Allara Patient Story: Olivia L

Though potentially not as well known as acne, hair loss, weight gain, and hirsutism, chronic low-grade inflammation has been linked as an indicator of PCOS, as well as a factor that may aggravate PCOS through the production of more androgens. And although ‘inflammatory PCOS’ isn’t a specific type of PCOS, inflammation is common enough in women with this condition that doctors may run CRP (C-reactive protein) tests, alongside tests for inflammatory cytokines and white blood cells to gauge levels of inflammation in patients’ bodies. 

But what if your doctor doesn’t connect symptoms of chronic inflammation with this reproductive condition? Or what if they outright ignore the signs? That’s what Olivia L struggled with for years as she saw specialist after specialist, asking for answers to questions regarding her chronic neck and back pain, acne, and food sensitivities. We spoke with Olivia to discuss her journey to finally getting a positive PCOS diagnosis and how her anti-inflammatory diet has impacted her day to day well-being so far. 

Where does your PCOS story begin?

It goes pretty far back: since I was a little girl, I knew something was off within my body. I would gain weight quickly and feel sick constantly. Then once I hit puberty, I developed acne, which persisted into my late 20s, despite doing everything I possibly could to fix it, including Accutane. 

More than that, I had weird and unexplained inflammatory responses - such as hives and food sensitivities. This was only compounded by chronic back and neck pain, which had started in my teenage years. Sometimes it feels like I have seen every type of doctor, physical therapist, chiropractor, and pain management specialist with nothing to show for it. I kept asking for explanations over the years, and after doing some research of my own, I brought up the possibility of PCOS to healthcare professionals, but I was told that it couldn’t be PCOS because I still get my period. 

What was the turning point for you? 

It wasn’t until working with an osteopathic physical therapist (osteopathic medicine is a ‘whole person’ approach to medicine, meaning a focus on identifying and treating under-the-hood problems, as opposed to just treating symptoms) that they mentioned I was incredibly inflamed and that I should consider the possibility of an autoimmune disorder. 

At that point, I asked my OB-GYN for a basic blood panel and ultrasound; I had a cyst on my ovary, as well as abnormal blood test results. This caused me to switch to an anti-inflammatory diet, which didn’t fix everything, but made a huge difference and so I knew I needed to investigate further. That’s when I found Allara on TikTok!

How long have you been a patient at Allara? 

Since February 2022. I had a consultation and for the first time in my life, I felt validated about what I’d been experiencing. I was diagnosed with PCOS in spring of 2022, and I have been slowly getting better ever since. I finally feel like there’s a light at the end of the tunnel! Between my dietician Genevieve, and Dr. Henigsman, I know they are only a text away. 

What were you hoping to get out of signing up for Allara? 

Primarily I wanted clarity, and I wanted action. I wanted to know if I had PCOS, and if so, what I could do about it. By far, my biggest struggle when it comes to PCOS is the chronic inflammation and pain, so I was hoping that would be a focus of any treatment plan, which it has been. 

How is your treatment plan going so far? 

It’s going great! Since working with Allara, I have continued to lose weight, my skin is completely clear, and my chronic pain has dramatically decreased. I also feel like I’ve gained the tools to tackle my PCOS symptoms from a long-term perspective, as opposed to just getting given a prescription and ignoring my diagnosis for another 10 years.

Have you noticed any differences between Allara’s approach to health and traditional healthcare? 

Yes, definitely. The two biggest differences are accessibility and compassion. Specifically, when it comes to accessibility, I have the ability to reach out to my personal care team at any time, and they respond incredibly quickly. That means when I have a concern or a question, I don’t have to wait and worry for weeks before I can finally ask: I just shoot off a text, and before I know it I have a response from my dietitian or my reproductive specialist. 

When it comes to compassion, it makes a big difference to speak with someone who understands the struggle you’re going through, and has real answers to your questions. As an attorney, I do my own background research, and coming into appointments with Allara team members, I noticed my questions were extensively addressed, treated with the utmost respect, and taken seriously. All of that is really comforting to me. 

What’s the best advice you can offer someone who struggles with PCOS? 

Trust your gut feeling about what is going on inside your own body. If something feels off, don’t be bashful or embarrassed about advocating for yourself. The right people to help you are out there, and they will understand exactly what you’re going through.