Firstly, please tell us about who you are (not what you do)?
I am a mom of an almost-two-year-old little boy, a wife, and a huge foodie who has celiac disease. Cooking is my biggest passion. I love to experiment in the kitchen and my son and husband are my best taste testers.
What has become an uplifting, daily ritual to maintain your mental sanity during COVID?
A few things have helped me during COVID-19. For me, I remained “social” and connected with family and friends daily through Facetime.
My husband was off work for over two months and we decided to use that time to spend as much time together as a family. It was a great bonding time for our son to be with his dad.
As a family, we pray to God and express gratitude for all the things we have, we realized how blessed we are.
As a mother, and nutritionist what does ‘a healthy routine’ reflect, and how do you stay committed to it?
As a mother, I am constantly reminding myself to save time for myself. Moms can tend to take on quite a few roles and become overwhelmed and stressed out. Stress can negatively impact the gut. I have set aside one day a week for myself. I do not work on this day and I have either my husband or family member watch my son for a couple of hours.
Sleep is also crucial for gut health as it regulates hormones and allows the body to “rest & digest”. I have struggled with insomnia in the past and have had to be quite strict with myself to set a proper bedtime routine, I try to get to bed each night at around 10 p.m.
Since I had so many health issues as a child, I am cautious with my son and the food that he eats. Our family consumes a whole foods diet which is plant-focused with some organic meats.
Raising healthy children with good digestion seems to have its challenges these days, as there are many ‘inflammatory’ foods surfacing. How do parents navigate themselves around this situation?
Many will notice as they go through the grocery store aisles that the middle area is generally targeted food marketing at children. Characters from popular t.v shows are plastered on the packaging. Meanwhile, in North America, obesity, Type 2 Diabetes, autoimmune diseases and gut issues amongst children have skyrocketed.
I encourage parents to shop the outer perimeter of the grocery store to avoid the marketing of highly processed foods directed at their child.
Nutrition in general is a hot topic, but I encourage parents to stick to whole foods for themselves and their children.
A food group moxie explores as a potential inflammatory is ‘dairy’. What are your thoughts on dairy for gut health, and how much of it should humans (including children) be consuming?
As a gut health nutritionist, I do look at dairy as a potential inflammatory for most individuals. Dairy can cause bloating, gas, cramping, constipation and diarrhea as well as skin issues.
There are two components of dairy that can cause issues for many which are sugar (lactose) and the proteins (casein and whey) found in milk. For those who are lactose intolerance, they lack the enzyme lactase which is required to breakdown lactose. If an individual is not lactose intolerant but still does not tolerate dairy, then the proteins casein and whey are the issues.
For those who do not tolerate casein or whey, may find they tolerate goats and sheep milk better. Still, not everyone will tolerate these kinds of milk.
Here are some great non-dairy calcium sources:
Almonds, kale, oranges, collard greens, broccoli, figs, spinach, and sesame seeds.
My family does not consume cow’s dairy, however, my husband enjoys goats dairy from time-to-time and I will be introducing it to my son soon.
You were diagnosed as celiac quite young. Why do you think people are becoming more intolerant to gluten?
Celiac Disease and gluten intolerance have skyrocketed in the past 50 years. Up to 30% of those of European descent carry the genes for celiac disease, which means they are at higher risk of having health problems related to eating gluten. It is estimated that 1 in 30 people have gluten sensitivity and 1 in 200 have full-blown celiac disease.
Many individuals are consuming the Standard American Diet (SAD). This diet is high in processed foods and the majority of them contain high amounts of wheat. These large amounts can cause inflammation and trigger food intolerances and even autoimmune diseases like celiac.
As a nutritionist specializing in gut health, the microbiome is integral to your brand. How do you explain to your clients what the ‘microbiome’ is, and what method do you use to determine whether their gut is unhealthy?
The microbiome is very important to understand as it can dictate our overall health.
The microbiome is a community of microorganisms that consist of bacteria (good and bad), viruses, fungi and even parasites. Many people think that when we talk about bacteria that it is bad, but in fact, most of the bacteria are beneficial to our health.
In our gut, we have approximately 100 trillion intestinal bacteria! These bacteria are responsible for balancing the immune system, ridding the body of toxins, making serotonin, the “feel-good” hormone, metabolic function, and protect the gut wall from becoming “leaky.”
Think of your gut microbiome as a garden. It has weeds (bad bacteria, fungi, parasites, toxins etc.) and it has flowers (whole foods, plant diversity, probiotic & prebiotic foods, hydration, stress reduction). Gardens require maintenance and so does our gut.
Each person’s gut microbiome is unique and it can be determined by their DNA, diet, antibiotic use, medications, environmental exposures, and overall health.
When I am first working with a client, I assess the symptoms they are dealing with. From there, I may request that they have certain testing to determine if there is a bacterial imbalance, a fungal overgrowth or a parasitic infection. I then create a custom plan tailored to their needs to begin healing their gut.
You’ve mentioned that ‘one round of antibiotics can alter the gut microbiome by 30%’. In layman’s terms, what does that mean?
The microbiome is exposed to antibiotics from medical use but also farm animals and crops. Antibiotics can greatly alter the microbiome and a study has shown that the gut microbiome can be altered by 30%! This means that the antibiotic is causing a significant drop in the diversity of bacteria within the gut. The diversity of bacteria within the gut is very important for health.
Antibiotics can have potentially immediate effects on health since they are removing beneficial bacteria. One of the roles of the beneficial bacteria is to protect us from pathogenic invaders such as bad bacteria, viruses, fungi overgrowth and parasites. When they are altered and removed from the antibiotics, we become much more susceptible to health issues.
Exessive antibiotic exposure can also create bacteria resistance which can cause difficulty in controlling bacterial infections.
COVID has left a lot of people questioning their approach to ‘hygiene and sanitizing. This can harmfully impact the ‘good’ bacteria that we carry around on our bodies. How can we avoid this, but still stay safe?
I am not generally a fan of commercial hand sanitizers or antibacterial soap because these can disrupt the microbiome on our skin.
To ensure protection, practice regular hand washing with warm water and soap for 30 seconds. This will help to keep you safe but to also protect the microbiome on the skin. Many of the sanitizers and anti-bacterial soap are also killing off the beneficial bacteria.
Most hand sanitizers say they kill 99.9% of germs, but what about the .1%? If this small percentage is harmful bacteria, it can breed and pass on antibiotic resistance to its offspring, creating “superbugs”.
-Wash your hands well regularly with warm soapy water.
-Support your immune system by eating a whole foods diet with a wide variety of plants and fermented foods.
-Limit your sugar intake
-Get outside to receive natural vitamin D, breathe in the fresh air and get your hands dirty in the soil. The soil has healthy bacteria that can help to diversify our gut microbiome.
Faecal transplants have been trialled for patients with unhealthy gut bacteria. What are your thoughts on this route? And why?
I have been fascinated with fecal transplants ever since I first heard about it while studying nutrition. I have also heard incredible results and read some interesting studies on fecal transplants.
One of the studies examined 18 children with autism and severe digestive problems. They found that a fecal transplant was beneficial to rebalance their gut microbiome and reduced both their digestive symptoms and their autism symptoms by 50%. The improvements continued during the two-year study follow-up period.
The kids treated in the study were found to have a low diversity of bacteria in their intestines at the beginning of the study. The treatment increased the diversity of microbes and healthy bacteria in the gut.
The study can be found here: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/04/190409093725.htm
As a gut health enthusiast, what is one ‘gut healing’ product/procedure/trend that we should keep on our radar?
Two products that I love for gut health are the squatty potty and a tongue scraper.
The squatty potty puts your body into the proper position for elimination as it elevates the feet. It can be helpful for those with IBS, IBD and digestive issues.
Tongue scraping is something I have been practising for the past six years. It helps to remove bad bacteria from the tongue first thing in the morning to prevent it from going back into the digestive system.
If you had the opportunity to do a TED talk, what would the topic be about, and why?
I would love to talk about kid’s gut health.
Now that I have a young son of my own, I am doing everything possible to support his gut health to prevent him from ever having to go through what I went through with my health.
I think that if parents are educated on gut health, they would be willing to make the changes for their children, but unfortunately, there isn’t much education in mainstream media or western medicine.
What are 3 of your favourite foods at the moment that you swear by for gut health, and why?
Each person is unique when it comes to gut health, but the following foods have helped me with my gut.
Fermented vegetables: Saurkraut is one of my favourite probiotic-rich foods that I consume regularly. Fermented foods add beneficial bacteria to the gut. Saurkraut also contains high amounts of vitamin C which can support a healthy immune system.
Green Plantain: This fruit helps to support the immune system (contains vitamin A & C), regulates digestion (high-fibre) and is rich in potassium.
Plantains also contain resistant starch which can help to increase the beneficial bacteria in the gut along with better glycemic control, an increased feeling of fullness.
Bone Broth: Sipping on broth when your tummy if off can be incredibly soothing. Bone broth also comes with benefits to help to heal and seal the gut lining.
Bone broth is made by combining organic bones (typically chicken or beef) water, apple cider vinegar, vegetables and allowing it to slowly simmer. This slow process allows the nutrients from the bones to be pulled out into the water which makes a nutrient-rich broth. The broth also contains collagen from the bones which can help to heal leaky gut.
I recommend making your broth from organic bones as many of the commercial broths contain additives that could cause flare-ups for those with digestive issues.
An easy bone broth recipe can be found in my free gut-friendly meal guide.