MicrobiologistDr. Lindsay Hall is a research leader at theInstitute of Food Research, and she really knows her bacteria. "The gutprovides a home to trillions and trillions of beneficial microbes," sheexplains. "This complex ecosystem is called the microbiota, and the numberof bacteria we have in our gut day-to-day is equivalent of about 2-3kg. We'veknown about these bacteria for years, but it's only really in the last 15-20years – and, in a really focused way, in the last five years – that we've begunto understand the different health benefits that these bacteria actuallyprovide us with."
The war on carbs has been a disaster for many people's gut health
Of course, as we know from Lindsay, what's worked for Karen's IBSconstipation won't necessarily work in the same way for everyone – but bothwomen stress the importance of figuring out what your own particular gutbacteria need, and staying savvy about the 'gut health' claims made by wellnessfirms, particularly when you encounter terms like 'probiotic' (which feedsbacteria) and 'prebiotic' (which fertilises gut bacteria).
A third of your plate should be some kind of grain, nut or seed, another third should be plants, and then some protein.
Indeed, when it comes to natural probiotics and prebiotics, her advice is toeat bananas, apples, raw garlic, onions, homemade hummus, teff and natural,live yoghurt, rather than spending money on supplements like inulin, unless youreally need to. "I'm not making sacrifices," she says. "I eatpizza, I drink wine, I'll have a beer; if I want chocolate, I'll have somechocolate – but I've got good energy, I don't get sick, and I work hard. It'sfeeding my gut with these consistent sources of nourishment that makes thedifference."