Dr. Nadia Brito Pateguana is a naturopathic doctor with a focus on helping people with metabolic syndrome, including women with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), overcome infertility through dietary modifications. She is a graduate of the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine and has been in clinical practice for more than fifteen years.
You’re a naturopathic doctor with a focus on helping people overcome infertility, including women with PCOS. How did you come to this career in particular?
I became a naturopathic doctor because I was disillusioned with conventional medicine (I initially wanted to become a MD). I had severe IBS and I was unhappy with my treatments. I thought naturopathic medicine would help me and others with IBS, but unfortunately, it did not. After graduating from the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine, I decided to return to my home country, Mozambique, and started to work in the field of nutrition. Eventually, through fate and luck, I stumbled upon the discovery that a low-carb diet helped women struggling with infertility. In 2010 I was diagnosed with PCOS and I used the knowledge that I had to help myself as well.
In the book, you discuss your own struggles with PCOS and infertility. However, you were eventually able to conceive and now have two healthy daughters. How did you overcome these hurdles?
I knew that women with metabolic syndrome that had struggled with infertility got pregnant after following a low-carb diet. I decided to try it out on myself, and it worked. I also eventually learned the link between PCOS, infertility, metabolic syndrome, and insulin resistance.
What are the most important things someone struggling with PCOS and infertility can do to increase their chance of conceiving?
Learning the importance of not only WHAT to eat, but also HOW to eat. Eating less carbs, appropriate protein, and healthy fat foods in a time-restricted manner. Focus on full meals and avoid snacking. This is called intermittent fasting.
What would you like more people to know about PCOS?
PCOS is a common, debilitating and very serious women’s health concern. It isn’t just about some acne and a few missed periods. PCOS affects more young women worldwide than any other endocrine concern, and places them at a much higher cardiometabolic risk. Women with PCOS have a higher risk of diabetes, obesity, cancer, and cardiovascular disease than other women, as well as obvious reproductive issues such as infertility. It is frequently disregarded and improperly treated.
How can the combination of a low-carb diet and intermittent fasting reverse PCOS?
PCOS is, at its core, an insulin resistance issue—a problem of too much insulin. Lowering insulin levels through a real food, low-carb diet and intermittent fasting is the key to helping women with PCOS. If the problem is insulin, then the solution is to lower insulin.
You worked on The PCOS Plan with intermittent fasting expert Dr. Jason Fung. What led to this collaboration?
I started working with Dr. Fung in 2016 in Toronto at his clinic. We mostly saw people with diabetes and obesity concerns, but very often women with PCOS would report fertility successes and “low-carb babies,” as they are now called in the low-carb community. Dr. Fung knew my own health journey, as well as our Program Director Megan Ramos’ struggle and reversal of PCOS. Eventually it just made sense to do a review (for the Journal of Insulin Resistance) and then the book.
The PCOS Plan contains 50 recipes and a variety of menu plans: what delicious recipes are some of your favourites?I love simple, and like Dr. Fung, I don’t really like macro counting. I just put whatever I feel like eating together and it all works out. But when I started this journey, low-carb recipes were very helpful. I love the Cabbage Spaghetti Bolognese recipe and the Eggs Benny—real comfort food that hopefully most people would love! I also love the Cauli-rice recipes, there’s a million in there (Indian, Mexican, Asian Fried Rice). Another favourite of mine is the Taco Soup and Salad. I guess I love all my recipes.