Many of you may remember Stefani from the podcast interview Liz & I did with her a while back, or from the chat she and I had on The Underground Wellness show. Today, we caught up with Stefani to ask her some questions about her awesome new eBook extensively covering the topic of Poly Cystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS), “PCOS Unlocked.” Enjoy!
What started you on a path to heal yourself and what made you decide to share your discoveries with other women through PCOS unlocked?
I was diagnosed with PCOS in the fall of 2009. I didn't know a thing about ovaries, about nutrition, or about hormones. I tried finding out about hormones on the internet, and I listend to my doctor, but neither of those things cured me. How could I become fertile again? Have a sex drive again? Regain radiant skin?
At the time, working for NASA in a Dartmouth astrobiology lab, I knew that I had to apply my rigorously-honed scientific brain to the problem of PCOS. Who else was going to fix me? Who else was going to unearth exactly what was happening in my body?
What followed was several years of research in hundreds of journals, more experimentation on my own body with diets, clenses, fasts, and exercise routines than I would ever wish on anybody, and dialog with hundreds of women on overcoming their condition.
What I discovered were two facts that I thought were urgently needing to be addressed.
First: doctors very often treat symptoms rather than cure PCOS, which leaves many women not just infertile but also suffering a wide array of symptoms such as acne and being overweight. Secondly, and most importantly, however, I discovered that not just standard medical professionals but also alternative health practitioners suffer from a lack of understanding of the various causes of PCOS. Lots of people think just insulin resistance causes PCOS, but that's far from the case.
Personally, three years of agonized searching in my life would have been saved by this manual. I required a perspective that emphasized healing rather than symptom-alleviation, and I required better science and more nuance for my cure. PCOS Unlocked provides those things, and I feel enormously passionately about spreading them to women as broadly as I can.
Can you give a brief overview of the three different types of PCOS and how you see women using your guide?
In PCOS Unlocked, I break PCOS down into three different types. The reason I do this is to guide women in their treatment. If your primary cause of PCOS is insulin resistance, for example, which I categorize as type I PCOS, then you have specific strategies you should be implementing in order to heal. The same thing applies for the broad categories of type II and type III PCOS.
The breakdown goes like this:
Type I PCOS is that caused by insulin resistance, and usually being overweight. This category comprises the largest group of the PCOS population, and it gets the most attention from health practitioners.
Type II PCOS is that caused by metabolic and/or psychological stress. Women in this category are the ones that receive the least attention from the medical community. Their problem instead lies in the body's stressed out and starvation responses. Both starvation – which is triggered by a wide array of diet and lifestyle choices – as well as psychological stress are interpreted by the body as signals that it's not an ideal time to reproduce. Some women who have these problems become infertile without developing cysts on their ovaries, but women with type II PCOS have these problems and DO develop cysts. There are plenty of reasons why, and I discuss them in depth in the manual.
Type III PCOS is that caused by hypothyroidism. 90 percent of hypothyroid cases are caused by the autoimmune condition Hashimoto's Thyroiditis, so I discuss strategies for mitigating that in the guide. the other 10 percent are caused by some other phenomena such as very low carbohydrate diets and require specific attention.
Each woman falls predominantly into one of these three types of PCOS, in my opinion. Certainly, however, a woman can be a combination of two. It's common for type I and type III patients to struggle with stress, for example. What's unique about type II however is that stress– in whichever form– is the most important factor in this woman's PCOS.
In PCOS Unlocked, I walk each woman through discerning what her blood tests mean and her primary PCOS causes are, so she can then go on and pay specific attention to each one.
Sleep, eat well, maintain healthy body weight and stress less. We hear these things all the time but yet in today's world it seems almost impossible and even unthinkable for women to take care of these simple needs for herself before taking care of her family and/or career. What would you say to the average super women who has no time but has PCOS?
Good question. The thing about healing from PCOS is that I don't think it requires all that much time. Yes, you'll have to read the manual, and it may take a few hours to digest and make a plan for yourself moving forward. But I walk you through it. And asking that you eat well and maintain a healthy body weight is not – very much so it is not -a significant time drain, I don't think. Perhaps stress reduction is for some women. But the most important thing for healing in this way is a shift in habit, and a shift in perspective. That takes little time, only mental effort, and a desire to love yourself, to heal yourself, and to gently nourish yourself.
As for the time of stress reduction… it's a question that comes up time and time again. I guess I would ask at this point: what are your priorities? What makes you happy, and what makes the people around you happy? How can you increase the things you do, and the way that you live, to make yourself happier? When we sit down and really think about these things, I think we find that a lot of the things we fill our days with are not the sorts of priorities that lead to wellness and happiness. Is something that is stressful to us worth it? Perhaps. But also perhaps not. And with a focus on the things that truly matter – the things that lead to safety and joy and love and health – we can not just make our lives more livable, but also provide us with more temporal and mental space in which to breathe.
High stress is a common thread I between the three types of PCOS that you describe in PCOS Unlocked What stress management tips can you offer our readers?
I do go into a bit of depth on this in the manual. There are a variety of ways to tackle this. And it varies woman by woman.
First I would break stress reduction down into two categories.
First is mental. What stresses you out? Why? Is this a problem within your brain that you can work on? Can you change the way you feel about your situation in order to make it less stressful? This is deliberate work we can do on our own. We can also talk through problems with our friends and loved ones, or hire a therapist. I'm a big believer in therapy. Everyone has wounds or weaker links in her psyche that can be strengthened, and doing so does nothing but benefit us. Sometimes enormously.
Second is practical. Bring down your stress level in your life. The more frequently you do it, the lower and lower your average stress levels will be. This is why I recommend taking a few minutes in the morning, a break in the afternoon, and at night for your stress reduction. And what does that entail? Again, it depends on the individual. Do you sit quietly by yourself? Meditate? Listen to a calming song? Stretch? Go for a walk around the block? Lay down on the office floor? Watch a looped video of a panda sneezing? Whatever you do, make sure it gets your mind completely off of your stressors, and gets you completely in touch with positive inner values such as joy, laughter, peace, or union with God/the universe.
Practical change also involves scheduling stress reduction. If you have a hard time keeping to a practice or a schedule by yourself, take classes in yoga or meditation, or other activities that are restful or freeing that you can do on a regular basis. Meet-up groups are another great way to do this without having to spend a lot of money. Adding these sorts of activities to our lives can radically improve their quality, even if we do them just once a week. Find something that makes your soul sing, or at least sit more peacefully in existence. Your ovaries will thank you.
Are you still surprised how the slightest changes can have such a huge impact on our reproductive health?
Enormously! I hear the most amazing stories all of the time. Some women I know have started menstruating again after they became regularly sexually active. Others lost five pounds, or some cut gluten out of their diets. Many women I know heal once they truly reject restriction and begin eating macronutrients and calories freely. And this is all to re-gain menstruation. Even smaller changes can cause different disturbances, such as acne or libido. Personally, I feel a significant difference in my libido if I eat phytoestrogens. And I experience significant breakouts at stressful periods of my life (such as meeting the deadline for this manual release!). In all cases, yes, yes, yes! Partly why PCOS Unlocked is, I believe, such a lovely and crucial resource.
Click here to find out more about PCOS Unlocked or download your copy today.
Click here for a free preview excerpt.