To dispel some common gut myths, we caught up with experts Lisa and Alana Macfarlane, aka The Gut Stuff, for their words of wisdom. After all, if anyone knows the gut, it’s these identical twins – despite sharing 100% of the same DNA, their guts have only 40% of the same microbiota. Read on to find out more…
1. MYTH: Bloating is a sign your gut could do with some TLC
TRUTH: Yes and no. Bloating can be a sign your gut is out of whack but there are lots of other symptoms too. For example, if you have frequent diarrhoea, or general changes in your toilet habits, weight loss, heartburn, fatigue and even eczema, these can all be signs your gut could do with some TLC. However, don’t be alarmed by wind – the average person passes wind around 14 times a day, so unless you’re feeling uncomfortable or anything is painful, then it’s most likely normal and nothing to worry about.
2. MYTH: Fermented foods are good for the gut
TRUTH: Absolutely – but remember foods must be properly fermented to have the desired effect. For example, pickles in vinegar won’t cut it but anything fermented like sauerkraut and kefir really can make a difference. Even sourdough bread is fermented and can help boost gut health.
3. MYTH: Everyone should take probiotics
TRUTH: Not necessarily. You can get pro and prebiotics from all sorts of everyday foods - live yoghurt for example - so you don’t have to buy a probiotic. However, it can be a good idea if you’re recovering from an illness, or if you’ve just come off a course of antibiotics. Bear in mind that we’re all unique and respond differently to different probiotic formulas; what works for your friend may not necessarily work for you, so it can be a case of trial and error when it comes to brands and formulas, e.g. capsules or powder. Just make sure you do your homework on the brands that have real studies behind them.
4. MYTH: Chewing your food can help with bloating
TRUTH: Did you know that chewing your food kickstarts the digestive process? The more you chew something, the more saliva you produce, which is packed full of digestive enzymes. In this light, chewing your food properly can have a huge impact on, not only bloating, but also your gut in general.
5. MYTH: Too much fibre can irritate the gut
TRUTH: This isn’t true. We should be eating around 30g a day and most of us don’t manage even half of that. As well as helping to keep you regular, an increasing amount of evidence has linked fibre with reduced rates of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and bowel cancer. However, if your diet is currently very low-fibre, then increase your intake slowly, as this can cause bloating and wind. But in the long-run, there’s no denying a high-fibre intake is crucial for a healthy gut and overall health.
6. MYTH: A gluten-free diet is good for the gut
TRUTH: One of the biggest mistakes we see women making with their gut health is following an elimination diet, cutting out key food groups such as gluten or dairy, thinking this will help with their bloating or other issues. However, a healthy gut is actually about adding things into your diet, unless you’ve been diagnosed with a specific intolerance. Countless studies have proven that a healthy gut thrives on a diet packed with different types of fibre, so start to add more fruit and vegetables to the diet – these are great sources of soluble fibre, which are crucial for ‘feeding’ your good bacteria.
7. MYTH: Alcohol promotes poor gut health
TRUTH: While it’s everything in moderation, red wine is actually full of polyphenols which are great for your gut. There’s no denying tossing back too many glasses can lead to some unpleasant digestive issues (and a throbbing headache), but research has shown that moderately drinking red wine can boost gut health. A study found that when red wine passes through the gut, it leaves behind compounds that protect neurons from getting damaged or killed off – and when these neurons are protected, there’s less of a chance of developing conditions such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.
8. MYTH: Boosting gut health is all about digestion
TRUTH: Did you know that 95% of your serotonin (the happy hormone) is produced in your gut? Countless studies have suggested the gut is the root of so many health issues, digestion being just one of them. Not only can a well-functioning gut boost mood and digestion but around 70% of your immune system lives in the gut, too, so looking after your gut can help to protect you from disease and infection. Who knew?
Want in? To find out more about The Gut Stuff, visit TheGutStuff.com. Also check out The Gut Started Box, Lisa and Alana’s limited edition box of goodies ideal for those wanting to give their gut a kick-start. Packed with treats including prebiotics, probiotics and ingredients to make your own kombucha, it’s available from TheGutStuff.com now priced £50.