We asked resident Gastroenterology Dietitian Dr Sammie Gill to help bust some common gut-health myths and set the record straight for once and all.
Are all probiotics the same?
Probiotics are defined by the World Health Organisation as ‘live microorganisms which in adequate amounts confer a health benefit’. Not all probiotics are created equal and it’s important to choose an evidence-based probiotic. Be prescriptive in your approach and contact the probiotic manufacturer and ask for links to their published research. It’s important to choose a probiotic which offers the benefit you’re seeking and has shown to be effective in trials.
Do I only need to take probiotics for a short time?
The general consensus is that probiotics exert their effects transiently as they move through the gut. Therefore, if you notice a benefit, the recommendation is to continue. If you choose to trial a probiotic, record your symptoms before starting and again periodically over the following weeks, to help you determine whether it’s benefited you.
Should I be pooping every day?
Know what is normal for you, and don’t compare yourself to others. The number of times someone poops varies hugely from person to person. Anything ranging from 3 times per day to 3 times per week is considered ‘normal’. Poops should also be soft, bulky and easy to pass.
Is gluten bad for you?
Gluten should only be avoided if you have been diagnosed with Coeliac Disease. Otherwise, no – gluten is not bad for you! In fact, gluten is contained within wholegrains (wheat, rye and barley) which are actually good for gut health. A very small number of people may have a form of gluten intolerance (known as non-coeliac gluten sensitivity; NCGS), but research has shown the vast majority of people who experience issues with gluten-containing foods (e.g. breads, pastas) are actually sensitive to the fructans* in these foods, not the gluten.
*Fructans are short-chain carbohydrates and a type of FODMAP.
Is apple cider vinegar good for gut health?
If you like apple cider vinegar (ACV) as a dressing, by all means, go for it! But if you’re drinking it solely because of the hype around health benefits such as weight loss, then don’t waste your time.
The majority of studies on ACV to date have been undertaken in animals. In humans, there is a very small amount of evidence showing that vinegar (in general, not exclusively apple cider) may slightly improve regulating blood sugar responses after a high carbohydrate meal.
In summary, there is no magic in ACV - it’s not the health panacea it’s been hyped up to be.
Bone broth: yay or nay?
Bone broth is essentially water simmered over several hours with meat (with or without skin), spices, herbs, animal bones, sometimes vegetables. It has been advocated for its ‘gut healing’ properties, often due to its collagen content. What we’d say is that if you enjoy the taste of bone broth, then go ahead. But as far as being beneficial for gut health goes, there is zero evidence.
Collagen is a protein, and like every other protein in the body, it’s broken down to amino acids when it gets to the gut. Your body doesn’t distinguish between proteins from collagen versus those from other protein sources – so as far as ‘gut healing’ goes, it’s completely false.
Some people with a sensitive gut who experience gut symptoms may report improvements with bone broth – but this is most likely because the overall fibre load is reduced, and it’s giving your gut a break.
Remember plant-based foods are really important for gut health so restricting long-term is not a good idea.