Fennel – When to Avoid and When to Use It
Fennel has a sweet mild liquorice flavour.
The seeds, leaves and bulb can all be eaten. The fennel seeds are known as Xiǎo Huí Xiāng in Chinese medicine, and have been used for centuries to treat digestive and gynaecological complaints.
100g of fresh fennel gives you 17% of your daily requirement of Vitamin C, while the seeds provide a rich source of dietary Fibre at 39.8%.
Eating sufficient Vitamin C rich foods is vital for your fertility health.
This water-soluble vitamin is vital for your immune health and has a strong antioxidant effect – protecting your body against free radicals known to damage egg and sperm health.
Fennel seed is used in Chinese Fertility Medicine as women’s herb during menstruation to help ease pain by increasing the flow of Qi through the lower half of the body.
Europeans have also used the seeds medicinally to support digestion and treat colic in adults and babies. The famous ‘Gripe Water’ was originally made from fennel seeds as a diluted herbal tea to treat colic in babies.
But the Fennel benefits don’t stop there as it also contains a wide variety of other essential vitamins and nutrients beneficial for fertility health.
Vitamin A – Vitamin A is made up of 3 biologically active molecules, which are fat soluble and absorbed primarily through the small intestine.
There are 2 ways of obtaining Vitamin A:
- The pre-formed version, absorbed when eating animal products
- Pro-vitamin A (beta-carotene) found mostly in carrots, sweet potato, peaches, apricots, squash, and other yellow fruits and vegetables.
Vitamin A is required for cellular creation, growth, and health, which is important for your general and fertility health – and that of your future baby.
Vitamin A helps with the absorption of Iron and is necessary for the growth and repair of many body cells including: bones, teeth, collagen and cartilage. It’s also involved in cell differentiation where cells become specific types of cells such as a liver cell or a blood cell. This is vital for the development of your healthy baby, and so Vitamin A should be sufficient in your diet in a food form.
Vitamin C – Vitamin C also known as ascorbic acid and L-ascorbic acid helps to repair and regenerate tissues, help with the absorption of iron, prevent scurvy, and decrease total and LDL (“bad”) cholesterol and triglycerides.
Research shows that vitamin C protects against free radicals due to its antioxidant nature. It also helps neutralize the effects of nitrites (a group of commonly used preservatives), which many people come into contact with daily through processed foods.
For fertility health vitamin C is important in the process of absorption, and also for its ability to support the luteal phase of the menstrual cycle.
Supplement forms of vitamin C are usually inferior compared to natural sources and my advice is to obtain this nutrient from your diet daily through fresh vegetables and fruit.
Vitamin C increases the absorption of iron, and also affects the way calcium is metabolised and stored in your body.
Vitamin B1 – Vitamin B1, also known as Thiamine is involved in the production of energy through the breakdown of sugars and carbohydrates. This is important for cellular health, which may also influence the health and energy of sperm and egg cells. Thiamine also helps the body make use of protein and is essential for brain functioning and digestion.
Vitamin B1 helps turn starch and sugar into usable energy that your body needs, and plays an important role in nerve transmission. It’s also important for energy support during pregnancy.
Thiamine is essential for the efficient functioning of the thyroid and along with Riboflavin (vitamin B2) plays an important role in overcoming estrogen dominance.
Vitamin B2 – Vitamin B2 also known as Riboflavin is necessary for energy production and normal cell function and growth. It helps regulate body acidity and supports the other B vitamins to make the chemical changes that allow them to become useful.
Research shows that vitamin B2 can act as an antioxidant, which helps to combat against harmful free radicals. Free radicals are known to negatively impact sperm and egg health due to causing DNA damage, and so antioxidants are a vital part of the human diet.
Vitamin B2 is also needed by your adrenal glands for the production of steroid hormones, which balance stress levels.
Vitamin B3 – Vitamin B3, also known as Niacin, as with most other B vitamins is also involved in energy production within the mitochondria of your cells (the powerhouse of the cell).
It is an important part of the entire Vitamin B complex, which should be adequate in your diet to support your general and fertility health. Pregnancy requires good levels of niacin, as does breast feeding.
As Niacin can not be stored in the body it is important to include it in your diet every day. You should be able to get the required amount of B3 by eating a varied and balanced diet.
Vitamin B5 – Also known as Pantothenic acid is a water soluble vitamin found in most foods, so deficiency is rare. It is needed for the metabolism of proteins, carbohydrates, and fats and is used in the production of coenzyme A.
Coenzyme A is an enzyme that’s involved in a variety of processes in the body – particularly the breaking down of fatty acids and transforming cholesterol into various hormones, and so is vital for maintaining fertility health.
The human body can only absorb around 10mg of vitamin B5 in a day. Any excess B5 which is not absorbed is then eliminated from the body.
Vitamin B6 – Also known as Pyridoxine is involved in breaking many types of chemical bonds. It is a component of many enzymes, which are involved in breaking down foods and substances, and also regulating steroid hormones.
B6 also helps in the production of neurotransmitters, which are the chemicals that allow brain and nerve cells to communicate – and this ensures that metabolic processes such as fat and protein metabolism happen properly.
B6 is also a strong component of the immune system, which makes it vital to have in your diet whilst trying to conceive.
It can also help address a number of conditions, including: nerve compression injuries (like carpal tunnel syndrome), premenstrual syndrome (PMS), and some cases of depression and arthritis. Vitamin B6 is often used to treat high homocysteine levels along with folate and Vitamin B12.
Vitamin B9 – Also known as Folate or folacin. Mistakenly many people take Folic Acid, which is a synthetic version of Folate that is not recommended due to possible toxicity.
Folate is essential for human growth and development as it encourages normal nerve and brain function. It’s involved in the creation of DNA as well as building of proteins, and many other important functions including the healthy development of your baby’s spinal cord.
Folate has long been known for its protection against spina bifida, but many people don’t realise that it’s also important for their day-to-day health.
During pregnancy folate also supports the growth of the placenta and helps to prevent several types of birth defects, especially those of the brain and spine. Folate is an important nutrient for general and fertility health.
Sodium – Sodium has many health benefits including promoting digestion, promoting restful sleep and preventing muscle cramps.
It plays a role in the conduction of nerve signals to the brain, which is essential for movement. Sodium also helps with the regulation of blood pressure and volume, and fluid maintenance, to ensure you have enough fluid around your cells. This is important for the health of all cells including egg and sperm cells.
Selenium – Selenium is one component of antioxidant enzymes and is also used by the body to help support thyroid health – particularly conversion of thyroid hormones from one to the other. Thyroid health is fundamental to your general and fertility health and future pregnancy.
Potassium – Potassium is an electrolyte which counteracts the effects of sodium, helping to maintain consistent blood pressure levels – another important element for pregnancy. Many processes in the body rely on a small electric current to function, and electrolytes provide this current.
Potassium is required to keep the brain, heart, kidneys, muscle tissue, and other important organs in good condition. Its health benefits are; boosting the immune system, Improving bone health, improving muscle strength, blood sugar regulation, blood pressure regulation, and maintaining optimal nerve and brain function.
Magnesium – Magnesium supports a healthy immune system as well as keeping bones strong. It is also great for stress, and combined with vitamin B6 can help induce sleep and alleviate symptoms of bloating and weight gain associated with PMS.
The production of Vitamin D also relies on Magnesium, and many people that are deficient in Vitamin D also have a Magnesium deficiency. Before taking a Vitamin D supplement I would recommend increasing Magnesium intake, whilst also increasing sun exposure, and then retest Vitamin D levels after 4 weeks.
Many people experience heightened stress levels and develop magnesium deficiency as it is a difficult nutrient to obtain from your diet. Crab meat has a high source of Magnesium, but many people will need to supplement this mineral.
Magnesium is helpful for cell function, and if you become deficient you can quickly experience increased stress feelings, disturbed sleep, or muscle cramping.
Manganese – Manganese is a naturally occurring mineral which aids in the formation of connective tissue, bones, blood-clotting factors, and sex hormones. It is a powerful antioxidant which neutralises the damaging particles of free radicals. It plays a role in fat and carbohydrate metabolism, calcium absorption, and blood sugar regulation.
Iron – Iron is a mineral that the body uses to carry oxygen in the blood.
It has many functions but also plays a key role in strengthening the immune system and regulating body temperature.
Calcium – Calcium is needed to build and maintain strong bones, support heart health, and for optimal function of the muscles and nerves. It is also required alongside Vitamin D to aid in its use throughout the body.
Copper – Copper is essential for overall health and is involved in many processes in the body. It cannot be produced by the body and must therefore be consumed through food.
Combined with iron it enables the body to form red blood cells, which carry oxygen around the body as well as helping with wound healing. Copper helps maintain healthy bones, blood vessels, nerves, and immune function, and it contributes to iron absorption.
Too much or too little copper can have a big impact on fertility, particularly for men. Sperm health can be greatly affected by an imbalance of copper.
Zinc – Zinc benefits include maintaining brain function, strengthening bones, boosting your immune system, increasing energy levels, and enhancing reproductive health.
Zinc is essential for the repair and function of DNA, which affects sperm and egg quality.
It’s also essential for the rapid growth of cells and the building of major parts of cells during a pregnancy. The development and enzyme activity that takes place during pregnancy is supported by zinc, which means that this is one of the most important nutrients for babies and mothers.
Zinc is also involved in making red blood cells (along with iron) and haemoglobin, which transports nutrients around your body helping to support your organ and cellular health.
In women zinc supports all of the reproductive phases, including the stages of birth and milk production.
In men zinc assists in spermatogenesis and the development of the sex organs.
For sperm health this mineral plays a major role in a number of ways:
- It acts as a sedative for the sperm so that they don’t expend energy unnecessarily.
- It protects the reproductive DNA inside the sperm from breaking down, so a correct transfer of genetic information takes place.
- Once inside the female reproductive tract the sperm quickly disperses and has a sudden burst of activity, which propels it towards the fallopian tubes.
- Zinc is an essential part of the enzymes that allow sperm to penetrate into the female egg
- Treats Qi Stagnation
- Treat Yang Deficiency
- Treats Dampness
Qi (pronounced chee) is the Chinese Fertility Medicine word used to describe energy, life force, or vitality inside and outside the body.
Qi must always flow efficiently through the body to properly support the thousands of functions required of the organs and systems every day.
If the flow of Qi slows down it is regarded as being a Qi Stagnation pattern.
This typically results in a variety of symptoms that can lead to stress, mood changes, hormonal imbalance, and other functional symptoms reflecting a lack of circulation in the body.
All of these have the ability to affect your fertility health as the regulation and ‘switching’ of hormones, fluids, energy, blood require a smooth and constant flow of energy to work properly.
Yang Deficiency is the Chinese Fertility Medicine term used to describe a lack of activity, warmth, or metabolism within your body.
It basically indicates an under-activity of the body – often related to the adrenal function, or the Hypothalamic-Pituitary-Adrenal axis. This axis regulates hormone production and release, and is also involved in the regulation and production of energy and warmth.
Yang Deficiency often manifests as Thyroid issues, particularly Hypothyroidism and Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis as both of these are caused by an under-active metabolism.
Dampness is the word used in Chinese Fertility Medicine to describe an overabundance of negative types of fluids that have accumulated in the body.
This includes: mucus, phlegm, or water accumulation (edema) that build up over time in different areas of the body.
A variety of fertility issues can arise from having too much Dampness including: immune disorders, fluid retention, circulatory issues, bacterial and fungal overgrowth, and other inflammatory diseases.
Reducing dampness can take some time, but the physical effects you receive will be worth it!
Season available: Winter Season
How it’s typically cooked: fennel is wonderfully versatile and can be used in soups, salads, and roasted with other vegetables. The seeds are used in a variety of European, Indian and Asian dishes but are also the ingredient that makes fennel tea.
Fennel tea is a good support whilst trying to conceive. Please see my earlier post on the safety of herbal teas for your fertility.
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Andrew Loosely is The Natural Fertility Expert and author of The Ultimate Fertility Guide. One of the most sought after consultants in the Fertility community, he is famous for helping thousands of people around the world to transform their fertility health, to conceive and birth their babies. Find out more