Healing PCOS with Lifestyle Changes with guest Dr. Dylan Cutler

Welcome to the Egg Whisperer Show. I’m Dr. Aimee, your host, and I’m here with Dr. Dylan Cutler. I absolutely love how Dr. Cutler talks about healing, not treating PCOS. We’re going to talk all about how today!

Listen to our interview on The Egg Whisperer Podcast

Dr. Aimee: Dr. Dylan Cutler, welcome. Tell us about yourself.

Dr. Dylan Cutler: Thank you. I’m so happy to be here. I am a PCOS wellness consultant, and I obtained my PhD in Obstetrics and Gynecology from the University of British Columbia. My focus was on managing and healing PCOS without the use of pharmaceutical drugs or dieting. My research focuses on nutrition, lifestyle changes (like meditation), adding stress management into your routine, and exercise. I also talk about getting away from the diet culture mentality, which is something that a lot of us with PCOS have been conditioned into.

Dr. Aimee: You also have a cook book too that I just received.

Dr. Dylan Cutler: I love to cook healthy meals. That is how I started as a content creator, by looking at how I can make a delicious meal that I enjoyed before had PCOS. When I was diagnosed with PCOS, it seemed like there were a lot of things I could not eat anymore. I transformed my cooking. It’s all dairy-free, gluten-free, and vegan and it’s called Cooking With Compassion. There are 30 recipes that are easy, and everyone will love.

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Dr. Aimee: They all look yummy, and I love following you on Instagram. What is PCOS? How would you define it to someone who has no idea what it is?

Dr. Dylan Cutler: It is short for Polycystic Ovary Syndrome and it affects around 10 to 20% of women, as well as trans men and nonbinary folks. It is a reproductive metabolic and endocrine disorder, and it can also affect our mental health. It affects every system of the body. It can show up as irregular cycles, which can lead to infertility (when and if we try to get pregnant). PCOS can also lead to insulin resistance which can eventually lead to type two diabetes and dyslipidemia, which can lead to heart disease. These are serious ailments that are linked with PCOS and that is why I’m really passionate about treating it and managing it for the long term.

Dr. Aimee: You have your own personal story. Can you share that with us? How did your PCOS story begin?

Dr. Dylan Cutler: I was diagnosed when I was 16. I had no idea what PCOS was before then, and I was quite terrified. I was told I would never be able to have kids. I was told that I needed to lose weight by cutting calories, working out more. I was already an athlete, and I worked out plenty. I ate well, so this was quite a shock to me.

I did not know completely how to manage PCOS. I did not know how important stress management. I was eating too little and exercising too much, and that can spike cortisol. It has been 14 years since my diagnosis, and I have been able to manage it fairly well. That is why I want to share my story with other people, especially the mental health aspects. I did struggle with an eating disorder, with anxiety, depression, and panic disorder. These are all more common in people with PCOS.

Watch our Interview on YouTube

Dr. Aimee: There are so many myths out there. Let us break down why reducing fasting glucose and cortisol in women with PCOS is important. What are some strategies that you work on with your clients to get them to reduce those two things?

Dr. Dylan Cutler: It is especially important because of the long-term risk factors of type two diabetes and heart disease. There are a lot of ways to manage glucose and cortisol. The four main ways that I look at are nutrition, activity, stress management, and sleep.

With nutrition, I advocate for more plants and less animal products.

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Photo by Arek Adeoye on Unsplash

As far as activity, the important thing for me is that you are moving your body. If it is something that you will be able to do for the long term and it is sustainable for you, then that’s going to be the best movement for you.

For stress management: meditation, and mindfulness can reduce cortisol as well as fasting glucose. Almost all my clients have some sort of meditation routine.

Sleep may be the most important of all of them and the least talked about. If you are not getting seven or eight hours of sleep, you have no idea how healthy you can be. Restful sleep is key to having a better quality of life.

Dr. Aimee: I find your message about healing PCOS to be so inspiring, so thank you for everything that you’re doing to inspire others, and to heal their PCOS in the same way that you have done for yourself.

I would like to talk about women with PCOS can lead fulfilling lives and achieve their wildest dreams. How do you do that, and how can you teach one of your clients to do that as well?

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Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash

Dr. Dylan Cutler: Thank you for that. I do find that I can relate to my clients well and hopefully that they relate to me.

The reason that I have this message that we can live fulfilling lives is because many of us have been told, for example, that we won’t be able to have kids or that we won’t be able to eat like our friends eat, or go to restaurants. None of these things are true if we get to know our bodies and what is going to work for our bodies.

During my PhD, I was against so many mental health conditions, including anxiety, depression, and panic, and trying to manage my own PCOS. Those health conditions almost prevented me from graduating and completing my degree. I was still able to graduate because I had some really strong foundations in place on how I live my life day to day, how I wake up and go to bed at night. I had routines that are a part of my life now. And I was able to accomplish my goals despite being up against a lot of struggle and adversity.

Dr. Aimee: I think that is extremely helpful. For people who are listening to us on the podcast and cannot see your beautiful skin: you have amazing skin. You talk a lot on Instagram about how skincare products and makeup ingredients can aggravate PCOS.

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Photo by Content Pixie on Unsplash

Can you share a little bit about that with us and some tips that you have that you give to your clients?

Dr. Dylan Cutler: Definitely. The impact of skincare products was something that I was not very aware of growing up. I was given a lot of medications for acne from dermatologists that were harsh. They dried out my skin.

The thing I did not know is that skincare products affect our internal hormones. They are absorbed through our skin into our bloodstream, which then affects hormonal balance. During my doctorate research, I was digging into infertility research and hormone health and learned that the endocrine disruptors in our skin care products (as well as our hair care, our makeup, body, any personal care product) is likely affecting our fertility and our hormonal health.

I made a choice to start switching to more natural cleaner products. I also learned how unregulated the cosmetic industry is.

Terms like “natural” or “clean” are unregulated and anyone can slap that on a product. It is only within the last year really that I have dug into the ingredients and I try to be more focused on the brands that I am buying. I look to see if they are transparent, if they are third-party tested, if they are sustainably sourced. There’s so much more that goes into skincare and it does affect our health and the impact on the environment as well.

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Photo by freestocks on Unsplash

Dr. Aimee: What products do you use? What do you use on your face? Do you have your favorite makeup line that you can share with us? Do you have your favorite haircare products that you can share with us?

Dr. Dylan Cutler: My favorite is Beauty Counter. They are banning 1800 chemicals, which is above what is banned in the US, I believe the US bans about 30, Canada bans 600, and then the EU is up around 1400 banned chemicals. So 1800 is above and beyond. So I can trust that any product I buy is going to be safe for me and they actually work, they’re effective.

Dr. Aimee: Thank you. You share a little bit about your own personal history with panic, especially at the time of getting your PhD. What are some ways to reduce anxiety, especially if you have PCOS? If you are having an anxiety attack right now. What would you do?

Dr. Dylan Cutler: It is important to understand the symptoms of what an anxiety attack is. The first time I had one, I thought I was having a heart attack. I had all the symptoms of a heart attack, and I ended up going to the ER because my family did not know what was happening. The ER did not know what was going on and it took three more ER trips to be told that it was probably anxiety.

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Photo by Dustin Belt on Unsplash

Know the warning signs. If people in your life have anxiety, it can be helpful to learn about it with them, or for them. When you are in an anxious state, Googling your symptoms can be scary. Find someone who supports you who can Google the symptoms for you (or with you). Let them act like a sounding board for you.

A lot of anxiety is looking at something through a very narrow lens. When we look at the bigger picture, the fear may not be as dangerous as we think it is. Having someone that is in a different state of mind can really help.

As far as the things I do: I love CBD for anxiety, and sleep as well, and really a good nutrition and I’ve talked about meditation.

An exercise routine is also going to help. We know exercise is one of the best forms of an antidepressant we can get. It does not have to be intense. Intensive activity could make anxiety worse. It’s just about moving our body and it’s great if you can get outside. Nature can decrease anxiety as well. So that’s one of my best tools is to move my body outside, and then I’m getting both the movement and the nature at the same time.

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Photo by Yoav Aziz on Unsplash

Dr. Aimee: Great. I want to ask you some questions about diet, and I feel like you’ve talked a lot about it, but specifically some of the questions that my PCOS patients as me are, “Can I eat soy? Is that bad for me?” What would you say to someone who asked that question?

Dr. Dylan Cutler: That’s a common myth. You can definitely eat soy. The myth stems from the idea that soy contains estrogens, but it does not. Soy contains phytoestrogens, and studies have shown that these phytoestrogens can be beneficial for PCOS symptoms. Look for soy that is non-GMO and organic and as minimally processed as possible. You can find it in tofu, tempeh, and edamame beans.

Dr. Aimee: And then what about fruits? Should women with PCOS avoid fruit?

Dr. Dylan Cutler: You can eat fruit. Fruit is one of my favorites. That is why I named my blog Phruitful Dish to begin with, with a P-H instead of an F at the beginning. Fruit is packed with antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, and fiber. The idea that fruit has too much sugar is false. There is fiber that is also packaged in that fruit. So it’s going to be absorbed in the body much differently than if we were to eat pure sugar.

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Photo by Brooke Lark on Unsplash

Dr. Aimee: What is the best PCOS diet? You have mentioned a little bit about plant-based, avoiding animal-based protein as much as possible. What is your best diet recommendation for someone with PCOS?

Dr. Dylan Cutler: My best recommendation would be plant-based and whole foods. Minimize the processed foods, the sugars, and the refined foods. Focus on foods that are from the ground or the tree, which are in the most natural form as you can get. This will increase your fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. A diet that is based around colorful fruits, vegetables, and whole grains will benefit your hormones and your energy.

Dr. Aimee: How can you thrive with PCOS? Tell me about that.

Dr. Dylan Cutler: There’s a lot of ways. It is good to start with accepting that this is a lifetime condition. It does not mean that you are broken or that anything is wrong with you. Since it’s a long term thing, I encourage patients to find a supportive lifestyle that is also comfortable for the long term.

At the beginning, it might be uncomfortable to make the lifestyle changes, but if you stick to them over time it really pays off. You will find more energy, more happiness and freedom. PCOS can be overbearing, and the biggest thing I see with patients is a diminished sense of freedom and joy because of it.

Hand in hand with acceptance is to not fight the diagnosis. It is important to treat yourself and your health with compassion. This is why I called my recipe book Cooking With Compassion. If you are in a “fighting” state, then cortisol spikes, which spikes insulin, and that is not helpful.

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Photo by madison lavern on Unsplash

Dr. Aimee: So true. Do you guide your clients as to what supplements that they should take? Are you a believer in supplements for PCOS?

Dr. Dylan Cutler: Supplements are very tricky. I use supplements with clients. It is important to understand that they should be selected on an individualized basis.

There is a trend with social media influencers saying they use a specific supplement and that it worked for them, which leads to others purchasing it because we want the cure. We want to buy something that we can take every day that will take care of our PCOS. It does not work like that. I caution the use of throwing a ton of supplements onto PCOS (or any condition).

With that caveat, I will say that some can be really useful. Inositol is one that I used. I did my research and found that it can be as effective as metformin at decreasing blood sugar and glucose levels, as well as enhancing ovulation. Then there are certain nutrients that women with PCOS are often depleted in. Magnesium is a common one, and it can help relaxation, stress management, and sleep. So there are definitely ones that can help, but I just caution that we do it in a smart way.

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Dr. Aimee: Thank you for being on our show, Dylan. I really appreciate all the work that you do helping people from all over the world. And where are you based? And you take care of clients from everywhere. Is that right?

Dr. Dylan Cutler: I am in Victoria, BC, Canada. And yes, from anywhere. No matter where you are in the world, I can work with you over Zoom.

Dr. Aimee: And where can patients find you or your clients, how do they book an appointment or consult or coaching sessions with you?

Dr. Dylan Cutler: My website is Phruitfuldish.com, fruitful is with a P-H. Or my Instagram, Dr. Dot Dylan Cutler, and I am reachable through there through my messages. I respond to all my messages. And if you want to book a consult, you can go through my website or directly through me.

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Dr. Aimee: My last question is, let us say someone is 22 years old and just diagnosed with PCOS. What is the most important thing you would want that 22-year-old to know?

Dr. Dylan Cutler: I would want them to know that they are not alone. There are thousands of people also suffering with PCOS. And it’s completely manageable. It might have a silver lining because now you have the opportunity to take a look at your lifestyle. You get to work to prevent type two diabetes and heart disease, which are both common ailments. Try to see it as a “positive,” as hard as it is going to be.

Dr. Aimee: Yeah, that is hard, but I love your positive mental attitude and your strength and resilience and all the work that you do, so keep up the great work.

Dr. Dylan Cutler: Thank you so much.

Check out our follow-up Q&A session on the podcast

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Fertility Doctor, Reproductive Endocrinologist, Egg Whisperer: www.eggwhisperer.com

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