How to improve insulin resistance when you have PCOS

If you have polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), then you know just how frustrating it can be if you’ve been trying to gain control of your weight. I have quite a few friends, clients, and patients that deal with this condition that digs deeper than infertility, as devastating as that can be on its own.

First let’s define what it is and why it matters for your weight. PCOS is characterized by overproduction of the androgen testosterone, menstrual abnormalities when ovulation does not occur and enlarged ovaries containing multiple small follicles (hence, polycystic ovaries). Women with severe PCOS have greater menstrual irregularity, androgen excess, total and abdominal fat and resistance to insulin; higher degrees of obesity are associated with worsening symptoms. This means their risk is increased for metabolic comorbidities such as diabetes. Since insulin is a known fat storage hormone, the greater the insulin resistance, the harder it usually is to control weight gain. It’s a double whammy.

Did I just described you or someone you know personally? Whether your insulin resistance is caused by PCOS or something else, some of these principles will apply. Insulin resistance otherwise known as “pre-diabetes” or “glucose intolerance” often leads to diabetes later in life and can really wreak havoc on your weight loss efforts. If you have received a diagnosis of insulin resistance, it means your insulin receptors are not very sensitive to the “lock and key” fit that insulin creates to move glucose (sugar) into their cells for energy. As a result, your pancreas produces more insulin to try and keep up. But like anything, our bodies become tolerant when it gets too much of something. Same thing happens when you take antibiotics over and over- your body recognizes it and you become antibiotic resistant over time. Consider someone who has become addicted to a drug and requires more over time to attain the same effect they did when they first tried it. Same concept.

When you have an abundance of insulin circulating in your blood stream, it’s constantly promoting fat storage in your body making it extremely difficult for you to succeed at any weight loss attempts. A common treatment in PCOS specifically is to prescribe metformin. However this isn’t really correcting the problem – it’s just telling your liver to produce less glucose but not directly addressing the fact that your body is producing too much insulin.

My expertise is in natural health and what to eat. So I’m not recommending you stop any current medical treatments without speaking to your physician. But I do want to help you with what you can safely control, starting today.

Begin with these simple (but maybe not so easy) steps:

  1. You gotta cut out fake food – meaning processed, refined, simple carbohydrates and sugars. These foods do nothing for you. Well, nutritionally they do nothing. I know emotionally they are “feel good” foods and literally turn on the pleasure centers in our brain by increasing dopamine levels and offer a great distraction to our negative emotions. But they spike insulin levels quickly and when consumed persistently (as part of frequent snacking let’s say), they worsen insulin resistance eventually leading to type 2 diabetes. Don’t misread this, those with a normal functioning pancreas cannot give themselves diabetes by eating these foods alone. Many other factors are running behind the scene including weight and genetics.
  2. Reduce your total carbohydrate intake. Key word here is REDUCE not eliminate. I’m really not a proponent of consuming under 10% of your calories from carbohydrates because I haven’t seen anyone sustain it for long term and there are very healthy foods that truly don’t deserve that kind of neglect. Why would you eliminate an apple from your diet that contains fiber and vital nutrients? It doesn’t make any sense. But it IS a good idea to cut back to 100 to 130 grams of total carbohydrate per day. If that sounds like a lot to you, consider that most people consume anywhere from 300 to 600 grams of carbohydrate per day in the standard american diet. Restricting down to 100 or so is enough to put you into a very mild ketosis so that you are depleting your glycogen stores (in simple terms, energy from sugar stores) while dipping into some of your fat stores. The effect of ketosis is to reduce hunger and successfully lose weight while not feeling terrible. *Note if you are a diabetic taking insulin you will need to discuss this with your doctor before lowering your carbohydrates this much as your regimen is likely designed for you to eat more than this.
  3. Consider a 30 day cleanse to reset your system and begin to bring your hormones into balance. This will not be an overnight fix. But, essential oils are natural, aromatic compounds that when coming from pure sources, have therapeutic properties that can have amazing benefits for bringing body systems that are out of balance, into balance. A good cleanse eliminates processed food and sugars, includes a high quality multivitamin, whole food enzymes, essential oils, probiotics and others that I outline specifically on a recent post here that you can read about if interested. If you experience symptoms like fatigue, irritability, headaches, stomach distress, bloating, recurrent sinus infections, lack of focus, or other vague symptoms not otherwise diagnosed as anything definitive, a cleanse could be exactly what you need. These could be signs of a weakened immune system caused by increased levels of stress, poor diet, increased candida overgrowth in your gut, and/or sleep deprivation.
  4. Incorporate essential oils into your daily maintenance plan to bring and keep your hormones in balance. Oils like clary sage and geranium when used daily regulate the hormones responsible for the female reproductive system. Clove, cinnamon, and rosemary support the pancreas to balance healthy blood sugars. Grapefruit, cinnamon and ginger regulate appetite and reduce cravings, particularly for sweets. Making teas using these can help along with increasing your fluids. And lastly but just as important, oils like cilantro, lemon and tangerine regularly cleanse and assist the liver to keep it functioning at it’s best. I recommend adding lemon to all of your water for this purpose. Just one drop of essential oil per eight ounces.
  5. Manage sleep and stress. This isn’t easy, I realize. However, you can do all of the above and if you don’t take care of these two, it won’t do you any good. Stress and sleep deprivation increase the hormone, cortisol, which inhibits the production of progesterone, a main marker of PCOS. Grapefruit essential oil can also prevent cortisol from doing this, so adding it to some of your water is a good idea. But more importantly, taking measures to get at least seven hours of sleep each night is key. Refer to this post I did a while back on taking simple measures to achieve this.

I’ve only scratched the surface on this. As you know, PCOS affects many areas of your life from causing unwanted facial hair, to thinning hair, and infertility. This post was meant to focus primarily on the weight and insulin resistant aspects as that is what I do best. However, I do believe that by addressing diet and hormonal issues that naturally, each of the symptoms can be improved greatly over time. If you’d like to know more about my cleanse and diet program, please feel free to contact me.

P.S. If you’re looking for online support with like minded women striving to live a healthier lifestyle, you may be interested in joining my free support group here.

 

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Jillian McMullen, RDN, CSOWM, LDN

New year, new you – time for a detox?

I’ve been quiet on here this month, enjoying the holidays with my family and frankly, getting slammed with my home business. But 2018 is just around the corner and I know many of you are thinking about your health goals. One of the most popular goals, besides weight loss, is whole body detox. We’re coming off the season where there’s no shortage of sugar, fat, and booze and that leaves many of us feeling a bit bloated and gross.

There are a lot of options out there, though. And if you aren’t careful, you could be wasting your time and money, if not participating in something downright dangerous. So let’s start with some basics if you’re going to do this thing right.

It’s important to remember that is essence, it is our organs that are “detoxing” our bodies and they do it every minute of every day. There is no magical outside substance that will do that for you because your body was already designed to do everything it was meant to sustain your life on the daily. However, our daily habits bring us out of balance often and makes our organs work overtime, leading to disease – such as diabetes, high blood pressure, renal failure, and certain types of cancers, to name a few. We are constantly introducing toxins into our systems forcing our organs to work harder than they should.

A detox should last about thirty days. Anything less is a waste of your precious time and just dumb. You’ll lose some water weight and go right back to old habits the following days or weeks when the detox period is over. It’s also just not long enough to really feel any difference that will create any meaningful habit changes. Why do a detox if you aren’t going to carry some new, beneficial habits with you for months after? It really doesn’t need to go longer than thirty days, either, however. Some habits you bring in over the thirty days would help to keep but not all are totally necessary.

Some foods need to be eliminated in this time period, for obvious reasons, including:

Sugar: I’ve written in past articles why sugar is so very addicting and has been clinically proven so. When you eat sugar, it almost immediately spikes your blood stream levels, causing your pancreas to start working overtime to produce insulin to get that sugar into your body’s cells for energy. But guess what? Sugar is very concentrated in calories and it’s likely you’ve consumed way too much energy than is needed for those cells. The rest is then stored in the liver for later use, which collects as fat and can create a fatty liver if not used. Problem is we habitually over-eat calories and it also collects in our abdomen in the form of fat tissue. This is becoming a pretty big problem in America today, actually. The pancreas eventually putters out trying to keep up, leading to type 2 diabetes. Not a happy subject, but I see this every single day as a dietitian.

Processed carbohydrates: these are converted into sugar when consumed, so same thing as above. It’s not just about avoiding table sugar. Earlier this year, I worked with a group of individuals who took a challenge and avoided these types of foods for thirty days, the results were amazing. They felt more energized, lost weight, and their cravings for sugar diminished. These cravings we experience are caused by dramatic blood sugar fluctuations from eating high sugar foods with low nutritional value. As I mentioned above, they get converted quickly to sugar in your blood stream, but just as quickly your pancreas is working to produce insulin to get it out, which causes a sharp drop in your blood sugar levels. This makes you feel pretty crappy and tired, which means you want more to feel better. It’s a viscous cycle.

Alcohol: most of us understand that this is processed by the liver. Too much of it starts to damage the liver (duh), but during a detox it kinda defeats the purpose if you aren’t abstaining. When we drinking alcohol, our body prioritizes the elimination of it and can’t focus on much of anything else. It’s a good recipe for weight gain, liver cirrhosis (hardening of your liver), and pancreatitis (inflammation.)

Caffeine: this one hurts me. I get it. But caffeine is an extremely addictive stimulant. When consumed in excess, it causes an irritable bowel, disruptive sleep patterns, irregular heart beat, and increased anxiety – all counterproductive to the detoxification process. Believe it or not, it also causes pretty wide fluctuations in your energy levels. If you’ve tried detoxing before and didn’t experience increased energy, it could be because you didn’t give up caffeine. Drinking more water is the most beneficial way to improve energy levels.

Let’s talk about what you do include and why, this is the fun part, right?

  1. Water with lemon. Lots of it. Aim for half of your body weight (pounds) in ounces each day. Water is a natural diuretic and so is lemon. This helps your kidneys out. They need flushing so they don’t get backed up. Your kidneys are probably one of the most important filtering systems in your body and I can’t tell you how many people I see regularly that land themselves in the hospital with temporary failure because they got dehydrated. It’s well over 50% of the people I see every single day. Other problems that happen regularly are fatigue, joint and back pain, headaches, and sweet cravings. I recommend pure lemon essential oil since it comes from the rind rather than the juice and it’s way more concentrated than a squeeze from the fruit. One drop of lemon essential oil is equivalent to the juice of thirty lemons (but not nearly as sour!) It is also known for supporting healthy lungs and digestive system.
  2. Fresh fruits and vegetables. When IS the last time you consumed five (or more) in one day? Be honest. Aim for the rainbow, or at least vary your colors. Plant based foods get their pigments from the nutrients they provide which means if you are eating a variety of colors, you are also getting a variety of nutrients in addition to fiber.
  3. A good multivitamin. This can be tough to find. A couple of years ago, some of the country’s most popular retailers of supplements were busted for selling fake products over the counter. In fact, when tested, only 22% of their supplements actually had any of their claimed product in them at all. Walmart being the worst at only 4% of their products containing what they claimed. Ultimately, they settled in court to keep the attorney general quiet – I’m not too confident that means they grew a conscience about what they are selling, though.
  4. Whole food enzymes. Again, lets help the body out, we’ve been eating low nutritional value foods and now we’re including fresh plant based foods. Unfortunately, today’s food supply is still a bit sub-par in the vitamin/mineral world and even fresh fruits and vegetables are sprouting up from nutrient-depleted soil. Whole food enzymes break down the food and help our bodies utilize the nutrient they provide easier. If you struggle from vague health symptoms like fatigue, joint discomforts, or headaches, it could be because you are lacking certain nutrients that your body has been missing out on.
  5. Probiotics: so many benefits here, I did a blog post a few months ago on how everybody should be taking some. For the purposes of a detox, they aid the digestive and immune systems. We are exposed to environmental toxins regularly, our immune system works overtime, especially during the winter. Let’s help it out, shall we?
  6. Pure essential oils. Essential oils are a fantastic way to support the body’s natural capability of cleansing itself. The organs we are focusing on here are our liver, colon, kidneys, lungs, and skin. Like supplements, the essential oil industry can be tricky so it’s important you know the source you are buying from. But when unadulterated and without synthetic additives, they can prove to be an important part of your detox program. Rosemary, cilantro, and juniper berry essential oils are well known for supporting the liver in it’s normal processes. Geranium and tangerine essential oils are helpful in supporting the body’s systems as a whole as it removes unwanted substances. Think of it as bringing things into balance after weeks (maybe months) of use and abuse with unhealthy foods and habits such as lack of exercise, smoking, environmental threats, and even medication use. My favorite product is a detoxification blend that contains all five of these essential oils that can be taken in a soft-gel form.
  7. Omega 3 fats: great for reducing inflammation, often exacerbated by eating highly processed foods, alcohol, and red meats. Let’s help the body out by adding this in while removing the inflammatory foods, why don’t we? Be sure you are consuming a source rich in eicosapentaenoic acid and docosahexaenoic acid (EPA and DHA) to get the maximum benefit. You could always consume fish three times a week, but remember this is a detox and we are going for the concentrated versions. Ok? I personally choose to take the supplements daily because I never eat fish that often and I’ve experience the benefits well enough I don’t want to stop.

In essence, our bodies have everything we need to survive and cleanse itself out from our lungs to our stomach to our intestines, kidneys, and liver. They all have a job to do filtering out the air we breath, food we eat, liquids we drink, and bacteria we come into contact with. Even so, we can feel out of balance in today’s world as we are consistently pummeled with toxic threats. If you feel like it’s time for a reboot, feel free to contact me for more information about how to schedule supplements, the brands I trust, and meal schedule to follow so you get the most out of your detox.

P.S. If you’re looking for online support with like minded moms striving to live a healthier lifestyle, you may be interested in joining my free support group here.

 

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Jillian McMullen, RDN, CSOWM, LDN

Foods that stop bloating

You know that feeling. There’s no real reason for your weight to have tipped the scale, but you can’t button your favorite pair of shorts. It’s a fat pants kinda day with a blousy blouse to cover up what you’re feeling looks bit like a pot belly. What if you could eat your way to a thinner stomach and get rid of that bloated feeling? You actually can.

First, it helps to understand why this happens. And it happens to everyone. Often women more so because of hormones. (You probably knew that though!) Pre-menopausal women often feel bloated at varying times of the month with bloating and fluid retention being two common symptoms of premenstrual syndrome.

Another reason may be because of dietary habits, either eating too much or too little fiber. Too much fiber, especially if the body is not used to it, can cause excess gas. Too little fiber can cause constipation. It can also happen if you eat foods that are particularly gas forming such as beans, broccoli, cabbage, dried fruit, asparagus, brussel sprouts, artichokes, onions, radishes, cauliflower and fatty or fried foods. The goal is to aim for 25-30 grams of fiber daily, I’ll talk about what that looks like since the typical American diet contains around 10 grams.

A big reason, however, is due to emotional stress. We often give too little credit to the impact that this can have on our physical health. In fact, it is estimated that 25 to 45 million people in the U.S. are affected with Irritable Bowel Syndrome and 2 in 3 of those are women. Irritable Bowel Syndrome is characterized by diarrhea alternating with constipation worsened by stress.

The last one I am going to include here is small bowel bacterial overgrowth. I talk about the importance of probiotics in my recent post here because it can definitely help combat this condition. I’ve seen this mostly in people who have had a recent gastrointestinal surgery and those taking antibiotics for prolonged periods of time.

So now for the good stuff, what foods can you eat to prevent this from happening? Because nobody has time to be feeling bloating and gross.

  • Cayenne pepper: it’s a natural laxative because it stimulates the digestive enzymes to get moving.
  • Ginger: old remedy for soothing stomach discomfort, haven’t we all had ginger ale at some point in our lives for a stomach upset? Sadly, most ginger ales don’t contain any real ginger at all. You are better off boiling and straining some fresh ginger or adding a drop of pure ginger essential oil into some tea or hot water.
  • Fennel: inhibits muscle spasms which calms down symptoms of IBS. Cook your next meal with some of the fresh herb or take 1-2 drops of the pure essential oil in a capsule.
  • Peppermint: similar to fennel, the menthol in peppermint relaxes your muscles and allows you to release any pent up gas or flatulence. Because if you are struggling with reflux, this may aggravate it because it also relaxes the sphincter at the end of the esophagus causing stomach acid to revert back up in those with gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD.) Make peppermint tea by adding fresh mint leaves or a drop of peppermint essential oil to a cup of hot black tea. The hot water can also help get things moving along, especially helpful for constipation. Avoid chewing peppermint gum as this can make gas worse since gum may cause you to swallow air.
  • Lemon: acts as a natural diuretic and helps if you are retaining excess fluid. Squeeze some fresh lemons or add a drop of pure lemon essential oil into your water. Avoid drinking your water out of a straw since that can cause you to swallow excess air and make bloating worse.
  • Berries: they are 85 to 95% water, making them great for reducing bloat. They are also an excellent source of soluble fiber, a type of fiber that dissolves in water and one that many of us don’t get enough of in our diets. In order to promote bowel regularity and prevent bloating, we need plenty of this along with insoluble fiber, the kind that does not dissolve in water (so think apple skin and celery.)
  • Watermelon: it’s high in water, making it a natural diuretic to remove excess fluid retention. Also great source of soluble fiber like the berries.
  • Probiotic containing foods: such as yogurt, kefir, and kombucha or add a good supplement to your daily regimen (more on that here).

I’ve given you many ideas that offer additional health properties beyond reducing bloat. That’s one of the many great things about choosing natural options for improving your health. If you are interested in learning more about the essential oil options I mentioned, feel free to reach out to me at one of the links below.

P.S. If you’re looking for online support with like minded moms striving to live a healthier lifestyle, you may be interested in joining my free online support group here.

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Email: contact@jillianmcmullen.com

Jillian McMullen, RDN, CSOWM, LDN

Take probiotics to stop sneezing and fidgeting?

Gut health seems to be getting the spotlight in the past several years. People are more concerned than ever about what’s going on in their insides. And this has made probiotics of particular interest. But why? In my early career days, the only people we would recommend probiotics to were those with intestinal infections and those on heavy doses of antibiotics.

Today, it’s as common to take probiotics as it is to take a multivitamin. Why? Let’s first review what exactly a probiotic is before we begin to understand some of the reasons why people would want to consider taking them as a daily supplement. Probiotics contain microorganisms, most of which are bacteria similar to the beneficial bacteria that occur naturally in the human gut. In other words, beneficial = does good things. Sounds really scientific, huh? The most-studied species include Lactobacillus, Bifidobacterium, and Saccharomyces. (yeah, I know those do sound really scientific.)

To keep this post reasonably short, I’m going to go over the top four reasons my readers said they take probiotics and discuss them here.

  • They improve digestive regularity. You’ve probably heard this one. Makes sense, right? If the natural and beneficial bacteria that are similar to probiotics are found in the gut, they should benefit our bowel habits. Don’t ya think? What does the research say, though? “There is high-quality evidence that probiotics are effective for acute infectious diarrhea, antibiotic-associated diarrhea, clostridium difficile–associated diarrhea, hepatic encephalopathy, ulcerative colitis, irritable bowel syndrome, functional gastrointestinal disorders, and necrotizing enterocolitis. Conversely, there is evidence that probiotics are not effective for acute pancreatitis and crohn’s disease.” C. diff is bad news and highly contagious diarrhea. It can be big problem in hospitals and can really keep someone there for a while with pretty severe dehydration if not handled correctly. It will put you out for quite some time if you are unfortunate enough to get it. Good news is, probiotics are safe for infants, children, adults, and older patients. I’m going to add here, that probiotics do not survive in an acidic and hostile stomach environment. We don’t necessarily need the billion gazillion cells that most available brands pride themselves on. Problem is, the majority of the them don’t survive the stomach acid long enough to reach the small intestine where they are needed. The billions of live cells are present in these brands in hopes that some will make it to the end. We don’t actually know how many that is. Perhaps that’s why some people experience benefits and others do not.
  • They support our immune health.  Our digestive system is not only responsible for the digestion and absorption of food nutrients, but it provides protection against potentially harmful antigens (such as toxins, bacteria, virus, foreign blood cells.) Several available research data points to the conclusion that probiotics can be used as innovative tools for treating dysfunctions of the gut mucosal barrier, including acute gastroenteritis (i.e. food poising or a “stomach bug”), food allergies, and inflammatory bowel disease (i.e. diverticulosis). You’ve probably been told at some point in your life to take probiotics during or after a course of antibiotics to restore the healthy bacteria that was killed off. We need them.
  • May help alleviate allergy symptoms. Infants are more susceptible to allergic responses because their immune systems and digestive symptoms are still developing. The types of bacteria and amounts present depend on several different factors including whether the child was born by cesarean or vaginally, breastfed or formula fed, age they were introduced to table food and types of food, antibiotic exposure, and of course genetics. This review examined the available research and found that indeed probiotics did improve their allergic responses and reduced symptoms of common ailments like eczema, allergic rhinitis, and allergic dermatitis. When infants were given Lctbs rhamnosus for the first 2 years of life they had a significant reduction by approximately half in the prevalence of eczema. And this study showed that when adults and children suffering from allergic rhinitis took therapeutic doses of Lactobacillus paracasei, they experienced significant improvements also.

In another study , they gave children at a daycare fermented milk containing lactobacillus casei (think kefir) and saw marked improvements as well, but not in those children with asthma. Pretty cool, huh? More research still needs to be done in spite of these exciting results since not all come to the same conclusion and they weren’t done on large scales. It doesn’t hurt to go ahead and take them though.

  • Reduce Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) symptoms. Say what?! It’s true. Recent experimental evidence suggests that gut microbiota may alter function within the nervous system. This particular study published in 2015 followed 75 children from pre-birth to age thirteen and supplemented the experimental group from four weeks before birth (the mom) to six months of age with Lactobacillus rhamnosus and the control group with placebo. They initially examined the differences in gut microbiota in the children at birth and later found a correlation to those who were later diagnosed with either ADHD or Asperger’s Syndrome. Turns out, those affected had a significantly lower amount of Bifidobacterium longum at the age of three months than the children that did not receive a diagnosis. At the end of the thirteen years, six out of thirty five children in the placebo group were diagnosed with ADHD or AS while NONE of the children in the probiotic group were. 

That’s pretty compelling, but what I found the most profound of all was this gem of a study right here, published in 2003. It was only performed on twenty children age 7-12, but I don’t care. What they found was amazing. Supplementing these kids for just four weeks with a mix of B vitamins, Vitamin C, minerals (iron, copper), phytonutrients, amino acids, essential fatty acids, phospholipids, and probiotics specifically chosen to address the ADHD biochemical risk factors was found to be just as affective as ritalin treatment. We’re talking behaviors like focus, consistency, fidgeting, impulsiveness, stamina, vigilance, and speed. I’m impressed. You may see a future blog post on this topic soon.

What to do with all of this information? For some immunocompromised individuals (those on chemotherapy, HIV patients, or those receiving organ transplants) you may want to ask you doctor before you start any new supplements. Otherwise, I’ve given you lots of good reasons to add probiotics into your daily regimen. If you choose a supplement, be sure to read the label and follow the directions. If you prefer to start with adding some food sources, here are some good options:

Kefir: fermented milk

Yogurt: you know what this is, but I recommend greek because of its high protein content

Kombucha: fermented black tea

Sauerkraut: fermented cabbage

Apple cider vinegar: the kind with floaty things on the bottom, not the cheap stuff, use as a salad dressing

Tempeh: a fermented soybean product, thicker and firmer than tofu

Miso: a traditional Japanese paste-like spice made from soybeans and barely with koji (fungus…yum)

Fermented pickles: these won’t be shelf stable, those are pasteurized and do not contain live cultures (so think gherkins, not the ones pickled in vinegar but rather salt and water)

Sourdough bread: did I just give you a reason to eat bread?? Sort of. The yeast is fermented, creating the “sour” taste and making it easier to digest than other breads

Aged, soft cheese: such as cheddar, gouda, parmesan, and swiss (note, most others will not contain live, active cultures)

Kimchi: a spicy, korean dish made up of mostly cabbage and other fermented vegetables

Have fun trying some of these new foods if you are interested in expanding into some of the ethnic or vegetarian options. If you are interested in what brand of probiotic supplement I use and recommend, feel free to reach out to me via the links below.

P.S. If you’re looking for online support with like minded moms striving to live a healthier lifestyle, you may be interested in joining my free online support group here.

Follow me for daily livestreams on Facebook

Instagram: TheOilRD

Email: contact@jillianmcmullen.com

Jillian McMullen, RDN, CSOWM, LDN