Inflammation is at the heart of many of your PCOS symptoms regardless of your body weight. Diet and lifestyle can play an important role in either increasing or decreasing inflammation. Today’s podcast guest, well-known registered dietitian Martha McKittrick, shares her approach to help you tame the flames of inflammation with your diet and lifestyle choices.
She offers practical and specific nutrition and lifestyle tips to decrease inflammation as well as info about what tests you should request for inflammation indicators and what you should consider when exercising.
You will want to take notes on this one. Grab a pen.
Listen as we discuss:
- what causes inflammation (specific foods and lifestyle choices)
- top lifestyle tips to help decrease inflammation
- suggestions for an anti-inflammatory diet
- food sensitivity testing options
A full transcript follows.
Martha McKittrick is a Registered Dietitian, Certified Diabetes Educator, Wellcoach®-Certified Health and Wellness Coach with a private practice in NYC. With over 25 years’ experience in the field of nutrition, Martha specializes in PCOS, weight management, cardiovascular health, diabetes, IBS, and preventive nutrition. Ms. McKittrick has had a special interest in nutrition for PCOS since 2000 and can be considered one of the pioneers in the field. She was the nutrition editor for Dr. Walter Futterweit’s book: A Patient’s Guide to PCOS – Understanding and Reversing Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome. She has lectured across the country on PCOS to both health professionals as well as women with PCOS. She is currently on the Health Advisory Board for PCOS Challenge.
Martha is passionate about helping women take charge of their PCOS with healthy diet and lifestyle. She does not believe in a “one-size-fits-all” plan and provides individually tailored recommendations for her patients. She takes an integrative approach and focuses on sleep, stress, physical activity, supplements in addition to diet. Living in NYC, Martha specializes in helping women with PCOS find practical ways to incorporate healthy nutrition and lifestyle into their hectic schedules! Martha blogs at PCOS Nutrition & Lifestyle Solutions http://marthamckittricknutrition.com/pcos-blog/ Like her facebook page PCOS Nutritionist Martha McKittrick https://www.facebook.com/PCOSnutritionist/
To learn more about Martha:
Website: Martha McKittrick Nutrition
Amy Medling: Hello, and welcome to the PCOS Diva podcast. My name is Amy Medling, I’m a certified health coach, and founder of PCOS Diva, and my mission is to help women with PCOS find the tools and knowledge they need to take control of their PCOS, so they can regain their fertility, femininity, health and happiness. And if you haven’t already, make sure you check out pcosdiva.com because there I offer tons of free information about PCOS, how to develop your lifestyle plan so you can begin to thrive like a Diva, and you can look for me on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram as well.
So, if you’re a frequent listener to the PCOS Diva podcast then you know PCOS is associated with chronic low-grade inflammation, regardless of your body weight. Diet and lifestyle can really play an important role in either increasing or decreasing inflammation. So today’s guest, registered dietician Martha McKittrick, is going to share her approach to help you tame the flames of inflammation with your diet and lifestyle choices. So, Martha, welcome to the PCOS Diva podcast!
Martha McKittrick: Thanks, Amy, it’s great to be here!
Amy Medling: So, before we get started on today’s really important topic, I’m just gonna give our listeners a bit of your background. You’re a registered dietician, you’re a certified diabetes educator, well-coach, certified health and wellness coach, with a private practice in New York City. You have over 25 years of experience in the field of nutrition, and you specialize in PCOS weight management, cardiovascular health, diabetes, IBS and preventative nutrition. You have a special interest in nutrition for PCOS since 2000, and you’re considered one of the pioneers of the field as you helped Dr. Futterweit with the nutrition section of his book, “A Patient’s Guide to PCOS, Understanding and Reversing Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome.” Which is one of, really, the first books that helped me in my journey, and I kind of consider him the godfather of patient resources for women with PCOS, so what an honor to have contributed to his book. So, thank you so much for taking the time to join us today.
Martha McKittrick: Thanks Amy, great to be here. As you mentioned, I did meet Dr. Futterweit. It was probably about 15, 17 years ago now, and I kind of fell into the area of counseling women with PCOS, and I was honored to get to write the two nutrition chapters in his book. I lectured across the country with various organizations on PCOS for women who had it, and also for health professionals, I do a lot of lectures for dieticians on PCOS and helping educate them with exactly what it is and what kind of nutrition guidelines are best.
What I find interesting is, when I first started working in this area, the thought that insulin resistance and PCOS went hand-in-hand was a pretty new concept, I think for many years we just thought of it as like a gynecological condition, and now we realize that insulin resistance stage plays a major role, and when I was doing counseling or even writing for Dr. Futterweit’s book, that’s what I focused on was mainly insulin resistance. But since that time, we have learned that inflammation also plays an important role in PCOS.
So when I’m counseling my patients for PCOS I definitely take into account factors that can help decrease inflammation. Inflammation’s a hot topic now, it’s on the news, it’s in all kinds of magazines, we’re hearing anti-inflammatory diets and anti-inflammatory supplements, and inflammation’s linked to obvious chronic disease including heart disease, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Alzheimer’s disease, and cancer. And what research has shown is that inflammation plays a role in PCOS. Including insulin resistance and cardiovascular risk disease factors, so I think it’s really important that women be aware of nutrition and lifestyle tips to decrease inflammation, not just insulin resistance, but let’s think about inflammation too.
Amy Medling: Right, and I think that kind of getting to understand what level of inflammation is sort of going on in your body is really important as well, and we can do that. Ask our doctor and advocate for ourselves for testing, to sort of look at our inflammation markers and maybe we could talk a little bit about that as well.
Martha McKittrick: Yeah, sure. First thing, you know, not all inflammation is bad, okay. So let’s say for example, if you cut your finger and it gets kind of warm and red, basically what’s going on inside is there’s then like this inflammatory cascade that’s been triggered, and your body’s kind of repairing the cut in your finger. So we need some inflammation in the body, but what happens is when we have chronic inflammation, that’s what can increase the risk of disease. Dr. Susan Blum, who wrote “The Immune System Recovery Plan,” I like her kind of quote, she says: “Think of inflammation as an irritating chemical that’s released by your immune cells. If this occurs in an ongoing way, damage occurs, and health problems show up in any part of the body.” So any part of the body, these problems can occur.
You know, what I suggest is that you discuss your concerns with your physician, and there is certain blood tests that they can run that can show if you have any elevated inflammatory markers. And the ones that you would specifically be looking for, the most common one is called a C-reactive protein, the second one is Interleukin-18. Third one is monocyte chemoattractant protein 1, and then your white blood cell count. Or if you just tell your doctor you want the doctor to run a panel for your inflammatory markers they should be able to do that.
If it’s elevated, you definitely know that you do have a low-grade inflammation in the body. But even if they’re not elevated, you might still have a low line inflammation that’s not actually showing up in your blood work, so I really feel that every woman who has PCOS should be following an anti-inflammatory diet. I think all people in general should follow it, but especially women who have PCOS.
Amy Medling: Yeah absolutely, and I think that we have to shift our thinking, and I think that the generalized nutrition information is moving from that calories-in, calories-out model, that foods effect our bodies in different ways, that a burger, fries, and a shake, that might equal, I don’t know, 800 calories, is very different from 800 calories derived from plant-based foods.
Martha McKittrick: Absolutely.
Amy Medling: Yeah, and I think if we can think about food as could either be our greatest form of medicine, in a way, or healing for PCOS, but it’s also, if we make poor choices, then it could be sort of our poison. And we have to sort of really manage our choices, and I think it’s important to have that knowledge of what foods are inflammatory versus what foods are anti-inflammatory. So I was kind of hoping that you could share some of your choices to look for, and those to watch out for, when it comes to food and including them in your diet.
Martha McKittrick: Yeah, I mean, you look at maybe my typical client who has PCOS, I live in New York, we’re all stressed out. So basically, you have a woman who’s probably trying to be on a low-carb diet, and that probably means that they’re eating a lot of protein, probably a lot of animal protein, probably has high stress levels in general, just part of life and then maybe partly PCOS. Someone who’s not sleeping enough, and who has a busy schedule and doesn’t really have the time or the energy to fit in this perfectly balanced nutritional diet with adequate fruits and vegetables.
So kind of what you have right there is a setup for inflammation. You have stress, you have inadequate sleep, you have a lot of animal products, not enough fruits and vegetables, so that is definitely an inflammatory situation. So what you want to do is you want to do everything you can from a nutritional lifestyle standpoint to help decrease inflammation. Studies have definitely shown that women with PCOS do have increased rates in inflammation, they’ve compared thin women, women of average weight, and women who are overweight with PCOS compared to women who don’t have PCOS, and all the women, even the thinner women, still have increased levels of inflammation.
I think a lot of times we think of being overweight as associated with inflammation, and while that is true, women who are more overweight do have higher rates of inflammation, even thinner women do have inflammation, so I think it’s important that everybody follows these guidelines which I’ll go over.
So my top lifestyle tips to help decrease inflammation. The first one, and I’m sure you’ve heard this 100 times, but now I’ll say it 101 times, is if you are overweight, even losing a small amount of body weight will help decrease your inflammatory marker. 5% of your body weight is not a lot of weight, so just that in itself will help decrease. Let’s just say you weighed 170 pounds, that would be losing about 8 pounds. Don’t feel like you have to get to this perfect BMI to help increase your health overall.
The second one is to try and get enough sleep. This is a tough one. I just think we’re being pulled in so many different directions, we’re working long hours at work, family, social obligations, trying to fit in exercise. All this stuff going on, and then stress which might help decrease the quality of your sleep. Most of my patients do not get adequate sleep, or they have a poor sleep quality. Then studies have shown that this does increase inflammatory markers. So do everything you can to try to work on your sleep. Turn the computers off an hour before bedtime.
Amy Medling: I just wanted to add, quickly, that women with PCOS are also at an elevated risk of sleep apnea. So if you’re snoring in your sleep, you might want to talk to your doctor about that. I could tell you, so many of my clients that I’ve heard from that have had a sleep study and have gone and had treatment with a CPAP machine, they say that their life has changed dramatically for the better because of the quality of sleep that they’re getting due to their treatment for that sleep apnea, so I just wanted to put that out there.
Martha McKittrick: Totally. Totally. CPAP machines have come a long way, they’re not quite as large as they used to be, but that’s a really important point. If you’re having trouble … You know, if your partner says, “It’s almost like you stop breathing in your sleep for a minute,” or if you’re having trouble sleeping, definitely seek some medical attention for that. And make sleep a priority. Turn down some social obligations, sleep is so important for everything. They’ve also done studies on inadequate sleep with obesity. If you don’t sleep enough, it can make it be more difficult to lose weight and increases your risk of diabetes and heart disease. Sleep is the hot topic now.
The next tip is stress management. Easier said than done, but chronic elevated stress will increase cortisol levels, which will influence your insulin levels and your metabolism, and it increases chronic inflammation in your body. There’s been a lot of research done on this, especially with depression and stress, there’s a rise in the C-reactive protein, which increases risk of heart disease, so easier said than done, but try to find ways that you can to manage your stress. Whether it’s medication or reading a book or talking to a friend who is a good listener, avoiding irritating situations as much as you can, but you really want to take care of your mental health.
The next tip is quit smoking if you smoke, I think we all know smoking is bad. I don’t think as many people smoke now as they used to, but smoking will definitely increase inflammation.
Now moving onto my area of expertise, which is the nutrition part of it. I’m sure everybody’s heard of the Mediterranean diet, and basically what that is is a very anti-inflammatory diet, and it contains an abundance of vegetables, beans like chickpeas, black beans, fruits, grains, and it has a high ratio of monounsaturated fat to saturated fat. And it has a lot of Omega 3 fats versus Omega 6 fats, and I’m gonna talk about that more in a second.
But this a very anti-inflammatory diet. Compared to the typical Western diet that tends to be higher in animal protein, unrefined or processed carbohydrates, and sugar. So most experts believe that the Mediterranean diet is really the diet of choice for decreasing chronic inflammation. So what does this diet actually consist of? Omega 3 fats. I’m sure everybody’s heard of that, that is the kind of fat that is found in fatty fish like salmon, sardines, herring, any kind of fish that’s higher in fat.
And basically these kinds of fats are anti-inflammatory. You can also get it from a vegetable source, plant-based source which would be walnuts, flax seeds, omega-enriched eggs and leafy greens. They have a lot less Omega 3 than the fish, but they do have some. Basically, these kinds of fats are converted into prostaglandins, and different types of prostaglandins either increase or decrease inflammation, and the Omega 3 fats actually decrease inflammation. I’d recommend if you do not consume fatty fish, consider taking a fish oil supplement, an Omega 3 supplement to help get you those healthy Omega 3 fats.
Amy Medling: I was just gonna say, would you mind clarifying the difference between the vegetable derived Omega 3s and more of the fish ALA?
Martha McKittrick: Yeah, that’s a good question. Good question. Any of the Omega 3s that come from a plant source are called Alpha-Linolenic Acids, and it’s a much weaker form of the Omega 3 fats. You need ten of the Alpha-Linolenics to convert to one of the Omega 3s. So it’s pretty much impossible for the most part to meet your Omega 3 needs if you’re just getting it from the walnuts, flax seeds and the Omega-enriched eggs. So that’s why I do recommend that you try to get in a real Omega 3 source, either from the fatty fish or from the fish oil supplement.
It is recommend that you have fatty fish three or four times a week, which I think a lot of people don’t do. Especially with some concerns about some contamination in fish, so you’re probably best off taking a fish oil supplement. And if you did that, I would recommend a high grade fish oil supplement, and you would want to take about two grams a day of the Omega 3s.
Amy Medling: Okay.
Martha McKittrick: Okay, so the next tip, part of the Mediterranean diet, would be to consume green, leafy vegetables. Pretty much all vegetables contain something nutritious about them, but the green leafy ones are especially nutritious. They contain powerful antioxidants and flavonoids and Vitamin C. These all help protect against cellular damage and help decrease inflammation. When possible, try and get locally grown vegetables, organic if you can. I’m not fanatical about organic, I’d just rather see you eat vegetables in general, but if you can get organic that’s always best. But definitely, you want to get in a wide variety of vegetables, include some leafy green vegetables in there.
The next one is fruit, and I know a lot of women with PCOS are wary of fruit because they do contain carbohydrates, but most fruits actually, believe it or not, have a lower glycemic load or a glycemic index than some grains, because it contains some fructose in it, but fruits, especially the berries, I’m a huge fan of strawberries, blueberries, even citrus like oranges, and even something like cherries which are sweet, but they contain a lot of antioxidants and polyphenols, and these again are high anti-inflammatory effects on the body. You want to try and find a way to fit them in, and if you are on a low-carb diet, maybe make some of your carbs come from fruit versus grains.
The next one is, include spices into the diet. I think this is something a lot of us don’t really think about, maybe you just use salt and pepper or garlic, but spices including turmeric and ginger, garlic, basil, cayenne pepper, rosemary, sage, nutmeg, oregano, thyme. These all have strong anti-inflammatory properties, so spice up your food! Not only will you make it taste good, but you’re giving your body something healthy.
Amy Medling: Yeah, that’s a great point. I think when people aren’t used to eating vegetables and lots of plant-based food, I think they think of the canned green beans that they grew up eating. But you can really make vegetables taste delicious, and a lot of times it’s just adding some delicious spices and herbs like you mentioned.
Martha McKittrick: Absolutely. If that’s not your thing, Google it and find some recipes if you’re not used to doing something like that. There’s lots of great resources out there on the internet where you can find some really interesting recipes.
And then the next thing is fermented vegetables, and cultured foods. This is something I know I didn’t really grow up on eating kimchi and kefir and fermented pickles and all that, but the area of gut health, and I’m sure Amy you’ve done lots of podcasts on gut health, this is really where I think a lot of nutrition research is heading in this direction, and what we’re finding out is that the immune system really starts in the gut. If you can feed your gut healthy food, you can improve your immune system and you can help decrease inflammation.
So some examples of fermented foods would be kefir, and that’s almost like a fermented yogurt drink, but you would want to get the plain one, not the one that’s loaded with sugar, a lot of them have a lot of sugar in them. Kimchi, I’m addicted to kimchi now, basically this is like fermented cabbage. If you go to your local health food store, they have all different kinds of fermented vegetables. They have one that I love, it’s fermented carrots with ginger, it’s delicious.
Amy Medling: Yeah. I just wanted to point out to listeners that I have a great podcast with Summer Bock about this very topic, she’s a master fermentationist. Since I spoke with her, this is gosh, a couple of years ago I think, I medicinally take a couple forkfuls of raw sauerkraut every day. There’s a brand that I really like, it’s called Micro Mama’s, you can kinda get it on the East Coast. They have it at my Whole Foods. They also have a carrot and cinnamon, and it’s delicious! You don’t have to eat a lot, it’s just fermented foods like that we’re meant to eat, not as a main side dish, but as a little addition to your meal, and that’s really all it takes, so if the sauerkraut kinda scares you, don’t let it, just try a forkful a day. Especially those Divas struggling with acne, it can really improve the quality of your skin, so give it a try.
Martha McKittrick: Yeah, it’s really good. You can even make it yourself too, did that person who was in your podcast, did they talk about how to make it?
Amy Medling: Yeah, and she actually has an online course, that’s really great, about how to make fermented vegetables and it’s not that expensive, so that’s something to look at as well.
Martha McKittrick: Yeah, because I know when I do buy it in my health food store it’s not inexpensive, I think it might be like 10 dollars for a little bottle, but if you make it, it’s very inexpensive. The one thing I want to point out is make sure that it’s a real … It has live cultures in it and it’s really fermented. Sometimes, for example, there can be pickles that are fermented, but you can also buy pickles in a jar that have vinegar in them and they’re not really fermented. So look for the live, raw, fermented type products. And these products all contain probiotics, which we’ve all heard of, and that’s when you’re giving your body the good bacteria. But again, this is important, it can help decrease inflammation.
The next tip to help decrease inflammation is to try to include some green tea in the diet. Studies have shown that green tea can help decrease inflammation, and that’s something that we’re looking for. So, kind of to summarize, even losing 5% of your body weight can help, work on your sleep, work on your stress levels, quit smoking if you smoke, and then follow the anti-inflammatory diet where you’re having plenty of Omega 3 fats, taking a supplement if needed, also getting in those vegetable Alpha-Linolenic Omega 3 fats. Make sure your plate is half vegetables, and focus on green leafy vegetables. Spice up your food, and then look at some anti-oxidant rich fruits, such as berries, citrus fruits as well. And then the fermented vegetables, and cultured food like kafir, and then green tea.
So those are the top tips to help decrease inflammation, so now I want to go over what foods actually can fuel inflammation. The first one, which I’m sure you’ve all heard thousands of times, high glycemic index and high glycemic load carbohydrates. We know these are kind of the bad guys when it comes to insulin, but also when it comes to increasing inflammation. They’ve done studies where they’ve fed people higher glycemic index and load carbs, and their inflammatory markers do go up. So here’s another reason why you want to limit those foods.
So that’s the first one, basically I’m sure everybody kind of knows what this is, but it’s mainly sugary foods, tends to be highly processed carbohydrates, a lot of white carbohydrates, juices. These are the foods that have the higher glycemic index and loads, whereas carbohydrates such as vegetables, whole grains, beans, legumes, and most fruits have a lower glycemic index or load. I’m kind of a fan of looking at the glycemic load versus the index, because the load takes into account how much carbohydrate is actually in a food, like here’s an example, a watermelon has a fairly high glycemic index, but when you look at the glycemic load it’s actually very low. It’s because watermelon has so much water in it that you would have to eat a ton of watermelon to really make it shoot your blood sugar up. So, I think that’s an even better chart to look at, and there’s a lot of good charts on the internet that you can look up, to look at the glycemic load of foods.
The next kind of food that can increase inflammation, I think this something a lot of us don’t really think about much, it’s called advanced glycation end-products. I’ll shorten that to AGE, and what that is, it’s food that has been fried or charred, so you have a barbecue going and you’re getting your chicken on the grill and it’s getting all charred, or foods that are deep-fried, as well as sugary foods and highly processed carbohydrates.
Basically, these foods, they product this product called the advanced glycation end-products, and these are harmful components that can be a major cause of inflammation in the body, that can increase risk of insulin resistance and Type-2 Diabetes. They implicate it in the development and progression of various metabolic and chronic diseases, including PCOS. If you do a Google search on PCOS and these AGEs, you will find a fair amount of research out there. So there’s something about these detrimental products that can increase risk of PCOS or worsen PCOS. They need to do more research in this area, but in the meantime, this is another reason to avoid sugary and processed little packaged carbohydrate type foods, and also to be careful with how you are cooking your protein.
You want to try not to cook it at a really, really high heat, or to have them get charred. Maybe if you’re gonna grill something, maybe pre-cook it first and then cook it more quickly on the grill so it’s not getting charred, you can also cook something with a moist heat, like maybe poaching chicken or having a shorter cooking time. Also if you’ve used an acidic ingredient such as vinegar or lemon juice, if you marinate the chicken or the meat in that before you cook it, that can also help decrease the amount of the AGEs. There’s a good website called agefoundation.com, that talks a lot more about this and gives you cooking tips and ways to help decrease it.
But I think this an area that a lot of women with PCOS wouldn’t even think of, really.
Amy Medling: Yeah absolutely. I haven’t checked out that resource yet, so I’ll have to get on there after our call. I love the idea of marinating, because as we’re recording this podcast we’re getting into that summer barbecue season, certainly for people who are in the US, so it’s really important to know that information.
Martha McKittrick: Exactly. And also cooking plant-based foods do not contain the AGE like the meat products do. So if you were to cook some vegetables on the grill or portobello mushrooms or something like that, or even fish, it’s going to have less of it as the red meat and the poultry.
Amy Medling: What do you think about … I know you had mentioned the Mediterranean diet, you’re not eating as much animal-based food, but what do you think about conventional raised meat versus organic, kind of grass-fed. Do you think there’s a difference in terms of inflammation?
Martha McKittrick: Yeah, I definitely do. I definitely do. I think whenever you can get access to grass-fed, hormone-free beef or, the same kind of thing, hormone-free chicken. But definitely if you can get the grass-fed beef, it definitely does contain more of the … It has alpha-linolenic acid because the cattle are fed on grass versus corn or soy, so I’m definitely a fan of that, and then if you can get wild salmon versus farm raised salmon. Not everybody has access to that all the time, but when you can, I would definitely recommend to try and do it.
Amy Medling: I find that Costco is a good source for less expensive organic meats.
Martha McKittrick: Yeah, yeah.
Amy Medling: That’s kind of one of my go-to places. I’ve got two hungry teenage boys to feed and it really does get expensive.
Martha McKittrick: I bet! I bet. Okay, the next tip is to limit saturated fat, which is found in whole milk dairy products, fatty red meat and butter. Saturated fat has been linked to an increase in inflammation, and this is something again, women who are on very low carbohydrate diets want to pay attention to. I see lots of women loading up on lots of meat and butter, that kind of thing, and not enough plant-based type food.
The next one is interesting. Too much Omega 6 fat might increase inflammation in the body. Omega 6 fats are everywhere, and a lot of healthcare experts believe that we are consuming inadequate amounts of Omega 3 fat, and we’re having way too much Omega 6 fat. Omega 6 fats are found in corn oil, sunflower oil, soybean oil, peanut oil, safflower, grape seed, mayonnaise, a lot of salad dressings. If you go home and look at your bottle of salad dressing in your refrigerator, chances are it has one of these oils in there. So what you want to try and do, is don’t be fat phobic, I want you to eat fat, but I would prefer that you’re getting more of the healthier anti-inflammatory types of fats that you’d get in extra virgin olive oil, that you would get in nuts, natural nut butter like almond butter, avocado, and the fatty fish. Those are the healthier kinds of fats versus the Omega 6s.
It gets a little confusing, all these different kinds of fats. We have the saturated fats, now we have Omega 6 fats. The next fat I want to touch briefly on, although I think it’s been kind of wiped out, it’s been removed from products, is partially hydrogenated oils or fats. I’m from New York, our mayor, Mayor Bloomberg years ago banned trans-fats in New York City. So, I believe they’re gonna be banned everywhere, excess trans fats or partially hydrogenated fats are very inflammatory. So you want to make sure that you look at the food labels on some of your products and just make sure you don’t see that word, “Partially hydrogenated fats.” They tend to be in coffee creamers, stick margarine which I don’t think anybody’s really using much anymore these days. Even some yogurt might have it. Some brands of peanut butter might have it, fried foods, so you want to avoid that like the plague.
The last thing I want to talk about is individual food sensitivity may trigger an immune-based reaction which can lead to inflammation. This is kind of a tricky one, like Amy I know you are anti-gluten and anti-dairy, correct?
Amy Medling: Well definitely gluten, I think for most women it’s inflammatory, but that doesn’t mean go out and start buying gluten-free cookies and gluten-free or fine flours. When it comes to dairy, I think grass-fed butter is great, I think it’s more of the casein in dairy because I find most women with PCOS that I’ve encountered are addicted to cheese, and I think that that casein is really inflammatory for a lot of women. And there’s other reasons I don’t love dairy as well, but … Yeah. Kind of like a low-dairy diet is what I recommend.
Martha McKittrick: I’m kind of open-minded on this, I really depend on my patients paying attention to how they feel. For example, I was working with a woman and she was doing everything we talked about, she was on a really anti-inflammatory diet, she changed her diet dramatically, cut out cold cuts, and her diet was really, really good. She didn’t have any real GI issues, but she definitely was feeling kind of off, so she did an experiment, and she cut out gluten, and she listened to her body, and two weeks later she said, “I feel amazing. I feel absolutely fantastic.”
So she probably had a food sensitivity to gluten. What you could do if you were concerned about this, number one, is you can ask your doctor to get an allergy test. They can see if you are truly allergic to certain foods, certain proteins, whatever. That’s conventional medicine. The second thing you could do, you could get food sensitivity testing. I live in New York, we are not allowed to do it in New York state, so my patient would have to cross the border to go to Connecticut or New Jersey to get tested, but they do have food sensitivity testing. A really good organization is called L E A P, LEAP Testing. If you look at the website you can find a LEAP-certified therapist, who can have you tested for food sensitivity, and they are probably one of the best tests out there.
What else you can do, if you don’t want to go through all that, is experiment. If you think you have an issue with certain foods, cut it out. Cut it out for two weeks, see do you feel better? Only cut out one thing at a time, you can’t cut out two things. Maybe cut out dairy or cut out gluten, or whatever, MSG, and see if you feel better. Then you know that maybe you do have a real issue, and maybe you could challenge yourself, put it back, in one day have a lot of it, if you get symptoms, you know you probably have a food sensitivity.
And again, this could trigger inflammation, if you keep eating the food that you’re sensitive to. So I’m really open-minded to women paying attention to their own bodies, I think everybody’s different. And then of course if you get a lot of gas or bloating after you have something dairy like milk or something, that’s lactose-intolerant, that’s not the same thing as a food sensitivity like I’m talking about which is more immune-based, but listen to your body.
Amy Medling: I just want to quickly point out that I just did a podcast with Dr. Margaret Mikulis about the food sensitivity testing, so if you could also check out that podcast.
Martha McKittrick: Okay.
Amy Medling: I was gonna just ask you, what are your thoughts on exercise and inflammation? I find that a lot of women are signing themselves up for half-marathons, and the single exertion long-distance running that I think can be really inflammatory, and a lot of these women say, “I dunno what’s going on, I’m running every day, training, and I’m putting on weight.”
And I do think that there’s sort of this inflammation factor that we have to look at in terms of exercise as well.
Martha McKittrick: It’s funny that you say that, because right now I’m training for this absurd bike race, it’s 100 miles. It’s up all these hills in New York state Bear Mountain, and I did a training ride this past week and it was like 70 miles, and I feel like I’m a mess. My entire body’s inflamed, I can barely walk.
No, I absolutely believe that too much exercise can trigger inflammation, absolutely. I see the same thing you do, Amy, I see women who are like really gung-ho, they want to go out and they want to beat their PCOS, they’re gonna spend hours in the gym, and I just don’t think it’s doing anything, I think if anything it could be hurting you, and I do think it can be increasing inflammation, so I think we need to find a middle ground. What is a middle ground?
I mean I do believe adding a weight training component is important, and then a cardio or aerobic component, but not going overboard. Get your steps in, get up and move, that’s important for insulin resistance, but don’t go overboard with the exercise.
Amy Medling: Yeah, I would agree.
Martha McKittrick: So, those are my tips!
Amy Medling: Yeah. Well, you know what, there was really some great tips. I hope that listeners will take at least one thing and apply it. It’s one thing to listen to these podcasts, but you have to take action, and apply these really wonderful ideas from our experts to your life. So think about what you’re going to take away from Martha’s podcast today.
But Martha, I want you also to tell us, where can we find you online? If somebody listening wants to work with you, how can they find you?
Martha McKittrick: Sure, sure. My website is called marthamckittricknutrition.com, and when you go to my website, one of the tabs in the top says “PCOS.” And if you click on that, you will see a little bit about me and my background with PCOS, but I also have a blog which is under that tab, and it’s called “PCOS Nutrition and Lifestyle Solutions.” I just started the blog about a month ago, but I am putting articles up there, practical tips to help you deal with PCOS, eating tips, exercise tips, stress management tips. So you can get a lot of information there.
All my contact information is on my website, and I do specialize in PCOS and weight management, diabetes, irritable bowel syndrome. I’m kind of known for giving really practical information, something that you’ll be able to follow, something that’s realistic. And then I also have a Facebook page called “PCOS Nutritionist, Martha McKittrick.” And I’ll be putting a lot of information on that page as well.
Amy Medling: Awesome. Well, thank you so much for joining us, and thank you for listening to the PCOS Diva podcast. I hope you enjoyed it. And if you liked this episode, don’t forget to subscribe on iTunes, or wherever else you might be listening to the show, and if you have a minute please leave me a quick review on iTunes because I’d love to hear from you. If you think of someone else that might benefit from this free podcast, please share it with a friend or family member so she can benefit from it too.
And please don’t forget to sign up for my free newsletter, it goes out every Thursday. Just enter your email at pcosdiva.com to get instant access and make sure you never miss a future podcast. This is Amy Medling, wishing you good health. I look forward to being with you again soon, goodbye.