Finding Balance for Fertility
Holistic nutritionist Nicole Granato overcame polycystic ovary syndrome without drugs. She shares her story, and tips for other women.
“I have always wanted to have kids,” says Nicole Granato. Concerned by her lack of regular menstrual cycles, she decided to get a checkup with a fertility specialist. She was only 21, and not ready to start a family, but figured she should touch base. Her doctor performed an ultrasound and found six cysts on her ovaries. She had polycystic ovary syndrome, he told her, and she only had about a three percent chance of ever getting pregnant. “Don’t worry,” he assured her, “You should be good with IVF.” Granato was stunned.
Her doctor wanted to put her on birth control and other hormonal treatments, but Granato left his office determined to do her own research. “I felt that his advice was the opposite of what I wanted. I was going to balance my hormones, not control them.”
Polycystic ovary syndrome, or PCOS, affects up to 1 in 10 women, according to the Office on Women’s Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. In PCOS, a woman’s estrogen and progesterone are out of balance, though scientists aren’t yet sure what exactly causes the imbalance. It’s the leading cause of female infertility, but has other health implications, wreaking havoc on a woman’s menstrual cycle, her hormones, heart, blood vessels, and appearance. Women with PCOS can experience anxiety and depression, and making matters worst, battle embarrassing side effects like weight gain, facial hair, acne and male-pattern baldness. It can affect preteen girls all the way as women well into menopause.
Granato is now a certified health and wellness coach in the Los Angeles area who specializes in women with infertility issues. After receiving her PCOS diagnosis, she used her training in nutrition, and additional research, to create a plan that worked to heal her body. “After four months, I went back and had my hormones checked and another ultrasound done and was completely cyst free. I also started getting my period every month and my skin cleared up, my anxiety cleared up. I’ve just continued with what I was doing ever since, though I’m a bit more lenient since clearing my PCOS. I do still get checked every six months.” Here’s how she overcame PCOS naturally:
- “I cut out all alcohol. I was never a big drinker to begin with, but I cut it out entirely for pH balance.” (Blood is slightly alkaline; alcohol is acidic.) “Having a balanced pH is important.”
- “I put myself on a routine. I drank a noni juice tonic in the morning. No coffee. Then I would have fruit in the morning on an empty stomach. I started breaking apart food groups. Salads and protein in the afternoon. Soups, grains and salads in the evening. It’s a whole food diet, but not plant based; I did eat meat as well. I think eating meat is important for building up strength to fight off disease.” Her supplements and herbs included guduchi stem, an important herb in Ayurvedic medicine; bladderwrack, a sea vegetable high in iodine, and cacao, which is high in iron and magnesium, nutrients many women are deficient in.
- “I don’t drink cold drinks; I do warm and room temperature. That’s a principle of Ayurvedic medicine,” Granato adds.
See It For Yourself
PCOS can be diagnosed via blood tests at a doctor’s office, as well as with a sonogram. “I always tell my patients to make sure the doctor does a sonogram of the ovaries,” says Granato. “Look and see how many cysts if any, you have, so you know what you are dealing with. If you don’t have any cysts, it possibly hasn’t gotten that severe yet, or that you have some other issue entirely. It’s vital that you see it for yourself; understand what is going on inside of yourself. Know, okay, this is what it looks like. This is what I have to take care of. I had six cysts; It was really scary. But it made me able to understand and that helped a lot. I wanted to take action. I knew more than what I was just being told. I had my own knowledge.”
PCOS can manifest in a huge array of symptoms, but Granato says there are three biggies to watch for:
- Irregular periods.
- Pain in the pelvic area on non-menstrual days.
- Acne around the cheekbones and jawline. “Acne in that area of the face is directly related to hormonal imbalance. When I see acne on that part of the face, I know.”
The condition can be challenging emotionally. “Fertility is such a deep, emotional part of being a woman,” says Granato. “And the symptoms of PCOS aren’t pretty. Women aren’t going to talk about their depression, their weight gain, the hair on their face or chest. They feel gross. The loneliness of it makes it more difficult to deal with. I’ve seen people supporting each other more recently, which is making a difference in the PCOS community.”
Her words of advice? “Everything stems from our hormones, and a routine is key. Build structure in your life so you build patterns hormonally. Proper supplementation, nutrition and lifestyle. As little as three times a week of exercise makes a big difference hormonally. Find time for a little personal time each day.”
And how does she feel when a client calls to say she’s gotten pregnant?
“I just get so excited for them. I remember how I feel when I cleared my PCOS. Being fertile is a big part of being who we are.”