Nurturing the seed: Holistic Approach to Fertility – Part 2

In the previous article, we introduced the meaning and purpose of holistic therapies along with their main points. Holistic therapies view individuals as interconnected wholes, emphasizing the Body/Mind Connection, Mental & Emotional Management, Coping skills and strategy, and Stress Reduction. These elements form the foundation of holistic approaches.

Furthermore, we delved into the methods utilized in holistic therapies, which we will now explore in greater detail in subsequent articles. It’s crucial to note that holistic therapies, when integrated into the fertility journey, strive to cultivate a supportive environment conducive to balance on physical, mental, and emotional levels.

It’s important to recognize that these therapies are intended to complement medical procedures rather than replace them. By doing so, they enhance the likelihood of success by ensuring individuals are in their optimal state of physical and mental well-being.

With this understanding, let’s delve deeper into the various methods employed in Holistic Therapies.

You may be interested in reading: Nurturing the Seed: A Patient-Centered Holistic Approach to Fertility – Part 1

Unlocking Optimal Health: Understanding Lifestyle Medicine

What is Lifestyle Medicine?

In an era marked by the prevalence of chronic illnesses and the pursuit of holistic well-being, lifestyle medicine emerges as a guiding light on the journey to optimal health. Unlike conventional medical approaches that often focus solely on treating symptoms, lifestyle medicine embodies a proactive philosophy, aiming to prevent, treat, and even reverse chronic diseases through tailored lifestyle interventions.

At its essence, lifestyle medicine operates on the principle that our daily choices profoundly impact our health outcomes. It recognizes the interconnectedness of physical, mental, and emotional well-being, viewing individuals as dynamic entities influenced by a multitude of factors. By acknowledging the intricate interplay between genetics, environment, and lifestyle, lifestyle medicine offers a comprehensive framework for fostering sustainable health improvements.

By harnessing evidence-based strategies and embracing a personalized approach, lifestyle medicine empowers individuals to become active participants in their health journey. Through education, support, and guidance, individuals gain the tools and knowledge needed to make informed decisions and cultivate habits conducive to long-term vitality and resilience.

By fostering a deeper understanding of the intricate relationship between lifestyle choices and health outcomes, lifestyle medicine empowers individuals to reclaim control over their well-being and embark on a transformative journey towards a life of vitality, purpose, and fulfillment.

Key Components of Lifestyle Medicine:

Health interventions in lifestyle medicine are grounded in evidence-based behavioral strategies aimed at promoting equity and sustainability. The overarching objective is to enhance self-management skills while optimizing various facets of health:

  • Nutrition
  • Physical activity
  • Sleep hygiene
  • Stress management
  • Substance use
  • Sexual health & fertility
  • Social connection
  • Environmental exposure

These elements serve as the foundation of lifestyle medicine, akin to pillars supporting a sturdy structure of optimal physical and mental well-being. Just as a house requires all its pillars to stand firmly in place for stability, achieving robust health relies on addressing each of these components.

Now, let’s delve deeper into each pillar to gain a comprehensive understanding of its significance and role in fostering holistic health.

Lifestyle Medicine – The First Pillar: Nutrition

Nutrition stands as the cornerstone of lifestyle medicine, bearing profound implications for overall health and well-being. However, navigating the realm of nutrition can be akin to traversing a maze, with a plethora of research findings and dietary guidelines often yielding conflicting advice. In an era where new trends emerge incessantly, individuals are frequently inundated with information, leading to confusion and, regrettably, poor dietary choices for many.

 Studies conducted by Dean Ornish, a Clinical Professor at UCSF and a pioneer in lifestyle medicine, have shown that nutritional interventions are a key contributor to reversing the progression of chronic diseases such as severe coronary artery disease, type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure. Research studies have also linked dietary factors to the development of mood disorders such as depression and anxiety.

The recommendations

Healthy dietary guidelines emphasize the importance of maintaining a balanced eating pattern, characterized by a diverse selection of nutrient-rich whole foods in appropriate portions.

Here are a few examples illustrating how to implement healthy dietary practices:

Choose nutrient-rich options like fresh fruits, vegetables, or nuts over sugary snacks or chips. Use smaller plates and utensils to control portion sizes, and space out meals evenly to avoid overeating. Add color to your plate with a variety of fruits and vegetables for flavor and nutrition. Ensure a balanced intake of macronutrients by including whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats in your meals. Opt for whole food sources of carbohydrates and lean protein sources like fish or beans. Incorporate healthy fats with avocado, nuts, and seeds, and limit processed foods high in added sugars, unhealthy fats, and sodium. Stay hydrated with water or herbal teas, and moderate alcohol intake with lower-calorie options like light beer or wine spritzers.

Lifestyle Medicine – The Second Pillar – Physical activity

The evidence shows that engaging in physical activity can lead to enhanced well-being, improved functionality, and better quality of sleep. Even a single session of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity has been shown to alleviate anxiety, while even brief periods of movement yield benefits. Furthermore, maintaining regular physical activity supports normal growth and development, enhances overall health, and diminishes the likelihood of developing chronic diseases.

Incorporating regular physical activity into your routine is among the most crucial steps you can take to safeguard your health. Physical activity not only boosts brain function but also aids in weight management, lowers the risk of various illnesses, fortifies bones and muscles, and enhances everyday functioning.

For adults, reducing sedentary behavior and engaging in any level of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity brings about notable health improvements. Few lifestyle choices rival the impact that physical activity has on health outcomes.

Crucially, the benefits of physical activity are accessible to everyone, irrespective of age, physical abilities, ethnic background, body shape, or size.

Lifestyle Medicine – The Third Pillar: sleep hygene

Sleep is a vital aspect of our daily lives, underscoring its critical contribution to our overall functioning. Traditionally, discussions surrounding sleep focused primarily on addressing sleep disorders. However, there is now a growing recognition of the significance of adequate sleep as a fundamental lifestyle practice.

The evidence

According to NIH sleep experts Dr. Merrill Mitler and Dr. Michael Twery, sleep affects numerous tissues and organ systems, influences intellectual performance and mood, and ultimately impacts our overall health and well-being.

Evidence shows that inadequate sleep increases the risk of developing chronic conditions such as obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. Sleep deficiency can also cause significant impairment in cognitive function, emotional behavior, and mental resilience. Despite research emphasizing the negative health outcomes of poor sleep, the CDC found that approximately one-third of adults report sleeping less than 7 hours per night in addition to concomitant problems with daily functioning.


To mitigate health risks and maintain optimal performance, adults aged 18 and above are advised to aim for a consistent nightly sleep duration of at least seven hours. Yet, numerous individuals find it challenging to adhere to this guideline due to lifestyle-related factors such as occupational pressures, social commitments, and the pervasive influence of technology.

Lifestyle Medicine – The Fourth Pillar: stress management

Stress serves as the body’s natural response to demanding situations, whether they involve everyday responsibilities or unexpected challenges. When exposed to environmental stressors, the body initiates a series of internal processes to appropriately respond. This physiological reaction, commonly known as the “fight or flight” response, entails a complex interaction among various organ systems. In essence, these immediate effects can aid individuals in performing tasks under pressure or accomplishing remarkable physical feats, such as completing a marathon or giving birth.

While short-term stress may occasionally offer benefits, prolonged stress without relief can disturb the body’s balance.

The presence of certain symptoms could signal the presence of accumulated stress. These may include feelings of fatigue, frequent headaches, difficulty concentrating, challenges in decision-making, and struggles in controlling anger. Individuals may also find themselves resorting to increased use of substances like alcohol, caffeine, cigarettes, or drugs. Changes in eating habits, such as increased or decreased appetite, along with a sense of feeling overwhelmed, can also be indicative of stress. Additionally, persistently thinking about tasks and responsibilities may suggest heightened stress levels.

Chronic stress is directly linked to various health issues, including heart disease, stroke, obesity, depression, and potentially cancer. It can also indirectly exacerbate diseases by influencing lifestyle habits such as sleep, physical activity, and eating patterns. Research published in the American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine reveals that over 75% of doctor’s visits stem from stress-related concerns, underscoring the critical importance of adopting healthy stress management techniques.

According to Dean Ornish, creator of the Ornish Lifestyle Medicine program, individuals have two choices in dealing with stress: avoiding external stressors or improving their own reactions. Avoidance may not always be feasible and might lead to negative coping mechanisms. Conversely, developing effective strategies for managing stress can foster healthy responses, enhance emotional resilience, and mitigate the adverse effects of stressful situations.

Lifestyle medicine, the fifth pillar – Substance use

The dangers linked to harmful substances like alcohol, tobacco, and recreational drugs are widely recognized. Smoking and heavy drinking, in particular, are major behavioral risk factors associated with numerous chronic physical and mental health conditions, often leading to preventable deaths. Excessive alcohol consumption not only increases the risk of accidents and violence but also frequently coincides with tobacco misuse. As advocates of Lifestyle Medicine, aiding patients in making meaningful changes in this realm poses a significant challenge. Yet, the encouraging news is that the tools and techniques of Lifestyle Medicine hold promise in positively influencing individuals grappling with these issues, offering genuine hope for improvement in their lives.

Lifestyle medicine, the sixth pillar: sexual health & fertility

Reproductive health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity, in all matters relating to the reproductive system and to its functions and processes. Reproductive health implies that people are able to have a satisfying and safe sex life and that they have the capability to reproduce and the freedom to decide if, when and how often to do so,

World Health Organization

Lifestyle medicine underscores the impact of lifestyle patterns on sexual health, encompassing factors such as chronic diseases, nutrition, exercise, addictions, sleep, medications, diversity, and stress. It recognizes that these elements can influence sexual behavior differently across genders and various life stages. Additionally, lifestyle medicine emphasizes the significance of motivation in engaging in sexual behavior, recognizing that motivations may vary between men and women based on factors such as age, social status, and lifestyle. It advocates for the promotion of healthy sexual relationships, sexual responsibility, and overall reproductive health. By endorsing the application of lifestyle interventions, lifestyle medicine aims to foster reproductive health and well-being.


The exploration of existing literature underscores the adverse impact of modifiable lifestyle factors on fertility. Elements such as fat-rich diets, delayed childbearing, smoking, alcohol misuse, drug misuse,  sexual behavior, exposure to cellular phones and radiation, anxiety/depression, and perception/beliefs have been linked to decreased fertility rates. The resultant stress often triggers detrimental social behaviors, including excessive alcohol and caffeine consumption, tobacco smoking, and misuse of recreational drugs or medications, heightening the risk of sexually transmitted diseases and infections, ultimately leading to infertility. To address these concerns, practical recommendations for modifying lifestyle behaviors have been proposed. According to the World Health Organization, infertility affects approximately 20–30% of couples globally, with around 80 million women impacted, especially in developing countries.

Infertility poses emotional and psychological challenges for affected couples, compounded by societal pressures. Fortunately, many causes of infertility are treatable through assisted reproductive technology (ART) methods. Additionally, normalization of certain modifiable lifestyle factors has shown promise in restoring normal oocyte maturation in women and improving semen quality in men. Understanding the mechanisms through which lifestyle behaviors impair fertility in both genders is crucial for effective management.

Most lifestyle factors are theoretically reversible habits that can be addressed with determination by affected individuals. This recognition underscores the importance of interventions aimed at modifying lifestyle behaviors to improve fertility outcomes and overall reproductive health.

Lifestyle Medicine – The Seventh Pillar: Social Connections

Social connections play a pivotal role within the realm of lifestyle medicine, recognizing humans as inherently social beings. According to Matthew Lieberman, author of “Social: Why Our Brains Are Wired to Connect,” our brains are wired to activate a social cognition network even during moments of rest, fostering understanding and empathy towards others. Interactions with friends, family, community members, and even strangers offer individuals a profound sense of connectedness. By engaging in these interactions, individuals cultivate deep connections linked to significant health benefits. Strong social ties not only enhance subjective well-being but also promote healthy behaviors and extend longevity. By adopting a holistic approach centered on patient well-being rather than merely addressing symptoms, lifestyle medicine practitioners can establish meaningful connections with patients. Through these connections, practitioners can actively encourage health-promoting behaviors and offer guidance for nurturing robust social support networks.

Lifestyle Medicine – The Eight Pillar: Environmental exposures

The deterioration of planetary health, including climate change, environmental pollution, biodiversity loss, and ocean acidification, poses significant threats to human health and well-being, particularly for those with chronic conditions. Climate change, in particular, undermines the very foundations of lifestyle medicine, hindering our ability to promote healthy nutrition, outdoor physical activity, stress management, social connection, restorative sleep, and avoidance of toxic substances. Urgent action is needed to address these planetary threats and safeguard both individual and global health. Aligning lifestyle medicine prescriptions with climate-friendly practices can benefit both human health and the environment. As the global population ages and chronic diseases become more prevalent, lifestyle medicine interventions play a crucial role in preventing and treating chronic illnesses, fostering community health and resilience, and mitigating the impacts of climate change.

Application of the principles of lifestyle medicine during the fertility journey

All of the pillars of lifestyle medicine can be used and applied during the fertility journey in order to provide the optimum state of health, well-being and balance not only on physical but also on mental, and emotional level. In this way a strong outer base – the physical body, as well as the inner base – emotional balance and mental resilience is created. This base then is an important foundation for all the other medical treatments and procedures which can be applied in order to bring a successful fertility outcome. Let us look into practical ways of how this can be done with different issues which are the obstacle to the fertility journey.

Unhealthy diet & Obesity

Nutrition and exercise play vital roles in influencing fertility for both men and women. It is essential to prioritize good nourishment and maintain a balanced diet to optimize reproductive health. For infertile women, dietary choices should focus on foods low in saturated fat and red meat, while emphasizing the consumption of vegetables, legumes, and antioxidant-rich foods. By adhering to these dietary recommendations, individuals can support their fertility journey and improve their chances of conception. Additionally, incorporating regular physical activity into one’s routine can further enhance overall fertility and well-being.

Studies have highlighted the significant impact of weight on fertility, underscoring the importance of maintaining a healthy weight to mitigate hormonal imbalances that can negatively affect fertility. By achieving a healthier weight, individuals can improve ovulation and reduce the risk of complications such as miscarriage. For overweight women undergoing fertility treatment, weight reduction is often recommended to enhance treatment effectiveness and optimize outcomes. This emphasizes the critical role that weight management plays in promoting reproductive health and increasing the likelihood of successful conception.

Lack of exercise and movement

Leading a sedentary lifestyle, devoid of regular physical activity, can contribute to obesity, high blood pressure, and various other health conditions that are detrimental to fertility. Therefore, incorporating daily exercise into one’s routine is highly recommended. Physical activities such as 30min daily walk, can significantly improve overall health and well-being. It is suggested to aim for 150 to 300 minutes of moderate physical activity or 75 to 150 minutes of vigorous activity each week to promote fertility and maintain optimal health.


For couples striving to conceive, it’s crucial to consider the detrimental effects of smoking on reproductive outcomes. Research indicates a substantial impact of smoking on fertility, making it advisable to either limit or quit smoking altogether. Doing so can markedly decrease the risk of miscarriage and delay menopause by up to four years. Additionally, it’s important to avoid exposure to passive smoke, as it can also compromise fertility and reproductive health. By prioritizing smoke-free environments and abstaining from smoking, couples can significantly enhance their chances of achieving a successful pregnancy and ensuring optimal reproductive well-being.

Caffeine, Alcochol, other drugs consumption

When aiming to conceive, it’s advisable to reduce or refrain from alcohol consumption altogether. Research suggests that alcohol can have adverse effects on fertility, potentially hindering the process of conception. Similarly, caffeine consumption should be approached with caution, as it too appears to have a negative impact on fertility. By moderating alcohol intake and being mindful of caffeine consumption, individuals can take proactive steps to optimize their chances of achieving pregnancy and promoting reproductive health.

Recreational and prescription drugs exert a notable influence on fertility, often disrupting essential reproductive processes. To safeguard reproductive health, it is advisable to minimize exposure to unnecessary medications and recreational drugs. By avoiding the use of such substances, individuals can mitigate the potential adverse effects on fertility and increase the likelihood of successful conception. Prioritizing a drug-free lifestyle fosters a conducive environment for optimal reproductive functioning, supporting individuals in their fertility journey.


Navigating fertility challenges often entails encountering significant levels of stress. The procedures, tests, and frequent doctor appointments associated with fertility treatments can contribute to overwhelming feelings of anxiety and tension. Therefore, acquiring coping mechanisms and implementing stress-management techniques becomes paramount. Infertile couples are encouraged to prioritize their emotional well-being by actively seeking relaxation methods and participating in stress-reducing activities. By minimizing sources of stress and embracing relaxation programs, individuals can create a more conducive environment for fertility enhancement.

Negativity, depression

Negative attitudes, misconceptions, and beliefs have been linked to the use of IVF (In Vitro Fertilization). By applying the tools of lifestyle medicine, such as mindfulness meditation, engaging in light physical activities like a 30-minute walk, yoga,  and practising journaling, individuals can learn how to effectively manage negative states of mind and cultivate mental resilience.

A recent literature review on the prevalence of psychological symptoms in infertility concluded that 25% to 60% of infertile individuals report psychiatric symptoms and that their levels of anxiety and depression are significantly higher than in fertile controls.

Radiation & exposure to toxic substances

Minimizing exposure to excessive irradiation, such as electromagnetic waves emitted by electronic gadgets like mobile phones, as well as minimizing the use of toxic substances in the environment may help prevent infertility. While it’s not feasible to eliminate all environmental hazards entirely, taking proactive steps to reduce contact with these sources of radiation can be beneficial. By limiting prolonged or unnecessary use of electronic devices and maintaining a safe distance from them whenever possible, individuals can mitigate potential risks to their reproductive health. Additionally,  by choosing healthier options of cleaning and self–care products, one can minimize the use of toxic substances. These efforts contribute to creating a healthier environment conducive to fertility and overall well-being.

Lifestyle Medicine Councelling

The role of a lifestyle medicine practitioner involves motivating and supporting individuals in making healthy behavior changes using evidence-based approaches to prevent and manage chronic conditions. Lifestyle medicine (LM) sessions prioritize personalized care, focusing on patient-centered approaches such as goal-setting, shared decision-making, and self-management. During these sessions, the practitioner works collaboratively with the individual to identify specific health goals, develop strategies for achieving them, and empower the individual to take an active role in managing their own health. Additionally, a lifestyle medicine practitioner may collaborate with other healthcare professionals and suggest additional holistic therapies and health optimization techniques to further enhance the individual’s overall well-being. This multidisciplinary approach ensures comprehensive care and addresses the individual’s holistic health needs.

Picture of Dusha Radosavljevic
Dusha Radosavljevic
Dusha Radosavljevic, a seasoned midwife, lifestyle medical practitioner, and senior yoga teacher, brings over three decades of expertise to her role. Specializing in preconception health and well-being, she offers online lifestyle medicine coaching sessions, health optimization programs, and holistic approaches to enhance fertility and support healthy pregnancies. She provides live consultations to individuals in Athens and those seeking fertility treatment. She is currently collaborating with Pelargos IVF clinic located in Athens, Greece. Actively engaged in scientific research with Harvard Medical School, her ongoing work explores the positive impact of body-mind practices on fertility success outcomes. Passionate about empowering women and couples on their fertility journey, Dusha's personalized sessions aim to guide clients towards achieving their health and fertility goals, fostering a holistic approach to well-being. Join her on this journey towards optimizing health for a vibrant and fulfilling reproductive life.

Related articles

How Much Does IVF Cost in Europe?
IVF-ICSI Cost Calculator
Calculate total cost of IVF treatment in popular destinations in Europe!
Get a personalized quote from the most frequently chosen IVF clinics abroad.