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Health store help

Independent health store advice on boosting male and female fertility through diet and lifestyle

Looking for advice on natural health and wellbeing? Your local independent health stores can offer a wealth of knowledge and expertise. This issue we speak to Liz O’Byrne, a nutritional therapist who works with the Aloe Tree in Ennistymon and holds clinics in Ennistymon and Lahinch, Co Clare

For couples wishing to start a family there are a number of dietary and lifestyle changes they can make to prepare themselves for the physical requirements of conceiving healthy babies, and coping with the demands of pregnancy and birth.

There is a lot of help available in health stores which may prevent, ease or at least make your symptoms more manageable. Our staff are fully trained to give the best advice available. If you don’t have the time to shop instore or online with us, then why not check out the products below which may provide some relief:

Advice for dad

To improve sperm quality (quantity, mobility and structure) we can do a number of things such as manage stress levels, eat a diet rich in antioxidants and avoid smoking and alcohol consumption in the run-up to conception. Moderate exercise can also help increase antioxidant levels, therefore protecting sperm.


For egg quality, the advice is similar. As well as the many health benefits exercise provides, moderate movement such as walking, yoga and massage can be used to improve oxygen-rich blood flow throughout the body, particularly to the ovaries where it is needed for healthy eggs. In pregnancy, movement can help circulation and lessen the effects of varicose veins and fluid retention.


It is very important that women in particular have a regular bowel movement (ie at least once per day) as this is where excess hormones are eliminated. If you are constipated and not eliminating these hormones, imbalances can occur. For most people, this can usually be addressed by drinking plenty of fluids, eating plenty of wholegrains, fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds. Gentle movement such as walking and yoga can also help.


When we are stressed our stress hormones (mainly cortisol) are elevated which also increases our blood sugar levels in preparation for the ‘fight-or-flight’ response that the body believes is going to be required. Elevated cortisol also curbs some non-essential functions in the body such as digestion and reproduction. This is why stress needs to be managed.


There are many micronutrients required for reproduction such as B vitamins, zinc, vitamins C, D and E, selenium, iron, choline, iodine, magnesium, calcium, lycopene and the amino acids. Most of these nutrients can be found in a good, varied diet which contains both animal and plant foods. It may also be useful to take a good quality multivitamin supplement as well. Supplementing with omega-3 fatty acids (such as a fish oil supplement) before and during pregnancy has been shown to lead to better outcomes in terms of length of gestation and therefore baby’s size at birth. Supplementing with folate/folic acid for at least three months prior to conception is recommended to prevent brain and spine defects in the baby.

Your pregnancy diet

Each meal or snack should contain a source of good quality protein such as eggs, dairy, meat, fish, beans, nuts or seeds. Look at each meal or snack as an opportunity to add fruit or vegetables to your diet. For example, eggs for breakfast could have tomatoes, spinach, mushrooms or fresh salads added to the plate followed by a piece of fresh fruit. If you have specific dietary requirements such as gluten-free or vegan, it may be worth consulting with a nutritionist or dietitian.

What’s What and Who’s Who in The Aloe Tree

“The Aloe Tree has been running for nearly nine years now and has grown and shaped itself with the community that supports it,” says owner-manager Tessa O’Connor. “Ennistymon is a vibrant community with a very varied clientele. From the very beginning the customers have really helped direct what we provide. We are always anxious to hear feedback about the ranges we provide as it can only help us provide a better service.

“We started out from the get-go always believing that your food and lifestyle come first in directing your health. All the staff are very into learning about the different supplements and how to support them with diet and lifestyle changes. It’s very rewarding when you get customers coming back to thank you for advice that worked.

“We try to cover a lot within our four walls besides organic wholefoods and high end food supplements. From zero waste options to our organic smoothie bar to obscure spices, people are usually quite surprised the first time they visit just how eclectic our stock is.

“Zero waste options include loose tea, treats and dried goods like lentils and oats and dried mango, as well as a whole range of shampoos, conditioners and laundry detergents. Customers bring in their own containers such as bags, jars or bottles and leave using no packaging at all, which is great. Our scoop and weigh is really popular. People can sometimes buy a small amount of something new like a wholegrain, we help them learn how to cook it, then they try it at home.

“In the Ennistymon area there are lots of local producers and we stock local skincare ranges, soaps, seaweed bath, chocolate, teas and honey. We have organic vegetables delivered twice a week, and fresh sourdough bread. Raw and vegan treats are available every day, which people like with their coffee. We work closely with our suppliers and are always excited to hear about and support their new ventures.

“Our organic smoothie bar is very popular. We always hand-pick snacks we sell to be sure they are as healthy as their packaging suggests. A customer favourite is the green boost smoothie: spirulina, strawberries, banana, mixed seeds, vanilla and rice milk, all organic. We use a local Galway coffee, freshly roasted and served with organic cow’s milk or your plant milk of choice.”

VISIT: The Aloe Tree, Main Street, Ennistymon, Co Clare
TRY: An organic smoothie or Geometry coffee
SPEAK TO: Owner-manager Tessa O’Connor and staff Poppy Wilson, a nutritional therapist; Jenny Quinlan, energy healing and studying flower essences; Kim, Monika and Gráinne, all regularly attending training courses.

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