Healing Charlotte Podcast: Hannah Anderson, Registered Dietician Nutritionist

In this episode, we are talking all things nutrition with Hannah Anderson. She is the Registered Dietician for the dining program at the University of North Carolina Asheville. Hannah wears many hats with this role and really enjoys working with students around wellness. In high school, she developed an interest in healthy eating, exercise, and experimenting in the kitchen. She discovered that she could study Public Health in undergrad and became fascinated with the nutrition aspect during a project researching chronic illnesses. The class found that all chronic diseases had a direct correlation to obesity and diet. During the same time, she developed a chronic illness that took over her life. She began noticing gastrointestinal symptoms that she later found were related to the long term use of antibiotics prescribed by her doctor. She later struggled with environmental allergies and sinus issues and then diagnosed with uveitis, an auto-immune disorder that presents like pink eye and can eventually lead to blindness. After exhausting her options with traditional medicine and finding little relief, Hannah started working with a Functional and Integrative medicine practitioner. She describes Functional and Integrative medicine as a modality to help find the underlying causes of disease for optimal health. These modalities believe in the body’s innate ability to heal itself. Hannah reports that 50% of adults in the United States have been diagnosed with 1 chronic illness. Most find little relief in traditional medicine and are just told to deal with the symptoms or given a prescription for the pain associated.

Hannah goes into depth for understanding of the microbiome as it is a part of the entire picture of health. She says our body is home to trillions of micro-organisms(bacteria, viruses, fungi, etc) that all have a placement and purpose. The gut microbiome are the ones residing in the digestive system and can weigh anywhere from 2-5lbs! These organisms help regulate hormones, create neurotransmitters, among other purposes. A healthy gut microbiome has a delicate balance between the two and can be thrown off by medication, lack of sleep, and environmental factors. A dysbiotic state is when there are more bad bacteria than good and commonly called “leaky gut.”

“We can’t just look at our diet alone without looking at our sleep, and our social relationships, and our stress management, and our connection with nature. All of these things really do such a profound job at impacting how our gut functions and in turn they way we are able to prevent disease or not.”

Hannah discusses how food and nutrition is just one part of the overall picture and that other areas are worth exploring as well. She talks about balance with sleep, stress management, movement, and diet. She talks about the “Standard American Diet,” or S.A.D. that is made up of mostly processed food or food that lacks the nutrients we need by the time it reaches the table. Many people are deficient in Vitamin D, which could look similar to depression, B12 which causes fatigue, memory loss, and depressive symptoms. Adults need 8-9 hours of sleep and are not getting that which could cause insulin resistance, cardiovascular and immune issues, hormonal imbalance, and mood swings. Effective and regular stress management can lower inflammation. Moving the body consistently can increase insulin sensitivity, brain health, and enhance detoxification.

Some suggestions Hannah offered:

  • be your own “Health CEO”
  • buy from local farms
  • eat more whole foods in their natural state and a large variety
  • pay attention to packages; reading labels for ingredient(fewer is better, ones you can pronounce) and check for added sugar which is pro-inflammatory
  • add more fiber
  • utilize adaptogens(class of plants that can reduce stress response in the body). Mushrooms(lions mane, rishi), Ashwagandha, Ginseng, and Maca, to name a few.

Other resources Hannah recommended:

Documentary mentioned:

“The Biggest Little Farm”