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Transforming Gut Health: An Integrative Registered Dietitian's Journey to Overcoming IBS


Dahlia Marin, gut health, IBS, SIBO, IMO, SIFO, Integrative Dietitian, Plant Based Dietitian,


What to Expect in this Article:

  • What is IBS?

  • The myths surrounding IBS.

  • The steps one can take to overcome IBS.

  • How Dahlia Marin, RDN, LD, CGN overcame IBS.

 

It is an absolute pleasure to have the opportunity to interview Dahlia Marin from Married to Health.


Dahlia Marin, RDN, LD, CGN is an Integrative Registered Dietitian Nutritionist with a strong emphasis on a plant-based lifestyle. Over the past decade, she has harnessed the power of a whole-food, plant-based diet as her form of medicine, successfully conquering pre-diabetes, PCOS, gastrointestinal issues, obesity, and Hashimoto's Hypothyroidism. I had the privilege of crossing paths with Dahlia during the early stages of my personal health journey, and she provided me with a great deal of encouragement and optimism as I embarked on my path to recovery. After all these years, it only seems fitting to extend an invitation to her for an interview with Gut Instincts, allowing us to delve into her remarkable journey. In this article, Dahlia shares a wealth of insights, and I sincerely hope you find her abundance of knowledge as enlightening as I did!


1. Tell us a little bit about your wellness journey and your professional background to bring you to“Married to Health."


"I always like to say I was my very first patient. I grew up as a first generation American who was a 90s latch-key kid. Initially, I was a very picky eater, who was underweight, and often force-fed until I became an emotional eater at the age of 8. As my weight began increasing, so did my inflammation, and frequency of viruses, bacterial illnesses, and more. Since the 90s was a pill-for-every-ill era, I was constantly loaded up on antibiotics for every sniffle, sneeze, and symptom, quickly leading to gut issues. My family doctor had nothing more to add to my well-being than constant prescriptions and criticism of my ever-increasing BMI.


Dahlia Marin, Gut Health Dietitian, SIBO, IBS, IMO, SIFO, plant based dietitian, integrative dietitian

This chronic overuse of medication (which was often likely inappropriate due to the fact that antibiotics are ineffective against viruses), coupled with my poor relationship with food ushered me into teenage years of constant UTIs, viral illnesses, yeast imbalances, and weak immune system since 70+% of our immune cells are housed and in the gut and mine was not doing so hot. As I started college as a psychology major, I recall feeling exhausted beyond belief, constantly sleeping in class, apathetic, depressed, and living with odd symptoms such as an odd type of tinnitus. Once I finally decided to seek the advice of an Ear, Nose, and Throat specialist, he quickly pointed out that I had a huge goiter (enlarged thyroid), and referred me to an endocrinologist, who honestly was a God-send. This keen physician ordered a slew of labs, which I had never ever had run up until that point at 18 years old, and in one single day, reviewed the results with me, diagnosing me with: High Cholesterol, PolyCystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS), Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD), Pre-Diabetes, IBS, and Hashimoto's Autoimmune hypothyroidism (likely stemming from my evidently leaky gut, as most autoimmune conditions do). He gave me answers, and his initial solution was to put me on 3 different types of medication to regulate my hormones. I was of course devastated to be told I would be medicated for the rest of my life at such a young age, but a part of me was relieved to have answers. After the first 3 months of changing nothing else about my life aside from adding medication, I knew I had to do more. I took to the internet to research my various diagnoses, and was amazed to read so much evidence in support of lifestyle change. It was at that time I decided to take a nutrition class for college credit, mostly for my own information, and quickly fell in love with the subject, the benefits I started experiencing in my own health from changing up my nutrition habits, and the potential of using food as medicine.

I decided that though I was interested in psychology, it seemed I was more interested in the psychology of eating and everything else that food changed in the body. I then changed my major to nutrition, and met my husband, James. He was on his own health journey and together, we began exploring our food system, learning about things like GMOs, Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs), profitable and powerful organizations lobbying in the food system, and more. James also pointed awareness to the frequency of my stomach aches without me realizing I was constantly telling him my stomach hurt after almost every single meal.

I knew I had to take things to the next level and though my eating habits had improved tremendously from cutting out fast food, highly refined carbohydrates and fats, and sugar sweetened beverages, all while adding many more plant foods, it was time for me to start my own Medical Nutrition Therapy. My first step was going gluten and dairy free in attempts to reduce my thyroid antibodies and support my IBS. I then began incorporating more and more plant foods, eventually becoming fully plant based and felt better, but not 100%. I began taking interest in integrative nutrition while completing my degree and internship to become a Registered Dietitian and in the first few years of my career, worked in a variety of settings, affording me ability to learn more about disease prevention, all while continuing on my personal journey of disease reversal and remission.

I was fortunate to land a position in an integrative wellness center, where I was trained in integrative and functional nutrition, meet amazing providers and patients (like you Julia!), and take my skills to the next level. A few messages became clear- all disease begins in the gut which I truly was understanding about my own health and James and I did not quite fit in as employees and our dream of starting our own unique integrative nutrition practice was more important than ever. As my gut health began improving, I began shedding diagnoses until I was left with just Hashimoto's and much improved IBS. Continuing to put my skills into practice and seek counsel from others practicing integratively has presently brought me to a place where IBS."


2. What do you wish more people knew about IBS?


"I wish more people knew that living and suffering with IBS symptoms is BS! That getting to the root cause of IBS, such as: gut imbalance AKA dysbiosis including bacterial, fungal, or other microbial overgrowth; gut barrier issues or leaky gut causing excessive gut nerve sensitivity and poor digestion via low enzyme production and more; or gut motility issues stemming from nerves or supporting organs such as the liver and gallbladder- is KEY!

Elimination diets can be helpful, but should only be temporary and can only take you so far. Prolonged elimination often leads to food fear and poor healing, making people feel something is wrong with them and wrong with their bodies. YOU CANNOT HEAL A BODY YOU DO NOT LOVE!"


3. What question do you get asked the most by your clients?


"How quickly can we resolve these issues? Gut issues, whether Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD), motility issues, barrier issues, or gut microbe balance issues most often onset over the span of months or years, so expecting to resolve them after a 4 week elimination diet is quite unrealistic. It's vital to understand the roots of the symptoms to reverse them completely, which can take some time, specialty testing, and collaboration with integrative primary providers, gastroenterologists, pelvic floor therapists, emotional release providers, and more."


4. What does your diet look like on a daily basis? What foods are a staple in your diet?


"On a daily basis, I am focused on two main things: As wide a diversity of plants as possible and fermented/ probiotic foods in each meal. These two things are based on strong data that has come out in the past few years. The first of which came from the American Gut Project's findings that those who consumed 30+ plants (fruits, vegetables, nuts, beans, seeds, grains, legumes, herbs, and spices) had a much wider diversity of microbes in their gut than those who consumed 10 or fewer types.

High fermented food consumption was found by Stanford to positively correlate with greater microbiome diversity, lower gut inflammation, and stronger immune function (remember, 70+% of immune cells live in the Gut in our GALT- Gut Associated Lymphoid Tissue). We love including foods such as sauerkraut, miso, kimchi, tempeh, unsweetened kombucha, water or coconut kefir, dairy free yogurts and cheeses with added probiotics, and other fermented (not pickled!) foods."


5. What do you recommend for your patients with IBS?


"I recommend my IBS patients work with a team who will never gas-light them, but try to identify the root causes of their symptoms and how to support them. Whether that is removing excessive inflammatory microbes from the gut, replacing low levels of healthy/ commensal microbes in the gut, working on motility, the gut's barrier, or supporting other gut supporting organs such as the liver, gallbladder, or pancreas.


Dahlia Marin, SIBO, IMO, SIFO, IBS, Integrative Dietitian, Plant Based Dietitian,

I recommend they persistently advocate for themselves or find someone, such as an integrative gut health dietitian, to help advocate for them until they have truly found relief and freedom from regular symptoms.

I also recommend they never discount the place emotions can play in their symptoms and to unpack past or present traumas that may be prolonging their healing."


6. What do you recommend for your patients with liver and gallbladder issues?


"I recommend they first remove foods and substances that assault the liver and gallbladder or place a heavy burden on them such as: alcohol, highly refined carbohydrates, including sugars and grains, reduce or avoid saturated fats, avoid the use of Tylenol and other medications that place exccess burden on the liver. I also highly recommend they: add bitter foods and agents such as apple cider vinegar; bitter greens such as arugula, dandelion, and others; eat bitter roots such as radish and parsnip; drink bitter drinks such as green and dandelion tea; support with proper herbs and nutrients such as milk thistle, NAC, and more; work on hormones since the liver produces bile that the gallbladder secretes into the gut to rid of excess hormones; and most importantly, ensure gut microbes, such as sulfur-reducing microbes, yeast, methane-producing archaea, and other gut bugs are not living in or producing gasses that irritate the liver or gallbladder."


7. What are your favorite clean brands? If you could provide as many as possible that would be wonderful!


"We have so many that can support the things that go in, on, and around the gut, improving its function and that of gut supporting organs. We put together a complementary Good Gut Shopping Guide on our website for those who are interested in checking it and our other resources out!"


8. What are the top five favorite foods you would recommend for those with IBS?


"Since studies show that 14-70% of those with IBS actually have some for of gut imbalance/ dysbiosis such as small intestinal bacterial overgrowth, fungal overgrowth, methane overgrowth, or histamine issues, that can be tricky to answer. If I had to stay general:

  • Gooey foods such as aloe, okra, and cactus to support the mucus lining of the gut

  • Sufficient protein and amino acids to ensure the gut's lining contains sufficient glutamine and other amino acids

  • Starchy foods such as cooked and cooled white rice, potatoes, green banana flour, and others to feed good gut bugs

  • Fermented foods (for those who do not live with histamine issues)

  • Colorful, high antioxidant foods to reduce gut inflammation and support the liver, gallbladder, reproductive organs, blood flow, and more"


9. What is something marketed as “healthy” that you recommend people stay away from?


"Dairy-free items & other foods full of binders and emulsifiers such as carrageenan, gums, and other binders. This is often found in dairy free milks, yogurts, and desserts. Oh, and these snack bars marketed for those with IBS, using silly slogans such as 'hot girls have IBS' that are bursting with refined sugar and other highly processed ingredients. It truly irritates me that people with little understanding of anatomy, physiology, and nutrition science prey upon those living with diseases, disorders, and symptoms, and market them things that can make them worse in the long-term."


10. What are 10 foods always on your shopping list?


  • Fresh veggies from the farmer's market

  • Seasonal fruit from the farmer's market

  • Golden Kiwis- studies show that 2 per day can help with constipation. I buy golden kiwis instead of fuzzy green kiwis so I can eat the skin.

  • A variety of sprouts for antioxidants and enzymes

  • Unsweetened ginger kombucha

  • Unsweetened dairy free yogurt without gums and emulsifiers

  • Dates to use as a sweetener

  • A variety of legumes- lentils, black, pinto, white, kidney, any other beans

  • A variety of whole grains- quinoa, teff, sorghum, millet, brown rice, etc

  • Plant proteins- high protein tofu, legume-based pastas, tempeh, pumpkin seed protein powder, etc.



Conclusion

Dahlia’s journey from personal health struggles to becoming a Plant-Based Registered Dietitian Nutritionist showcases nutrition's transformative power. Her story inspires those facing health challenges to embrace holistic well-being. Dahlia's triumph over pre-diabetes, PCOS, obesity, and Hashimoto's Hypothyroidism through dietary changes underscores food's profound impact on health. Transitioning from patient to practitioner, she excels in addressing conditions like Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), prioritizing root cause understanding and personalized solutions. If you would like to learn more about Dahlia and her practice, make sure to check out Married to Health! Should you have any inquiries, don't hesitate to leave them in the comments section.

Still feeling confused? Take their free Gut Action Assessment!

Xo,


 

Married to Health, SIBO, IBS, IMO, SIFO, integrative dietitian, plant based dietitians

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