Diet, PCOS and Fertility

Sarah Maddux is now a Certified Holistic Health Coach that focuses on women's reproductive health
Sarah Maddux is now a Certified Holistic Health Coach that focuses on women’s reproductive health

Despite my childhood aversion to dolls and anything feminine, I have always known that I wanted to be a mother. I spent my days chasing frogs, catching spiders and would not be seen within a 5-mile radius of Barbie. My Grandfather loved to tell stories of the days when I would run up to greet him and promptly introduce the earthworm collection in the pocket of my dress. Even back when summers seemed infinite and I closed my eyes every night wearing 101 Dalmatian pajamas, I knew that “when I grew up”, I wanted to have children of my own. From a very young age, the ability to become a mother largely defined what I saw as the essence of myself as a woman.

In March 2013, I was diagnosed with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) and was told that it would be nearly impossible for me to become pregnant without medical intervention. I remember hearing my doctor’s words and feeling my blood turn to ice. His sentences were incomprehensible but I sensed that each word erased a small part of the family picture I had painted for myself. I would marry the man of my dreams in June of that year and could not bear the thought of telling him that our plans to start a family might need reconsideration. I returned home with a few pamphlets in my hand and an overwhelming amount of hopelessness and fear in my heart.

I spent a few weeks in a combination of shock and denial before deciding that I would learn as much as possible about PCOS, why I had found myself as one of the estimated 5 million American women struggling with the symptoms of this condition, and what I could do to improve my changes of conceiving naturally. It is my hope that sharing my experience with PCOS will be a source of information, inspiration, and empowerment.

If you are someone struggling with PCOS or suspect you have symptoms of the condition, you are not alone. PCOS is the most common source of infertility in women today. The cause is unknown, but there appears to be a genetic component to the condition. If you have a mother or sister who has/had PCOS, your will likely be at a higher risk.

Becoming educated and empowered is the best thing you can do for yourself and your family. Unbeknownst to many, PCOS can be managed and even reversed through changes in diet and lifestyle. As cruel as PCOS can be, especially for women trying to conceive, there are countless reasons to have hope. Most women with PCOS are able to become pregnant. Yes, it may take time and patience and seemingly impossible optimism, but you can (and will) become a mother!

There are numerous dietary and lifestyle changes that one can make to improve, or even reverse, PCOS.

Learn to manage stress. For my entire life I had been known as the borderline obsessive-compulsive girl who color codes everything and has a special talent in making mountains out of molehills. My nervous system was in overdrive. After my PCOS diagnosis, I was able to put everything into perspective. Was striving for perfection and the toll it was taking on my body really worth sacrificing my health? I began practicing yoga regularly, learned breathing techniques to manage stress, allowed myself to sleep even when my mind told me I had not accomplished enough to warrant sleep. I realized what happiness was made of; my health and a family of my own.

Eliminate caffeine. As someone who began a serious coffee habit at the age of 16, I was quite sure this was an impossible feat. Coffee got me out of bed in the morning, got me though my afternoon slump, and a drink I happened to consider the most vital and delicious on earth. Despite our reliance on caffeine, it wreaks havoc on the endocrine system. The rush we experience after a cup of coffee may be welcome as we head to work in the early morning, but our stimulated adrenal glands pay the price.

Remove processed foods. While processed foods are generally unhealthy, they are especially detrimental to those with PCOS.  Strive to maintain a whole foods diet to the greatest extent possible. That means vegetables, fruits, legumes, high quality meats if desired, nuts, seeds, and plenty of water. As I often tell my clients, foods with only one ingredient are always the best option. While this is not always realistic, keep in mind that ingredients that are not easily pronounced are probably not fit for consumption.

Adopt a low glycemic diet. Women struggling with PCOS are often insulin resistant. In a nutshell, the body is not able to process sugar as it should.  Make changes to the diet to gradually eliminate sugar. Remember, sugar is not just what we use for baking. Sugar is also hidden behind other terms such as fructose, cane juice, corn syrup, maltodextrin, maltose, sucrose, dextrose, glucose, and rice syrup, just to name a fraction. Remember that white flour is processed as sugar in the body, so the elimination of both sugar and processed flour will be important in the maintenance of a low glycemic diet.

The aforementioned dietary and lifestyle suggestions are just a few of the changes that women with PCOS can use to improve their lives and chances of conceiving. I wholeheartedly believe that the relatively simple changes I made to my daily life allowed me to become pregnant naturally. I hope that my story has offered at least a small amount of hope to women with PCOS.

Through diet and lifestyle, I healed my body and through the opportunity to become a mother, my body has healed my spirit. I believe the same is possible for you.


essential wellnessI am a Certified Holistic Health Coach that focuses on women’s reproductive health. Health Coaches are knowledgeable advisors that provide ongoing guidance as clients set goals and make sustainable changes to improve health and happiness. I design personalized programs to fit the needs of each client, provide a wealth of advice and information ranging from nutrition to self-care, and empower clients to achieve their wellness goals.

After years of PCOS, I balanced my hormones naturally and became pregnant on my own. I use my knowledge and inspiration to help women with PCOS and related conditions reclaim their health, fertility, and vitality.

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