Infertility: ‘miracle’ foods beat drugs for PCOS?

Picture: Luma Pimentel on Unsplash

By Marika Sboros

Canadian naturopathic physician Nadia Pateguana has an enviable reputation for getting people pregnant. How did Pateguana acquire that unusual reputation? It’s in her  new book co-authored with Canadian physician, nephrologist (kidney specialist) and fasting expert Dr Jason Fung.

It is The PCOS Plan (Greystone), a ground-breaking book covering polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS, for short) and infertility from all angles. Never was it more needed as PCOS is growing. It’s the single most common endocrine disorder globally affecting women of reproductive age. Estimates are that it affects between 8-20% of women.

There are drugs to treat it, “fertility drugs” chief among them.  But these drugs don’t always work. And when they do, they often have unpleasant or dangerous side-effects that offset benefits.

Surgery was an option but doctors rarely use it today. As Pateguana and Fung note, surgical complication rates for PCOS are “unacceptable compared with other modern medical treatments”.

Radical change

Both have developed a radically different approach to PCOS compared to conventional medicine. They’ve based it firmly on the “first do no harm” principle.

Their book’s subtitle says it all: Prevent and Reverse Polycystic Ovary Syndrome Through Diet and Fasting. It builds on the solid foundation of their combined decades of orthodox and complementary medical expertise. It is the fruits of their shared interest in a drug- and surgery-free approach to both treatment and prevention of PCOS.

The book is predominantly in Pateguana’s “voice” but it’s not difficult to hear Fung resonating throughout. His influence is not just in the emphasis on and expert insight into fasting as a healing modality to beat infertility.

Fung’s knowledge base is clear in the in-depth look at the role of hormones in development of PCOS. It is also in the investigation of insulin and the growing global epidemic of insulin resistance. It’s also in the compelling evidence for the link between obesity, diabetes (especially type 2 diabetes), infertility and PCOS.

And all the evidence on why drugs are not optimum for PCOS. “None of the drugs actually treats hyperinsulinemia, the root cause of the underlying PCOS,” the authors write.

Click here to read: Dr Fung’s single best weight loss tip!


One of many strengths is how well-researched and referenced this book is. It dispels the myths that exist about PCOS and infertility. It covers the history and spectrum of PCOS, what it is and is not, who gets it and why and best treatment and prevention.

Reputation grows

All of which brings us back to Pateguana’s reputation. It’s the result, she writes, of people seeking her out after friends or co-workers warned:  “Be careful. Don’t go see Doctor Nadia unless you want to get pregnant.”

For couples living with infertility, getting pregnant is “a welcome miracle”, as Pateguana notes.

Doctors only started considering PCOS as a disease over the last century but Pateguana and Fung show that PCOS is an ancient disease. It involves multiple organ systems. It also significantly raises the risk of a wide variety of co-existing health conditions, from mild to life-threatening.

The authors look in-depth at the signs and symptoms of PCOS and associated health risks. Acne, is a common signal along with hirsutism (excess body and facial hair).

They cite a classic article on cases in 1927 titled Diabetes of Bearded Women published in The Lancet medical journal. That cemented the link between what doctors now call PCOS and type-2 diabetes.

How NOT to treat PCOS!

But perhaps the real “meat” of this book lies in the final two parts. Part 3 looks at how not to treat PCOS. It covers drugs, surgical options, low-calorie (and conventional low-fat diets) and exercise get short shrift from the authors. And rightly so, given mounting, robust evidence.

Part 4 covers effective treatment for PCOS and is the nub of the PCOS Plan of the book’s title. It includes optimum diet and practical advice, including recipes.

That advice is the polar opposite of conventional, low-fat, high-carbohydrate SAD (Standard American Diet) recommendations.

Click here to read: How low-fat diets can kill!


Pateguana and Fung decimate conventional dietary guidelines whether for health in general or serious health conditions, such as obesity, type 2 diabetes, PCOS and many others.

They are also – and rightly – dismissive of the role of exercise in weight loss. They’re not saying exercise isn’t important. The authors say that it’s not a good weight-loss tool, as the evidence shows.

They also take an in-depth look at what to eat and what not to eat but also when to eat it. That involves intermittent fasting and what they call “strategic” timing of meals.

Optimum eating to beat infertility

The optimum diet they prescribe is very low in carbohydrates in general and in particular, refined processed carbohydrate foods. You don’t have to be a rocket nutrition scientist to know why. It’s because, as they say, the foods that cause the most insulin release are carbohydrate foods.

They have devised an eating regimen to beat infertility by keeping insulin release to the barest minimum.

Their preferred diet is, therefore, also very high in healthy fats, including saturated fats.

In other words, the authors effectively recommend a well-formulated ketogenic diet in this book.

Ketogenic diets and the ketones they produce remain mired in myth, controversy and irrational fear. However, as Pateguana and Fung show, ketones on their own are nothing to fear. They are normal by-products of metabolic breakdown of fat for fuel.

“The increase of ketones is simply a result of lowering insulin,” Pateguana writes. “As with any eating regimen that gains popularity, there will be companies and others that use the keto terminology incorrectly.”

For that reason, Pateguana prefers to call the diet she promotes in this book simply a “low-carb diet”. Her intention in fighting infertility is “not to raise ketones but rather to lower insulin”.

But arguably one of the biggest strengths of this book is the source of Pateguana’s “near obsession” (her words, not mine) with PCOS, infertility and diet. It’s professional but also “deeply personal” obsession, she writes.

Masking infertility expressions

It’s an intriguing tale with its genesis in Mozambique, Pateguana’s birthplace. She returned there after graduating from the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine in 2004. It was there, as the only naturopathic physician in the Mozambican capital of Maputo, that her career trajectory took off into treating patients first for weight loss and later for PCOS.

Dr Nadia Pateguana and family

Petaguana writes with honesty and raw emotion about her own experience of PCOS and infertility. And how, along the way, she had to take 10 different medications, including fertility drugs, and undergo “numerous medical procedures to mask the different expressions of this condition”.

Today, thanks finally to following her own advice, she is off all medications and proud and devoted mother of two. She is no longer prediabetic, hypertensive ( high blood pressure) or overweight. Pateguana also no longer has fatty liver, acne, depression or anxiety.

She sleeps well and likes how she looks and feels. So she should. Pateguana is the best advertisement for what she preaches. She looks as good on the outside as she clearly feels on the inside.

In essence in this book, then, Pateguana and Fung plot a path to the miracle of parenthood for their readers. To that end, they say they have a secret that they want to share. “You cannot drug yourself to better health.”

I looked long and hard to balance all the positives I find in this book but couldn’t find anything negative. It’s a riveting read. It’s an idea whose time has come for growing numbers of women worldwide: The ones who religiously follow orthodox dietary advice and eat their way into infertility.


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