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60 seconds with Jeannette Hyde

Jeannette, like me, is fascinated by new research linking the microbiome – the kilo and half of bacteria mainly in the digestive system – to health, weight and well-being. She initially trained for four years at The University of Westminster in London where she gained a BSc (Hons) in Nutritional Therapy. Her early years of clinical practice were gained at teaching clinics and private practices in London where she worked with individuals with gut, skin, and autoimmune disorders.

The Gut Makeover Nowadays, she combines her experience from that clinical practice with latest developments in gut research to form the basis of The Gut Makeover book, retreats, group workshops, and one-to-one consultations. She recently completed AFMCP training with the Institute of Functional Medicine in the US and is working with St Mary's University Twickenham psychology department on (what sounds like a very interesting) research project into the gut-brain connection.

Hi Jeannette, thanks for giving us 60seconds of your time! What are your top 3 tips for maintaining a healthy gut?

1) Have a 12-hour fast overnight. Easy to do, and usually no depravation involved. Just notice the time of your last meal in the evening, and make sure you don’t start breakfast till 12 hours later. You can drink water. A long stretch like this in a 24 hour period without food gives your gut bacteria a chance to regenerate. When this bacteria the “microbiome” is flourishing, it helps reduce weight, improve brain health, and improve sleep – plus improves digestive health too.

2) Eat a massive range of different coloured vegetables and fruit. The fibre and pigment provide food for your microbiome. This helps your gut bacteria make you healthy. Aim for up to 30 different varieties in a week. Sprinkle fresh herbs on your cooking, pomegranate seeds on your salads and baked vegetables, have several vegetable sides dishes, not just one and try to have a starter to get another portion in eg bitter leaves or half a grapefruit before your main.

3) Try to have seven cups (the size of a scrunched fist) of plant material every day. Not just variety, but volume is important. Have five as vegetables and two as fruit so the sugar content isn’t too high. Try to get 2 in at breakfast so you aren’t playing catch up the rest of the day for instance some scrambled eggs with spinach, tomatoes and mushrooms would do the trick. People continually tell me they are amazed they lose weight on this plan, while eating generous quantities of food. Remember to use healthy fats such as extra virgin olive and real butter in your cooking – they make you feel full up and help you extract important vitamins from the food you are eating. Olive oil also contains polyphenols, which feed good bacteria in the gut. Butter is important for a healthy gut lining and avoiding inflammation in the body. Olive oil is also very good for heart health. Saturated fat in recent big studies has been proven not to be the issue with heart disease and that sugar is the main culprit.

What is the coolest or most interesting thing you have discovered so far about the gut- brain connection? It used to be assumed that signals only passed from the brain to the gut. You’ll recognise the feeling (eg when you are nervous before an exam or talk and have butterflies in your stomach). We now know the signals also pass from gut to brain via the vagus nerve, which means that having a healthy gut (eg that gut bacteria flourishing harmoniously) is important for mood, anxiety, memory, cognition. So feeding your good gut bacteria is a sensible strategy to support mental health and function.

How has your knowledge of the microbiome changed what you do daily?

  • The 12-hour overnight fast goes everywhere I go.

  • I’m obsessed with filling my shopping trolley with different colours, textures of plants and getting as much colour and variety in my cooking as possible.

  • I use extra virgin olive oil, and butter as my default fats.

  • I drink fermented milk kefir daily, which contains tens of billions of good bacteria to plant in the gut, as an additional boost to all the fibre and colour in the vegetables and fruit I eat too. At the moment I’m having kefir with frozen blueberries, tablespoon of flax seeds, and a large knob of fresh ginger mixed in a blender every morning. I switch round the fruits in that depending on season and availability. I tastes delicious and is surprisingly filling!

Website - The Gut Makeover by Jeannette Hyde, published by Quercus, is £14.99 and available from UK bookshops and online.

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