The good bugs that affect weight, mood & skin


You’ve heard of probiotics, right? Those ‘friendly bacteria’ pills you get in health shops.

Many of us have taken them in an attempt to restore the natural balance of bacteria in our gut microbiome, especially if we’ve taken a course of antibiotics that may’ve killed off a lot of our good bugs.

Each of us has a gut microbiome that’s made up of about 100 trillion microbes.

There’s now mounting research that those tiny creatures living inside us have huge power over whether we get fat, have bad skin, digestive issues, mental health problems or allergies.

Professor of genetics and author Tim Spector wrote his book The Diet Myth, all about this emerging research because it’s his view that only by understanding what makes our personal microbes tick can we get over the confusion surrounding nutrition fads and have truly healthy bodies.

The book is a fascinating read with some candid realisations, particularly around poo transplants - ever heard of ‘crap-sules’?

There are also some shockers around junk food…

Tim’s son volunteered to eat fast-food meals daily for ten days and discovered that his gut microbiome diversity diminished by 40% . A year later, and even after Tim’s best efforts to replenish his gut with various gut-boosting foods, his son’s gut microbe population still hadn’t fully recovered.

However, a junk food burger per year may actually be good for you. 

As you’ll find out in this #healthHackers episode, it’s all about diversity. Keeping the bulk of your diet rich in veggies and other whole foods, with organic and fermented dishes where possible, means that the living bugs inside you can thrive and then better handle a poor meal choice once in a while.

I’m a major microbiome-loving geek.

I start every day with a large glass of goat’s kefir on an empty tummy so that all the bugs can cling to the lining of my gut and crowd out any of the ’bad’ kinds of bacteria.

It’s a ritual I started about a year ago after suffering from a horrid dermatitis on my face for about three years. I read a tonne of testimonials from parents of children with skin conditions that had suddenly cleared up after drinking kefir daily.

I was sceptical but desperate, so I tried it.

Eleven weeks later I was free from the rash and it’s never returned. It wasn’t a clinical trial, so I can’t say for certain it was the kefir, but it’s a pretty big coincidence.

Kefir isn’t the only fermented food to help improve our gut health - there are a lot of different types to choose from. Tim mentions them in the episode, but if you’re skimming this quickly without time to watch the show, others include: sauerkraut, kombucha, kimchi, tempeh, yogurt and even chocolate.

Subscribe to #healthHackers on iTunes here to never miss a show.

Watch #HealthHackers Ep 2 with Tim Spector: