Fertility, Cycles and Nutrition: Self Care for Improved Cycles and Fertility. . . Naturally!
Marilyn M. Shannon
The Couple to Couple League International
Review by Sally Fallon Morell
Marilyn Shannon takes on the task of helping women (and men) improve their reproductive health by offering, as her first suggestion, “Eat plenty of whole plant foods: grains, beans, nuts, vegetables, seeds and fruits.” Never mind the fact that this kind of diet has caused reproductive problems in a whole generation of educated health food enthusiasts. Shannon gives lip service to animal protein, milk, eggs and butter, and warns against refined sweeteners, soft drinks, caffeine, margarine, shortening and soy foods, but falls far short of advocating the kind of diet that can bestow fertility on the infertile, and good health on women suffering from hormonal problems. Cold breakfast cereals, microwaved food, pasta, vegetarian diets, lots of goitrogenic raw vegetables and millet, canola oil and yeasted whole wheat bread with added gluten are all fine with Shannon, while she offers nary a mention of the nutrient-dense foods so vital for good health—raw milk, organ meats, grass-fed animal products, cod liver oil, nourishing broths, lacto-fermented foods and properly prepared whole grains. Instead she recommends a ton of supplements.
The overall impression of this book is one of confusion. For example, Shannon recommends fish liver oil, not for vitamins A and D, but for essential fatty acids. Later she states that “true vitamin A from fish oil helps the thyroid gland.” But there is little if any vitamin A in fish oil – only in fish liver oil. If oatmeal causes digestive problems, Shannon recommends yogurt or a product called Beano, not overnight soaking. She dedicates a section of her book to yeast overgrowth seemingly oblivious to the role played by improperly prepared whole grains in feeding yeast infections. An although she alludes to the importance of zinc for male fertility, thyroid health and prevention of birth defects, she doesn’t mention the fact that all those whole grains she recommends block zinc uptake. Red meat and shellfish, the best sources of zinc, are not listed in her “foods to emphasize.” Does Shannon recommend lowfat or fullfat milk? We only find out on page 71 that she “favors whole-fat dairy products over low-fat ones. (Raw milk is not even considered.) Shannon seems to think that flax oil is the cure for everything, but soy oil (loaded with rancid omega-3 fatty acids) is also fine because “for many people, soy oil in salad dressings is unfortunately the only source of omega-3 essential fatty acids. . .”
Shannon applies these contradictory and sketchy dietary principles to a list of reproductive problems—PMS. heavy periods, endometriosis, infertility, thyroid problems, PCOS—each with a slight tweak of the supplement regime. While avoiding sugar, sodas, soy foods and margarine will certainly help men and women improve their reproductive health, the other side of the equation—replacing these so-called foods with nutrient-dense superfoods—seems to have gone over Shannon’s head. Maybe this is because she relies heavily on the dietary advice of supplement pushers Guy Abraham and Julian Whitaker and plant-based diet-advocate Jorge Chavarro.
In a book full of weaknesses, the section on birth defects is the weakest of all. For Shannon, folic acid is the knight in shining armor for birth defect prevention—to take in supplement form. No mention of vitamins A, D and K, no emphasis at all on the importance of child spacing. In fact, Shannon counsels one woman in her 40s who already has many children to do whatever possible to have more children in spite of recent miscarriages—a sure message that it’s time to stop having children.
A big thumbs down for this confusing, sloppy, contradictory book.
This article appeared in Wise Traditions in Food, Farming and the Healing Arts, the quarterly magazine of the Weston A. Price Foundation, Summer 2009.🖨️ Print post
Very eye-opening review… thank you
I purchased this book about a year ago shortly after my husband’s and my fourth miscarriage. I was surprised to see the book having a thumbs-down review, but the points you noted in the review are very well taken.
I’m curious about this comment: “In fact, Shannon counsels one woman in her 40s who already has many children to do whatever possible to have more children in spite of recent miscarriages—a sure message that it’s time to stop having children.”
I’m nearly 38 (my husband and I met late in life and so got a late start trying to conceive), but both of us very VERY much want to be parents. Are you saying that since we’ve had only miscarriages (probably because of our prior “fake foods” diet of nasty microwaved meals etc.) that we should take that as a cue that we’re just not meant to be parents? Before you say, “Why don’t you just adopt,” there is specific reason that we are unable to adopt.
Thanks again for an insightful review.
response to Julie
Julie, repeat miscarriages don’t mean you need to *stop* conceiving, but that your body is too nutrient-poor to create healthy children at this time. So there are three choices – keep your current nutritional status (or worse) and keep having miscarriage and/or nutrient-poor children, keep your current status and stop having children, or embark on a vigorous campaign to improve your nutritional status and have healthy children.
Rami Nagel’s website on preconception diet has some great tips. You need nutrient-dense superfoods like grassfed butter, pastured eggs, fermented cod liver oil, grassfed organ meat (or Dr. Ron’s capsules), fish eggs (I haven’t found a great source or means of preparation for these yet, but am working on it!), etc.
You’re in my prayers.
Go gently on Shannon
Ironically, Shannon’s review of N&PD in a CCLI magazine was my introduction to Weston Price’s work. I remember my jaw dropping, not believing at all what I was reading. Shannon’s own FC&N was the book that convinced me that sugar & white grains were serious problems behind most of our health problems, although I concluded, differently from she, that removing these was a better solution than supplementing the B deficiencies they caused.
It took Brewer’s pregnancy diet, followed by a friend’s glowing reviews of raw milk, to open my mind to delving into Price’s research.
I often tell my husband that I think a lot of people see research like his – the kind of research that means changing EVERYthing you know to be true in a certain area – and instead of changing everything, just apply some concepts here and there. I saw this again just a few minutes ago on a website for ending repeat miscarriages. The author said she takes info from Price & Brewer, yet recommends removing dairy, reducing animal protein in favor of veggie protein, and consuming loads of (unsoaked/sprouted/soured) whole grains. What?!?! The only tip she seems to have taken is not eating unfermented soy.
Sorry, folks – Price’s work means EVERYthing must change. But I’m still grateful to Shannon for opening my SAD eyes to the reality that diet matters.
Solanus Case says
???miscarriages a MESSAGE to stop having children???! Who made you God? Ignorance is not bliss
“In fact, Shannon counsels one woman in her 40s who already has many children to do whatever possible to have more children in spite of recent miscarriages—a sure message that it’s time to stop having children.”
A statement like the above–factually incorrect, ignorant, bigoted makes me decide not to read your Weston Price book. I have ready Shannon’s classic work–advising a woman who has suffered miscarriages and wants to have children (regardless of how many children she may already have been blessed with) is completely sound and respectful. Normal fertility is often to age 48 or 49 in women. Fertility declines around 45 normally. Secondary Miscarriage is not determined by the number or children one has already. What would your advice be–fill your body with chemicals to prevent pregnancy? The patient is getting pregnant–perhaps that is a message, not the miscarriages. Multiple and repeated miscarriages at any age is not a “message to stop having children” It is a sign of a medical issue to address and hopefully heal! I feel this review demonstrates a lack of education and prudence. I think I’ll skip the book written by someone who would pan such valuable book as Fertility, Cycles, and Nutrition.
Solanus, I know my response is very late, but I’m responding to help others that might be reading your angry response. You took the last sentence of the review completely out of context. Repeated miscarriages is a message from the BODY to stop having children. As stated by LYM in previous posts, if you are having repeated miscarriages, it is time to “embark on a vigorous campaign to improve your nutritional status and have healthy children.” And that includes not listening to the misinformation suggested in Shannon’s book.
Poor nutrition (and the resulting low nutrients, inflammation and imbalanced hormones) can certainly lead to repeat miscarriages. However, there are many other causes of miscarriage, like stress, chromosomal abnormalities, uterine anomalies, etc. My first 2 pregnancies ended in miscarriage (at age 41) and were caused by an overgrowth of ureaplasma in my endometrium. Two weeks of Doxycycline later I was cleared to try again, and my son was conceived on the next try and born when I was 42. I’m not saying the infection DIDN’T have anything to do with the things (food, water, air, medication, personal care products, etc.) that have gone into my body throughout my life, but I think there’s very little chance nutrition alone would have reversed that issue. The same can be said for the other above-mentioned factors.