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Dairy is one of those highly controversial foods that people feel passionately about. The passion is on both sides- those for and those against. I know that I have argued passionately FOR dairy many times in my life when vegans have tried to convince me to give it up. My argument was that dairy is a nutritious “whole food.” When you buy a nice, whole-fat organic dairy product there is usually only one ingredient in the list (i.e., “milk”), with maybe some added calcium or vitamin D. Dairy provides many crucial vitamins and minerals, and it provides lots of fats- something that you need to have plenty of in your diet when trying to conceive. Many websites and “fertility diets” even list it as a “fertility superfood” for this reason.
Unfortunately, for some people, this is an incredibly wrong message. Dairy can actually hurt everyone’s fertility because of the fertility harming toxins it contains, and for people who have lactose intolerance, or a casein (milk) allergy or sensitivity, it can actually cause infertility. It makes me sad to say so. Seriously, I love dairy. I dream about ice cream, pizza, brie cheese, butter, and whipped cream. Like, I have literally dreamt of being surrounded by delicious dairy treats and having to hold back. But I truly beleive that dairy was one of the causes of my infertility, and when I stopped eating it, I got pregnant. Yes, I did a lot of other things (Click here to find out all of them!), but I feel strongly that dairy was hurting my attempts to conceive.
Let’s look at the two ways dairy can hurt your chances of trying to conceive:
- Many, many people are either lactose intolerant or have a sensitivity or allergy to casein. Lactose is a sugar in dairy products, and casein is a protein. For most people, they don’t realize they have this sensitivity. They may suffer from fatigue, an irritable bowel, or other symptoms (see below for more) but may not have made the connection to dairy. The problem is that repeated exposure to a food allergy can set off a whole-body immune response that shuts down fertility. It can lead to lack of ovulation, low quality eggs, recurrent early miscarriage, etc. This has been studied and established as a problem for celiacs and people with gluten issues. Studies of celiacs have also shown that the harm done to the gut from repeated exposure to a food allergy can limit the body’s ability to process nutrients that are critical to create and sustain a pregnancy. Unfortunately, studies on the relationship of other food allergies and fertility haven’t been done- what we do know is that the inflammatory immune response triggered by food sensitivities is harmful to fertility. See the book It All Starts with the Egg for an easy to read literature review on the effect of celiacs on fertility.
- Dairy, all dairy, even the beautiful, organic, local milk that comes in a glass bottle, is loaded with endocrine disrupting phthalates. Multiple studies have shown this (Here is one, here is another, and here is one more. Here is an easy to read Mother Jones article if studies aren’t your thing). I know, it’s awful. I am so, so, so sorry to be the one to tell you this. I wish it wasn’t true. Here’s the problem: the hot milk that flows from the cow travels through soft, pliable, plastic tubing. The heat leaches the toxins from the plastic, and they cling to the high fat content of the dairy. We know that phthalates are linked to infertility in men and women.
The facts are clear- for many people trying to get pregnant, ditching dairy may be necessary. It was absolutely necessary for me. The really, really, really, good news is, that all of this is reversible. Pthalates clear out in a couple weeks once you reduce your exposure. The fertility harming immune-response antibodies that are produced when you are repeatedly exposed to a food allergy (like antiphospholipids) and the infertility causing phthalates all GO AWAY when you stop exposing yourself to the substance. AND your body will start being able to process critical nutrients again as your gut heals. So, if you completely cut out dairy you will heal yourself, reduce your immunological response, reduce the toxins in your system, increase your nutrient intake, and up your chances of a successful pregnancy.
“But,” you say, “Then why does every blog, book, and doctor tell me to drink plenty of whole milk, and eat multiple whole-fat milk products every day while trying to conceive?”
It’s true, most of the world thinks that whole fat dairy is crucial to getting pregnant. But that’s because they never read the actual study that this claim is based on! The SINGLE study on this topic was done in the 1990s, following women from 1991 to 1999, and was published in 2007. It’s a good read if you have time. They did this study because previous research showed that women with problems metabolizing galactose (a sugar in dairy products) and animals fed lots of galactose were more likely to have premature ovarian failure (POF). So, they designed a study that tracked women (via questionnaire) who wanted to get pregnant and who were diagnosed with anovulatory disorder. Already, we have a problem. They didn’t look at all fertility problems (including POF!), instead they just looked at women who had been diagnosed as not ovulating. This means their conclusions are limited to that group of women.
Their results were that the women with anovulatory disorder who consumed higher amounts of high fat dairy products were more likely to get pregnant than women who consumed high amounts of low fat dairy products. The difference was even more significant for women who consumed high amounts of low-fat sherbert and frozen yogurt.
You see the problem?
- They only looked at women with anovulation disorder. That means that all the women with other problems, including hormonal imbalance, high FSH, PCOS, implantation problems, diminished ovarian reserve, etc., were excluded from the analysis and the conclusions can’t be extended.
- While they did control for some lifestyle and health factors, they couldn’t control for all of them. They admit in their article that it is possible that the women eating low-fat dairy were those with worse health or infertility diagnoses and as such, their doctors might have told them to start eating a low fat diet (which was totally the health rage in the 1990s). Thus, it might have been their prognosis, and not their diet which was really linked to the increased infertility.
- In the 1990s low-fat foods were spiked with crazy amounts of sugar. They still are today, but at least you can find unsweetened options (sometimes). Given that the results were even more pronounced for those eating large amounts of low fat sherbert and frozen yogurt, it seems possible that the high sugar content is what was really driving the outcomes. The link between sugar, insulin spikes, and reduced fertility is well established. Again, It All Starts with the Egg has a great literature review on all the related scientific studies.
- The inflammation that occurs in the body after repeated exposure to a food allergy/intolerance/sensitivity and the harm that insulin spikes and phthalates from processing can cause to your system aren’t particularly linked to anovulation. They are linked to lowered egg and sperm health, implantation problems, early miscarriage, and chemical pregnancies.
I’m not saying the researchers did a bad job- I actually think their study is relatively tight for a non-experimental design. The problem is that everyone and their mother read some press release when it was published in 2007, and repeated republishing since, and concluded that hands-down whole fat dairy is good for fertility. There is so little real research on human subjects with regard to fertility diets, that people grabbed this immediately and stuck it in their “fertility superfood” lists. When I read this study I think, “Women who are not ovulating need to increase their nourishment. One way to do this is to eat large quantities of high fat dairy.” I also think, “Huh, those low-fat, high-sugar dairy foods are always a problem!” I don’t think, “We all need to chug 4 glasses of whole milk each day to increase our fertility.”
“But,” you say, “How do I know if I have a lactose or casein sensitivity or allergy?”
Good question! Approximately 65% of the human population has a lactose intolerance. I couldn’t find a reference for how many people have a casein sensitivity or allergy.
Symptoms of a lactose intolerance include: belching, bloating, diarrhea, frequent stools, frequent loose stools, fat in stool, indigestion, flatulence, nausea, or stomach cramps.
Symptoms of a casein sensitivity/allergy are the same as above PLUS: wheezing, rashes, eczema, psoriasis, fatigue, irritable bowel syndrome, congestion, watery eyes, runny nose, joint pain, and behavioral changes. In severe cases of a milk allergy, symptoms can include itchy throat, hives, difficulty breathing, and vomiting (see a doctor ASAP and carry an epipen).
Symptoms of long-term exposure to a food sensitivity result in an immunological reaction. Symptoms may include: migraines, digestive issues (including constipation & diarrhea), weight gain and loss, joint pain, skin outbreaks, fatigue, and other symptoms usually associated with poor gut health.
Ew. I know. This is totally TMI but the reason I found out I was lactose intolerant was because I was seeing a gastroenterologist for something else and he asked about my stool frequency. I was like, “oh, about 8 times a day.” He looked at me like I was crazy. It turns out that ISN’T normal (haha I had no idea :-). Once a day is normal. I started eating all lactose-free dairy, and low lactose dairy foods like cheddar cheese and butter. I dropped to 4 times a day. When I finally cut out all dairy I dropped to once a day- bingo.
When I quit dairy I also lost about five pounds and my blood pressure dropped. I stopped have allergy symptoms in the spring, and my chronic neck tension lessened significantly. Pretty clear signs for ME that I need to avoid dairy.
If you have an intolerance, sensitivity, or allergy to dairy products, you absolutely need to 100% avoid all dairy while trying to conceive. This means NEVER cheating, and being very careful when you go out to eat- be sure to ask for your eggs to be fried in something other than butter, for example.
“I don’t have any of those symptoms,” you say, “Do I need to quit dairy?”
Maybe, maybe not. If you are just starting to try to get pregnant, then don’t worry, and just enjoy yourself. However, if you’ve been struggling with various “infertility” diagnoses or have repeated early losses or problems with egg health, then you might want to consider ditching dairy and see if it helps. You’ll be able to tell fairly quickly (in a month or two) if you have a lactose or casein issue because you will feel better. However, you won’t feel a difference from lowered phthalate levels. Since phthalates are linked to egg health and early loss, if you have those problems, consider ditching dairy.
However- if you don’t have an intolerance or sensitivity issue, and you are super skinny, need to gain weight, and aren’t ovulating, then you should probably keep high-fat, non-added sugar, dairy in your fertility diet, and reduce phthalate exposure everywhere else you can.
My Story: Giving Up Dairy & Getting Pregnant
Unfortunately for me (and probably you), it was all too easy to follow those “fertility diets” that are all over the internet. I hadn’t read this study, and no one had suggested otherwise, so for almost all of the two years that I tried to conceive I ate a diet that included lots of whole-fat milk and other dairy. I thought I was doing the right thing! As you know, I had incredibly high FSH, endometriosis, repeated chemical pregnancies/early miscarriages, and diminished ovarian reserve.
It wasn’t until I reached my moment of real commitment to my baby journey AND I had multiple healers (two acupuncturists, two books, and Julia Indichova of Fertile Heart) all suggest I try quitting dairy that I decided to go for it. It wasn’t really for the evidence based reasons I outlined above- I didn’t know those yet. Here is why I quit dairy before I had the evidence above:
- I spent time with my body. I listened to it. I had been lactose intolerant for years , but I had never stopped eating dairy- I just took the lactose pills when I ate it, or bought lactose-free dairy. But as I spent time really thinking about how my body reacted to dairy, I knew, deep down, that dairy was hard on my digestion.
- I began googling the harmful effect of gluten intolerance on fertility, and then I started to google about milk protein “casein” allergies and sensitivities. I began to think that I might have a casein sensitivity in addition to the lactose intolerance I had known about for years.
- My traditional chinese medicine (TCM) diagnoses was kidney yang deficiency, blood stasis, and cold uterus. Dairy products were not advised for my condition.
- I began to realize that while some foods nourished my whole body, others took so much energy to digest that they stole energy from my reproductive system. I started to think that maybe dairy took energy away from my body.
- Julia Indichova, and a number of other women who struggled with high FSH and egg quality issues became pregnant after quitting dairy (among other dietary choices).
- My acupuncturist was like “You feel gross after eating ice cream but you still do it???” She looked at me like I was crazy. Point taken, lady.
I’m not going to lie, giving up dairy was difficult. It was probably the hardest choice I made when I decided to go “All-in” and implement the To Make a Mommy Fertility Diet. Harder than giving up caffeine, sugar, or anything else! I love dairy. I feel like cheese makes life better.
But, you know what is even better than cheese? That sweet little baby holding your hand as they drift off to sleep.
Long story short (err, long), I eliminated dairy and I felt better than ever. With that choice, and other dietary and mind-body efforts, I was pregnant in under three months. I strongly believe that dropping dairy was crucial to my personal baby journey, and that I am happier and healthier for it.
After you get pregnant you’ll have to decide for yourself if you will start dairy again or if you will maintain a dairy-free diet to protect your growing baby. I have stayed completely dairy free except for the occasional smidge of butter. This is mostly because I worry about the potential inflammation and I don’t want my baby to have problems with lactose or casein like I did. There is some evidence that a mother’s immune response to an allergy can be passed to her child during pregnancy or while breastfeeding.
Don’t hesitate. The time is now. Ditch dairy and let your body begin healing itself and cleansing itself of toxins. You owe it to yourself and your future baby.
“But,” you say, “What do I use instead?”
The good news is that we live in a time when dairy substitutes are abundant, and are getting healthier and healthier! You have lots of options. Just be sure to get plenty of saturated fat and Vitamin D which are both crucial to fertility, and plenty of calcium, which is crucial for YOUR health overall.
For Milk Substitutes: Always pick an unsweetened substitute milk that doesn’t have “carrageenan” in the ingredient list. I know, it sounds like it’s just a seaweed, but it’s actually linked to high cholesterol and other heart and health problems. Also watch out for things like Oat Milk that have a naturally high sugar count. I try to avoid the prepackaged cartons sitting on the shelves because they usually have more preservatives. I opt for the substitute milks in the refrigerated milk/organic section of my local grocery stores. I love So Delicious Unsweetened Coconut Milk and Silk Unsweetened Original Cashew Milk. I think the coconut milk is sweeter and yummier, but the cashew milk is naturally creamier.
For Cream Substitutes: The little cartons of So Delicious Culinary Coconut Milk are AMAZING. Get the full fat versions. I put them in my coffee substitute (Dandy Blend), in my fertility smoothies, make whipped cream out of them, and use them anytime a recipe calls for creaminess. They are great in Indian or Thai food as well. Remember to avoid the canned coconut milk, even the ones that say “BPA-free” because of the other phthalates present.
For Butter Substitutes: For topping bread or popcorn, I use a high quality extra virgin olive oil. For cooking, we don’t use olive oil because it loses many of its health benefits under high heat. (Just watch out for all the fake olive oils out there!) We prefer avacado oil (we get this kind for cheap at BJs) which has a very high smoke point, or extra virgin coconut oil, because of its many health benefits. Just be sure to buy your oils in glass jars so you don’t have them sitting in plastic and leaching phthaltes for months! Also, for very special occasions when you are NOT trying to get pregnant, ghee is clarified butter and all of the casein and most of the lactose is removed. I was about three months pregnant when Thanksgiving came along, and we used ghee as a way to calm my nerves but still make a yummy uncompromised dinner for everyone else.
For Cheese Substitutes: This one is harder. You can make your own cheese from cashews but I’ve never done this (always on my to-do list). You can buy cheese substitutes at the store and some of them taste okay, but I honestly think they are a little gross and I get weirded out by all the ingredients. The one thing I LOVE is nutritional yeast, which tastes cheesy, and works great in a fake cheese sauce, or sprinkled over popcorn! This is what I use, but I’m sure any brand would work.
For Ice Cream Substitutes: The good news is there are options for completely unsweetened coconut and almond ice creams out there that you should be able to find at a well stocked grocery store or health food store. The bad news is that these are still COLD and you should avoid cold foods while trying to get pregnant according to traditional chinese medicine (i.e., acupuncturists).
For Calcium + Vitamin D supplementation: Drink plenty of milk alternatives which are loaded with calcium and vitamin D, and take a chewable calcium supplement. Watch out! Most of the supplements are loaded with crap. Even though the Adora Dark Chocolate calcium chews have a little sugar, they are free from other harmful additives and preservatives. I take one a day and get my chocolate fix from it.
“But,” you say, “All of these come in cartons that are lined with wax or plastic, right? Are they still safe?”
Excellent question, reader. I’m so glad you are thinking about the possible toxins lurking in your food products that might hurt your health. It’s a scary world we live in. We know that straight up plastic containers and any kind of canned good will be laden with phthalates which harm fertility. That is why it’s important to switch over everything in your kitchen to glass or stainless (I’m working on a post for that, don’t worry).
Unfortunately, these tetra paks and cardboard milk cartons are not completely safe. Basically anything made with paper that holds a liquid will be lined with a plastic. These are unfortunately usually petroleum based. The good news is that the food-grade polyethylene that is used to coat these cartons has never shown any leaching of phthalates into the liquids UNLIKE the materials used in can goods or straight-up plastic cartons for liquids. Additionally, the food grade low-density polyethlyene (LDPE) used in tetra paks has been tested and shown to not contain BPA, nonylphenol, or phthalates. This is considered a “safe” plastic. Now, I’m not sure I will ever completely trust plastic around my food. BUT, if you need a milk substitute in your life, these are much, much, much, better alternatives than dairy or canned coconut milk. If you have the time and are so inspired you can make your own cashew or coconut milks from scratch and store it in glass containers. Unfortunately, these will not be fortified with calcium or vitamin D, so you will need to figure out another source for those. Leafy greens will not cover the amount of calcium you need in preparing for pregnancy.
Someday, if I don’t have a job and have time to spend turning coconuts into milk every day for my family, I will. But until then, I’m going to buy a carton each week from BJs for $2.79!
Are you ready to quit dairy? Are you crying already thinking about life without cheese? Leave us a comment telling us your plans! It’s easier to commit when your commitment is public!
Are you ready to discover YOUR perfect fertility diet?
Tired of all the conflicting fertility diet information? It is up to YOU to take control of your fertility journey and do the research to figure out YOUR perfect fertility diet. I've developed this free e-book as a guide to jumpstart the process. It includes tailored diet information for many infertility diagnoses, such as PCOS, Endometriosis, Anovulation, Luteal Phase Defect, Thyroid Problems, Fibroids, Unexplained Infertility, and more! It is completely free to download! Enjoy!
Oh sure I am scared. But honestly you are giving me hope and especially about the question I had asked myself about the cartons and the layers inside. Thank you so much for this blog! I am reading everything like a bookworm since yesterday.
What also gave me a good feeling is the ghee, because I am preparing it at home. It’s so delicious and healthy und way more cheaper.
Once again thank you and hopefully your keep going on giving us those experiences and all the knowledge you have.
Carol- I’m so glad you are enjoying the blog!!! I will keep writing– although I’m posting a bit slower than I hoped when I started. Be sure to sign up for the newsletter so you don’t miss a new post! And good on you for making the ghee at home!! Some day we’ll do that 🙂 -Anna
Definitely giving up dairy! I’m almost two months in, the only dairy I’ve had is butter, and now you are reminding me to give that up too
You’ve got this Liz!! In general people feel that ghee is okay because it doesn’t have casein or lactose, but out of an overabundance of caution I avoided it all completely when I got pregnant, and am doing the same now. Bring on the coconut oil! – Anna
Hi Anna, I’m so happy I found your blog. I’d like to ask if Greek yoghurt is considered as dairy. I am starting to read all your posts and I am sure it could help us big in our journey to natural fertility. Keep on sharing!
I’m so happy you found my blog too! 🙂 I really hope it does inspire you and help you on your journey!!
Unfortunately Greek yoghurt is definitely dairy and should be avoided if you are trying to go dairy free. Maybe you can find a sugar free coconut yoghurt if you really would miss it? If not, try swapping some nice organic free range eggs for your morning yoghurt! You’ll get your protein, your omega 3s and DHA, and feel great! 🙂
Thanks Anna. I can ditch the dairy, I know I can (feeling determined) even though we also love butter ?Also sugar & carb-these two I started to remove about 1 month ago. I actually feel good because I’m giving my body proper nourishment for fertility. I had heart2heart talk with DH and he’s also into it but I told him he could still eat some when he is at work. We were also discussing about how to deal about our new diet when we we get to be invited to parties or when we visit our families. DH suggested that we should be open with it so that people we care could also be educated. And maybe to be polite, we can simply take a very small piece to taste it. We hope they will all understand. Godbless Anna.
If you are desperate for a butter fix you can try ghee. Supposedly it has no lactose or casein so it should be safe. I was too nervous to use it while trying to get pregnant (an “overabundance of caution” is the nice way to say it), but I did use it after the third trimester!
Good job ditching sugars and carbs!!! That is huge!! It is SO hard when visiting families. Sometimes I just say, “Oh, I’m on this crazy no-sugar no-simple carb diet again!” Sometimes I try to stay under the radar.
Thank you for all your info and experience on your blog. I was wondering if this counts for woman (like me) who milk their own cows by hand and does not feed any grains? and make butter, cheese, yoghurt, ice cream, etc. with it. Do we still cut this out?
So cool that you milk your own cows! Some women find that they can tolerate raw, organic cow’s milk. It really is a personal decision you’ll have to make based on your own fertility diagnoses, your health, and the way your body reacts to dairy. Why don’t you try eliminating dairy for a month and see what happens? If you notice no difference, maybe you are fine with it. If you feel better, or lose weight, or your skin clears up, or something like that, then you might want to stay off dairy while trying to conceive. Good luck! Baby dust!!
I’m so glad I found your blog . Me and my husband have been ttc for almost four years now, we fall in the unexplained infertility category. We’ve tried multiple IUIs , clomid, IVF and three FETs . Even though my body responds well to all the meds and I’m perfectly healthy I still end up having chemical pregnancies.
I’m reading your blog posts and implementing all these lifestyle changes. Already organized my kitchen , thanks to you!!! I want to thank you for sharing all this information and your personal journey . Your journey has inspired me to move forward .
Angel- I’m so glad you found it also!! I am so sorry for your struggle. I feel strongly that we owe it to ourselves and our babies to do absolutely everything we possibly can to prepare our homes and bodies for healthy pregnancies. We’re also getting our homes ready to be healthy for children no matter how they come to is! Stay inspired! Go read some of the success stories at Fertile Heart if you haven’t already- lots of women getting pregnant after multiple failed attempts!
Anna, you mentioned swapping out eggs for yogurt. If going on a dairy free diet, should I cut out eggs also? I love eggs.
Melody- Eggs are fantastic fertility foods, and not dairy!! Keep eating them!!! 🙂 Baby dust, Anna
I’m allergic to tree nuts and peanuts. I believe I’m also allergic to coconut, but drink it from time to time. I am lactose intolerant. According to your article, it seems the milk substitutes won’t work for me. What do you suggest as an alternative?
What rough allergies!! I’ve seen rice and quinoa milks, but they always have sugar. Maybe you just need to focus on nourishment through meat, vegg, whole grains, and some nice berries, and skip the milk alternatives? The milk alternatives are really for pleasure and calcium, not really for nourishment.
Be well & baby dust!!
Hello, does this still apply for locally sourced raw milk and cheeses?
Yes, unfortunately. Here’s the deal- there are some people who are able to tolerate raw milk and cheese, but are unable to tolerate the processed stuff. But for those of us with lactose or casein intolerance, it doesn’t matter whether its organic, non-organic, raw, not-raw, local, or not-local. It will cause an inflammatory response. 🙁 There are many women, however, whose intolerance is to the processed dairy- so you can try and see what works for you!
Makes sense. Thank you!
My husband and I have been trying to get pregnant for 3 years now, we are diagnosed with secondary unexplained infertility. We have tried medications and have had 4 failed iui’s and we are taking a break before doing IVF. We cannot figure out why we can’t get pregnant and neither can the doctors, but we are starting to look into what we eat and exercise. Both of our tests are normal but I was having tons of stomach issues years ago and was diagnosed with being lactose intolerant. I drink lactose free milk, and still eat dairy in my life and take a pill. After reading your blog, it makes total sense like you said “why eat something that is harming your body, the pill doesn’t help.” You are right and I do love cheese but I am going to take it one day at a time and go dairy free. I hope that it works and we can finally have another child, thank you for your blog!!
I hope it works too!!! Better to avoid all lactose and casein and let any inflammation in your body calm down. I hope you get some happy news soon!!!!
How long was it before you quit dairy and became pregnant?
I quit dairy in July and got pregnant in September. In August I started doing 78 other things though, so there’s no guarantee it was just the dairy. I think given my level of infertility challenges it was important for me to do a whole bunch of things! Here is the link to my 79 Things in case you haven’t found it : https://www.tomakeamommy.com/79-diet-lifestyle-changes-made-get-happy-healthy-pregnant/
Thanks for thia info Anna! I cut out most dairy in my diet but still eat Organic Greek Yogurt. I’ve heard it’s not as bad as other dairy foods. What are your thoughts?
Hi Laura! Even though it has so many benefits, it still has the lactose and casein which could be causing inflammation. There are a lot of very healthy foods that are highly problematic for some people— you just need to think about what is best for you!!
Hi Anna, thanks for your blog! We have had many challenges in the past 1.5 years of TTC including two missed (or silent) miscarriages which were both found to be chromosomal but random chromosomal, so ‘really bad luck’ to quote the doctors. I have been advised to give up dairy and gluten from my acupuncturist as I’ve also been recently told I have adenomyosis which may be an inflammation issue, it may also be genetic. My question is whether my husband should also give up dairy and/or gluten, particularly if the dairy as you mention contains the endocrine disrupting phthalates. I don’t want to be overkill, he is already struggling with no alcohol, limited coffee etc, so interested in your thoughts on this. Thanks again! Anna
Hi Anna! It all depends on his health. My husband was very healthy, balanced (according to Chinese Medicine) and had good semen analysis results. So there was no reason for him to give up diary or gluten. In fact I made sure he ate plenty of dairy and meat because they provide the right nutrients for making sperm! However, if your husband has any kind of chronic illness that might be related to inflammation or gut health, and if his semen analysis isn’t great, then you might think about him doing something like a Whole30 (which would include eliminating dairy and gluten) and see if you can find a great diet for him. Does that make sense? Of course, I’m not a doctor, naturopath, or acupuncturist, just someone who reads a lot about fertility. The other stuff- booze, caffeine, those are great to limit or eliminate because we have actual research that shows its bad for all men when TTC. BABY DUST!!
Thanks, that makes complete sense! Keep up the great work. 🙂
I have suffered from Asthma and allergies/ nasal congestion most of my life. Giving up dairy/ cow’s milk has helped me so much. I love cheese so I still eat goat cheese on occasion since it does not contain casien. Is this okay? I have made some significant changes in the last 6 months, but still TTC almost two years now.
I love this blog. It has so much information!
Angie, I am so glad kicking dairy has helped so much!!!! Personally I avoided the goat cheese since it does still have some casein- just a different kind, the A2. Some people can process it, some can’t. Why not just take a pause and have it again after baby? 🙂 xoxo Anna
I had tested my casein and lactose intolerance levels and they are less than 2 while the lab value is less than 5. It seems i m border line to cow milk but anyway I use mainly goat cheese.
Do you think there s a particular reason to quit dairy although I have no intolerance?
My endocrinologist told me to cut sugar as it seems I m not doing great metabolising it. However, I m far from diabetes.
Your endocrinologist is giving you good advice if you are trying to conceive. There would only be 2 other reasons to cut dairy- 1-to reduce your sugar load and insulin response and 2-to avoid the hormones in conventional dairy. So if you did organic dairy and stayed away from things with lots of sugar (like milk or ice cream or yogurt) and stuck to things like hard cheese instead which have barely any sugar you might be fine. It’s all about how you feel! That’s awesome you got the testing done!!!
Just a litle clarification (because I have an issue with sugar metabolism… non sweet dairy doesn t affect insulin levels, right? I use yogurt but with no sugar or flavors :/
Marie, this is not an area I’ve researched in detail. I would look at whatever the sugar count is in the ingredients- even if it is naturally occurring sugar in unsweetened dairy it will still affect your insulin levels. So it would all be about how much you are eating and how much sugar is listed on the side. Does that make sense? 🙂
First, this blog is nice and so many of us are thankful you are sharing your story and advice. However, I find it hard to believe that the only way I’ll ever conceive and carry to term is if I only eat nuts, berries, veggies, and lean meats occasionally. I’m 41, we’ve been trying for 5 years, by some miracle we got pregnant recently (naturally), then miscarried at 6 wks. I’m very healthy, only weigh 106 lbs, and very regular and normal bathroom schedule–mostly once a day, occasionally twice but rare (TMI). I have always eaten healthy, but have implemented cutting out pastas, white breads, as much sugar as I can, cereal’s(except for oatmeal), coffee now which sucks, and I’ve cut out as much dairy as I can. But, to cut out greek yogurt, butter (which I only use in the morning usually), and have to worry about what foods carried in containers carry phalates, this is going over the edge. I feel like I can’t even live life, walking on egg shells with every little thing: make up, food, deodorant, now cleaning supplies and my own home. Can I even breathe the air around me? I mean it feels like that, that the only way I will ever get pregnant is to basically stop everything and never leave the house, never eat anywhere but home and only eat nuts, berries, and grains. The stress of this alone is enough to keep me from getting pregnant again. And I was a crazy healthy eater to begin with.
Hi Shannon! I’m so sorry for your recent loss! My 6 week miscarriage was emotionally brutal and it took a lot of mind-body work for me to get into a better place. I hope that you are able to take the time to take care of yourself emotionally!
Now to your points…
Okay, that was definitely not all I ate!! I have obviously failed as a blogger/writer if thats what it seems like! My husband jokes that I’m the only person he knows who goes on a “diet” and eats more calories than they did before. When I calculate them, they are usually like 2500 calories a day when I’m doing a good fertility diet! Also, I never went full on Paleo or Whole30- I’ve always allowed SOME grains, especially organic brown rice and quinoa. I just feel better with them. Some people can’t tolerate them, I’m lucky I’m not one of them. I also eat a ton of protein. With my first pregnancy it was less meat and more lentils, beans, and eggs. I’m talking like all three every day. Plus a ton of healthy fats- an avacado a day, tons of olives (the calories in those guys really add up!), and a lot of high calorie coconut products. WIth this second pregnancy I had read the new research on protein intake and realized that no amount of beans and lentils was going to get me there, so I ate a lot more meat- like one serving of organic chicken or turkey every day, plus red meat once a week. My body likes meat. Some women can’t eat meat, it makes them sick, ups their FSH, etc. (like Julia Indichova of Fertile Heart). So in the end, my strongest belief is that each women needs to take control of their health and fertility journey by figuring out the ideal diet for THEM. Heck, for some women, high-fat dairy really IS a fertility food! Just definitely not for me. Okay enough on dairy. On to the stress . . .
So the more I blog and hear from readers the more I think there are at least 2 kinds of personalities. I don’t know if it corresponds to traditional Type A and Type B, but I think it might. So, BEFORE I started doing ALL THE THINGS I was doing like 80/20. And I was a miserable, depressed, stress-ball. I sobbed, I visibly shook when we visited the RE, all I could think about was my “infertility” and the failure of my body. When I did ALL THE THINGS at 100% I was happy. In control. I knew I was doing absolutely everything I positively could. Anything I didn’t have control of (The air, other people’s perfumes, etc.), I just “gave up to God.” I just had to read all the research, figure it out, and DO IT. Plus, I had the added bonus of a limited time period- my doc would only work with my for a few months before limiting me to donor eggs. I could do ANYTHING for 3-4 months. Of course I was also doing a ton of mind-body work, so its hard to know if the happiness came from that instead of feeling “in control” or if it was a combination of both. I find that about half my readers are like me- once they implement ALL THE THINGS they feel empowered, happy, and in control.
BUT the other half of my readers freak the f out. Its too much, its too stressful, and they feel like you do- like they can’t even leave the house. This causes them to never really commit, and do things like eat great for 3 weeks and then get super drunk one weekend and eat Papa John’s, fried chicken, and Dunkin Donuts. It seems like the emotional overload it is the worst for women who are trying naturally open-ended (willing to go on and on for years), or for those who have already been doing 80% for years while having failed IUIs and IVFS, but their doctors keep pushing them for more treatments. It feels like it will never end. I think this is why many health coaches and fertility coaches recommend a balanced 90/10 or 80/20 approach. But that doesn’t work for ME. 80/20 stresses me out. I feel like I’m constantly failing. It might work for YOU. I don’t know :-).
Now on to the most important part of my blog, which most people don’t read :-)- the mind-body work. People grab on to things like diet, plastics, and supplements because you can just throw things out or go to the store and buy them. It seems like readers’ eyes glaze over when I start talking about daily meditation, visualization, yoga, prayer, etc. Some are more open to acupuncture because they can buy it and schedule it. But setting up your OWN personal mind-body practice is something most people don’t do. Even though, I truly believe for many of us it is actually the MOST important thing. MORE important than diet, supplements, and plastics. I’m not saying everyone has to pray or do yoga- you have to figure out what works for you. But the science is pretty clear that 15-20 minutes a day of deep body relaxation + visualization can make amazing things happen. I was doing over an hour a day of mind-body work (not counting acupuncture, yoga, or walking) when I first conceived, and about 20-30 minutes a day when I conceived the second time. PLUS a regular gratitude and mindfulness practice. I know it sounds like a lot. But, I’m kind of crazy. And I truly believe that all this didn’t just help me get pregnant successfully twice, but that it also helped me get healthy (my borderline blood pressure stays at beautiful levels, I’ve lost weight, I feel better, rashes and acne have gone away, I rarely get sick, etc.), and it helped me become a happier person. I used to be a person dominated my anxiety– now I have like a dozen ways to deal with it so I can nip it in the bud and stay happy and relaxed.
Does all that make sense? I think I do a bad job of clarifying that my journey was what worked for ME and might not work for everyone. I should go through and make sure there is a sentence in each post saying that!!
I wish you all the baby dust in the world. Be well!!
Do you think that cream and butter would be okay from our cow??? This is something I am really wondering about.
How cool that you have a cow!! The answer is- I don’t know, because I don’t know what your body needs! If it was *me* then no, I couldn’t do the cream or butter. But if I clarified the butter and turned it into ghee I could. You can make ghee yourself and it generally has no casein or lactose. Butter has a tiny bit. Cream has less lactose than milk, but plenty of casein. So it all depends on you and your body, and if you think dairy might be giving you an inflammatory reaction! And if you aren’t sure and don’t want to risk it, then skip it, or just use clarified butter!
I should’ve read this first. Thanks!
Your blog is amazing. Not trying yet but preparing my body for it. So far generally healthy. Tapered off caffeine. I don’t drink alcohol. Now I am lactose intolerant, but I don’t drink cow’s milk, but I do eat cheese yogurt, but now this makes so much sense!! I’m gonna give up dairy too! Thanks so much for the info! Love the blog about the saints as well. Twice I prayed to st Anthony for something missing and they both showed up!! My husband was in shock!! So I will keep praying to him. Thank you!
You are so welcome my dear!!! Great job ditching dairy, and I hope you find joy praying with the saints. Glad you found the blog and baby dust to you!!
Hi I enjoyed reading your article, I suffer every time I have dairy products, I was drinking oat milk and I stopped because I have pcos and pre-diabetes. I was wondering is almond milk ok to have? I also have Hashimoto’s.
Hi Anna! I have found that different milks works for different women- you just need to listen to your body. I like unsweetened coconut milk myself, because at least I’m getting a little fat!
I’m turning 36 in 7 months, and my FSH is 12. The other blood test (AMH I think?) came back very promising she said, and non of the tests suggest any other problems. It seems like it’s just about quality. My lifestyle and diet are already very good (we’re both active, whatever food I can make from scratch I will, we get local food from local growers, and we’re also setting up our own large veggie garden this summer). I do have a dairy allergy that for years I’ve been ignoring – mostly because I don’t consume very much of it so have never had many symptoms – do you think I can still conceive if I give it up completely? We’ve been together for 3 1/2 years and have never used contraceptive (have only been timing ovulation for about a year to a year and a half though). Can I really make better quality eggs before it’s too late???? I also know I need to calm the f down most of the time. I used to do a lot of music therapy when I was in my 20’s – perhaps I need to get back to that 🙂
Wow this has been an eye opener. I will definitely be giving up dairy. I made majority if the changes in the book ‘it starts with an egg’, except for dairy. Just had my 3rd failed IVF, this time round i got as far as embryo transfer but a BFN. So will continue with all the changes AND cut out diary. I will be reading your blogs like a book worm. I also have high FSH 16 and low AMH 2.6. So i am concentrating on improving egg quality.
Thank you for sharing the information with us.
SO glad the blog was helpful! Have you cut out gluten as well? And did you get the updated second edition of It Starts With the Egg? If you haven’t, grab it, there are some great updates! Baby dust!! https://amzn.to/2pmqH8J
Hi, Anna! I am loving your blog. I was just tested with an AMH of .25, so after I cried, I found your site. I ate/ drank tons of dairy before I got pregnant with my 3 year old. We barely had to try, and he was a super-healthy baby. Now, I’m 42 and have been trying for the 2nd one for a year. How can I tell if dairy would help or hurt me?
This is such a tough question. Here’s an idea- why don’t you cut it out completely for a month and see if you feel any different? Blessings on your baby journey!!
Thanks for the good work. Please can one eat bread.
Any specific ingredients to watch out for in dairy-free items? Looked at my Almond milk today and say “gellan gum”. Is this fertility/pregnancy safe?
Hi, Anna! I’m definitely glad that I came across your helpful blog!! I have been married for more than 3 years and I don’t get pregnant though I have been to 3 doctors. Perhaps the reason is being lactose intolerant. Unfortunately, my husband and I both suffer from this but we loovee dairy food. So, may I know if Yakult is also a dairy food that I need to avoid? I’d really appreciate a reply for you. Thanks again, Anna! Keep writing. ❤️
What about raw milk from your own grass-fed cow? If you milk into a glass jar? Is that still compromising for fertility?
I looked at the ingredients in the chocolate calcium supplement you mentioned: “Adora Dark Chocolate calcium chews”. It contains soy as an emulsifier. Is this an exceptable amount? Do you have a different alternative? Thank you for the help!
Ingredients from amazon link
Ingredients: Chocolate liquor, sugar, calcium carbonate, cocoa butter, magnesium oxide, soy lecithin (an emulsifier), vanilla, vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol, derived from lanolin).