How Dietician Andréanne Martin Utilizes the Microbiome

Andréanne Martin is a nutritionist-dietician and founder of the Epithelia Clinic which specializes in gut health and the microbiome. Her rigorous and committed team of dedicated nutritionists and dietitians offer individualized support to those struggling with digestion, metabolism, weight, immune function, or mood disorders.

She is also an international speaker and best-selling author. She is passionate about the power of the infinitely small and has dedicated her career to understanding the microbiome.

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Jona Team

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How Dietician Andréanne Martin Utilizes the Microbiome
Diet + Nutrition

Jona: What are two foods to avoid to improve your gut health? 

Andréanne: First is processed Foods that contain artificial sweeteners. These often contain high levels of unhealthy fats, sugars, and additives which can disrupt the balance of bacteria in the gut and contribute to inflammation. Ingredients like aspartame and sucralose have been linked to negative effects on gut bacteria and can potentially increase sugar cravings.

The second is excessive animal protein. Consuming too much animal protein, especially from red and processed meats, has been associated with alterations in gut microbiota composition and increased production of certain metabolites that may be detrimental to gut health and cardiovascular health.

Jona: What are two foods to avoid for breakfast to improve gut health? 

Andréanne: Sugary Cereals. Many breakfast cereals marketed as healthy options are loaded with added sugars. Excessive sugar intake can negatively impact gut bacteria and contribute to inflammation in the digestive tract. Instead, opt for whole-grain cereals (with less than 8g of sugar and more than 3g of fiber) or consider oatmeal topped with fresh fruits and nuts for a healthier alternative.

I also advise avoiding processed pastries. Items like muffins, croissants, and doughnuts are often made with refined flour and high amounts of unhealthy fats and sugars. These can lead to imbalances in gut bacteria and digestive discomfort. Try choosing whole-grain toast with avocado or nut butter, or prepare homemade breakfast options using whole ingredients to support better gut health.

By being mindful of your breakfast choices and focusing on whole, nutrient-dense foods, you can promote a healthier gut environment and start your day on the right track for improved overall well-being.

Jona: What are important things people might not know about the gut microbiome and diet? 

Andréanne: First is, dietary diversity matters. The diversity of foods in your diet directly impacts the diversity of your gut microbiome. A varied diet rich in different types of fibers, fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and even fermented foods like yogurt or kimchi can promote a more diverse and balanced microbiome. This diversity is linked to better overall health and a reduced risk of certain diseases.

Next is the effect of artificial sweeteners. Artificial sweeteners, commonly found in diet sodas and sugar-free products, can negatively affect the gut microbiome. Studies have shown that these sweeteners can alter the composition of gut bacteria, leading to metabolic disturbances and potential negative effects on insulin sensitivity.

Additionally, many people don’t know about the connection between the gut and brain. The gut and brain are interconnected through what's known as the gut-brain axis. A healthy gut microbiome has been linked to better emotional well-being and may play a role in conditions like anxiety and depression. Let’s eat more fermented food and prebiotic foods to alleviate your gut health and produce the “feel-good” chemicals.

Jona: What is one myth you often hear about the gut microbiome?

Andréanne: There's a common myth circulating that gluten, dairy products, and soy are universally bad for the gut, but the reality is more nuanced. While some individuals may have specific sensitivities or intolerances to these foods, they're not inherently harmful to everyone's gut health.

Let's break it down:

  1. Gluten: For individuals with celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity, gluten-containing foods like wheat, barley, and rye can cause digestive issues and inflammation. It’s the same for those who present leaky gut. However, for the general population without these conditions, gluten is typically well-tolerated and can be part of a healthy diet, providing essential nutrients and dietary fiber.
  2. Dairy Products: Lactose intolerance affects some people, making it difficult to digest lactose, the sugar found in dairy products. In such cases, dairy can lead to bloating, gas, and discomfort. However, for those who tolerate lactose well, dairy products are rich in calcium, protein, and beneficial probiotics that can support gut health. If you suspect a sensitivity to casein, it's important to listen to your body and consider avoiding dairy products. Fortunately, there are many dairy-free alternatives available, such as almond milk, coconut milk, oat milk, or dairy-free cheeses made from nuts or soy. These substitutes can provide similar nutritional benefits without triggering digestive issues.
  3. Soy: Soy is a controversial food due to concerns over phytoestrogens and potential allergies. Yet, for many individuals, moderate consumption of whole soy foods like tofu, tempeh, and edamame can be part of a healthy diet. Soy provides complete protein, fiber, and antioxidants that benefit gut health.

Rather than demonizing these foods, it's essential to listen to your body. If you suspect a sensitivity or intolerance, work with a healthcare professional to identify trigger foods. For others, enjoying these foods in moderation as part of a balanced diet can contribute to a healthy gut microbiome.

Jona: This month is IBS Awareness Month, can you explain what IBS is? 

Andréanne: Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a disorder affecting the intestine. IBS involves problems with motility (movement of digested food through the intestines) and sensitivity (how the brain interprets signals from the intestinal nerves), leading to abdominal pain, changes in bowel patterns and other symptoms. Although often disruptive, debilitating and embarrassing, it may be some comfort to know that IBS is not life-threatening. There are many solutions to feel better!

The underlying cause of IBS is still unclear and there are no diagnostic disease markers for IBS. Guidelines recommend doctors make a positive diagnosis using criteria that are based on a person’s symptoms. 

Subtypes of IBS are recognized by the Rome IV criteria based on the person’s reported predominant bowel habit, when not on medications, IBS with constipation, diarrhea of both. 

Jona: What are the symptoms of IBS / what does IBS feel like?

Andréanne: IBS is not a singular condition but rather a constellation of abdominal and bowel-related symptoms. Common symptoms that support a diagnosis of IBS include: Abdominal pain, changes in stool frequency (either too frequent or too infrequent), urgency to have a bowel movement, cramping, bloating abnormal stool consistency (diarrhea or constipation), feeling of incomplete emptying after bowel movements, presence of mucus in the stool.

The intensity of IBS symptoms can vary, with periods of severe and debilitating discomfort followed by times of improvement or symptom resolution. It's important to recognize that IBS symptoms can significantly impact quality of life and may require personalized management strategies for symptom control and overall well-being. 

For many individuals with IBS, the journey to manage symptoms can be challenging and exhausting. Despite trying various strategies and treatments, including dietary changes, medications, and lifestyle adjustments, some may continue to experience persistent symptoms. This ongoing struggle can lead to feelings of frustration, isolation, and hopelessness.

Jona: What foods should you avoid if you have or suspect you have IBS?

Andréanne: If you have or suspect you have IBS, it's important to recognize that there's no one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to dietary management. The foods to avoid can vary greatly depending on individual sensitivities and triggers. Here are some common considerations:

  1. FODMAPs: 
  2. Sugars and Artificial Sweeteners: 
  3. High-Fat Foods: 
  4. Other Potential Triggers: factors like aerophagia (swallowing air), caffeine, alcohol, spicy foods, and carbonated beverages 
  5. Disrupted Gut Bacteria: 
  6. Stress Management: 

It's crucial for individuals with IBS to work closely with healthcare professionals,such as registered dietitians, to identify personal triggers and develop a tailored management plan. Keeping a food and symptom diary can help pinpoint specific triggers. By adopting a personalized approach that considers dietary modifications, stress management, and lifestyle adjustments, individuals can better manage their IBS symptoms and improve their quality of life.

Jona: Why do you believe it’s important to test a patient's microbiome?

Andréanne: Testing a patient's microbiome is crucial for personalized health care. By analyzing the unique composition of gut bacteria, we can tailor nutrition support to individual needs. Microbiome testing helps identify imbalances that contribute to digestive issues and guides targeted interventions for gut health. It informs treatment strategies for conditions like IBS and metabolic disorders.

Monitoring microbiome changes over time helps assess the effectiveness of interventions. With advancements in technology, microbiome testing is now more accessible and informative, allowing us to leverage science-based tools for better health outcomes. Understanding the microbiome is key to promoting optimal gut health and overall wellness.

Jona: What makes the Jona test different from other microbiome tests in your experience?

Andréanne: The Jona test is backed by scientific research and validation, ensuring the reliability and accuracy of the results. This scientific rigor sets Jona apart as a trusted and evidence-based tool for assessing gut health.

Jona uses cutting-edge metagenomic sequencing for accurate results. Receive personalized insights within 2-4 weeks, with the ability to update your report based on symptoms or conditions using AI, we can understand our gut health like never before!

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