Featured Expert - Functional Nutritionist on Gut Microbiome
We may know February as the month of love. On Valentine's Day - February 14 each year - lovers spoil each other and express just how much they love and appreciate their better half.
But did you know this? From the Latin word Februarius, meaning “to purify“, February was known as the “Month of Purification” during ancient Roman times. It is a transitional time, finding itself just after a month of reflection and new year's resolutions.
Because of this, I wanted to interview one of the experts in functional nutrition here in Charlotte - Rhya Pachin - about gut microbiome and the importance of using food and nutrition to heal the body. As someone with autoimmune caused thyroid issues, I can testify to the power of nutrition (and the times when I slip up and have gluten or any foods I currently have sensitivities to like sunflower seed oil, most nuts, chocolate, and much much more, I get super sick).
Rhya is licensed dietitian nutritionist with an integrative or functional approach, trained to design and supervise customized plans and elimination diets. She helps so many people, including those with gastrointestinal conditions like IBS/IBD and those with autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthiritis (RA) and Hashimoto's.
So Rhya, how did you get started in Functional Nutrition or what pulled you into Functional Nutrition?
Through my family's own health struggles with autoimmune disease, celiac disease, ADHD, and multiple food sensitivities, I became interested in the power of nutrition as an adjunct therapy to medical treatment. I completed my Master's Degree in Human Nutrition at Winthrop University, and pursued a nutrition license so that I could help others and share what I've learned.
Why is nutrition so important and foundational?
Nutrition can be the most powerful medicine, especially when used to prevent imbalance. There are so many instances where a prescription may provide temporary relief from symptoms, but only giving the body what it needs through optimal nutrition will truly allow the body to heal and repair.
There is a lot of research being published about the gut microbiome and its importance. Can you briefly explain what the gut microbiome is?
The microbiome refers to the collection of beneficial bacteria throughout the body--on the skin, the eyes, and of course, the gut. The gut microbiome refers to these microbes which reside specifically in the large intestine. These microbes help to digest food, produce vitamins, support the metabolism, and protect the body from harmful invaders. There are various types of these microbes (which outnumber the amount of cells in our body by 10:1!) but most are bacteria and fall into several known categories.
So why is the gut microbiome so important to health and why haven't many people heard about it yet?
The gut microbiome is vital to optimal health because it is our first line of defense against digestive distress, inflammation, bad germs, and even chronic disease. Research indicates that the gut microbiome in large supports immunity directly, and it also triggers signaling to other organs such as the brain and heart. Traditional western medicine has been slow to acknowledge the importance of the gut microbiome and apply it in practice. Antibiotic therapy, although sometimes crucial, is generally overused, and then patients are left with a damaged microbiome which then ultimately perpetuates and/or worsens symptoms of inflammation. The fields of nutrition and functional medicine are working to refocus health practices and treatment around the gut microbiome and proper nutrition to support it.
As science and nutrition moves forward, we are learning just how true the old saying is "we are what we eat". What are some foods that people should really incorporate into their daily meals?
As you've probably noticed, there is quite a great deal of controversy around what we should eat, but in general everyone agrees that a whole food diet which includes plenty of vegetables supports health and prevents disease. Leafy greens are an excellent source of folate and magnesium, which I find to be low in many clients. Vitamin D is another common deficiency--eggs, mushrooms, and cold-water fish are good sources. I also recommend chia or flax seed consumption for its powerhouse qualities: protein, fiber, and Omega-3 fats all in one small serving! Nuts (especially walnuts and almonds) also offer healthy fats, protein, and minerals.
From what you have seen in your practice, what are some foods that people should avoid, especially those foods that may be very common and not typically considered unhealthy?
Current research suggests that processed "vegetable" oils (soybean, canola, cottonseed, corn) and highly refined carbohydrates (corn syrup, sugar, white flour) provide a significant amount of calories and yet minimal nutrition, which can contribute to chronic inflammation, weight gain, and chronic disease if consumed in excess. There are no negative effects to removing or minimizing these ingredients in the diet and instead focusing on whole foods and minimally processed, health-supporting fats (avocado, nuts, seeds, olives) and carbohydrate sources such as whole grains, beans, fruit, and vegetables.
We have all heard that certain foods are beneficial for the skin and some aren't. From your practice and perspective, what some items that really benefit the skin?
I see many cases of eczema and psoriasis in my practice, and there is always a gut issue with these conditions. The skin is the largest organ, so when the gut isn't functioning properly, toxins and bacteria or yeast inflame the skin. Healthy fats such as avocado, fish (or fish oil) and chia or flax seed calm the skin and support skin elasticity. Berries, leafy greens, and nuts and seeds are excellent sources of vitamins and minerals including zinc and Vitamin C which support skin repair and circulation. Vitamin A is another key player in supporting skin strength. High-quality, pastured eggs and orange fruits and vegetables are good sources.
What food items should be avoided because of their link to skin concerns like acne, rosacea, psoriasis, and others?
In general, highly processed foods such as refined carbohydrates and processed oils can contribute to inflammation and skin issues. When the gut lining has been compromised by medications, stress, pollution or poor diet, new food sensitivities can also develop. Alcohol, gluten and dairy are common triggers of eczema and other inflammatory skin conditions due to how they influence an already damaged gut lining. Processed soy and corn are other common culprits.
Are there any skin/food myths that you would like to debunk for us today? Does chocolate really cause acne?
Chocolate doesn't cause acne--but the corn syrup, soy lecithin, and milk added to it might contribute to inflammation and skin issues.
Phew, ladies, did you hear that? We're in the clear to have chocolate for Valentine's Day!
Since February is the month of "purification" and some people may like to reset or detox their bodies, what are some tips or advice you can give them to get started on this?
Remove or minimize alcohol, added sugar, and refined oils (canola and soy) from your diet for 14-30 days. For extra credit, increase vegetables and healthy fats from fish and flax in the diet.
Thank you so much for being here with us today Rhya. Before we part, where can people find you and learn more about the great work you are doing?
Check out our website: www.carolinafunctionalnutrition.com or on social media! To schedule a free 15-min discovery session, call 704-665-9688!
Well you know I'm going to have to ask this. What is your favorite Roses and Azalea product that you've personally tried and how has it helped you?
I love the Roses & Azalea facial serum--it's a great way to boost my skin's glow!
Well, you've heard all that about gut microbiome and how important nutrition is even for our skin from Rhya today. For anyone who is suffering from chronic pain or other illnesses, we hope that you'll have some idea of the small changes to make in food choices on your health journey.
And if not, follow up with Rhya with a phone call! She even puts together a personalized meal plan with amazing recipes to help you heal your gut and body.
That's it for now! Hope you enjoy this week of festivities... Until next time. Happy Valentine's week ❣
Rhya Pachin is licensed dietitian nutritionist with an integrative or functional approach and a certified LEAP therapist dietitian, trained to design and supervise customized plans and elimination diets. She helps you discover the root cause of food sensitivities and chronic inflammation through evidence-based interventions. Her practice focus areas include: gastrointestinal (GI) conditions such as IBS and IBD; autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthiritis (RA) and Hashimoto's; stubborn weight issues; food sensitivities, and other chronic inflammatory conditions in both adults and children.
1040 Edgewater Corporate Parkway Ste 106
Indian Land, SC 29707