TV’s Dr Michael Mosley’s digestion tips
Cultivate healthy digestion by feeding your microbiome what it loves
Award-winning BBC science presenter Dr Michael Mosley calls them ‘Old Friends’. They’re the microbes that make up your microbiome in your digestive system, and they have evolved over millions of years. “Many of them are essential to our health,” he writes in his latest book, The Clever Guts Diet. “Just as we have ravaged the rainforests and consigned numerous animal species to oblivion, so we have decimated the populations that live inside us. Fortunately we can help these Old Friends bounce back.”
Here is an extract from his book.
The Clever Guts Diet is a ‘diet’ in the same way you might talk about being on a vegetarian diet or a Mediterranean diet. It’s not about calories [kilojoules] or restriction; it’s about the sort of food and lifestyle changes you should make if you have gut problems, or simply want to keep yours in good condition.
As well as extracting energy from our food, the gut accounts for most of our immune system and produces more than two dozen hormones that influence everything from our appetite to our mood.
I also love the fact that, buried in our intestines, deep inside its tissue, is a very thin layer of brain. It’s called the enteric system and it is made up of the same cells, neurons, which are found in the brain. There are over 100 million neurons in the gut, as many as you would find in the brain of a cat. Except instead of being in one big
lump, like the brain, the neurons in your gut are spread out in a thin mesh that extends all the way from your throat to your rectum. This ‘second brain’ doesn’t do much geometry or worry about tax returns, but it does orchestrate digestion and moderate gut pain.
Your gut is a wonderful piece of engineering. But in many ways the star of the digestive show is not actually part of the human body at all – it is the one to two kilos of microbes that live in your gut and make up the microbiome.
Our widespread ignorance about the microbiome arises from the fact that, until quite recently, its inhabitants, microbes, were impossible to study. We knew they helped protect the gut from dangerous invaders; that they synthesised a few vitamins; and that they gobbled up fibre that our bodies can’t digest. Now we know they do far more than that. They help regulate our body weight. They can decide how much energy your body extracts from the food you eat; they control hunger signals; they help decide which foods you crave; and they determine how much your blood sugar spikes in response to a meal. Can your microbiome make you fat? It certainly can. Can you change your microbiome so it works with you rather than 2 against you? You certainly can. The microbiome teaches and regulates our entire immune system. Over the last halfcentury we have seen a massive rise in allergic diseases, such as asthma and eczema, caused by an overactive immune system. We have also seen a huge surge in autoimmune diseases, ranging from inflammatory bowel disease to type 1 diabetes, which again are primarily caused by an immune system that has gotten out of control. Changing the mix of bacteria in your gut can reduce the 3 impact of these diseases.
The microbiome is what takes the bits of food our body can’t digest and converts them into a wide range of hormones and chemicals.
These, it seems, can control our mood, as well as our appetite and general health. Changing your biome can reduce anxiety and lessen depression.
Where possible, eat unprocessed ‘real’ foods.
Keeping your biome properly fed and cared for is definitely worthwhile. Use the recipes from The Clever Guts Diet to give your biome something to chew on.
Turn the page for three recipes that will get you started.
The gut accounts for most of our immune system