Get “Married to Health” with Plant-Based Dietitians James and Dahlia Marin

James and Dahlia Marin
Meet “the plant-based power couple”: registered dietitians James and Dahlia Marin! The duo provides plant-based integrative dietetics through their practice, Married to Health. As college sweethearts who attended the same nutrition and dietetics program, they fell in love with health and with each other simultaneously.  Author: Colleen Kane

Personal health issues sparked an interest in plant-based nutrition

While they initially started out with interests in psychology and physical therapy, both were brought into nutrition through their own personal health journeys. For Dahlia, her turning point was the day that she was diagnosed with high cholesterol, pre-diabetes, polycystic ovarian syndrome, and an autoimmune thyroid condition called Hashimoto’s.  She was handed her three prescriptions, but no health professionals mentioned that she had the power to improve her conditions through nutrition and lifestyle change. Driven to learn about nutrition on her own, she started making changes.  Both she and James realized that they used stress eating and mindless eating as coping techniques. Curious to understand the psychology of eating, their research eventually led them to whole-food plant-based diets.  After watching Food, Inc. and reading The Omnivore’s Dilemma and The China Study, they became motivated to help others prevent and reverse the avoidable lifestyle diseases. They went on to found their own practice, Married to Health, which is the first 100% plant-based IBS/SIBO nutrition program.

Becoming aware of industry funding and misguided nutrition advice in school

In their nutrition and dietetics program circa 2011, they gained a solid foundation in biochemistry, research methods, advanced nutrient metabolism, physiology, and understanding pathways.  However, they felt they were the only ones who noticed that research, guest speakers, conferences and textbooks were funded by industry interests. They became concerned with lack of transparency in the food industry, not only from sponsors but with regard to consumers having the right to know if their food contains GMOs. Another flaw in their training was the exclusive focus on quantitative over qualitative measures. Professors taught them that diabetics needed to count the number of carbs they consumed. No matter whether they were consuming sweet potatoes or refined flour, they just needed to limit the number of carbohydrates.  Patients with cardiovascular disease were advised to count grams of fat. Regardless of whether the fat came from nuts or from meat, they were to limit the sheer grams of fat. They were taught that “all foods fit.” The Marins were one of the few to question this concept, as well as the Food Pyramid’s lack of focus on fruits and vegetables, and MyPlate’s exclusive recommendation of dairy.  So, they had to fill in the gaps in their education themselves. 

Both people seeking treatment and prevention can benefit from Married to Health’s services

The Marins have a strong team made up of dietitians with different specialties. For instance, Dhalia specializes in IBS and autoimmune disease; others specialize in plant-based pregnancies, oncology, or even in “neo emotional release” to help people with eating issues or emotions impacting their gut health.  While some dietitians work with those who have already been diagnosed with a condition, others specialize in helping clients with a family history of a disease to prevent metabolic disease, cardiovascular disease or diabetes. Their practice accepts insurance in an effort to make services more accessible to more people. 

Plant-based diets have the power to prevent and treat disease. Claims to the contrary are unfounded and likely trying to sell you something.

In Dahlia’s work trying to get her own autoimmune disease into remission and in her work with clients with autoimmune diseases, she has learned that treating them can take years. She must first understand the roots of the disease and whether it is triggered by mental, emotional, or nutrient deficiency. Then, she must attempt to optimize gut health using plant compounds and phytonutrients.  Randomized controlled trials are honing in on the fact that increasing fiber by only ten grams a day decreases the risk of all cause mortality by 10%. Research has also concluded that chronic symptoms like gas, bloating, constipation and diarrhea can evolve into an autoimmune condition and exponentially increase your risk of developing Irritable Bowel Disease, Crohn’s Disease or Ulcerative Colitis. Lacking plants in your diet activates autoimmune conditions like these, but they are a whopping 96% avoidable through lifestyle changes.  Much high quality evidence exists indicating the power of plant nutrients to treat and prevent autoimmune disease, and geographic rates of disease support this as well. However, the Marins have heard many a “doctor-dietician” make outlandish claims to the contrary. These doctors have convinced people to try paleo diets and supplements to treat autoimmune disease. Yet clear research and geographical evidence indicate that those who eat the most plants have lower incidence of chronic and auto-immune disease.  These frustrations have led the Marins to focus on helping their clients understand what is truly evidence-based and which claims are just trying to sell sensationalized diets and pills.  

Why hospitals are still feeding patients disease-promoting animal products

According to Dahlia, the hospital cafeteria is typically the number one revenue generator for the hospital. So, cafeterias buy in bulk from large manufacturers to keep costs down. When first starting out as a dietician, Dahlia worked in a hospital. There, she pushed for dairy-free Insure and for plant-based frozen meals. 

Change our choices to change the food system

James commented that the first step to changing our food system is to start with our “inner ecosystem.” If we feed our gut microbiomes with ethical, sustainable foods, we’re simultaneously voting with our dollar for food system transformation. Dahlia and James both pointed out that parents who are concerned with school lunch quality can combat the system by avoiding supporting it. Given that schools are paid for each child they feed, parents who have the resources to send their children to school with a bag lunch instead helps pull funding from it.  The public school food system is one of the first places that government subsidized foods like cheese are sent when there is surplus. School systems are then encouraged to stuff cheese into every dish they can because it is so discounted. While the Marins acknowledge that California’s recent initiative to offer free school lunch to children who need it helps meet bare necessities for some people, they point out that it perpetuates issues with our food system. It means more taxpayer dollars going to pay dairy manufacturers. So, is that really a win?

4 Actionable Tips to Go Plant-Based

So, what do these integrative dietitians advise for people interested in adopting a plant-based lifestyle? Here are their four tips:
  1. ADD. People often think of what they subtract and what they “can’t eat.” Instead, focus on trying to add healthy foods like greens, veggies, nuts, seeds and beans. Have fun experimenting with new kinds of plants! According to James Marin, there are over 50,000 edible plant varieties out of the 700,000 known plant species. 
  2. UPGRADE. Dahlia advises slowly but surely making nutritional swaps. For example, simply choose a bread with more fiber and minerals over a standard white bread. As you experience small improvements in your energy, you’ll be encouraged to keep doing more. 
  3. SUPPORT. Consider who you can support with your food dollars, whether the local farmer’s market or a school PTA that is making an effort to try to make healthy changes. 
  4. GO AT YOUR OWN PACE. Sometimes when people make changes very quickly, they feel bloated, don’t eat a balanced plant-based diet, or forget to supplement with B12, D and omega 3s (or flax and chia seeds!). “Go slow until you can go full speed,” Dahlia advises.

Hungry to Learn More?

Interested in learning more from the Marins? Hear them speak at the 2023 Food Revolution Summit, the Darin Olien show, and through Dr. B’s The Plant Fed Gut Masterclass To be the first to know about new recipes, places they’ll be, blog posts, and other ventures, be sure to subscribe to their newsletter and follow them on Instagram and YouTube! To make an appointment or learn more, visit their website.


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