“It’s very difficult to recover from PCOS with our standard societal approach, and it’s very easy to feel isolated and alone, and then all these negative self-talk voices come in and you have a lot of shame and, “Why don’t I look like this?”, “Why can’t I do that?” PCOS does not have to be a horrible sentence. It’s a complex illness, but you absolutely can find the right tools and recover your health.” – Carol Lourie
Carol Lourie takes a holistic approach when treating her patients with PCOS. I love her visualization of the syndrome, comparing it to spokes on a wheel. There is the insulin resistance spoke, the hormone imbalance spoke, the emotional spoke, and so many more. Effective treatment of PCOS cannot be accomplished with just a pill. In order to truly heal PCOS, we must approach it from a natural and holistic perspective. Listen in (or read the transcript) as we discuss:
- Her integrative method to managing blood sugar
- Laser v. electrolysis
- When you should fire your doctor
- Best breakfast and the trouble with coffee
- Intermittent fasting
- Benefits of acupuncture & homeopathy
Previous podcast with Carol Lourie: The Secrets of a Sustainable PCOS Diet & Lifestyle
Full transcript follows.
Carol is on a mission to bring good health to as many people as possible. “I’ve always believed it is possible to recover from metabolic diseases, such as PCOS, and to feel well and have joy again.” A native Philadelphian, Carol received an undergraduate degree from Temple University and went on to attend the National College of Naturopathic Medicine in Portland, Oregon. Moving to California, she obtained her Acupuncture license. After working at the well-known Berkeley Holistic Health Center as a Homeopath and Clinical Nutritionist, in 1988, Carol founded the Natural Health Care & Healing Center in Berkeley, CA. Carol has dedicated herself to the study of homeopathy, and has attended advanced Functional Medicine classes for the last 30 years. Her studies and clinical experience have led to expertise as a practitioner of Functional Medicine and provided her with the medical foundation to unravel complex chronic disease. She became especially concerned with the increase of young girls and women coming into her practice with the complex presentation of PCOS and began to focus her expertise on helping these women recover their health using an integrative approach. She incorporates the principles of root-cause and mind-body healing and develops individual protocols for the unique needs of each woman to address their PCOS.
Amy Medling: So, on today’s podcast I am very fortunate to welcome back Carol Lourie. She has been a guest on the PCOS Diva podcast and I’m going to link to that previous podcast in the show notes. But Carol is a dear friend and she is a naturopath, a licensed acupuncturist, functional medicine expert, and homeopath, and she has over 30 years of experience in providing integrative healthcare. And she works with many, many women with hormonal imbalance and especially PCOS. So, welcome to the PCOS Diva podcast, Carol.
Carol Lourie: I’m so happy to be here, Amy. Thank you for having me back.
Amy Medling: Well, you know I love talking to you because you have an approach to PCOS that I am a huge advocate of and that is an integrative, functional medicine approach to PCOS. We both know PCOS is such a complex syndrome and we can’t just go about treating all of the symptoms, we need to get to the root of an individual woman’s root causes of PCOS. So just really grateful that you’re here and really interested in hearing more about how you approach a patient’s care with PCOS.
Carol Lourie: Sure. Well I think a really good place to start is let’s talk about the spokes on the wheel of what is PCOS. As most women who are listening know, it’s not just one thing, it’s not like you have menstrual irregularities. You can also have an underlying hormonal irregularities, there is the blood sugar dysregulation, and there is also the other inflammatory component and then the last spoke that I recently added, which I think is really important, is the emotional component of this illness. Because of the hormonal imbalances, many women have excess hair on their face which women can feel a lot of shame about and that shame sets up an underlying negative inner self talk and can cause the woman to isolate from her friends and society and that sets up an inflammatory response which really then self-cycles through the whole PCOS complex syndrome. I-
Amy Medling: I wanted to interject there too about the shame piece. You know I hear from women all the time where they’re getting shamed even by their doctors regarding their weight. You know they’re told well if you just lose some weight then your PCOS symptoms will subside and it’s, “Why didn’t you lose that weight?” Or you know just making women with PCOS feel less-than. So, it’s not only this internal feeling of shame but it’s this external triggers by the doctors as well which is really disappointing.
Carol Lourie: I wish you could see my face, could have seen my face when you said that. And to all the women out there, because that’s first of all, if a doctor talks to you like that I really want to encourage you to find a different doctor.
Amy Medling: Absolutely.
Carol Lourie: That is not any way that anybody in the healing profession should ever talk to any of their patients ever. There’s no excuse. So really, empower yourself ladies and fire that doctor and find someone who has some respect for the women that they’re working with. As you all know that if you have PCOS it’s not “just losing weight.” The nature of the blood sugar dysregulation and the inflammation, I mean I’ve had women in my practice say come in and they’re like eating 800 calories a day and they still can’t lose weight. And that is unhealthy. I mean there needs to be … in comparison to what the traditional standard American diet is, which is unhealthy for everyone, but if you have PCOS you need a different form of nutritional intake, but it needs to be healthy, live food.
If you can learn how to manage your blood sugar, and managing your blood sugar is not just about being on Metformin, there needs to be a whole integrative approach of blood sugar management. And I’m not a big pro-Metformin fan, I think that women can learn how to manage their blood sugar dysregulation through nutritional and supplements. So, if you go to your doctor and he or she gives you, “Oh you have PCOS. Here’s the birth control pill and here’s the Metformin,” I really want to encourage women to become empowered and buy Amy’s book and do research to say, “Well, you know what else can I do about this?” because it’s not just about a pill, it’s a lifestyle adjustment change and the more empowered women become about that, the healthier they will become.
Amy Medling: Yeah, and it really puts the power in our hands too. We’re not at the mercy of the doctor hoping to prescribe the magic pill, right?
Carol Lourie: Right, right. There’s no magic pill, women. There’s unfortunately no magic pill. We need to become empowered and really embrace that this is your path towards health, towards better health and a happier life. And there’s maybe you’re not going to be this super skinny, and not everybody needs to be super skinny, but you can learn how to manage your blood sugar so that you can have a healthier weight and feel good about your body. And as far as excess hair is concerned, I’m a big proponent of electrolysis.
I had a woman come to see me and she had hair, quite a bit of hair and it was the kind that I knew would respond really well to electrolysis. And she said to me, “I can’t afford it.”
So I said, “Okay. Let’s go through a typical day.”
She was going to the coffee shop and getting coffee and a latte and a scone every morning, which nobody should ever start their breakfast with. And then she was going to the nail salon and getting these super expensive toxic fake nail things every week. So we figured out if she stopped doing that, she’d have enough money to get the electrolysis that she needed to like relieve herself of this embarrassing symptom for herself. She started it. And going to electrolysis it’s a time and financial commitment but it’s well worth it because it can really, some problems in life can be simply solved and that is one of them. You know excess hair can be gotten rid of with electrolysis and/or laser depending on the type of hair.
Amy Medling: Yeah, I wanted, so I want to ask you a question about that. You mentioned that she had the kind of hair that responds well. So how would you categorize that?
Carol Lourie: She had very specific areas of dark hair almost like a man’s hair on her face and on her arms and her back. So, now if you see a physician or, now I want to encourage people if they’re going to electrolysis and/or laser to make sure they are seeing a reputable person who has been in practice for many years and has positive reviews on social media. I know that for laser you have to have a certain type of darkish hair.
Amy Medling: On light skin, right.
Carol Lourie: Yes. So, if you have the finer hair that’s like wispy, that does not respond well to laser; that’s more of an electrolysis moment.
Amy Medling: Okay.
Carol Lourie: I referred her to an electrolysis because I have a relationship with the local electrolysis woman who I sent all my PCOS patients to, and she did a wonderful, I mean this woman had to shave, and it was embarrassing and within six months, I mean, she had a major improvement on her face. And then now they’re starting on her upper arms and her back.
Amy Medling: I want to mention two things. First off, if you’re listening and this sounds like you and you feel like you can’t afford it even making some of the adjustments in your day like Carol talked about, I do endow a grant with PCOS Challenge. It’s called the PCOS Diva PCOS Challenge Confidence Grants. And we give out many grants during the year for laser and electrolysis treatments as well as acne treatments for women who can’t afford it. And you can go to pcoschallenge.com/confidence to apply for that. And Carol, I have to mention that when I was really struggling with PCOS in my early 30s I had horrible facial chin hair and it just dictated the way that I felt about myself and when you talk about that emotional spoke of the wheel, that laser hair removal was a God-send for me. It helped me move beyond that emotional struggle, so that I could really kind of let that go and take all of that brain power that I was spending obsessing about the hair on my chin and put it towards much more productive efforts and healing myself. So, I think you’re absolutely right about that.
Carol Lourie: Yeah. I want to encourage women to really do whatever they can, and I think the challenge grant is wonderful to really handle this problem in a concrete, functional way and then get it, remove it from your life. I mean, it’s like not a problem anymore. Every now and then you might need to go for a touch up, but I had a woman who was going for, she committed and within a year she went an hour and a half once a week and she handled all of her hair problems. And it was an expense but she is now like when she, and then after that she met her partner and it was not an issue for her. I mean it was just a wonderful … It’s liberating, so let’s …
Amy Medling: Yeah, yeah. So, so we talked about the emotion piece a little bit and you touched upon blood sugar. You know I’d love for you to just give some concrete tips around diet and getting your blood sugar under control.
Carol Lourie: Sure, I would love to. Let me just start out by saying that the American advertising company way of eating breakfast, which is a sugary cereal or a scone and coffee, it has nothing to do with anyone’s health whether you have PCOS or diabetes or rheumatoid arthritis. As a functional body, we should never start eating breakfast like that. We should never start our day by putting massive amounts of sugar into our body.
So, I’m a big proponent of protein smoothies because it’s really easy and it’s delicious. But if that’s not your thing, I encourage you to adopt a different attitude towards breakfast and start thinking of it as just another meal where you can have some protein and vegetables and maybe no carbohydrates or limited carbohydrates. And, I’m a big proponent for the women who come to see me of the gluten-free way of living, but gluten-free does not mean that you’re gluten-free and then you’re out there eating tons of gluten-free breads and pastries and cereals; it’s a very minimal carbohydrate component.
So, I eat for breakfast, and I recommend if I’m not doing a smoothie, like a protein and some vegetables. So that could be chicken, meat, fish, lox, and some, it depends what the season is. This morning I had a poached egg over some baked vegetables. You want to start your day out with protein and vegetables and not carbs. So, and drink some warm water in the morning with either some fresh squeezed lemon juice in it or some herb tea. You don’t want to start the day by putting coffee in your system first thing because what that does is it mobilizes glycogen from your fat storage. So you’ve started the day and you’re already having blood sugar dysregulations as part of your PCOS and it’s like you’re saying, “Hi, I’m awake. Here’s a big push of sugar in my blood sugar in my blood stream.” And your body goes whoa.
And that’s why so often women wake up in the morning, they drink coffee, and then two hours later after your body has released insulin to devour all of that excess sugar in your blood, you have that big energy slump around 10 or 10:30, and then you go for another cup of coffee. So you’re in a vicious cycle. So if we-
Amy Medling: Oh, I just wanted to ask you a couple things about the coffee. Well first I want to make a statement. I often think back, and this was true to me, that coffee is just a sugar delivery vehicle.
Carol Lourie: Yes.
Amy Medling: You know because you’re not getting, you’re not drinking black coffee, you’re drinking coffee light with extra sugar. Or you know I think a lot of women are, or a latte, vanilla latte or something. But, what about the hormone imbalancing properties of coffee. I mean coffee has its pros and cons but it really can lead to or help increase estrogen dominance.
Carol Lourie: Well now we’re getting into a complicated area. Estrogen dominance, well the way coffee can increase estrogen dominance is through the glycogen disruption. But an estrogen dominance is also increased through inflammation. And so, there’s a whole contributing level of what makes estrogen dominance. Liver dysfunction, or not that there’s anything the matter with your liver, but your liver might not be properly breaking down your hormones and that can lead to estrogen disruption. So, and estrogen dominance, I’m sorry. So, but, yeah and you’re right about coffee being a sugar delivery system because you go into one of those coffee places and you get a mocha blah blah blah and then you’re eating 480 calories and 90% of them are sugar.
Amy Medling: Yeah. And then I think too the caffeine is difficult on our adrenals and so many women with PCOS have adrenal dysregulation.
Carol Lourie: Yeah. So, I just have to say I’m not opposed to women drinking like a healthy coffee, after they’ve had breakfast and start out the day with some herb tea or hot lemon water and a healthy protein vegetable breakfast and then, you know, maybe two hours later have half a cup of coffee with some organic half and half in it or with no sugar. None of this sugar, sweet stuff, it’s not good for you.
Amy Medling: Okay. Just a quick question that I have for you. So, intermittent fasting is kind of a hot topic right now. And so lately I’ve been hearing from a lot of women whose doctors are telling them do not eat breakfast. And this one woman just emailed me the other day saying my doctor told me not to eat anything until 2 pm.
Carol Lourie: No.
Amy Medling: And to, for my insulin resistance, and to have dinner at 7 so she eats lunch at 2, eats dinner at 7 and then fasts from 7 until 2 pm the next day.
Carol Lourie: Okay, I’m so glad you brought this up. Okay, here’s the thing with intermittent fasting. You want to start it around 5 pm or 7 pm and you can’t go from 0 to 100 in a day. So, how I work with women with intermittent fasting is we start out for 12 hours. So, let’s say you finish dinner at 7 o’clock and then you don’t eat again until, other than water or herb tea, until 7 in the morning. That’s your 12 hour fast. Okay? And you do that three times a week, Monday, Wednesday, Friday. When you’ve adjusted to that, you then increase it to a 13 hour fast. So you do it from 7 pm to 8 am. And you do that for Monday, Wednesday, Friday for let’s say 10 days. And then if you’re okay with that, then you increase it to 14 hours.
So when you’re at the 14 hours, I think you really want to start before 7 pm, you want to start starting at 6 pm because I don’t agree that you don’t eat until 2 in the afternoon. That makes people dysfunctional and sick and it doesn’t feel good and everybody has a very busy life. So, you want the majority of this intermittent fasting to be in the evening when you’re at home.
I know the dangers of night eating is what really ruins the day for a lot of women and my attitude about night eating is there is an emotional component to it, but it’s also habitual, and it’s feeding … emotions that we didn’t get resolved during the day. And as you get more in touch with what those are, and you get more committed to your healing path, it becomes easier to not night eat. But it’s a habit and it takes a while to break through that. But if you’re committed to the intermittent fasting and you say, “Okay. I may want the duh duh duh that I’m craving but I’m not going to do that, I’m going to have a cup of herb tea.” I’d say it takes about two weeks to get really free of that habit. But you can’t be a functional person as a homemaker or a working woman outside of the home and not eat until 2 o’clock; you’ll feel horrible.
Amy Medling: Yeah, I think I love your advice there, and I find that I feel best when I kind of practice that 12 hour window and I can control my weight that way too; it’s a really easy way for me to control my weight.
Carol Lourie: Right. But the majority of the benefits of intermittent fasting, it’s important to know, occur mostly after between the 13 and 15 to 16 hour slots. So the 12 hours that you’re doing is just getting used to it, it’s not like you’re going to see a ton of benefit. But, I’ve had women lose weight just by really committing to stop night eating. I don’t think people are aware of how much they nibble here and there and then they have a little meal after they’re done dinner, and you know you’ve eaten another 400 calories and you’re wondering why you’re not losing weight. Everything you eat at night ladies just goes into fat storage, we don’t get to use it up.
The other suggestion I’ve made to a lot of women, is when possible, to eat a bigger meal at lunch and a smaller meal at dinner. The idea in our American society of eating this huge meal at dinnertime is not what our bodies really need. You don’t need a huge … blob of protein going into our bodies three hours before we are about to go to sleep.
Amy Medling: Yeah, these are great … tips to keep our blood sugar on track. So eating a bigger lunch, making sure that you eat protein with some type of live vegetable, I think that’s great. Whether it’s greens in a smoothie or like you had vegetables in the morning. What do you think about snacking through the day?
Carol Lourie: Well, I think some, we need to snack. I’m not opposed to snacking. The issue is it shouldn’t be cheese and crackers because that’s another meal. So, snacking for me is I love when I go to my office I bring my lunch and I bring my food with me, and I like the crunchy things like radishes and carrots and celery and red pepper. That’s snacking. I helped some women, by the time they left work and they got home they would be ravenously hungry, so they had their little snack vegetable bag that they would prepare couple days in advance so in the morning they just need to grab it from the refrigerator and they would eat these crunchy things as they were going home and then they would arrive home with more stable blood sugar and they wouldn’t be ravenous just grabbing things and putting it in their mouth because there is hunger. There is also emotional eating after a stressful day.
So if we keep, if we understand where our low points are like some people get really hungry at 4 o’clock, and if you can be prepared for that then when it happens you’re not just like, “Oh this looks good, and all I’ll just eat this bar,” and the next thing you know you’ve eaten the wrong thing for your body, even though it might feel good emotionally, in the long run it’s not going to be for your best interest.
So, and there’s also some people feel they shouldn’t eat dairy. I’m not opposed to eating the right kind of yogurt. It’s like local, whole milk yogurt, a half a cup with maybe a tablespoon or two of some nuts, that’s a very good snack. If you don’t want to eat dairy now there’s these delicious plain nut yogurts available. You can eat a little bit of soy plain yogurt. The yogurt has to be plain because when it has the fruit in it, you’re getting, it’s a sugar delivery system, right. So, you want to eat that with a little bit of nuts and I think that’s a really easy way to enjoy yourself and also be getting some protein and healthy food.
Amy Medling: So, great tips and really before we run out of time I want to tap into your knowledge and expertise because you’re such a well-rounded practitioner with experience with Chinese medicine and homeopathy, acupuncture. I’d love for you to just touch on these modalities to help women with PCOS and what do you find helpful.
Carol Lourie: Well, I’m an acupuncturist, I’m a Chinese medicine practitioner and I think Chinese medicine and acupuncture has an enormous amount to help women with PCOS. Acupuncturists are licensed in the majority of the states. And if you can find a woman who’s been in practice for, I’d say, at least five years and make an initial consultation, go to see her. I think that you’ll get a lot of benefit from this form of treatment especially if you’re dealing with infertility or painful periods.
The philosophy of Chinese medicine is wonderful for relieving the pain and the stagnation that create inflammation and infertility and disrupted menstrual cycles and painful menstrual cycles. People say to me, “I don’t like needles” because when you think about needles as Americans, we think about getting a shot or getting our blood drawn, and the acupuncture needles are thinner than one of the hairs on top of your head. So the majority of the time, it’s no more painful than just touching your skin lightly and the benefits can be huge for you. So, I want to encourage everybody to just maybe open their minds a little bit and think, “Hmm, maybe I should try this.” I’ve been doing this for 30 years and I’ve seen an enormous shift as well where I live in California, there’s a lot of acupuncturists, but in the health of the women who come to see me with the Chinese medicine and the acupuncture.
And I’d also like to talk a little bit about homeopathy, which is something that is its own system of healing and it hasn’t gotten a lot of press; people don’t really understand what it is. But the benefits of homeopathy can be huge for women with painful periods or infertility or just, even, I shouldn’t say just, even emotional disruption and hormonal imbalances. Homeopathy is a system that was discovered by a physician in Germany in the late 1800s, and it’s based on the philosophy of like treats like.
So, when you take someone’s homeopathic case, you may have the diagnosis of PCOS, but your unique symptoms of who you are as a person are very different from somebody else’s. So, we take all of that into consideration when we find a homeopathic remedy for someone. The issue with homeopathy for constitutional care as opposed to an acute care, is that the symptoms are so unique to the people, to the person that it’s difficult to say, “Oh, if you have this symptom, take this remedy.” And I’ll give you an example of how unique the symptoms can be. Someone can have menstrual pain that is better with lying down, somebody can have menstrual pain that is better standing up, someone can have menstrual pain that is better bending forward, all of those symptoms would require different homeopathic remedies. So, it’s not like there’s one remedy for menstrual pain because everyone’s menstrual pain is very different.
If anyone is interested in homeopathy, please use my contact page carollourie.com to reach me and I will either find a local homeopath for you, or I work by Skype, which is very easy to do with homeopathy. It’s its own unique system of healing, and it can really make a difference for your health.
Amy Medling: So, I wanted to kind of end the podcast with one of your quotes that I found on your website and I think it’s really uplifting. You say, “I’ve always believed it’s possible to recover from chronic disease, to feel well, and have joy again.” And maybe you could just sort of speak to this positive message for women with PCOS.
Carol Lourie: It’s very difficult to recover from PCOS with our standard societal approach and it’s very easy to feel isolated and alone and then all these negative self-talk voices come in and you have a lot of shame and, “Why don’t I look like this?”, “Why can’t I do that?” And I really feel like first of all, it’s totally possible to recover from PCOS. I want to empower all the women to get clear about that and to not take no for an answer.
If you have a physician who is not kind to you, find someone who is. There are a lot of integrative practitioners all over the United States that really have expertise in this area. There are functional medicine practitioners, there are naturopaths, there are acupuncturists, all these modalities are extremely helpful for PCOS. It takes an inner belief in yourself that, one, you don’t have to feel bad and, two, you do deserve to be beautiful inside and out and feel well. And that is what this journey is about for you.
When we are born we don’t necessarily have control over what our spiritual path or journey will be this time, but we do have control over our attitude about it, “Okay, I have PCOS. This is a pain in the neck, but I’m going to use this information and I’m going to propel myself forward, so I can become healthy and I deserve to have a happy life.” PCOS, it does not have to be a horrible sentence. It’s, you know, a complex illness but absolutely can find the right tools and recover your health.
Amy Medling: That was beautiful.
Carol Lourie: Thank you.
Amy Medling: I’m just like shaking my head as you’re saying everything because I totally agree, and you said it so eloquently. So ….
Carol Lourie: Thank you so much.
Amy Medling: Thank you. So, Carol if somebody is listening and you know what you’re saying really resonates at they want to find out more about your practice and working with you, how can they do that?
Carol Lourie: My website is carollourie.com. C-A-R-O-L-L-O-U-R-I-E, and I have a contact me page. And I’m very responsive to that. I usually get back to people within the day. If you live, wherever you live, and it’s not locally, I work through Skype and if you feel like you want me to help you find a local practitioner, I am more than happy to do that for you.
Amy Medling: And where are you located in case you know people want to actually go visit?
Carol Lourie: Yeah, I’m in Berkeley, California.
Amy Medling: Okay. Great. Well, Carol, it’s been a pleasure talking to you again and I’m so happy that you came and shared your wisdom and thoughts on PCOS with us today.
Carol Lourie: It’s been an honor to be here. Thank you for having me, Amy.
Amy Medling: And thank you everyone for listening.