Zita West’s Top Nutrition Tips for a Healthy Conception

Eloise Edington  |   27 Dec 2020

Zita West fertility supplements, nutrition tips & more

When you’re going through fertility treatment, you want to give it your best shot (excuse the pun). We know first-hand how much time, effort, energy and money can be spent ‘getting it right’. So, we’re delighted to hear from world-renowned Zita West (former midwife, fertility acupuncturist and nutritionist), who gives her top tips on holistic wellbeing (nutrition and what to look for in fertility supplements), when trying to conceive.

Years ago, Zita became aware that all of the body’s systems are linked: you need to nourish the body both physically and emotionally for it to work at its best, and this is never truer than when it comes to fertility.

In 2001 she opened the Zita West Clinic in London (fertility clinic), with the specific mission to help support people to get into the best shape possible for fertility and pregnancy. In addition, she created her own range of vitamins and mineral supplements for male and female fertility, pregnancy and the postnatal period. Then, in 2011, they launched their first IVF programme which has gone on to prove incredibly successful.

I (Eloise) personally took Zita’s female fertility supplements throughout my IVF cycles and pregnancies, and it’s brilliant to be sharing her guidance on what to look for – especially if you suffer from PCOS, endometriosis or many other fertility-related issues. Zita is also offering our readers an exclusive discount across all her supplements – read on for the code and to find out her top nutrition tips for a healthy conception.

Over to Zita

www.zitawest.com | @zita.west

I really believe that nutrition lays the foundations for healthy eggs and sperm and that by building key nutrients in the three months before conception, you will get the reserves needed to grow a healthy baby. The maturing egg, sperm, endometrium (womb lining) and foetus depend upon nutrients for development and egg and sperm quality can be improved through nutrition. So, if your diet contains too many environmental endocrine-disrupting chemicals – like trans-fats, refined sugars, or excess additives – or is depleted of nutrients, then research shows an individual’s fertility can be significantly affected.

Most women have problems balancing their blood sugars and, during reproductive years, these are ruled by their moods, foods and hormones. Imbalanced blood sugars play havoc with fertility and hormones: so slow-releasing carbohydrates can help. The way we eat today is typically on the run; often not spending enough time chewing and digesting our food, and eating late into the evening. Eating like this leaves a lot of women with digestive problems because they are not absorbing nutrients properly. It’s an all-too-common feature of modern couples’ hectic lifestyles, in which there are often other sources of stress, too, and stress robs the body of essential nutrients needed for hormone production.

Related Article – Gut Health: Why is the Mediterranean Diet So Good For Fertility?

So What’s Needed for Healthy Conception?

Protein, fats and carbohydrates are needed. Fruit and vegetables are also necessary to protect against free radical damage, to which eggs and sperm are sensitive. Wholesome traditional foods provide a good balance of what you need. There are too many food fads today that exclude some of these key nutritional building blocks – including low-fat foods, as well as foods known to have detrimental effects for fertility.

My Top Tips:

  1. Keep It simple – apply small tweaks over a period of time
  2. Avoid the tyranny of the ‘shoulds’ – it’s important to feel that you’re doing something because you want to, not because you should
  3. Allow yourself treats
  4. Allow yourself to slip up – it’s very hard to be good all of the time.

In an ideal world, we would derive all the nutrients we need from the food that we eat and the lifestyle we live. However, as this ideal becomes increasingly difficult to attain, I think that female and male fertility supplements should form an essential part of any plan when trying to conceive.

The Western population shows an increasing trend towards large-scale deficiencies in iron, folic acid and magnesium; omega-3 fats; and vitamin D. There are two main reasons why. First, modern farming and processing techniques deplete food of essential nutrients. Second, modern lifestyles expose us to more toxins and chronic stress and keep us indoors and away from natural sunlight (which we need to manufacture vitamin D). The net result is that many of us need to take supplements to put our bodies back in balance.

Related Article – 5 Nutrient-Dense Foods for Pre-Conception


A Basic Fertility Supplement Plan

As a baseline, I recommend that both partners supplement with a quality multivitamin and mineral formula, which studies show can increase your chances of conceiving. I also recommend daily supplements of omega-3 fats (EPA and DHA) and perhaps Vitamin D and folate. I also think most people will benefit from a high-quality probiotic, as well as perhaps an iodine supplement (ask your nutritionist to check your iodine levels first).

Use the following to guide you when choosing your products:

  • Multivitamin and mineral formula – As well as all the main vitamins and minerals, this formula should include antioxidants such as vitamins C and E, and the minerals selenium and zinc. Ideally, it should contain at least 100 per cent of the RDV (recommended daily value) of all the main vitamins and minerals. Zita West Vitafem and Vitamen are recommended.

  • Vitamin D – Also called the sunshine vitamin. Vitamin D is manufactured in your skin when you expose it to ultraviolet light. Although there are important reasons why you should use sunblock, not allowing any part of the skin to be exposed to sunlight at any time does diminish your ability to make Vitamin D. In the clinic we find that almost every person we test shows some level of Vitamin-D deficiency. Black and Asian men and women tend to be particularly depleted, as are those who suffer from PCOS, are overweight or have coeliac disease. Spend 10 minutes every day out in the open air with sun on your face, but avoid the hours when the sun is at its hottest.

    Vitamin D supports the immune system and helps build healthy bone and muscle mass. It can improve blood-sugar balance and libido. Some IVF studies showed that women with higher levels in their follicular fluid were more likely to fall pregnant. For the man, higher levels of vitamin D means better sperm motility. Check the levels of vitamin D in your daily multivitamin and then consult a nutritionist or doctor and ask for a blood test to determine whether or not you could take a further vitamin-D supplement.

    Ideally, blood levels should read between 60 and 80nmol/l. At high levels, vitamin D is toxic to your body, so don’t be tempted to supplement if you don’t need to. If your blood levels show that you do need a boost, ensure you take your supplement in the right form. Look for vitamin D3 cholecalciferol, not D2. After supplementing with vitamin D for between two and three months, ask for a further blood test to see if you should continue. Zita West Vitamin D Daily Oral Spray is recommended here.

  • Omega-3 fatty acids (EPA and DHA) – Vital for cell membrane health, lowering inflammation and promoting good prostaglandins, omega-3 fatty acids also improve insulin sensitivity, helping to balance blood-sugar levels. Fish oils are the best source of these essential nutrients, but vegan options are also available. Zita West Vital DHA recommended here.

  • Myo-inositol – super-supplement – Inositol is a term used to refer to a group of naturally occurring carbohydrate compounds that exist in various forms. The most common is myo-inositol. Often sold as a dietary supplement, it can improve insulin sensitivity and it is thought to have many benefits for hormone balance and overcoming reproductive problems. Some studies show that deficiency in this compound is linked to PCOS and that supplementation can help even out otherwise irregular cycles and perhaps even improve egg quality. Zita West Inositol & Folate recommended here.

Related Article – Fertility Specialists – Why Vitamin D is Vital for Immunity and Fertility

Specific Fertility Supplement Requirements

In addition to your basic plan, consider taking the following (according to your symptoms):

For PCOS –

  • Myo-inositol

  • N-acetylcysteine

  • Alpha lipoic acid

  • Chromium

  • Magnesium (Zita West Vitafem Boost includes all)

For Endometriosis –

For Blood-Sugar Balance –

For Stress –

  • B-vitamin complex

  • Phosphatidylserine

  • L-theanine

  • Magnesium

  • Vitamin C (Vitafem Boost and Vitamen Boost 2)

Related Article – Male (In)fertility: Six Recommendations When Trying to Conceive

Which Nutrients to Improve Sperm Quality?

The health of the sperm begins with the health of the semen, which contains 22 different nutrients and is rich in minerals – notably calcium, magnesium, phosphorus and zinc, and vitamins B12 and C.

Every man should ensure his diet provides a good intake of these vital nutrients:

  • Proteins contain amino acids that are essential building blocks for sperm (protein is also an excellent fuel source). Foods containing the amino acids L-arginine, L-carnitine and L-lysine are all important. Those rich in proteins including L-arginine are fish, poultry and red meat, and dairy products. Once in the body, this amino acid helps to produce nitric oxide (NO), which dilates blood vessels and improves circulation. Better circulation to the groin boosts sperm health and increases sperm motility. L-arginine also plays an important role in cell division, immune function and the release of hormones, and good levels may even improve sperm count.

  • Folic acid (a B-vitamin found, for example, in broccoli, Brussels sprouts, peas and chickpeas) is just as important for men as it is for women because it protects the sperm from DNA damage, including having too many or too few chromosomes (known as aneuploidy). A number of nutrients help to improve the quality of sperm. Vitamin D may boost motility, while zinc improves the quality of the seminal fluid and increases sperm count, motility and fertilising capacity, as well as decreasing levels of DNA damage, structural abnormalities and antibodies to sperm that can impair sperm quality.

  • In order to provide sperm with all the energy they need to make their epic journey, men need a good intake of L-carnitine. This amino acid carries high-energy fat compounds into mitochondria cells, where they are burned to release their energy. (Vegans should be aware that plant foods contain no L-carnitine, so must supplement.)

  • Co-enzyme Q10 is another important nutrient for the conversion of food to energy in the cells. It also boosts sperm motility, because the mid-piece of the sperm needs this nutrient specifically to get the sperm moving and sustain energy to the tail to drive the sperm onwards.

  • Omega-3 fatty acids are essential for sperm health for several reasons. They give the sperm flexibility, helping the head to penetrate the egg. In addition, sperm cells must have specific membrane characteristics in order to be able to bind to the membrane of an egg and produce a living embryo. Much of those special characteristics come from the sperm’s high levels of omega-3 fatty acids. Men with poor sperm quality or sperm counts may typically have low levels of omega-3s, or low ratios of omega-3 to omega-6 fats in their semen and sperm-cell composition. Studies indicate that supplementation with omega-3s can improve total sperm count and concentration. One study showed that an omega-3-rich Mediterranean style diet boosted the chances of successful pregnancy in previously infertile couples by a staggering 40 per cent.

  • Finally, antioxidants are a must – a good intake protects the health of the head of the sperm (which contains the DNA).

What Makes a Healthy Egg?

The egg cell – or oocyte – is the largest cell the human body produces. It is 550 times bigger than a sperm cell. The egg cell consists of:

  • The Plasma Membrane – Situated around the cell and composed of lipids (fat cells), the plasma membrane regulates the passage of nutrients and other material in and out of the cell.

  • The Cytoplasm – This fills most of the cell and has sub-units called organelles, which carry out specific cellular functions. For example, organelles called mitochondria are the powerhouse of the cell, providing it with energy; and lysosomes are tiny bags of digestive enzymes that break down waste materials and cellular debris and help keep the cell healthy.

  • The Nucleus – Lying at the centre of the cell, the nucleus contains chromosomes that carry genetic material that will give the baby certain characteristics. In order to be healthy, an egg needs the woman’s body to provide:

    • Good hormonal fuel

    • Balanced blood-sugar levels

    • Good blood flow

    • Lots of antioxidants (and few free radicals)

    • A good range of nutrients, including co-enzyme Q10, a fat-soluble antioxidant essential for energy production; B-vitamins, including folic acid, for the health of the egg cell’s nucleus, its metabolism and its production of DNA (which carries our genetic material); and omega-3 essential fats and phospholipids for a healthy cell membrane.

  • Furthermore, the egg is surrounded by follicular fluid, which also needs to be rich in certain nutrients, including vitamin D, betacarotene and inositol.

Discount off Zita West Supplements

If you’d like to get 10% off the Zita West fertility supplements range, use code TRB10* here.

*TRB10 is valid once per customer only. Excludes subscription purchase. This offer cannot be used in conjunction with any other offer. Zita West terms of the site apply.

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