Renaming PCOS, Reclaiming Bodies

Endocrinopathy and growing our hope for successful management of PCOS

Interview Audio Link [Length: 38 minutes]

When showing up to meet Dr. Heidi Peterson, ND, I was not expecting to find such a comfortable office. It was easily my favorite doctor’s office. My previous preference for a provider’s office was a warm space with well-loved plants and ambient light. But this did not even feel like a doctor’s office.

We met at Dr. Heidi’s round-table reminding me of our dining table at my family’s northern California home. Both beautiful and old, it has clearly been around long enough that it was okay to put hot mugs on it without fear of ruining such a treasure. Her grandmother’s long, wooden dresser with smooth white handles lined the wall closest to us. “I have a lot of patients that have Western medical trauma,” said Dr. Heidi, “so I do my best to make this space feel like a cozy home rather than a Doctor’s office. I hide my lab kits in here.” She points to the dresser. I wish I had asked her what her Grandmother’s profession was, as I imagined her Grandmother in the room in spirit providing an extra sense of care and safety to women and children that are lucky to have Dr. Heidi as their care provider.

Dr. Heidi met with me for an hour with steaming cups of tea at the roundtable. With strong opinions about Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS), she gratefully passed on what she has learned. With many similarities to my last interview with Dr. Angela Cortal in linking the source for most women to PCOS as insulin resistance, she made some new distinctions about PCOS and diabetes, weight loss, and the role environmental toxicology plays in endocrine disruption.

The time was a tremendous gift to me. Each of these interviews brings healing to places I have felt so much suffering or loneliness on my own PCOS journey. I am inspired once again to pass the gift of this knowledge along to you. You are not alone.

Interview Audio Link [Length: 38 minutes]

Here are the highlights, followed by resources shared by Dr. Heidi.
  • PCOS name is anachronistic (old, outdated). We’re really talking about endocrinopathy.
  • PCOS is a genetic predisposition.
  • PCOS patients can be split into two groups, those with insulin resistance and those without. For most women, it is insulin resistance. The other group is often those working with thyroid or high testosterone levels but are not insulin resistant.
  • Insulin resistant PCOS can be re-framed as a subset of Type 2 Diabetes. **These patients have specific genetics making them react to the same things that cause diabetes but instead of getting diabetes they end up with PCOS.
  • “One of the best treatments for PCOS is weight loss and…women with PCOS biochemically are not set up to lose weight.” *Found in the interview at 3 min 30 sec.
  • The reason why most PCOS patients aren’t easily identified by glucose tests alone
  • Clear strategies for re-approaching weight loss for PCOS patients…and the need to support and acknowledge anyone that has ever tried to lose weight in our current body culture and medical system. This system is so full of judgment (even Puritanical), viewing “overweight” bodies as gluttonous, slothful, lazy and eating too much.
  • The elephant in the Western-medical room: Health problems related to endocrine disruptors (Breast cancer, endometriosis, PCOS, …) all have environmental/toxicology factors at play. This goes for men, too.
  • With support and the safety to tell our stories, we can empower each other to choose our best healing path. We don’t have to do this alone.
  • Dr. Heidi’s Website: Resources on thyroid health and Gluten-free resources & recipes
  • Breast Cancer Prevention Partners: Links and resources for women for all health problems related to endocrine disruption and environmental toxic
  • Dr. Pamela Frank, ND with PCOS content on her website
  • Dr. Nancy Dunne and her website PCOS Consultations
  • Book recommendation
    • The Toxic Solution: How Hidden Poisons in the Air, Water, Food, and Products We Use Are Destroying Our Health – And What We Can Do To Fix It by Joseph Pizzorno, Founder Bastyr University **This book referenced in the interview at 8 min 45 sec


About Dr. Heidi

Mary Catherine Bateson describes in one of my favorite books, Composing a Further Life, how a person’s many interests and experiences come together to inform their career. This is certainly true of my journey to becoming a Naturopathic Physician.  I obtained a Bachelor of Science in Chemistry from the all women’s Smith College, whereafter I obtained a Master of Science from Northwestern University, also in Chemistry. I was then a professional chef in Chicago, and then also in Portland, while I studied for a Doctorate in Naturopathic Medicine from the National College of Natural Medicine. I conducted my residency in family practice.

I have a private practice in Portland, and I am an adjunct Professor at NCNM, where I teach Advanced Topics in Women’s Health, and Gynecology Lab. I am also a member of the Oregon Association of Naturopathic Physicians (OANP) and the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians (AANP).

I live with my husband and two daughters.  At home I enjoy cooking, exploring new foods and restaurants, perfecting gluten-free recipes, gardening, reading (especially mysteries), long walks with friends, pilates, and spending time with my family.

I feel blessed to have found Naturopathy as my vocation since it combines many of my passions: science, research, mystery-solving, and working with and educating people about health and food.