107: How to manage PCOS, autoimmune conditions and changing habits successfully
As if PCOS isn’t enough to manage in and of itself, many people with PCOS tend to be more prone to autoimmune conditions (like thyroid issues or endometriosis) — which come with a whole raft of frustrating symptoms as well.
Quite often when you’re dealing with a chronic condition (or multiple), you find yourself thinking “ugh… why me?”. It feels like your body just hates you and you can’t win. When you make a change something else crops up and it feels like a never ending cycle of trying things — sometimes they work but then they stop working after a while and you wonder how you’ll ever get on top of it all. Talk about playing ‘whack-a-mole’ with your symptoms!
But as much as it feels like it sometimes, you’re not actually alone. I would say the majority of my patients don’t just come in with PCOS alone (even if initially that’s all they know about). Many have another condition alongside their PCOS that they know about or find out about through testing and investigation we get them to push for via The PCOS Protocol — often it’s things like coeliac, hashimoto’s thyroiditis, hypothyroidism, POTS, endometriosis or adenomyosis (or a combo of a couple of these), and there is often some overlap between symptoms.
Initially it may seem overwhelming, like you have to do 3x the work to get on top of these conditions alongside your PCOS but often when we work on that PCOS root cause, with a couple of slight additional tweaks, we can actually make some massive strides in improving a range of symptoms.
On this episode of the podcast, we speak to Siobhan, who has not only been dealing with PCOS but has also been diagnosed with endometriosis and hashimoto’s thyroiditis. While she got all of these diagnoses in the past 3 years, she’s been dealing with the constellation of symptoms for all of these for many years prior.
Awful jawline acne, hirsutism, hangry attacks, always thinking about food, irregular cycles, extreme fatigue, PMS, pelvic pain, digestive issues. All things that fall into the symptoms that fit into one of or multiple of the profiles of someone who has PCOS as well as an autoimmune condition like endo and/or hashimoto’s.
As someone who considers herself quite highly strung, Siobhan could easily have found herself being overwhelmed with all of the potential changes she may have to make. But what she found was key for her was understanding that root cause, understanding WHY she’s making the changes she’s making, focusing on only those ‘high impact changes’ and starting small.
Quite often we overwhelm ourselves with a million changes that we’ve stitched together but honestly, so much of it is a waste of our energy. When we focus on a few key changes and doing those consistently with an 80/20 approach, we do FAR better than when we try to do a million changes perfectly all the time.
F U diet culture for making us think we have to do everything all the time and do it perfectly to get anywhere!!!
In this episode, Siobhan and I talk about her health journey — covering all things PCOS, autoimmune conditions, endometriosis, thyroid conditions and the practical tips she has after more than a year of working on these conditions. We also delve deep into the habit changes that really made a difference in her being able to stick to this new lifestyle.
This episode is for you if:
- You struggle with androgen symptoms like acne and hirsutism
- You think you might have a thyroid condition
- Birth control has helped your symptoms but now it’s making them worse
- You gain weight really easily even if you’re living a healthy lifestyle and eating in a deficit
- You have a very all or nothing approach to changing your lifestyle
- You’ve lost your period and you’re not sure how to get it back
- You think you might have or know you have insulin resistance as [part of] your root cause
- You’re struggling to be diagnosed with PCOS
- You often feel very tired — even when you’ve slept a full 8+ hours
- Living a ‘healthy’ lifestyle hasn’t helped you get on top of your symptoms
- You think you might have endometriosis
- You aren’t getting all of the information you need from doctors and specialists
Some things we cover in this episode:
- Androgen symptoms and PCOS — specifically acne and hirsutism
- Weight fluctuations with PCOS
- Finding the right type of birth control for you
- Thyroid conditions, Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis and PCOS
- Endometriosis and PCOS
- How common it is to have multiple conditions with PCOS
- Approaching social situations and setting boundaries but also maintaining 80/20
- Amenorrhea and getting your period back
- Having insulin resistance as your root cause and the symptoms that come with that
- What if you don’t fit the Rotterdam Criteria for diagnosing PCOS?
- Having your period for a month and then not at all
- When changes stop working for you (after them working previously)
- Testing in PCOS and autoimmune conditions
- Extreme fatigue
- Why you’re not seeing changes even if you’re living a ‘healthy’ lifestyle
- Why your doctor isn’t going to be able to help you with everything
- How to maintain changes consistently for a long time
- BRCA gene mutation
- Habit stacking and pairing pleasure habits with non-pleasurable habits
Resources and References:
- 44: Your Guide to Birth Control (Part 1): Hormonal Birth Control
- 45: Your Guide to Birth Control (Part 2): Non-Hormonal Birth Control
- 46: Your Guide to Birth Control (Part 3): Permanent Birth Control Procedures
- 68: All about Progesterone: why it may be low, why it’s important and how to improve your levels with Dr. Samina Mitha
- 99: How to set boundaries, actually stick to habits and be kind to yourself with Clinical Psychologist Dr. Rebecca Ray
- My Book: Getting Pregnant with PCOS