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Finding Balance and Trusting Your Body: A Q&A With Katie Bressack

Finding Balance and Trusting Your Body: A Q&A With Katie Bressack

Katie Bressack is a board certified Integrative Nutrition Health Coach. She is passionate about helping women better understand their bodies in order to prepare for pregnancy.

She joined the Oova team to share her insights into the value of a holistic functional medicine approach to fertility health.

Can you share about your background and how you came to work in the reproductive health space?

I have worked in the nutrition space for over 10 years, the whole time focusing on women's health.

While working in this field, I noticed a lack of discussion on hormones and realized that I was missing a crucial aspect of women's health. This curiosity led me to learn more about hormones and hormonal health through a program with Dr. Sara Gottfried and a year-long apprenticeship program with Nicole Jardim, the author of "Fix Your Period."

This education, combined with my own body knowledge, has allowed me to understand that there is much more to women's health than just food.

What are some of the top challenges you see in the reproductive health field?

One challenge is the lack of focus on women's health historically. Most medical research and studies were conducted on men. It's only in recent years that studies are required to include both sexes.

Additionally, there is a lack of medical diagnosis for women's reproductive health issues. Often women are left to their own devices, trying to self-diagnose. Often this means they are also not getting the treatment they need.

Women's reproductive rights is, of course, also a current challenge in the field. The more awareness and education there is on women's health, the better. 

Are there any common misconceptions people have about the role nutrition plays in hormone health?

There are many misconceptions about what "nutritious eating" actually looks like. It is so much more than just dieting.

Many women come to me not because they are eating too much or too little but because they are not eating the right types of food to nourish their bodies. It is important to understand that nutrition plays a crucial role in hormone health for women.

One big thing I come across a lot is women will come to me feeling intimidated by the idea of eating healthy fats. Healthy fats are actually critical for healthy hormone production.

What advice do you have for people who are looking to better nourish their bodies with fertility in mind.

I suggest taking a closer look at what you're eating, making sure you're getting enough protein, fiber, and healthy fats. Instead of restricting and cutting things out, focus on adding things in and make sure you're nourishing your body. 

Pay attention to your body's signals, such as hunger and energy levels, and listen to your body. Make sure you're eating enough, especially if you are trying to conceive.

You work with many people with PCOS, what are some of the specific challenges you see when working with PCOS patients?

One of the biggest challenges with PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome) is irregular periods. Irregular periods makes it extremely difficult for women to know where they are in their cycle.

It's challenging to support the different phases of the cycle with food and lifestyle when you can't pinpoint where someone is in their cycle.

My goal is to help women understand their cycles and get their cycles more regular through nutrition (food and supplements) and other factors such as improving sleep quality and reducing stress.

Many clients with PCOS come to me with cycles that are 6-8 weeks, but after working with them, their cycles can become more regular and closer to a 30-day cycle.

We work together to help improve their body awareness while also finding more internal balance. I find it that even just giving women information about hormones, and explaining hormones’ roles in the body, can be incredibly empowering.

How does stress impact hormone health and how can it be managed?

The role of stress in hormone health is often underestimated. Stress can have a significant impact on fertility.

Cortisol is a hormone released during high stress situations, which directly impacts the other hormones, including fertility hormones. 

Overworking or frequent, high-intensity exercise may lead to irregular periods. It's important to pay attention to your body's signals, especially during periods of high stress. Trusting your body and learning when to pull back when stress is high, can help you make shifts that will have a deep impact on your health.

How has your personal fertility journey influenced your work with patients facing fertility challenges?

My personal fertility journey was emotionally challenging and different from other types of stress I have experienced. I had a few miscarriages and found myself worrying, "is this ever gonna happen?" I learned during this time that fertility-related stress, at least for me, is a very different type of stress.

It was such an emotional stress where I think a lot of my other stress is external. Usually I feel like stressful things happened to me but externally, where this felt very personal and internal.

I found that talking about it with friends and having a strong support system helped me manage what I was feeling. Taking care of myself and doing things like going to bed on time, exercising and laughing with friends, helped too.

I realized that emotional stress can be just as important as physical stress, and it’s important for people to prioritize it. I also learned that crying can be a great way to release emotions. It wasn't something that came easy for me, but it was a huge relief and somehow always made me feel stronger.

It can be overwhelming to search for nutrition advice on the internet. What advice do you have for people trying to navigate this information?

  • Avoid Googling! Going to Google for medical information can often lead to conflicting advice and increased confusion. Instead, try reaching out to healthcare professionals who specialize in working with women's hormones.
  • Start with small changes in your diet: Maybe try increasing your protein intake or getting more omega fatty acids, or even just drinking more water. Focus on making these changes into habits, rather than feeling overwhelmed with too many things to do at once.
  • Find a trusted provider. Look for a healthcare provider who will listen to you and work with you to create an individualized care plan, rather than just giving you a generic treatment plan. Remember that nutrition is very individual and changes should be based on how your body reacts. Don't make changes just because they are considered "good" by science if they don't feel right for your body.
  • Celebrate even the smallest wins. Small changes can add up and make a big difference. Celebrating your progress helps your mindset and is a form of self-care. Making your health a priority is crucial.

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