My Story: Maria Larkin, MEd, RDN, LD
In the more than 30 years working in the field of nutrition and treating clients across the lifespan from infants to the elderly, I have frequently counseled clients with gastrointestinal (GI) problems. Some of my clients have had GI complications because of eating disorders such as Anorexia and Bulimia Nervosa and binge eating disorder while others have GI issues resulting from stress, food poisoning, food intolerances or medications. Working with college students and in private practice, I began to notice that almost all of my clients complained of some type of intestinal distress. Then the GI distress hit home! My teenage son was down to eating just three foods after being treated with a medication for acne.
Fortunately, my son was in college in Baltimore, Maryland not far from where Dr. Gerry Mullin of John’s Hopkins practices Integrative Gastroenterology. He diagnosed my son with SIBO or small intestinal bacterial overgrowth long before it became a household word. This was the first time my son understood what was wrong with him and he got some relief from his symptoms taking the medication Dr. Mullin prescribed (xifaxin 550 mg). We both eagerly live streamed the first two SIBO symposiums in Portland, Oregon and became fans of Dr. Mark Pimentel and of Alison Siebecker. Since then I have attended all the annual SIBO symposiums and anything and everything I can find related to SIBO. One of the best talks I recently attended was in my own backyard at the Oar House in Portsmouth, NH where Ali Rezaie, MD, medical director of the GI Motility Clinic at Mt. Cedar Sinai Hospital in LA and Dr. Pimentel’s colleague, spoke to a small group of practitioners, answering all of my unanswered questions about SIBO. I follow him on Twitter now.
Back to my son. Well, unfortunately, it took more than just eradicating the nasty SIBO bacteria to get my son healthy. He and I went on a rigorous journey for several years to help him recover from his gut distress, realizing that the acne medication (as well as SIBO) also affected his gallbladder and his body’s secretion of bile.
Stool testing from a functional medicine laboratory in North Carolina helped identify imbalances in my son’s gut microbiome including a yeast overgrowth that we solved with diet and supplements. We added in an IgE and IgG food allergy and food sensitivity test, which incidentally also showed a high reaction to bakers and brewers yeast. Since this time, I have learned this is no coincidence when folks have both immune reactions to yeast and yeast in their stool. The elimination of yeast in his diet was a miracle cure and did more to rid his face of acne than the acne medication prescribed by the dermatologist.
And a Christmas present for a 23andme test (one of those gene tests) identified his genes SNPs (single nucleotide polymorphisms) that also played a role in his gut as well as his overall health. I now recommended and interpret nutrigenomic testing for many of my clients.
Is my son fully recovered? Well, he is now happily able to eat most foods and is no longer as fearful of eating out or traveling. But the acne medication did such a number on his gut so that we are still actively researching and trying new ways to help him. Thankfully, with all of the new research on the gut microbiome and the intestinal mucosa, we are making great headway.
As for my own gut health, I discovered I was lactose intolerant with the start of my first pregnancy. Years later, I was able to see (using my raw DNA) that I inherited the genes for lactose intolerance from both of my parents. In 2009 I became experimented with a gluten-free diet, which immensely helped my joint pain, cleared up my skin and resolved my constipation and bloating. But in 2013, I developed joint pain over the tops of both hands that haunted me 24/7. I decided to do a stool test like my son had and discovered both yeast and bacterial overgrowth, which after treatment completely ended the pain in my hands. I remember the first time I ate beans after having followed the low fodmap diet for my SIBO. It felt miraculous not to have to feel bloated, gassy or lethargic.
More about me
So what more is there to know about me? Think about it this way. You wouldn’t hire a babysitter to take care of your children unless you first checked references and maybe even did a criminal background check. You wouldn’t take your car to a mechanic who had little or no experience working on your type of car or had no substantial credentials. So, selecting the right dietitian-nutritionist to help you with your health concerns is as important not only for achieving a successful health outcome but also because working toward your health goals can be both a financial and a time commitment. That’s why I want you to know who I am, what I offer and exactly the quality of care you will receive when you work with me.
Who am I? I am an experienced and knowledgeable dietitian. I have spent my entire career of over 35 years as a dietitian. I have not changed my focus or switched from one career to another. Working with me means you will be in the hands of someone with a great deal of clinical-medical experience and years of science-based nutrition knowledge to establish for you a credible workable nutrition plan.
You will be working with someone who served as a chief clinical dietitian in a hospital setting, who specialized in geriatrics in long-term care facilities, who worked with women, infants and children in the WIC nutrition program and who provided nutrition counseling to college students in a university college setting. Essentially, no matter where you are in your life cycle, how old you are, and whatever your life experience, I most likely have met you somewhere before.
When you become my client, I bring forth my extensive knowledge and experience to make sense of your health history, your story, and your healthcare goals. It’s like connecting dots and it can even be fun. For most of my clients, it gives them hope.
When you work with me, you will be working with someone trained as a Reiki master and who is highly intuitive; who likes to explain in stories so you can remember and understand. One of my clients, a professor, called me “an educator” and I actively work to problem solve. And most importantly I am ethical and honest. And when you walk through my door or engage with me in a virtual session, I hope you feel a sense of warmth and compassion.
What quality of care can you expect? You can expect not only someone who is knowledgeable and experienced but who has passion and commitment. You will be working with someone who goes the extra mile. To help my geriatric patients with swallowing disorders, I took courses in dysphagia. To help my eating disordered clients, I wrote a book about eating disorders and became certified in mindful-based eating awareness. To help my clients become successful with their behavior change goals, I took courses in Motivational Interviewing (before health coaches came on the scene). To help all my clients feel better and get answers to their health issues that conventional medicine is/was not providing, I was one of the first to obtain certification as a functional medicine dietitian from Susan Allen’s Next Level Functional Nutrition program and participated in the entire Institute for Functional Medicine’s modules. Functional medicine gets to the root cause, the underlying health issue. At all times I reach out to your other practitioners to coordinate care, and I case share with fellow colleagues when I find your story compelling.
What do I offer? I created my business model to be focused on one area of health, i.e. the gastrointestinal tract and gut health. I was hoping that it would simplify for me the need to know everything about every kind of disease. But I quickly realized that the gut plays a role in so many different health conditions that I ended up helping my clients with more than their intestinal issues. When I help clients have better digestion, I help them with their skin, their anxiety, their hormones, their weight and blood sugar. I help clients get off of medications when I repair their gut, including medication for autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis.
With this in mind, I offer one-on-one nutrition counseling in person or virtual for a medical nutritional assessment of your health condition for a variety of conditions bit it skin, autoimmune disease, hormone imbalance, pain and fatigue, migraines, anxiety/depression and weight gain or high cholesterol. Click here to see our program list. And we even have a program called “Better Gut Better Baby” for those who want to be as healthy they can be before and during pregnancy.
Depending on your needs and wants, I conduct a comprehensive functional medicine assessment with a nutrition-oriented physical exam. Remember functional medicine gets to the root cause.
I offer in-person and online group classes on a variety of gut-related topics (click here for our classes) but as I just mentioned, so much is gut-related.
Our meal planning services help take the guesswork out of what to eat and to get you out of your eating rut. We operate a menu planning software program that takes into account your food allergies, intolerances and specific type of meal plan. It includes a step-by-step action plan, shopping list, menu and recipes. You receive an ebook of personalized meals and recipes.
We offer all kinds of resources, practitioner referrals, a discounted supplement program (click here), testing recommendations, laboratory value interpretation, nutrigenomic recommendations and interpretation, mindful-based eating awareness strategies, and eating disorder therapies.
If you’re still with me, I hope you will give us a call.
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We at Better Gut Better Health offer services to address both your eating concern and your gastrointestinal issues.
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