From time to time I'm lucky to have a guest join me on my blog. I'm fortunate to have had a great Q&A with Dr. Kourtney Sims, MD, FACOG, NCMP who is the Chief Medical Advisor of Phenology. Dr, Sims advocates for a holistic approach that includes looking at nutrition, exercise, stress, and lifestyle when developing a management plan for her clients at Phenology, a science and nature-based revolution in women's health, nutrition, and wellness.
Every woman’s menopause journey is very individualized and highly dependent on many, many factors. Dr. Kourtney is a board-certified OB/GYN by the American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology and a fellow of the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology—and she’s passionate about educating women on holistic and integrative healthcare, which drew her to her role at Phenology.
She 2.0 talked with Dr. Kourtney about Phenology’s novel approach to mastering and redefining menopause by systematically improving every aspect of the experience.
She 2.0: How can we properly prepare ourselves for perimenopause? Menopause?
Dr. Kourtney: It’s a shame to me that 2 out of 3 women acknowledge feeling ill-prepared for menopause. I start talking to my patients about perimenopause when they’re in their 20s and 30s, because the best way to prepare is to be as healthy as possible before perimenopause begins, so you’re in a better position to deal with it.
When you first start experiencing perimenopausal symptoms, take a moment to do a complete life audit and address what’s no longer serving you. More importantly, take action to find the support systems you need to create a healthy lifestyle. I always joke that if there was baggage that you had in your pre-menopausal life that you hadn’t dealt with yet – maybe you weren’t eating so well, maybe you weren’t exercising on a regular basis, maybe you were juggling too many balls in the air — when you hit the perimenopausal transition, guess what? Your body is going to remind you that this is the period of time where you really need to be trying to turn the focus within.
She 2.0: Can you explain the assessment? How does it work and what information does it provide?
Dr. Kourtney: Most people know that menopause means that you are no longer having a cycle anymore but there’s actually more to it than that, which is why Phenology created its digital assessment, based on the gold-standard STRAW+10 criteria, which provides the most comprehensive basis for determining where a woman is in terms of her reproductive aging timeline, and what she can expect to come.
She 2.0: How does hormone tracking work and why is it important?
Dr. Kourtney: It’s natural for progesterone levels to fluctuate and decline as you enter perimenopause. Tracking progesterone can reveal individual patterns and variations during menstrual cycles and can help predict when you’ll get your menstrual cycle. Phenology’s Pulse program, including the inne minilab, is first of its kind and allows you to track progesterone levels with saliva samples in the comfort of your home.
But this is just the beginning– what I’m really excited about is the forthcoming cortisol test that will provide women with the ability to understand whether they are going through a prolonged period of stress, which may in turn be impacting their mood, weight, sleep, vasomotor symptoms and more.
She 2.0: How does that help us with our menopause symptoms?
Dr. Kourtney: Perimenopause symptoms can be affected by many different factors, so I’ve always advised patients to track as many facets of their daily lives as possible so we can start attempting to identify patterns. Tracking progesterone via saliva is one way to uncover previously hidden insights around changing hormones, and when layered onto the larger picture of other factors, such as menstrual cycle tracking and perimenopause symptom tracking, women may begin to spot patterns and draw insights.
How important is tracking our cycles – from menstruation through menopause?
Dr. Kourtney: Like I said earlier, knowing your cycle and knowing it well is very important. One of the most common symptoms, and first signs of perimenopause is an irregular period—during this time ovulation is now a little less predictable and the result is a period that’s either heavier, or lighter, briefer, infrequent or more frequent—due to fluctuating hormone levels, particularly estrogen and progesterone. Remember Charlotte’s “flash period” in “And Just Like That”? You may think you’re done, but then you’ll have a period suddenly, then go months again without a period. Your cycle can reveal a lot, so keeping a close eye on it and sharing the changes with your doctor is crucial.
About Dr. Kourtney Sims
Dr. Kourtney Sims is a board-certified OB/GYN by the American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology and a fellow of the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology — she is also passionate about educating women on holistic and integrative health care, which drew her to her role at Phenology. Dr. Sims was the first African-American female OB/GYN physician in Houston outside of the Texas Medical Center certified by the North American Menopause Society, and she holds a certificate in plant-based nutrition from the T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies. A member of several professional groups, including the Harris County Medical Society, ACOG, The Institute for Functional Medicine and the Texas Medical Association, she also currently serves on the board of the American Herbalist Guild. Dr. K lives in Houston with her husband Mitch, their two daughters and three fur babies Liza, Rolo, and Kofi.