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.