Ashwagandha fruity crumb bars

Louise Macnab

These yummy vegan bars are perfect as an on-the-go breakfast or healthy snack. And they’re super easy to make…here’s how: 

For the crumb, you’ll need:

  • 1 c oat flour
  • 1 c rolled oats
  • 6 tbsp melted coconut oil
  • 3 tbsp coconut sugar
  • 1/4 c hot water
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tbsp JERMS Ashwagandha powder
  • 1 tsp cinnamon

And for the filling:

  • 2 c quartered peaches
  • 1 c blueberries
  • 1 c raspberries
  • 2 tbsp cane sugar
  • 1/4 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 tbsp tapioca flour
  • pinch of salt

Preheat oven to 200°C/ 390°F (180°C fan). Line an 8-inch square tray (or equivalent) with parchment paper and set aside.

Combine the filling ingredients in a bowl and set that aside too.

Add all the crumb ingredients to a large mixing bowl and mix until well combined. The texture you should be looking for is a crumbly dough.

Once that’s done press about 2/3rds of the mixture into the base of the tray then evenly distribute the filling on top. Then scatter the rest of the crumb mix over the filling. 

Bake for 40-45 mins or until the top is golden brown. Let the bars cool completely in the tray before slicing. 

There, nice and easy!

Try not to eat all at once…

Shop our Organic Ashwagandha powder >

IBS Awareness month: A conversation with Olivia Lewis, founder of The Free From Black Book

Louise Macnab

When did you first experience IBS symptoms and are there any specific factors/events which you personally think could have triggered it in you?

I’ve been dairy intolerant since I was born. I’ve also always had ‘tummy troubles’ – I remember going to ballet lessons and being in a lot of pain. But I think this was often the anxiety around not being able to go to the toilet during the lessons. My IBS really kicked in when I went traveling and got even worse around uni. I think this was caused by stress, diet, alcohol, and I must say, I think there were things from traveling (high dose of antibiotics for a sustained period of time and contracting a parasite in India, being just two). 

Research has found that up to 90% of people with IBS also experience depression or anxiety, which seems to point that IBS is a disorder of the gut-brain axis. From your personal experience would you agree with this and if so, what do you enjoy doing to nurture your mental health?  

I 100% agree! I suffer with my mental health and I believe the connection is fluid back and forth. I like spending time alone doing the things I enjoy – this could be anything from going to a car-boot sale in the sun or just taking a nap.

Can you tell us about the role diet has played in your IBS healing?

It’s played a major role. But it’s not just about avoiding your main allergens. You start to realise that it could be spicy foods, foods cooked in a certain oil or even the time of day you eat the food (I can’t eat any fresh fruit after breakfast). However, I would also say it’s about getting balance, because it’s easy to become ‘obsessive’ about it and that can be extremely damaging to your mental health.

What made you decide to start The Free From Black Book and can you share with us one of your fave, easy go-to recipes from your blog?

I was very stressed as I was working full time and at law school and it was nice to do something completely different. It did start as mainly recipes and product reviews, but I soon realised that it was just as important to talk about your experiences too. 

Here’s the recipe to one of my fave desserts: a yummy gluten free Rose, Cardamon and Pistachio Ch**se Cake. It’s a real crowd pleaser.

INGREDIENTS

Top:

1 1/2 cups of cashews

1/4 of the coconut milk from a can

1 tablespoon of coconut oil

2 tablespoons of maple syrup

4 tablespoons of rose water

4 Cardamom pods

pinch of beetroot powder for colour 

Ground Cardamom powder (optional)

Handful of pistachios to decorate

Rose petals to decorate

Base:

1 cup of oats

1/2 cup of dairy free butter

2 tablespoons of maple syrup

Handful of pistachios

METHOD

Place the cashews and Cardamom pods  in a pan and cover with water. Cook for about 2 hours (you will need to top the water up). You could also just soak overnight but I prefer the first method.

Line a tin or use a silicone mold. Add oats and pistachios to a food processor and mix (you can leave this part out if you prefer it ‘oaty’)

Mix the rest of base ingredients and pat down in a tray.

Cook on 180 for about 10-15 mins. Drain cashews and rinse. Add all the top ingredients (you could add about a teaspoon of Cardamom powder here) and blend until creamy. Pat down in tray and place in freezer for an hour. Move to the fridge and decorate before serving.

You’re very open about your struggles with IBS and are a fantastic advocate – what advice would you give to someone who’s been newly diagnosed

It can seem overwhelming, but you really do get used to it. Follow social media accounts that talk about it (it may help you feel less alone and most of us are happy to answer questions!). Try and still enjoy food; you may feel like you can no longer eat your fave foods, but try and find cafes, products, recipes that are delicious (and not just because they’re IBS friendly)! I would also say routine and safety is good. There’s certain restaurants, products etc. I just know are pretty safe. Although it may not be the most adventurous, I will go back to them. 

For more IBS friendly recipes and tips visit www.thefreefromblackbook.com or follow @thefreefromblackbook on Instagram



A conversation with Emmanuelle Waters, Nutritional Therapist DipCNM

Louise Macnab

Can you tell us a bit about the personal journey which led you to qualify as a Nutritional Therapist? 

It has been a long journey and so well worth it! I suffered from chronic pain for years and saw many doctors and “experts”, but none were able to offer me long-term solutions. I started exploring other avenues and this opened my mind to alternative approaches to health. I discovered a world of opportunities, and this empowered me to take charge of my own health. I now know what is working or not working for my own body and I have individual solutions I can implement on my own. 

I decided to leave the corporate world and to retrain as a nutritional therapist. This has been a life-transforming journey for me and I have found my true calling: helping others find their own tools to achieve or maintain their health naturally and holistically is absolutely wonderful. 

We now know that diet can keep your gut happy, increase your health span, and improve your mood, all at the same time. Can you explain how our diet choices can have this impact and what we should be eating to improve our mood? 

What we eat has an enormous impact on our health, both physical and mental. It makes sense. Food is made of different compounds, vitamins and minerals and all of these influence our bodily functions. Each reaction in our body is governed by complex mechanisms that require these different nutrients to operate optimally. What we ingest will travel through our body and determine our health. Eating food rich in nutrients support our physical as well as mental health. The impact food has on cognitive functions is one of the most exciting area of research at the moment and I feel very passionate about it. 

Many of my clients come to me with mood issues such as anxiety, irritability, anger, tension or sadness. This, in turn, impacts their energy, their sleep and their general wellbeing. In some cases, they are suffering from underlying mental issues and for these, I refer them to a mental health expert. However, in many cases, their mood is often linked to the type of food they eat and the lifestyles they have and, through my coaching skills, I help them choose nutritious food and implement healthy habits. Eating a diet rich in fibre, fresh fruits and vegetables, good quality proteins and fats and water will provide the body with all the necessary nutrients to function at its best. In contrast, food high in sugar, saturated fat and salt and/or highly processed will disrupt our body and our health.

What exactly is fibre and why is it so important to include in our diet?

Fibre is one of the most important nutrients for our health and is often lacking in our diet. Numerous studies have confirmed that fibre feeds our “good” gut bacteria, the so-called microbiome and this, in turns, feeds our brain cells through the gut-brain axis. This is a bi-directional communication system between our gut and our brain.

The importance of the health of our gut has led many experts to label it as our “second brain” as it has a direct impact on our mood and cognitive functions. By feeding our microbiome, fibre participates in many positive bodily reactions (regulation of blood sugar levels, cholesterol, blood pressure, weight, bowel movements) and as such reduces the risks of many chronic diseases such as diabetes, cardiovascular diseases or obesity. I have seen incredible results with some of my clients just by increasing intake of this essential ingredient in their daily meals. 

Why is it important to eat seasonally? What foods should we be eating now that we’re in the middle of winter?

Aside from environmental and sustainability reasons, eating seasonally allows us to get maximum benefits from the ingredients we consume: being at their best, they are more nutritious. Eating seasonally is also cheaper! Plus, it is fun because each season brings its own diversity of food so we can be more creative in the kitchen. It also allows us to eat a more varied and diverse diet and this is essential to health. The more variety our diet is, the better it is for us. 

Winter brings us lots of wonderful ingredients: 

  • Vegetables: carrot, root vegs (parsnip, swede), celeriac, cabbage, kale, mushrooms, leeks, cauliflower, potatoes…
  • Fruits: pears, apples, quince, clementine, oranges, lemons, kiwi…
  • Fish: mussels, scallops, grey mullet, salmon, haddock…

Many of these ingredients can be used in soups or stews, packed full of nutrients and so comforting during the dark winter months. 

Can you break down in simple terms how the gut brain connection works?

The gut-brain axis is a bi-directional communication system between our gut and our brain. It takes place along the vagus nerve which conducts electrical impulses (communications) between these two organs. Previously, we thought our brain was the master controller but more research is now indicating that our gut is equally important. It houses 100 trillion of bacteria (our microbiome). Our gut bacteria are influenced by what we eat, our environment and our lifestyles. Healthy gut bacteria allow the production of neurotransmitters such as serotonin, dopamine and GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid) which are all essential for brain function.

If our microbiome is not fed properly, it gets disrupted: this leads to inflammation which is at the root of many diseases. The simple equation is: inflamed gut equals inflamed brain, setting in motion all sorts of issues such as headaches, fatigue, low energy, poor mood, anxiety, depression, bloating, weight gain, pain, skin issues, infections, allergies, poor memory and concentration, stress and sleep disruption.

So, feeding our gut is essential not only to our physical wellbeing but also for our mental health.

What are some achievable tools that you recommend to help manage anxiety?

As we have discussed, feeding our gut will help reduce inflammation. And inflammation is directly linked to anxiety. Here are a few tools you can easily implement to help manage your anxiety:

       – Increase your intake of:

  • Whole food, rich in fibre such as fruits & vegetables, wholegrains, legumes…
  • Food rich in omega-3 such as oily fish (salmon, sardines, mackerel…), nuts & seeds
  • Good quality complex carbohydrates (not refined): think brown rice, brown pasta, wholemeal bread

– Reduce intake of all inflammatory foods such as    sugar, caffeine, alcohol, processed or junk foods, sodas, cakes…

– Implement lifestyle change strategies to calm down your nervous system (which is in high alert when inflamed): deep breathing, yoga, meditation, walking, self-care (massages, time with friends, soothing bath, music…)  

More information on Emmanuelle’s services as well as nutritional tips and ideas can be found on her website www.biovitalnutrition.com



A conversation with James and Dahlia Marin, Registered Dietitian Nutritionists and co-founders of Married to Health

Louise Macnab

How did your personal health journeys influence your decision to adopt a plant based lifestyle and become Registered Dietitian Nutritionists?

It was our health issues that fueled us to keep searching for support, relief, and overall health. That search which included an undergraduate degree, countless research articles, seminars, conferences, and hundreds of hours in various dietetic settings, ultimately led us to implementing and maintaining a plant-based lifestyle for 11 years and solidified our passion in our profession as integrative Registered Dietitians.

What are a few tell-tale signs that our gut health may not be in tip-top shape? 

For us, symptoms are some of the biggest puzzle pieces when trying to figure out someone’s health story and plan of action. Symptoms/diseases like: indigestion/reflux, constipation (which can even be a sense of not fully completing a bowel movement), abdominal discomfort after eating certain foods, distention, bloating, extreme cravings-especially sugar, skin irritations, mood changes, and poor sleep are all signs your gut microbiota is not where it should be. We highly recommend taking care of the little symptoms before they turn into big issues.

Can you explain what taking an integrative approach to gut health means and why it’s so important?

 Simply put an integrative approach is taking time to discover root causes while trying to help current symptoms. It is fine to change the flat tire, but it is even better to have a plan of action that will prevent the flat tire from happening: checking air pressure, avoiding driving on messy roads, rotating your tires, etc. This is very much like our daily habits of drinking water, eating a fiber-rich diet, getting wonderful movement daily, and much more. This is vital when it comes to gut health because gut health is the nexus of all health on the planet. If we take a proactive approach to gut health, we are taking care of everyone’s health.

What are your top tips for sustainable success when transitioning to a plant based diet?

#1 is understanding your “why”. Is it health, environment, social issues, or all of the above? Having a good grasp on why you are making these changes gives you a passion for making them sustainable. 

#2 We recommend adding before taking away. Many times people think going plant-based means taking away this animal product, or that ingredients, or favorite recipe. We recommend adding before taking away, by adding more plants to things you already love it helps to go plant-based in a sustainable way. Remember even eating 51% of your food from plants is plant-based! 

While maintaining patient confidentiality, of course, can you give us an example of someone you treated, their journey, and how you helped heal them?

We will call her patient M. She started with us in 2018 and could only tolerate eating five different foods due to severe Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). Her symptoms led to extreme food fear, which is very common as the excruciating pain makes a person essentially scared to eat. We were likely her last-ditch effort to make drastic changes, which she accomplished through working with us. We like talking about patient M because it is now 2022, and we continue to work with this patient. 

While four years may seem like a long time to work with a patient, it is essential to understand the context. Are four years of progress, symptom relief, GI medication elimination, and a better relationship with food that long compared to 15, 20, or 30 years of suffering from IBS like we see many of our patients do?

Something we like to tell our patients is, “You took a long time to get unhealthy; allow yourself some time to get healthy again.” Patient M now enjoys a vast array of gut-healthy foods, she is thriving with a great care team, including a talk therapist and pelvic floor therapist, and she has overcome a majority of her food fears. All of this while not having to compromise her values as a vegan who wanted to continue on a 100% plant-based diet. All of the providers she had worked with previously told her she would need to forgo this type of lifestyle, but we were able to provide her with the help she needed thanks to our 100% plant-based SIBO/IBS program.

Congratulations on your new e-book ‘Good Gut A-Z Guide’! Tell us why you created the book and what readers can expect.

We noticed that our patients and our followers would often tell us “I want to incorporate more plant foods into my diet but don’t know where to begin”. Because of this, we decided to create the Good Gut A-Z guide to help those of all ages and stages incorporate more fiber and plant foods into their diet. Our guide not only gives our readers information about the benefits of each plant food listed, but the ways in which they can incorporate these plant foods into their diet whether it be as a salad topping or as a main component of a dish. The guide is family friendly and there’s something in it for everyone, whether you’re one or one hundred and one!

What’s your favourite easy ‘go to’ meal when you’ve no time but still want to be healthy?

In our family, we make spending time together a priority. So after long days of seeing patients, we love whipping up some “healthy lazy” meals so that we can use those extra moments to spend time with loved ones while still nourishing our gut. Our absolute go-to especially during the winter months is leftover soup. Taking time to cook is definitely part of a healthy lifestyle because not many people know that the act of preparing and cooking food is actually part of the healthy digestive process. However, we do not cook from scratch every single meal, every single day. Making a large batch of soup is a key go to for us because soup is extremely gut healing and it is jam packed with a diversity of plant foods. It is a complete meal that you scoop out of the fridge, heat and enjoy whenever you are hungry. 

And finally, we love that Married to Health is an eco-friendly company – can you tell us why having an environmentally friendly dietetic practice is so important to you? 

It’s important to recognize that everything is connected. From the breakfast we eat, to the type of printer paper we buy, and beyond. With that understanding it is a must that our organization reflect and practice an eco-office model. Everything our company does and buys is done so with consciousness, reflection, and purpose not just for the good of the practice, but for the good of all living creatures on the planet for generations.

James & Dahlia’s new e-book ‘Good Gut A-Z Guide’! is available now from their website. JERMS readers receive 20% off with code WEAREJERMS20.



A CONVERSATION WITH SCOTT C. ANDERSON, CO-AUTHOR OF ‘THE PSYCHOBIOTIC REVOLUTION’

Louise Macnab

Firstly, thank you for producing such an easily digestible (pun intended) and information rich book on an important topic that we’re very passionate about at JERMS: the relationship between gut health and psychological well-being. As a scientific journalist, what initially drew you to the subject of the gut microbiota and mental health? 

In 2005, I was invited to Ohio to create a laboratory to produce prebiotics for humans and animals. Working with veterinarian Frank Pellegrini, we discovered that horses can get colonic ulcers. I believed that the cause was bacterial imbalance in their hindgut. We created a fecal blood test that allowed us to correlate those ulcers to poor performance. We try not to anthropomorphize, but these horses seemed depressed. In my research, I came across the work of Professor John F. Cryan and Dr. Ted Dinan of University College Cork. They were working on something called psychobiotics – bacteria that could improve mood as well as some antidepressants.

Believing that we were working on the same problem, I called them up. They had read some of my previous writings and we all thought it would make sense to write a book about psychobiotics. I visited them in Ireland and we sealed the deal over a meal of fish and champagne. I count myself as very lucky to meet these giants of research and to work with them on a book for lay people to learn about the amazing secrets of psychobiotics.

The book is called ‘The Psychobiotic Revolution’. Can you explain to us what the term ‘psychobiotic’ means and why it has the potential to revolutionize healthcare?

Psychobiotics include prebiotics and probiotics that improve gut function and lower inflammation that can lead to depression, anxiety and other mental issues. Via the gut-brain axis, these substances can help to address psychological stress and perhaps lower the need for harsh medicines that often have poor efficacy and nasty side effects. 

Psychobiotics will likely not replace the current suite of psychological drugs, but they offer many patients a more holistic approach to dealing with depression and anxiety. They may also play a big role as adjuvants, used in combination with antidepressants and anxiolytics.

Merely recognizing that gut microbes can affect our mind, cognition and mood is a true revolution. The beauty is that the microbiota acts like another organ in our body – but one we have control over. Being able to take charge of our mental health via diet is a remarkable breakthrough.

How do you recognise a healthy microbiota (the community of microbes living in our guts)?

It turns out to be quite difficult to look at a microbiota and determine if it is healthy.

Unhealthy guts are easier to identify, as they are often dominated by one or two species, with much lower diversity. Researchers are starting to realize that diversity is the most important common factor in a good gut – as long as no one species dominates, the microbial communities are better balanced and more resilient to change.

Research suggests a strong connection between low microbiome diversity and modern Western diseases. Can you unpack a little why you think we’re seeing a surge in, for example, autoimmune diseases today?

The hygiene hypothesis says that our lives may actually be a little too clean. In 1989, Dr. David Strachan found that younger siblings had lower rates of eczema and asthma. He proposed that exposure of these youngsters to the microbes of their older siblings was teaching their immune systems to tolerate certain antigens. Studies of farm-raised Amish kids support this finding as well. 

The Western world, however, is at war with germs, with antibacterial soaps and antibiotic overkill.

The impact of refined foods has added to our woes. By extracting fiber from our food – so-called refining – we have disturbed a deal we made with our microbes millennia ago to provide them with sustenance while they protect us from pathogens. As a consequence, beneficial bacteria are suppressed and pathogens bloom, leading to inflammation and the likelihood of autoimmune and other chronic diseases.

The book discusses how to reduce gut-based inflammation as a way to reclaim both physical and mental health. Can you discuss the role that gut inflammation plays in depression and anxiety?

Gut inflammation can lead to “leaky guts” – a loose term that means toxins and bacteria can escape the gut and invade the bloodstream. 

No matter how beneficial microbes might be in the gut, they are nothing but trouble in the blood. Once there, the heart dutifully pumps them to every organ in the body. That includes the brain. Normally, the brain is effectively walled off from the messiness tolerated by the rest of the body by the blood-brain barrier (BBB). 

But when inflammation becomes chronic, the BBB can break down, allowing those toxins and microbes to enter the brain. The immune system is then called upon to come to the rescue, but it is not subtle. There is a lot of collateral damage generated by the immune system as it hunts down microbes.

Stress triggers the release of cortisol, the flight-or-fight drug that is the body’s response to stress. Interestingly, cortisol diminishes the immune response, potentially causing a vicious cycle of increasing inflammation. The longer this goes on, the greater the anxiety and depression of the sufferer.

We have known about the effects of disease on our mental state since the days of Hippocrates. He described liver patients who became anxious and even angry, something we now know as hepatic encephalopathy. In at least some cases, it is caused by pathogenic microbes that produce ammonia. We also know one way to treat this microbial disease: antibiotics. Once treated, these patients can quickly regain their normal personalities.

In the book you explain how a good diet can keep your gut happy, increase your health span, and improve your mood, all at the same time. Is it that simple, can we really eat ourselves happy?

The evidence shows that excess sugar and diminished fiber in our diet is directly related to leaky gut syndrome, inflammation, and chronic disease – including mental disease. Dr. Dinan’s success treating depression and anxiety with psychobiotics is further evidence of the link between an unbalanced microbiota and mental disruptions.

It is hard to avoid the data showing that people consuming a Mediterranean diet are healthier and happier with high fiber and a wide diversity of foods. Fiber feeds beneficial bacteria which then produce butyrate, a short-chain fatty acid that nourishes and heals the gut. Butyrate can also penetrate the BBB where it can promote nerve growth, enhancing cognition and mood. All in all, eating a diet high in fibrous foods like onions, artichokes, asparagus and beans will make your gut healthier, lower inflammation and improve overall health, including mental health.

There’s been a recent realization that there may be no single, one-size-fits-all diet and that differential human responses to dietary inputs may rather be driven by unique host and microbiome features. What’s your opinion on tailored diets and what do you perceive as the main challenges in harnessing the potential of microbiome-informed personalized nutrition?

There are many variables involved in gut health: genes, early exposure, antibiotic use, culture, habits and many more. This makes it difficult to offer useful advice about specific microbes that may be good or bad. Instead, microbes like E. coli, Clostridia, and Streptococcus can be beneficial or pathogenic depending on the rest of their environment. 

Eating fiber works regardless of your specific microbiota. For some people with active gut inflammation like IBD, fiber can cause discomfort and bloating, but for most people it’s a boon. The upshot is that we need to pay strict attention to what we eat, especially foods with fiber, and take note of what works. That complicates things short-term, but in the long run, a diverse microbiota from eating a varied and fiber-rich diet will be excellent for your health.

Can you tell us something that even you were surprised to learn about the gut microbiota when you were writing this book?

The concept that invisible gut microbes can produce neurotransmitters that are identical to those used by our own brains is mind-boggling. 

But extending this idea leads to some amazing theories. Microbes can use this leverage to affect our cravings. This same power can shape our personalities. Microbes may affect who we choose as partners, and an extension of that idea is that microbes may even affect speciation. Some of these ideas are more speculative than others, but the implications are staggering. Microbes play a much larger role in the advance and shape of humanity than we ever thought possible!

What is your hope for the future of microbiome research? Are there any other particular areas you’re personally excited to dig deeper into?

There are so many spin-offs from microbial research! Realizing that microbes can have a powerful effect on our health, our personalities and even our civilization is sobering and empowering. I look forward to future microbial therapies that can treat our epidemic of depression, obesity, diabetes, heart ailments, mental problems and other chronic diseases.

I also expect to find ways to deal with antibiotic resistance, which threatens to undo a century of “miracle” cures for infection. The answer may involve phages, which are viruses that live off (and in) bacteria. The exploration of viruses continues our exploration of the microbiota and is poised for a renaissance. It also bodes well for new solutions for plagues like the coronavirus.

Researchers are learning how to turn bacteria into tiny “doctors” that can analyze their surroundings and then make decisions about which medicines they can release to treat disease. This sounds like sci-fi, but is already up and running in laboratories today.

Scott’s book the Psychobiotic Revolution: Mood, Food and the New Science of the Gut-Brain Connection is available on Amazon 



A CONVERSATION WITH TAMIR BARZILAI, CO-FOUNDER AND CEO OF HONEYCOMB

Louise Macnab

Honeycomb is a revolutionary AI technology helping empower individuals with dietary restrictions in the U.S, Canada and Australia and we’re thrilled to be the first business in the UK to offer it to JERMS customers in our London cafe.

Honeycomb was born out of your own experience living with the digestive condition Ulcerative Colitis – can you share with us the backstory and how that led you to create what Honeycomb is today?

In 2013 I went on my first flight across the Atlantic. Halfway through the flight I knew something was wrong with me – for those who suffer from IBS/IBD, they’ll know exactly what I mean when I say I was very busy going back and forth, up and down the aisles.

To make a long story short, that was the beginning of a mega flare-up – a flare up that put me in the hospital back in Vancouver just over a month later when I got back, 25 pounds lighter than when I left. My mom couldn’t recognize me at the airport, things weren’t looking up!

To fast forward, I had multiple meetings with dietitians to come up with a diet that could get me into remission. Low-FODMAP elimination diet was what I started with, but ultimately it was a tumultuous three-year journey to finally get to the autoimmune nirvana, the magic word called “remission”.

At the time, I was running another company and would frequently have meetings in downtown Vancouver. After every meeting around lunch, I’d end up at Subway. Why Subway? Because despite the negatives, I could at least pick out which ingredients they put in my food. I felt I had some control. 

However, going to Subway everyday wasn’t sustainable for my palette, even though it was indeed reliable. Here we see a problem: I’m in downtown Vancouver, and there are dozens of amazing restaurants and cafes offering so many delicious meals. However, I didn’t know how to discover suitable items without having to call or visit the restaurant and share my dietary needs. 

Not only is it a tedious process, it’s also at times embarrassing to have to play ingredient-tetris with strangers in order to simply find eat lunch. 

At that point I decided to create Honeycomb. What if there was a mobile application that could profile my exact dietary needs, has access to a database of nearby restaurant menu items, and could simply match me up with items suitable for me to eat? So I teamed up with my friend who’s a computer engineer and we got to work!

Developing Artificial Intelligence to help diners with food allergies and specific diets select suitable items from restaurant menus is no mean feat! What were some of the main challenges you initially faced from a technology and development perspective?

From a restaurant perspective, operators don’t have time to manually annotate and fill out super detailed allergen guides and dietary information. Our AI tool saves restaurants hours of grunt work by using our predictive ingredient/diet labelling feature to help annotate their menu items with the valuable dietary information.

For customers, our AI tool works like what you might expect Netflix or YouTube to do when it comes to making personalized recommendations. Honeycomb services both sides of the experience, therefore making it viable to provide an amazing experience for the end user, only recommending food that explicitly suits their dietary needs and preferences, including intolerances and more allergies.

Alright, let’s talk gut health! At JERMS we’re super passionate about normalising the discussion around our bodily functions. As a young guy suffering with a chronic digestive condition, did you ever feel any isolation or embarrassment around it and, if so, how did you deal with it?

Honestly, at first I never wanted to tell anyone because they might see me as weak or inferior in some way. Having gut issues can indeed be very embarrassing.

I would have trouble going out with friends without knowing the plan in advance (I’d have to map out the washrooms) and camping/travelling/hiking was a huge NO for me, which is particularly bad here in British Columbia where everyone wants to hit the outdoors. 

Now that my baseline is pretty much remission, I find it less severe and therefore my social life has recovered to a relatively normal level where I’m not afraid of the consequences. Thankfully, the people around me are supportive and I can be pretty transparent about everything!

Apart from your diet are there any other lifestyle changes you’ve made that have helped you manage your Ulcerative Colitis? 

Yes! It’s always a combination for me. The perfect storm for a flare up is always multi-factored. High stress, not taking medication, not sleeping enough, and having some cheat meals here and there will all contribute to an imminent flare up.

To keep my gut-health in check, I make sure I get enough sleep, mitigate any cheat meals, stay away from alcohol, and get some exercise in at least 3 to 4 times a week to keep the stress down. I always go by the concept of “Eat. Move. Sleep” as a strategy to stay healthy.

And finally, as the founder of a successful start-up, what 3 points of advice would you give to aspiring founders? 

  1. Keep your mission – your grandest vision – as your North Star. Be unshakeable in your dedication to it, and understand that accomplishing it is going to be monumentally difficult. Knowing that will keep you in the game longer.
  2. Be careful who you take advice from. Keep advisors close, listen to the words of your investors, but ultimately, test each idea with rigorous logic and reasoning and do your best to keep bias and ego from creeping in. Do you want to win or do you want to be right?
  3. Be kind to everyone, even if they piss you off. Sometimes people might say the wrong thing or back down from promises they have made. Keep a trail of kindness behind you everywhere you go – don’t burn bridges!  

To learn more about Honeycomb visit www.honeycomb.ai or follow them on socials @honeycomb_app



EXERCISE CAN CHANGE OUR GUT MICROBIOME

Louise Macnab

As if we needed another reason to work out…

Although it’s well established that diet can change the composition of our microbiome (the universe of bacteria living inside every human that’s believed to influence everything from metabolism to mood), recent studies suggest that exercise can alter it too

In one study, higher self-reported physical activity levels were associated with a 22% reduced risk of active Ulcerative Colitis “UC” (chronic digestive condition), and a 10-wk intervention that included moderate exercise improved quality of life in patients with moderately active UC.

Another study investigated the microbiomes of 40 professional international rugby union players compared to control groups of people of similar age with either high or low BMI. It highlighted “significantly greater intestinal microbial diversity among the athletes”.

And in one recent study, Scientists at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign identified significant differences in the gut bacteria of obese and lean individuals who underwent the same endurance training.

The scientists took blood and fecal samples and tested everyone’s aerobic fitness. Then the volunteers began supervised workouts, during which their efforts increased over time from about 30 minutes of easy walking or cycling to about an hour of vigorous jogging or pedaling three times per week.

They were asked not to change their normal diets.

After six weeks, the scientists collected more samples and retested everyone, and then asked the volunteers to stop exercising altogether.

Six weeks later, the tests repeated.

The results showed that the volunteers’ gut bugs had changed throughout the experiment. In particular, they noted widespread increases in certain microbes that can help to produce substances called short-chain fatty acids. These fatty acids are believed to aid in reducing inflammation in the gut and the rest of the body. They also work to fight insulin resistance, a precursor to diabetes, and otherwise bolster our metabolisms.

Significantly, the study’s overall results suggest that even a few weeks of exercise can alter the makeup and function of our gut microbiome – although consistency is key as almost all of the changes in people’s guts reverted to what they had been at the study’s start after six weeks of not doing any exercise.

The above content is provided for informational and educational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional advice or diagnosis and should never be relied upon for specific medical advice.


Sources:

Evans CC, LePard KJ, Kwak JW, et al. Exercise prevents weight gain and alters the gut microbiota in a mouse model of high fat diet-induced obesity. PLoS One. 2014; 9(3):e92193. Allen JM, Miller MEB, Pence BD, et al. Voluntary and forced exercise differentially alters the gut microbiome in C57BL/6J mice. J. Appl. Physiol. 2015; 118(8):1059–66.

 

Morgan XC, Tickle TL, Sokol H, et al. Dysfunction of the intestinal microbiome in inflammatory bowel disease and treatment. Genome Biol. 2012; 13(9):R79.

 

Jones PD, Kappelman MD, Martin CF, Chen W, Sandler RS, Long MD. Exercise decreases risk of future active disease in inflammatory bowel disease patients in remission. Inflamm. Bowel Dis. 2015; 21(5):1063–71.

 

 https://nutrsci.illinois.edu/news/exercise-alters-our-microbiome-one-reason-it’s-so-good-us