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Episode 278 – Fertility Unfiltered: Empowering Women on the Holistic Path to Motherhood with FDN w/Courtney Saye, FDNP

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Introduction

[00:00:00] Detective Ev: Hello everyone. Welcome back to another episode of the Health Detective Podcast. My name is Evan Transue, AKA Detective Ev. I will be your host for today’s show on fertility unfiltered.

I have a story myself. From seven different diagnosed conditions at the age of 18, I’m thankful to say at the age of 28, I no longer have any of those conditions. That’s been true for the last several years. And that was primarily because of the things that I’ve learned in FDN. Certainly it’s because of the community in general and the knowledge that we have cumulatively that led me to this healing side. It’s absolutely amazing.

Today we have with us, Courtney Saye. Before I read your bio, Courtney, you’ve actually been listening for quite some time, you said, right?

[00:00:37] Courtney Saye: Yeah, I have. I’ve been listening for, at least a year now. I’ve heard a lot of interesting stuff on the podcast.

[00:00:44] Detective Ev: Awesome. Interesting is the word, right? You definitely get some stuff on here, especially with the stuff that comes out of my mouth. Here’s a quick bio about Courtney, and then we’ll get to the topic of today.

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She is the founder of the Fertility Functionally program. She works with women to help them reach their dream of getting and staying pregnant. Having been through a painful fertility journey herself, she knows the frustration, sadness, and hopelessness that it can bring.

This program is designed to help women on this path find answers where they thought there weren’t any and reach a healthy pregnancy without the struggle. It is her absolute honor and privilege to walk alongside people on their journey. That’s really cool.

Fertility Unfiltered: Traumatic Childhood Event

I haven’t set out a goal yet to have kids or anything like that, but it’s very interesting how many people, even if it wasn’t the main topic of their podcast, as you’ve probably heard, it’s a part of their story, right? All of a sudden, they ended up getting pregnant. You didn’t even realize they had infertility issues until 30 minutes into the show. And then the things that they were trying to address led to the successful pregnancy.

I can’t wait to dive into this because I can use common sense and imagine if someone is trying to do this, this is a really important part of your life. It’s not something that you can just do at any age, regardless of how healthy you are for a variety of reasons, just even practically speaking. And so, if we can help people through their health journey, get them this gift, this essential part of life God directs how we’re all here, I think it’s one of the coolest things that we talk about on here.

First, you already know how we’ll start this today. I’d love to get to dive into your journey. What did your health symptoms look like and when did they begin?

[00:02:16] Courtney Saye: I’m going to take it all the way back just in case anyone connects with the full story. And I’ll try to not be long winded.

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My symptoms began when I was a kid. I didn’t connect all the dots until much later. But I had a pretty significant traumatic event when I was five, when I was in kindergarten. My brother almost died in an accident, and it shook the whole family very deeply.

Fertility Unfiltered: Birth Control Pills

I was an 80’s baby, and we weren’t in the same place back then with mental health and therapy. Once his physical wounds healed, our family just went on about our lives and didn’t do any work on the trauma it caused. No one was talking yet about how unresolved trauma impacts mental and physical health down the road.

So, a couple years later, these are my earliest memories of issues, about second grade, I remember starting to complain about headaches and stomach aches fairly regularly. That went on for some time. I remember getting an MRI as a kid. Nothing came up, significant, no diagnosis.

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When I was in my teens, my period started later than my peers. And I had irregular and painful periods and acne that I couldn’t get under control on top of the original headaches and stomach issues. My doctor prescribed hormonal birth control to help control these issues. That makes me mad to think this is still happening a lot where when teens and women in their 20s even up through their 40s are going in with some of these complaints, the answer is, here go on the pill and that’ll help.

So, I started it in my teens and took it through my early 20s. The pill does do a good job for some people of masking symptoms, it did make the acne better. It gives you a quote/unquote “regular cycle” – giving you a fake cycle, if you will. But that’s probably a topic for a whole other podcast.

My stomach, my GI issues got worse while I was on the pill. I had digestive discomfort, constipation, you name it. And I attributed it to food sensitivities. I always thought maybe I should start cutting stuff out of my diet.

Fertility Unfiltered: The Latest Diet Trend

Because I like to think of myself, even back then in college days, as being very health conscious and watching what I was eating and trying to get enough vegetables and exercising, I started restricting my diet, going anywhere from no red meat, chicken only, pescatarian, all the way to vegan for a few years. I thought those would be the solution. They weren’t. That never fixed my issues.

But I kept pulling things out of my diet and saying I had a sensitive stomach and I had to be really careful. There was a history of GI issues in my family. There’s ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s and the like and I just thought I was not there – diagnosable – but sensitive.

I also continued to struggle a lot with anxiety. But I was the type, I don’t know if you can relate to this from your younger years, who hid it really well. No one would have called me anxious. They would have called me an achiever. I got great grades, graduated from college, started my career, got married, went to grad school. Every time I felt anxious, I channeled it into achieving. I never slowed things down. Through all of this I was struggling silently.

I never felt comfortable after eating anything and had a lot of headaches. So, I was popping a lot of Advil to get through a pretty rigorous schedule. I was always up on the latest diet trend, like I said. And I really had a lot of pride about, I’m eating vegan now. It’s really great. Have you seen these impossible burgers?

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I look back and want to shake the old me who was eating like that with what I know now but I thought I was taking really good care of myself.

Fertility Unfiltered: Starting a Family

And on the outside, beyond breakouts, like I had acne, not horrible acne, but it was cystic, and it was hormonal around the jawline like typical hormonal acne, but I covered it well and tried to hide it. So, beyond that, on the outside, I looked like the picture of health. But I was really suffering silently for quite a while.

And so now we’re in mid-twenties. Eventually I mentally felt like I was going crazy with the anxiety. I had this instinct that it was the birth control pills, I knew it was time to ditch those. And I didn’t know what I know now about them. There’s lots of evidence that tells us that is true, that they can cause depression, anxiety, and other mental health symptoms. But back then it was just a gut instinct. Like I got to ditch the birth control pills. So, I went off of them. And like I said, I could go on and on about the side effects of birth control pills that can last for decades if they’re not addressed after you go off of those.

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I went off of them, married my husband, ended up pregnant with my first child about 18 months later and had a normal pregnancy. So, I was in my 20s when he was born. I thought I was a fertile gal, that everything on the road to a family was going to be an easy path. Meanwhile, my anxiety and gut issues actually continued to worsen to the point where I was really avoiding a ton of food.

Fertility Unfiltered: A Nervous Breakdown

We wanted another baby, so this is where the fertility journey gets messy. I got pregnant again easily when he was about one, and that pregnancy ended in a really heartbreaking second trimester miscarriage at about 17 weeks. For years after that, I struggled with unexplained secondary infertility. It still makes me emotional years later. Those were really some of the lowest times in my life.

Doctors didn’t have answers. I went through fertility treatments. The drugs they prescribe when you’re going through fertility treatments were like the side effects from the birth control pills on steroids. I didn’t feel like I could handle it. So, I felt really helpless for a long time on that journey. And because, as you can see, it touched me so deeply, that is why I’m taking my FDN work back to work with women that are on that journey.

Eventually, I did have another child, but it wasn’t until 10 years later. So, fast forward 10 years later, I’ve got a successful career in finance, a great family, but on the inside, I keep feeling worse and worse. I decided that the answer at that point was to go through some mindset management. So, I felt like I’d got my physical health, but maybe it’s in my head still.

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I went through an intensive life coaching certification in 2020 that taught me a lot about how to manage my mind and started to get my anxiety more in check, but it wasn’t the full answer. This was COVID days, and the stress of COVID really took a toll. I felt my physical health just going downhill to the point where I had something like a nervous breakdown – a nervous breakdown where I thought, I really have to go.

Fertility Unfiltered: Finding FDN

I thought I was dying. There was so much abdominal pain, discomfort, rashes on my legs. If I had a picture, I would show you, but no doctor could diagnose them. The dermatologist thought they were bug bites a couple times. Another doctor thought they were a bacterial infection. I’m convinced now as I’ve cleaned up my gut that it was related to gut issues that I had.

But anyway, I went through a bunch of workups, full GI workup, general doctor, therapists, all the things after this nervous breakdown. The answers were like, let’s put you on an antidepressant, go to therapy. You want to try Spironolactone, which is a pretty strong drug that blocks testosterone for acne, at the dermatologist. And I just decided at that point, finally, I’d had enough. I’d really had enough.

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And I started digging around for something else. That’s when I found FDN. I stumbled upon it. And I don’t remember exactly how I first stumbled upon FDN, but somehow, I got here. That was more long winded than I intended it to be, but that’s the full history of symptoms up to a couple of years ago.

[00:10:32] Detective Ev: I really appreciate it. We’ve had answers on the show for the first question that went 30 freaking minutes, I don’t really care. I’m looking for the story and to me that gives us so much to work with. It’s such a clear timeline So, I appreciate you sharing all that.

I don’t know if you’re just humoring me with this too because you said you listen often, but I love what you mentioned about an instinct telling you, maybe this birth control isn’t for me. How strange is that?

Fertility Unfiltered: The Pill’s Side Effects

It’s not that I’m ever saying this is medical advice or just go off of this stuff. That’s not for me to say. But it is fascinating to me how many people have these gut instincts or intuitions. They literally will say, oh, I just knew. You’ve heard it. I just knew that this was something I was supposed to do or not do. It’s really interesting that was, to some degree, a pretty pivotal moment in all of this. Just, I know this isn’t the right thing for me.

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It’s even stranger when you talk about birth control, because we have mentioned it on the show before. But my perspective on it shifted even further since the last time it probably got brought up. And I’m no psychologist, but I was listening to some psychologist lecture, and he brought up this really interesting point about not only did birth control change us health wise, because clearly there are side effects to this. And common sense would tell you if you shut off one of the most natural processes that a woman could ever go through, maybe there’s some side effects that come with that, right?

It’s not just you do this and there’s absolutely zero consequence, but it also changed us socially. I know that it’s for health reasons, obviously for you. But when you think about what that did to teenage girls or young adult women, and then what it also does for men, it made this a free-for-all in terms of how we pair up with each other. And it’s very interesting seeing my generation and then comparing it to my parents’ generation or gosh forbid my grandparents generation in how they treated sex and relationships.

Fertility Unfiltered: Passionate About Educating

Again, not the point of the podcast, but I’d never thought about that perspective. I wondered where did this hookup culture come from. Duh, if you give every woman an ability to take away the consequences, the men are like, heck yeah. And the women don’t have the same consequences. It’s, oh wow! That’s a main reason that we’re in this mess. It’s crazy to think about.

Go figure. When you give humans no consequences for some obvious consequences for something that they really want to do, they go do it. I’m shocked.

[00:12:47] Courtney Saye: Yeah. I’m sure we could do another whole podcast on that topic at some point because it’s a big part of the fertility journey for so many.

I really think there are a lot of things that we’re empowering for women with birth control, like the ability to get through school and not have to worry about it and decide how many kids they have. And I don’t discount any of that, but I’m with you on all of this. That culture is not necessarily empowering for anyone.

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And the health side effects, no one talks about. Doctors don’t tell you how it depletes your nutrients and can cause mental health and gut issues and increase your risk for cancer. So anyway, I feel very passionate about making sure that people understand what they’re actually putting in their body when they’re using it and then how to reverse some of the damage that was done if they did use it.

[00:13:35] Detective Ev: Yeah. Just to be clear, because again, this is a health podcast. I should probably dot my i’s and cross my t’s. I’m not necessarily giving an opinion on the hookup culture either way. It’s not for me.

Fertility Unfiltered: Consequences

For many people, they think that’s the best thing ever, guy and girl, right? They’re like, I’m happy I can do this, and they’re entitled to do that if they’re consenting adults. I just find it interesting. I never thought about that that’s one of the main reasons that this happened is because if you take away consequences from people, this occurs.

But the health side is really what does matter because there are consequences. Like I said, it’s not obvious consequences, but you do see them later. Namely, you’re masking symptoms a lot of the times. And for someone like me, in my late 20s, a lot of the clients I attract naturally are within a similar age range, but it’s been all over the board.

The biggest influx I’d ever seen in people calling me, by the way, just so people know, I don’t really take clients now it’s all through a separate thing, but when I’ve seen people do this for me, it was all of these girls that I knew coming out of college and it was like the final straw on their health, right? Because now socially you’re supposed to drink, you’re supposed to stay up late, you’re supposed to eat crappy food. We were already a mess beforehand and now we go do this. It’s my gosh, final straw.

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But then the thing that never gets talked about is they come off the birth control voluntarily. They’re trying to start a family. And for a lot of them, it doesn’t work. Or the period never comes back, they’re in their mid-twenties, and it’s been a year without a cycle. It’s holy cow! This is not discussed at all.

Fertility Unfiltered: Connecting the Physical Health Piece

So, at what point, was it FDN or something else, did you connect that all of these things that you had dealt with as a kid were connected? Because it’s very interesting to hear you say this on this podcast now. Obviously, you’re an astute functional medicine practitioner because you’re talking about the trauma that you experienced in childhood, all these symptoms leading up. When did you realize that all of these things were connected and not separate in any way?

[00:15:25] Courtney Saye: Like everything else in life when you’re learning, you’re peeling back an onion, if you will. I know that term gets overused a lot, but like every layer of growth is peeling back a little bit more. So, through therapy a few years ago, and then my coach training, my not functional health, but mindset coach training, I realized how impactful that trauma was.

And I don’t want to go too deep on it unless you want to ask some questions, but my brother found a gun at a family friend’s house, shot himself, and I was in the room. So, you’re talking about trauma that is not removed. It was impactful and there was no therapy. My mom and I’ve talked about it since and she’s like, it was the 80s, we just didn’t know.

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So, I realized, like wow, that was a defining moment for a lot of my people pleasing tactics, which also anxiety, but I didn’t connect the functional. I didn’t connect the physical health piece, really, until I started digging in on functional health. It sounds ignorant to me knowing what I know now, right?

Fertility Unfiltered: Answers with Functional Labs

But you put yourself in a few years ago, like I thought this stuff was over here and my physical health stuff was different. I thought it was genetics of some sort, like something that was out of my control cause I was doing everything I possibly could. And the mental health stuff I would deal with. So, it wasn’t until I dug in on the functional health stuff.

Really, I think when I saw the functional labs, that was like, oh, okay. All right, there are answers here. Like everybody else for years and years had told me everything looks great. You’re good. When we were struggling with infertility, we went through tons of workups, went through fertility cycles with a fertility doctor. There was never anything wrong.

But that’s another point too that I have women who come to me. They’ve been through a fertility workup, and they’ve received a diagnosis of unexplained infertility, or they say they don’t know what’s going on. But what is frustrating there is that unexplained infertility, to get that diagnosis, the physicians are only looking at your reproductive tract. They run a few tests to look at your reproductive tract and there’s so much more as connected to our fertility than just what’s going on in your reproductive tract. So anyway, tangent that I didn’t mean to go down.

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But that’s when I connected it all was when I saw the functional labs because it was like, oh my gosh, there’s answers here. It was a lot of emotions for me, honestly, because it had been so many years.

Fertility Unfiltered: Unexplained Infertility

I love it when someone who’s in their twenties comes to me and it’s just, I need help. Because I think, gosh, you’re not going to go through the years and years of suffering that I did if you’re learning this stuff now. My son’s in high school now. I wish they would teach this stuff to these kids, and they just knew it. That’s my dream is that everybody knows this information.

But I went through all of these years of suffering, and I get these functional labs back. And it’s Oh, there’s answers. I’m not insane. Why isn’t this more of a thing? And why did I have to wait so long to find these answers?

[00:18:37] Detective Ev: Yeah. And thank God, you found them in time.

I always wonder, and I don’t mean it in a pessimistic way, but it’s one of the reasons that I think people like us are so passionate and inspired to share this stuff because for every amazing story that comes on here, and they are amazing, there’s plenty of people it didn’t work out so well, they didn’t get this information.

And again, especially when we’re talking about something like fertility, that’s a time limit no matter what. You can be as healthy as you want, there’s still an obvious time limit on this for a variety of reasons.

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So, I’d love to dive more into this because you already talked about, obviously, we know as functional people, it’s not just the reproductive track. And I don’t know if that’s the actual term, but if they really call it ‘unexplained infertility’, I can accept that a little better than just saying, oh, nothing’s wrong with you. Although I’m sure that gets thrown out all the time.

Fertility Unfiltered: The Diet Factor

Because to me, to imply to a young man or a young woman that nothing is wrong with them if they can’t get pregnant, is actually insulting. And I don’t mean this in a judgmental way, it’s not like you’re broken. But this is one of the core things from a purely biological perspective that we are here to do on this earth.

So, it would be pretty easy to make an argument for this, that if I can’t do that as a man, or if I can’t do that as a woman, there’s probably something that went wrong. And just because you can’t explain it doesn’t mean that there is nothing wrong. So, I liked that phrase “unexplained infertility” a little bit better. But yeah, it pretty much stops there, right?

I don’t know them personally, but I know of people that are spending tons of money on this stuff, and it’s really not that effective. When, if you just get healthy, it can happen.

So, what are some of the main things that you’re seeing and that you’ve learned that are leading to this epidemic of infertility? Because yes, birth control is one aspect, but there’s a ton of stuff that’s leading to this. I’d love to dive into that.

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[00:20:21] Courtney Saye: Yeah, gosh, good question. So, birth control is definitely one thing. Diet, I talked a lot about my diet early on and how I spent a lot of years not eating animal protein. I won’t turn away clients with a specific diet, but I have a hard time helping someone if they’re not willing to incorporate some clean animal protein into their diet. So, diet’s a big one.

Fertility Unfiltered: Rest & Exercise Factors

And I think we’re so confused by what is out there in the mainstream media. Like, I thought of myself as healthy and knowing everything about diet. And what I did do right was incorporate a lot of fruits and veggies. What I did wrong was I didn’t have any good animal protein in my diet.

Once I ran some of the later tests after graduation, like the DUTCH and the HTMA and saw some of the hormone, and nutrient and mineral imbalances, they were still way out of whack. Could still be from the birth control pills, but also from diet. I think it’s really hard to get all of the proper nutrition if we’re not incorporating good animal protein.

Real rest, I think a lot of us now think of rest as scrolling through your phone, right? I got some free time. And no shame, like we all do it. It’s nice to unwind sometimes. But true rest, where you’re doing something that is revitalizing your body like meditation or prayer and spending time going inside, most people don’t do any of that anymore. So, those are the big ones.

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The other one I see a lot with women who are really driven like myself and are push, pushing is they’re doing exercise wrong. They’re pushing their bodies too hard with exercise. They’re like, yeah, I’m all over it. I go to Orangetheory, and I’ve got the Peloton app on there, and I do spin class, and I go for runs too.

And I’m like, hold on, timeout. Moving your body is super important, but we have to be mindful about how we’re doing it, especially if your body’s at the top of the stress limit. Adding super high impact workouts five days a week is really not it.

Fertility Unfiltered: Stress Management & Supplementation Factors

Those are the big ones. Like stress, managing your stress. And to me, the most simple place to start with people, they’re like, I can’t get rid of my stress. No, none of us can get rid of our stress, but we can manage it.

It’s as simple as grabbing your journal. I do it twice a day, just for five minutes. Sometimes it’s 20 minutes. I’m a Christian, so I pray too. And those two things together do so much to reduce my stress. It could be meditation. It doesn’t have to be a religious practice. So, stress management, diet, sleep, exercise, a lot of the things we talk about in FDN really.

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And then the supplementation is great, but I will get clients who are like, what can I take? I’m so busy. We’ve got to work on all of these things together to truly see the results you want to see. Supplements, we’re going to need if you’ve got deficiencies and gut infections and those types of things to work on, of course. But we’ve got to work on it as a whole picture.

[00:23:30] Detective Ev: Of course.

And then, as nerdy as we like to get on here, I also like to think from the perspective of someone, especially with this topic, we really might have the privilege of being the first thing that came up for them when they typed in holistic infertility or whatever, functional medicine, infertility. Gosh forbid, we’re one of the first things that come up and they see it and they click on it and they’re like, okay, that makes sense, be healthier and this will lead to this.

Fertility Unfiltered: Underlying Issues

We don’t have to dive into like PhD level biochemistry, but from your understanding then with not doing the things that you mentioned, what is happening in the body that’s saying, okay, now we can’t get pregnant or maybe we can’t carry to term, whatever it is. Like, what’s going on?

[00:24:10] Courtney Saye: Yeah. That’s where I was going to go next. I’m glad you asked that.

I’ll tell you a little bit of my story and what I’ve worked on too, but a lot of the big things that we see are going on in the gut. So, a lot of your hormones are synthesized in your gut. And you might say, I’m trying to get pregnant, I don’t have a gut issue. Like, I go to the bathroom every day, I’m good.

Then we’ll run a GI MAP, it’ll come back, and you have hardly any good bacteria. You’ve got inflammation markers, you’ve got gluten sensitivity, all kinds of things for us to work on. And as we start to clean those things up, we’ll see other issues start to clean up, like hormones.

So, with women in our program, we always run the DUTCH test. Which for those listening, it’s not one we learn in our foundational training, but it was an advanced training I took for a stress and hormone test. We run that one to see where women are with their hormones.

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Hormones give us a good picture of what’s going on, but it’s always something underlying that’s causing those hormonal imbalances, right? We’ll see some of those hormonal imbalances start to clean up as we work on what’s going on in your gut.

Fertility Unfiltered: Lab Results

That and if I just had to pick two that I would say could fix 85% to 90% of the problems, it’s gut and minerals. So, we are also working on mineral balance too and making sure that’s in check. I use the HTMA test with all of my clients and then we start on mineral balancing right away. Then we go work on the gut. That’s when we see a lot of improvement on the hormone side.

One thing I do tend to see out of whack with clients. I’m going to back up a little bit and tell you a little bit more about my story before I dive in there.

When I got my labs back, what we’re talking about here, it’s almost laughable to me now, like the level of helpful bacteria in my gut looked like it was nonexistent, even though I’d been eating what I thought was a ton of vegetables every day. I had poor protein digestion, high anti-gliadin, which is a gluten sensitivity marker. That was through the roof. It was, I think, four or five times the high end of the range.

High oxidative stress, cortisol levels were in the exhaustive phase. I saw this on my first test before the DUTCH too, DHEA was really high, and testosterone was really high. Which, I didn’t understand it yet. But like I said, I was excited there were answers and also sad that it had taken so long.

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As I continued to dig and learn more and dug in on some advanced trainings and read more books, I got more and more sad about my fertility journey because I realized that I’ve been living with undiagnosed PCOS for probably all of my life.

Fertility Unfiltered: The Biochemical Agents

And I don’t think doctors ever even thought in that direction, because I’ve always been a normal body weight. So, I think they’re trained in med school, a lot of them, hopefully we’re getting educated on it, that PCOS is a disease of obesity, which is not always the case. They’re saying now it’s only it’s 30% to 70% of the cases. So, no one ever looked at that for me.

And it wasn’t until I dug in on the DUTCH and saw all of the androgen levels there and how out of whack they were. I went back down the list, like, late period, infertility, acne, all of the things. And long story short, for myself personally, I went straight to work on focusing really heavily on blood sugar management.

So, I had things in my gut to clean up for sure and mineral balancing to do. I also had blood sugar management. I guess that was the third pillar that I missed earlier when I was talking about what’s causing biochemically the infertility. Blood sugar imbalance, insulin resistance is an issue in the vast majority of PCOS cases. If we can get that in check and we can clean up your gut and balance your minerals, gosh, does the disease process start to reverse.

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Anyway, that was a roundabout way of getting back to the three things that I would say are showing up for people: gut issues, mineral imbalances, and insulin resistance.

A lot of people, even if they come diagnosed with PCOS, they’ll say, my doctor ran the labs and I was within range. They’ll show me the labs and they’re right at the edge of the top range. That’s not in a functional range.

Fertility Unfiltered: The Lack of Self-Care

The deeper I go down this path of working with women and continuing to work on myself, the more I believe that blood sugar management can solve quite a few problems.

[00:28:55] Detective Ev: Sure.

One thing that you mentioned in the beginning of that answer that I thought was interesting, because I appreciate you saying this. Not enough people recognize this. We can get so technical with the hormone side, especially. And there’s always a debate between which types of labs to do and all this kind of stuff. But what you said is the hormone stuff, yeah, it usually is bad, but it’s always something more underlying.

Perhaps I’m just not doing enough, I could make that argument. But I had gotten to a point when I was like actively taking clients all the time, even when I see the labs in my own business, where there’s other people, 95 percent of the time, if I’m being a hundred percent honest, the biggest thing that we got from the hormone test is validating to the person with clinical correlation, why they feel as crappy as they do.

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Yes, you can supplement some of the stuff. You can help those things, but we still got to go do the other things. Otherwise, those hormone results are never going to get better. It’s almost never a root causal type of thing. It’s okay, yeah, this is the result of all this other crap that you have going on and the lack of taking care of yourself for years, usually unintentionally. They’re trying to do the right thing, but just like you were trying to eat super well, and it was actually the wrong thing for you.

Fertility Unfiltered: The Androgenic Pathway

It’s interesting too, that you mentioned the PCOS thing. Of course, I can’t diagnose. But there was a time in the beginning of the pandemic that I was taking a lot more clients again, because I wasn’t doing speaking and schools were closed, all this stuff.

So, I had these two women in particular. I don’t think they’d care, but I’ve never gotten direct permission to share their story, so I’ll keep it somewhat vague. But very young. Like we were probably all 25, 26 at the time and they were friends. They both ran it mostly for preventative purposes, not necessarily because they even thought something was wrong.

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It was crazy how high those androgenic hormones that you talked about came up. Worse yet, I think this is a bittersweet thing for people, they are fitness-oriented people. They do a lot of stuff on Instagram, and they create plans for people and stuff. These people are like 10 out of 10s. They look about as good as you could in your mid-twenties for women. And so, people are like idolizing them wanting to be like them.

But when you look at the labs, it’s like, oh, this isn’t really a good track for your future here. Thank God we found that stuff when we did, because both of them had very clear plans to have kids one day. And that’s why they were doing a lot of this stuff was to be smart. I’m like thank goodness we did.

I referred them both out. They never got a formal diagnosis of PCOS. Same kind of thing, right? It needs to be a little higher here for us to give you that diagnosis, but certainly the symptoms were highly correlated with this.

Fertility Unfiltered: Particular Tests for Particular Groups

Because of course, typically speaking, the girls aren’t going to tell me this the first time, but when I start asking about the acne and the hair growth, oh yeah, I have that. Like, all right, so we need to address all these things.

I also like how you have your formula now with the hormones, GI MAP, and the mineral side. For someone that might be coming off our website and then clicking on here and wondering, okay, that’s not the exact formula of FDN. I think also something that we’re very open to is, first of all, FDN is not dogmatic. You can do it any way you want, technically speaking.

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When you start working with particular niches, you do notice certain patterns. And it’s impossible for me to argue that certain niches don’t actually do better with certain testing. I think pretty much anyone could benefit from the things that you said, to be clear. But it’s very weird. Like sometimes I just love running a particular test with a particular group because I know every time it’s like one of the most useful things that we run.

With all that said, you obviously figured a lot of your own stuff out when you were doing the labs with FDN, because we do include labs in the cost of tuition. Do you remember off the top of your head, some of the big findings on there because you were already on a health journey for quite a while. So, I’m curious what might’ve showed up.

[00:32:35] Courtney Saye: Yeah. So, the foundational labs that I ran during training, they came back and there were lots of answers. That was not long after I had finished a full workup.

Fertility Unfiltered: Data-Driven Motivation

It was what I thought was tons of blood work with my general and a full GI workup, invasive, all the things, an abdominal ultrasound. Like, I thought there’s nothing wrong. But on that first test, the first GI MAP, it was really low commensal bacteria, which is the good bacteria in your gut, which you need to balance the bad.

The gluten sensitivity, I think, was really eye opening for me because I’d eaten so much. It’s called the anti-gliadin marker on the GI MAP. It was really high. I had never in my health journey thought about that. I actually joked about it a lot. Oh, gluten, gluten free ha. And then it was like, God was laughing at me for joking about it.

I’ve since learned so much about how the immune system can attack itself if the gluten’s not agreeing with you. So, I cut that out a hundred percent. That, I think, made a huge difference for me.

I had poor protein digestion, high oxidative stress. We get a lot of information in the foundational lab that we run with FDN. The stress and hormone profile that you get on the DUTCH, the DUTCH just goes a little deeper. And I like that with fertility clients for a few reasons.

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Basically, some of it’s to show correlation. And then with people with PCOS, whether they’ve been diagnosed or not, like you said, we’re not here to diagnose, we’re here to help them help themselves heal the underlying symptoms. But if you can see those androgen levels, that is a motivating factor to work on blood sugar and insulin resistance when you start to show them the science behind how all that works. Those were out of whack for me also.

Fertility Unfiltered: Focusing on Blood Sugar Balance

My DHEA, I couldn’t figure it out because all the research and the mentor I was working with at FDN was like, DHEA tends to go down as you age, and mine was really high still. But now after I ran the DUTCH and saw how things were on the metabolites, the DHEAS and the other metabolites from testosterone, it made a little more sense.

So yeah, there were a lot of answers there. Before I ran the DUTCH, I went straight to work really on the gut issues that I had, cutting out the gluten, and supporting my liver, like supporting my detoxification processes. That made a huge difference.

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Then when I ran the DUTCH and found out more about the androgens, that’s when I started focusing heavily on blood sugar balance.

[00:35:19] Detective Ev: You have such a cool way of I don’t know if you’re doing it intentionally but mixing in what, to an average person, might be considered more complicated stuff. But then you’re really focused on the foundations still. And I probably need to do a better job of just over emphasizing this on the podcast because you can’t outdo the basic stuff, “basic”, quote/unquote, right?

There are plenty of people that will spend tons of money on labs, tons of money on supplements, and your blood sugar’s still a wreck, right? You’re waking up every day and your fasting blood glucose is frickin 100. If we don’t do this, if we can’t address that, you could spend all this money in it, it’s really no point.

I was just talking to someone yesterday, younger person, right? Early twenties. And we’re talking about labs, we’re talking about all this stuff. And money is a little tighter, especially in your early twenties.

Fertility Unfiltered: The Seesaw of Pain

I was saying to them, there’s zero point in us running any of this stuff. She’s staying up till 4:00 AM on the weekend, hanging with friends. And God bless her, man. I want you to have fun, I don’t want to take away your social life. But I explained this thing that I’ve used over the years to explain this to people of the seesaw.

It’s like the seesaw of pain. So, it’s not as dark as it sounds. But what I mean is, it has to be weighed out. I’m certainly not discouraging anyone from this, I’d love if everyone did these things preventatively, but that’s not realistic.

Sometimes the pain of the social changes or consequences that come from the stuff that we’re doing actually are sometimes worse than the dang symptom, right? Like maybe your anxiety is at a 4 out of 10 most days. You’re like, Ev, I really want to do this naturally. I’m like, okay, but look at what you’re going to have to give up to do something in my world.

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We’re going to have to be disciplined with the sleep, disciplined with the diet. Does that even outweigh what you’re dealing with right now? And again, it’d be amazing if us human beings were all smart enough and forward thinking enough to say, before I even have symptoms, I’m going to give up all this stuff. That’s not how it goes.

And guess what? I’d be a dang hypocrite. It took me seven different conditions before I finally said, all right, you know what? I’m willing to give some stuff up to go feel better.

Fertility Unfiltered: In An Ideal World

So, I could never tell someone with not even a diagnosed condition, just someone who had some symptoms, that they need to go change everything. It’s just, we’re all going to die one day, right? The functional medicine people might live a little longer if we’re lucky but that’s about it. So, you got to find that balance.

And I think this is one of the most motivating things that someone could possibly experience, this idea that, I really want to have a family and I want to go do this stuff. But I might not be able to if I don’t take it seriously.

We’ve mentioned mostly because you’re a woman, obviously, we’ve mentioned a lot of the woman’s side. Are you planning to help in any way the men, if they are the ones that are actually, I don’t want to make it seem like a blame thing, but like contributing more to the infertility? I’ve heard plenty of cases where it’s actually the male sperm, not the woman’s body that’s leading to infertility.

[00:38:09] Courtney Saye: That is true. I will say, I see this not only in my practice, but in my life in relationships, the women tend to take the initial ownership for fertility.

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In an ideal world, here’s how my practice would look. The couple would come to me together. They want to start trying for a baby in a year. Like, the wedding’s in six months and they want to be pregnant in a year. I’m making up dates, right? And they both want to work through the program and see what’s going on and start to heal themselves. So, they’re in the best possible position to conceive and carry a healthy pregnancy to term and have a healthy baby. That’s ideal.

Fertility Unfiltered: The Zinc Spark

What tends to happen is that I do get clients who are like, I’m thinking about it, especially if they’ve had endometriosis, PCOS, something where they know it might be a little harder. They’ll start thinking a little ahead of time. Or if they’re over the age of 35 or 40, they’re going to start planning, like, oh no, I might not have an easy time with this.

But a lot of people will try for a year. They’ll try fertility treatments, go through a few rounds of IVF before they go, maybe there’s another way here. And usually, it’s the woman first. Yeah, ideally, I have worked with men. But typically, it’s the woman coming first and saying I need to figure this out.

But you’re right. Sometimes when fertility is not working out, sometimes when you’re not conceiving, it’s the male sperm that’s got issues. And men have just as much to work on, on most of the tests I’ve run with clients as the women do. It’s really just like an initiative and motivation issue up front. Usually, it’s the woman that’s driving it.

[00:39:49] Detective Ev: Yeah. It’s a heck of a way to be brought together, but it is motivating for both parties. I just think it’s actually quite unfair. I don’t think it is recognized enough that it’s not just a woman’s body that can be infertile.

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One of the things we know is that my generation’s testosterone is 50 percent lower than our grandfathers’. Not good. And one of the things that could be contributing to that, of the many things, is a lack of zinc. You need zinc for pregnancy. If anyone wants a really cool thing to nerd out on, look up the zinc spark on Google.

Fertility Unfiltered: Pregnancies at 40?

It’s this fascinating thing that happens when the sperm meets the egg. But you do need a ton of zinc for this to happen. Really basic, probably way oversimplified, but at the very least, go do some basic testing to see if your husband or significant other has enough zinc. We got to make sure we have the right tools in place for people to be able to do this.

Now, I have a totally hypothetical, not medical advice, question for you. Definitely don’t try this at home. But with what you know now about fertility, one of the things that I find fascinating is you start to realize that the standards we’ve set in Western society and Western medicine almost certainly have to be wrong because the sample population that we’re working with is so dang sick.

So, for example, when you say, generally speaking, the age of around 40, it’s like that number where you’re like, maybe don’t go try to get pregnant. But if that’s what Western medicine says, and we know people all the time have successful pregnancies in their thirties, this is just a belief question.

Do you have a belief or an opinion around what humans were actually supposed to be able to do? Were there women that were supposed to have pregnancies totally healthy in their forties? What’s your opinion on that?

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[00:41:36] Courtney Saye: If you look back at history and dig deep and even dig into your own family history, you’ll find that there were a lot of successful pregnancies well into women’s forties, going back for generations. And if you look at all of the factors of lifestyle and health and all of that back then, it’s wait, how come we’re telling women now that they can’t?

Fertility Unfiltered: Getting in the Best Possible Condition

I believe your eggs age, all of the things, like at some point you hit menopause. But can a lot of women have successful pregnancies in their 40s? Yeah, absolutely.

And to your point, that’s a whole other conversation on lab ranges and ranges of normal that Western medicine says. But if you’re under the age of 35, talk to your doctor and say you’re ready to get pregnant. It’s, you try for a year and then let us know. And if you don’t get pregnant, we’ll send you to a fertility doctor who will run a bunch of tests, again, just isolated to your reproductive system.

Then we’ll either diagnose you or your husband with something or say it’s unexplained and we’ll go try IUI and IVF, which is incredibly frustrating and a big waste of time if you’re excited about starting a family. Because you don’t know. It’s back to that whole trial and error thing of let’s see what happens for a year and not work on anything else.

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Gosh, is it cool when you spend six months of that year working on making yourself as healthy as possible and then get pregnant. And then if you can’t get pregnant on your own after all of that, you’re in the best possible position to go to fertility interventions. Like, you are more likely to succeed over there if you put your body in the best possible position. So, I have a lot of qualms about how we do it on the traditional side.

Fertility Unfiltered: Courtney’s Mission

[00:43:21] Detective Ev: Sure.

And on a final note with that, it’s like the one good thing about these infertility issues is it’s so dang expensive, even from the Western medicine side, that this is probably one of the only cases, maybe other than certain cancers, it’s cheaper to just come to us anyway.

You’ll actually save money, finally, going to the functional medicine people and you’ll get healthier. Your kid will be better off. Everyone wins with this one.

[00:43:46] Courtney Saye: Yeah. And gosh, like I said, in an ideal world, people would come to me, and their partner if they’re willing, once, and learn these things and make the changes. And then if they want to have two, five, six, whatever number of kids, they’ve already been through it and you’re spending a fraction money wise of what you would’ve spent on an IVF cycle. In my mind, it’s such a no brainer.

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And gosh, do I wish that I would have had this. I’m trying to create for these women what I wish I would have had for myself back then when I was so lonely and lost.

Where to Find Courtney Saye

[00:44:21] Detective Ev: If they’re listening and saying, okay, cool I’m ready to take this leap. And again, it’s one of those cases where, financially speaking, it is still the better option. Where can they find you if they’d like to learn more about your work and where they could possibly work with you if they wanted to?

[00:44:35] Courtney Saye: Yeah, for sure. My website is www.thrivefunctionally.com. I’m on Instagram, Facebook, and newer to TikTok, trying it out. And the handle on all of those is @fertilityfunctionally. So, you can find me on any of those. I’m most active on my Instagram page.

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[00:44:55] Detective Ev: Cool.

And you already know if you’re a regular listener, assuming that you’ve actually listened to a full 50 minutes of me and you’ve been able to make it through that, you might know our signature question for the end of the podcast.

From a more general health perspective, Courtney, if you could wave a magic wand and you could get every single person in this world to do one thing just for their health, whether that’s literally start doing one thing, or you can get us all to stop doing one thing, what is the one thing that you’d get us all to do?

Signature Podcast Question

[00:45:21] Courtney Saye: I know you ask this question and actually I crossed out my answer a few times. But I kept coming back to this one. It’s to focus on building your meals and snacks around quality protein. We need about a gram of protein per pound of body weight daily, ideally.

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So, if you build your meals around protein and fill your plate with organic produce and a little bit of starch, you’re going to be better than 99 percent of people that are on a health journey. Most people make the diet side of things really complicated. And that’s my simple piece of health advice that I think anyone can benefit from.

[00:45:58] Detective Ev: Very cool. Thank you so much.

If you are listening to audio, and you’re wondering how the heck do I see these live podcasts, because they seem to come out before the audio. That is true. We’ll always repost them there, but this is the chance to come on live. Then you can always ask questions if you guys would like.

We’ll probably be doing a more consistent schedule as time goes on so that people can really truly tune into these and engage with our guests if they’d like to. Just make sure to follow us on YouTube, Facebook, and LinkedIn will be one that we are popping into sooner rather than later.

Courtney, full circle, absolutely awesome to have you listening for this long, going through FDN, and then coming on and actually sharing this very useful information for, it’s not really a condition per se, but something that is so important in the health space. There’s really no shortage of episodes for this. We have to do as many as possible.

Conclusion

[00:46:48] Courtney Saye: Thanks Evan. It was great to be here.

You can always visit us at functionaldiagnosticnutrition.com, on YouTube @FDNtraining, on Instagram @fdntraining, or on Facebook @FunctionalDiagnosticNutrition.

For more informational and functional health-oriented podcasts like this one, go to functionaldiagnosticnutrition.com/health-detective-podcast/.

To learn more about us, go to functionaldiagnosticnutrition.com/about-fdn-functional-testing/.

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