Who’s The Expert? And Why?
“Angela is a specialist in fertility nutrition and has tirelessly studied the complexities of conception, pregnancy, miscarriage and our genes. She has been personally helping me with my own fertility battles and is kind, caring, supportive and extremely knowledgeable. I recommend her to anyone who is wishing to get pregnant or has suffered miscarriages.” Amelia
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Angela Heap Dipl.CNM, mBANT
Nutritional Therapist with an interest in fertility, hormones preconception and pregnancy
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Where do you practice?
Wimpole Therapeutics & 10a Wimpole Street, London.
Where did you train & what are your qualifications?
I trained at the College of Naturopathic Medicine from 2005-2008.
What inspired you to work in your area?
I’ve always loved food, and this intensified to looking at hormones as I got older. My parents moved to Germany when I was very young and in the holidays (as my parents were teachers), we travelled to Italy for holidays, where in the campsites families all made food together for festivals and food was the Centre of everything – I still make one of the recipes an Italian lady taught my mum and friends from then! I then moved to Hong Kong when I was 7 and was surrounded by food from all over the world, this had a profound effect on me as I was mesmerised by food from an early age. I can pinpoint when my love affair with food began: a trip to Sri Lanka when I was 8 where I listening wide-eyed to the guide taking about spices in the botanical gardens and how they made the food come alive! Coming back to the UK for University after having such amazing fresh food all the time, I suffered with my own health issues which effected my hormones; this started a life long interest in hormones and fertility as I suffered dreadfully from migraines. It was then that I started to look at food and the connection with mood, hormones and that my own fertility started to fascinate me. This became a passion as even at college during clinical practice, case studies turned into hormone issues and pregnancy, so you could say it chose me!
What do you specialize in?
I specialize in Fertility, hormones and pregnancy.
What are the key problems that clients come to see you with?
I have clients who come to see me predominately to help them get pregnant. All have a story to tell and a journey that humbles me to the core. I also have a small amount of clients who come to me to balance hormones.
What has been your most memorable client success story?
My most memorable client story is a lady who came to me to help her get pregnant. She had suffered 5 miscarriages and was such an inspiration to me in terms of her strength. She had met her now husband late in life and only started trying for a family at 39. She had recently found out she had MTHFR which is a gene mutation that can have an effect on blood clotting, miscarriage and other cardio vascular issues. I supported her with a tailored programme of diet, lifestyle and supplements from preconception. She conceived twins 4 month later. She gave birth to 2 gorgeous boys at 47. I was so proud when she told me the nurses said she had more energy and bounced back more quickly than the 20 year olds after the birth!
What would you say are the three biggest challenges faced by clients in your area of specialty?
Working with the men in the relationship is hands down one of my biggest challenges! Many of the ladies I work with will do just about anything to get their bodies into shape to get pregnant. However it’s very hard to get the men in their lives to comply to the eating and supplement regime. Another challenge for me is trying to keep ladies motivated and on track with the programme if they aren’t pregnant by month 3. Often, when they see some of the changes to their cycle this helps to keep them on track. Christmas is also hard to keep people motivated and I really have to work it as a practitioner to come up with ‘alternatives’ and lovely tasty morsels to help to keep things on track. I do, however, have an 80/20 rule as everybody needs a bit of wiggle room!
How do you help clients to tackle those challenges?
With the men, it’s vital that I speak to them and work with them directly; once I have the chance to do this, many of the men are happy to work in this way. In regards to the ladies, I work very closely with clients as part of what I do is emotional support, so making them feel in control of their own body and seeing the benefits in their cycle can really work wonders. It’s a true partnership and I always guarantee that if you put in the work you will feel amazing, and from this fertility is not far behind. Essentially, my programme can be incorporated into life after pregnancy, as I also support parents with weaning, so with a few tweaks it’s a programme for life.
Please describe an average working day in your life.
I like to work with a small amount of clients to ensure I am present and aware of their needs, so I only see a few clients a day. What I do can be very intense as I’m dealing with people who have been let down by the system and been trying for many years, in many cases I can be something that they are a little skeptical of after being through medical cycles, GPs and hospitals. Also, many have gone through bereavement and loss with miscarriage and still birth and also loss at IVF.
I start my day in the morning at 8:30am catching up on emails. From 9am I have a few initial 15 mins chats which are free where we discuss their journey and how I can help, this is an important phase as we get to know each other and assess if things can go further and if we are a good ‘fit’. I’m a huge believer in working with someone who I can gel with, as it’s a trusting partnership! From 10:30-2pm, I work on tailored plans for new and existing clients. After a late Iunch, I schedule in full consultations and follow ups, which are 1.5 hours and 45 mins consecutively up to 8pm in the evening as it’s important to give alternatives for those who work late.
If you could give one piece of advice to everyone reading this interview, what would it be?
If people are coming to me to get pregnant, it’s all about building fertility. Stress has a huge bearing on this, as the body will only let your fertility blossom if it thinks you aren’t in danger or pumping out cortisol, the survival hormone (which trumps fertility every time). I’m a huge believer in trying things before you suggest them (if I can), so I’ve recently started meditating. As part of my lifestyle advice this is a real game changer, as it actively calms the brain and in turn will send the signal to your adrenals that you are in balance. I know some people have problems with ‘quietening their mind’, in these cases I suggest yoga as not only does this help with focusing the mind, it also helps blood flow to reproductive organs and gives your body a work out that doesn’t raise your stress levels (like spinning or training for endurance type activities)
What is your favourite meal?
My favourite meal is anything with spice in it! I was spoilt with amazing Indian food when living in Hong Kong in South East Asia, so curry is always my go to! My dad also went on a 10 week Indian cookery course in 1984, so since then we have had his amazing dishes regularly at the Heap family Christmases on 27th December. I love to mix things up a bit, so I’d say Rajma or kidney bean curry is my favourite dish. Or a gram flour pancake with a variety of greens underneath a poached egg or 2! I put this up constantly on Instagram @fertilitynutritionist.
How do you manage your work:life balance?
This is a tough one, as like many people who work in this field, it’s all about helping people toward optimal health, so often it’s hard to switch off from learning and tackling complex issues around hormones, genetic issues and fertility. However, I’m working on being more present this year. My aim is to balance my Amazon account this year with a bit of fiction! Family are important to me, so I spend as much time with them as I can. I live and work in London, and it’s always super manic here – I see my friends weekly, always around food (no surprises there!)
Is there anything else that you think might be interesting for people to know about you or for anyone considering working with you?
My programmes are normally 3 months, as usually in this time we can work on underlying issues and then start to tackle fertility from there. This is also the minimum time taken to ‘grow’ sperm from scratch. I like to look at the ‘root cause’ of the issues and never take ‘unexplained infertility’ or hormone labels as a given.
As well as working in London, I work internationally and have worked with a number of fertility experts as you are always learning: no woman is an island! I’m a true believer in collaboration and I regularly consult with other experts to get the best support I can give clients, which is why I am an admin on many forums on Facebook, such as PCOS Fertility Support and MTHFR A1298C. I consult with people far and wide and really go the distance. Working over Skype really is amazing as it helps me to reach as many people as I can. That way anyone can see me. If in the UK, I do like to see people in person at least once as part of the programme so its helpful to have a London clinic. I also always visit clients when their baby is new as I love to catch up with them and see them in their new role as mother. I’m also super excited to meet them in person for that all important cuddle!
Angela Heap, visit fertileground-nutrition.com