Written by The Mac Twins

Health

The Gut Stuff

Identical twins and all-round top birds Alana and Lisa Macfarlane have been part of scientific research into good gut health and why it’s vital. They share their findings so far.

person patting stomach
Heylo, we’re Alana and Lisa Macfarlane – The Mac Twins – DJs and presenters. You maybe know us from spinning records on Virgin Radio and chatting to you from your televisions, or from Lisa’s article on heartbreak (it’s been a year and she’s 95 per cent over it sober and around 45 per cent over it drunk – good stats).

For years, gigging by night, we’ve been supporting science by day at the British Gut Project/TwinsUK Research, King’s College, London. We’ve been so shocked and excited by what we’ve found, we just have to share our new ‘gut health’ obsession with you all.

We’ve always been fascinated by food, but growing up in Scotland eating deep-fried pizzas and chips (plus all of Edinburgh’s supply of Greggs’ yum-yums), we only knew what kale was because we used to give it to the guinea pig on his birthday. That all flip reversed when we volunteered for TwinsUK research.

Being identical twin sisters, we have a passion (teetering on obsession) for finding out what’s different about us and to do this we looked inside as there ain’t much that looks different on the outside (clue: eyeliner).

Twins are a great constant for medical research and we became the ‘chief guinea pigs’ for the British Gut Project where we discovered that, despite us having 100 per cent the same DNA, our guts have only 40 per cent the same microbiota which could explain why our bodies behave so differently. And so our ‘gut journey’ began.

All this research is so new it’s literally only just coming into public consciousness. We’ve spent the last couple of months interviewing tons of top-notch ‘gut pros’ – scientists, academics, chefs and foodies – to get the real scoop and science behind what we eat. But what really surprised us was how much is going on in the ivory towers of academia and science research AND NONE OF US KNOW ABOUT IT.

These guys are realising just how important the gut is to our health and well-being, including its impact on our immune system. They’re pouring tons of money and time into all of these areas, looking at how it has a huge impact on diseases such as cancer, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and even mental health, but the information doesn’t necessarily trickle down to us mere mortals.

“We’ve already found out so much: kale isn’t good for us unless we smother it and cook it in loads of fats and butter… WHO KNEW?!”

Here’s where we come in.

We’ve tried every fad diet there is and with tons of chatter and loads of new ‘healthy gut’ products out now – everything from gluten-free to pickled is in – it’s confusing to know what’s right, what matters and who’s trying to con us out of our hard-earned pennies.

We’re sick of being fed the ‘if it looks good on Instagram you should eat it’ trend. We want real answers for real people and to get REAL scientific answers to why we should be putting things in our body.

So what should we be eating?

We’ve already found out so much: kale isn’t good for us unless we smother it and cook it in loads of fats and butter… WHO KNEW?! Cheese and wine is actually great for our guts *fanfare* and transferring each other’s poos can actually save lives (no, really).

It’s generally about adding things into your diet rather than restricting it: lots of variety, fermented goods (sourdough is fermented and normal brunch has resumed) and lovely things that are good to feed our bacteria as well as our tastebuds and tums.

IBS and ‘dicky stomachs’ are so common that nearly a third of Brits have suffered from it. Most of us never talk about it – but we blimmin’ should because it’s actually more serious than we thought and can be directly linked to so many life-or-death diseases. Also, what we eat now can actually change our genes and affect not only us, but our little sprogs and all our grandchildren – it’s nuts!

The twins sample the potential health benefits of pickles.

Another revelation for us was the link with mental health. From what we understood before, the vagus nerve – the neural connection between the stomach and the brain – could only send signals down the way, butterflies in our stomachs from nerves etc, but now scientists have discovered the signalling also occurs in reverse, so toxins in our guts can travel up to the brain.

If we have ‘leaky gut’ (there’s more about this on the website) the bad stuff can travel right up to our brain. We all kind of knew that bad diets didn’t make us feel great, but now there is science to prove it.

So let’s listen in on the pros with white coats and actual science to learn the real deal about what we should be eating. If you know someone that’s affected by anything we’ve talked about here, send ‘em over to www.thegutstuff.com, grab a cup of kefir or kombucha and watch (then subscribe to) our series, The Gut Stuff.

The videos are super short so you could watch all the ones we’ve made so far in about an hour and learn tons of basic and simple tips that could literally save your life – or at a minimum help you feel better.

Get armoured up and ready to go: www.youtube.com/thegutstuff

Series two is coming VERRA soon, where we’ll be serving up some great gut recipes and easy-peasy practical tips to take everything we’ve learned out into our actual lives.

Sign up to the mailing list on the website to keep right up to date on everything we’re finding out.

We’re keeping it unbiased and simple – join us on the journey, pals!

@TheMacTwins

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Written by The Mac Twins

Mother Mac: "They shared a womb, but that’s all they've bloody shared since. I don't know why they work together and I don't know why they've not got proper jobs. I despair.”