When nutrition expert Martha McKittrick stumbled across a condition called PCOS 15 years ago, she was fascinated. This hormone condition was so prevalent, yet so under-researched (and for sufferers of this condition, she saw how they were routinely under-served). Over a decade later, Martha has dedicated her professional career to mitigating PCOS symptoms through lifestyle, dietary choices, and research-backed science.
We decided to sit down with Martha to hear about wellness advice she has for those suffering from PCOS, and how lifestyle can interact with nutrition to impact someone’s PCOS journey.
You’re officially part of the Allara Medical Advisory Board! What made you want to get involved?
Over the past 15 years that I’ve specialized in polycystic ovary syndrome, I’ve noticed a couple of troubling trends. It seems that many women suffer in silence, struggling with the feeling that they’re alone in their PCOS symptoms. This is no doubt made worse by the fact it can take years to get diagnosed with PCOS. Even when a diagnosis is finally reached, the care can be systematically suboptimal (a common one-size-fits-all solution revolves around prescribing birth control, with little follow up or exploration of alternatives).
When I found Allara and heard their mission, I knew I wanted to offer my expertise. The idea of having PCOS experts (both physicians and registered dietitians) providing holistic, personalized care was such a groundbreaking concept, and in my opinion it means that women can finally get the high quality care they deserve.
Why are you passionate about helping people with PCOS?
Initially, I didn’t know much about the condition, but I ended up doing a lot of research on it when I encountered my first PCOS patient. I saw first-hand how massively nutrition and lifestyle changes can impact symptoms and a patient’s quality of life. From there, I got involved with several PCOS organizations, lecturing across the country to PCOS patients (as well as to health professionals) to help spread awareness about this often overlooked portion of PCOS treatment.
What is your biggest piece of advice to give people with PCOS?
I would say that nutrition and lifestyle are the first line treatments for PCOS. What many women suffering with PCOS don’t know (and sometimes doctors don’t either) is that what we consume, and how we consume it, can make a huge difference to your symptoms, overall health, and general quality of life day to day.
I also want to emphasize that everyone’s PCOS is a little different, so there is no one size treatment plan for everyone. We all have different hormone imbalances, health issues, symptoms, genes, gut microbiomes, food preferences, you name it. You’ll need to find what works for you – so try not to compare yourself to others!
Finally, the best way to manage PCOS is to focus on simple, small changes you can make that have an outsized difference. For instance, a healthy diet, frequently moving your body, getting adequate sleep, managing stress, targeted supplementation, and medications, can all work together to effectively manage PCOS symptoms.
What is your #1 wellness tip?
By far, getting enough sleep! Without adequate sleep, it’s difficult to follow a healthy diet, move your body, or be productive throughout your day. When you have a restful night’s sleep, you set yourself up for success the next day.
My runner up would be eating enough protein at meals. This is extremely helpful in maintaining feelings of satiation, curbing carb cravings, and preventing energy highs and crashes.
What else should we know about PCOS?
There is so much information out there on the internet, and much of it is conflicting and/or inaccurate! It is totally normal to be overwhelmed or upset when first researching this condition, or when you get your diagnosis. I would encourage women who think they have PCOS to center their research and energy around evidence-based nutrition solutions. Also be on the lookout for resources that offer practical, accessible food recommendations, that can help you develop actionable plans of attack for managing PCOS. So that’s what I would recommend: prioritizing a personalized approach to PCOS that works for your lifestyle, your values, and your mental and physical health. Whatever resource or service you go with, make sure that it works for you.
Allara Health provides personalized treatment for hormonal, metabolic & gynecological conditions that utilizes a holistic plan that merges nutrition, lifestyle, medication and supplementation, and ongoing, expert support to heal your body.