The magic of Soy Isoflavones for fertility

This is an insanely geeky but awesome post have been warned

SOY?  Over the past 10 years, the tiny little soybean, has gotten some bad press in the real food / Paleo world but, when used correctly, soy can be an AMAZING tool to help women with irregular cycles or absent ovulation conceive or regain their ovulatory cycles again. 

In many real food communities (paleo/ whole 30/ keto) , soy is labelled as a food that should be avoided or outright banned from our kitchens.

Why? This is partially due to the predominance of GMO, non organic farming practices but it's also due to it's high phytate content, status as a thyroid blocker and potent phytoestrogen content. Phytoestrogens, when consumed regularly can wreak havoc on the hormonal system and for some women, can even cause infertility when consumed in high levels daily

Briefly, phytoestrogens are a variety of estrogen found in plants. Other foods that contain phytoestrogens besides soy include flax, and in lesser quantities chickpeas, hops and even olive oil. Unfortunately, phytoestrogens do not exactly resemble the body’s natural estrogen. Soy can preferentially bind to and transactivate estrogen receptor-β (ER-β) — rather than ER-α — mimicking the effects of estrogen in some tissues and antagonizing (blocking) the effects of estrogen in others. This makes the effect they have on health complicated and very unique. Phytoestrogens can disrupt the natural estrogen balance in the body causing or worsening a pre-existing hormonal imbalance OR enhancing or re-balancing a system that is out of whack. If you think you may have a hormonal imbalance, consider working with a  practitioner skilled in this area or send me a message. This is what I do :) Hormone imbalance is A HUGE topic and worthy of it's own post (or three).  You can also check out the Hormones and fertility module of Baby Making and Beyond, it’s a gem.

Let's get back to using soy for FERTILITY....

Snapshot from a healthy cycle  At the beginning of your cycle (day 1), you naturally have low levels of estradiol (E2) and progesterone. These low hormone levels keep GnRH (the hormone that signals your body to produce LH and FSH)  pulses from your hypothalamus to a minimum. This small amount of GnRH results in low FSH (follicle stimulating hormone)  production by the pituitary and follicles in a resting state. As the cycle continues day by day, E2 declines further. It is this sharp decrease that triggers the removal of the “negative feedback” control that E2 has been exerting on the hypothalamus and pituitary, and the FSH levels now rise. The increase in FSH starts the process of dominant follicle selection, and the journey to ovulation. 

Women don't ovulate for a variety of reasons. PCOS, obesity, low body fat, Hypothalamic Amenorrhea, stress or travel can all cause a disruption of the hormonal cascade that leads to ovulation. When you think about it, ovulation every month really is somewhat of a miracle! It can also be used as an important barometer for health and wellness in a woman. 

An Ovulation Jump Start

Frequently prescribed oral medications like Clomid or Femera (Letrozole in Canada) essentially mimic the decrease in E2 that normally occurs and work to block the estrogen receptor sites. Your hypothalamus then senses a reduction in E2, which increases the GnRH pulses, leading to a rise in FSH and the start of follicular growth. Soy isoflavones, act much like Clomid by binding to the E2 receptor in your hypothalamus, preventing natural E2 from binding. Remember from above, when FSH is high, follicles grow, mature and start producing their own estrogen which then rises and helps to trigger ovulation. Booya! 

Who should and should not try Soy Isoflavones? 

Talk to your care provider first before doing anything that may affect your hormone balance. If you cycle regularly and ovulate regularly then DO NOT TAKE SOY ISOFLAVONES. You may actually cause an imbalance in your body that never existed in the first place.  

If you have PCOS and don't ovulate, this may be a good option for you, talk to your care provider first. If you are recovering from Hypothalamic Amenorrhea you have to have done some work already (eating more, putting on body fat, resting and re-activating your hypothalamus). For this to work, you need a functioning hypothalamus. If you are coming off birth control and have irregular ovulation, this may also be a good option. 

How to use soy isoflavones

  1. Buy organic/ non-gmo soy isoflavones in 40-50mg tablets

  2. Wait for day 3 of your cycle (that's 3 days after you start bleeding). Don't count days you spot before your period....really wait for an awesome flow.

  3. Take 100-200mg of the isoflavones in the morning from days 3-7, just like you would take Clomid

  4. Get ready to roll! Starting on day 10 of your cycle, watch for an LH surge using OPK , taking your temps and watching for fertile cervical mucus change. Many women find they ovulate sooner after taking soy. Eg, normal ovulation on day 18 but day 14 on a soy cycle.

  5. Do not take Soy with other common fertility boosting herbs like VITEX or MACA. The can actually counteract each other negating the benefits of both.

  6. During this time, REST, NOURISH and RELAX. Practice some gentle loving kindness with your body and give it the message that it is safe to bring a baby into the world. Eat well and take some folate or a prenatal vitamin, if you aren't already. Try to encourage your body with some daily meditation. I am in love with this new app called Expectful

  7. Have a LOT of sex (giddy up), especially around the time you get your surge and the days following. Most women ovulate within 24-48hrs after a positive OPK

  8. Support your natural progesterone levels with diet, supplements and lifestyle changes. If you need help with this, send me a message or check out Baby Making and Beyond.

Does it work? 

It's next to impossible to find any studies that have looked directly at SI use for ovulation induction. There are several studies that discuss its effect on ovarian hormones when taken in high doses as a part of the diet as well as its use in treating bone loss and hot flashes in older women. If you know of any studies that may be relivant, please share! 

While formalized studies may be lacking, anecdotal evidence is very strong. If you google "soy isoflavones for fertility", you will come across HUNDREDS, maybe thousands of women who have successfully conceived after using them. Take home message, it's totally up to you if you want to try soy. For some, if used correctly, it could be the golden ticket to parenthood and save you thousands in expensive fertility medications and treatments. 




My Struggle with Hypothalamic Amenorrhea (HA). How I got my period back.

If you follow me on Instagram you may have noticed my post last week where I welcomed back my monthly visitor (this is what my grandmother would say) after a 10-year absence. I’ve kept pretty quiet about my struggle with HA. To be truthful, admitting my illness made me feel like an imposter and a fraud. How could someone whose job and life revolved around helping women find and nourish their own fertility be infertile and unhealthy herself?

I’ve helped countless women in my nutrition practice regain their cycles and balance their hormones. I’ve also supported hundreds more in my job as a midwife though their pregnancies and in the early months postpartum. Yet here I was, no period, no cycles, in fact, I had hormones in general (aside from cortisol). Sick, tired and at my wits end something had to give.


How did I lose my cycle?

 I lost my cycle 10 years ago directly following the sudden death of my fiancé. I was in a busy midwifery residency, which on it’s own was stressful, but when I lost my partner I had to find ways to cope that would allow me to feel like I had some sort of control over my life and simply keep going.


I’ve always loved mountain activities like rock climbing, backcountry skiing and trail running. So, while in the final years of my residency, I took it upon myself to stay as “fit as possible” ,  to enable myself to enjoy the sports I loved and be fast and strong enough to keep up to all my mountain guide and professional athlete friends. The thing was, I wasn’t a professional athlete, I was staying awake for 30+ hr stretches regularly catching babies and instead of sleeping and resting to recover I would run 15- 30km. While this genuinely did feel GOOD, it resulted in over exercise, under fuelling and a general lack of relaxation in my life.

Some people call what happened to me a “female athlete triad”, but essentially what it means is you are sending your body the signal that all is not well. You force it to go into a state of self-preservation. With a lack of fuel and an abundance of stress hormones (like cortisol, which is produced during excessive exercise and a hard job where you often don’t sleep), your body prioritizes survival and shuts down reproduction because it fears that a pregnancy would not be able to be sustained.

Sometimes tragedy can be a blessing in disguise 

Sometimes tragedy can be a blessing in disguise 

            In October 2016 I had another terrible climbing accident that left me in a cast for 8 weeks and kept me away from midwifery for almost 8 months. Although I tried to exercise during this time, being in a cast and in terrible pain forced REST on my body. I also experienced regular predictable sleep, for the first time in 12 years. I ate the same but overall, my calorie deficit was reduced and my body’s hormonal systems WOKE UP! I started to have all the symptoms of PMS (sore breasts, cramps, bloating). My body was starting to grow ovarian follicles, which produced precious ESTROGEN. This surge of estrogen stimulated my body to start holding onto body fat again.

Get psycked to buy new clothes...and belts:) For the record, I'm now ANOTHER jean size larger than I was here and I give zero fucks about it. 

Get psycked to buy new clothes...and belts:) For the record, I'm now ANOTHER jean size larger than I was here and I give zero fucks about it. 

Over the course of 8 months I gained about 15lbs and went from a body fat of 16% to 24%. My body did this despite any modifications in my diet and despite my resumption of a high level of activity. My body wanted to survive and heal. For most women to regain their cycles they need to overshoot their previous weights and body fat percentages by an average of 5 lbs and 3-5% hitting a new “set point “ of sorts. It’s worth noting that a fertile BMI ranges anywhere from 21-24 and fertile body fat % ranges from 22-26%. If you’re below this, I’m sorry to say, but 90% of you will have to gain weight to regain your cycle.

Recognizing that my body was taking charge of it’s own health and fertility, I finally decided to pay attention and support my body’s valiant efforts to recover a cycle, hormonal health and my own precious fertility.

How did I do it?

There are lots of ways to get your period back. Some things will work better for others but these are the things that worked for me.

Get properly diagnosed

Hypothalamic amenorrhea isn’t something you should “self diagnose”. It could me a symptom of a much bigger issue. Approach your primary care provider and find a good functional medicine specialist to work with you to diagnose the cause of your lack of period. Here are the tests you should be asking for:

1.     Blood Hormone Levels: Estradiol, progesterone, LH, FSH, testosterone, cortisol, prolactin and b-HcG. Most women who have HA have: Low estrogen, low to absent progesterone, low LH, low FSH, low testosterone, high cortisol.

2.     Thyroid hormones: TSH, T3/T4, TPO antibodies, Reverse T3

3.     Blood nutrient levels: B12, Vit D, Iron and ferritin

4.     DUTCH urinary hormone panel. This is a GREAT test that I did and I now offer to patients. It helps diagnose problems with hormone pathways and tests for not just hormones but also hormonal metabolites

5.     Ultrasound: To check for excess cysts (when combine with high testosterone this may indicate PCOS) and test for uterine thickness.



1.     Move less and eat more: Reduce and aim to eliminate your caloric deficit. If you need help calculating your calorie and nutrient needs you can use an online calculator.

Never restrict when recovering. This organic vegan chocolate ice cream (with magic shell) was a key part of my recovery :) 

Never restrict when recovering. This organic vegan chocolate ice cream (with magic shell) was a key part of my recovery :) 

2.     Don’t restrict any macronutrient: You need carbs, fats and proteins to be healthy and produce hormones. Trust me I tried everything (low carb, high carb, keto, high protein)  but in the 3 months preceding my period returning I found that I was intuitively eating a balanced diet of about 33% fat 33% protein 33% carbs

3.     Eat clean, well-sourced, organic and nutrient dense foods: These are better absorbed and will cause less stress in your body. An anti-inflammatory diet is best. If you need help finding the best diet for you, send me a message. 

4.     Let go of foods and drinks that may cause stress to your body: While I’ve never been a big caffeinated coffee drinker thanks to a CYP1A2 enzyme gene) one of the biggest things I did was give up coffee (opting for organic Swiss water process). If you suspect food intolerances or if your digestion isn’t top notch, I’d encourage you to work with a practitioner to tease out what could be triggering your symptoms. All forms of stress should be eliminated in the body. I recently started working with a woman who lost her cycle and regained it by dietary modifications alone! It’s an important piece to the puzzle.


Move less: You’re going to have to mellow out a little bit or a lot. While some women have to give up exercise 100%, honestly, I didn’t completely. Much of the research I’ve come across suggests that giving up exercise completely (aside from short gentle walks and yoga) may help your period return faster but what really makes a difference is having a higher percentage of body fat sustained and maintained over multiple months. This sends signals to your hypothalamus that there are enough resources available to sustain a pregnancy.

How you choose to get there is up to you. But seriously, have a solid look at your workout routines and ask yourself if they support your body and goals or are causing more harm than good.

Sometimes the best activity is  rest  and spending time with the people you love

Sometimes the best activity is rest and spending time with the people you love


I’m a firm believer in “smart supplementation”. I don’t like to over supplement and I think that there is no real one size fits all approach to adaptogenic or hormone balancing herbs. If you’d like help finding what may work for you please send me a note. I was continually testing my hormone and nutrient levels using DUTCH testing and blood analysis to ensure smart supplementation. Here’s what I tried and here’s what you can try too.

1.     Vitamin C: Supports your body’s response to stress

2.      Magnesium: Supports progesterone levels and reduces stress

3.     Acetyl L-Carnitine: Supplementing with acetyl-l-carnitine (ALC) restarted menstrual cycles in 40% to 60% of women with HA in two studies. This compound has been shown to affect serotonin, dopamine, and beta-endorphins, reducing the impact of those molecules on the hypothalamus resulting in higher luteinizing hormone (the hormone you need to ovulate). This did seem to help me.

4.     Maca root: This seemed to boost my estrogen levels and accelerate fat gain. For me, I think it caused a state of estrogen dominance and increased my bad estrogen (yes there is good and bad kinds). I’d use this adaptogen with caution. See how it goes for 3 months and re-evaluate.

5.     DIM: I treated my estrogen dominance with DIM. This compound found in gassy veggies like broccoli and cauliflower helps promote healthy levels of good estrogen and clears unhealthy bad estrogen (as long as your liver is strong). This may only work if you’ve already increased your estrogen levels by increasing your body fat levels AND you have maintained a higher body fat for at least 3 months.  Please don’t try this unless you’ve put on a healthy amount of weight.

6.     Calcium diglutamate: This supports your livers processing and clearance of hormones. 500mg is best for most. 

7.     Vitex- If you lose your cycles it may be due to an increase in a hormone called Prolactin. If it’s high, Vitex may work for you. This wasn’t the case for me but I tried it anyway ;) 1000mg is best for most. 

8.     Probiotics: A healthy gut is a cornerstone of a healthy hormonal system. Alternate strains regularly for a robust microbiome.

9.     Sustained Release T3: After years of HA and a high stress job, my Reverse T3 levels were sky-high. Taking a sustained release T3 (prescribed to me by my naturopathic physician) helped me clear my high RT3 and was the final missing piece to getting my period back. Please ladies, have ALL your thyroid levels checked (TSH, TPO antibodies, T3/T4 and FT3). It can be a game changer.


1.     Learn to say no:  Over the past year, my blog hasn’t gotten as much attention. I’ve been taking more time to myself to really focus on getting well. Sometimes you just have to simplify. Have a good look at what you can say “no” to in your life and just say “no”.

2.     Sleep your ass off:  Your body is stressed and in a negative energy balance. Sleep is the MOST effective way to recover and rebuild. If you have struggled with insomnia and poor sleep while you’ve had HA, many women find that once you put on some body fat you’ll sleep like a baby again. I certainly did.

3.    Stress less: I’ve taken up a solid meditation practice. It only takes 10 min each day and has changed the way I think, feel and even breathe.

4.    Care for yourself. Get a massage, spend time in nature, Netflix and chill …..if it feels good do it and make sure you do it every damn day.

5.    Acupuncture:  Give it a try, there are several studies that support its use for both stress reduction, hormone balance and fertility. I found it uber helpful.

Coping with your changing body:

1.     Buy new clothes: seriously, tight clothes are such a huge trigger and for me totally ruined my day and made me feel so bad about myself. Sell your tiny sized clothes and use the money to buy some well fitting duds. Most women, myself included, go up 2 sizes when recovering.

2.     Change the way you think about your body.: This one is hard but essential. Your body is trying to survive. It’s trying to get back into balance and be healthy. Resist the urge to pinch your fat or have negative thoughts when you see your body change…..instead, just witness it. Your body is the vessel for your soul. It’s beautiful and dynamic. This is temporary and is the birth of a new normal. If you can’t think of anything positive to say, simply try to witness your body changes without judgment. Be like Switzerland and stay neutral.

3.     Say, “Fuck it” to what people think (including yourself): This needs no explanation. You’re getting healthy; I think you’d be surprised to find that most people, if they understood what you were doing would look at you with admiration not criticism. Often times we are our own worst critics. So perhaps we really need to say “fuck you” to our own self judgment.

4.     Join a support group.:There are countless online forums and FB groups for women coping with the same things as you. Reach out, you’ll be surprised to find that you’re not alone. Ask for help from your loved ones. Reach out. You're not alone! 

This is just my journey. I'm always happy to share. Everyone's journey is their own. If you need support or help, feel free to send me a message


The B Vitamins

If Vitamin A was "awesome", vitamin B is "bad ass". Seriously, vitamin B is HUGE! It's way to big to cover all the in's and out's of this complex and rather incredible vitamin, so, I'm going to give you the 'coles notes' version of why vitamin B is so important to include in your fertility, pregnancy and postpartum diet. 

The B vitamins are water soluble, meaning that you pee out what you don’t use and you also don't store excess in the body like you do with fat soluble vitamins. Roughly translated, if you have a high concentration in your diet you'll pee neon yellow AND because they aren't stored in your tissues you need to eat them often to ensure you have enough to fuel your body's demands. Good thing they are found in some delicious things! 

You need more Vitamin B when: 

Leafy greens and liver.....chock full of B-vitamin goodness

Leafy greens and liver.....chock full of B-vitamin goodness

  • You have a history of taking Oral Birth Control or any other synthetic hormone
  • History of Smoking or high alcohol use
  • High caffeine consumption
  • Have a  diet high in refined or processed foods
  • History of antibiotic use
  • Have a genetic mutation, such as MTHFR
  • Are a Vegan or Vegetarian
  • Have a history of dieting or are an athlete
  • You're trying to become pregnant :) 

Quick Facts about B-Vitamins:

There are 8 commonly known B vitamins. These vitamins are usually found together in foods and require similar co-enzymes to be best absorbed and utilized by the body. Some of the vitamins can be made in the body by the healthy bugs in our guts, while others cannot be synthesized in the body and must be obtained from our diet. B- vitamins need to be in their "active" forms before they can preform metabolic tasks in the body. Vitamins are converted from their inactive to their active forms by a process called methylation. Methylation is aided by enzymes (that you make or consume) and is dependent on a intricate pathway of chemical reactions. Some people, like those with MTHFR, have a deficiency in one area of the pathway making their conversion of inactive to active B - vitamins more inefficient thus increasing their need. You can read more about that in an old post here or check out our section on MTHFR in the upcoming Baby Making and Beyond. 

The low down on each B-Vitamin and why you need it in your fertility and pregnancy diet!  

  1.  Vitamin B1 Thiamin: Found in decent amounts in lean pork. Thiamin produces acetylcholine and is key for nervous system health. Choline is a critical nutrient for a growing baby's brain and nervous system development. You'll learn all about my love of Choline in my next post. C for choline.  
  2. Vitamin B2 Riboflavin: Often found in liver, fatty fish, eggs, nori and sunflower seeds.  B2 helps metabolize fats and carbs in your diet. Vitamin B2 promotes fetal growth and a healthy nervous system.
  3. Vitamin B3 Niacin: One of the most stable B vitamins, it can be easily manufactured in the body by the amino acid tryptophan. B3 is found in liver, fish and poultry (all which happen to contain tryptophan!) It's important during pregnancy to produce new DNA (building blocks of new cells) as well as help us stabilize our blood sugars (key for hormonal health).
  4. Vitamin B5 Panthotheic Acid: Panthothenic acid comes from the Greek word (ever see My big fat greek wedding, if so, insert smirk, if not watch it, hilarious) Panthos meaning "everywhere". As you guessed, deficiency is uncommon, it's hard not to find B5 in whole foods.  Vitamin B5 is a great anti-stress vitamin and helps chill out the adrenals. Having a balanced adrenal system helps you stabilize your progesterone levels. KEY for fertility and pregnancy. 
  5. Vitamin B6 Pyridoxine: Easily found in whole foods, the highest concentration is found in organ meats, egg yolks, fish, poultry and walnuts. Dark leafy greens also contain large amounts. A general rule Meg follows is: anytime there is an excess of estrogen more B6 is required. B6 is one of the ESSENTIAL vitamins that will help protect you against nausea and morning sickness during pregnancy (more estrogen during this time).  There is also a much greater need for B6 when you've been taking birth control pills (again, a high concentration of estrogen in your system). B6 helps fight depression, mood swings, skin conditions and aids in detoxification. The list is pretty much endless. Bottom line, get your greens and eat some liver every now and again. 
  6. Vitamin B7 Biotin: Biotin is both a co-enzyme and a B-vitamin. It's found in small amounts in most foods but mostly produced by our healthy gut bacteria. Deficiency can be caused by insufficient gut bacteria (like if you have taken antibiotics) or when women consume egg whites without the yolk, particularly if egg whites are not totally cooked. Avidin, a protein in raw or under cooked egg whites binds to biotin in the stomach and decreases it's absorption. Biotin helps metabolize fats and help the body form new tissues and new little people. It helps with healthy nails, hair and skin. Some experts believe that the crusty, kind of gross skin condition, Cradle cap, in infants is caused by a biotin deficiency. If your baby struggles with this, supplementing them with a probiotic may help. 
  7. Vitamin B9 Folate: From the latin folium meaning 'foliage' folate is abundant in dark leafy greens. Folate needs are higher prior to conception to aid in the growth and development of a healthy neural tube in the first few weeks of pregnancy. Deficiencies a pregnant woman can result in neural tube defects such as spina bifida in her baby. It's important to get folate in it's active form, especially if you have any form of MTHFR. Look for folate vs folic acid on your prenatal vitamin. Folic acid is a synthetic derivative and not the best choice. Folic acid supplementation in large doses over long periods of time has recently been tied to breast cancer.  
  8. Vitamin B12 Cobalamin: B12 is found in most animal proteins. Vegans and Vegetarians are at the highest risk for deficiency as there aren't really any good sources of B12 in their diets There is a common misconception that it's possible to get B12 from seaweed, fermented soy and brewers yeast. Not totally true. These plant foods actually contain B12 analogs called cobamides that actually block intake and increase the need for real B12...YIKES! Low B12 levels is a big deal. It's associated with anemia and has also been strongly linked to recurrent pregnancy loss and placental abruption.  B12 is as important as B9/Folate if you ask me. It works with B9 to help give you energy, prevent anemia, guard against neural tube defects and significantly aids in brain and nervous system development. 
Here you can see two delicious taco meals. Mine is chock full of  B12 goodness  from braised bison and spicy beef tongue. Evan who is a vegetarian, has no B12 in his meal. I win. I love him despite his "deficiencies". 

Here you can see two delicious taco meals. Mine is chock full of  B12 goodness  from braised bison and spicy beef tongue. Evan who is a vegetarian, has no B12 in his meal. I win. I love him despite his "deficiencies". 

So there you have it...Big, bodacious vitamin B for fertility, pregnancy and beyond. Want more info or need help fine tuning your fertility, pregnancy or postpartum diet? Want to learn how to test for MTHFR and other methylation challenges?  I can help. I'm now taking consults again! Finally :) Click the big button above to book your first consult. 

The Real Deal on Vitamin A

2019 POST UPDATE** During my research for Baby Making and Beyond, there are some key changes to the vitamin A info I share below. One day soon, I’ll update this post but if you are TTC or are pregnant, check out Baby Making And Beyond’s core 4 nutrition guidelines for more details and recommendations!

Vitamin A is awesome (get it "A"wesome?) that vitamin A is the first one because in my mind, it is one of the most important micronutrients not only to help you boost your fertility and prepare for pregnancy, but also during pregnancy and breastfeeding. So, let's explore the wonders of this over achieving vitamin. 

The Scoop on Vitamin A 

Vitamin A is important for many key functions in the body. These include: 

  • Eyesight

  • Hormone Balance and Fertility

  • Thyroid function

  • Bone growth and skin health

  • Cell differentiation and multiplication

  • Immune Function (viruses and bacteria seem to retreat in the presence of high vit A)

  • For your growing baby specifically: Vitamin A is important for the development of the neural pathways between the brain and sensory organs and in the development of the nephrons in the kidney.

  • Vitamin A deficiency is also associated with pregnancy loss...needless to say, it's an important part of a healthy diet.

Two Types of Vitamin A

Liver is one of the very best sources of vitamin A

Liver is one of the very best sources of vitamin A

Retinoids (Reteinol Esters): Derived from animal sources. Retinoids are found in the liver of any animal and in smaller quantities in egg yolks,  butter and cream from grass fed cows. 

Carotenoids:  AKA Beta-carotene. Vitamin A derived from plant sources. Think carrots, winter squash, pumpkin, sweet potatoes, cantaloupe. Basically, if it has an orange hue, it's probably rich in carotenoids. Carotenoids must be converted by the body into retinol in order to be used by the body. This is kind of tricky for the body to do and is a pretty inefficient process. This process can be even trickier if you suffer from a hormone imbalance, thyroid condition, it can be effected by food preparation and cooking methods and also if don't have enough fat in your diet or if you have digestive problems. Babies also don't convert well (another reason to feed your infants over 6months liver).  

Vit A in a Nutshell

  • Fat soluble Vitamin. This means it must be consumed with a fat to be properly absorbed.

  • Both Retinol Esters from animals and Beta Carotene from plants must be converted by the body into Retinoids. Once converted they are stored in the liver as Retinol Esters. This is why liver is such a rad source of Vit A and also why high doses of vitamin A retinol, when taken in a concentrated form, can cause birth defects months after discontinuing them. High potency topical skin serums are known for this.

  • Traditional cultures around the world seem to instinctively know the the benefits of proper vitamin A consumption. In fact, liver is found in the diets of almost every tribal group around the world, from the Canadian Inuit to the Maori in New Zealand. Many cultures even make special efforts to ensure pregnant women consume liver regularly. They instinctively know that vitamin A is critical for the health and wellbeing of our growing babies and is an KEY part of there development. Weston A Price has a great article that goes into the details about why Vitamin A is so critical for fetal development. Take home message....CONSUME LIVER in reasonable amounts! 

Vitamin A Toxicity in Pregnancy

The fear about Vitamin A toxicity in pregnancy over the past 20 years is something that commonly worries women whenever I suggest regular  dietary liver consumption. Here's the deal.....In 1995, a small study based in Boston found that high does of vitamin A could cause neural tube defects. The issue with this study is that it only looked at higher does (25,000 IU+) Vitamin A consumption from SYNTHETIC sources (retinol & retinol esters).  Follow up studies from several sites in Europe concluded that doses up to 30-50,000 IU in pregnancy from REAL FOOD sources were very safe, in fact, potentially beneficial to pregnant women. Sadly however the FDA did not change it's message and the public was once again misinformed.

Retinol Sources and Levels

  • High-vitamin cod liver oil 230,000IU /100g

  • Regular cod liver oil 100,000IU /100g

  • Duck liver 40,000IU/100g

  • Beef liver 35,000IU/100g

  • Goose liver 31,000IU/100g

  • Liverwurst sausage (pork) 28,000IU/100g

  • Lamb liver 25,000IU/100g

  • Egg Yolk 1,442IU/100g

  • Pasture Raised Butter 2,500IU /100g (this level varies greatly depending on diet of cows)

The US  and Canada currently recommend 5,000 IU per day . From the work of Weston Price, we could guess that the amount of Vitamin A in primitive diets could have as high as 50,000 IU per day. Current  recommendations from a variety of sources hover around the  10,000 IU-15,000IU level when obtained from a modern diet rich in daily grass fed butter, eggs from pastured animals and beef, lamb or poultry liver several times once a week. If you're not eating liver adding a 1 tablespoon of fermented cod liver oil can help. You can also take liver capsules, which are also a great source of b-vitamins. Vital proteins makes a good product. What's a Pregnant Paleo Mama to do?

Lambs of the milder livers. It makes great meatballs and pate spreads.

  1. Always enjoy your vitamin A sources with a fat. Vitamin A is fat soluble and needs fat to be properly absorbed.

  2. Enjoy liberal amounts of butter from grass fed cows and egg yolks. 

  3. Enjoy liver from grass fed animals once or twice a week to ensure you have a good supply of retinoids. Unless you are consuming Polar Bear or walrus liver, a serving or two of liver per week is not likely to cause any trouble. If you find the flavour of liver to be strong, try chicken liver, duck liver or lambs liver. They are milder. I have a great lambs liver meatball recipe ! It's easy to hide a few ounces of liver in meatballs, burgers or meatloaf. If you're feeling adventurous you could also try one of  Liz's Liver Smoothie Shots I'm going to give this a go this week....keep your eyes out for me on Instagram giving this a shot...literally. Ha ha. 

  4. Consume beta-carotene rich foods to your hearts content. Yumm squash (I am a squash addict) 

    • Always consume vitamin A rich food with a FAT. This helps you absorb to absorb the nutrient. This gives you full permission to slather your yam or kabocha squash liberally with grass fed butter or coconut oil. 

  5. Make sure you are getting enough Vitamin E in your diet

    • Vitamin E is necessary for the absorption of Vitamin A. Vitamin E can be found in: spinach, turnip, chard, sunflower seeds, almonds, bell peppers, asparagus, collard greens, broccoli, kale and brussels sprouts.

  6. Pregnant or planning for pregnancy? I'd give your high dose Retinol skin creams a miss to reduce the chance of toxicity. Try a vitamin C skin serum instead to achieve a beautiful glow!  


Meg the Midwife's Guide to Self Love and the best Vitamins: From A to Z

Vitamins... OMG if you're a woman these days you're often BOMBARDED with adds, blog posts and displays in your local Whole Foods trying to sell you the next greatest thing vitamin that will cure all that ales you, help you have an effortless, glowing pregnancy, recover, lose weight, have the perfect baby, cure said perfect baby from crying and throwing your sleep out of whack, then oh yea, take this to help you sleep. Shessh. 

By far, the most common question I get from women, and a few of their lovely partners, is, what are the best prenatal vitamins and why? What are the most important nutrients to help nourish a fertile body and support a healthy pregnancy? What vitamins are important to help you recover postpartum and help as create 'uber awesome' breastmilk? Well, I'm going to answer all of these question over the upcoming months starting with that super important vitamin A and going all the way to good ol' Z (for zinc) 

But first....indulge me in a ramble. By far, the most important nutrient you can support health and wellbeing is is vitamin "L".... that's LOVE. I know, I know, it's a bit cheezy, but I am a grain free granola crunching midwife after all. Seriously, the best thing you can do for your body and mind is invite love into your life.

Self love, is the BEST! Self love goes way beyond self esteem, although, self esteem is a lovely side effect of caring for yourself. I talked about the importance of having gentle loving kindness for yourself when you're healing from either a miscarriage or a traumatic birth experience on Part 1 of my episode with the Balanced Bites Podcast a few weeks ago.

Self love is an important part of self care. Loving yourself means honouring and respecting the AMAZING body you have. I'm not talking about taking a selfie of yourself flexing at the gym, although, truth, I've done this with no apologies. I'm talking about recognizing just how powerful your body is and respecting all that it does for you. This means being kind to yourself, no matter what. When we forget to be kind, it's easy to start sabotaging the essence of a healthy body through self judgement, shame and unrealistic ideals. In other words, if we lose the joy in caring for ourselves, we don't feel happy. Not feeling happy or satisfied can actually manifest themselves physically in your body. Your stress hormones, including cortisol, can go up, your digestion suffers, the way you assimilate the nutrients from a healthy diet is effected and even your gut bacteria can be altered! If these aren't reasons enough, think about how it feels to be sad or anxious all the time. Not really a space or place I want to live in. An unhappy mind is not healthy. 

How do we step out of these patterns ? First, simply recognizing negative self talk or habits. Remember that saying in the 80's or maybe it was the 90's, "knowing is half the battle" .... GI Joe said that, but anyway, seriously, that is the first step. Once you've gotten some awareness you can actually take some steps towards positive action. 

Meg's tips for inviting more self love into your life

No sir, I'm not going to the gym, I think I'll take a nap instead. 

No sir, I'm not going to the gym, I think I'll take a nap instead. 

1. Whenever you feel your mind slipping into a negative pattern, recognize it. You don't need to judge it, just witness it....sit with it and simply let it be. Have a touch of gentle loving kindness for yourself. 

2. Actively change your thought pattern and LISTEN to your body.  Once you've recognized that negative self talk, say something positive to yourself that opposes it. For example, you might be 2 months pregnant. You're also a gym junkie. You workout not only because it makes you feel good but also because it helps you feel in control of your body. You haven't been able to work out for days and you finally have a chance but're soooo tired. You start an inner dialogue that tells you to get your lazy butt off the couch and get to the gym or else you're going to get 'soft'. Now is the time to change those thoughts. Your pregnant! Give yourself a break. Honour the amazing things you're body is doing....that's why it's so tired. Think to yourself, what would feel most nourishing? A nap? A walk outside? A bit of yoga?....listen to what it says in reply. 

3. Make sure to take time every day to practice some form of self care. For me, it is usually 10 mins of meditation in the morning or evening or a touch of restorative yoga. It can also mean cooking yourself a healthy meal, getting a massage, going for a walk in the woods, watching Real Housewives, whatever! Just do something that honours your space and nourishes your sense of LOVE for yourself. 

4. If you're struggling breaking these patterns or find that your going through something traumatic, like a birth trauma, get help. Reaching out to a clinical therapist can work wonders in many circumstances. It doesn't mean there is anything wrong with you. It means you are human! 

Taking care of yourself and practicing self love is the BEST thing you can do and the BEST vitamin out there. It has the benefits of making you a better woman, better mother and better lover. Give yourself a dose every damn day. 

A walk and a shot of kindness (with a pinch of tumeric). THE BEST! 

A walk and a shot of kindness (with a pinch of tumeric). THE BEST! 



Could your "Fertility" Diet actually be sabotaging your ability to conceive?

I’ve been thinking a lot these days about the “optimal” diet for fertility. Between finishing up with Baby Making and Beyond and working towards my Registered Holistic Nutritionist  (RHN) certification, nutrition is number one on my mind.

Liver, tasty to some, stressful to others

Liver, tasty to some, stressful to others

So, back to my question, is your fertility diet actually sabotaging your ability to conceive?  What do I mean by that, well, let me explain. This question was triggered by an email sent out by Real Food Liz, my BMB partner in crime. In it she posed the question, are you “accidentally” dieting.  Listening to the Balanced Bites podcast this week there was some discussion about how we view our food choices. There is a large tendency in our food and looks obsessed culture to diet, go on detoxes and boot camps. Some of these programs can be great re-sets for helping us move towards a more healthy, balanced real food approach, but sometimes, the “rules” they create can end up extending past these 21 or 30 day challenges, limiting our diets, but more importantly, create a toxic relationship around food. Food can be labeled, ‘good’ or ‘bad’ and even worse ‘permitted’ or ‘not permitted’.  We can lose our ability to enjoy eating and enjoy our meals.

Back to my original question, is your fertility diet actually sabotaging your ability to conceive?  While I’m trying to create the most optimal dietary guidelines to maximize fertility it is my most sincere fear that these “guidelines” could actually cause more damage than they create good by causing toxic STRESS and feelings of deprivation for some women who just so desperately want to do the very best thing for themselves and for their future babies.  Stress, in any form, is toxic to fertility. Put very simply, stress activates adrenal hormones (think cortisol), which sends signals to your body that now is a stressful time and not a good time to conceive. Stress is powerful enough that the benefits of even the most “perfect” fertility diet could be nullified by the effects of elevated cortisol. 

Here’s the issue with stress when you’re seeking to optimize fertility:

  1. Cortisol raises blood sugars and promote inflammation as well as unhealthy weight gain (especially around your tummy). 
  2. Cortisol reduces your body’s ability to make it’s own sex hormones including thyroid, estrogen and progesterone
  3. The constant stress on the adrenal system tells the body that it’s not “safe” and that now is not a good time to raise a baby successfully. 

 So, what to do about it? What can you do if you feel trapped in a “diet” or set of eating “rules” . What do you do if you're feeling deprived, stressed out or exhausted by trying to achieve the perfect diet ?

1.     Let go of all the rules! We each get multiple times each day to make food choices. We are all individuals, not robots. Sometimes we make more nutrient dense choices, while other times we may make choices that just satisfy our souls. When enjoyed, these are all GOOD CHOICES. Try to choose nutrient dense most of the time. Other times just enjoy the ice cream Sunday or gluten free pizza. Heck, last week I ate a marshmallow that fell in the fire pit. Whatever. No stress, no consequence. One choice at a time.

2.     Create a list of ‘smart’ deal breakers Always avoid things that obviously are harmful for your body and are known to cause a reaction or be a source of inflammation. For me it’s dairy and gluten. They are an absolute NO GO. That being said. When I want my ice cream sundae, I’ll make it with decadent coconut milk ice cream and dairy free chocolate fudge. No suffering here!

3.     If fertility is your goal, create a list of things you want to include each week and then fill in the gaps with spontaneous eating habits that nourish your body and soul. For example, you want to eat liver twice each week, eat dark leafy greens every day and enjoy more bone broth. Easy!  Meet these goals and then fill in your diet with spontaneous unplanned choices that keep your mind, body and soul satisfied.

This woman is enjoying her meal...she's also a fertility nurse and know's the how important it is to learn to stay chilled out. 

This woman is enjoying her meal...she's also a fertility nurse and know's the how important it is to learn to stay chilled out. 

4.     Create a stress free culture around meal times. Enjoy your food. Sit down with family for at least one meal per day. Try not to eat on the run or be distracted by the TV or computer when you nosh. Take five deep breaths before sitting down to eat. Not only will this aid in digestion and nutrient absorption (fertility bonus),but it will  also acts as a potent stress reliever. If regular meditation or yoga isn’t already a part of your fertility practice, MAKE IT A PRIORITY. Yes, I said this loudly, a stress management plan is just as important as anything you put in your mouth. We will have a GIANT stress section in Baby Making and Beyond, so stay tuned for that.


If you need help with your diet or nutrient plan, feel free to send me a message. I’ll be accepting new clients in the spring of 2017 and have a waiting list started of everyone who’s interested in a bit of help. I’ll be offering a wide variety of both hormone and allergy testing as well as fertility, prenatal and post- baby nutrition packages. So stoked for this new phase in my career and excited to keep working with all of you wonderful women.  Also, stay tuned for a series of e-books designed to help you get on your way to fertility and pregnancy friendly paleo eats.


Dark chocolate hazelnut ripple....and yup, it's's also delicious! 

Dark chocolate hazelnut ripple....and yup, it's's also delicious! 

Till then, enjoy that Sundae. You know how I feel about ice cream!