The Secrets of a Sustainable PCOS Diet & Lifestyle [Podcast]
“One of the first things about maintaining a sustainable approach towards dealing with PCOS is acknowledging and addressing these inner symptoms and feelings. How can we help the woman feel better about herself and who she is and accept certain realities about her body type and then work toward a healthy lifestyle and see if anything changes, but not think, ‘I have to starve myself skinny.’ That’s not how it works with PCOS.” – Carol Lourie
This summer I met a kindred spirit. Carol Lourie is a functional medicine practitioner, naturopath, acupuncturist and homeopath with over 30 years of experience in helping women with PCOS recover using an integrative approach. She and I agree that a combination of a healthy lifestyle and the correct supplements is the way to attend to the PCOS imbalance from the inside out. Listen as we discuss:
- creating a sustainable, healthy PCOS lifestyle
- how to approach PCOS with your teenage daughter
- her recommended diet (& how to eat away from home)
- her recommended supplements (including the right way to take berberine)
- how to decrease your inflammatory quotient
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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: Hello and welcome to the PCOS Diva podcast. My name is Amy Medling. I’m a certified health coach and founder of PCOS Diva. My mission is to help women with PCOS find the tools and knowledge they need to take control of their PCOS, so they can regain their fertility, femininity, health and happiness.
If you haven’t already, make sure you check out pcosdiva.com. There I offer tons of great free information about PCOS and how to develop your PCOS diet and lifestyle plan so you can begin to thrive like a Diva. Look for me on iTunes, Facebook and Instagram as well.
Today, I have the privilege of talking to Carol Lourie. Carol is a native Philadelphian. She received her undergraduate degree from Temple University, and she went on to attend the National College of Naturopathic Medicine. She also has her acupuncture license, and she is an expert in homeopathy and has attended advanced functional medicine classes. She is a really great functional practitioner for women with PCOS. Without further ado, Carol, I just want to welcome you to the podcast.
Carol Lourie: Thank you so much for having me, Amy. It’s really a privilege to be here.
Amy Medling: I met you this summer. It was like meeting a kindred spirit, another woman who’s really devoted her life to and her practice to helping women with PCOS. I know you became especially concerned with the increase of young girls and women coming to your practice with this complex presentation of PCOS. You’ve really focused your expertise in helping women with PCOS recover using an integrative approach, which I love.
Carol Lourie: I think the integrative approach is so important and really the way to go. About a year and a half ago I attended the PCOS symposium at UCLA. A lot of the moms brought their young daughters in to attend the seminar. It was a day-long seminar. They came up to talk to me and they said, “We don’t really know what to do. The doctor just says just go on the birth control pill or just take Metformin. My daughter is only 12 or 13 or 14. I don’t want her on the pill and the Metformin, so what are my options?”
As you and I both agree, we need to get the word out there that there is a lot you can do with a healthy lifestyle and the correct supplements to attend to the PCOS imbalance from the inside out.
Amy Medling: I think that’s why I like what you do and the work you do and really getting to that root cause. I know we recorded a podcast for a summit recording for an upcoming summit that you have on having that mind-body connection and healing. Definitely, why don’t you give that a little plug as well right now before I forget? I love that you recognize that mind-body healing is so important for women with PCOS too.
Carol Lourie: Thank you. We’ll be having a summit called Her Health and Spirit Summit. It’s set to start February 10th. It’s going to be approximately five to seven days. We’re having, I think, 42 speakers at this point. The whole attitude or approach of the summit is we all have to attend to the inner spirit of the woman in addition to the outer health, and attending to both of them, the psychological, emotional, the spiritual, along with the physical things that we need to do is really the way to go to up-level your health and achieve a higher level of feeling well and wellness.
Amy Medling: I think as we record this podcast it’s January 3rd, and we’re embarking on a new year and everybody has their New Year’s intentions and resolutions, and I think for me that that is how I am able to sustain a healthy lifestyle is that I’m also working on nurturing my spirit and that mind-body connection and working on my personal growth and development. Fueling that fire definitely helps me sustain taking care of my body.
I think today I would love to talk with you about some tips on how do you encourage your patients on creating a sustainable healthy PCOS lifestyle that you can keep with it beyond the first couple weeks of the New Year.
Carol Lourie: I want to go back to what it was like for these moms with their young girls who came to see me. This was in Los Angeles. Los Angeles is one of the most externally oriented places on the planet. One of the side effects of having PCOS is your body has a little different shape. Maybe you’re a little overweight, maybe you have some facial hair. Women come into my practice and they go, “I hardly eat anything, but I can’t lose weight. I’m exercising.” There’s a lot of shame that they have that they don’t “fit in.”
I think one of the first things about maintaining a sustainable approach towards dealing with PCOS is acknowledging these inner symptoms and these inner feelings and addressing them. How can we help the woman feel better about herself and who she is and accept certain realities of her body type and then work towards a healthy lifestyle and then see if anything changes, but not think that I have to starve myself so I can be skinny. That’s not the way it will work when you have PCOS.
Amy Medling: I think for me, it was a huge mindset shift from going, what I call the “diet deprivation and denial” mindset, constantly depriving myself on these crazy diets to one of a mindset of nourishing and really being nurturing to myself. That is what helped me make a big shift. That’s what I teach my clients. I think you’re right. Going from starving yourself to really feeding your body the foods that are going to help it heal.
Carol Lourie: That attitude that you’re talking about, about nurturing and self-care is really the way that I think a young girl or a woman in the world can hold onto that attitude and move forward. It makes it very easy to make the choices that she needs to make for her health without feeling deprived. Deprivation is really not a way to go.
Amy Medling: How do you counsel if you have a mom and teen in your office? I have two teenage boys myself. I’ve really worked at talking to them about healthy eating and why it’s so important with their body and their mind and their athletics and everything. I feel like I have these wellness warriors, but I’ve been working on them for years now since they were little. How do you, for the moms out there listening, how do you help a teenage girl who’s going out with friends eating pizza and ice cream and Doritos and soda? How do counsel to help them make that shift?
Carol Lourie: I think the whole thing about eating healthy for PCOS is the way the whole family needs to eat. It’s not a radical diet. It’s not a radical food plan. A lot of the moms have husbands and everybody seems to be a little overweight and their cholesterol is too high. I work with the moms. Really, this is not just “a diet for your daughter who has PCOS.” It’s a healthy way to eat for the mom and the dad and the brothers and the other siblings in the house. I think that’s the first place to start.
It’s very hard for a young girl, or any teenager, when they go out with their friends and everybody’s eating pizza and soda and Doritos, which are just horrible for everybody. It’s especially horrible for a young girl with PCOS.
I encourage her; I think this is where the empowerment comes in to say to her friends, “I don’t want to go to a pizza place,” or “Is there a pizza place that will serve a salad. Then I can have a salad while you guys are having pizza.” Maybe she’d only have two bites of pizza as opposed to two slices and have a salad. There are ways to make healthier choices for yourself so that you’re not hurting your body with food. It’s an up-leveling experience of maturity and determination, I think.
Amy Medling: I love that you said that really the whole family has to get onboard to support that young girl with PCOS or any woman with PCOS. I know in my family, I don’t cook two different meals. I think that that really sets women up for disaster when they’re cooking a meal for themselves and then something else for everyone else in the family. I just highly discourage that approach to a PCOS lifestyle. You’re right. It’s going to benefit everyone in the family eating the way that we should be eating with PCOS.
Carol Lourie: It’s not that hard to eat healthy. It takes a little bit of time management initially when you have to open your pantry door and look at all the unhealthy food that you have in there, all the processed food, all the pre-packaged food.
I always talk to people who come to see me about the pantry redo moment. I’m going to be filming a little video about that and have it on my website because it’s such an important component of people have to up-level their health. Our American society, unfortunately, isn’t going to help them do it. The wonderful thing about the internet is that there are sites such as yours and mine and lots other people that we know who talk about up-leveling your pantry and up-leveling your health and your family with your food.
Amy Medling: For you, what does healthy eating look like? How do you advise your clients to get started?
Carol Lourie: I usually recommend a modified Mediterranean diet. What that means is healthy oils like really extra virgin olive oil, lots of organic fish and protein and meat and chicken, a ton of vegetables in salads in the summer and in the winter when it’s colder out to eat cooked vegetables, limited grains.
I also try to get people to be gluten-free, which I live in California. It’s not that hard out here, but I imagine that some places it’s harder than others. There’s tons of gluten-free pasta options and gluten-free cereal options. People shouldn’t be eating that many sugary sweets and cookies and crackers. There are really easily found gluten-free cookies and crackers. If you’re a baker, there’s lots of gluten-free flour options to use to make your recipes gluten-free. I just finished baking a ton of holiday cookies gluten-free. I used an eighth of the amount of sugar that was required in the recipe. They came out delicious.
Amy Medling: I think gluten-free is something that I’ve been talking about for a long time. All my meal plans are gluten-free. It made a huge impact in my health. I know one thing that I have noticed is hair loss. If I find gluten slipping back into my diet, I start experiencing hair loss again. I know that so many women with PCOS deal with hair loss. I encourage you to give it a shot.
Carol’s right. There’s lots of products that are gluten-free. It doesn’t mean carte blanche on gluten-free cookies and crackers, like you said. You can do it and not feel deprived. It’s just a great way to help with leading more of an anti-inflammatory lifestyle. What do you think about dairy, Carol?
Carol Lourie: I think everybody’s really different. I think a lot of the processed cheese and cheeses are not so great. Out here we have this local organic farm that makes delicious whole milk yogurt. I tell a lot of my patients they can have that. I’m not a big fan of cow’s milk, but I think this organic plain yogurt is delicious and has good calcium and probiotics in it.
I also recommend that people eat feta or goat cheese in their salads. As far as lots of heavy cheeses and that kind of thing, I don’t think it’s so great for people. As you mentioned, there is an inflammatory component with PCOS that is contributing to the cysts in the ovaries.
One of the approaches that we have as people with a more integrative or natural approach towards PCOS is you want to decrease the inflammatory quotient in the person’s body. The first step through that is some change in your diet, and then there are supplements that women can take to also help with that.
Amy Medling: We’re going to be talking about supplements in a minute. I’m just curious in your experience. I know I have found that it’s very difficult to be a vegetarian or vegan with PCOS. In my experience personally and with my clients and just anecdotal information I’ve been hearing from women for years online, that we need some clean animal protein. Just curious what your thoughts are on that.
Carol Lourie: I’m not a fan of veganism. Maybe if you live in Hawaii and the weather is beautiful, but if you live where you live on the east coast, it’s freezing in the winter. I’m an acupuncturist, and I believe that thousands of years ago people ate with the seasons. You don’t eat lettuce when it’s -13 degrees out. You have to follow the seasons for your life and your diet. I’m not a big vegan fan at all.
Too many times people have come into my practice. They’re “vegetarians.” The definition of that is cheese and bread. There’s not enough vegetables. There isn’t enough protein combination. If you’re going to be a vegetarian, you have to really do a little bit of study to make sure that you know what you’re doing and not just deciding that I’m not going to eat chicken or meat or fish. I’m just going to eat pasta and red sauce and cheese and bread. That’s not going to cut it for your health.
I do believe that it’s really important to eat grass-fed beef. I have that very available where I live. I know that there are websites where you can get frozen grass-fed naturally raised beef if you’re going to eat red meat, especially if you have PCOS where you have problems synthesizing the estrogen, you don’t want to eat normally processed red meat. I should rephrase that. It’s not healthy for you because normally raised meat has a lot of antibiotics. They feed it sometimes hormones to make the cows fatter. You’re getting that extra exogenous hormones when you eat the red meat from that animal and that’s really not healthy for you.
Amy Medling: That’s what I mean by clean protein, definitely grass-fed beef. I think it’s funny. I know I’m going to be “woo-woo” here, but I do feel like you take on that energy. I know my husband and I with my boys were traveling. The boys wanted to go to Five Guys Burgers. We were like, “All right. We’ll just go.” I don’t think I’ve ever been there before. That night, I had such a hard time sleeping because I had such anxiety. I was thinking to myself, “I wonder if it’s this anxiety from this meat that was probably not all that humanely treated. Anyway, just something to think about. I would love for you to give our listeners some tips on how we can make eating healthy easier.
Carol Lourie: I’m a big fan of bringing my lunch. I have a 99% organic household. I don’t think that everybody has to be that way, but it is easier if you set your mind on that. I always bring my lunch. I know that I have my little breakfast shake I make for myself, and then I go to my office with my little Igloo, and I have my lunch in it. I know that when I’m working, I’m in control of what I’m eating.
If you’re a young girl and you’re going to school, it’s really fine to bring your lunch. One of the things a lot of the moms say to me is that it’s too expensive to eat healthy and organic. If you’re not buying soda, which nobody should be spending their money on whether you have PCOS or not, and if you’re not buying a lot of processed foods that come in these boxes that the advertising companies are spending a lot of money to make you think that you need to buy, you can really pay attention to your household budget for food in a smarter, healthier way. Buying organic brown rice from the health food store in bulk is a lot cheaper than going to the local supermarkets and buying it that’s already been processed and it’s in a box.
The other thing I recommend that young women and also adult women figure out is where are the restaurants that I can go to where I can have better level of control over what I eat and that there are things on the menu where I can say to them, “Please put the salad dressing on the side,” or “I want a turkey burger or a grilled chicken breast without the bread, please.” It’s very easy to eat a sandwich without the bread if you’re going out to a restaurant. Little things like that can make a really big difference.
Amy Medling: I call it being a Diva at the restaurant asking for exactly what you want and not being afraid to do that.
Carol Lourie: I love that approach. That’s a great phrase and it’s a great attitude.
Amy Medling: Let’s shift a little bit to supplements. What are some of your favorite supplements for women with PCOS?
Carol Lourie: I like to do a couple of things, which I feel attend to the three different areas of the main problems with PCOS. One is the blood sugar control. There’s lots of different products, but I recommend this powder that can be made into a delicious healthy smoothie shake. It has inulin in it and it has berberine in it and it has probiotics in it. It really helps control the blood sugar for the young woman. It tastes delicious and it has protein in it, too. It’s a wonderful way to start the day.
For the menstrual problem that I think are very common for young women, I recommend some liver support in the form of berberine and there are herbs and supplements in there that are really important for helping the woman with her menstrual irregularities. Fetal methyl folate is important if a woman has an MTHFR issue. What else can we talk about? What do you recommend?
Amy Medling: What do you think about inositols; myo-inositol, D-chiro-inositol?
Carol Lourie: Yes, for blood sugar?
Amy Medling: For blood sugar-
Carol Lourie: Absolutely.
Amy Medling: … and cycles. I think berberine is fantastic. I think it also helps with androgens as well. Now, I do advise women to make sure they’re taking a probiotic at a different point in the day than they’re taking the berberine because it is anti-microbial and to give their body a break after a little while with berberine. Do you have any protocol for that for your patients?
Carol Lourie: I think it’s a good idea to not take berberine 24/7, every day of the week. I usually recommend two weeks on and two weeks off, two weeks on, two weeks off and center that around their cycle so that they’re taking it two weeks before their period, and then from the time of their period until they first have the cycle and then I have them stop it.
Amy Medling: That’s a good approach as well. I think berberine is fantastic for women with PCOS. You had mentioned liver support, things like N-acetyl cysteine is great, I think, for women with PCOS as well. Of course, some good omega 3s- fish oil.
Carol Lourie: Essential fatty acids, absolutely. Yes, absolutely, up to 1500 milligrams of the ETA, DHA maybe even twice a day.
Amy Medling: I think that can help on so many different levels. It’s like a great bang for your buck. I think it’s really important for women to get their vitamin D levels checked and make sure that you’re trying to optimize your vitamin D. Some women may need really mega doses to get them optimized, so really important to check. It’s very common for women with PCOS to be very low in vitamin D.
Carol Lourie: Vitamin D has a lot to do with immunity and inflammation. When you think about vitamin D, there are people who come in. They’ve been given 50,000 IUs by their medical doctor. I think that in nature there is no such thing as 50,000 IUs of vitamin D. I really recommend just 5,000 IUs per day.
Here we get into the conversation of not all vitamins are created equally. I think it’s important to buy your vitamins from somebody such as yourself or myself, who really has pharmaceutical quality supplements and can guarantee you that what is on the label is in the bottle. People come in to see me. They’ve bought their vitamins from Trader Joe’s or Costco or Sam’s or CVS. I just feel like you’ve wasted your money because there’s no quality control in the supplement that they’re producing.
Amy Medling: Absolutely. Like you said, you want to get a good bang for your buck and just not be peeing the vitamins out because they’re just not really bioavailable. I totally agree with that. Again, it’s being a Diva and being very particular about the way that you care for yourself. I think it’s one thing to buy the supplements but it’s another thing to make sure that they’re all parsed out every week and ready to take them, whether you’re doing it twice a day or three times a day. That’s a real act of extreme self-care, making sure you take your supplements.
Carol Lourie: Yes, I love that. I’m about to have a video on my website. I have people that I treat, not only with PCOS but who are recovering from cancer. Sometimes they need to take 12 different supplements several times a day. How do you go from taking those 12 bottles or five bottles, if you have PCOS, and making it so that you’re not overwhelmed and that you do get to take your vitamins in a healthy easy way?
I think the key is once a week on Sunday, or if you want to do it for two weeks, you line all the bottle up with your little Ziploc snack bags and you get these little color coded dots. You have one color for the morning and one color for the afternoon and one color for the evening. You put them on the dots, the dots on the little plastic bags. Then you take those bags and you fill them with your morning, afternoon and evening supplements. You then have those with you in your backpack or your pocketbook. When you’re eating your lunch with your friends or by yourself at your desk or whatever, in the cafeteria, you just take out your little Ziploc lunch bag and you start swallowing pills as you’re eating your food.
Amy Medling: That’s exactly what I do.
Carol Lourie: Good. You think, oh my god, how can I get into this? It’s a pain in the neck, but after a week or 10 days, you’re going to start feeling better. It’s going to become something that’s become so much of your ritual of self-care and taking care of yourself. You’ll be able to see the result of I changed my diet a little bit. Now I’m taking these pills. My periods are a little bit better. I’m not so depressed. I’ve lost a few pounds. My hair isn’t falling out as much. It’s a very positive reinforcement, don’t you think?
Amy Medling: Yeah. You know what? You definitely feel, I know I do when I’m not taking them. It’s something that it’s trial by error, trial by experimentation. I often say PCOS is just a big experiment. You have to experiment with how the vitamins make you feel, the supplements, the food, the exercise, the stress reduction, and just really notice the impact it’s having on your body. I think that’s what makes it sustainable, right? That’s the question we had at the beginning of the podcast, how to make your PCOS lifestyle sustainable over the long-haul.
Carol Lourie: It is a lifestyle change. It’s a habit change also. A lot of the habits that people have developed are unconscious habits that their families had, or that their moms had it, their dads had it. If you have a disease such as PCOS or complex metabolic syndrome, one of the things it does is it forces you to wake up and think, “God, I’m eating sugared cereal that’s like cardboard with cow’s milk for breakfast. I don’t feel so great in the morning after I eat that. What are my options?”
Luckily, the internet has a lot of information that’s free out there to help you up-level your habits so that they become more conscious and they’re also habits that are healthy and working for you as you turn from a young teenager into your adulthood. Then you think about starting habits for your own family. You want people to be healthy. It doesn’t take that much to make some small changes can have a very big impact on your health.
Amy Medling: Definitely. You have another exciting summit coming up for us this 2017. I thought you could just tell us a little bit about that upcoming summit as well as how women listening can learn more about the work you do.
Carol Lourie: Sure. Amy has agreed, thank you very much, to join me on my PCOS project summit. We’re hoping to have that air sometime between the mid-May to the beginning of June. We’ll be having just a few expert people talking about PCOS from all the different angles, that it’s important to up-level your health and have a healthy lifestyle that you can adjust to with this complex metabolic syndrome. We’ll be looking out for an announcement for that.
You can reach me through my website, naturalhealthcarehealingcenter.com. My office is in Berkeley, California. My last name is spelled L-O-U-R-I-E. My first name is Carol. If you Google me, my website will come up. I also have on my website, I have a free giveaway that people are more than welcome to get. There’s two different options. One is called the Lourie Process and the other is from Reproductive Fertility Nutritionals. They’re both a healthy nutrition guide. It has everything that I’ve spoken about: the modified Mediterranean approach, what are the positive things to eat, what are some of the things you want to avoid. It’s all downloadable and there’s a shopping list in there that you can download to your phone, so when you’re going shopping you can look and see is this on the good list or is this something I need to avoid. I look forward to hearing from people.
Amy Medling: Thank you so much for coming on and sharing your wisdom with us and your experience working with women with PCOS. I can’t wait to hear the Spirit Summit that’s coming up. Wow- 42 interviews. It’s going to be a great summit.
Carol Lourie: Thank you.
Amy Medling: I’m looking forward to being with you on that, the PCOS summit coming up. That wraps up our podcast today. Thank you so much for listening and joining us. I hope you enjoyed it. If you liked this episode, don’t forget to subscribe to PCOS Diva on iTunes, the podcast app, or wherever else you might be listening to this show. If you have a minute, please leave me a quick review on iTunes. I love to hear from you.
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