Dr. Heather Rhodes is a holistic pharmacist who works specifically with women to help them learn about and then treat hormone imbalances. I have PCOS, Polycystic Ovary Syndrome, and it is difficult to navigate. When I started sharing on social media that I was dealing with hormone issues, so many of you reached out asking for me to share what I was learning. I think this episode will benefit so many women!
In This Episode Allie and Dr. Heather Rhodes Discuss:
Weight gain and diet
Cystic and hormonal acne
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Mom life. We are surrounded with the message that it’s the tired life. The no-time-for-myself life. The hard life. And while it is hard and full of lots of servitude, the idea that motherhood means a joyless life is something I am passionate about putting a stop to. I’m on a mission to help you stop counting down the minutes till bedtime, at least most days. I want you to stop cleaning up after your kid’s childhood and start being present for it. Start enjoying it. I believe in John 10:10 “that we are called to abundant life” and I know mothers are not excluded from that promise. Join me in conversations about simplicity, minimalism and lots of other good stuff that leads to a life of less for the sake of enjoying more in your motherhood. I’m Allie Casazza and this is The Purpose Show.
Hi everybody! I am so excited! This is super impromptu, so I’m really excited for those of you who happen to catch this live and get to be a part of this conversation.
I’m here with Dr. Heather Rhodes. She’s amazing. We connected at Blissdom last year and we’re recording an episode for the show right now, but it’s not going to air for a couple of months or maybe even more. We’re really far out right now, which is good news but also sad because I want you guys to hear the conversation.
Kim, I’m so glad you saw this pop up too! I can see you guys’ comments and we’re going to do this recording live because here’s what my thought process is: I have my own hormone issues. A lot of you guys know that I have PCOS, which is Polycystic Ovary Syndrome. It’s a hormone disorder. It really makes your body insane and it’s really difficult to navigate. I’m doing an episode about this, but I want you guys to be able to ask questions as well. So, what we’re going to do is you can ask your questions in the feed. I can see them and if I see something that I think everyone would benefit from, I will read it. For now, we’re just going to dive into this conversation.
ALLIE: Thank you Dr. Heather for showing up for us and being cool with this being live. I know I threw it at you at the last second.
DR HEATHER: That’s ok! I’m so happy to be here. Thank you, Allie. I’m so excited to connect with women and to share a message that I think is so important for us—for moms and for women in general. And, oh man, I’m pumped!
ALLIE: Okay, so we already have Kim saying that she’s a PCOS mom of four as well and this is at the top of her “Must Figure Out Right Now List” and that is perfect. That’s exactly how I want to start.
That is where I was at the beginning of last year. I decided to go to the doctor. I’ve had blood work done in the past but it had been years, so I went and got more blood work done, and I went to a gynecologist who specializes in hormone health—that’s what I was told. Everyone in my area was like, “Go to her. She’s amazing.” I left that appointment so discouraged and so hurt. I was made to feel like an idiot, like I don’t know anything about my body or anything about what needs to happen, and that I need to either get a hysterectomy or try birth control pills again.
Which, I’ve told you, Heather, I tried birth control when I was in high school because that was the thing. My mom was like, “You’re dying and we need to get this figured out.” I got diagnosed with PCOS, got put on birth control, and it worsened every single thing. But I’m jumping ahead.
Tell us about what you know, what you do, and then address what I just said. Take it away!
DR HEATHER: I am Heather Rhodes. I’m a holistic pharmacist and I work specifically with women to help them learn about and then treat hormone imbalances. PCOS is a really common hormone imbalance and there’s lots of them out there. But basically as women we have hormones and we can not be receiving healthcare that is not addressing those hormones.
What I like to do is take this big, huge, scary concept of hormones, what does it mean, and how is it affecting our bodies day-to-day and make it super simple. I think that there are steps that every woman can be taking to keep their hormones aligned, to treat them well, to support them. And those steps create symptom relief.
So whether it be PCOS, migraines, energy fatigue, acne (which we chatted about)…there’s so many…stubborn weight…I’m thinking of all the things.
And so our options now are to Google it and get really overwhelmed and do nothing, or to seek a doctor or medication, never feel like the issue is actually addressed but we might feel better, or to flounder—try a bunch of things, not really have a lot of consistency or know if it’s working or not.
I step in and say, “Hey, I am all for you going to your doctor and doing that, but let’s just look if there are some simple lifestyle, nutrition, or diet changes that can be made that are going to make huge impacts for you.” That’s what I love doing. And we are seeing crazy results of people that had been suffering for so long because they just haven’t had that resource, or they’ve had one piece of the puzzle and not the others.
My heart is for women to realize that we function so differently than men, and that hormones are so in charge of our bodies that, like I told Allie earlier, if your doctor is not asking you how your period is and how your cycle is, then your health is not where it could be. And if you are not sure how to support your hormones or to keep them balanced, then really you’re not set up to provide yourself with the best health.
You’re the expert on your body. We want you to feel that knowledge, that empowerment to know that you have the capacity to help make these decisions alongside your doctor. You know your body the best, and so when something doesn’t sit right and doesn’t feel right, you speak up and you speak about it.
And when you have that knowledge about your body and your hormones, it’s almost like that confidence just hits you immediately. And it’s like, “Man, I know when someone is telling me something that’s not going to serve my body.” And that is a feeling that I want everyone to have because I’ve sat in the struggle and I’ve sat in the confusion. Ours specifically was with infertility and it’s just so hard. And so I just knew I could not let another woman go through it without having the opportunity to at least talk to someone about what they can do in tangible ways. That’s me, what I do, and why I’ve loved coming alongside women for their journeys.
ALLIE: I’m thinking about this while you’re talking—I got diagnosed when I was 17 and I’d had issues since I got my period when I was 14. I have so many stories that are kind of funny now, but they’re not good. I’ve gone through a lot of stuff and I feel like if we dive into where I’m at now, maybe women can relate to that and they can ask their questions in here.
For you guys a little background and then Heather, jump in with whatever you want to say and we can work backwards on the specific issues that come with hormone imbalance like the weight stuff and the skin stuff.
I’ve had this my whole life. Passing out, throwing up from the pain of my period, which led to me having almost like a social anxiety around my period because I get so sick. There were times in the past where I wouldn’t know when my period was coming, so I basically had an anxiety disorder because I was like, “What if I cramp? What if I pass out? What if I throw up from sickness? What if I get so sick?” I feel like I drop dead when my period comes. Maybe 12 hours before it comes, I’m dying, and then it hits me and I’m just dying, dying, dying, 48 hours of death. And then I’m okay. I’m walking around and functioning, but it’s every month and that’s a lot.
And then, you guys know I’ve shared openly with you about the cystic acne and I’m not talking about little bumps. I’m talking about boils, cystic breakouts, just huge, embarrassing massive breakouts all over the bottom of my face. My forehead never gets it, but the hormone areas around my mouth, my chin, lower cheeks. I’ve got scars all the way up my temples and cheeks – you can almost kind of see them on this recording. They’re like craters. Without my makeup on there are dark purple, red scars everywhere. And so, what does that lead you to do when your job is video? Makeup. Heavy, toxic makeup to cover, also making it worse. It’s all a cycle.
I feel like that’s how you can best describe living with PCOS is that you are caught in a Catch 22 cycle in basically every area of your personhood.
Then I had kids and my period became regular, which is weird, but it did. But it was still awful. But at least I knew when it was coming and I could plan around it. I have had weight stuff. I gained so much weight all of a sudden after I started having kids. I realize that sounds normal, but it was astronomical weight—60 pounds that would not come off. And through taking care of myself—back in the day when Whole 30 was super cool and everyone was doing that, I did that and it did actually really help me. I cut out all the sugar and stuff. It helped me and I lost some weight there. But for me, my height and my body type, I still would love to just, first of all feel better, but I also could stand to lose a little more weight and feel really good and feel really confident in that.
And it doesn’t budge. I can gain very easily. If I have a piece of pizza, there it is. I can’t seem to lose. So, there’s that too. So all of that, whether you have PCOS or not, that’s hormone stuff, whether you have that exact thing or not.
So on my blood work the testosterone was high and so was DHEAS. Really high. Everything else was in the normal range, but I feel like the normal range is so big. I don’t really know. It feels so big.
So, that’s me and where I’m at. I would love for you to dive in however you want so people can relate.
DR HEATHER: Perfect. I’ll start with those levels. With testosterone being high, that is one of the indicative symptoms of PCOS. So, I find that women with PCOS usually sit in two camps. Number one is you have the medical qualifications of PCOS—so you’ve got cysts on your ovaries, you’ve got elevated testosterone levels or you have medically proven insulin sensitivity. There’s also this other camp, of what I call “sisters,” who are people that have PCOS or have pseudoPCOS, or PCOS-like symptoms, that may not have clinically high levels of testosterone or may not have cysts on their ovaries, but they still struggle with a lot of the things you mentioned. So, some classic symptoms of PCOS would be the acne, excess weight, unwanted hair growth. Some people get hair growth along their jawline and chin.
And so, really when I think about that, it’s like, “Man, you may not have even ever been told you have PCOS, but if what Allie is talking about, if the things I have mentioned, if you are feeling like hormone imbalance is definitely what’s going on, it probably is.
Even though you’ve had lab work done and a doctor’s told you, “No, everything looks normal,” you know your body best. So if you are feeling these symptoms and you know…I have people tell me all the time, “I have a gut feeling that my hormones are off…” Trust that. And there are things you can do to start stewarding and honoring your hormones and you’ll see results hands down.
So, we’ll tackle each thing specifically if you’re okay with that Allie?
First with the weight. So usually when you have a sudden onset of weight and then an inability to lose it, it’s typically cortisol driven. I would be curious if yours specifically—or anyone who is listening—when you have weight gain like what you mentioned, does it sit along basically your ovary—your belly, hips, waist? That’s usually where you are seeing it.
ALLIE: Hips. I mean my body type is bootylicious so it sits there. My waist is small, but my hips and my butt are always where I gain weight. But it’s funny that you said that because I noticed sometime in the time when I was becoming a mom and having babies, yeah, right over where the ovaries are. I’m just being real you guys. I don’t care. I’m just here to help. I have almost like a little sack, like a pouch. It’s not like baby though. It’s lower. It’s right around the ovaries of just this softness that does not go away no matter what. And my stomach is pretty flat. I don’t really hold weight there but below, underneath it. And I’ve always been like, “What the heck?” I’ve never heard anyone say that to me before.
DR HEATHER: That’s usually where cortisol-driven weight goes. And just to clarify, cortisol is basically a stress hormone. So there’s a couple of things that go on here, but usually when your stress levels are too high, your body has to choose, and it will automatically start increasing your testosterone and cortisol levels. So that is how—especially if you have PCOS—anytime your stress hormones are super, super high, they’re going to get converted to testosterone instead of estrogen. And that is something that doesn’t always happen or doesn’t happen as easily with people that don’t have PCOS. That’s a stark difference there.
And that matters because it’s those high levels of testosterone that are driving that cycle. So they’re driving cortisol up, right? So you’re kind of interplaying those two hormones back and forth. So the best thing to do is let’s just tackle stress hormone. Actually, going after stress is a huge benefit to any hormone imbalance, specifically PCOS.
And so, when I say that, it doesn’t mean, “Oh, I need to be doing more days off and self-care by Netflix and chilling.” I feel like self-care, especially as mom, gets to be alone time where we can just veg out. But a lot of times we have to consider a physical response and release from our bodies of those stress hormones.
One example that I have that I love to do is when I know that I am super stressed out or I’ve had a very stressful day, I do a technique called “legs up the wall.” It’s exactly what it sounds like. You literally scoot your booty up against the wall and you put your legs up. You get an inversion of blood flow, then you can do some breathing techniques, and the pressure of your femurs in your hip joint actually tell your body, “I’m in a safe spot.”
That’s a very vulnerable position and your body knows that. It actually starts to decrease your sympathetic or nervous system that’s responsible for fight or flight, so you have a decrease in stress hormones immediately in your body.
When I talk about stress management, it also means (this kind of correlates back with the weight stuff) that if you’re super stressed out—you’re starting a new job, one of your kids is sick, or you and your husband are having deep financial issues—then this is not the time that you need to be starting CrossFit, doing a bootcamp, or decreasing your calories because the doctor told you that if you lost weight your PCOS will get better. That’s not how it works. It’s a cycle, right?
Regardless, exercise is a stressor, right? If we think about our most primal sense, it’s telling your body you’re running from a bear because that’s all our body knows—is it’s stress, right? And so, if we’re putting this constant input of stress into our body by really hard, vigorous workouts, then it’s actually telling our body we’re not in a safe space. We don’t need to decrease our stress hormones and that we essentially need to keep levels high and ready to go.
ALLIE: Okay. So, hold on. That is why when—some of you guys, if you follow me on Instagram, might remember early last year I had shared, “I’ve had enough. I’m going to take control of this and figure this out. I’m going to hire a trainer.” And I hired a personal trainer who is a gem of a woman and I love her, but she didn’t have any idea about hormone health or any of that. I basically went through a phase. And when you live your life publicly, it’s awkward because that was a mistake and I’m just here talking about it, but it’s fine. I went through a phase, right? Essentially, if I really am honest with myself, I was punishing my body. I was angry at it. I was annoyed at it and I basically wanted to force it into what I knew it used to be.
I was like, “What’s going on? I’m eating chicken breast and spinach. What the heck? It’s not changing.” So, I hired this trainer. It was functional training, CrossFit type of stuff, and then we would close and cool down with Pilates. Which Pilates is the hardest thing of all time, it’s not a cool down if you ask me. Cool down is let me sit down and get away from me. Stop yelling at me to squat. Cool down is not Pilates. We would do these hour-long workouts. I was getting up at five in the morning to go and work out.
I get up early. I’m sitting there with Jesus and my Bible and my peace, not squatting or doing jump squats. It was awful and I got worse. Literally everything about PCOS that I currently have was 10 times worse.
And I was telling you, I could feel I had tightness in my ovaries. My cysts were getting bigger. They were getting worse. My skin… Heather, I’d make videos for the business and I’d have to tell my editor, “This is so bad. I can’t even. I can’t be seen like this.” Cystic, huge breakouts on my face. Can you find some kind of filter or Photoshop me or something? I can’t do my job. It was so bad. So the stress would explain why that happened then, yeah?
DR HEATHER: Let’s break that down. So #1, you were decreasing your sleep. Less sleep tells our body we’re more stressed so it increases stress hormones. Higher stress hormones, higher testosterone, worse PCOS.
The other thing is, you mentioned when we were chatting a little earlier that it was changing your nutrition, so your calories were dropping.
ALLIE: Oh my gosh, I got down to 1100 calories a day at one point because she told me to. And I knew in my gut this is not good.
DR HEATHER: Exactly. Yep.
ALLIE: And I did it anyway because, “Well, she’s super skinny, she’s been a trainer for 20 years and she knows what she’s doing. I’ve tried everything else and my body sucks so I better just do this.” I was so hard to live with. I was miserable and cranky. I was a terrible mom. I don’t know why Brian is still here. I was miserable for six months and I didn’t lose an inch.
DR HEATHER: And this is why—because your cortisol was going further and further up. I’ve sat there, I’ve done the same thing. I was working out two CrossFit workouts a day, running triathlons, trying to force my body into this weight I thought it needed to be in. And, I kid you not, when I started thinking about my hormones, it took a long time to get me out of that too, because I was, again, science. I was so sure that calories in/calories out, that’s it.
I like to explain it like this to people: That is a great scientific equation, right? It’s kind of like if you put gas in your car for 400 miles, then you can go 400 miles. However, if all four tires are flat, I don’t care how much gas is in your car, it is not going 400 miles. And that’s what we’re doing when we’re telling ourselves, “Oh well, if we eat this many calories and burn this many and it’s a deficit, we’ll lose weight.
Nope, you’re completely forgetting that you have estrogen. You have cortisol. You have testosterone. Your body is functioning in such a different way. You’re exactly right, Allie. You know these things because you know how you feel.
So, your sleep has changed, your nutrition has changed, and when you’re eating calories that low, there’s no way you’re eating enough fat. Women, everyone listening, if you’re counting fats, macros, whatever you’re doing, you need at least 50 grams of fat a day to have proper hormone health.
And that is proper. That’s not someone who’s going through infertility that needs more than that because you want your estrogen levels high. That’s not someone that is also working out three hours a day and training for a marathon. You want it higher than that. There’s a lot of people that will debate that or say that’s not true. That is my experience, science, research, one-on-one. That is where it sits. And there are a lot of research studies that stick with that: 50 grams for women, specifically.
ALLIE: And also, that’s what has helped me. My energy goes up. My skin has always been a problem, but it gets a little better. It feels like I’m just doing better. It feels like when I have a lot of good fats, and I don’t count the grams or anything. If I’m full, I’ll stop. I try to have vegetables and lots of healthy fats and I feel good. That seems to be where I land. “Okay, I could live like this.” It’s so sad, but that’s how bad it is.
DR HEATHER: No, that’s right, though. That’s what I tell women. And when I talk about my nutrition strategy, it’s all about adding things to your meals. Having three bigger meals a day and making sure that each one of them has a really good amount of healthy fats. Those healthy fats would look like—and this is a simple way to do it—Let’s say you don’t have time to plan out a big healthy avocado, eggs, bacon, whatever type of breakfast. You can drink cereal, or canned coconut milk, which is 20 grams, that’s a lot of fat. Then add in nuts, seeds and drizzle some honey on it and you’re good to go.
And then you’re giving your body, your blood sugar, and your hormones a good 3-4 hours of good, stable energy. Your blood sugar is not crashing because you had all this sugar and carbs and then had to run to Target.
ALLIE: Do you know what Bulletproof Coffee is? Is that then what would explain why I feel so good when I do that in the morning?
DR HEATHER: So, a couple of things. Yes, those fats are making you feel really good. The only thing that I do say about Bulletproof Coffee is that coffee is caffeine. Caffeine spikes cortisol. So, you’re spiking your cortisol.
ALLIE: Hold on! Are you going to tell me not to drink it? I’m not okay.
DR HEATHER: No, no, no, no. I never say don’t drink coffee. What I tell my girls to do is that they always eat first and then drink your coffee. The only thing is you’ve got to have fats and then your coffee. I’m not taking that away.
ALLIE: Okay. I almost freaked out. It wasn’t going to be good!
DR HEATHER: I told you, girl, I don’t take things away. It is all about adding to your life.
ALLIE: Okay, I love that.
Lynn has a good question: Could you give some more examples of what it would look like to eat good fats throughout the whole day? Could you maybe break it down, some good examples by meal?
DR HEATHER: So breakfast—this was so fun, we did this yesterday with my nephew…we made scones from Trader Joe’s. You literally add water and mix them up (because your girl doesn’t bake) and then that’s a great snack, right? But we took coconut oil and iced them with coconut oil as icing. And again, that’s a great source of healthy fats. So, you now have a grab-and-go source of fats on something that was super easy to make and your kids are involved in all of that.
What I used to do when I was working was I basically kept olive oil in my office because olive oil is so easy to drizzle on anything and it tastes really good, right? So, if I was having sweet potatoes or broccoli or soup, I would pour olive oil in my soup because soup is mainly carbs—and sometimes it’s got some protein in it—but I throw that olive oil in there and I’ve got a really good source of healthy fats.
I would always keep a thing of nuts in my office. Coconut milk is just such an easy source of fat and you can take the solid form of it and mix protein powder or some cacao powder, like chocolate powder, and make yourself a little truffle, but essentially they’re coconut milk and chocolate. And you can mix it with honey.
The olive oil is really key for us. I keep it everywhere. It’s so good for my son, too, because he doesn’t eat a lot. He’s really picky. But man, I know that if I can get him to eat some peanut butter, avocado, or olive oil before bed, he’s gonna sleep through the night.
And that is another huge thing is if your sleep is really being jacked up because of your hormones—especially closer to your period—you need to be boosting your fat and eating as soon as you wake up. Those are little tips, like hormone things, because your body starts to get in a rhythm.
Nuts, nut butters, coconut milk, coconut oil, avocados. We do avocado toast. Sometimes we’ll even do air fried avocados. I’m a toddler mom, so I don’t have a ton of time, so I’ll even take a frozen pizza that we got at Trader Joes and I’ll throw on cilantro, which is going to detox your liver, which is super healthy.
I mean it’s all about super simple tips. I’ll throw chia seeds on there. Sometimes they just add a little bit of texture, but they’re really a great source of fiber so they’re helping to pull out any extra hormones, any extra stress hormones, and any extra estrogen.
Which is also probably a big component to what’s going on with you, Allie. Another thing with PCOS is that you show the symptoms of estrogen dominance or high estrogen levels. That would be the things you talked about like really painful periods, having really heavy, heavy periods, having crazy PMS, and then also feeling that fatigue and like you’re just going to pass out right before your period. It’s because your estrogen levels have stayed so high and then your period’s coming and they take a dip. And that dip is meant to feel like a slow little ride off a curb, but when we have PCOS or hormone sensitivity and we haven’t spent the whole month trying to think about those things, it takes a dip like off the side of a cliff and we go crazy. And that’s what PMS is.
PMS is literally just that hormone change. And for some people they don’t have bad PMS because their hormones just slide right off, and for some people it is fully dipping and crashing and you feel it. I have a PMS guide that goes through all of that, why PMS doesn’t have to be a thing, how you can get rid of it, and all this stuff, and all that’s on my website with sneak peaks.
ALLIE: Yeah. We need that link for the people that are watching live. I’ll get it from you before we get off.
DR HEATHER: Yeah, that’d be perfect. Okay, I think we’ve covered that with all the meals, right? I hope that helps Lynn so that she has those practical ways, tips, and tricks. Always keep nuts with you, too.
ALLIE: They’re organic, there’s nothing extra added to them, and there’s these packs at Costco and they’re to-go packs. I don’t seem to do well with peanuts, but I’ll eat all the other ones. I get those.
DR HEATHER: And this is a really great idea—even if you’re not dairy or gluten free—there’s a lot of really good recipes for making substitutes, like a sour cream substitute, or an Alfredo substitute using cashews. Usually they’re really good, but you’ve got to think those cashews are just tons of fat. And so, sometimes I’ll make a chicken and rice casserole, but I’ll make the cream that we use in it with cashews and that just floods it with really healthy fat. Then I’m getting protein, carbs, fat, but mainly fat and it’s just so good for your hormones and your mood. And your blood sugar. Man, keeping your blood sugar stable throughout the day is going to make the biggest difference for you energy-wise, hormone-wise, or exhaustion-wise.
And you actually start to see a change with your kids too when you start making sure they have those good healthy fat as well. You’ve gotta be a little bit intentional because most of the things we buy do not have them. It’s as simple as taking the Costco granola bars and covering them with peanut butter and sprinkling little sprinkles on them to get your kid to eat it. Now you’ve given them essentially a really good source of healthy fats. They’re not going to be crashing up and down all day and you’ve made it fun. And they’ll always remember, “My mom puts sprinkles on my granola bar.”
ALLIE: That’s really good.
Shaylin has a really good question: What is a good, easy, snackable, healthy fat if you can’t have nuts because you’re allergic.
DR HEATHER: I don’t know if coconut counts as a nut allergy. I think most of the time it’s not. But that’s when I really say use your oils. Avocado oil, coconut oil. Make little energy bites. You can buy solid forms of avocado and coconut oil and then you mix them with oats, seeds, or chia seeds. Seeds are also a really good option, so if you have a nut allergy, you could try seeds. Flax seeds, chia seeds, hemp seeds they all are really good sources of fat and fiber. Fiber is really great for pulling extra hormones out of your body, so making sure you’re getting enough of those in your diet, too, can be a good substitute as well.
And then also animal sources. Protein that’s also high in fat. So thinking more about eating organ meats of animals or eating more than just the lean cut. Animal food or animal protein is a good source as well.
ALLIE: Okay, I want you to help me with my skin—if you can help me with my skin.
DR HEATHER: Yes. Okay, So my first question is, are you on a probiotic?
ALLIE: I have one but I always forget to take it because it’s gross. I’m 12-years-old.
DR HEATHER: Okay, I would start there. So, here’s the thing. Skin health and gut health are like twins. You cannot have one without the other. And also, if you’re having anxiety that’s usually related to gut health too. So, I really want everyone to start with a really good healthy gut. What does that look like when you have extra hormones? Number one, it’s a really good probiotic. I could go on and on about probiotics and how important I think they are. But #1, would be a really good probiotic.
#2 is we want you to have good digestion. So what that looks like is essentially having two bowel movements a day. I’m tempted to say three. I want you to be going two to three times a day, right? Yes, it’s crazy. I heard that and was like, “What? That’s insane.”
But here’s the catch: estrogen goes through your liver and then it’s digested in your gut, right? The problem is if you’re gut is backed up, so if you’re not using the restroom enough, if you have gut inflammation, then essentially that dirty half-used estrogen is just kind of hanging out and your body will go back in, find it, try to use it, hook it up to different receptors, and get your body to start acting like you’ve got that much estrogen. We don’t want that, right? So, what we say is—let’s get estrogen out.
The number one way to do that is fiber. And so that’s why seeds—chia seeds, flax meal, flaxseeds, leafy greens and cruciferous vegetables—broccoli, cauliflower, spinach, kale—are really, really great. That’s why people are always like, “Oh, they’re so healthy.” The reason for that is because they’re keeping your gut moving or keeping things going along smoothly. And we want everything to be a continuous flow. We want that stuff in and out, all day.
ALLIE: Really quick before we go forward, what probiotic do you recommend?
DR HEATHER: Okay. Usually I recommend that people find one that has lactobacillus and bifidobacterium. Those are two actual strands. The one that I use personally is by Pink Stork. I don’t know if you’ve heard of them. I worked with them, but they’re just our brand. She’s local out of St. Augustine I think, but she has a lot of prenatal, fertility, postpartum mommy support. She has really great products and I like her stuff. Are you taking a prenatal?
ALLIE: I just started taking one. I just started going really crazy on supplements for PCOS after researching, but it’s new, so I haven’t felt any differently.
DR HEATHER: So, let me tell you about prenatals. The reason I recommend them to girls with PCOS, whether or not they’re trying to conceive is because—and this is a little pharmacy industry secret—you want the active forms of vitamins and in most vitamins you’re not getting the active form, you’re getting a form that when you take it, your body has to break it apart to make it active. But some of us have genes that don’t do that well. So we’re actually not getting the right amount of B vitamins or magnesium or calcium, and it’s just kind of jacking up our electrolytes and heavy metals in our body, right?
So, what I usually say is get a prenatal. Make sure that it has a methylated B12. It’ll be on the bottle. I know that sounds like it was a super chemical, fancy word, but what that means is it’s already the active form. So that means that whether or not your body has the right genes to break it down or not, it doesn’t matter. You’re taking the active form.
And the reason I say prenatals is because they’re usually independently tested. They also usually have the most active forms of vitamins because they’re being given to little babies essentially through the bloodstream and they usually have a really great combination. And so, why I recommend Pink Stork is because they actually have a prenatal that also has a probiotic and a digestive blend in it. So you’re buying one product and you’re getting three things: a probiotic, a digestive blend, and a prenatal vitamin.
ALLIE: We’ll link to them for you guys, too. I know who that is because my PR girl used to work for her. They’re great. And I’ll link to that. We’ll leave this video up for you guys for a while and I’ll post everything so that you guys don’t have to freak out and write everything down like I am.
DR HEATHER: And it doesn’t have to be their brand. I just say that if you can get more bang for your buck, do it. Because I hate people feeling like they have to spend money on so many things and you really don’t.
So those would be my two places to start with your face. And then obviously looking at products, which I mean you and I have chatted some that you have been doing that.
And seeing if you have triggers. One of the practical hormone types of things I think all of us should be doing is #1 is tracking your cycle and #2 is tracking your symptoms. That can be as simple as just writing it in a journal or even your calendar you use for work. Just write the day of the cycle you’re on and then as soon as you get a breakout write, “Breakout day one.” Or if you have a migraine write, “Migraine.” Or if you feel totally exhausted write, “Exhausted.” If you blow up on your husband write, “Blew up on husband.” Look at that after 2-3 months and you will see exactly what is happening. And once you can start to make that connection and that link, your hormones will start making sense to you. And then, with that knowledge, that’s kind of where I step in and I’m like, “Hey! Perfect! We’ve got the info. These are the three ways. We just tackle those things and knock those hormones back into balance.”
Super, super simple ways. And again, when you become the expert on your body, it’s so easy when someone else comes in and tells you how to execute what you want done. So you want to have your skin clear, right? We’re looking for triggers, we’re taking the steps to heal gut health, give things to help your gut, your balance, your liver, get extra hormones out. We’re taking those steps.
And then you’re still doing your research and becoming the expert by just saying, “Man, okay, so you know, Heather, my breakouts start every single week on Day 15.” And I’m like, “Okay.”
ALLIE: My skin is always really clear this week of my cycle, the week after my period is over. And then every other time, it’s not. Why is that?
DR HEATHER: Yeah. Okay. So estrogen is highest that week and estrogen is actually responsible for the suppressing oil production. So estrogen is decreasing oil production. We usually have the best skin either the week right after our period because we’re basically leading up to ovulation, and then some people have it right at the start of their period. Your best skin is usually your ovulation week though or days before.
Ovulation is your mid-cycle point. It gets worse your last two weeks of your cycle, right? And that’s because estrogen is down. That’s what’s happening, basically, is that when your estrogen is highest it’s keeping the breakouts at bay, because it’s decreasing things, right? The second half of our cycle, we need progesterone, right? So that’s what’s supposed to be coming in and helping to keep things balanced. My guess is going to be your progesterone is low because usually when testosterone is high, progesterone is low in the lower scale.
ALLIE: It was still normal but it was on the lower scale. It was still normal, but it was on the very low end of the normal spectrum.
DR HEATHER: And I would say, I don’t know the stat, but I would say, somewhere in the very high percentage of women I work with, progesterone is low. That is almost always a thing. And it’s our lifestyle, right? We talked about this. We put everyone else before us. We live stressful lives. We don’t do a ton of self-care. We aren’t doing things again to honor ourselves. We’re skipping breakfast, we’re skipping lunch, we’re just trying to get our kids in the car and that just allows our cortisol to go high, our testosterone to go high, and our progesterone to drop.
So, doing things to really boost progesterone—steady sleep, steady eating, relaxation techniques—those are going to be things that essentially help that balance happen, so that way you’re not having this stark like, “Oh my gosh, here they come. It’s breakout time. It’s period time. Everything is plummeting.”
ALLIE: I hope I don’t sound vain. I hope you guys realize how bad it is, but next month I am going on a girl’s trip with my best friend that I’ve had for 25 years. We’re going to Nashville and I looked at my calendar and I’m like, “Okay, I’m going to get my period the day I get back home from that, so I’m already thinking my skin is going to be the worst. She lives on the other side of the country and I never see her. I’m going to be so embarrassed. I’m going to have all these breakouts.” I’m already planning it because it takes over my whole life.
I will plan my videos around my skin. My book is coming out next year and my agent was talking to me about the book tour and stuff and I already went to like, “Oh my gosh, can we do the book tour the second week of every month only because my skin will look great?” Going on The Today Show and stuff that I’ve done. It’s ruined so much! I’ve learned to just push through, show up, smile, and be myself, but it ruins things.
I guess can you give any practical action steps for simplifying the skin thing because every time I share about that I get swamped with messages about, “Me too.”
DR HEATHER: Yeah. So, a couple of things. I’ll send you the links. I have two skincare guides. I have an acne guide for actually holistically treating hormonal acne. So we tackle the gut, a lot of the things that you and I were chatting about. And then I also have one to sync your skincare with your cycle. So it’s essentially saying when we know that your estrogen is high, you want to use your anti-aging products, use your high-end products, use your really moisturizing serums. And then when it’s low and you’re more prone to breakouts, we don’t want to break the barrier and just dry your skin out like crazy, but we do want to pull out our super oily products. That’s a free guide that I have that’s just really easy to follow and recommend a couple of those things.
So, like I mentioned for your skin, probiotics and prenatals will be really helpful. Magnesium is something that I really would recommend for you just in general, as we go over all this.
ALLIE: Okay, I’m taking that.
DR HEATHER: What form do you take though? Do you take glycinate?
ALLIE: I got it from the website we talked about with the other female doctor.
DR HEATHER: Jolene’s? I think she does recommend that one, so that should be perfect. Then zinc and selenium are two other micro nutrients that if you’re deficient in…
ALLIE: I just started with those. It’s overwhelming, you know?
DR HEATHER: But they should also be in a prenatal. I don’t always say like you have to take those two, I’m just like, “Oh, they should be in your prenatal. Just make sure.”
ALLIE: This is so helpful. These details for people are so helpful.
DR HEATHER: So, okay. And then the other thing I say really is start considering heavy metals. When you’re looking at your skincare and stuff, look at the brands and make sure they’re testing for heavy metals because what can happen is that you can have a natural or organic product that doesn’t do safety testing for heavy metals. And when you’re putting and inhaling metals like aluminum or lead, it can essentially bind to the electrolytes in your body and then those toxins just create inflammation.
Essentially acne is just inflammation. And so, if you have acne on this part of your skin, then that means you have inflammation in your hormonal area, so your ovaries, and we know that’s happening for you. The more you’re doing to really support and balance your hormones, the better you’re going to see your skin look.
And then the other thing is antioxidants. Really trying to get good liver health. I always tell people to start their morning with a glass of lemon water. That just gives your liver a boost to clear everything out.
And then green vegetables like we talked about. Cilantro is super great for your liver.
And another thing that I would try to sprinkle in for you, especially the week before your period is seed cycling That’s a really great concept. It’s basically just using seeds to help boost your estrogen when your estrogen needs to be high, and then boost your progesterone when your progesterone needs to be high.
As you start entering that week to two weeks before your period, start having progesterone-boosting seeds, and that can be sesame seeds or sunflower seeds. My little trick for that is “S” is for second,” and so second half of your cycle would be sesame and sunflower.
And all of that is in my acne guide too. I list out seed cycling, supplement nutrition strategy, and all the products that I recommend you use.
ALLIE: You guys, every time I’m on Instagram stories now I will be sucking down seeds and touching my glowing skin.
DR HEATHER: There’s a whole other part of it too. Do not feel vain. That is something that I know I have struggled with.
ALLIE: It’s my frigging face; it’s the moneymaker!
DR HEATHER: It totally matters. It does. And it’s normal to have those concerns. It is. And all of us really want to feel and look our best. I don’t think it’s vain at all. I think it’s actually really honorable that you’re taking steps to say, “I’m going to look at my body as a whole and figure out how I can treat this specific point,” rather than, “Okay, I don’t care. I just want it gone, so give me a cream.” But you’re saying, “No, I know that’s not what’s going to actually heal it.” And I think that has a lot of value to it. And that’s what we need. We need more of that, so that way westernized medicine has to realize we need more of that.
ALLIE: Yeah. Just so you guys know, who are listening, I have been told by western medicine doctors to have a hysterectomy. That idea was dropped to me when I was 17-years-old because they said that I wouldn’t be able to have kids, that it was going to keep getting worse, and they should just take everything out. That is how the male doctor that I saw worded it.
DR HEATHER: But did he give you an actual reason? No reason, right?
ALLIE: No, just, “Oh PCOS.” And it was new at the time. I’m 32 now. So when I was 17 I remember him saying, “This is a new thing. We’ve been figuring out a lot of women are having it.” Honestly, I think that GMOs, fake foods, chemicals, diapers, products and everything in the 80’s & 90’s is causing so many women my age to have PCOS or at least it’s not helping.
But it was newer, so he said, “I would recommend scheduling this now,” to my mom and I have four kids now, you guys.
DR HEATHER: At 17 it could have been someone else’s decision too.
ALLIE: Absolutely. Absolutely. Mom was like, “We’re leaving,” but still we never got answers. I’m so glad for all the research. There’s so much now. It’s overwhelming, but I’m grateful for it.
Okay. Can we take some questions?
You mentioned the overgrowth of hair, specifically facial hair. That is the only thing that I don’t have, which I feel like I should because of a testosterone, but a lot of women have messaged me and there’s people here. So, please answer that. What can they do about that?
DR HEATHER: So that essentially is having high testosterone levels. Like we talked about, the best way to lower testosterone is going to be to lower cortisol, which is your stress hormone. So the more things that you can do to really be intentional about lowering stress throughout your day is important. I usually recommend breathing techniques, the legs up the wall, like I mentioned for you. And I really like to see how can we fit this in your day so it’s not like you feel like it’s another thing to check off your box.
But the benefit of that is when you have these scheduled sessions, 5-6 minutes to spend teaching your body to decrease stress hormones, then when you’re actually stressed, your body has that pathway created and it knows to do it. That way you’re not in a super high stressful moment and then trying to decrease stress. You’ve created habits, you’ve created time, you’ve created space for your body to have those pathways. So that way it takes three minutes when you’re actually stressed and your body’s already lowered things and is down where it needs to be because you have chilled out because it knows, “Oh, this is how I do that. When she sits like this or when we stop and start breathing like this, then cortisol needs to go down.” And so it knows that.
ALLIE: So what I’m hearing you say is that everyone needs to declutter because less clutter lowers your stress.
DR HEATHER: Yes! Side note here: I went to a very minimalistic approach to things. Your podcast, your blog.
ALLIE: I didn’t know that when we connected. Yay!
DR HEATHER: Yes! Having that lack of decision fatigue because we’ve got four dishes, so I don’t have to decide, “Oh man, which dish am I going to use when so and so comes over.” Or even, especially the clothes thing, the clothes thing has been huge for me.
ALLIE: We are so busy. We have so much. If there’s something that you can do that’s tangible and physical to lower that cortisol… That’s why I’m always citing those studies. I have people message me all the time, “You’re so dramatic!” No! You obviously don’t know. I’m freaking out and I need to tell everyone because not just clutter, but sitting still for one freaking second and focusing on your breath for two minutes. Moms are just not doing this. And it’s amazing how simple it is to lower that cortisol.
DR HEATHER: Yeah, it’s so true. Even things as simple as taking a bath before you go to bed, take five minutes and just take a chill. That is a huge part of it too. And again, keeping things simple. Keeping your routine simple. Setting yourself up for success, which involves your body knowing how to do those things.
One thing I talk a lot about, too, is tea. It doesn’t have to be tea; it could be a hot cocoa or hot milk or whatever you want, but there is an engagement of all of your senses when you are holding something warm, when you are sipping, when you are smelling something. I do a sleepy time tea or calm tea. I recommend to my girls to drink this tea at four o’clock when you’re an hour from leaving work and you’ve just been exhausted. Give your body that reward, slow your senses down, chill out.
And again, back to this self-care. Self-care is not watching Netflix and we love it. It’s not scrolling on Instagram. It’s not shopping online because we want to. It’s really taking time to get things out.
I always talk about physical release too. Doing brain dumps at night is huge. Actually releasing something. If you have a lot of emotions and you held them in all day, because let’s say you’re on your period and you just had a really stressful day, then you need to either get in your car and sing and dance and yell about them. You need to Vox to yourself how you’re feeling about it and then delete it later. You need to write it down. You need to go run. You need to dance. There has to be a physical release where it goes from your mind to something out. There’s a transfer of that stressful energy. I really talk about that a lot too.
That would be my first suggestion with the unwanted hair is you manage your PCOS, you manage your hormones, you see a resolve of symptoms.
Side note: have you ever heard about the symptom of PCOS would be like the darkened skin underneath the armpits, behind the neck, and right in the thigh crease? There’s like this thing…I haven’t heard very much about it but I have that, and so I researched the heck out of it until I found that it is a really rare side note of PCOS. It’s super weird and I’ve been embarrassed my whole teenage life because I didn’t know how to fix it and it would look like I was dirty. You can’t scrub it off. And I would scrub my skin raw and it would just be there. Then I learned later that it’s a PCOS thing.
Like you said, I don’t like to super limit myself. Last night I had a cheeseburger while I was on a live stream and it was great. But when I am mindful and I’m listening to my body and eating 95% really clean, really well, moving my body, practicing meditation, keeping my stress low, the darkened skin disappears completely. Like the stress is causing so much of the PCOS and hormone imbalance stuff.
DR HEATHER: All of those places are close to hair follicles and oil glands. And so, again, like extra estrogen or too little estrogen can allow those oil glands to get out of control, and so they may just be darkening based off of an excess of oil production because you don’t have enough estrogen in there to suppress it.
ALLIE: My estrogen has always been low.
DR HEATHER: Yeah, which is interesting because a lot of the symptoms you talk about, that we’ve talked about today are symptoms of high estrogen. But that’s where PCOS come in, you can’t put it in a box.
ALLIE: Exactly, exactly. And also like one lady told me, “Well maybe it’s just been like that when you got blood work done. It can shift.”
DR HEATHER: Oh yeah. I tell people all the time, because I have a lot of women that are like, “Well I don’t know if I have PCOS or I wasn’t ever diagnosed with it.” And I’m like, “Yeah, you can not ever have a diagnosis of PCOS but still have very sensitive hormones and it’s going to look like you have PCOS.”
ALLIE: It’s like celiac disease with gluten. You don’t have to have celiacs to know you respond better without gluten.
DR HEATHER: Exactly. And I’ll tell you what you said was so interesting about the doctor. Many years ago I was working in a doctor’s office. I had, I think, 8-10 doctors that I serviced on the office for just consulting. And it was originally for diabetes. And I ended up with the majority of my patients being PCOS or fertility because they did not know. They’re like, “There’s not research, or they’re not responding to the medicine, and we don’t know what else to do.” And so, I say, “Well, have you chatted about lifestyle? Have you chatted about diet?” And they’re like, “Well, we’ve told them to lose weight.” And they’re all female, obviously. And I’m like, “Okay, well, have we talked about how, or have we given them other strategies? Have we talked about their diet?”
ALLIE: Yeah, they tell you to lose weight. And it’s like, “Uh, I’m eating 1200 calories. I’m basically a dead person and I’m not losing an inch. In fact, I gained an inch, so great!”
DR HEATHER: And it’s making my symptoms worse. And then, they come back and the doctor’s like, “Oh, well, we don’t know what to do.” And when we moved and I wasn’t in that doctor’s office anymore, I was like, “I can not let women continue to just be put in a box or be told to shut up and take a pill. I can’t do it anymore.”
ALLIE: Or go under the knife, which is even worse.
DR HEATHER: Exactly. Yeah.
What do you know about progesterone cream to balance the progesterone? In my experience, I have used it in the past and I, at first, felt better but then started to have really bad headaches and feel really sick, and then come to find the progesterone cream can make your progesterone too high and you’re supposed to do it a certain way. What’s the deal with that for balancing hormones?
DR HEATHER: Yeah. I worked in a pharmacy that used to compound bioidentical hormones and so I usually do recommend for people that if their doctor has suggested a progesterone cream for them to get a bioidentical progesterone cream. And that’s just because there’s a lot of discrepancies with dosing and it’s very hard when there’s one standardized dose made in a factory basically (or drug industry factory, whatever, however they want to call it, manufacturers.) And so, I usually tell people that you want a doctor that’s going to monitor your levels pretty frequently, and that’s going to be able to adjust your dose even by the half milligram. And you also want it bioidentical because you don’t want your body to have to break down other things to get just the progesterone right, so it’s absorbing it. But you also want to be sure that what it’s absorbing is only the hormone and that it’s also a hormone that’s going to be bioidentical to what it should look like in our body.
I don’t say a last resort, but I do say make sure you’re either still doing diet and lifestyle stuff with it or that you’ve tried that too. So if someone’s like, “My doctor just told me I should do progesterone cream and that will make it better.” I usually say, “Let’s step back and look at why.”
There are some cases where progesterone cream is needed, especially if you’re getting recurrent bacterial infections. That can be a sign of a really wonky imbalance, and so actually supplementing that progesterone can be really helpful for a few weeks. It shouldn’t really be long-term and you definitely should have a decent amount of other strategies that you and your doctor have chatted about, or that you guys are working on and making sure that it’s all being tested too.
I totally agree with what you’re saying in that it is very easy for that level to then get too high and that’s because we’re just giving our bodies an unnatural amount and it’s probably not flowing correctly either.
Women are meant to flow on a 30-day cycle. So our hormones literally flow in 30 days. Men flow in a 24-hour cycle. Their energy, their mood, everything. They’re resetting every day and I’m sure that’s why they feel great. That’s also why they can diet a lot differently than we can. And exercise differently.
Oh! I meant to say this earlier too when you were talking about exercise. I want to be sure the listeners know this. Your testosterone level spikes within an hour of exercise. You need to be eating within that hour because not eating is going to shoot it up even higher. So you get a testosterone spike—cortisol/testosterone, we’ve talked about that, right—so you need to eat within an hour of working out if you haven’t eaten before. I usually hate when people don’t eat and workout first because that’s setting your day with a cortisol spike, but sometimes that’s the best time of day and I totally get that. So, I tell people to try to do a smoothie while you work out or try to get some type of liquid, get something in.
ALLIE: I have a question that’s really specific to me and I’m being a little selfish and I get it. So normal day (I mean what is that? It’s all over the place) but I’m not hungry until maybe 11:00/11:30. I’m just not hungry. I’ve read before that intermittent fasting is not great for PCOS, but it seems to be my normal cycle when I try to listen to my body. I do have coffee in the morning and I put “real”, FDA-warning-on-the-back, creamer. I only put a splash, just take the black edge off. I have that in the morning and then I will exercise on an empty stomach because I feel fine. And then I usually have almond milk, I just drank it while I was talking to you, around brunch time. And then I don’t eat…I’m going to eat when we’re done and it’s 1:00 here, and that’s my normal day. That’s how I normally, naturally, go. Is there something wrong with that?
DR HEATHER: I won’t say there’s something wrong with it, but I would like to change it. The reason you’re not feeling hungry till that time is likely because #1, it’s a pattern. Our hunger cues go off of a pattern, right? So, if you were to start eating breakfast or having a smoothie first thing in the morning, then your body’s going to catch up to that.
ALLIE: Like my almond milk? Or is that not enough?
DR HEATHER: How many calories is in your almond milk?
ALLIE: It says vanilla, almond, dates, sea salt, and it says 140 calories twice, so times two.
DR HEATHER: Yeah. Yeah, totally fine.
ALLIE: Okay. Because that’s my favorite thing. Please don’t take it from me!
DR HEATHER: Perfect. No, no, I won’t take it. That’s the thing is we all think that all the things we love have to be taken away. They don’t, we’re just moving it right?
So we’re moving your almond milk to first thing in the morning and then have your coffee or do almond milk and coffee first thing in the morning. But the main issue is, I think that #1 to support good hormones, to support good sleep, and to also decrease your cortisol levels, you have to start your morning out by telling your body you are safe, you are fed. It’s almost the same thing as jumping on Instagram first thing in the morning. We are not setting our day for the best tone. Do I do it a lot? Yeah. But can I tell a difference on the days I don’t. 100%.
And the other issue with that, I’ll tell you, is that when you go overnight, if you’re going longer than 8-10 hours without eating, then your body is actually sending a signal to your liver. Your liver is what stores all your sugar and saying, “Hey, we need sugar.” So what your liver does is just dump all the sugar it has. This is a part of PCOS—it’s like insulin sensitivity, which is higher blood sugar.
Now you’ve got this super high blood sugar but you haven’t eaten anything so you don’t even get to enjoy the reason your blood sugar is high. And it basically is priming yourselves to be really, really sensitive to the next time food comes in. So that actually impacts your weight because then by the time you have eaten, everything is primed and ready and it’s going straight to fat storage, because it’s replenishing everything that got dumped overnight. So, I usually say no more than 8-10 hours without eating.
ALLIE: Okay. I can do that. My parents do intermittent fasting and they’re really crazy about it and they’re like, “Oh, I can’t have almond milk; it breaks the fast.” So I know that it’s food, it’s calories. I can do that one for sure.
DR HEATHER: I used to not be a smoothie person. I was like, “No, they’re too much of a mess. It takes forever to make them.” Once I finally sucked it up and said, “I’m just going to try this for a month,” I kid you not. I had, I won’t say best hormone month, but that is what made me realize like, “Oh my gosh!” And I have not stopped since. It made that much of a difference.
So I challenge people to try a smoothie. When I say that it needs to be a smoothie that has fat, carbs, and fruit or whatever.
ALLIE: How do you get carbs in a smoothie.
DR HEATHER: Fruit. Or it’s made with orange juice. Orange juice is just like sugar. I usually say leafy greens like spinach, kale or something like that, and then your fruit or your carb-y stuff. Some people put oats in smoothies. I usually try to not use juice because again, that’s just like a dump of sugar. So, I use coconut water, almond milk, coconut milk, or something like that instead. Sometimes I’ll use Kombucha, because it tastes sweet but it’s not a lot of sugar.
Then usually I say throw in your fat. Coconut oil, peanut butter, coconut milk, avocados, or whatever. And then seeds. I do seed cycling like I was telling you about earlier and I just throw my seeds into my smoothie.
ALLIE: How much seeds?
DR HEATHER: I mean just a sprinkle. A pinch. A sprinkle, a teaspoon, nothing super crazy. I throw those seeds in there and sometimes I’ll even throw flax meal which is a really good source of fiber. To me that’s so easy because I am hitting fats, fiber. I’m stabilizing my blood sugar. I’m on the go, but I’m still having a really good breakfast. I’m also setting up my digestion for the day because I started everything moving first thing in the morning. I’ve got fiber, so things are starting to move and my whole day is just set up to prevent energy crashes, to not have my body be primed for stress or for food to come in and it not be able to adjust it the right way.
I hated the idea of them until I really stuck with it. And then I loved them and now I do them all the time.
ALLIE: Okay, we can do smoothies.
I have a question that’s coming in about birth control. I would love to know this too. I don’t have to worry about that anymore, but when I did I’m actually very, very fertile. I’m giving you guys so much about me so, enjoy. What was the ring that got discontinued?
DR HEATHER: It was like the Nuvaring? Was it called the Fin?
ALLIE: It was the Nuvaring. I was on the Nuvaring and I got pregnant and miscarried that baby late. I had found out I was pregnant but it already had a heartbeat. I was into the pregnancy and she just had problems because I was on birth control when she was conceived and she ended up passing away. I get pregnant very, very easily and I always am really careful with saying that because I know a lot of PCOS women have infertility and I don’t want to upset anyone, but that’s just my case.
And so I needed birth control because my body needed to heal. I had a lot of scar tissue from C-sections. I mean it’s just a whole cycle. It’s a whole lot of just crap show and birth control was always a source of a lot of stress. And even just being intimate with my husband was a source of stress sometimes. I was very anxious and I never really landed on something.
Side note: I’m allergic to latex so I’ll just let you piece that together.
So for PCOS women, what birth control is like, “Please do not do this” and what should we be doing?
DR HEATHER: It can get a little complicated but the options would be non-hormonal birth control which can be like a copper IUD. I don’t usually recommend those because it’s 50/50 some people do great on them. Sometimes, PCOS, sensitive hormones, can cause electrolyte imbalances and then you have arthritis, achiness. There can just be a lot of side effects of the copper one. Some people do great on it.
I do say if you are going to take birth control while you’re PCOS. That’s fine. I get that people need it. Whether you have PCOS or not. If you have endometriosis, sometimes a trial of birth control can actually be really beneficial for you. I do say if you are taking birth control then you need to be chatting with someone, I’d like for it to be me, about what you can do to replenish your electrolytes, your vitamins, and the little micronutrients that can get depleted with synthetic estrogen because our body’s having to breakdown that synthetic estrogen and sometimes those byproducts or what happens with that process can pull out extra nutrients that we need and then we can go years and years being deficient and we have no idea.
I really say that if you’re doing birth control that’s totally cool. Just make sure that you are still decreasing stress, honoring your hormones, but also have talked with someone about supplements you need to be taking to replenish, to keep your gut health, and basically your overall health in a really good spot.
I’ll also say that studies have shown that the Family Awareness Method, which is essentially family planning is just as effective. It’s about tracking things like body basal temperature, cervical mucus, and cycle days, basically tracking your cycle, and then knowing your fertile window, is essentially just as effective if done correctly as condoms and birth control. It takes a little more effort. It takes a little more work. But statistically it’s the same.
I think that’s something that’s not ever shared with women enough. I think if you go to the doctor’s office, they very much prefer birth control because…drug companies. There’s a whole realm of that stuff, but to not go down that rabbit hole. It’s more that I think people think that we’re not capable of figuring that out, really monitoring it, and doing it on our own. And I think, yes, we are. We’re women that can do that.
There’s a great book to reference. It’s called Taking Charge Of Your Fertility and it talks about multiple forms of birth control. It talks about things such as diaphragms or spermicides. I haven’t done a lot of research into spermicides, I’ll be totally honest, but I do know that in terms of lubricant, there are some things. We try to focus on very natural lubricant. When I recommend them to people, I usually say unfractionated coconut oil or something like that because we just don’t want to put all those toxins right in your baby maker. Especially if fertility’s been an issue.
I would definitely recommend that book. I would definitely say tracking your cycle. And then I would also say having conversations with your doctor about your other options is important too, even asking why are you recommending birth control? Are you recommending it just so that I don’t have a baby? Or are you recommending birth control because you think it will help my endometriosis? Or are you recommending birth control because you had someone who looked like me. Tell me what their case looks like, tell me why you are suggesting this for me. That is what true health care should be. And I think we, again, have to start asking for it.
I would definitely say starting with that book, tracking, again, it’s a little more work on the front end, but if it’s worth it it’s worth it, and there’s a lot of people that feel like it’s worth it.
I sit in this middle ground camp of like, “Yeah, I get that people need it and that that’s a lot easier for them and I totally support that.” I think they should know what’s happening to their body and their hormones when they take birth control and how to support their body through it. But I also completely support that that’s a decision they need to make.
ALLIE: I think that’s good because Western medicine has its place and if you’re finding it helpful great, but I just haven’t. That has not been my story at all.
DR HEATHER: And you need to be told what birth control is actually doing. So it’s not that like, “Oh, it’s helping your hormones,” and then just like you’re taking a placebo to start your period. It’s shutting down your ovulation. It’s shutting down your period. It’s making your body think it’s pregnant. There’s a lot of things that are happening, but that’s okay. You just need your doctor to tell you that, explain it to you so that you can make that decision.
ALLIE: You can make an educated choice.
DR HEATHER: Yeah, exactly.
DR HEATHER: Well, is there anything else that you want to say? This is an amazing conversation. Is there anything we didn’t cover or do you feel like we’re good?
DR HEATHER: I think we covered everything, girl. I was just like, “I don’t know what we’re going to chat about,” but this was wonderful. This is totally my jam. I absolutely loved it.
And just reminding women that they are capable. You can do this. It seems big and overwhelming and it is not.
And that is why I say let’s change three things at a time and I recommend that for anyone who’s trying to make transitions to pick three things that you can do and don’t overload yourself.
Don’t start the gym, take supplements, quit your job, and decide that you need to be on birth control too. That’s just too much. So I just say, three things, simple things. Let’s map out how this looks in your day. Let’s map out what your actual issue is.
Looking at your root cause is huge. Anything you’re taking medicine for, I really just want anyone listening to say like, “Do I know what this is doing? Do I know why? And have I looked at what is actually causing this?” Because once you realize that, once you know that and you can change it, you’re not stuck anymore. And I don’t want anyone to feel stuck.
It can be very, very simple, and just really encouraging women not to get overwhelmed. And don’t Google it.
ALLIE: No, don’t. It’s just not helpful. And I think that’s why I wanted to bring you on here because I want to create a space to point women in an educated direction when it comes to hormone health because if you Google it, you’re dying. You should already be dead.
And I think too if this is all too much, if this is all overwhelming. I have been there. I’ve felt that way, you guys. I think start small. What can you do in your day, right now, to decide to remove some stress because if this is all stress-based and women are so responsive to stress, our cortisol levels are everything and not just for hormone balance. It affects everything you guys. People have reported their spines ache when their stress and their cortisol raises because they are so affected by stress. This is big.
What can you do to de-stress? Also sidenot: that’s why I’m here. Let’s declutter together. And what can you do to take one simple action like the smoothies that Heather talked about. Making some time to just sit in stillness and focus on your breathing for five minutes on your lunch break. There’s so many little things. Then let everything else go from there.
Now I’m adding in supplements. Now I’m tuning more into my eating. Now I’m finding ways to move my body without increasing cortisol but still get exercise in. But I’ve been at this really hard since the beginning of 2019. It’s okay to just take it one bite at a time. Be empowered. You are amazing, beautiful and capable. You can do this and I’m walking it with you, so always feel free to DM me, ask questions.
Heather, we need to bring you back in some way and talk.
DR HEATHER: I would love that.
ALLIE: Thanks guys for listening to me talk about how I’m allergic to condoms, birth control, acne, and you know…well, I feel like the only thing we left out is pubic hair growth, but we’ll just not go there.
DR HEATHER: I have loved this and I do free consult calls too just because I want to know people’s stories because just like you, I’ve been there and I felt so stuck. Ours was fertility and oh man, that is so deep. The Lord has redeemed and done so much work with that for us. We have not had a biological child. My son is adopted and we’re adopting again and so He has blessed it and it has been a wonderful thing to walk through. But I also still am on the journey, too, and I feel that. And I think there’s something just so beautiful about being able to connect with other women that sit in this space of, “Yeah girl, I get it. I get it too. You want something more for your health and you can get there.”
I always like to encourage people that if all this sounds so crazy—granola is what I call it—just think that I do not believe the Lord created us to have bodies that function perfectly until we’re 17 or until we’re 37, and then He just knew that we had to have chemicals to sustain us for the rest of our lives. I just don’t believe that.
ALLIE: You are my person! That is what I’m always saying with clutter and motherhood. I do not believe that we were all created to live a full, abundant life except for mothers; they’re on their own. That’s not the character of God, the One who created us. It doesn’t make any sense. Why do we settle for that? The thing that has made me pursue this, really run at this problem and start to pursue fixing it is this…I mean God just legit sat with me; I sat with Him and was like, “We need to talk. This is the worst. I’m so annoyed that You made me like this. Fix it now because I can’t do the job you’re calling me to do. I’m trying and I’m broken.”
It was one of the few times I really felt, “This is what He’s saying.” I wrote down in my journal, “This was from straight from God,” I really just heard Him say, “You are all about this message of abundant life and pursuing that, but you won’t do that with your health. You refuse to give it to me. You refuse to lean in. You’re just angry and force abusing your body to do what you want it to do when it doesn’t work that way.”
Take that message that I got and borrow it, you guys. Go and lean in. If your body is not doing something that you want it to do, it’s trying to tell you something. Having cysts on your face, in your ovaries, wherever. I’ve even had them down in my skin. It’s bad. That is a message. Don’t ignore it, put cream on it and keep going. Lean in and ask, “How can I listen to my body and be grateful that it speaks to me so clearly?” I’d rather it speak to me now than speak to me later with cancer or something, a result of neglect, you know?
DR HEATHER: It’s very interesting when you step back a little bit to be like, “Man, I’m so glad that our bodies do give us these signals,” and as much as they’re annoying, I don’t know if we would be forced to look at ourselves rather than everyone else if that wasn’t happening.
And then also, this sounds a little crazy, but the Lord gave us our periods as a gift and we were created to create. That is an amazing thing. This is a little bit out here, but even when you look at the Bible, the laws around periods, and all that stuff, the Lord designed it for us to have weeks to rest and do nothing but sit with other women. And those things are valuable to Him. Our bodies are valuable to him. The way we create is valuable to Him.
When it feels overwhelming and feels so crazy and it’s not worth it, just remember He’s still sovereign and all He calls me to do is plant seeds and He will water them. So I just need to see, “What is He asking me to be thankful for, to steward, to try, or to seek out, or to ask for help in.”
ALLIE: Or listening to the natural call to rest for a second. Even when I talk about it I always, because of my personality type and my drive, I always talk about it like this huge burden, this annoyance like, “Oh I always have to stop for two days a month.” That’s actually really great.
DR HEATHER: I mean that’s how we’re designed. He wants us to. And actually there’s a lot of studies about your productivity and your energy levels changing in terms of if you did or did not rest during your cycle.
ALLIE: Kate Northrup teaches entrepreneur women how to use their cycle and their energy flows to be smart and productive. And it’s real. It seems kind of crazy when you first look at it. If you’re not familiar, you’re like, “What the…!” But if you really dive in, you’re like, “Yes, I always have better skin and more energy the week after my period.”
This is how we’re designed. And to see it as good, not a mistake, not broken has been the biggest shift for me.
If you’re watching live, we’re going to get links for you and just dump them here in the comments and leave this up. And then if you’re listening to this podcast episode when it comes out…show notes…there’ll be a lot of links over there to Heather and to all the things you mentioned, the progesterone, the prenatals, everything.
DR HEATHER: I actually have a guide specifically for your listeners, Three Simple Things To Start Healing Your Hormones.
ALLIE: Thank you guys for helping make this episode amazing. I love you all. Talk to you next time!
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I am always rooting for you, friend! See ya next time!