Belfast Telegraph

Sunday Life

Food-change regime gives new hope on pregnancy

‘All Sasha wanted was a baby ... it was a miracle’

Sasha McDonnell with daughter Libby
Sasha McDonnell with daughter Libby

By Stephanie Bell

Northern Ireland women suffering infertility due to Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) have been given new hope of having a family by simply changing their diet. The chronic condition, which has baffled medical experts for years, is being treated with amazing success by a special healthy eating regime called Dietcare which recently became available for the first time in Northern Ireland.



The diet-based approach to the condition came about after a major trial in England held by Dietcare founder Norah Lane, who is a recognised authority on weight loss in the UK.

Norah has appeared many times on national television and won a clutch of awards for her work both with PCOS clients and helping people generally lose weight.

She has just been nominated for the Daily Mail Inspirational Woman of the Year Award for her achievements in this emotive field.

PCOS is a devastating hormonal disorder which affects one in four women, many of whom may not even know they have it.

As well as infertility, there are an incredible 26 symptoms including irregular or non-existent periods, excess body and facial hair, acne, food cravings, chronic weight gain, tiredness, fatigue, depression, hair loss, mood swings, breast pain, abdominal pain, aching joints, dizziness, fertility problems and an increased tendency to faint.

Norah started her research in 2000 and was astounded when 500 women with PCOS answered her call for volunteers.

In the end 100 women followed a specially prepared health eating approach over a two-year period as part of the research.

The woman who first inspired her to act on behalf of people with PCOS, Sasha McDonnell, is the subject of a new book The Road To Recover, written by Norah and due to be published next month.

Norah said: “Sasha’s story was one of the most upsetting I have ever heard.

“She had been married 14 years and was desperate for a baby. She had tried everything, including IVF and ovarian drilling, but nothing had worked.

“She was in her early thirties and distraught. She is a born mother and all she ever wanted was to have a baby.

“It made me curious about this condition PCOS and so I started to look into it. I was shocked to discover that it can take years to get a diagnosis because there had never been any research conducted in the UK.”

A new online support group was set up by Sasha, which instantly had hits from despairing PCOS sufferers across Northern Ireland.

Meanwhile Norah decided to conduct her own research.

“I told Sasha I was going to do what I could to help her,” she said. “At the start she didn’t believe me because she had been let down so many times.

“I discovered it was a metabolic rate condition. I had studied the human metabolism which led to the setting up of Dietcare 30 years ago.

“I knew a lot of fertility experts and I contacted five of them. I couldn’t believe just how serious a condition it was in terms of the many terrible symptoms and the fact that many women don’t even know they have it.”

Using her expertise as weight-loss manager, Norah enlisted the help of her volunteers to take part in a major two-year research trial which involved following a set diet specially designed for PCOS sufferers.

Sasha, who weighed 25 stone, was one of the volunteers and she lost six stone in six months, her period returned for the first time in two years, her cysts shrunk, she saw a reduction in the growth of her facial hair and her mood swings disappeared.

However, more importantly, she started to ovulate again and

soon discovered she was pregnant.

Norah said: “Sasha was over the moon, to her it was nothing short of a miracle.

“She had given up hope of having a baby and had applied for adoption.

“On the same day that she adopted baby Sarah she discovered she was pregnant with her first child.

“Of the 100 women who took part in the trial, 66 got pregnant.”

So successful was Norah’s trial that many doctors are now promoting the Dietcare PCOS healthy eating plan to patients.

The Dietcare PCOS diets are based on healthy foods, planned to suit an individual’s metabolic rate. Each client is given one-to-one support, motivation and encouragement throughout the course to ensure their success.

Norah explained: “Sasha is running the support website and doctors are now referring patients to Dietcare.

“I was recently asked to give a talk on PCOS to a team at the Liverpool Women’s Hospital, which is one of the biggest fertility hospitals in England.

“Some hospitals are in the process of setting up pilot schemes for PCOS patients based on our diet.

“We have four consultants who have written articles for my book.

“By the end of this year we will have had 300 babies born, which is just fantastic.”

Dietcare was recently brought to Northern Ireland by well-known local slimming guru Denise Drummond Scott. Denise is running clinics in Belfast, Carrickfergus, Bangor and Newtownabbey.

Denise said: “I’m delighted to be able to bring Dietcare to Northern Ireland as it has been so successful in the rest of the UK over the last 30 years.”

For full details of local clinics log onto www.dietcare-belfastcity.com or from more information on PCOS or to access the online support group go to www.dietcare-pcos.com/forum

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