New research out today1 reveals that the UK is having a gut health moment with more than half (55 per cent) of people now more actively aware of their gut health than last year.
Gut health and the gut microbiome have fast become hot topics - and not just in scientific health research - with #guttok content now attracting more than 7 billion views2, and #gutmicrobiome clocking over 730k views every week on TikTok3.
With gut health often approached reactively, over three quarters of people (76 per cent) now report to be confident on what to do to reduce signs of an unhappy gut such as constipation, excess gas, bloating and diarrhoea**. Yet the general public are finding the concept of how to proactively look after their trillions of gut bacteria confusing.
There is a significant lack of knowledge of the potential effects of how looking after your gut microbiome proactively could also have a positive impact on other areas of health and wellbeing. 60 per cent of those surveyed did not know gut health could affect immunity, mental health (58 per cent). Over a third of people (34%) reported that they do not know what proactive measures they can take to look after their gut microbiome.
This New Year, Holland & Barrett has launched a national campaign with Dr Megan Rossi, The Gut Health Doctor, to simplify some of the science behind the gut. Titled ‘Find Your Gut Thing’, the campaign aims to help the public understand what small and simple changes can be made to support their gut health for long term benefits.
Dr Megan Rossi, The Gut Health Doctor explains, “The more you understand about your gut and the power it has, the more empowered you will be to look after your gut health. Gut health isn't only about digestive symptoms, it's the ability of your gut to support just about every facet, functioning and organ in your body. But it can only do that if it's looked after in the right way. I’m excited to partner with Holland & Barrett who are taking the lead in the gut health space to help people prioritise their gut health. The new year is a great moment to be thinking more proactively about your health. It's the small steps, and simple switches, that can make a big difference!”
To help people find their ‘gut thing’, Holland & Barrett is offering customers the opportunity to get free personalised advice from its team of qualified AfN-registered nutritionists who can create a tailored science-backed nutrition plan to suit each customers’ needs. The 45 minute appointments - free for the whole of January* - will help increase accessible nutritional advice, and support customers to understand more about their gut health and overall wellness.
Alex Glover, Nutrition Development Lead, Holland & Barrett says, “It is great to see the gut health revolution underway, and that people are more open to talking about their gut and seeking help when it’s needed - gut grumbles are no longer a ‘poo taboo’! However, we still see a need to support people on their proactive gut journey and safeguard against common gut health signs before they occur as well as supporting your overall wellbeing. Talk to one of our team today, who can help you navigate the simple changes that you can add in, top up, or swap over to boost the diversity of your gut and its microbiome for longer-term health benefits.”
Dr Megan Rossi’s top tips on how to proactively look after your gut health
With over a third of people reporting that they don’t understand how to look after their gut microbiome, this January, Holland and Barrett is taking it into its hands to simplify the science and share simple ways that you can proactively manage your gut health. Dr Megan Rossi shares her top five simple switches you can make today to improve your gut health for the future:
1) Feast on fibre
“A healthy gut microbiome thrives on a high fibre diet, rich in plants. Yet in the UK too few of us are meeting our fibre and therefore gut health needs. The British Nutrition Foundation highlights that the recommended daily amount of fibre for UK adults is 30g, but an average person in the UK is only eating 20g.
“You can up your intake by eating foods rich in fibre and it's not just your greens, but also berries, oats, chia seeds, lentils and even dark chocolate are good sources.”
2) Plants, plants and more plants!
“When it comes to gut health It’s not just about fibre, but plant diversity. Plants contain thousands of other bioactive components known as phytonutrients, many of which our gut microbes also thrive on. This explains why one of the simplest ways to improve gut health and resilience is to eat a more varied plant-loaded diet which supports more diverse microbiota in the gut4. Our recent survey revealed that on average, people are eating fewer than three portions of fruit and vegetables each day, with almost three quarters reporting that they’re eating fewer than 10 different varieties of plants a week.
“To achieve optimal health, my recommendation is to eat across all the plant groups: vegetables, fruits, wholegrains, legumes, nuts and seeds and don’t forget those herbs and spices.
“Holland & Barrett is on a mission to make this easier too, recently becoming the first major retailer to put plant points on the packaging of their newly-launched food range to help shoppers track their plant intake.”
3) Fermented foods are back in fashion
“One of the top trends of 2023 - accurately predicted by Holland and Barrett in last year’s Wellness Trends Report. Fermented foods have grown massively in popularity, with Holland and Barrett reporting a seven-fold increase in searches for Kombucha on its online site. The UK has cottoned on to its potential benefits, with research finding that a diet high in fermented foods was linked with lower markers of inflammation and greater microbe diversity. The UK has already cottoned onto this, with 40 per cent now incorporating fermented foods into their diets already. You can easily switch or add fermented foods, for example swapping to Kefir or plain yoghurt, adding curd cottage cheese, miso, or trying a delicious kombucha drink.”
4) Look after your gut:brain connection
“The gut and the brain are both connected through the vagus nerve. This often means that what’s going on in your brain can influence what’s going on in your gut and vice versa. Several trials show that non-diet approaches designed to target the gut-brain connection, including breathing exercises, gut-directed hypnotherapy and cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) can improve digestive symptoms like tummy discomfort and bloating to the same degree as following a specialist diet.
“This is a rapidly growing field, with more and more studies emerging to help us understand how nutrients and components of diets might influence the gut-brain axis.”
5) Enjoy mindful eating
“Mindful eating is when we engage with all the sensations experienced when eating and drinking, including sight, sound, touch, smell and taste. The research suggests when it comes to good gut health it’s not just about what, but how we eat too. Eating more mindfully, including focusing on chewing, has been shown to help with digestive symptoms such as bloating5. To eat more mindfully, it helps to sit at the table and minimise distractions, in addition to enjoying all the five senses mentioned above.”
*Appointments are 45-minute long and usually cost £45. Offer ends 6th February. Subject to availability. T&Cs apply.
**This may also indicate an underlying medical condition which needs investigation by a healthcare professional.
1 Holland & Barrett, 2003 Nationally Representative UK Respondents, aged 16+ 11.12.2023 - 13.12.2023