Fertility Foundations: How to get pregnant with PCOS with Julia Young

Welcome to the latest series of Fertility Foundations, where we speak in depth with expert guests about how to prepare the foundations for healthy pregnancy. This week Sandra Greenbank is talking to Julia Young from Julia Young Nutrition. 

Julia is passionate about supporting couples and women with their fertility and hormonal issues. Having gone through her own fertility struggles, Julia was diagnosed with polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) and suffered from absent periods for seven years. Unable to conceive naturally, Julia and her husband underwent several rounds of fertility treatment and a miscarriage, and were finally blessed with two boys, one via IUI and one by IVF.

After discovering the power of nutrition, lifestyle and supplements on the impact of her health, Julia trained as a registered Nutritional Therapist and now supports others struggling to conceive.

Throughout this podcast Sandra and Julia discuss the importance of addressing the underlying root causes of Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) through nutrition, lifestyle, and functional approaches to promote healthy fertility and hormonal balance. 

Listen to this episode of the Fertility Foundations podcast with Julia Young here.

Find Julia Young on Instagram here: www.instagram.com/juliayoungnutrition

And find Julia’s website here: https://www.juliayoungnutrition.com

Julia offers all listeners access to her proven 3-step method to optimising your fertility (without the overwhelm and confusion) with her free training, Nourish For Fertility. You can access it here: https://www.juliayoungnutrition.com/free-training

This podcast is sponsored by Invivo Healthcare, a human microbiome company. They specialise in accurate testing of different microbes such as the gut, vagina, oral and urinary, as well as a range of specially curated supplements focused on the microbiomes. They support healthcare providers and their clients navigate the complex world of the human microbiome and it’s one of the most use labs and supplements by our own fertility specialists at the Fertility Nutrition Centre. Visit the Invivo website for more information at www.invivohealthcare.com

Podcast transcript

Sandra  00:06

Hello and welcome to the Fertility Foundations podcast, where we go into detail about how to prepare the foundations for healthy pregnancy. We dive deep into the underlying root causes for fertility issues and natural solutions. I want you to know that you’re not alone and you’re not broken. I hope that by sharing these episodes this will help you move from feeling overwhelmed and lost to feeling hopeful and empowered to take charge of your own path to parenthood, because there are actually lots of things that you can do to help rewrite your own story. 

I’m Sandra Greenbank, Nutritional Therapist, Functional Medicine Practitioner, Coach and Educator, specialising in fertility, pregnancy and postpartum health. I’m also the founder of the Fertility Nutrition Centre, where you can find fully trained experts in nutrition, lifestyle and functional approaches to a healthy fertility and pregnancy. You can find out more information over at www.fertilitynutritioncentre.org and also book a free strategy call with one of our experts. 

Today I’m speaking to Julia Young about trying to conceive with PCOS. Julia offers personalised nutrition and lifestyle support and believes in the importance of getting to the root cause of your fertility issues. Having gone through fertility struggles herself, she is passionate about supporting couples and women with their fertility and hormonal issues. Julia was diagnosed with polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) and suffered from absent periods for seven years, which meant that her and her husband were unable to conceive naturally. After several rounds of fertility treatment and a miscarriage, they were finally blessed with two boys, one via IUI and one by IVF. However, it was only after discovering that nutrition lifestyle and supplements could impact health that Julia’s periods returned. This inspired her to train as a registered Nutritional Therapist and to go on to help others struggling to conceive. 

This podcast is sponsored by Invivo Healthcare, a human microbiome company. They specialise in accurate testing of different microbiome such as the gut, vagina, oral and urinary tract, as well as a range of specially curated supplements focused on the microbiomes. They support healthcare providers and their clients navigate the complex world of the human microbiomes and is one of the most used labs and supplements by all fertility specialists. Visit the Invivo website for more information at www.invivohealthcare.com. 

Now let’s get into today’s interview with Julia. Thanks so much for joining us today on the Fertility Foundations podcast.

Julia Young  02:35

Hi there. Thanks for having me,

Sandra  02:37

Hi Julia. We’re talking about PCOS today. And first of all, if someone’s suspects that they’ve got PCOS, what symptoms might they or should they look out for?

Julia Young  02:51

Okay, so with PCOS, polycystic ovarian syndrome, the symptoms to look out for really are weight gain or difficulty losing weight or maintaining weight. Often women suffer with excess hair growth, particularly so around the face and chin area. Male pattern baldness can be an issue as well. There can also be skin issues so acne can develop. And you know, women can suffer from infrequent or even absent periods. So they may find that their cycle is longer or they may not be having periods at all. There’s also increased risk of diabetes as well to look out for. So there’s a real collection of symptoms. It’s not a disease, it’s a syndrome. And yeah, you know, some women can have some of these symptoms, all of them or even very few symptoms at all really with PCOS. 

Sandra  03:51

That’s the thing, isn’t it? Because there’s so many different things that can apply to you. And not everyone who actually has PCOS is overweight or struggles to lose weight? So you can there’s a section of people who are late, we call it lean PCOS as well. But it’s the absence of ovulation and the issues with ovulation that it comes with that actually then can have an impact on fertility. Is that right?

Julia Young  04:15

That’s right. Yes. I mean, it could be that it’s certainly not possible to get pregnant if you have PCOS. So that’s the first thing to remember not to despair. But it can take women longer to get pregnant with PCOS, you have tend to have elevated luteinizing hormone LH and will reduce follicle stimulating hormone coupled with elevated androgen hormones which are the kind of male hormones with male traits, like for example, testosterone, and higher insulin levels as well. So you’re the development of your follicles because the follicular development can be limited, which means that potentially egg development can’t occur or it’s delayed. So this can result in irregular ovulation. So obviously if you’re you’re have irregular periods, perhaps your cycle is longer than there’s just going to be less opportunity to get pregnant. And also it can be more difficult to pinpoint when you’re actually ovulating. So it could just make it more difficult when you’re trying to conceive naturally, or there could be the issue of not ovulating at all. So if you’re, you know, if you don’t have periods, you’re not ovulating, then obviously, you’re not going to be getting pregnant naturally. Also, with with PCOS, PCOS, quality can be affected. And this is due to overexposure of these androgen hormones and again, with higher insulin as well can affect the quality of the eggs. And then as we said before, weight gain can be a symptom. And we know that if we’re overweight, fertility could be affected. Again, it can affect their quality, it can increase the risk of pregnancy complications and things like that. So it can be harder and take longer to conceive. But the good news and you know, the positive to come out of this is that diet and lifestyle could have a really positive effect and helping to manage the condition. So there’s a lot that can be done from a diet and lifestyle perspective. Definitely.

Sandra  06:07

Yeah, we’ll talk about that in a minute. But just in terms of diagnosing, I know that this can be really, really difficult. And if someone suspects that they have PCOS, and this is the root cause of their fertility issues, what what should they do?

Julia Young  06:23

So yeah, so someone’s got got some of these symptoms, and it’s something that’s suspect the first instance I say, go to your doctor, your general practitioner, and they can do some basic tests to test your hormone levels. And they can look at things like your your fast and insulin as well, which is really important and cholesterol levels because it is a metabolic condition. So it’s important to get some general tests done. But really, to get an official diagnosis, there’s a criteria called the Rotterdam criteria. And as part of that, that criteria, you have to have two out of three, certain criteria have to be diagnosed. So the first one is where you’d have an ultrasound, and they’d find multiple cysts on the ultrasound. And then coupled with that either having irregular periods or no periods at all. And then the third one is having a higher level these androgen hormones, so for example, testosterone, so if you have two out of three of those criteria, then then you could be diagnosed with having polycystic ovarian syndrome. And then from there, sometimes the first is say, obviously work on diet lifestyle is really important, but from a kind of doctor perspective, and you’re trying to conceive, you may be put on a medication such as Clomid, or letrozole, which helps us stimulate the release of eggs from the ovaries that can be very effective with couples, trying that for a number of cycles. And trying naturally, but But using this medication, and it can help couples to conceive. So certainly worth looking at all of the options first, before maybe jumping into something like fertility treatment. And lucky obviously working on on what you can before sort of doing anything further in that instance? Definitely. Yeah, so

Sandra  08:05

that’s the thing, isn’t it. So really, unless the of the stimulation medication doesn’t work, generally, the next step is IVF. That you will be offered. And then you will go on the waiting list for for for your IVF clinic. But a lot of the time, if there’s a weight issue, your GP will say to you, go away, lose some weight, because otherwise you won’t qualify for the IVF potentially, if your BMI 730, for example, and then you’re kind of left with this. I’ve been trying to lose weight all my life. And then you’re you might be tempted to go on a crash diet or like over exercising, do you think that’s sort of? Is that what you see as well, because that’s what I definitely have noticed?

Julia Young  08:50

Absolutely, it can be really frustrating because, you know, I’ve had clients come to me and they’ve, they’ve been told by their doctor or almost by a panel of consultants, or you just have to go away and lose weight and a can be very disheartening, because as you said, they’ve been trying, they’ve been trying it all before, it’s not like they haven’t been doing everything they can. And you know, then they might go in a very calorie controlled, restricted diet to try and lose weight that way. And sometimes these can be effective, you know, people can lose weight that that way, but quite often it’s rapid weight loss, and we need to be careful about rapid weight loss because we store toxins in our fat tissue. So if we’re losing weight very quickly, then we released those toxins into the body and they can affect their quality. So really, the way that wants to do it is very much a slower pace, a steady place it needs to be sustainable. So you know, having someone that can, you know, support you, give you the accountability that you need, but also giving you the guidance of what to eat. And it’s not just a case of taking everything away and then say not eating anything. It’s often adding foods into the diet that you might not be having You can actually make a really positive impact and the weight will naturally then come off, if you’re eating a very nutritious diet and getting the right foods for you, then the weight will naturally come off. And similarly, with the exercising piece, you know, exercise is very important for PCOS. But it can be a stressor on the body. So it’s about doing the right type of exercise for you. So over exercising, can can release cortisol levels and produce stress in the body and hinder weight loss. So really, it’s about movement, strength training can be very effective, but not sort of, you’re someone that’s going out every day doing doing runs and very intense cardio, then you might need to look, look at what you’re doing and slow things down a bit. And doing, you know, the right, more restorative exercise, that’s going to be more effective for you, and not not such hardcore, except at the moment. So getting some support in that area, and someone that can really hold your hand and guide you into what you should be doing can be really helpful. Absolutely.

Sandra  11:04

Yeah, I think that’s a really important message, actually, the starvation, and over exercising those two things, sends a message to your brain that you’re under stress and food is scarce. And actually, right now is not a good time to have a baby. And actually, we really want to always focus on sending the right message to the brain to say it’s safe. Everything is, you know, everything is fine. You know, the time is right to bring a baby in. Because although that might sound a little bit woowoo or airy fairy, it’s not sometimes your body’s doing exactly what it’s supposed to be doing in any given circumstance. And we are, you know, evolutionary evolution is incredible, really, and how it sort of can can hinder, you know, stress, we know will eventually hinder ovulation because it, you know, increases certain hormones that will then stop ovulation, for example. And so all of this kind of starvation diets are over exercising, it’s all just changing your hormones and your gut microbiome in a really potentially detrimental way. So it’s all about doing it, doing it right, I suppose getting it right, making sure that you’re always nourished and always looking after yourself. Whilst also, you know, reaching your goals, it might be a little bit slower, potentially, but much more fertility friendly, I suppose.

Julia Young  12:35

Yeah, I completely agree. And also, you know, we want people to be changing the way they’re eating, and then doing that for life, you know, skills that they can learn that they can then use themselves pass on to their family, and, you know, like that long term, it’s not something we want them to do for three months, and then go back to the way they they were eating. That’s not how it’s gonna be sustainable. That’s not what’s gonna keep the weight off. It’s making lifelong changes. And that can take that a little bit longer, but it can be really effective. And they said, the temptation I mean, for in the moment in the moment, still, the keto diet, for example, is really popular. And you know, and that involves really restricting your carbohydrate intake. And again, you know, women need carbohydrates to ovulate to if you’re going to take all the carbohydrates out that could impact ovulation. Again, we need carbohydrates, but I’ve got microbiome, as you mentioned. And so taking out dropping the carbohydrates isn’t necessarily the answer, we might need to reduce them a little bit or look at when we’re eating our carbohydrates that can be affected. And so time of day, but actually going going completely keto, for fertility or for PCOS really isn’t the answer. So it is about making those slow and sustainable changes that are going to have the most positive impact.

Sandra  13:49

Yeah, absolutely. And, you know, we always have to look after the gut microbiome because they look after us and make our hormones and you know, there may be nutrients as well. And I think also, what I’m finding is that a lot of people who have a diagnosis of PCOS, actually, they’ve just had a blood test, or they’ve just had a scan, but they haven’t had all of the tests that you mentioned, or obviously, you know, the two, I suppose there’s the scan and a blood test. And sometimes it is misdiagnosed, and that could be another reason for the lack of periods. That is not because you can have polycystic ovaries without having the actual syndrome. And the other thing I find is that the minute you’ve got a diagnosis, your partner if you have a male partner is off the hook. And then there is a huge part that’s potentially missed out of the puzzle. That’s a huge piece of the puzzle because even though one person might have a diagnosis, it doesn’t mean that the other person doesn’t also have a small But potentially major part to play. And I think it’s really important to still involve the male partner and do all of the tests for them as well. Yeah,

Julia Young  15:09

I completely agree. But I’ve had, again, I’ve worked with people who’ve come to me because they have PCOS. And luckily, I have worked with both partners. And that is my preference, I always stress if I can work with a couple, rather than just one one of the partners that I get the best results. But we’ve then looked at, there’s been nothing done into the the male side of things. And yes, there’s work to be done on her side. But we found equally there’s stuff to be done on his side. So it can sometimes be just one, one person, whether there’s an issue, but more often than not, there’s something on both sides, to be honest. And even if, you know, there’s always ways to optimise people’s fertility anyway, on both sides, so yes, really

Sandra  15:50

salutely. And I think that if you can get the ovulation back, even though the cycles are still potentially longer, and then you’re improving the other side of the other side a bit as well, at the same time, then, you know, it might be that that’s enough for you to then go on to conceive naturally. And actually, I think the other thing that that is really important to focus on, if we’re thinking about our long term health, like you mentioned, you know, the positive impact that that will have on your life as a couple as well as your your children is that, you know, you learn all these things for life instead of once you know, something, you’re not going to, you’re sort of not going to unlearn it, and epigenetically you know, I think if I had my time again, and I was having children, again, I’d want to sort of biohack my children’s future health that sort of really prepare and really try and avoid certain things that could have an impact on their genetics, and how their genetics are expressed in the room and actually, throughout their entire life. Such as, you know, stress reduction, or improving the microbiome, and you know, all of these things that we do anyway, and really sort of focusing on certain nutrients that are really supportive for methylation. And, you know, there’s loads and loads of research now, that looks at this, so I just, yeah, I, I despair, when I hear doctors say, just do IVF don’t, you know, have to do all this natural stuff, just do IVF. And it’s like, you know, IVF might work, but then you’re still gonna have all of the underlying issues and nobody’s having nobody’s improving their, you know, their biology and their their expression of their genetics or, you know, you’re just sort of staying potentially and not feeling particularly when either you

Julia Young  17:43

or you want to say the goal shouldn’t be just about getting that positive pregnancy test you want, the end result should be a healthy baby, and you want to have a healthy pregnancy leading up to that as well. So it is all about it isn’t about just stepping into IVF. You know, and doing it all day, you need to do the preparation work, and you want to have that enjoyable, healthy pregnancy, the healthy birth and then a healthy child. In the end, you don’t have to have to be dealing with issues when the you know, sometimes obviously, sometimes there are issues but you don’t want to you don’t want increase the risk of things happening with the child once it’s born. So you want to do, there’s such an opportunity here to do all that work beforehand, and really ensure that your baby is healthy, which is what you want you want at the end of the day. Yeah,

Sandra  18:27

and a healthy mom as well. And I think with PCOS, particularly at this point, your risk for example of gestational diabetes and other things if we can pull this back before pregnancy, then you’re sort of you’ve got more of a buffer there. As you go through pregnancy and you know, we do become naturally quite poor at handling carbohydrates in pregnancy. But if you’re going in with sort of higher base level, then you know, that’s just potentially not going to be as as healthier pregnancy as it could be. So let’s talk a bit more about what nutritional therapy can can do to help support women with PCOS who are trying to conceive them food wise.

Julia Young  19:08

Yeah, so So firstly, it’s important, I think to say that a nutritional therapist won’t just focus on the diagnosis. If you’re coming to nutrition therapist and saying I’ve got PCOS, and I’m wanting to conceive, you know, we got we have very much a whole body approach. We are identifying and supporting imbalances in the body. So what we do is very much address the root cause. So, you know, regardless of the diagnosis, we want to know the kind of what’s causing the PCOS. So we kind of touched on this a bit before but you know, the majority, a large majority of the cases it is associated with insulin resistance, but then it can also be associated with inflammation in the body, high levels of chronic inflammation, the body. There is such thing as post pill PCOS. So you’ve may have had normal periods, started taking the contraceptive pill and then come off it and notice that maybe your periods hadn’t returned. You know that being on the pill, it kind of masks what our hormones are doing. And PCOS may have developed as a result of that often

Sandra  20:07

you as a woman, if you’re a teenager, you have problems that you as you start your periods, the solution is the pill. But it’s never the pill, it’s never the solution to irregular periods. Because the pill bleed, it’s not a real bleed, it’s a fake bleed, and you’re just potentially putting off your issues for 1015 years or whatever, however long you’re gonna stay on that pill. And also, that pill itself depletes really important nutrients, B vitamins. And it damages the gut microbiome. So I think if anybody really has been under pill for a long time, has some work to do, really, to sort of correct issues that might have been caused by it. Yeah, sorry, interrupting you there. But

Julia Young  20:53

no, no, no, it’s when you’re on the pill, you just don’t know what’s going on with your hormones do you don’t it’s masking everything. So you know, if you are currently taking the pill and thinking that you might want to conceive in a few years time, maybe it starts thinking about maybe using alternative methods of contraception, etc, to try and get your body back back into a natural state. And your people PCOS could be driven by stress as well, what we call adrenal PCOS. So the you know, there are a number of types of PCOS. And that’s important to identify, which is your type. And as you know, there is a sort of lean type PCOS where you don’t have the insulin resistance don’t have, we may have the insulin resistance, but you don’t particularly have the weight issue as well. So just because you’re not struggling with your weight doesn’t mean that the PCOS isn’t there. So I think that’s important that we really, we really identify the root cause. We, as I said, we can support you with weight loss, if that’s, that’s something you need to focus on, you know, giving you the accountability, sometimes it’s having someone there that’s going to check up on you and support you and along the way and hold your hand can be really important. supporting you with lifestyle factors, again, really important, they can be quite hard to do on your own. So again, someone there that can help you with all the different lifestyle stuff that is important to support. And with nutritional therapists also have access to lots of testing as well, which can be really useful. So beyond your diagnosis of the PCOS, we can look at other conditions that might need to be ruled out. So for example, there’s a strong association between PCOS and third health. So it’s really important that we learn we do a full comprehensive panel looking at the thyroid function, not just looking at your thyroid stimulating hormone, which is often what is tested, but looking at the you know, their actual five, actually five, or even six markers, that we need to test authority to check that it’s working optimally. So just because your thyroid stimulating hormone might be looking, okay, it doesn’t mean that your actual active and inactive thyroid hormones are okay. It doesn’t mean that you haven’t got thyroid antibodies there as well. So all of that needs to be ruled out and check that’s working properly. Looking at the guts, because we know there’s a strong association, again with PCOS and the gut and making sure that it’s functioning properly and that they’re not any hidden infections that could be driving anything they’re looking at vitamin D status is really important. In vitamin DS is really important one for PCOS, for immune status as well. For fertility. Yeah, yeah, absolutely. And research shows that vitamin D improves insulin resistance, and ovulation rate rates. So it’s important that we have a good level. And so many of my clients have inadequate vitamin D levels. And you just don’t know, let’s see, unless you test, I

Sandra  23:37

think, at about 85% of people with PCOS, have vitamin D deficiency. And the GPS don’t test for this anymore generally, because they’re just told to assume that everybody’s low in vitamin D. But I just don’t think that’s good enough, we need to know exactly how low so that we then know exactly how much we need to give. And, you know, if you’re very, very low, if you’re actually very deficient, then you know, you might need to hide this prescription, which got caught by over the counter. So and it’s such a cheap test that, you know, it’s just has to be done.

Julia Young  24:13

Yeah, we should, we should be doing it a few times and really need a year really to know what our levels are. And it said that the GP would just recommend probably quite a low dose, which may well not be enough for you. But on the flip side, there is such thing as vitamin D toxicity. So we need to check that we’re not taking too much as well. But vitamin D is stored in our fat tissues. So if we are someone that’s struggling with our weight and are overweight, and we have a higher body percentage of fat, it may mean that we’re not able to use utilise vitamin D more easily as it tends to be bound up to fat tissue. So we may have this higher need for vitamin D. So yeah, so that’s a really important one to check. So yes, there’s lots of testing we can do. You know, just did check, there’s nothing else going on with the body and to make sure that everything’s you know, working well to the tee as well, we can look at how hormones are being broken down, metabolised through it through a Dutch test dried urine test the comprehensive hormones that can be useful as well for women with PCOS and looking at cortisol levels as well, the body so so there’s the, with the with the nutrition therapist is certainly lots of areas that we look at, and make sure that we haven’t missed anything out. One

Sandra  25:28

of the tests that’s quite useful is the Dutch test. And I’ve actually got a separate I’ve got podcast recording with Dr. Carrie Jones, called hormone testing for fertility with Dr. Carrie Jones. And that’s a really good to kind of run through just how to test your hormones. And, you know, we talked a lot about the Dutch as part of that. And I think it’s really important to not just rely on the very basic tests available through the kind of conventional medical setting, I suppose, and actually use some of these more high tech. And in depth tests that you know, really look at where we can turn a couple of dials to kind of then help your, your, your own sort of biochemistry and and make that weight loss a bit more effortless, make that you know, make everything just a bit easier for your body to do what it’s meant to be doing, as opposed to kind of just pushing against all of the time. Yeah, and I think still testing, again, is something that we do all the time. And it might sound a bit strange to say, Oh, I’ve got hormone deficiency, and then we sort of asked you to put it in a box and put it in the post. But hormone health always begins in the gut, right? Yep. You just can’t have healthy balanced hormones without a really well functioning gut. And, you know, if you know that you’re constipated, for example, that is absolutely the number one thing to address. Because constipation does not help or mental health. Because our hormones are cleared out through the digestive system. And if there’s a sort of blockage there, or if it’s not, you know, if it’s just not functioning properly, then most likely you’re going to have a knock on effect hormonally, and all hormones kind of work in unison, like an orchestra. So if one’s out others, they’re likely to be out, like you’ve said about the thyroid, for example. But also there’s a lot of nutrients that we can help to really push a healthy testosterone metabolism as well, which can be an issue specifically in PCOS Scituate situations, and also really helped to balance this blood sugar. So we want to talk a little bit about that as well. Yeah, so

Julia Young  27:51

So really, yeah, so balancing blood sugar is really important. And that’s all about focusing on protein and fat really. And although I said, I said not to cut out carbohydrates and maybe slightly lower levels of carbohydrates that less of the refined carbohydrates. So really, with with PCOS, and fertility in general, sugar, unfortunately, is the enemy. And so you want to be cutting down on sugary foods that you might be eating. Yes, those from cakes, biscuits, etc. But also the refined carbohydrates, which are the kind of fluffy white cardboard garb carbohydrates that you might get from white bread, white rice, white pasta, things like that. So we want to focus on that the whole grains, which are more your brown rice is your key noir, sweet potato, etc, which are going to be you know, packed with fibre, which are going to be broken down a lot more slowly in the blood. And we’re not going to get these spikes of energy, it’s going to disrupt our blood glucose levels. So focusing on more the whole grains and the refined carbohydrates, and then making sure we’re getting lots of antioxidants into the diet as well. And we do that through really eating lots of different coloured fruit and vegetables. So every different colour of fruit vegetables have different what we call poly phenols, or plant chemicals is going to have a really positive impact on health and fertility in general. Also, making sure we’re getting lots of variety in the diet. Plenty of Protein, as I said, and healthy fats as well. So we shouldn’t be going we shouldn’t be afraid of fats, if we need to lose weight that, you know, that’s that’s a myth that we should be cutting down on the amount of fat we’re eating. Yesterday, the processed foods and the you know, which will contain the unhealthy fats we don’t want but the things like that we get from oily fish nuts and seeds are really important to include those in the diet

Sandra  29:45

and olive oil as well. Yeah, plenty of really kind of healthy, and that you know, it’s really important actually, because all our cell membranes are made up of fats that we have in our diet and celebrate and the membranes need to function optimally so that they think communicate with the outside of sirloin with the hormones. And if the cells aren’t working properly, then you know nothing’s going to work properly. And I think that it, yeah, it’s so important to not fear the fats, but actually, it’s the kind of hydrogenated fats, the shelf stable fats, potentially cutting down a bit on saturated fats, as well, from the likes of red meat and processed foods, generally, just anything processed is going to be less helpful. And anything that you find in the fruit and vegetable section, or, you know, I mean, poultry eggs, like you said, the brown rice dosa or, you know, then natural foods and they’re not gonna, they are not the enemy. And, and actually, insulin is the fat storing hormone, right. So, an insulin spikes when you eat too much of the wrong types of carbohydrates. So what we want to do is keep the insulin low and stable, and then you’re not getting that message to yourself that they need to store the excess energy away as fat. And I think this is kind of maybe a bit of a leap, to sort of imagine that, you know, it’s not the fat that actually gets stored as fat necessarily. It’s when you eat it with too many carbohydrates. And actually, there’s other there’s like lifestyle, things we can do as well to really help keep that insulin low, like for example, sleep.

Julia Young  31:26

Yes, such a big one. I mean, you know, sleep contributes to hormone imbalance, and lack of sleep decreases your cell sensitivity and insulin. So it causes increased blood insulin levels, which can lead to increased testosterone as well. So it could be sleep would be a really hard one. Because we’ve got so many distractions nowadays, you know, Netflix, etc. Just busy lifestyles, it’s keeping us the, you know, phones and all that sort of thing that’s keeping us stay awake. And it’s the one thing that we think we can sort of cut cut out on, actually, for PCOS. And for health in general infertility, in general, sleep is one of the number one things that we should do it from a lifestyle perspective, it’s, we should be getting good sleep. And whether that’s, you know, met while making sure that the devices are off, you know, a couple of hours before bed, ideally, and slowly bringing your bedtime, you know, foot forward sort of 10 minutes a night till you get to an earlier bed time can be really affected. It’s those hours before midnight, where we get the best quality sleep. So really looking at your sleep hygiene, and it’s a really difficult one to do, actually. Because we you know, we can have all the best intentions, and then it kind of goes on the wayside. But it can, it can make a huge impact to us.

Sandra  32:42

Yeah. And that that daily rhythm is so important the circadian rhythm, and it ties in with the moon cycles and your air cycles. And, you know, all of these kinds of rhythms have been shown to, you know, if you can keep in, in that with if, especially if you’ve got PCOS, actually, that does help regulate your cycles, as well as getting up exposing yourself to the Sun trying to get up at the same time every day, not getting up too late in the weekend, for example, getting to bed and keeping it consistent, because that’s, that’s sending the right signals to the brain again,

Julia Young  33:19

not that it’s not about banking, sleep, is it the weekends or anything like that, it’s having that consistent, consistent routine, routine. And you know, and sleep deprivation, we probably all knows this, but it makes us crave those sugary carb foods. Yeah, if you’re one night bad sleep, and the next day you’re reaching for something that you maybe wouldn’t normally eat. And you know, and that you know, that can have a real impact increases those hunger hormones. So just being a bit more disciplined with that, I like the idea of waking up and say exposing to sunlight, but also just wake up and drawing the curtains having looking outside for a few minutes to get a bit of daylight into your eyes is a good starting point. So you’re not living in the dark, that live in the dark in the evenings, but during the day, getting as much daylight as you can getting outside if you can. And also

Sandra  34:04

using blue light blocking glasses at night. For example, if you can’t avoid screens, you can use this really quick, cheap and easy to get blue light blocking glasses that can really help as well because it’s all about the light that’s hitting the back of your retina. And if it’s a certain colour light, it’s going to affect your brain and how it perceives what time of day it is or what’s going on. So, you know, it’s all just about kind of again, it’s just sending the right signals, isn’t it. And there’s some other simple hacks you can do as well. Like for example, go for a brisk walk around the block after a meal to really help sort of bring that sugar into the cells bring the insulin levels down.

Julia Young  34:42

Also, I quite like the idea of that when you’re eating your meals not always possible, but sort of eating if you can your foods in a certain order. So going for kind of the vegetables first. Routine yeah, having like started with salad and then you’re kind of protein and fat and leaving the carbohydrates. To the end, and actually, sometimes you might not need as many of the carbohydrates because you might be quite fill up from the protein and fat in your meal as well. But if you can sort of do it that order that can have a really positive impact as well, when you’re blue blood glucose levels, yeah, for some people backloading the carbs or having your carbs in the evenings can be useful. And this tends to be something we need to play around with.

Sandra  35:21

To see what works for you, because it’s all about personalised you know, a personalised approach really, but, yeah, and also apple cider vinegar, although I’m not drinking apple cider vinegar necessarily sort of constantly but, you know, it can be something that can be really useful to help as well. Yeah, yeah, I

Julia Young  35:39

actually quite like it with sparkling water combined. Yeah, she makes a bit like taste a bit like a convict to drink, but it’s quite nice. Makes it slightly easier to take not as strong as having a sort of shot of it. Yeah, that can be affected as well. Definitely.

Sandra  35:52

I was sent actually released released a brand that do vinegar, they sent me some kombucha drinks with vinegar in them. And actually, they are really delicious. And there’s no added sugar, there’s no sweetness, they’re sort of like sparkling drink. And they’re really nice. Although you sort of probably don’t want to be buying sort of special drinks for regular use. But yeah, there’s so so many things that you can do, isn’t there? And you know, we can’t we’re not going to be able to cover them all. In one podcast episode, but is there anything that you should be specifically avoiding?

Julia Young  36:29

Yeah, so aside from the kind of the sugar and the refined carbohydrates, it’s we kind of talked about the three but the low fat dairy products, they can be quite insulin stimulating, so to avoid low fat foods, in general, and you know, if you’re, if you’re having dairy going through the full

Sandra  36:46

fat, and that’s because they can they contain starch, right? They, they put starch in to make up for the lack of fat and actually, all of that starch is, that’s what we want to be avoiding. Right. And the other thing is, and I think recently, there’s been loads of news reports about this, but sweetness. They say that, yeah, yeah, come

Julia Young  37:09

on. Yeah, no, no, I was just gonna say that, you know, firstly, the body is still seeing some sugar. So it’s not, it’s not a Keighley isn’t very, it’s no secret with sweetness, they’re not a magic bullet, your body will still see them as sugar in the body. We know Research shows that they impact the gut bacteria. We need as we said before, we need to be supporting the gut microbiome. So you don’t want anything that’s going to kind of destroy the gut but gut biome and now in the news has been lots of sweetness, news about sweetness and links with cancer and things like that. So as a general health thing, we should be avoiding them anyway. Really, the best policy is to retrain your palate to enjoy less sweet foods and then you will get the the sweet cravings will be reduced. can be a little bit uncomfortable for a few days. But if you can start doing that, that’s the best policy rather than trying to replace it with something else.

Sandra  38:00

Do you have some tips for for anyone who can do you know what to do if you’re craving sweets because I think this can be something that’s really difficult when you have PCOS. I don’t know if you’re there so it’s it sort of comes with a sweet tooth almost. But what what can somebody do who just loves to have you know, something sweet of an evening like chocolate or sweets or they just feel like they need something do you have like a strategy that you tend to try.

Julia Young  38:34

So I like to say if you were having some, you know full fat yoghurt or something like I like I like adding cinnamon to dishes that can really help because it has got a kind of naturally sweeter taste but it’s not sweetness or anything like that. So that can help with sort of regulating blood glucose levels. If you’re someone that likes reaching for the dark chocolate chocolates or in general sweets, try and aim to go a bit darker with your chocolate so the higher the cocoa percentage of the chocolate, the lower the the sugar content. So as sort of a milk chocolate versus a really high 7080 or 90% cocoa chocolate you’ll see a lot less sugar in there. It’s a little bit of a bitter taste. Again it takes getting used to do too sometimes you have to work your way up slowly in the percentages but you can quite easily get used to that taste and you again you’ll find because it’s quite a strong taste you don’t need it as much as you might have a kind of a dairy milk type bar of chocolate. So having that again if you can combine it with some nuts with as a snack that again that will slow down the blood glucose release. You know we don’t want too much fruit is very you know berries are very healthy and have you know lots of antioxidants in them. So fruit there is a place for fruit but going for the lower and that that will give you obviously a sweet, that’s a sweet taste but going for the lower sugar fruits is important. So things like your berries, kiwis, things like that. and not having too much, you know, one or two portions a day I’d say maximum really with with fruit. So just Yeah, and just generally you know what a great way to kind of reduce cravings is to start your day with your breakfast to go for breakfast that isn’t sweet. So we’re we’re kind of all been exposed to or grown up of breakfast should be at cereal, you know, something that’s sweet and that you know, bowl a conflict for sugar or something like that’s how we all grew up kind of thing. But why Why should breakfast be the sweet thing that we eat first thing in the morning, actually, breakfast can be savoury option, it could be leftovers from the night before, if you want something really quick, eggs is a really great way of getting your protein and fat at breakfast time to Monday. Yeah, absolutely. And if you can do that, and add in some vegetables as well, if you can, and if you could do that a, you’ll find that your stay full up for a long time, you know, your blood glucose will be nice and steady. You won’t be craving food earlier on and it should set you up for the rest of the day and the choices that you make later on in the day. And if you can go through day, not snacking, again, that can be beneficial. Every time we’re eating that we’re releasing that insulin. So if we can stick to more three satisfying meals a day, that will be much better on our blood glucose levels, our insulin release our our gut health as well, every time we eat something I’ve got has to digest the food and it can’t do its resting and repairing in between. So actually having slightly longer gaps between meals and sticking to the three meals a day and lots of constant grazing. It’s the constant grazing really, that leads to the weight gain. So if we can minimise the snacking, that can be really beneficial as well.

Sandra  41:41

Yeah, I think that you’ve wearing a continuous blood sugar monitor, which is actually designed for diabetics. But I think this is such an fantastic way to really learn how your body responds to different foods and how to really keep that blood sugar low throughout the day, because and there’s lots of different brands on the market, you can just, you know, Google a continuous blood sugar monitoring, which is just something that you were generally for two weeks, and then you have an app that kind of just shows up on your app. And I learned that I cannot touch crisps at all. Even if it’s sort of, you know, normally we would say we’ll have it with Thomas Abbott with the dead or heavier with Sunday, it just doesn’t work for me a cop absolutely cannot touch it. And also white rice is just like the devil for me. Regardless of whether I just have a tablespoon with, you know, some chicken or whatever, how we normally would sort of tell people to have it but it just some foods, for some people are just not going to work for them. And then you know, it just, it’s helpful then because then you know that you need to choose something else. And you learn a lot in two weeks.

Julia Young  42:56

Yeah, I’ve done it as well, myself. And I can’t remember what all the results were now but things like porridge again, for some people and porridge is seen as a very healthy breakfast. For some people it is and it doesn’t impact their blood glucose at all. Other people can be a huge spike. But then you might be you know, you can have nut butters and things like that. And maybe that will slow down the blood glucose response. But even that for some people is too much. So that is a really good way of just learning what your body needs and how it reacts to foods is a good way. But just

Sandra  43:30

generally I think yeah, I think if you’re starting off with a really good protein and fat sort of heavy breakfast or not heavy breakfast, but you know with that with slightly less carbs, then you don’t start off your day on that blood sugar rollercoaster because it’s when you’re crushing that you’re reaching for the things that aren’t so helpful because your body’s sending signals your brain sending signals to your body going we need to bring these blood sugar levels up because you know we’re going low we’re going down and so again it’s just kind of re educating yourself and your brain and your body to want the right foods I suppose. And you know continental breakfast or even a you know, if you have time in the morning a cooked breakfast there’s nothing wrong with full English or you know, part of it full English I suppose. You just have to make sure that it’s the right good quality and not kind of the fried or whatever. But you know, good quality sausage is not to be kind of sniffed out I think,

Julia Young  44:33

yeah, it’s brilliant and people that don’t have time for breakfast and said, you know, can you make extra portions of dinner from the previous night and just form a portion up and have that in the morning that’s you know, really quick way of getting something that’s going to be not sweet, well balanced and you may even sneak vegetables in there as well, same time. So there’s there’s lots of ways you can do it on a time budget as well. Absolutely.

Sandra  44:58

Yeah. Should we talk about supplements briefly, because I’m sure that everyone who’s listening wants to know what supplements they can take, or the wearer of food first approach always. Yeah,

Julia Young  45:09

I think the first thing is you say that you can’t have anybody heard this before, but you can’t out supplement a bad diet. You know, if you’re not getting the right foods and nutrition in first, there’s no point in really investing in the supplements. But having said that, you know, our soils are depleted, our bodies can be depleted. So we may need that boost those extra nutrients, particularly when trying to conceive and particularly PCOS. But really, in terms of what are the best supplements for PCOS, it really depends. You know, what works for one person may not work for another, we’re all different. So in that area, I always say you know, work with someone that’s qualified, that knows what they’re talking about. Because it’s really important to get you know, personalised approach. And there’s such a variation between maybe going into your local supermarket and buying a brand or something and getting sort of practitioner grade, quality supplements that are recommended to you there’s you know, there may be you may, you may find that they’re slightly more expensive than the practitioner ones, but then actually, you’ll get a lot more of the nutrients, and you won’t have all the fillers and extra stuff put in that we don’t want to be taking. But having said that, there are certain nutrients that can be useful to supplement. So firstly, inositol on my own off store, which is a naturally occurring current compound in the body, we get small amounts and things like grains in fruits and lagoons. And it can really help to improve insulin resistance and testosterone levels and reduce testosterone levels that can be really effective with women with PCOS, B vitamins really important, especially B, 12. and folate. We know further, it’s really important for fertility anyway in reducing your tube defects. But it’s important, the B vitamins are important for helping allowing the instance receptors to work properly, really important for hormone function and energy production. So again, we get those from from eating meat, seafood, dairy, and eggs. But again, we may, we may well need to supplement vitamin D we talked about. So that’s important one, but also test test levels first, before putting that in Amiga three fats can be really helpful. So your Omega three fish oils, really important for reducing inflammation in the body. So again, which, you know, as I said, PCOS is a metabolic condition. So reducing that inflammation can be really important, and also helps with things like quality and implantation success as well in terms of fertility. And another one I recommend a lot is magnesium as well, you know, it’s a really central mineral, it helps you know, hundreds of enzymes in the body to work properly. And again, it helps that instance, insulin receptors to work properly. Also really important for relaxation. So if we’re stressed, you know, the right form of magnesium can be really, really helpful. And similarly, it can be really helpful for for sleep, as well, if if sleep is an issue, taking the right form of magnesium in the evening, and also made for making sure we’re eating leafy greens, and that seems feasible, get some magnesium as well. But it’s important, you know, they should be personalised to you. It’s not a case of, you know, my friend took this and got pregnant, therefore, should I take it, that’s not necessarily the case, you know, what, looking at what’s important for you, and remembering that supplements are really powerful. So it’s not a case of the more you take, the better, you know, our liver has to process, everything that we take. So sometimes, you know, people are coming to me, and they’ve got shopping lists of supplements that they’re taking. And actually, we’re stripping down and thinking you don’t actually need all of these, it’s costing you a lot of money, and it’s putting your body through a huge burden to process all of them. So it’s really important that we, you know, looking at what, what you exactly need, maybe do some tests to look at nutrient levels, and then putting it a personalised plan in place just for you.

Sandra  48:54

Yeah, I think that’s really important message to get it personalised, because also, they all interact with each other, as well as with any drugs that you might be prescribed. And, you know, you can cause a lot of damage if you take the wrong things. And also, it’s about the quality, isn’t it and making sure that you know, a lot of the cheapest supplements, unfortunately come with all these sort of fillers that are just detrimental, you know, even sugars, types of forms of sugar or forms of starch, which is just not going to be helpful when you’re trying to avoid sugar and starch.

Julia Young  49:25

It’s very confusing as well, because lots of people they do, they’re doing their own research. Now they’re reading certain books, and it’s telling you that this is useful, this is useful, etc. And then it’s very tempting just to buy it all. And that that’s not the solution. As I said, it’s going to cost you a fortune and maybe do even more harm than good. Some really good advice on that one.

Sandra  49:44

Absolutely. So just as a last sort of point for anyone listening then, you know, if they’re feeling a bit overwhelmed by all the things we’ve talked about today, do you have some top tips that people can make a start with at home and, you know, little things that they can sort of feel like they’re making, you know, it’s gonna make a difference to them. And some simple tips.

Julia Young  50:16

Um, my biggest piece of advice would be to, you know, start slow, and look at, you know, if there’s things from this podcast that you feel useful, and you could try, make one or two changes, you know, one or two at a time. And once they’re embedded, once they become a habit, then build on them, don’t try and do everything is what will happen. If you try and do everything that you’re more likely to fail, it just becomes too difficult. So the best thing is to assess where you’ll get the most benefit from so if you feel that, you know, the sugar and refined carbs as an issue, work on that, look at trying to reduce those in your diet and adding an additional foods in that sense. But if for you, it sleeps an issue, then then work on that, or maybe it’s stress, then you need to look at your stress management. And remember that these are life changes, they need to be sustainable. So doing everything at once just doesn’t work. And if you need that support, get it but just just pick out one or two things and really try nail those. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself. But yeah, that can be really effective way of doing it.

Sandra  51:19

And also, I think bring in your partner and make sure that they’re supporting you, if you’re trying to cut out sweets, you know, or whatever it might be or sleep more, you know, can you make it something that you do together? You know, one person buying all the stuff that you’re trying to avoid or just makes it impossible? Yeah,

Julia Young  51:44

I mean, the word the hardest thing is if you know if you’re trying to get rid of the sweets and the easiest ways not to have them in the house. So yeah, you’re right. If someone’s bringing them in every day, it’s just gonna be you’re set up to fail, really? So. And similarly in the workplace with lots of people say to me, oh, there’s always cakes and biscuits, where’s my desk? You know? Can they be moved? Can we put fruit there instead? Or something else instead? Can you bring in your own snacks? Do they have to be sat at your end of the desk? You know, little strategies like that can make an absolutely huge difference. Yeah.

Sandra  52:13

Oh, thanks so much, Julia. It’s been it’s been a really nice chat. And we’ve actually recorded another podcast episode. A while ago, Alicia, really long time ago was pre COVID. But if anyone wants to hear more from Julia, the episode is called I should have numbered them. But it’s called what I would like to tell my younger self about infertility with Julia young. And it we go, we talk a lot about your own experience, and really things you would have liked to do differently. And for anyone who’s kind of in the situation where they’re feeling a bit lost, I think that’s a really good episode to listen to, as well. If people want to find you, where’s the best place to get ahold of you? So

Julia Young  52:55

yeah, so on my website, it’s Julia young nutrition.com. And I offer a free 30 minute fertility review. So they can just go on the homepage, and book a fertility review and we can have a chat on the phone and see if I might be someone that you’d like to work with. And I’m on Instagram at Judy young nutrition as well. So you can find me on there and posting quite regularly. So hopefully there’s some useful information on there for you. Great,

Sandra  53:20

Thank you so much. Thank you I really enjoyed this chat with Julia young and I hope you enjoyed listening to this episode. Please like, share, save and rate this podcast if you found that useful, as it helps us reach more people. And if you’re looking for fertility specialists to support you, our practitioners can be contacted over at www.fertilitynutritioncentre.org. They all offer a free strategy call to help you decide on your best next steps on your journey. Thank you for listening.

Share this article


The Fertility Nutrition Centre was founded by Sandra Greenbank, an expert in proven nutrition strategies to help couples conceive naturally. After 12 years of helping hundreds of couples successfully conceive naturally, she is making it possible for more couples to receive nutrition consulting by creating a network of nutrition expertswho have committed to a unique and in-depth training program in the field of fertility.