Episode #100: Harper’s Plant-Powered PCOS Health Transformation

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Harper's Plant-Powered PCOS Health Transformation

What you’ll learn in this episode

Welcome back to another episode of the PCOS Repair Podcast. Today, I’m excited to share with you a truly inspiring journey. Today’s story is about Harper, who addressed her PCOS with a plant-based diet. This story isn’t just about the diet itself, but the broader lesson on how each person must uniquely navigate their health challenges by understanding and catering to their body’s specific needs.

In this discussion, we explore how Harper, despite facing an uphill battle with her PCOS symptoms, found substantial relief through a plant-based diet. This was surprising because I don’t typically advocate for a plant-based diet for PCOS due to the challenges in balancing macronutrients, particularly protein. However, Harper’s experience underscores the importance of personalizing one’s approach to health and nutrition.

Harper had transitioned to a plant-based diet due to other health issues, primarily inflammatory disorders, and found significant improvements in her GI tract and skin health. However, she noticed her PCOS symptoms, like menstrual irregularity and abdominal weight gain, began to worsen. This paradoxical situation led her to explore more about PCOS and eventually to our work together.

Through our collaboration, Harper discovered the critical balance of foods that worked for her body. 

Harper’s story is a powerful reminder of the uniqueness of each individual’s journey with PCOS. It highlights that while certain diets or lifestyles are widely recommended, the key to managing PCOS effectively lies in understanding and responding to our own body’s cues. Whether it’s adjusting meal compositions, meal timings, or even the type of exercise, the small, personalized tweaks can make a significant difference.

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Do you have questions about this episode or other questions about PCOS? I would love to connect and chat on a more personal level over on Instagram. My DMs are my favorite place to chat more.

 

So go visit me on IG @nourishedtohealthy.com

 

Let’s Continue The Conversation

Do you have questions about this episode or other questions about PCOS? I would love to connect and chat on a more personal level over on Instagram. My DMs are my favorite place to chat more.

 

So go visit me on IG @nourishedtohealthy.com

 

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Read The Full Episode Transcript Here

Hey, everyone, and welcome back to another episode of the PCOS Repair podcast. I’m really excited today to share a story of a wonderful lady that I worked with a little while back named Harper, and how she addressed her PCOS with a plant-based diet. We’re going to dive into this today and the uniqueness of how each person can address their health from many angles and get amazing results when they understand what their body is needing. I think that you’re going to find today’s story really interesting, as well as eye-opening to the many different avenues of which we can approach our PCOS health and make it work for us. So with that, let’s dive in.

You’re listening to the PCOS Repair podcast, where we explore the ins and outs of PCOS and how to repair the imbalances in your hormones naturally with a little medical help sprinkled in. Hi, I’m Ashlene Korcek, and with many years of medical and personal experience with polycystic ovarian syndrome, It is my joy to watch women reverse their PCOS as they learn to nourish their body in a whole new way. With the power of our beliefs, our mindset, and our environment, and the understanding of our genetics, we can heal at the root cause.

All right, as we get started today, I want to start by saying that, first of all, I don’t typically recommend a plant-based diet. This is something that was really important to Harper for a lot of reasons. She had some other health conditions, and she felt so much better on a plant-based diet, but she felt like her PCOS symptoms were almost getting worse as her health was getting better. It was this weird thing where her GI tract and several of her skin issues, which we’re not going to get into because it’s not related here, but she had a lot of inflammatory disorders and a couple of years prior to us meeting, she had gone mostly to completely plant-based, and she felt like it was really helpful in managing her other conditions but when it came to her PCOS, she felt like there was parts of her health. Looking back, she wasn’t as clear on this disorder, this is this but as we began to talk and as she began to learn more about PCOS, she started to realize that, Okay, my PCOS symptoms are actually the ones that are getting worse because she felt like in some ways her health was getting better, she felt less bloated, she felt less weighed down in better energy and then her GI tract was functioning properly and her skin was clearer and she felt like that was some of the crossover of what she hears with PCOS. The things that were not getting better and the things that were getting continuously worse were her cycles were getting longer and more irregular, her abdominal weight, so she felt in some ways like her pants fit more comfortably because she wasn’t bloated, but she was gaining weight around the middle. It’s funny because when we feel like our stomach is upset and angry and bloated and inflamed, it can feel like our pants fit worse because having anything pushing on us can be really uncomfortable but she felt the opposite. She felt like she fit her pants better, but she was also having to go up a couple of sizes because she had gained weight in the belly area. She also felt like while her energy was better, she felt better at times throughout the day, she did feel like she was getting a little bit more of a roller coaster high and low when she was using a plant-based diet.

So when we started working together, she just felt really, really, really frustrated because she felt like she was doing all the right things. She really was eating in what we hear a lot in the media and on social media and in certain nutrition circles, she was eating an amazingly healthy diet. She was removing mostly processed foods, she had mostly whole foods, she was eating a lot of just really healthy plant-based foods but she still felt like her health was not getting to where she wanted to be. There was still parts of the puzzle that weren’t quite working for her, and that’s where she looked for additional help. I had a conversation with her. I said, Look, I don’t typically do plant-based because there’s some significant drawbacks to plant-based and the number one being it’s very difficult to get a good ratio of carbs to protein and to get really high-quality protein, we tend to have a lot of processed protein and add in a lot of processed foods to get that protein when we’re only plant-based. I just want to start by saying this is not something that I recommend for anyone. The point of her story that I want to share here on the podcast is how unique each specific journey is.

The takeaway here, just spoiler alert, is that as you listen to today’s story of how she went about digging into what her root causes were and how she needed to manage them, she had a specific desire to adhere to a plant-based diet. Now, you can replace plant-based diet with all sorts of things. It could be, I never want to have to run, or I never… This is not for me, or I want to be able to do this and include such and such. The point here is that when we have specific things that we want in our lifestyle or do not want in our lifestyle, we need to look at those very specifically and understand how are they impacting what is the root cause? What is our body needing, and how do we address those needs under these certain circumstances? Because it’s not a one-size-fits-all and for Harper, as you’ll see in this story, she was completely able to adhere to what was working for her body in other areas, and she was able to still manage her PCOS. Another application of this type of a concept is someone who works nights, just because we work nights doesn’t mean that our body has to live in constant stress. We can learn how to manage this. Yes, it requires some diligence and some learning and some practice and some planning and all of that but we can learn to take what are the negatives that are happening to my body because I work nights and how can I combat those? How I lessen those? and how can I play up other areas to strengthen my resilience for the fact that I work nights?

Basically, you get the point, let’s go ahead and dive into Harper’s story here. When we first met, she was dealing with a frustrating mix of symptoms. She was having this severe fatigue energy crash in the afternoon only. She felt like she would wake up and she would adhere to her plant-based diet and she would have this amazing feeling all day and then around three or four o’clock, she was just done and she chalked that up to, You know what? I am probably just tired. Late in the day, I just must be a morning person, and I just start shutting down the second half of the day but at the same time, she was like, It’s frustrating. I don’t want to drink more coffee, I don’t want to have caffeine that late in the day but she was struggling with that. Her skin conditions and autoimmune issues were a lot better having been on the plant-based diet and she didn’t want to leave that, but she felt like it wasn’t working for her 100%. She felt really almost like she didn’t care anymore. It was bothering her, but she felt like, I’ve done everything I can, I don’t know what else to do and when we feel like that, it’s not uncommon to start feeling hopeless, but even just like, Well, I guess this is what it is. We start to almost resign ourselves, and yet we have this internal frustration of like, I don’t want to resign myself to this. She was looking for what could be going wrong, what is she doing wrong, is she doing a plant-based diet wrong? She eventually started to reach out to me and we started talking, and I started to point out a few of the areas where plant-based may be not helping her. She was like, Well, how do I get around that? We started talking and we started working together. The really critical turning point for her of where she started to see the success that she wanted to was that she needed to identify how she was using the food in her diet and she needed to come to terms with more what was going on in her body based on what food she was choosing. There were certain foods where they spiked her blood sugar more. She was seeing, we used a glucose monitor, continuous glucose monitor for a little while. She was able to see which meals were spiking her way more than she would have thought. This is also very unique from person to person, it’s not something that if we listen to what spikes somebody else, we may not have as severe as a spike. It also is very unique to how you paired everything, how it went in your day, how much sleep you were getting, other factors in your life but it does give us a really good idea of how food is affecting you in that moment, and it’s fairly repetitive. So once you know that, Okay, if I eat this type of food, then I’m able to maintain my blood sugar but as soon as I add too much of this in the ratio, all of a sudden my blood sugar is going to spike too hard and I’m going to get that crash on the back end.

She was able to really start to see what was and wasn’t working for her. She was also able to see that if she adhered to trying to keep her blood sugar into certain parameters and learning which foods did that, that she started to notice her PCOS symptoms disappear. Now, the weird part was that overall, She felt so much better in her health from everything she had done prior to working together, that she took a little while and so we had to make a contract with each other that, Look, just let’s do each thing for at least four weeks before we make changes because if we start to constantly change things because we haven’t seen it work yet, because her biggest symptom at the time that we were working together was that she wasn’t having a regular period. Well, that takes about four weeks to see, Is it becoming more regular, and it may even take something like two or three months but if we start to see, okay, over the last four weeks, whatever we’ve been doing is making an improvement. Instead of 45 days, we dropped it down to 40 days apart and so forth and so the body starts to respond and together, we really started to just go in and finetune and recalibrate her diet. It was a lot of looking at how her body was responding to what she was eating, adjusting her recipes, figuring out where we could adjust the macros, and continuing to make sure she was getting the nutrients and eating the food groups that she wanted to be eating.

As we started to intensify our look at her food, she was able to adjust the recipes, adjust the meals that she was eating to include a little bit more protein here a little bit less simple carbohydrate in other places. She was able to add in some more complex carbohydrates and ultimately adjusted the way she was eating. The other thing that she found really helpful was actually eating more at each meal and then spreading out time in between and closing her eating window a little bit. She made sure that she had a harder stop a little earlier than she had previously been eating at night to just extend the night time fast. Now, this was not intermittent fasting. It wasn’t anything that extreme. It was just being a little bit more diligent and aware that she needed to eat and then stop and even if she was still a little bit hungry towards the evening, she knew that she’d be able to eat again the next day. It wasn’t like we were restricting calories anyway, but we were making sure that she wasn’t eating so late that her body had a chance to be low on insulin and not constantly spiking, spiking, spiking.

She also realized that there was still some nutritional needs that were missing. When we’re in a plant-based diet, there’s definitely some supplementation of certain vitamins and minerals and supplements that can be really, really, really helpful. We had run some labs, she made sure that everything was being optimized there, and that was really important one. The big thing here that was really interesting to watch, Harper, was that as she went through and realized how much good she was already doing, and that it wasn’t about throwing out all that she was doing. It was really about getting in there and getting curious and fine-tuning what she was doing. Now, for some of us, it’s like we’re not doing anything all that health-related to begin with. If that’s the case, we have a lot of room for improvement, which means we also have a lot of room for progress.

We’re going to see some great results fairly quickly but then a lot of times we hit a place where we’re like, Okay, I’ve made a lot of progress, but I’m still not where I want to be. That’s where Harper was when we started working together. She was able to see how much we can still optimize and finetune when we get in there and take a look in a week. You don’t have to do this for very long, but in a week, two, even three weeks, wearing a continuous glucose monitor, she was able to see that this is actually what’s happening behind the scenes, even though I thought this was a really good choice. If I pair things a little bit differently, it makes all the difference. She was slowly able to make those adjustments and slightly adjust how she was doing things. What she found was that her mindset went from, Well, I’m doing the best I can, and it’s still not good enough. This is just how I’m going to be. She became really curious and excited about becoming the detective in her own nutrition and even in her own fitness and so she found even in how and when she timed her exercise around what she was eating. In her lifestyle, we can’t always adhere to these ideal times, but she was able to discover the ideal patterns of what worked for her body of pairing different foods with different amounts of exercise in times of day, which came first if she ate and then went for a walk or if she got up and exercised first before eating breakfast. Things like that all made a difference in how her body responded. She was able to see, and it’s been a little while since I’ve talked to her, and so I don’t remember exactly what her recipe was. I remember it was different than mine. The point being is that it’s not an exact, if you follow this plan, it will work for you. It’s really more about if you follow these ways of looking at and playing with what you’re eating and then how you adjust those, that’s where you can find your ideal way of doing it. It’s really more about, can you adopt the same mindset that she had about becoming a curious detective in what worked for her body? As she did this, she began to get a lot more excited about cooking again and trying new things because she was seeing that they actually had an impact on what it was that she was able to accomplish.

With that, I just hope that you’re able to see that if something that you’re doing right now. The whole point of I want to share Harper’s story is, one, I think it’s so important to see other people succeed. Over about three or four months, her periods were completely regular, her weight really wasn’t something she was highly focused on, but all of a sudden, she just noticed she was down of pant size, and she felt like all of her skin issues and digestive issues had not returned because she was able to adhere to what was working for those, but also to incorporate what was working for her insulin effect root cause PCOS, even though she wanted to remain on a plant-based diet. For her, it definitely took more diligence to… There’s definitely different hurdles of incorporating plant-based versus including some animal proteins, but she was able to do that.

What I hope the takeaway here is today is that when we start to feel like, I’m doing what I can and I’m still not seeing results and feeling like you’re really close to doing what everybody’s suggesting. First of all, what everybody is suggesting may or may not be the right choice for your body, we all have different root causes, we all have different lifestyles, we all have different everything and so tastes and so forth and replicating somebody else’s scenario may get you close, similar to Harper. She was close, but it wasn’t until she started to learn how to decipher all of this for herself and how to test on herself what was working and how to recognize what was or wasn’t working that she was finally able to create the lifestyle that really fit for her. She doesn’t adhere to it 100%. She doesn’t always exercise at the ideal moment for her managing her blood sugar, but she does know when it is, and she does it enough of the time, and she knows how much of the time she needs to be doing that so that she can maintain the health that she wants, but also to live in a lifestyle that works for her in her life and all the other things that she wants to do, but in being able to enjoy good health in those as well.

So with that, it’s a privilege to get to share other women’s stories here on the podcast. If you had a takeaway, if something really hit you like an aha, or you found something helpful in Harper’s story, I would love it if you shared it with me over on Instagram in my direct messages, because then I can let Harper know and give the feedback that her story was meaningful and impactful to somebody else, which just feels good and it’s a way of saying thank you to her for allowing us to be inspired by her hard work and diligence and figuring out what worked for her and inspiring us and reminding us that when we feel stuck, it’s usually because we’re just a few steps off from what’s going to be working for us. And so with that, I hope you enjoyed today’s story of Harper’s transformation in using a plant-based diet to improve her PCOS symptoms. Until next time, bye for now.

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About Show

Welcome to The PCOS Repair Podcast!

I’m Ashlene Korcek, and each week I’ll be sharing the latest findings on PCOS and how to make practical health changes to your lifestyle to repair your PCOS at the root cause.

If you’re struggling with PCOS, know that you’re not alone. In fact, it’s estimated that one in ten women have PCOS. But the good news is that there is a lot we can do to manage our symptoms and live healthy, happy lives.

So whether you’re looking for tips on nutrition, exercise, supplements, or mental health, you’ll find it all here on The PCOS Repair Podcast. Ready to get started? Hit subscribe now