Interview with Kathryn Simmons Flynn
This lady is passionate about food and fertility. She has dedicated her life to the understanding of how diet affects reproductive health. This discussion with Kathryn will prove to help get your head wrapped around the big picture of how you should be approaching diet when trying to conceive. Diet is a HUGE piece of health in general and fertility in particular. So grab a pen and get ready to take some notes, as information like this could prove to be some of the most important guidance you will receive on your path to pregnancy. ~ Spence
Kathryn Flynn, B.Ed. is the author of the Cooking for Fertility cookbook and Founder of Fertile Foods.com. She is trained in the healing benefits of whole foods by Paul Pitchford, author of Healing with Whole Foods, and worked extensively with Dr. Randine Lewis, author of The Infertility Cure, to develop the Fertile Soul’s integrative nutrition program for reproductive health.
Over the past decade, Kathryn has used both Western and Eastern nutritional therapies to guide her clients to greater levels of health by incorporating delicious whole foods, regular exercise and relaxation practices.
Kathryn is a contributing author to Fertility Authority, Fertility Planit, The Fertile Soul, Whole Pregnancy and a supporter of Resolve New England.
Kathryn also runs a small organic tea company called Moontime Tea for Women and lives in Southern Oregon with her husband, son and daughter.
2010: published Cooking for Fertility: Foods to Nourish Your Fertile Soul
2012: published The Fertile Secret: 10 Steps to Living Your Most Fertile Life by Dr. Robert Kiltz with Kathryn Simmons Flynn
World Tea Expo Medal winner 2018: Organic Fertility Tea
The Fertile Soul Nutrition Consultant 2005-present
The Fertile Soul Retreat Coordinator 2006-2014
Oriens Healing Sanctuary Nutrition Consultant 2009- present
Owner Fertile Foods, Inc. 2009- present
Owner Moontime Tea 2012- present
Advanced Fertility Center of Texas Nutrition Consultant and Presenter 2016- present
Spence: Hello, everyone! Welcome to the Conception Channel Podcast brought to you by the Being Fertile Program and the Yinstill Reproductive Wellness. I’m your host, Spence Pentland, and today, I’m really excited to be able to speak with our special guest, Kathryn Flynn. Welcome, Kathryn.
Kathryn: Thank you so much for having me.
Spence: She’s here today to help us all better understand fertility and food. This is a big topic, and you’re going to want to listen in. Kathryn is such a great lady, and she’s got a lot to teach and tell. Just a little housekeeping, if you haven’t already done so, go to the bottom of the podcast page on beingfertileprogram.com, subscribe, you’ll be notified when new podcasts come up. You can also subscribe to a Conception Channel on YouTube, Apple iTunes podcast, leave a nice review too while you’re there, and on the Yinstill Reproductive Wellness Facebook page. Anyway, I’m going to give you a little intro here, Kathryn, and if I don’t do it justice, please let everybody know. Kathryn Flynn is the author of the Cooking For Fertility Cookbook and founder of fertilefoods.com, something you’ll want to check out. She’s trained in the healing benefits of whole foods by Paul Pitchford, author of Healing with Whole Foods, which is a bible basically. It’s such a great book, and also worked extensively with Dr. Randine Lewis, author of The Infertility Cure to help develop the Fertile Soul’s integrative nutrition program for reproductive health. These are all shining, shining things, Kathryn. Over the past decade, Kathryn’s used both Western and Eastern nutritional therapies to guide her clients to greater levels of health by incorporating delicious Whole Foods and, key word, regular exercise and relaxation practices. Kathryn’s a contributing author at Fertility Authority, Fertility Planet, The Fertile Soul in the whole pregnancy, and she’s also a supporter of Resolve New England. She also runs a small organic tea company called Moontime Tea, which I’m excited to talk about. She’s just telling me a story about labeling her teas. She
is from Southern Oregon, which we were just discussing each claiming to be from the NAPA of our state or Covent in Canada.
Kathryn: Exactly. Good wine.
Spence: Yes, a necessary part of life for so many. We’ve known each other in the groups we run with for years, but you just informed me that you’re actually Canadian by blood.
Kathryn: Yes, from Ottawa, and proud of that.
Spence: Ottawa, Canada, that’s is the capital of Canada for most of the people that probably don’t know that. That’s where Justin Trudeau, our fancy Prime Minister exists. Anyway, welcome, thank you so much for being here. This is such a big topic, and so we’re going to go through some diet tips, from traditional Chinese perspectives, etc. But I like to always start with a bit of your story, we went through it, but is there anything else that really stands out and how you got to where you are today, and what kind of you’re passionate about and up to today?
Kathryn: Sure. Yeah. It was a really interesting story about how I met Randine and kind of caught into this niche for fertility. And of course, I had my own issues with fertility from a very, very young age, I had a surgery, left ovary removed. And there was some discussion there about how that would impact your fertility. I was 15 or 16 years old, definitely not thinking of having babies, but it did impact the way doctors treated me, because to prevent cysts, they would say you needed to be on birth control, which of course we know has a lot of different effects to it from a TCM perspective especially and restoring healthy periods. So, by the time I met Randine, I was — I’ll just tell you the full, story, it’s very quick, but I was living in a guest house in California, and the woman who owned the house was wanting to get pregnant, and she came in one day with a magazine and she said, what should I do, I really need to do something. And there was this retreat with Randine Lewis and spas. And I said, of course you should do this, go to spas. And so they became friends, she brought her home to the house, and Randine and I were
instant friends and kind of soul mates, and she took my pulse. She was the first person ever to give me acupuncture and herbs and also some dietary tips, some teas I could drink to kind of regulate my cycle, and I just saw it. I saw the amazing things, things that had troubled me for years that were then corrected what a little bit of Chinese herbs acupuncture and some milk thistle tea. I really saw the effects in my own body, started writing with Randine, and became very passionate about the nutrition. I have an education background and really just fell in love with the nutrition, went to study with Paul Pitchford, who took nine years to write that beautiful book. I’ve read it about three or four times, cover to cover, it’s brilliant, he’s amazing, and went from there to create the Fertile Soul Nutrition Program with Randine. And that’s how it all started.
Spence: It’s awesome. For those of you who may not know Randine, she has guru status in the traditional Chinese medicine and the treatment of infertility world which is a really rapidly growing and expanding field because of its obvious benefits that you and I aren’t going to need to argue about at all today. Randine is great, if you haven’t heard of her, you can check her out as well. Fast forward to today, I know you do consulting, and what are you up to these days?
Kathryn: I continue to consult with patients one-on-one, specific to fertility healthy pregnancy, I also do some webinars for a reproductive endocrinologist down in Texas who really believes about the power of nutrition and preparing for IVF, which I think is so wonderful to see because ten years ago, it wasn’t so. And then, I also I have two small children, and of course, a tea company that kind of came based off of my cookbook and my research into beverages and certainly in my one-on-one consultations, particularly telling people that coffee wouldn’t be the best choice. That’s when you get the biggest reaction, “Oh, not my coffee!” And coffee, it’s so much more than just a beverage, it’s a ritual. I started to research herbs that would be beneficial for reproductive health, to say, okay, well, here’s an alternative, and so that’s how that was born, and it’s been very fun to create those teas too.
Spence: Awesome. So, these teas are something that women can buy and just drink
throughout the regular day, are they specific to their cycle, are they specific to their condition like endometriosis?
Kathryn: Yes, there is a little bit of cross-correlation there. Originally, the idea was to balance the menstrual cycle, with the four different phases and teas, but from a perspective of putting that out in the world. Again, life stages, there’s fertility cleanse, libido and whole health, which is an anti-inflammatory blend, and really the concept of taking a moment for yourself. Because the whole idea of coffee being heating, taking away from our basic essence, which is so important for fertility, and then versus the idea of replenishing yourself. So, that’s kind of the energy of the teas, all herbal, 100% organic and caffeine free.
Spence: Do you ship those or are those mostly a local product?
Kathryn: They’re up on Amazon in Canada, U.S. and U.K, and they are also available at some local health food stores and then also at Moontime Tea.
Spence: You talked about fertilefoods.com, and that was born from the book that you wrote – is that right?
Kathryn: That’s correct.
Spence: What was the process of writing that book, and can you tell people kind of the structure of it, or how it might benefit women? Is it a programmer’s, is it a worksheet, is it full of mostly recipes or is it conditioned?
Kathryn: Sure. Cooking For Fertility was really born from my studies with Paul Pitchford. He’s amazing, in his book, he talks specifically about the healing foods and the energetics of what these foods do in our bodies, and then working with Randine and really learning the TCM of the specific reproductive health imbalances, and kind of marrying those two. Specifically in a way, because a lot of the time when we talk with
clients, we talk theoretically: you should avoid gluten, you should avoid dairy, these type of things, but what do we replace them with and how do we actually do this. I love cooking, I love baking, I’m by no means a chef though I really want to be one day. Like a gluten-free Cordon Bleu type chef is my dream, but this was really a collection of over a hundred recipes that are super simple and kind of met those criteria. Because I really like to focus on pleasure in my consultations and not like what we can’t have but what we can replace them with and how much better those are.
Spence: What we can have.
Kathryn: Exactly. Because restriction’s a big deal, and, you know, fertility is all about being open and receptive, and we can get really restrictive around our food. A lot of women I were talking to were like I’m starving, I don’t know what to eat. And I’m of the mindset of, you need to eat and you need to enjoy it, and if you’re stuck somewhere and there’s nothing, you bless that food, you eat it and you move on. You need to be nourished.
Spence: It’s funny you bring that up, conception is about reception. That’s beautiful. There’s an article that one of my teammates posted on one of our social media channels the other day, and it really resonated with what you just said. It was about fertility. If you’re starving yourself and over exercising, the common steps or preconceived notions that people might have about how to get more fertile, being healthy and what is healthy. It gets really complicated, right?
Kathryn: Right. And instead what we end up doing is we put more stress on our bodies, rather than filling ourselves back up, so actually, a lot of the times exercise needs to be dialed back to kind of a level 5 out of 10 of exertion, and definitely, this whole correlation between weight and fertility. There’s all these studies showing that where someone is overweight, weight loss of 5-10% can improve fertility. 10% of all infertility issues may be related to weight, but we think of that always of being overweight, but what we don’t talk about is the underweight issue. Because women who are coming in
with a BMI under 18.5, oftentimes they’ve lost their period, and since hormones are stored in fat cells, it’s really about kind of replenishing and just getting that good fat. So, it’s interesting perspective.
Spence: Yeah. You and I both been doing this for quite some time since our sort of various licensure or certification and focus infertility or reproductive health. But the overarching concept to me, when the deeper and deeper you get the more of a spiritual journey, it becomes for me and my patients — maybe that’s my projection on them — but fertility is unique, and I enjoy working with it. At least because of something you just touched on, is it about balance, the extremes need to be moderated. You know, too much or too little of exercise or proper diet, it’s all this middle road, without bringing religion and bit of a Buddhist path of really moderating, and diet is massive with that.
Kathryn: It’s massive and it’s also this phase. There’s so much on the internet, there’s so much out there. We have so much access to our fingertips of what we can fill our brains with. We can get so overwhelmed, so just kind of coming back, food and the relaxation piece and the acupuncture, exactly what you said, coming back into balance, having perspective and doing our best, and making choices that actually feel like they’re filling us up, rather than what is the perfect.
Spence: Or what I should.
Kathryn: Or what I should, yeah. I’m careful to always say that, like, I know this. No, just framing it in a way that this is a better choice because, and let your body feel it.
Spence: Isn’t that the most important to me for diet, and I’m not going to oversimplify because there’s a lot to it, but really truly, boiling it down to how you feel with what you’re doing, with your diet, should be a primary focus in my IMO, in my opinion.
Kathryn: I totally agree with you. And I think when people come from that perspective of filling themselves up, and they actually start to enjoy the changes they’re feeling, then it
becomes a bigger picture. Because, they’re literally not only impacting themselves, they’re impacting the baby in utero, because we know the preferences for food are often formed in utero, and then all the way to the family dinner table. Everyone around you is going to benefit. And just knowing that nothing is a 100% except maybe gluten, and we can talk about that for a while. If you don’t try that a 100%, it remains in your bloodstream. The idea we’re talking about, we both live in beautiful wine country, so you know, having a glass of wine every once in a while, can you get it, the organic biodynamic, all that fun stuff. But sometimes at a celebration, that’s more important than saying, you know, I’m just a hundred percent, and feeling that rigidity around it. So, it’s an important topic.
Spence: Well, that openness. If you can’t go to a great friend’s birthday party and have a little slice of cake and a glass of wine or something, that’s not open.
Kathryn: No, and it can lead to a lot of other social dynamics, a lot of stress, the pressure and why not this. It’s kind of weighing what feels good in the moment, and then allowing for these indulgences, enjoying them, and then just going back to your regular 80% of the time you’re doing great, 80 or 90%.
Spence: I was just recently at the Canadian equivalent to the ASRM, the Canadian Fertility & Andrology Society meeting, this is where all the top brass in the medical field get together once a year, just like in the U.S. It’s a much smaller event. They discuss current events and issues and research and have some interesting debates. And a fellow was there who just did a sabbatical and wrote a paper with a French, he went to France wrote a paper with another French Ph.D. specializing in reproductive health, and they looked at wine consumption. And they had a control group, which is really interesting, of smokers and non-smokers, but all drank red wine in particular. And what they found, after they boiled everything down, the only conclusion they can draw was that their red wine consumption, because of the lack of difference between the smoking group and the non-smoking group in egg quality was that the resveratrol in the peels of the red grape in the red wine had a protective effect on the egg. So, if you’re going to have wine, maybe
red, I don’t know.
Kathryn: Make it red. That’s interesting. I’ve seen all sort of studies, epigenetic studies that say that smoking can cause changes in the DNA in about eight different places, in a preconception and things like that, which I thought was interesting too. But you know the Italians and French, they enjoy life, so I like to say, finding a way to do that with the whole foods, adding the healing benefits in, but having that approach to it of really just enjoying it.
Spence: Yeah. I’m sure you’ve had a lot of clientele just like myself that on paper are doing everything right but the joy is gone because of, I call it ‘hyper wellness’, and too many tasks on the list each week that are “good” for them, and there’s not enough room left for the joy that you’re talking about.
Kathryn: Yeah, I think that’s super important, just making sure the pleasure is there. I talk about that too, because I go through relaxation techniques, and I say, you know, this is a toolkit, doing something every day that brings you peace and calm, but not over scheduling yourself to the point where I’m like, get the acupuncture massage, foot soak, and you are like, oh, I need to quit my job to be able to do this. And it has to be practical within the lifestyle too.
Spence: You know, this is so huge, because food is so huge, and joy surrounding food is a difficult concept, especially if someone’s ever battled with weight. But joy, bottom line is an outward sign that you’re surrendering. And that is a state of being open.
Kathryn: I agree, I agree. And I love the way Chinese medicine kind of looks at the spleen chi, so we always address this spleen chi for the digestive fire. So, with weight loss in particular, what I’ve noticed on that particular style of eating, is that people generally get back to where they need to go without calorie counting. People have a lot of success with some of the Weight Watchers programs and all sorts of different things, but as a rule of thumb when someone comes to me and they’re specifically asking, like how
many calories can this snack be, how many portions, rather than kind of visualizing the plate, half-filled with colorful rainbow veggies, grilled, cooked, steamed a palm-sized portion of protein, then of course maybe some gluten free grains if you’re doing the grains. I think that that style of eating takes a lot of the pressure away, and I’ve just noticed people get to where they need to go, whether it’s losing a little weight or whether it’s gaining a little bit of weight. And I think that that’s kind of fascinating too. There could be a surrender in that, when you’re eating it according to your Chinese medicine diagnosis.
Spence: Agreed about calorie counting. I think hopefully as a whole people are getting past that concept, because it seems so passé, and what the most I would ever get someone to do is count some carbs for a bit, so they have some concept of how much they might be ingesting in a day. And it might be right or wrong, especially in a PCO situation.
Kathryn: PCO situation or even looking at the glycemic index, and starting to understand that zero to a hundred, where is this food falling. I always use that good example of mashed potatoes, mashed potatoes fall at a 95, yams are out of 44, but we also know that yams may be too sweet for the condition of PCOS. So, it’s interesting, just kind of learning theoretically about why some of the food choices because that science can help people to understand what impact is this actually having on my system, bringing up the insulin and cortisol every time I spike my blood sugar. There’s place for those numbers too.
Spence: I know this conversation is going to dive into different trends and scientific waves that are coming at us now, and having it last a little while. But I want to really reiterate to anyone watching or listening that the principles that come from the traditional Chinese medicine have been around for a long time, and there’s something you can superimpose over any diet, depending on the clinical picture that you see. So, this is why you talk to someone like Kathryn and as well what Paul Pitchford, your other guru, has done is tried to marry the two, modern science and tradition. And that’s why I think this talk is a little different than some that may just cover something like, should I be on
Aikido or that idea. Maybe that’s a disclaimer or something for the effectiveness of what Kathryn is doing, I’m a true believer that it really is a journey to finding your own path, and that’s what she’s talking about. There’s no one size fits all here. Rewinding again, I want to touch on some of these trendy diets as well, and then maybe we’ll talk about conditions. Because of the tradition from Chinese medicine, and here’s how we’ve eaten for a long time, it sparked a thought in my mind and what I speak to a lot of people too, about as well is looking at their ancestral diet. You know, what they’ve eaten or their family is eating for so long, and if you make massive changes all of a sudden – what are your thoughts on that?
Kathryn: I love that so much because Paul Pitchford touches on that in his book, and he talked about that a lot in our training of how our kidney energies or our reproductive energies and our adrenals can be fortified by enjoying meals that our ancestors have enjoyed because it’s in the code of our genetics. So, for instance, I guess I’m Irish and English, and so this kind of meat and potatoes or shepherd’s pie would be a good example. Eating that meal, and I can do it with the grass-fed beef and with any kind of potatoes or whatever I want, but how eating that meal literally fortifies the baseline energies, maybe in the same way that any relaxation activities too. I love that principle, and then I just think Chinese medicine is so brilliant. I think there’s a place for a lot of those trendy diets and you can go through all of them. We’ve done the Atkins, Paleo and Keto are kind of having their moment right now. There’s parts of each of them that I honor, and time periods that are specific for a person who might use that diet for a little while to achieve a certain outcome. I know Keto has been very powerful for weight loss for a lot of people, Paleo, the grain free, a lot with autoimmune conditions and inflammatory conditions. Keto is with the most protein, brown rice is one of the most studied foods ever, you know, vitamins, minerals, all of the things in it. I just think we really have to look at it case by case of what we’re looking to achieve. The Buddha said, I eat cooked foods, grains for calming, and you know, raw foods is very popular too, but we talked about that in Chinese medicine for excess conditions that need to be more detoxified. What I love about Chinese medicine is like a puzzle. So, you have a person that maybe has weight loss, fertility, autoimmune, and then you can pull all the pieces
together based on the Chinese medicine diagnosis, what foods and what patterns will be most healing for this moment. But as you know, the pulse changes.
Spence: Right. and time goes by.
Kathryn: Time goes by, and then you have beautiful modalities like Chinese herbs and the acupuncture, and everything changes. So, that’s what we want to be seeing and then addressing.
Spence: It’s really truly individualized, and that’s why these principles are timeless, with superimposing these modern ideas. The idea being, that maybe for this person or, like you said, the autoimmune conditions, which cause inflammation, may be able to borrow a little bit from Paleo in reducing grains. The Ketogenic diet, if someone wants to lose weight, I feel it’s very powerful to steer some people away from a multiple meal snacking into three smaller meals, and there being enough fasting within each day or week so the body remembers how to utilize fat stores as energy again. What Katherine is doing, I try to do probably paling in comparison to her, that’s why I’m so excited to be here with you, is to look at each person individually and find out what their path to fertile foods looks like.
Kathryn: Yeah, and it’s so fun and it’s amazing to them when you see them starting to feel different or achieving. You know, nothing more frustrating than when you feel, like you’re doing everything perfectly but you’re not losing weight. So, what do we need to look at is the blood sugar balance often to kind of retrain the body into the healthy pattern, and you touched on that with the Keto diet. This idea of the intermittent fasting, which I think can be a beautiful theory, even applied to how can we rest our body between like seven and seven.
Spence: Yeah, 12 hours.
Kathryn: Right. It can be simplified and kind of worked into the structure of it all. But the
idea of really finding what your pattern is, what your challenge is in, and what foods that you can use to restore a balance in the body. And that’s what I think TCM dietary therapy does so beautifully, oftentimes in conjunction with the acupuncture and the herbs. I’ve seen incredible miracles.
Spence: Yeah, awesome. It’s holistic, so no stone left unturned, even exercise. Exercises are extremely important, what’s your feeling on the importance of diet versus exercise if there is weight loss that needs to occur to maybe restore hormonal balance or fertility?
Kathryn: I always approach clients kind of 3-tier approach, and I’ve always learned — Paul Pitchford was very, very serious about this — that you always look at it first in terms of relaxation response, awareness practices, then exercise, and then food specifics. Because from a strong awareness practice and a good exercise program, it’s so much easier to make good choices with food. We’ve already kind of met halfway with that battle to balance. And so I think that when I talk to people, I say to them, you know, in your lifestyle, you go through your day, and you’re handing out some of your essence every day for the activities you do. And so, are those activities heating or cooling, and we all have both in our life because we live in this world. So, the idea is to match the heating activities with more cooling activities because oftentimes, you know, the internet, the pace of life, over-exercising, not eating enough, not getting enough sleep, that’s all heating, that’s all sapping your reproductive energies. So, how can we use awareness, practices, exercise to replenish you? And that’s back to that idea of kind of not over-exercising really, and what’s interesting, Spence, sometimes people will lose weight more when they scale back from running and they start walking. Because their body is no longer in that fight-or-flight light, and the cortisol goes down. Cortisol is a fat depositing hormone. It’s interesting though, because we’ve been trained to exercise hard, we just like have to sweat. But it’s a little bit like drinking a coffee, it’s kind of a false endorphins, and,
eventually, there’s a crash. So, how do we moderate that? And some people don’t like to give up their running, like they don’t like to give up their coffee. I also am very respectful of that, because of joy. So, how can moderate it, you know, maybe this isn’t the time to
run a marathon, but maybe scaling back to something is just enough to get your body to relax.
Spence: So, make it better aerobic versus cardio or something.
Spence: I love that, and that’s a good message that exercise as well can be a lot of stress on the body. And bottom line, we are an animal, and animals under extreme stress generally have mechanisms built in to minimize resources to reproductive function. And we go from that up here that fight-or-flight, which primarily moves resources to the heart, lungs, brain and big muscles to feed and breed, which is basically a switch in our nervous system, and in my opinion, where acupuncture’s strength lies at least primarily. And so to feed and breed, we get nutrition from food, and that nutrition gets delivered to the developing eggs and follicles and uterine lining.
Kathryn: I love acupuncture. My first experience, and I joke about this because I was always like, why would people get acupuncture, why wouldn’t they get a massage, I just don’t get it. And then Randine gave me acupuncture, and it’s the first time I had that feeling of literally dropping into the table and truly feeling the relaxation response, and as I joke also too for people who are like me, that, you know, just wanted to run every day. And it also keeps you still, because you can’t move because the needles are in you, and I know you have patients like that. I talk to them, and I’m like, I know exactly because I was exactly like that. And acupuncture for everything, the blood flow to the uterus and ovaries, of course, the implantation support, all of these things are even more corroborated by research now too, which is helping more people to have access to it, which I love.
Spence: Yeah, it’s great, it’s great. So, spinning back to some of these different styles of eating, because sometimes diet is an ethical choice, such as vegans or vegetarians, and when can that be beneficial for what type of people, when can it be detrimental or have
maybe a negative effect even on reproductive health?
Kathryn: We see kind of both sides, so you’ll have a person that comes in with excess symptoms, so really robust, red, overweight, oily skin, or an excess condition that may be a cancer, or estrogen dominant condition, that’s another one where you really want to focus kind of on the veggies. I love Chinese medicine for this too because it’s always kind of imbalance, that palm-sized portion of protein which can be kind of a combination of the grass-fed meats, the beans, the lentils, all of that. So, an excess condition of course would benefit from a more vegetable-based diet or the Chinese medicine style as opposed to the standard American diet of the entire plate of steak with potatoes and corn. But then we have on the other side people that are having difficulty getting pregnant, who maybe have been lifelong vegetarians. And there’s the real deficiency there. And that’s an interesting conversation because I’ve seen both sides. So, it can be a philosophical decision, where it’s a 100%, I’m never going to eat meat, it’s not happening. And then we need to look at some of the fermented foods, we need to make sure of course that they’re having the good Methylated B vitamins, and how can we support and make sure they’re getting enough protein from other sources. Then, there’s somewhere in the middle where people, you know, they kind of get this sense that maybe they’re missing something that could be fortified with meet because of all the B vitamins in them. And that’s an interesting area, where people will be pescatarians or flexitarian, so they’ll start to maybe eat salmon. And one area often that people can tolerate is the bone broth, which I think is amazing. So, they don’t actually have to chew the meat, they’re restoring their gut health, and something that always happens I feel like when people are open to that is there’s just this color that often comes up in their faces. So, they could really feel that something’s been missing, they feel fortified, and they feel comfortable with that choice. And I feel like it’s usually kind of stepping stones. We’re not going straight to a burger or anything, but we might be open to this bone broth, and I think it can be really used healing, medicinal food.
Spence: Bottom line, again, we’re steering back always to, you know, some people function super great on a vegetarian or vegan diet, and they’re not inefficient, it’s maybe in their ancestral lineage, I don’t know. Or, that’s the way it is. Elite athletes can do it
sometimes, but if that’s not you, and you’re trying to accomplish a goal. If you’re going to run an Ironman, you would adhere to certain principles that would get you to that goal. And fertility is the same, but it’s very individualized. So. if there’s something that you need to change to accomplish this goal, you can revert back to your ethical or however you want to be maybe afterward, because you want to teach your children or whatever it is for you, but sometimes you need to maybe make steps that are a little less comfortable – you find that?
Kathryn: I do, yeah. I think it can go either way, because some people are just so committed to that path, and then we really have to look at how are we supplementing and how are we using those fermented foods and the Chinese herbs, and that can have wonderful impact too in the same way. But sometimes it’s cravings, we’re built-in with these cravings, they increase in pregnancy. Aversions and cravings, they keep us safe historically to what is good food and spoiled food. But that’s inside of us, so when we get back into balance, we could start to feel what our body is craving. As you know, in your practice, I have a lot of women in first trimester or even premenstrual that are like, I don’t know, I just want steak. That is your body wanting those vitamins, the iron in pregnancy, definitely the additional blood volume. It’s a requirement. So, if the meat is not your thing, if bone broths are not even your thing, we just have to find what is to fortify you in the same way.
Spence: Yeah, that’s where Chinese herbs often are quite powerful. One of my favorite Chinese teachers, when I was being educated back late ’90s, he always said, your body is your best friend, listen to what it’s telling you. So, this is just a continuation of all that. Chinese medicine largely is deep observation of the human and the patterns that it’s displaying to the outward or to the external world and within. So the job of a Chinese medicine practitioner is to observe that person very, very intimately. We don’t run lab tests, or generally, some people leading into functional medicine might, but we watch the human primarily. It always makes me happy, I read journals of endocrinology, and often at the end of research and the discussion, it commonly says that clinically you still need to step back and just look at your patient and see how they’re doing, and I love that. If
you want to touch on that, that’s great, but also, as a takeaway for people, if you’re listening to yourself, it’s like, well, how do I do that. When you eat something or when you’re going through your days and you’re eating a certain way, what kinds of things should you be watching for that and what are they telling you?
Kathryn: This is what’s interesting, that’s why doing an initial consultation to kind of say what do I need to do, like what is my plan, how do I decipher through all this information I’m reading, I’m kind of overload, that’s often times when I get people. So, I go through, okay, well, here’s your diagnosis, here are some of the things you need to do, here are some of the replacements. And for the six-week period for you, it’s going to be following these things and seeing how you feel because there is a period of getting back into balance. For instance, someone who has been having coffee and a bagel for breakfast, I mean, how easy is this to do this? You’re busy during the day, you don’t eat till two o’clock, so a really simple rhythm in the body to reestablish the blood sugar balance. You can set your iphone alarm and just make sure you’re having something every three hours, a protein carbohydrate balance. I know it sounds kind of silly, but this is complete retraining of the body to a different habit. So, something like that can be really easy. And then I feel like, after six weeks, so the gluten is the big thing, that’s the thing I say a 100% of the time, because it’ll stay in your bloodstream, and we really want to see how this is impacting you, so things you may have never noticed. I know when I gave up gluten, I had one of the lab tests, one of the intolerances, I gave it up. I thought I had this neck thing from a car accident, well, sure enough six weeks later, the neck thing’s gone. So, the inflammation from the gluten was aggravating that condition, what I would have never known. I wouldn’t have correlated the two because I had a different story about it. What I described is, after six weeks, okay, no big deal, we all have an accident and eat something that’s gluten, I mean, it’s in a lot of stuff, you’re going to feel it, you’re going to feel it like a food hangover. And that’s how you’re going to know, but until you change out some of these things in your diet, you don’t realize that the protein structure of cow dairy is more complicated. So, maybe it’s responsible for a little bit of the bloating, a little bit of the digestive discomfort, you don’t know that until you replace it, and then maybe add it back in. I think it’s just such a beautiful journey to finding out what is the best
practices for your own body, and I think of some people different constitutions, maybe the dairy doesn’t impact them as much, maybe that’s a whole fat that they can enjoy, but it tends to be one of the aggravators.
Spence: Most people listening or watching have a very clear target, you know, baby or family, and these principles are going to help produce an environment that’s more conducive to that. But eating is something you’re going to do the rest of your life, and these are also principles if you learn them, and learn to utilize them yourself that’ll hopefully help you live to a ripe, old age, where you’re actually able to walk and not full of inflammation and other difficulties that commonly come by just like continuing to do things that are harmful to ourselves.
Kathryn: Right. And that’s when we come into the beautiful arena of preventive medicine, and really using what is within our power, which is food and lifestyle primarily, all the epigenetic studies pointing to the fact that only 10 to 20% is actually our genes and everything else is our lifestyle, and how our body’s responding to our lifestyle and our environment. So, that’s amazing. And how much power we have to make changes and turn things on and off. I think it’s beautiful what you said, and always my goal is to create a plan that people feel that’s doable, that’s enjoyable, and you know some of the things we laugh about because people who are really attached to their coffee, but I’m saying like, not forever. Not if you’re at your favorite café, that’s not it, it’s more of a lifestyle. I want to see how you feel when you fill yourself up. You’re not relying on something external to give you a boost, but when you truly feel filled up. And then we can go from there and we can modify. And it’s really beautiful, it impacts the whole family.
Spence: Yeah, that’s a great point. All this learning also will be passed on to the child. I loved what you’re saying about the six weeks, and it takes a 21 day or whatever to reprogram. And that six-week thing, I always try and highlight, like, if your thyroid is off, you go to your doctor, it takes at least for medication to bring that back to balance. Being willing to do some of this work might seem really tedious, but it’s really important, and
the idea also is to get to a place where any skill that you’re learning, you kind of forget it, and you be within it versus always thinking about how you’re going to do it – is that…?
Kathryn: Right. It becomes more natural, it becomes more easy, and that was part of the reason that writing the cookbook is like, well, what do I choose, what do I eat. And so when you see how easy it is literally to take gluten out of your diet, especially now it’s such a huge industry, and what more so than ten years ago, it feels easier. In theory, it seems like, whoa, this is going to be huge, but you make it easy and you make it doable. And then you feel the benefits and then you want to run with it. And then, it’s just natural. So, yeah, I love that.
Spence: To get anything accomplished in life, no matter how hard it is, I always believed that it’s dependent on how big the ‘why’ is. And that’s why I think fertility patients are so wonderful to work with, women that are having difficulty, because when I see the willingness to step in and make the changes necessary because the ‘why’ is so powerful, it’s beautiful to watch and to work with people through that process. The inflammatory part, you keep touching on gluten, so let’s go there. To tee it up, we often at our clinics will recommend anti-inflammatory cleanse to try and extract foods that commonly people are sensitive to for about a period of three weeks or so. And then, the reintroduction phase, which a lot of people get lazy on, is the most important because that’s where you bring back gluten first and then you observe your body again, your body’s your best friend, and see what’s happening. And you do this with foods that people are commonly sensitive to. It took me doing that cleanse probably for sixth or seventh time in my life, which, it’s a bit of a challenge of course, to realize that if I eat — to bring back tomatoes first, because it seems you bring back a couple foods, things start being confounded. And for me to find out that if I eat too much tomato, I get eczema behind my ears. Like, that’s all, the only sign I can correlate, but it was definitive.
Kathryn: Isn’t it so interesting? And just from a food cleanse too. It’s not even one of those nutrition panels, where it says all you could be sensitive to eggs or that kind of thing, you just do it as a pure elimination diet. And the hardest part is definitely being patient enough to just add one food back in at a time.
Spence: And then once you get three or four back, if they are bothering you, you kind of almost have to start over. You can also do the opposite of just eating, how you are pulling one thing out at a time and observing differences, I guess that would be different. But it’s nice to hit a reset button sometimes. How do you feel about cleanses for fertility?
Kathryn: I think cleansing is super important for fertility. All of the hormone disruptors, the xenoestrogens, all of the things that are in our environment, I think that if you have attempted cleansing before depending on a treatment, so some people wanting to get pregnant naturally versus an IVF, so that has to be kind of considered in because you want to give your body enough time to flush the toxins, but what I prefer for fertility, this will be gentle cleansing. So, almost an elimination diet, to support your body to be cleansing naturally every day. And so, I think that elimination diet achieves that. Of course, choosing organic foods, but then also looking at our environment. Are we using natural cleaning process, are those natural products, so it’s kind of like this ten different pieces that I look at, especially when you have a patient that has an estrogen dominant condition. And I lean towards kind of like the six to 12 weeks for the elimination diet, and maybe kind of just doing that 90-day egg cycle. I kind of vary between that if I have a client, but I really like the 12 weeks, because I feel like it gives your body a chance to reset, but you were talking about a little bit more in depth. Like, I will do nightshades for very specific conditions, and again, it’s individually based. But then, there’s like kind of common ones, which is the gluten, cow dairy, sugar and refined sweeteners and chemicals, sodas – that’s my only like, they got to go. We touched on the alcohol and then the coffee and the caffeine. So, that makes for a very kind of simplified elimination diet that I feel like is really doable in this day and age.
Spence: And individualized. Again, some people, to cleanse, you’re talking at me being more of a deficient versus excess state, and that’s a Chinese medical term, but very robust, versus maybe a little bit weaker cleansing may not be the first choice.
Kathryn: Right. And I think we can agree that a lot of the fertility patients, even if they
have some of the excess conditions that they always usually have an underlying deficiency. So the analogy Paul Pitchford used to teach, which I absolutely loved, and let me think if I can say this correctly, but it takes a really long time to build a house and one match to burn it down. So, really focusing on that, and my mantra always with my clients is, am I replenishing myself, am I nourishing myself, how can I build myself up. So, oftentimes, it is just a case of like am I eating the rainbow, you know, getting all the vitamins, nutrients, antioxidants and minerals so that my body is gently cleansing. Am I drinking enough water so that the filtration system of the kidneys can work. These minor tweaks that are still working on fortifying, but at the same time cleansing, and of course, there’s more in-depth cleanses with drops. So, that’s kind of where it comes into being an individualized decision of what’s our timeline, what do we need to achieve and how does that look like.
Spence: Yeah. I like that, just stepping into an IVF, obviously, you don’t want to do a cleanse, you don’t want to change anything too drastically. And just timing, also being extremely important, and the need as well. I want to be respectful of your time, I know we’ve been chatting for a while, but could we fire through commonly seen reproductive health conditions, such PCOS endometriosis, recurrent pregnancy loss, maybe even male factor, advanced maternal age unexplained, and obviously, people are going to have to come to you or to Fertile Foods or to read your book to gain a deeper understanding. Or the individualized understanding of themselves, but overarching two to three tips
Kathryn: Sure. I love that. Endometriosis especially, so we think of that as an estrogen dominant condition, so that right there, the anti-inflammatory diet all the way. Also a super important one to be thinking about those gentle cleansings, how can I remove toxins from my system, how can I remove toxins from my environment with some simple tweaks, for those xenoestrogens, the soy, all of those things that could be mimicking the estrogen receptors. PCOS, of course. I really love working with foodwise and nutritionally, because I feel like you can see big changes. Here, we’re talking a lot about blood sugar balance insulin resistance. You know, really looking at how we’re eating throughout the day, are we eating regular meals and snacks, are they carbohydrate protein
balanced – that’s a huge piece lifestyle wise with PCOS.
Spence: Does that apply to both, an atypical, I hate that term, but women with PCOS that are slimmer and women with PCOS that tend to overweight, is the blood sugar important?
Kathryn: Yeah, certainly. It can get complicated, because what is it that you need to have three out of the five symptoms or something like that to be diagnosed with PCOS, so those can be different. But I think that that is a foundational aspect. It’s even a foundational discussion for an inflammatory diet, because we can eat all the right foods, but if we’re eating like a bird and we’re not nourished, it’s still that thing. It’s a little bit of a bigger discussion there, but PCOS, there’s wonderful dietary techniques to support PCOS.
Spence: Very treatable condition, if diet is any exercise is committed to – correct?
Kathryn: Yeah, probably one of the most treatable there. And then unexplained infertility, I think that that’s one of the most frustrating diagnoses. Of course, we have a lot of research coming out now about the connection to stress, so that’s an area there, where I always think of really zoning in on the awareness practices, so the relaxation response, the acupuncture, the dietary techniques obviously to take, because we can have stress on the body from bad foods and toxins that way. So, really, cleaning up the diet, but not forgetting to focus on the pleasure there. I find that that’s important because that connection, we don’t want to add additional stress. And male factor is one of my favorite because, I think and tell me if I’m wrong, back in 2005, there was not a lot to talk about male factor as much as there is now. I feel like it was really a lot of women coming to the retreat saying, you know, this is about me. And of course, now, all these statistics showing fertility, it’s 50%. So, male factor again, mobilizing a lot of the blood flow, nourishing the blood flow with specific antioxidants, elimination diet as well. We talked about the digestive fire of the spleen chi, making sure the absorption and distribution of the nutrients. I often use the same, so women will say, should my husband be doing this
too, and I said, he should absolutely be doing this because it’s beneficial to him as well, and maybe a foot rub, that would help too. There’s good studies. The social support, if not having to cook, whoever’s doing the cooking in the household, there’s beautiful studies that show the benefits of having the social support and doing it together. And again, whether it’s a motility, morphology count issue, there specific supplements that can be added in.
Spence: Yeah. Last two, maybe recurrent loss and advanced maternal age or egg quality specifics, anything?
Kathryn: Recurrent loss, my biggest thing with that is always to look, and there’s different genes now, but something that’s coming up a lot more often, I know you probably see this in your practice, but is the folate. So, it’s the form of folate that’s being taken is that test being done, and I’m not sure that it’s easy to get that MTHFR test in Canada, but such a correlation especially with the recurrent loss. I know there’s 23andMe, there’s a few places that can be sent in to. I think that that’s such good information. And then, of course, everything we talked about about fortifying the essence. So, how can we build up the essence with specific foods, some of them black beans, sources of chlorophyll obviously, seafood, wheat grasses, that type of stuff. And then, advanced maternal age, I don’t know if I accept that diagnosis. It’s so funny, I was 36 or 37 when I had my second daughter so I had that label, and I was looking at it in a different way, but egg quality is an issue. So, of course, increasing the blood flow to the uterus and ovaries, which is done so beautifully through deep puncture, through my abdominal massage, through food, it also can be done by removing any of the stagnations in the body. So, really fortifying the digestive fire, making sure everything is being absorbed and distributed with greater ease, and then adding specific blood moving foods or blood nourishing foods, I think can also be helpful paired with building essence.
Spence: Perfect. I thank you for those. A little bit rapid-fire, but I mean, obviously each one is individualized. If these diagnosis are Western medical concept, and we are always viewing each individual that comes in as a unique person and treating accordingly. Thank
you so much, I’m going to let you get back to your day. There’s so much more we could talk about and we should have you back on the show to talk maybe about each of these specific diets, from PCOS taquito to veganism to carnivorism.
Kathryn: I would love that.
Spence: Cool. Thank you for your time, but before you go, what resources you have and where can people find you?
Kathryn: FertileFood.com is where you can find all my information about my consultations. I’m on Instagram a lot too. I really like Instagram for sharing resources, and then of course, Moontime Tea if you want to learn more about the teas to support a woman’s cycle.
Spence: What’s your Instagram handle?
Kathryn: It’s fertile foods.
Spence: Okay. Kathryn Simmons Flynn, fertilefoods.com, moontimetea.com and fertile foods on Instagram, we will put all these links in the show notes. If you’re on beingfertileprogram.com podcast or the Conception Channel, that will be below, and thank you again so much for being here.
Kathryn: Thank you so much for having me.
Spence: We’ll get to you back on real soon.
Kathryn: I look forward to it.
Spence: Hope you have a great day, thank you.
Kathryn: Thank you too, thank you so much.