, as I say, I think the assisted reproductive technologies are just absolutely amazing. Like, thank God, we have those. And I guess getting back to nature doesn’t mean we’re rejecting these modern marvels. You know, regardless of whether my clients are trying to conceive naturally or going through IVF, I always get them back to the principles of nature, because I think we also we have the evidence that these, this will optimise their chances, so and then I think testing as well, we didn’t have all this testing before, but now we’re spoilt for choice for the number of tests, we can run connect to find the underlying root cause of what’s going on. Which might surprise people actually, because if you go down the NHS route, or even the IVF clinics, like they don’t do don’t run very extensive testing,

Sandra  57:36

but actually, you can do yeah, there’s so many sophisticated tests that are just not used yet, in the clinics. And I think also, FEM tech is huge now and just the cycle tracking possibilities where you know, when I studied with the foresight Institute, you know, we had a spreadsheet and a basal body temperature thermometer, and you have to like track it manually on a sheet. And, you know, now that’s so simple. And I love how easy it’s become to track ovulation, progesterone, you know, all of this. So? Yeah, for sure. Yeah, bear absolutely amazing. Yeah. Well, thanks so much, Natasha. I just to sort of finish off and how can people get in touch with you? What is the what’s the best way?

Natasha Evans  58:24

Yeah, so Instagrams the best place to reach me, my handle is @nenutrition, one word, or my website is www.nenutrition.co.uk, it’s a little bit out of date, but you can find me on there too. And then there’s also a link on there to download my free guide, which is a 26 page guide to the fertility 360 method. And, you know, I really went into nutrition because I wanted to help people and I actually think that this guide has a lot of information in there. I think it could help. I think for some people, that’s all you’re going to need. For other people it might be a little bit more complex, but definitely go there. Download the guide and let me know what you think.

Sandra  59:04

Thank you so much. Thank you I really enjoyed this chat with Natasha and I hope you enjoyed listening to this episode. Please like share, save and rate this podcast if you found it useful, as it helps us reach more people. And if you’re looking for fertility specialists to support you, our practitioners can be contacted over at www.fertilitynutritioncentre.org. They will offer a free strategy call to help you decide on your best next steps and your journey. Thank you for listening.

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Welcome

The Fertility Nutrition Centre was founded by Sandra Greenbank, an expert in proven nutrition strategies to help couples conceive naturally. After 12 years of helping hundreds of couples successfully conceive naturally, she is making it possible for more couples to receive nutrition consulting by creating a network of nutrition expertswho have committed to a unique and in-depth training program in the field of fertility.