Episode #39: How to Build a Strong PCOS Support Team
What you’ll learn in this episode
Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) is a complex disorder that requires a multifaceted approach to care. You need a team of doctors and other health professionals who can help you manage all aspects of the condition. In this episode, we’ll discuss how to find and work with your ideal support team on your journey to PCOS health.
A Strong PCOS Support Team Starts With the Right Doctor
Many medical doctors, and MDs, care for women with PCOS but I encourage you to find one that is both knowledgeable and interested in this disorder. This could be your family practice doctor, your gynecologist, your infertility specialist, or an endocrinologist. Their role on your support team is to diagnose PCOS and any other confounding conditions. To monitor for areas you might be at risk for developing other disorders such as diabetes, heart disease, or endometrial cancer. This is also the team member that you will look to for any prescriptions and or procedures you might need along the way.
The Holistic Member of Your Support Team
This could be a functional medical doctor, a naturopathic doctor, or someone who has a medical background with extensive additional training in PCOS and hormone health. This is not a health coach or a social media influencer or someone who has had PCOS, but someone who actually understands the physiology of PCOS and can extrapolate that to your current symptoms and needs.
This is where I spend most of my time working with women. Helping them get clear on what is going on in their body currently and what adjustments in their lifestyle can assist them.
While this team member might suggest labs or discuss the benefits of certain medical interventions (because they are educated in these) the focus here is on the preventive and healing lifestyle adjustments that will benefit the individual.
Additional Team Members to Consider
Once you have a doctor to care for you when intervention is needed and someone to provide a clear holistic path to health a personal trainer or dietician can be helpful to tailor workouts and food choices to your specific needs.
Accountability and Additional Support
A health coach, especially one that is knowledgeable about PCOS, is a great resource to assist you further with taking the needed action and how that might fit into your life.
Ultimately as you listen to this episode you will know which piece of your support team is missing and where to seek help for greater and easier success on your PCOS health journey.
So if you are ready to stop guessing and get the help you need go ahead and listen to this episode now.
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
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
PCOS doesn’t leave us in any doubt that something isn’t working for our bodies or something in our body isn’t working quite the way that we want it to. All of the symptoms and struggles make that completely clear. The hard part is navigating how to discover what is actually going on in your body and what your body needs, and then how to actually incorporate that and take the action needed in a way that doesn’t run your entire life and allows you to find balance, find health, and ultimately live in a body that is thriving and working the way that you want it to. Navigating the health care system, finding the support medically, finding the support holistically, and finding the support that you need through friends and family is not easy, especially since at the beginning, oftentimes you don’t even know what it is you’re asking for or looking for. And that is what we are going to be talking about in today’s episode. So let’s get started.
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.
Welcome back to the PCOS Repair Podcast, where today we’re going to talking about how to create your PCOS support team. Now, the traditional approach, of course, is to have something not quite working in your body to go to your doctor to explain your symptoms. They run tests, they give you a diagnosis, and then they offer you medical treatment. With PCOS, medical treatment is anywhere from birth control, metformin, do nothing, lose weight, or fertility treatments, possibly a referral to fertility or an endocrine physician, or endocrinologist. But what about beyond that? Who can really help you dive into a more functional or holistic approach looking at your lifestyle and not just what modern medicine can do for PCOS? Because honestly, modern medicine doesn’t have a lot to offer women with PCOS because it really comes down to how is our environment affecting our symptoms and how our environment and our body aren’t quite working well together and how do we need to adjust things so that our body can thrive function optimally and we get to feel good in our bodies. So while having a doctor that is aware of and monitoring your PCOS is really important, it’s important to take a step broader than that in a more holistic approach to what you be doing and how can you start to learn what you need to be doing, as well as how can you get the support of those around you as you create a whole new way of going about your lifestyle.
So let’s go through the different aspects of who you’re going to want on your PCOS health team. Like we said, it’s really important to have a medical physician, they’re going to monitor a lot of things and primarily be there for when you do need medical intervention and to be monitoring risk factors and so forth to make sure that they don’t need to step in and start managing things like diabetes, high cholesterol, hypertension, and so forth that are risk factors when we have PCOS. Then the next area that we want to look at is someone who’s going to understand what symptoms and how to really get to that root cause. That is something that I help women do, it’s something that some naturopathic doctors can help people do or functional medicine doctors. It just depends if they have an interest in that lifestyle medicine. Typically, these types of appointments are not your normal doctor’s appointment, they’re going to be where you’re really looking at hormones, you’re looking at what type of lifestyle changes are necessary, and they’re going to be looking at things that go down to the root of the root of the root cause.
For example, when we’re looking at root causes, saying that someone has fatigue, is that because they have a deficiency of some type? Is it because their thyroid is off? Is it because they have a cortisol issue? Is it because they’re having a blood sugar issue? Is it because if you’re having high blood sugar, you’re also going to have low blood sugar? These are things that can drastically affect our energy. Now, to make it even a little bit more fun, these can all be interconnected and so finding which one is leading to the other one and what is really truly the root of the root of the root problem takes some detective work, a lot of which is going to land on you, but having someone guide you through knowing how to pick those pieces out is really important. This is someone who should be medically trained. They really need to understand their anatomy and primarily physiology of how the body works, the endocrine metabolic and androgen or reproductive hormone systems inside the body are very complex and while nutrition and exercise, and habits are great, we’ll get to those, it’s really important to have someone who understands how those metabolic endocrine hormone systems are going to manifest in symptoms when something isn’t working quite right.
Potentially what labs need to be ordered, potentially what symptoms to look at, and to really paint a picture of what’s going on. That’s something that your typical GYN family practice doctor isn’t going to do unless they have additional interest and extension of their practice that focuses in functional medicine. The next person that is going to be helpful when it comes to dealing with your PCOS is someone who can help you with the day-to-day activities. This could include someone who understands your specific hormone situation, your specific PCOS desires and goals, as well as your specific symptoms and struggles, to help you design a workout program, to help you design meal plans, to help you understand which foods you should be focusing on, which foods are going to be less helpful, how to combine foods in order to give your body both the nutrients as well as the sugar control, as well as the calories and the protein and macro profile that your specific body is needing to address its current root causes. This person could also be someone who helps you develop the habits and take the daily actions and holds you accountable or you could have someone like a coach, additionally helping you to take on that accountability, to help you form those habits and help you make the adjustments because everybody’s daily life is very different, everybody’s areas that trip us up are unique, and so finding someone to help you through that is going to expedite your ability to make progress, feel less frustrated, and so forth as you start your PCOS journey or as you continue your PCOS journey. The other layer of support to add to all of this is your friends and family, that can be a difficult one because sometimes we don’t want to share a whole lot with certain friends and family, but finding some family members or some friends or some people that you trust in your life that you can tell them a little bit about what’s going on in your health can be a great way to just feel people understand what’s going on for you and can help hold you accountable, to help make sure that you’re not getting weighed down by it all. And typically with family and friends and things it’s almost more of an emotional support, an emotional check in because they know you and sometimes that can be a really helpful thing when it’s like, you know you need to go and get additional help, but something’s holding you back. Having someone give you that nudge, it’s okay to get help for this is really important.
So as we look at these different areas of where you can get support for your PCOS, I think that this episode is really important because when I was working with patients in a clinical setting, a traditional medical clinical setting, so many times what I saw is people didn’t know who to ask for various questions. If I got in a conversation with some of my patients, they would start to ask, Who would I even see about? And they would bring up a different concern? Not really necessary for me to address, but just because they were hoping that I could direct them to somebody else who would know what to do with that and being in the medical world, I have felt that myself, and what I have realized is that if I ever feel like I don’t know who to ask when something’s not quite right, but I don’t know where to start, sometimes we feel like, Well, maybe this is normal. Maybe it’s normal to be this tired. Maybe it’s normal to have these things, and some doctors say, Oh, some people have irregular periods or this or that, and so when you feel like something’s off for you, it’s important to get help.
Soon after my third child was born, I went and saw a naturopathic physician. I have a regular primary MD who I go to for a lot of medical concerns, who I went to for monitoring while I was pregnant, and all of that. But I wanted someone who would sit down with me and really look at what had changed because after I had the third baby, I wanted to see what was out there as far as my thyroid had always been tested as normal. My cortisol levels have always tested as normal. And I wanted to see what the naturopathic physician would look at differently than what my normal MD was looking at. I had always done all my own research, my own testing on myself of what foods were agreeing. I would check my blood sugar at home. I would do all these things to gain my own research because I knew enough about anatomy and physiology and I understood a lot about the metabolic and endocrine that I was dealing with. But after my third baby, things were different. All the things that had used to work for me, and we’re going to talk about this in an upcoming episode, but all the things that had worked for me previously weren’t working, and I felt really frustrated and I didn’t know who to talk to. Previously, people when I would bring it up, they’re like, Oh, well, it’s normal in your 30s to gain a little bit more weight, this and that. I’m like, It’s not normal for it to be this much harder to not gain weight. It is not normal for me to previously have been able to manage my symptoms, and all of a sudden now I can’t. Anyway, I went to this naturopathic physician, and I’ve always been very rooted in traditional medicine and always been a little bit questioning what was even else was out there. And so this was a little bit uneasy for me to even step out and just be like, Well, who do I believe? Who do I trust? Who do I listen to? I realized that’s something that’s very difficult. One, we have this problem, and then two, finding someone who we feel like has sound advice and is going to lead us down a reasonable, well-thought-out track is really important. And so this was someone who not only have I learned a lot from but someone who I was very happy that I went to.
And I say this because I think sometimes we need to hear it’s okay to explore other avenues of help, and it’s okay to hear what different people have to offer, and it’s also okay to go into it trying to feel out if this is a good match for you. We’ll come back to that in just a minute, finding that good match for you. But one of the things that were really awesome with this approach was that finally, someone outside of myself was able to objectively say, Look, you’re feeling like this, you’re feeling like this, you’re noticing that. Let’s do these things in this order to go through and take a bigger, broader step-back picture of what is happening to get to that root of the root of the root. Because sometimes we are so close to our own symptoms and we are so used to them that until someone says, well, how many nights in a row did you not sleep well? And I’m like, Oh, usually it’s like a couple of weeks and then I start tracking it and I’m like, Oh, my goodness, it’s like two weeks a month, about one week at a time, so one week I sleep horribly, one week I sleep fine, the next week I sleep horribly, the next week I sleep fine and I was noticing throughout my cycle that there were just these symptoms that were really aggravating. But in the blur of my life, they weren’t making sense. So it wasn’t until someone was like, sometimes we see da, da, da, da, and had me track certain things in correlation to how I was eating, how I was exercising, other stressors or busyness, not even just things that you necessarily would be stressful. But she called it, were you rushing those days and feeling that pressure, those were all things that really helped me finally paint a picture of what was going on. We did some additional testing. She recommended some different tests to take a look at. And as normal, most things came back normal for me. They usually do. However, looking at them from a different standpoint helped to shed some light on some little things that I could tweak that made all of the difference to adjusting to my new normal after baby number three. So I definitely encourage you to not be afraid to seek the help of various people but to know where they fit into that journey.
First, you have your medical physician. This is someone who is going to be able to take drastic measures and make sure that when we have crossed certain thresholds from health to lack of health, we are supporting our body as much as we can. This would be an example of when we do have high blood pressure, we need to be on medications for that so that we don’t cause further damage. Once we have diabetes or pre-diabetes, insulin resistance, we need to be on medication so that we don’t do further damage. That is where the medical world shines. That’s where your medical doctor is going to be really necessary and they’re necessary to really keep track of are you approaching that, monitoring for that, testing you at annual checkups and so forth. Where a functional approach is really helpful is someone who has medical knowledge. So not someone who’s just trained to assist you with habit changes like a health coach or just nutrition like a dietitian. You want someone who goes deeper than that where they have medical training, they understand the symptoms, they understand the root causes, and they can assist you in knowing what lifestyle adjustments you might need.
Now, they’re still going to have more of they’ll take more time with you and they’ll look at a lot broader uniqueness of what’s going on for you than a medical dole doctor. However, they’re still looking at what do you need to do, they’re not necessarily the hand holder or the accountability partner, or they might tell you some basic ideas of what to eat, basic ideas of how to exercise, or they might take it a step further and give you a lot more detailed planned. But you may also look at some dietitians or personal trainers, things like that that can help you implement what you’re learning from that functional approach. Then if you want coaching, help with habits, sometimes it’s really hard to take. My life just doesn’t allow me to, and it’s really helpful, again, to bring in someone. It doesn’t have to be long term, but bring someone in to really help you see where are you creating walls that are keeping you stuck because we all do it, and where can we adjust? What are some ways of thinking outside the box to create all of the habits and the things that you want to be doing that you feel like you just can’t quite seem to juggle all of it.
And then getting the support of family members, partners, family, all of the people that are in your life. It doesn’t have to be all of them, but getting support from the people that know you that can say, Hey, how’s that going? You seem to be stressed about it. You seem to be down about it. Do you need to go and find someone or make that appointment again? What do you need to do so that you can get your questions answered? Because I think so much of the time we feel like I’m just stuck. I guess I have to live with this. My doctor put me on birth control, this is the options they gave me. It’s this or that, and you don’t know where else to look and so the idea of this episode is I want you to realize it’s okay to ask and it’s okay to look outside. And it’s actually when it comes to PCOS, it’s not going to be a one-stop shop. You’re going to have to have a whole team. Sometimes they’ll work all nicely together. A lot of times, and this brings us back to the most important part of this, and that is you are the glue that holds it all together.
The other people that are supporting you may not even agree with each other. There may be conflicting ideas of what you should be eating for PCOS or how you should be exercising for PCOS. Ultimately, these people are there to assist you in learning about your body, making sure that your body gets what it needs, and then it really comes down to you needing to be in that driver’s seat of making those decisions about what fits, what doesn’t fit, the path you want to take, even just things like being assertive of if you’re willing to spend some money on this. That was one thing that I’ve noticed when I’ve gone to various medical practices for various questions in health is that sometimes people give me an answer and you’re like, Well, that’s nice, but I wasn’t really that invested in this. It wasn’t something that I wanted to go down that big of a rabbit hole on. And other things you’re like, No, I’m really here because I want to pull out all stops, I want to look at everything, and I’m okay spending a couple extra hundred dollars on testing that my insurance doesn’t cover, or I’m okay doing some glucose monitoring that goes beyond what my insurance or who knows what your insurance is going to cover, and so sometimes as practitioners, and I know because I’ve been there, we feel bad with our patients all of a sudden being told, oh, that’s going to be a couple of hundred dollars. And so we warn people and you’re trying to read like, I don’t want to just assume that someone’s okay spending a lot of money on something because maybe it’s going to be helpful, maybe it’s not. And so it can be an awkward area with insurance and the unknowns of insurance when you get outside of I mean, insurance is going to cover needed medications most of the time. But what about the things that are not necessarily gold-standard treatments? Insurance is hit-and-miss on those. And so it’s difficult as a provider to recommend something when you know your patient might get told this isn’t going to be covered, and so having that conversation and being assertive as the patient that, you know what, let’s just go as far as we can, let’s see what happens, really helps to open the doors of the conversation to where the practitioner is not trying to tiptoe around that. Ideally, none of these things would be an issue, right? But it’s just the reality of the situation. And again, this comes back to you being in the driver’s seat of where are you on this? Are you ready to plunk down that money? Is this something that’s your priority right now? Or is your priority buying a treadmill? So you have a treadmill at home or is your priority saving money so you don’t have to work so hard because you really know you need to cut back on the stress? Ultimately, you have to look at your life and be like, okay, this is where I’m willing to put that effort, this is where I don’t want to and so all of that is really just these are the people, this is the groups, this is the team where you can gather the information and then you have to pick through it a little bit yourself and find the people that resonate with you, that you feel like this person could give me the assistance that I’m currently needing. These are the tools they’re recommending and these of those tools are the ones that resonate with what I need to be doing, and the places where I’m feeling stuck, where I’m feeling stressed, where I’m feeling confused, where I’m feeling blocked, those are the places where you want to seek the help, where you want to ask the questions.
I remember this isn’t an exact PCOS topic, although it is because skin tags are very common in PCOS. But I remember patients being so embarrassed to ask me, do you remove skin tags? And then once they had bridged that gap and I had said, oh, yeah, yeah, that’s definitely something we do. Those things are annoying. Let’s get rid of those. And once they saw the attitude of, yeah, I am here to help with that, then they would be brave enough to say, well, I have this one in this embarrassing spot. Is that something that you could remove? And sometimes we meet with practitioners that are like, oh, No, I don’t do that and sometimes then we feel like, okay, I asked the wrong question. I hope you never feel that way. As health care providers, we want to be able to assist our patients, even if it’s like, I don’t do that, but this is who does. Let me give you a recommendation or referral to who would be a good person to see about that. And when it comes to our health and our bodies, it can be hard to bring up all the things that are going on for us can be hard to even put into words or figure out what our question is. And so I want to just remind you because maybe you need to hear this. I know that even for me, being a health care provider, needing to hear this sometimes is that health care providers have seen it all, heard it all, and nothing is going to embarrass us, or make us uncomfortable. It might be a new one for us, but we have definitely been through enough things that it’s a safe place to bring up what you need. And if it doesn’t feel like a safe place for any reason, it’s just not a good fit for you. You didn’t do anything wrong. You didn’t say anything wrong. You didn’t ask a question you shouldn’t have asked. It just wasn’t a good fit provider to patient and so move on, find someone that has a better fit to you and your needs. But your questions about your body are an important thing to be able to ask. You need to be able to find safe places where you can ask what to do about your symptoms, and are these symptoms normal, and what’s working for other people that are dealing with this situation.
Okay, so the takeaway here as we wrap up this episode is that while you need to be the one taking control of your health. I really invite you to step into that place of you may not know it all, you don’t actually need to learn it all, but you’re the one that’s going to have to take the initiative because especially when it’s something that comes to PCOS, we can’t just take your blood pressure and know what’s going on. We need to hear all of the symptoms as practitioners to help you and to know where to refer you to. Ideally, you find people that are open to the approach that you want to take. There are many approaches when it comes to PCOS, whether you choose to take birth control, start metformin prior to having any labs that indicate that your PCOS is causing insulin resistance or things like that. Those are all conversations that you can have with your physician of the pros and the cons of that. Ultimately, you need to have someone that’s checking and being aware of the risk factors of making sure that your thyroid is functioning well, of making sure that you’re not developing any of the risks of cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes, things like that.
Then you need to be able to get your questions answered on how to feel better in your body if you’re dealing with fatigue and things like that. There are going to be many ways of approaching that. You need to find the ones that resonate with you, that make sense with you, that you’re willing to try. It’s going to take some gathering of information to decide which one feels like a good place for you to start and from there, once you found someone that resonates with you to help you take the actions and if you need additional help with accountability and things like that, making sure that you’re voicing the areas that you’re struggling. Unless we hear where you’re struggling, we can’t offer support and so ultimately, what I want your takeaway from this episode to be is that it’s okay to ask for help, it’s okay to get help. And sometimes the darkness, the frustration, the hopelessness that we feel can be so significantly improved just by having someone hear us out telling us that, oh, yeah, this is a normal thing. I’ve seen so many women that have this going on, and this is what’s working for people.
And this is where we’re going to start. And having someone lay out a plan like that and your next step, all of a sudden that feeling of hopelessness, of this, is just how it’s going to be, of not knowing what to do about it can fade away. And you can start feeling like you’ve got your power back where all of a sudden you’re taking action, you’re feeling good about the things that you’re monitoring, that you’re looking at, how you’re listening to your body, how you’re caring for your body, how you’re continuing to learn and grow and work with your body to achieve the results that you want. So there you have it, my friend. All the different aspects that come into thinking about who do we want supporting us in our PCOS. Get the support that you need, ask for it. Don’t be shy because when it comes to PCOS, it’s not simple. Once you figure out what works for you, it can be a fairly simple thing that you just incorporate in your life, but for the most part, it can take some trial and error, and it can be frustrating and daunting along the way as you get started.
With that, if you’ve enjoyed this episode, please hit the subscribe button so that you get notified each and every week when the next topic of PCOS Health becomes available until next time, if you have any specific questions, I’d love to connect with you over on Instagram where we can continue this conversation further. You can find me @Nourishededtohealthy, and I look forward to talking to you over there. And until next time, bye for now.
Did you know that studies of PCOS epigenetics have shown that our environment can either worsen or completely reverse our PCOS symptoms? I believe that although PCOS makes us sensitive to our environment, it also makes us powerful. When we learn what our body needs and commit to providing those needs, not only do we gain back our health, but we grow in power just by showing up for ourselves. This is why I’ve created a guide for you to get started. My PCOS fertility meal guide can be found in the show notes below. I want to show you how to create an environment that promotes healing while still being able to live a life that you enjoy. This guide is completely free, so go get your copy now so that you can step into the vision that you have for your life and for your health.
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