Why your sugar habit is standing in the way of your Fertility (I’m talking to you Endometriosis, PCOS & the thyroid troubled)

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Is your sugar addiction making your reproductive organs unhappy?  One of the biggest fertility fizzers in our modern diet is sugar, mostly because it sends our hormones all kinds of frazzled.  Just like the big dipper at the famous Luna Park, your hormones are forced to ride the highs and lows – the aftermath leaving our bodies knackered.  And let me just settle a few things before we get into it – fertility isn’t just about babies.  It’s about your reproductive system being awesome.  Equally important to understand is that we’re talking fructose.  Fructose is found in refined sugars and many fruits, sauces, dips, processed foods – pretty much in every corner of our modern diet.  But there are alternatives – and for more info on this I suggest you make your way over to Sarah Wilson’s I Quit Sugar site where it’s all sitting pretty waiting for you.

There is a host of issues sugar may cause but there are several specific ways that it affects fertility.  Here’s what’s at the top of my list:

Sugar disrupts your hormones:

Hormones are the drivers of all our body functions, but the intricacy of our sex hormones is my primary concern as a natural fertility expert.  Sugar consumption will drive our insulin too high, too quickly and only momentarily.  This quick peak creates a high and then we drop faster than a hot pie, leaving far more mess.  This is what’s know as the fight or flight response – the response of extended stimulation to the adrenal glands.  When our sugar levels drop, our adrenals release both cortisol and adrenalin to attempt to replenish sugar levels.  Eventually, this can lead to hormonal imbalance since progesterone (the main hormone required for ovulation to occur) and cortisol compete for the same receptor binding sites in the body AND cortisol is the bossy hormone – it will always win over progesterone.  Should this continue for a period of time, the entire endocrine system is upset and will lead to disruption of all sex hormones; oestrogen, progesterone, the androgens DHEA and testosterone for both sexes.

Sugar is Inflammatory:

Inflammation is simply our body’s response to damage, be it from infection, illness or allergies.  Sugar is inflammatory – mostly because our bodies aren’t designed to consume the quantities we see in modern western diets and our gut goes into a frenzy in trying to cope.  Inflammation is a normal body response toward recovery.  This is especially appropriate for women who suffer from Endometriosis.  Most women who cut sugar out of their diet will notice substantial changes and in some instances total recovery from Endometriosis.  When it comes to fertility and conception, Endometriosis can be an issue as it affects the uterine lining and making implantation of the embryo difficult.

Sugar leads to insulin resistance

Insulin is released by the pancreas to convert sugar to energy however the more sugar we eat, the more insulin the pancreas releases eventually leading to insulin resistance.  Insulin resistance can be to blame for issues with ovulation, maturation of the egg and implantation of the embryo into the uterine lining.  What’s more, these women are at a far higher risk of miscarriage than the average.  Many women who have PCOS have insulin resistance.

Sugar consumption can make PMS worse

Not only because of the inflammation already spoken of but also because of the hormone disruption also mentioned – and lets not forget, fertility isn’t just about the babies!  Feeling well all month around is all part of having healthy happy hormones.

Sugar zaps your vitamin and mineral stores

This can be a massive fertility factor.  Our hormones require specific amounts of vitamins and minerals to be well fueled.  The pill severely depletes our vitamin and mineral stores, as does fructose.  When our stores are low, our entire body is compromised which contributes to amenorrhea, irregular periods, lower immunity, increased infection (which can be a factor in miscarriage too), increased anxiety, depression, irritable bowel syndrome… the list is big and very often the end ‘diagnosis’ is unexplained infertility.  Because of this, it also ages us.  Cutting out sugar could have you looking younger, sooner than you may think.

Rather than reaching for another pack of biscuits as you digest this information, perhaps think about how you can begin to lessen sugar in your diet.  Our bodies aren’t designed to tolerate much – especially of the refined, processed variety.  But also for many women, high sugar natural foods like fruits can too be troublesome.

I’m a huge advocate for Sarah’s I Quit Sugar program (so much so I’m one of the experts over there answering questions on her program forum).  I’ve had patients who have turned their lives around simply by cutting out fructose.  It’s important to be well equipped in doing so – remember fructose is highly addictive, so breaking a habit and withdrawing can be a little tricky, but having the support of the program and focusing on the foods you can eat (and believe me there is so much you can) is the key to sticking to any new regime.  Most of all, I encourage you to figure out what works best for you – experiment with the idea of quitting sugar.  I bet you’ll be pleasantly surprised, period pain free and looking younger in no time.

I’d love to hear your thoughts – have you tried to quit and failed?  Do you think it’s wrong to eliminate fructose?  Tell me so – you know I love feedback!

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16 Responses to “Why your sugar habit is standing in the way of your Fertility (I’m talking to you Endometriosis, PCOS & the thyroid troubled)”

  1. Robyn

    I love reading your blog! I always learn something new.

    I’ve actually just recently cut out gluten and refined sugar out of my diet. The difference I feel in my body is amazing! I feel soooo much calmer, my body always felt jittery and edgy before. Physically I feel like a completely different person. I literally felt the change within a day of stopping sugar and gluten.

    I do love fruit though and I was wondering if having 2 pieces a day, like an apple and banana is ok? I thought fructose in fruit was ok as it’s absorbed differently due to the fibre in the fruit. Not sure if that’s true? Thanks Nat 🙂

  2. Jenna

    I think (just like Sarah), you can get all the fructose you need from a couple of pieces of fruit a day and vegetables (if you’re eating enough!), and I definitely know I am and feel healthier and happier without consuming high amounts of sugar (and over-processed carbs too). But I definitely think you have to be ready in your mind to quit – its a pretty big shift in eating patterns, as well as they way you think about food, so there’s no point in starting unless you’re really committed. I do like Sarah’s approach though – taking it slow, gentle, not getting frustrated over set-backs and accepting them as part of the process. I’m glad I started with her program, its made it easier to keep up with in the long run, and gave me the confidence to cut out other things I knew weren’t really helpful.

  3. Belinda

    I recently fell of the bandwagon in terms of my diet and health. So I decided to quickly jump back on the health train by taking part of #sugarfreeseptember. Today we have to share a post of who inspires us…. Well Nat, I have to say you are my biggest inspiration at the moment. I truly respect your values (esp. the article you wrote about elective surgery – to date that has been my fav. piece) and one day hope to be part of the bigger picture in terms of sharing health knowledge around the world. I personally think all your followers , who are lucky enough to be mothers, should be sharing your website with the teenage daughters. That way young girls of today can learn to love and respect themselves by remaining knowledgable on a topic I think many of us take for granted.

    Thank you!

  4. Clare

    I gave up sugar about 7 years ago under the advise of my amazing Naturopath Ruth Trickey. I had terrible endo pain and a cyst removed from my ovaries.

    I have never looked back. No endo pain, no problems, healthy pregnancy.

    My only vice is the very occasional piece of dark choc.

  5. Mrs G

    Cutting sugar has been one of the best thing I’ve ever done for my body. I’m moving towards a grain free diet, and the only sweet treats I eat are seasonal fruits and Paleo desserts (carefully chosen among the less sweet).

    The results are amazing: lost some weight without making any effort, better mood, no constant hunger/need to eat, less emotional eating , small improvements in my gynecological health and the best part of all the change in my taste buds . If I eat a conventional dessert made with refined flour and refined sugar, it’s too sweet now while nothing was ever too sweet before. In the past, I needed 3 heaping teaspoons of sugar in my tea and I ate only milk chocolate. Now I appreciate dark chocolate 70% or more. And many other foods.

  6. Ulrika

    I’m curious. Just how do you define a regular cycle and what is “normal fertility” to you?

    I think because different things happen from month to month (we might be more stressed one month than the next, or we might have a cold et.c.) my guess is that it’s quite normal for ovulation to happen at a bit different times from month to month. But how many days difference between shortest and longest cycle would you consider a regular cycle? And regarding normal fertility, according to western medicine nothing is suspected to be wrong until you’ve had regular intercourse for a year without conceiving. I’ve also read that it is hard for the fertilized egg to attach to the uterus (don’t remember the exact number now but it was either a 40 or 60% chance). I think my midwife also said that the chance of conception each month (if everything is “normal” that is) is something like 25%. Now, I know a bunch of people who’ve had a difficult time conceiving, maybe needing to have hormone treatment, but I also know a bunch of people who have conceived on the first month of trying every time. So curious what you’d say is a normal time frame for conception. 🙂 (For us our first child was conceived on the first cycle, and our second on the 4th (I had just stopped breastfeeding before we started trying). Now we’re trying for our third and we’re on our 4th cycle now.

    • mnfadmin

      A regular cycle is typically between 26-32 days. Events that push ovulation out as mentioned will cause cycles to typically be longer. Short cycles definitely indicate hormone insufficiencies. This is what I teach in my debunking ovulation events. A normal time frame for conception – will differ depending on circumstances. I’d say if nothing is happening by the 6 month mark it’s a good time to explore your natural fertility.

  7. Kellinde

    I am in my third week of the ‘i quit sugar’ program in the hope that I can help my thyroid and reduce my PCOS symptoms. I am still on the pill to help with my symptoms but I desperately wish to get off it and hope quitting sugar is the key!

  8. Minn


    I am so happy to come across this site!

    I heard you talk on the wellness guys, and thought you were amazing! I would love to learn more – and hope to come to the next Melbourne event!

    I have followed Sara’s I quit sugar and I am now 2 moths sugar free (YAY) – However my period is also 2 moths late!!! I have done numerous tests and all negative to pregnancy.

    Is this common when quitting sugar?

    I am a bit scared?

    Would love some advice!

    Many thanks


    • Nat Kringoudis

      Have you lost weight Minn – that can upset ovulation, but I think you’ll find it will sort out.

      • Minn

        Thank you so much for your reply!

        Yes – I have lost weight from cutting out sugar – but not a huge amount

        I picked up some ‘premular’ (extract of vitex angus-catus) from a natropathy store – so i am hoping that will assist.

        I also came off the pill in july…so that could also be a contributing factor.

        How long would you recommend waiting (if it doesn’t come) before seeking further help?

        Thanking you


      • mnfadmin

        I’d get on it asap – you don’t really know and I wouldn’t sit waiting. See how the next 4 weeks go and then I’d seek some more assistance. x

  9. elizabeth

    I am definitely addicted to sugar. I want to stop so bad, but i feel bad when someone bakes me something or gives me chocolate as a gift i cannot say no. And then once i start with a small piece of chocolate i can not stop.

    What you say totally makes sense. I actually have unexplained fertility and my self and my husband has been trying for 4 years with no luck. I am sure that eating sugar contributes to it in some way.

    With that being said, i must start trying harder, and start doing what is best for my body. Do you have any advice on how to navigate those social situations.


  10. Refined Sugar Alternatives

    […] more about sugar, what it is and why we should be cutting down on the amount we eat you could read here, here and here (thanks experts!).  The refined sugar free sweeteners I use most would be pure […]

  11. Sarah

    I can only speak from experience, so here is my story.

    I married in 2008 and assumed I would get pregnant soon after… I didn’t.

    In 2010 I finally got pregnant! But sadly it was not meant to be and I miscarried at 9 weeks.

    In December 2012, still trying, 4 years later! I decided to try a ‘diet’ that I read about. The Harcombe Diet. Cutting out sugar and the craving.

    I started the diet.

    By March 2013 I had lost 3 stone, was sleeping well, felt well, didn’t ache….

    And on 16th March 2013 I got the positive pregnancy test I had been waiting for!

    On 12th November 2013 we had our beautiful Daughter Annie.

    I personally believe that the diet is what worked. Partly because my mind was focussed elsewhere, but mostly because it changed my body….!