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Optimize fertility by changing your brain

by | Nov 10, 2015 | Mindfulness | 0 comments

A landmark study published in 2008, based on the Harvard Nurses Study, makes startling connections between diet and conception. As the most comprehensive research
to date on diet and fertility, this study associates a slow carb, whole food, mostly plant based diet with a six-fold
increase in fertility.

In my clinical practice women ask me daily about what foods to eat and what foods to avoid in order to enhance fertility. And to my surprise, when I pursue this question further with them, they all seem to already know the answers. So I began to wonder why, when we have tons of information about nutrition and diet for fertility, we still struggle to make changes.

I went straight to the brain for the answer.

Hundreds of millions of  years ago, the brainstem formed what some call the “reptilian brain.” The brainstem receives input from the body and sends input back down again to regulate basic process like the heart and lungs. The brainstem directly controls our states of arousal, determining, for example, if we are hungry or satiated.

The limbic area lies deep within the brain. It evolved when small mammals first appeared around two hundred million years ago. This “old mammalian brain” works closely with the brainstem and the body proper to create not only our basic drives but also our emotions.

The cortex is the outer layer or “bark” of the brain. It expanded greatly with the appearance of primates – and most especially with the emergence of human beings. The cortex creates more intricate firing patterns that represent the three-dimensional world beyond the bodily functions and survival reactions mediated by the lower, subcortical regions. The cortex allows us to have ideas and concepts and to develop the maps that give us insight into our inner world.

And finally, the prefrontal cortex, which has evolved to the extent that it has only in human beings. In the prefrontal part of the brain we create representations of concepts such as time, a sense of self, and moral judgments.

When we ‘lose our mind’ and eat to sabotage our fertility, we experience a temporary brain dysfunction. Generally, the “limbic lava” from the fiery emotional centers below the cortex, just beneath the middle prefrontal area, explode in out-of-control activity. The middle pre-frontal cortex – the region that calms the emotionally reactive lower limbic and brainstem layers – stops being able to regulate all the energy being stirred up, and the co-ordiation and balance of the brain is disrupted.

We take the “low road,” moving directly from limbic impulse to ACTION, detouring away from the prefrontal “high road,” where we are flexible and receptive rather than inflexible and reactive.

Without the prefrontal cortex, we are unable to keep our highest intentions and goals in mind and we are propelled into reflexive eating driven by our emotional reactions.

Sound familiar?

So it became clear to me that to help women and men optimize their fertility through their diet, we didn’t need to begin by changing eating habits – we couldn’t; rather, we needed to start by changing the brain.

And so I began to teach them mindfulness, with astonishing results.

When we develop the skill of mindfulness, we are giving ourselves experiences to create connections between different parts of the brain. When these parts collaborate, they create and reinforce the integrative fibers that link different parts of the brain. As a result, they are connected in more powerful ways and can work together even more harmoniously.

The result:

You actually walk into Starbuck’s for an herbal tea feeling in control.

You actually spend more time preparing what to eat and eating what benefits you.

You actually begin to eat when you are hungry.

You actually begin to feel hungry.

You actually feel more vital, flexible and aligned with your values.

You actually stop resenting good food.

In the coming weeks I am going to talk more about the neurobiology of meditation. How using the mind to change the brain powerfully affects your fertility. And why interventions like acupressure, yoga and fertility diets practiced without higher levels of brain integration leave you feeling powerless, out of control and like a “failure” because you “know” these practices benefit fertility but you struggle with consistency, with finding the time and with lower limbic, emotional reactivity “This is not working!”

Are you feeling out of control? Does your “limbic lava” run the show? Go ahead and subscribe to learn more about the neurobiology of meditation and how it can enhance your fertility.

I look forward to supporting you.

 

Buffy

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