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Hi, pod fam !! 

Okay, first of all, how is it already almost fall? Don’t get me wrong—I am READY for some cooler, less humid weather, but wow. This summer has been one I’ll never forget, and I’d be lying if I said I w asn’t sad to see this season end! 

One of my favorite parts of this summer—apart from getting engaged !!—was getting to talk with SO many incredible humans for the podcast. Incredible humans who are doing incredible work to help others live happier, healthier lives.

This week’s incredible podcast guest is Amanda Montalvo, a Registered Dietician (RD) and Functional Diagnostic Nutrition Practitioner (FDN-P), who specializes in helping women heal their hormones through food. We’re talking about the spectrum of PCOS, why PCOS is so common these days, and how to start feeling better by taking inventory of your food and lifestyle habits.

Ready to get into it? Let’s get juicy!

First of all…what is PCOS?

Polycystic ovary syndrome (more commonly known by its acronym PCOS) is a hormone-related condition affecting 6 to 12% of women in the US (close to 5 million women). It sort of exists on a spectrum, Amanda tells us, based on root causes and symptoms. Because infertility is often caused by PCOS, many women are diagnosed when they start trying to get pregnant. But it’s also commonly diagnosed based on the severity of other symptoms. 

So, what are some of the symptoms of PCOS? 

PCOS can show up differently, possibly depending on the root cause and other lifestyle factors. You might not have all of these symptoms, and the ones you experience might be more or less severe. Some possible signs of PCOS (or another sort of imbalance) include:

  • Irregular menstrual cycles (Do you have fewer than 10 cycles a year? No cycles at all?)
  • Acne 
  • Abnormal hair growth (facial hair, bellybutton, nipples, or low back hair)
  • Hair loss
  • High androgens (male hormones present in women; shown in bloodwork)
  • Cysts on ovaries 

Interestingly, painful periods are NOT a symptom of PCOS. With that being said, many women with PCOS DO experience painful periods because of hormonal imbalances which may also be causing PCOS. 

And on the topic of period pain…let’s make it known that period pain is NOT NORMAL. So many of us deal with cramps and painful periods that we’ve just normalized it. Okay, but some pain is normal; Amanda tells us that if you can take ibuprofen and it goes away, that’s technically “normal” pain. But the kind of pain that debilitates you and ruins your day? Nope. Not normal. There are a ton of reasons why severe period pain happens, including inflammation, low progesterone levels, and other hormonal imbalances. 

Okay, back to PCOS. 5 million women having this condition sounds like a big deal. Right?! AND IT TOTALLY IS A BIG DEAL. 

Why is PCOS so prevalent these days?

We’ll often hear from doctors that it’s obesity or insulin resistance, says Amanda, but no one is asking WHY or how we got to this point. In Amanda’s personal experience, being on birth control for years was depleting her body of nutrients it needed to support hormonal balance, leading to the development of PCOS. 

Some of the most common causes include:

  • STRESS (we’ll get into this more)
  • Insulin resistance (could be related to yo-yo dieting and overcompensation)
  • Constantly being on our phones, not getting enough sunlight (vitamin D deficient)
  • Being on the pill for a long time
  • Depleting ourselves of nutrients because of lifestyle habits or stress 
  • Restricting foods for a long time

As a registered dietician, Amanda works with clients to help address the controllable root causes of conditions like PCOS—stress, diet, and lifestyle habits. She shared some tips to help us on our healing journeys. 

What’s stress got to do with it?

Among the patterns Amanda has seen with her clients, a type-A, always go, go go personality tends to be common (but isn’t necessarily always the case). Aside from that, so many of us seem to be “addicted to cortisol,” she says. “We all have habits of doing, doing, doing.” We “need to be distracted” and are constantly stressed out, needing to be stimulated, trying to do and have it all. 

Most of us know that chronic stress can affect us both mentally and physically, and in the technology-addicted, cortisol-addicted society we live in, it’s definitely affecting us at rates like never before—hence the high PCOS rates in recent years. To find balance, we need to take a look at how we’re currently living and see what’s sustainable in the long term. How do we get ourselves out of this constant fight-or-flight response?

Amanda has a few ideas. This is the “weirdest prescription to give,” she says, “but try to do nothing.” Just sit without distractions—allow yourself to be bored. Of course, this is easier said than done. If our nervous system is used to being so on all the time, being bored can be painful. We don’t want to slow down or calm down when we’re so used to protecting ourselves in this way. It can help to start slow—maybe by setting some technology boundaries—rather than jumping right into a meditation practice.

How can we promote healing through food?

While working on lowering our stress is one way to heal, another way is through food—Amanda’s speciality. One thing she wants to stress is that cutting carbs is not the answer. The keto diet, for example, can lead to a sluggish thyroid, which can slow down your metabolism and lead to low progesterone levels—exacerbating PCOS and/or leading to lowered fertility down the road.

Carbs are our preferred energy source, she says. But we can be smart about how & when we’re eating them, what types of carbs we’re eating, and how much we’re eating. Sweet potatoes, root vegetables, winter squash, potatoes, plantains, and fruit are some of her favorite recommended carbs. 

In this episode, we’ll dig deeper into some more specific recommendations and notes regarding food and PCOS. But here are some questions we can all be asking to help us address our own diets:

  • Do you have an appetite when you wake up?
  • Are you eating throughout the day?
  • Do you have fears around food?
  • Are you eating nutrient-dense foods (plant- and animal-based)?

The biggest takeaway is that food can lead to healing. But a big obstacle is that we often just don’t tune in enough to our lifestyle and dietary habits—and how these make us feel—enough to take action. It all comes down to cause and effect. Once we can identify the cause(s), we can start to manage their effect(s).

As always, tune into the episode for allll the juicy goodness in this ep! And be sure to share your thoughts with me on our NEW IG, @shoporganicolivia

xoxo,

Olivia

Connect with Amanda Montalvo:

Follow @hormonehealingrd on IG

Visit the Hormone Healing website

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