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Alfalfa and Fertility

Growing up in the midwest, I can tell you that we always knew when the alfalfa was being harvested because of the sweet smell it has. Horses and cows prefer it to hay as well. It has a lot going for it, but does it have any role in fertility or conception?

No. Alfalfa sprouts are great on a salad, and they have lots of protein and other vitamins. Alfalfa is a phytoestrogen, which would be helpful when estrogen is fluctuating (like it does in menopause) as phytoestrogens block estrogen from its receptors. The specific phytoestrogens contained in alfalfa are coumestans and isoflavones. This activity is helpful both when estrogen is high and when it is low.

How can it be helpful in both situations? Because when estrogen is high, phytoestrogens that bind the receptors block the real estrogen from binding. When estrogen is low, phytoestrogens bind with enough potency to help boost activity, but not as much as real estrogen would.

Alfalfa has other uses, such as for poor digestion and for high cholesterol. On the down side, though, it can aggravate lupus, and it can lead to changes in blood cell counts when consumed in excess. In fact, pregnant women are advised to avoid or limit their dietary intake of alfalfa sprouts, mostly because alfalfa can carry listeria or salmonella.

Phytoestrogens have a great role in menopausal symptoms or PMS. Alleviating hot flashes by balancing estrogen and reducing PMS symptoms (such as breast tenderness and bloating) can be accomplished by eating foods with phytoestrogens, like flax and alfalfa sprouts. Ground flax seeds added to yogurt is delicious and give you some fiber, too.

As I have written in other columns on phytoestrogens, they are not helpful for fertility or conception because when you're trying to conceive, you want your estrogen binding its receptors. Even if you have estrogen dominance, you don't want to prevent the real estrogen from binding where it should. And if you find out you're pregnant, limit your intake of alfalfa sprouts just to avoid any potential problems.

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