The rise of #GutTok: How gut health went from cringe to cool
You only have to scroll on TikTok for a few minutes to experience #GutTok in full force.
Whether it’s influencers sharing their transformative anti-bloating stories or ‘gut-friendly’ recipes, suddenly everyone is taking note of how important our gut health is – and why we should be focusing on it.
It’s clear the topic has come a long way since the days of dreary Yakult TV adverts. In fact, #GutTok now boasts more than one billion views on TikTok.
But why are we finding the chat so interesting now? After all, probiotics and the importance of fibre-rich meals are nothing new.
The health backdrop of the noughties and 2010s (despite, in hindsight, being incredibly problematic in many ways) was filled with the likes of Gillian McKeith telling us We Are What We Eat and Martine McCutcheon clutching a pot of Activia, hailing its impressive digestive qualities.
Gut health has been a slow burn in the background for decades, albeit in a slightly cringeworthy way.
Dr Zoe Williams tells Metro: ‘Historically, approaches to gut health were very reactive and people would only consider looking at ways to improve or safeguard gut health if they experienced symptoms like bloating, constipation, or digestive issues.
‘However, as our understanding of the gut and microbiome has improved through new research and improved expertise in the field, people now have a better awareness of how our gut and microbiome can influence so many other facets of our overall health.
‘We now know that gut issues can manifest through such a broad range of symptoms, from the more obvious stomach cramps to things like energy levels, mood, fatigue, skin and more.’
Part 2 soon #ibstok #ibstiktok #guthealth #RufflesOwnYourRidges #stomachproblems #guttok #ibs #edutok #guttiktok #leakygut #fyp #doctorsoftiktok
In fact, it’s new technology that’s enabled us to advance our understanding of this field of science now known as the gut microbiome, says Dr Megan Rossi, a gut health scientist, dietitian, and founder of The Gut Health Doctor, The Gut Health Clinic and Bio&Me. She also happens to have almost half a million followers.
‘We’ve always known that our metabolism, cells and organs played a part in our health and wellbeing. But now we appreciate that all those factors are influenced by the trillions of bacteria in our gut, i.e. the gut microbiome,’ she says.
‘Those bacteria are responsible for thousands of bodily functions and are linked to pretty much every organ and facet of the body. ‘
There’s less of a stigma around our guts in 2023, too.
People are now confident talking about bowel movements, IBS, and other topics previously considered taboo – and trailblazers like ‘Bowel Babe’ Deborah James are largely to thank for this. Platforms like TikTok have only enhanced and encouraged conversations.
Dr Zoe, who works with Activia, says: ‘Social media has also played a big role here and has helped to break down stigmas when it comes to speaking more openly about gut health, digestion, and bowel movements.
‘It’s almost become fashionable. For instance, lots of TikTok stars talk about “gut healing” and we are seeing more and more Instagram accounts dedicated to gut health popping up.’
Of course, not every piece of advice is scientifically backed, and like almost every health movement on social media, you’ll need to keep your eyes peeled for misinformation and check with a medical professional before making any lifestyle changes.
Still, Dr Megan says our fascination with guts is something that will be staying put. ‘It doesn’t feel like this “trend” is going away any time soon because it is a landmark shift in our understanding of science and the human body,’ she adds.
You’ll never guess… #guthealthmatters #guttok Gastroenteritis (food poisoning) is the biggest wrecker of gut health. Depending on the type of bacteria that infects you, up to 1 in 5 people will go on to develop long term complications. This is because the bacteria that cause food poisoning disrupt the microbiome, even more than antibiotics. These bacteria also spew out endotoxins which cause inflammation. One such toxin, CdtB, can lead to an autoimmune type of irritable bowel syndrome, for which there is currently no cure. Now you know why food hygiene is so important… and why I’d never drink raw milk! 🤢
We also now know that good gut health is the secret to so many other bodily functions.
Dr Megan says: ‘Your gut is pretty much essential to whatever your health goal is, be it successful weight management, healthier skin, more resilient immunity, or even your happiness. It also has the power to influence how long you live and has been linked with more than 70 chronic conditions and certain cancers.’
What’s more, 70% of your immune system sits along your gut, says, Dr Sammie Gill – Symprove’s registered dietician. So a happy gut means, on the whole, us feeling healthier (and it’s hard to argue with that).
She explains: ‘Your gut microbes are mentors to your immune system and play a key role to play in how it behaves. In fact, they support the immune system to develop by teaching and training it to react appropriately – to trigger a response to potentially harmful microbes and to remain tolerant to harmless ones.
‘The gut microbiome was overlooked for a long time – now it’s centre stage. We are becoming more and more aware just how important the gut is in shaping our health and wellbeing.
‘How we treat our gut microbes will determine how they behave. Nurture it well with the right things and it will reward you. If you don’t, our microbes can start to suffer which can have implications for overall health later down the line.’
So after decades of background noise, new research (and growing platforms) mean we’re finally listening to just how important gut health is.
Want extra helpings on gut health? Take note of the below…
How to look after your gut health:
Here are some things you can do to improve your gut health, according to Dr Sammie Gill:
1. Keep things consistent
‘The gut likes consistency, so try and maintain regular eating habits (as much as you can). Minimise distractions when eating (e.g. phone, TV) and chew food well (ideally around 10-20 chews per mouthful). Although ‘quick fixes’ can be tempting, they are often unsustainable long-term. If you are planning on making on any dietary changes, do it gradually to allow the gut time to adapt.
2. Think diversity
‘Plant-based diet diversity is key, focusing on wholegrains, nuts, seeds, legumes, fruit and veg. These foods are packed with different types of dietary fibre and plant chemicals which feed our gut microbes. A diverse diet = a diverse gut microbiome. Include naturally occurring prebiotics (e.g. onion, garlic, Jerusalem artichoke) and trial fermented foods (e.g. kefir, sauerkraut, miso). It’s never too late to make positive changes – our microbes have a high level of plasticity and will change depending on what you expose them to!
3. Say ‘no’ to quick-fix fad diets
‘If you’re being overly restrictive, cutting out food groups or eating erratically, then your gut won’t like it. Maintaining good gut health is all about adding things in – think diversity.
4. Get outside
‘Exposure to new microbes can be a good thing! Remember, our gut microbiome and immune system work very closely together – it’s important to build resilience and train the immune system by exposing it to new microbes. Being out in nature has not only been scientifically proven to lower our stress levels, but also helps strengthen the immune system. Exposing yourself to the countryside, being surrounded by greenery and playing in the dirt exposes us to new microbes – remember it’s all about diversity, not just from food!
5. Prioritise sleep
‘Did you know that the gut microbiome has its own circadian rhythm (i.e. body clock)? In fact, each and every microbe has its own body clock so it’s no surprise that if we’re not getting the right amount of quality sleep, your gut microbes will feel it too. Aim for between 7-9 hours of sleep per night. Consistency is key so try and go to sleep and wake up at a similar time each day, and ensure you have a cool room at night to mimic the drop in body temperature during sleep.
6. Consider a probiotic
‘Probiotics are live microbes that have a health benefit. Not all probiotics are created equal and it’s important to choose an evidence-based probiotic that has shown to improve the symptoms you are hoping to target – be prescriptive. Contact the probiotic manufacturer and ask for links to their published research.
7. Minimise mental stress
‘If you’re feeling mentally stressed, the gut will feel physically stressed. This is because the gut and brain are intrinsically connected (labelled the ‘gut-brain axis’). There are several approaches to help calm the communication. For example, diaphragmatic breathing exercises, meditation or yoga/pilates, use of apps (for example, Calm, Headspace, Ten Percent Happier). Put aside “protected time” and do an activity that relaxes you such as reading or going for a 30 minute walk.’
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