When Alisa Vitti was diagnosed with PCOS, her doctor painted a grim picture of her future. Looking for a natural alternative to the birth control offered as the only treatment, Alisa went on a quest to find solutions that could heal her. As a result of her experience, Vitti has published 2 best-selling books on women’s hormones — WomanCode and In the FLO — created a viral #cyclesyncing wellness movement on social, and built the next-gen hormone care platform for women through her company Flo Living via its programs, supplements, and top-ranked app.
I struggled with symptoms of PCOS even before I got my first period, which didn’t happen until I was a couple months shy of 16. Once it finally did come, I only got it five times, and three of those were chemically induced with synthetic progesterone. When I told my doctor about my concerns, I was told that my experience was normal and that my other symptoms, like weight gain and acne, were to be expected. I was prescribed the pill, but I was reticent to take any medication without understanding what was actually wrong. It seemed illogical to follow a treatment when there wasn't an explanation or plan behind it.
Fast forward a few years and my symptoms really hit a peak when I was a student at Johns Hopkins University planning to become an ob-gyn. I was tipping the scales at 210 pounds. I was covered in painful cystic body acne. Every morning, I would do this half-hour process of using Prescriptives brand under eye concealer to cover my breakouts because regular concealer was not covering the redness. So, I would spackle over all the red blotches and end up looking oddly colored, then I would try to go out and face the day.
On top of the acne, the weight gain, and the lack of a cycle, I was also having trouble concentrating, and I was suffering with a lot of insomnia. This was all taking a toll on my mental health – anxiety, depression, and overwhelm were affecting every part of my life.
None of the gynecologists I saw had any explanation about what was going on with me, so I took it upon myself to try to figure it out. During my research, I found a little article in an obstetrics journal about Stein-Leventhal disease (which we now call PCOS). I checked all the boxes of symptoms. I went to my gynecologist the next day and said, “I'd like to do all the testing that's required to see if I do have this disorder.” We did it and I was right.
I was shocked by what she said next. When I asked what the plan was now that I had a diagnosis, she told me, “Unfortunately, we don't have a cure. We don't even have a good treatment except to put you on the pill.” She told me my weight problems would probably increase and result in diabetes, and that I probably wouldn’t be able to have children on my own. Also, I would be at an increased risk for heart disease and cancer.
I believed there could be a different future. I decided I was going to take my very expensively trained mind and figure out a better solution. At the time, I made a commitment that if I could figure this out, I would build a platform and a brand that would help the millions of women suffering from PCOS and other menstrual disturbances to address these issues naturally.
I began by trying to really understand how the endocrine system functions, and I put together what is now known as the FLO Protocol described in my first book WomanCode. When I implemented this program in my life, I saw my weight drastically transform without starving myself, my skin cleared up, my period returned, and my anxiety, depression, and insomnia disappeared. I became the me that I wanted to be. Then I began the process of making what I had learned available to women everywhere.
The protocol that I developed really comes down to the idea that it’s not about spot treating your symptoms, doing things like putting a cream on for acne or taking something for your energy and mood. That becomes like a game of whack-a-mole and it sets you up to chase the wrong goalposts. From a functional medicine point of view, the way to go about addressing your hormonal issues is to work on the root causes, not the symptoms.
I see this time and time again at FLO Living. People come to us with many different types of symptoms and problems, but by focusing on the function of the endocrine system, the body is supported in creating its desired hormonal balance, and women get relief from their symptoms.
For example, one of the first steps in the protocol is about keeping blood sugar stable. The most important job that your endocrine system has is to protect the transport of glucose to the brain, heart, and muscle tissue. If you do anything to disrupt that – like skipping breakfast, having caffeine on an empty stomach, or having the wrong kind of breakfast – your endocrine system will be compensating for that blood sugar problem the rest of the day. In order to do that, it's now recruiting the adrenal glands to make more cortisol to offset the blood sugar issue. That then takes away from progesterone production. All of this is impacting your cycle. Whether you're trying to get pregnant, maintain a healthy period, or are going through perimenopause, this is a recipe for disaster.
Most of us don't appreciate the power of our habits and our dietary patterns to really support our endocrine function, but that's one of the most powerful tools that we have.
FLO Living’s approach is a combination of macro and micronutrient therapy. We work with your diet, but we also use supplements that I have developed to really help move the needle. Many women are micronutrient depleted, so it is almost universally relevant for women to look at what is going on from a micronutrient standpoint to help address their hormonal issues.
The third and final piece of my work involves understanding the infradian rhythm and utilizing the method I created called The Cycle Syncing Method® to support this critical female biological rhythm. I detail this information in my second book, In the FLO, and in the app, MyFLOtracker.com. It’s important for women to understand that they have this second biological rhythm at play. Everything the diet and fitness industry has ever told you is based on studying male biological patterns and optimizing for them, which is why all the diets you've tried don't really work and all the workouts you've tried don't really give you results.
The Cycle Syncing Method® has three pillars that involve syncing your diet, your fitness, and your productivity to match where you are in your cycle. Because your hormones are changing week over week in your 28-day cycle, it is illogical for you to expect to do the same workouts every day. In fact, it's bad for your hormones. Same goes for your calorie intake and the type of food you are eating. The thing that I wish women knew is that you can really eat your way out of most of your hormonal symptoms. And it's much easier to do than you think it is.
When you allow your self-care to follow the function of your hormonal patterns, everything works better, the way that it should. You can absolutely have every day of the month be a great day where you feel your best. That’s actually what you're designed to do — biologically and hormonally what nature has intended for you. It’s one of the most important things that I have learned and experienced in my own life.