Separating fact from fiction
As we learn more about the gut and its role in overall health during Love Your Gut Week, it is only natural that we look for ways to keep our digestive system healthy. However, with so much information out there, it’s important to separate fact from fiction.
Having the wrong information is just as bad – or sometimes worse – than having no information at all, and that is certainly true of gut health. The gut is an extremely complex organ with functions ranging from digestion to making brain chemicals, so if we get the wrong advice it may disrupt this intricate balance. If the balance is already disrupted, then misinformation can take you further down that road.
Make sure you get your information from trustworthy sources such as dietitians and gastroenterologists, or look for the scientific evidence to back up a claim that sounds too good to be true.
Love Your Gut – Gut Myths Guide
Just because something is repeated a lot, doesn’t necessarily mean it’s true and this is where myth-busting comes in. Loving your gut is easy once you know how. The Love Your Gut – Gut Myth Guide highlights some of the most common myths and debunks them and is a useful tool to help you spot the difference between gut-fact and gut-fiction.
Jo Travers, BSc, Registered Dietitian
Jo’s top 5 myths
Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) isn’t really a medical condition
If you have ever been told that your symptoms are “just IBS” then you may be forgiven for thinking that it isn’t actually a medical condition. However, IBS has very definite diagnostic criteria and treatment guidelines.
Everyone’s guts are the same
There are so many variables in everything to do with health, from someone’s genes to the environment they live in. When you also throw in the endless variations in the gut microbiota, it becomes very clear that everyone’s gut is unique. This means that what works for one person may not work for the next and therefore treatment for gut health problems will be as individual as you are.
Beans are bad for the gut
Some diets proclaim that beans are bad for your gut, claiming that they can damage the gut wall. There is no evidence for this and in fact legumes and pulses (such as beans) contain so many gut-friendly fibres that support a range of useful bacteria, and anti-inflammatory phytonutrients, that the opposite is true.
I have to eat ‘superfoods’ if I want a healthy gut
The term ‘superfood’ doesn’t really have any official definition, but it is generally reserved for expensive ingredients like goji berries and chia seeds. However, any fibre containing foods such as fruit, vegetable or whole grain can be beneficial for gut health.
Wind is always a sign that there’s something wrong with your gut
Some specific carbohydrates – known as FODMAPs – found in certain fruits, vegetables and beans ferment in the gut producing gas. The amount of gas produced varies by individual, but everyone passes wind up to around 25 times a day. This is the body’s perfectly normal and healthy way of getting rid of excess gas in the digestive system.
IBS: Irritable bowel syndrome in adults: diagnosis and management, Clinical guideline. 23 February 2008 www.nice.org.uk/guidance/cg61
Genes and environment: Goodrich JK, Waters JL, Poole AC, et al. Human genetics shape the gut microbiome. Cell. 2014;159(4):789-799. doi:10.1016/j.cell.2014.09.053
Tasnim N, Abulizi N, Pither J, Hart MM, Gibson DL. Linking the Gut Microbial Ecosystem with the Environment: Does Gut Health Depend on Where We Live?. Front Microbiol. 2017;8:1935. Published 2017 Oct 6. doi:10.3389/fmicb.2017.01935
Beans: Qinghui Mu, Jay Kirby, Christopher M. Reilly and Xin M. Luo Leaky Gut As a Danger Signal for Autoimmune Diseases. Front. Immunol., 23 May 2017 | https://doi.org/10.3389/fimmu.2017.00598
Vegetables: Slavin JL, Lloyd B. Health benefits of fruits and vegetables. Adv Nutr. 2012;3(4):506-516. Published 2012 Jul 1. doi:10.3945/an.112.002154
Wholegrain: Slavin J. Fiber and prebiotics: mechanisms and health benefits. Nutrients. 2013;5(4):1417-1435. Published 2013 Apr 22. doi:10.3390/nu5041417
Gas: Hasler WL. Gas and Bloating. Gastroenterol Hepatol (N Y). 2006;2(9):654-662.