A few weeks ago I had my first visit to a functional medicine doctor. I've known I wanted to visit a functional medicine doctor even before I was diagnosed with PCOS. I never followed through with it because of sticker shock, but once I was diagnosed and decided I wanted to reverse my symptoms naturally, I decided it's now or never.
It was time to invest in my health and make it a priority no matter what. And I am so glad I did.
I finally felt heard and understood. My symptoms weren't just something I had to deal with forever and I wasn't given a prescription with a million side affects or told I should get back on birth control. For some back story, this has happened to me multiple times. I was told to just get back on birth control several times for symptoms before I was finally diagnosed with PCOS.
The NP sat with me for TWO HOURS and asked me questions about how I felt, my family history and my lifestyle. She cared about healing the root of my problems rather than treating the symptoms. Before I went into my appointment, I filled out a questionnaire and they requested labs to be done so they had all of my information before I walked in the doors. This was the worst part, because I hate getting blood drawn! But like I said, I'm making it a priority no matter what:).
They created a binder just for me with all of my blood work results, what they all mean, and what I need to do to adjust some things.
DISCLAIMER: If you are on medications or birth control, this is not to shame you! I believe all of our bodies need different things. And you have to do whatever you feel is right for your body. This is just to help those with PCOS know what my results were and what I'm doing to heal naturally and maybe to inspire you to try a functional doctor to heal the root cause if you feel it's right! This is also not to say traditional doctors are bad. In my experience they've offered medication with side affect to help and that's not what I'm trying to do!
Below you will find all of the markers they tested for in my blood work as well as my numbers, what they mean, how I feel and how to improve these numbers. I know it's a lot, so bear with me:)
Note: all of the information about supplements and numbers are sources from the doctor and the hand-out she provided. I also want to note that different doctors may have different "optimal" or "normal" ranges and every person's normal range may be different based on their body. My doctor shoots for not just in the normal range, but the great range. I recommend always seeing your doctor to understand your blood work.
What were the results of my blood work?
My number: 215.9
What is it? This number is a reflection of your adrenal health.
What does it mean? My doctor was happy with this number and didn't feel we needed to adjust anything, just keep doing what I'm doing!
How I feel: I was really happy to see this and think my number was good because I reduced my coffee intake in the spring, started taking magnesium and I sleep really well. Plus I stopped working out so hard (5-6 days of HIIT) and incorporated more yoga.
How to improve and maintain adrenal health: Magnesium, minimal caffeine, licorice tea, sleep and other "relaxing practices" like yoga, acupuncture, massages etc.
FSH (Follicle Stimulating Hormone): 4.3
Total Testosterone: 22.9
What is it? These numbers all work together at certain parts of our cycles for separate reasons. FSH helps grow the follicle, while progesterone begins to rise right after ovulation and peaks right before your period starts. Progesterone is super important for PCOSers, because it needs to increase and peak to have a period.
How I feel: I was surprised by the increased level of progesterone given my history of irregular cycles, but still really pleased that all of these numbers were within range. The day I happened to get blood work done I'd just ovulated (which hardly happens for me!), so we're going to keep an eye on it and make sure that number continues to stay high.
How to improve and maintain sex hormone health: Follow an anti-inflammatory diet, supplement with bio-identical progesterone treatments, and do things that improve overall health like sleep, gut health and stress.
Free T4: 1.09
Free T3: 2.6
What is it? Your TSH is the hormone that your brains sends to signal your body to make thyroid hormone, while the T3 and T4 is the actual thyroid in your blood your body produces. When you have increased levels of TSH and low levels of Free T3 and T4 (like me), your brain keeps telling your body to make more thyroid, but your body doesn't do it. Ideally, TSH levels would be low and the free T3 would be higher, which is the opposite of what's going on in my body.
How I feel: These numbers made a lot of sense for me and helped connect the dots on a lot of ways I've been feeling off. Hypothyroid (high TSH), can result in weight gain, anxiety, fatigue, brain fog and mild depression, all of which I had.
How to improve thyroid: eat more nutrients with iodine, selenium and zinc. Also watch soy intake, especially soy protein isolate products like powders and bars. Also try to avoid sports drinks that contain bromine. They also put me on a natural thyroid supplement to help boost it. It's actually true thyroid hormone from a pig(!!).
Metabolics & Nutrition
Fasting glucose: 89
Fasting insulin: 5.4
Hemoglobin A1c: 5.1%
What is it? A lot of times in PCOS, these numbers are elevated because PCOS is closely tied with insulin resistance. Insulin's job is to clear sugar from the bloodstream. Insulin resistance is when the body becomes resistant to insulin and is a major contributor to diabetes. High insulin levels lead to to an appetite that is out of control and increased weight gain, especially around the belly. That's why balancing blood sugar is so key to women with PCOS.
How I feel: I was shocked by these numbers, honestly. I really thought my glucose and insulin were going to be high, but they weren't. It was a good surprise though. Because it told me all the clean eating and lifestyle has really been paying off.
How to improve: Avoid an abundance of quickly absorbed sugars and carbs and focus on eating lots of veggies, protein and healthy fats. Eating enough and often to avoid spikes and drops in blood sugar is important.
Total cholesterol: 201
What is it? The cholesterol found in your blood. A good lipid profile reduces risk for cardiovascular disease and stroke.
How I feel: I wasn't surprised by good numbers here. I feel good!
How to improve: If you have a high lipid panel, eat a healthy diet and take at least 2000 - 4000 mg of omega-3 fats (fish oil) as part of your supplement plan.
My number: .3
What is it? The marker for the amount of inflammation in the body. Inflammation can lead to many diseases including heart, cancer, and dementia as well as arthritis, autoimmune disease, allergies and digestive disorders. Chronic inflammation can slowly wreak havoc, leading to illness and rapid aging.
How I feel: I was so happy to see this because my number was on the low range. I eat an anti-inflammatory diet and do a lot of things to reduce inflammation in my body so I was so pleased with this. According to Dr. Brighten, inflammation is a major cause of PCOS. She says inflammation causes blood sugar dysregulation, which we know plays a huge role in PCOS.
How to improve: Eat an anti-inflammatory diet (I'll be sharing this soon!). You should also target inflammatory culprits:
- Avoid high processed foods and focus on eating real, whole foods
- Focus on eating healthy fats like omega-3 and avoid inflammatory fats like vegetable oils and trans fats
- Exercise more
- Focus on reducing stress
- Avoid food allergies and sensitivities (more to come!)
- Identify hidden chronic infections (viruses, bacteria, parasites)
- Avoid mold
- Reduce environmental toxins
My number: 12
What is it? A marker of oxidative stress and inflammation. GGT is an enzyme produced by the liver and breaks down glutathione, the master antioxidant. It's known that GGT is a sensitive marker for "oxidative stress," which leads to tissue damage and inflammation.
How I feel: Much like my CRP number above, I was happy with this because it was lower and I've been doing a lot of things to reduce inflammation.
How to improve: Follow the same anti-inflammatory protocol as above.
Vitamin D: 34.7
What is it? It's important for bone and muscle health, immune function, cancer risk reduction and more. Low levels increase the risk for heart disease and high blood pressure. You can also experience symptoms like fatigue, depression, gut issues and hair loss.
How I feel: I experience a lot of the symptoms above so this made sense to me. They kind of remind me a lot of the high TSH symptoms.
How to improve: Get outside and take a vitamin D supplement.
Vitamin B12: 1196
What is it? This is essential for the proper formation of red blood cells and keeps your tissues and nerves healthy.
How I feel: My numbers were great because I take supplements that include B12.
How to improve: Take a B12 supplement.
What is it? This is an iron-storing protein found in your cells. Iron's stored this way and available for your body to use when you need it. Elevated ferritin may be due to iron overload of inflammation.
How I feel: I was happy to see my number was good.
How to improve: Reduce or increase your iron intake depending on your number as well as follow an anti-inflammatory protocol.
Okay, so I know that was a lot of numbers and a lot of information. It was information overload for me as well. But there were so many amazing takeaways I learned from this meeting and getting these specific numbers for my body.
My takeaways after my blood work:
- It's crucial to see a functional doctor who believes in healing your root problems.
- Getting blood work done is the best way to know what's going on in YOUR body—I thought for sure elevated insulin was the reason for my weight gain because it's so prominent in PCOSers, but turns out it was my thyroid! Knowing exactly what's going on in your body is so important so you can specify the supplements and vitamins your body needs.
- For me, this means a thyroid supplement, increased vitaminD supplements and continuing supplements I'm already taking. Stay tuned for a post all about my supplements!
- Eating an anti-inflammatory diet and reducing inflammation is a game-changer.
- Reducing stress is a game-changer.
- Eating a healthy diet and living a healthy lifestyle really can reverse PCOS symptoms.
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