Having worked with Gutology for the last few years I have been continually suprised and delighted by the increasing levels of understanding, especially in the public domain, surrounding gut health.
For a long time, gut microbiome wasn’t seen as real healthcare, and the suggestion that you would treat the cause of a problem rather than the symptoms, like most pharmaceuticals do, was dismissed. However, over the past few years, especially post pandemic, we have started to see a real shift to treating the cause of a health issue rather than wait to treat the outcome.
I have written before how aborigines described the gut as the ‘second brain’ and now we are getting wide acceptance that the gut microbiome is the invisible organ in your body. Not just protection against disease risk such as diabetes and psoriasis but also mental health and mood disorders.
With the NHS reporting this week that they plan to take more patients off antidepressants surely now is the time to address how we manage gutbiome through wider healthcare. There is belief that with GP writing repeat prescriptions for antidepressants that we are going to end up with a US style opioid crisis. What solutions have been given to GPs? Recommendations for them to signpost patients to art/music and gardening lessons! So good pursuits but not addressing the medical needs. In the last 12-months 8.4M adults in the UK were prescribed antidepressants an increase of 8% over 2019, currently 23% of all women and 12% of men take them.
Link that back to studies from 2014 and 2021 where where young children with low omega-3 are more likely to show behaviours of aggression, physical violence and vandalism. In another trial children with ADHD using a fully blinded randomised control trial (the gold standard of experiments) found that a combined multivitamin and mineral tablet given for 10 weeks had a significant reduction in fights, tempers and angry outbursts. Likewise, studies are showing that in prisons especially, but even across the armed forces and schools, that there is a huge lack in nutrition from the food being provided. This is due to how highly processed it is, in order to lower the cost and increase shelf life. Which is why we are seeing an increase in poor performance and an increase in violent behaviour in our prisons. According to the Food Foundation charity it costs about £6 per day to feed an adult a diet that meets with the UK’s Eat Well Healthy diet recommendations. On average we spend £2 per day on prisoners’ meals, a little bit more on military personnel at £2.54 and around the same on school meals.
By having a highly refined, ultra-processed food by its very nature reduces the levels of nutrients found in the food. A highly processed diet with little fresh produce contributes to a reduction in micronutrients which support a healthy brain function. Folate, magnesium and Omega-3 fats are all super important but are lacking in our processed foods. With the current costs of looking after a single prisoner for a year being £44,000, there might not be the budget to up the food quality. However it doesn’t need a genius to spot that £40 per year spent on supplements would be well spend if it has a positive impact on security and staff turnover due to a reduction in violence.
We can help bring millions off anti-depressants, improve performance and behaviours across our prisons, schools, and military by talking about nutrition and how it affects your gut microbiome. Unfortunately, ultra processed foods are here to stay, so without the NHS and GPs getting behind diet and the nutrients we consume we are going to miss the most powerful tool we have to fixing these disorders for the long-term.