Our article today is provided by Angela Heap a Nutritional Therapist who specialises in Fertility. She tells us why she chose this specialism, how she works, and what it means to her when her clients become pregnant. Angela also discusses Poly Cystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS). As the NHS Choices website comments “Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a common condition that affects how a woman’s ovaries work. PCOS affects millions of women in the UK.”
After a general interest in health for many years, I trained at the College of Naturopathic Medicine (CNM) for 3 years. I graduated in Naturopathic Nutrition in 2008 after completing 200 clinical hours of practice. During my time at college the area of hormonal health and pregnancy became a favourite of mine, as I saw that many of the clients at CNM’s student clinic had fertility issues and hormonal irregularities as part of their health problems, and it was fantastic to see how Nutrition could help.
Out in practice, I continue to research the latest issues, and on my blog, busting myths and investigating the important breakthroughs in nutrition and fertility, especially on genes, epigenetics and using DNA.
As a Fertility Nutritional Therapist my view and approach is to empower people towards optimum health, often working alongside conventional medicine practitioners in order to ensure the best outcome. Over the years I have supported many couples in their fertility journeys. Many of the women I support suffered from reproductive issues such as Endometriosis, PCOS, fibroids and many of the men had issues around sperm health. By supporting them through a programme of good nutrition and a range of supplements I helped them to bring their bodies back into balance. About 80% of them go on to conceive using methods I support them with.
The right nutrition is crucial from an early age and I work with couples, parents and children to improve health, from preconception through to pregnancy, breastfeeding, weaning and beyond. I’m lucky enough to work closely with a number of internationally renowned experts in the field of fertility and I’m a regular speaker and contributor to specialist fertility forums.
My consultations, whether in person or by skype, are always one-to-one, beginning with a detailed assessment of current health problems, medical and family history, diet and lifestyle. If I don’t already have them, I request laboratory tests, which will give me an indication of hormonal balance, vitamin/mineral deficiency or toxicity, the functioning of the endocrine and the digestive system and general antibody reaction. Saliva tests may be used as a tool to support gene analysis and adrenal function.
As part of the initial consultation I explain the physiological impact of complex biochemical imbalances and nutritional deficiencies to help the client understand their situation. I then provide a fully systematic ‘naturopathic’ plan, tailor made to the individual. I offer packages on Nutrition coaching, Intensive Nutrition for Fertility, or Pregnancy & Beyond, as best suits the client.
At present I am seeing lots of ladies with an oestrogen dominance condition called Poly Cystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS), who want to get pregnant. They are on medication such as Metformin and Clomid to help normalize their cycles, so I have to make sure I use dietary suggestions and supplements that aren’t contraindicated with medication.
I like to start very slowly with these ladies as PCOS has an underlying insulin sensitivity issues which has caused the cycles to stop or to become very long. I tend to use diet to support this initially and focusing on a paleo type diet which is more protein heavy and add huge amounts of veg to give fibre and micronutrients. I get the ladies to minimize non starchy carbohydrates too, as this can have a confusing effect on insulin!
To normalize their cycles I use the B vitamin Inositol which has had lots of trials supporting lowering testosterone in PCOS women and also managing insulin. This is then followed by a tailored plan using minimal supplements that I introduced slowly to give maximum results. I will also get them to start tracking their cycle using a fertility monitor designed for PCOS such as OvuSense which helps them to find their ovulation window and time sex accordingly.
What do you most love about your job?
What I love most about my job is when I see results, i.e. the client tells me how great they feel after all the changes they have made; they start to understand the signs of fertility; and ultimately their body responds by getting pregnant! When I learn that one of my clients is pregnant, I still get emotional, which proves I’m in the right job as I’m so passionate about it. The nutritional advice I give is something that stays with them for life. It’s knowledge that they can always use. My dream is that one day girls are taught and coached about signs of natural fertility and the impact of nutrition and lifestyle to help manage hormonal issues. How much heartbreak and money would that would save!
Angela graduated in Nutritional Therapy from CNM (College of Naturopathic Medicine), where students train for successful careers in Nutrition, Herbal Medicine, Acupuncture, Homeopathy, or Naturopathy, based on a holistic, natural approach to health. For information on CNM Diploma Courses, Postgraduate Courses and Short Courses in a range of additional therapies, visit www.naturopathy-uk.com.
Angela’s website is: www.fertileground-nutrition.com
With many thanks to Angela for this article. It is wonderful to hear about her passion for her work and clients. It is also welcoming to have this overview on PCOS, a lesser known but common condition that affects many women. For those who would like to find out more about PCOS a starting point could be the NHS Website which provides a range of information including the following:
“Symptoms of PCOS usually become apparent during your late teens or early twenties. They can include:
- irregular periods or no periods at all
- difficulty getting pregnant (because of irregular ovulation or failure to ovulate)
- excessive hair growth (hirsutism) – usually on the face, chest, back or buttocks
- weight gain
- thinning hair and hair loss from the head
- oily skin or acne
Polycystic ovary syndrome is associated with an increased risk of problems in later life, such as type 2 diabetes and high cholesterol levels. You should speak to your GP if you think you may have PCOS.”
We will be providing an in-depth article on PCOS and other fertility issues soon in the coming weeks. This will focus on the areas Angela has highlighted in terms of the importance of diet and nutrition, including the role of food supplements.
If you have any questions regarding this article, any of the health topics raised, or any other health matters please do contact me (Amanda) by phone or email at any time.
Amanda Williams, Cytoplan Ltd
firstname.lastname@example.org, 01684 310099