Eat Yourself Healthy By Loving Your Gut: Dr Megan Rossi
Queensland has its own gut health guru, Dr Megan Rossi, the author of the bestselling titles Eat Yourself Healthy and Loving Your Gut. Holding a PhD in medical science, Dr Rossi is now based in London, where she founded The Gut Health Clinic. Ostensibly a dietitian she and her team specialise in gut health. Her mantra is “eat yourself healthy by loving your gut”. So what does that actually mean? According to Dr Rossi, gut health refers to the functioning of the entire gastrointestinal (GI) tract. As many of us may know the GI tract is that digestive corridor which takes our food from the entrance to the exit. Recently a lot has been learnt about what goes on within the GI tract. Relatively new terms like microbiome and microbiota have popped up in the lexicon. Normally staid medical scientists have become rather excited at the research findings emerging from this new field. The perspective on our gut bacteria has shifted considerably from bad to brilliant. Acronyms like GBA, for Gut Brain Axis, have captured the imagination of a seemingly hungry general public. “Books about poop” are becoming bestsellers across the globe.
The Power of the Gut to Influence Health
Dr Megan Rossi’s mission to discover more about gut health began when she lost her grandmother to bowel cancer. At the time she was studying nutrition and dietetics at the university. Suddenly, real life and the stuff that she was studying coalesced into a compelling insight into the power of the gut to influence health and chronic diseases. The more Dr Rossi researched, she found correlations involving kidney disease and issues around the gut. She says, “I love research and helping patients, but I also enjoy sharing ground-breaking research with the public on social media” (Westbury, 2019). Her research at Kings College London investigates nutrition-based therapies in gut health. The prevalence of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) around the world makes gut health issues enormously important for so many people. The popularity of Dr Rossi’s books is testament to this fact. She places a strong emphasis on the utilisation of social media to propagate new science-based information to a waiting public.
Here are examples of Dr Megan Rossi’s social media postings:
Gut Health Signals a New Understanding
Gut health is all about taking responsibility for our own health and wellbeing. The emerging science is revealing our place in the greater scheme of things. The microbiota colonies within us communicate in a bi-directional sense with our brains and bodies on numerous different levels. The vagus nerve is the largest of many nerves connecting our gut and brain. There are neurons, around 500 million, in our GI tract (Robertson, 2020). The gut brain axis is very real and imparts a slew of signals back and forth. Stress can inhibit these signals and cause gastrointestinal problems. Our newfound awareness of this connection is akin to the owners of the house suddenly noticing for the first time those who take out the trash and realising their holistic importance to the whole kit and kaboodle. We have awoken to the realisation that we are not alone, and that life is an eco-system and not merely a solo effort on our part. Human beings are starting to comprehend a far more complex biological reality. The ramifications for our understanding of our health have only just begun to be revealed. However, beyond the philosophical merit, there are many more practical things we can do to improve our gut health.
The Magic Number 30
Dr Megan Rossi recommends that we should consume 30 or more plant-based foods per week for optimum gut health. The research has led her to associate the number 30 as ideal to promote greater gut bacterial diversity. This is because the more different plant chemicals you feed your microbiome the more diverse the range of gut bacteria you will attract. Diversity is thought to be the solution for optimal health and wellbeing. Isn’t it interesting how diversity is becoming more appreciated in the macroworld and in the microrealm? As above so below, as they used to say. You just cannot escape the philosophical ramifications. The worst thing you can do for your gut health is to eat the same meat heavy diet day after day. This favoured western diet is literally killing us and costing our health system billions in the treatment of chronic illnesses.
Too Many of Us Eating Unhealthily
Personally I ran a cooking school for a number of years, and you would be shocked at how limited most of my attendees’ repertoire of recipes were. What this told me was that most of us are eating the same things day after day. Food and cooking skills are fairly primal things, by which I mean they are invariably passed on within families and associated with cultural identity. There are hundreds of different types of vegetables, there are in fact 1097 different species cultivated globally. How many types of veggies do you regularly prepare for your meals? So many of us cook meat and two veg, with the emphasis on the meat. Why is this so? The ABC reported that Australians are some of the biggest per capita red-meat eaters in the world (Willis, 2020). Is it because we are marketed to by a large and powerful sector? The red meat and livestock industry was worth $17.6 billion to the Australian GDP in 2018-19 (MLA, 2020). Australians have grown up in an environment, which has sung the praises of a proliferation of meat readily available. We have rarely questioned the health benefits of this kind of diet, especially as we now live excessively sedentary lifestyles. We sit behind desks and computer screens in air-conditioned comfort. We drive cars everywhere. Many of us do not exercise enough and yet we eat a lot of meat day-after-day in concert with too many ultra-processed carbohydrates. There are too many of us eating and preparing unhealthy foods based on hand-me-down recipes and tradition. We, then, are surprised when we have gut health and IBS issues. Changing our diet is the first step towards better health and wellbeing. Eat yourself healthy by loving your gut: sounds like a good idea to me.
Discover Recipes for Yummy Gut Health Enhancing Dishes
Dr Megan Rossi invites her readers to discover the wonderful world of plant-based foods. The gut health doctor provides recipes for those seeking to expand their repertoires in the kitchen. Unfamiliarity is at the root of most individuals’ reticence around the vegetable kingdom. Dr Rossi points to the Mediterranean diet as one canon of dishes, which will likely appeal to many Australians. The yummy flavours of Italian and Greek cooking with their wide array of vegetable preparations and olive oil emphasis. The colours involved in these delicious dishes featuring so many vegetables are inspiring. The contrast with the drab grey of dead meat is startling and eye opening in itself. Loving your gut does not mean you have to miss out on superb flavours and mouth-watering textures. Quite the reverse, it is about expanding your consciousness and leaving comfort foods more suited to the diets of children behind. Your gut will thank you for making the change. Good health is a journey we can all take together with the assistance of leaders in the field like Dr Rossi.
Here is one of Dr Megan Rossi’s delicious recipes taken from her website.
Moreish Beetroot Tart
110g (1 cup) oats, ground into flour
60g (1/2 cup) gram flour
1 date, finely chopped
70g (1/4 cup) extra virgin olive oil
5 tbsp cold water
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp extra virgin olive oil
90g white onion, thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 tsp balsamic vinegar
30g (1 cup) rocket
30g (1/2 cup) kale
100g (1 small potato), grated
130g (2 small beetroots), grated
4 large eggs
125ml (1/2 cup) plant milk
¼ tsp chilli powder
1 tsp dried rosemary
A pinch of salt and pepper
Eat More Plant Fibre for Better Health
If you really think about why we eat so much meat, it is often tied up with a lot of identity issues. What your parents and their parents ate for dinners and lunches. What you were introduced to at an early and impressionable stage of your life. The association with these foods and the love you sought from your family. The cultural foods that were considered normal at schools and within other institutions. The foods that are advertised to you hundreds of time per day on high rotation, those fast foods promising instant gratification. Meat is seen to be simple and easy to prepare. Plus, full of protein of course. Historically, before the industrial revolution people did not eat so much meat, as animals were valuable commodities. Many people could not afford to eat meat. In ancient times, even the hardy Roman legionnaire ate a diet predominantly of grains. Meat was for very special occasions associated with religious sacrifice promoting civil harmony. The industrialisation of the food sector has provided great economic and efficiency benefits to populations in the western world. We can afford to eat meat every day and every night, but is this actually good for our health? The wheel is turning full circle and we are starting to question the assumptions around things like this more carefully. The health data in western populations around terminal illnesses like heart disease and cancers do not make comfortable reading for heavy meat eaters. New research conducted by the University of South Australia tells us that BBQing and grilling red meat is particularly bad for our health. “When red meat is seared at high temperatures, such as grilling, roasting or frying, it creates compounds called advanced glycation end products – or AGEs-, which when consumed, can accumulate in your body and interfere with normal cell functions,” according to UniSA researcher Dr Deo (UniSA, 2020). Processed meat is even worse and according to the Heart Foundation, “Processed meat is not part of a heart-healthy eating pattern; it should be limited or avoided” (Heart Foundation, 2019). Easy is not always best, as we are now clearly seeing. Eat more plant fibre and much less meat for better health.
Human Microbiome Project research of The American Gut Project (AGP) revealed higher abundance of fibre-fermenting, short-chain fatty acid (SCFA) producing microbial members in people who consumed more than 30 types of plants per week than who ate less than 10 (McDonald D. et al, 2018). Thus, a diet containing various types of dietary fibres and resistant starches are linked with increased diversity of microbial community. Additionally, plant consumption was also associated with a reduction in certain antibiotic resistance genes. The American Gut Project is one of the largest datasets on the human gut microbiota where the scientists are trying to figure out what lifestyle and health factors are associated with microbiome differences among people (https://microsetta.ucsd.edu/).
A Globally-Lauded Gut Heath Guru
Dr Megan Rossi won a British Nutrition Foundation Award in 2018, which was presented to her by Princess Anne. In addition, she received the Young Australian of the Year award in the UK in 2020 for her contribution to science and public education. The world is recognising this home-grown gut health guru for her research findings and scientific information-sharing. The clear message is ‘eat yourself healthy by loving your gut’. Our gut bacteria, which are responsible for a wide range of functions including maintaining immune and metabolic homeostasis, protection against pathogens, and assisting in the control of our brain health, are vital to our health and wellbeing. The overriding pragmatic message is that we cannot go on ignoring what happens within our GI tract. We must take responsibility for what we eat and adjust our diets upon this basis. It is not a case of either or, in that you don’t need to give up eating meat, rather reduce your reliance on it as part of your overall diet. Your gut health is best served by eating much more plant fibre. Dr Rossi recommends the magic 30 plant-based foods per week. Imagine opening yourself up to this exciting cornucopia of yummy vegetable, legume, grain, and fruit offerings every week. It will definitely change the colour of your day and make your GI tract happy.
Sudha Hamilton is a natural health writer, historian, and chef. His published titles include House Therapy: Discover Who You Really Are At Home; Healing Our Wellbeing; and Sacred Chef.
Deo. P, UniSA, Red hot meat: the wrong recipe for heart disease, 2020, Viewed 21st October 2021.
McDonald, D; Hyde, E; Debelius, J W, et al. American Gut: An Open Platform for Citizen Science Microbiome Research. mSystems 3, e00031-18, doi:10.1128/mSystems.00031-18. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1128/mSystems.00031-18
Heart Foundation, Dietary Position Statement, 2019, Viewed 21st October 2021.
Meat & Livestock Australia, The Red Meat Industry, https://www.mla.com.au/about-mla/the-red-meat-industry/Viewed 20th October 2021.
Robertson. R, “The Gut-Brain Connection: How it Works and The Role of Nutrition”, Healthline, 2020, Viewed 16th October 2021.
Rossi. M, Love Your Gut, https://www.amazon.com.au/Love-Your-Gut-Easy-Digest/dp/1615197060/ref=sr_1_2?crid=1UB1JB9EXOJX1&dchild=1&keywords=Dr+Megan+Rossi&qid=1634768571&sprefix=dr+megan+rossi%2Caps%2C275&sr=8-2,2021, Viewed 12th October 2021.
Rossi. M, Eat Yourself Healthy, 2019.
The Gut Health Doctor, https://www.theguthealthdoctor.com/, 2021, Viewed 13th October 2021.
Westbury. R, “Love Your Guts”, Contact Magazine, The University of Queensland, 2019, Viewed 14th October 2021.
Willis. O, ABC Health & Wellbeing, Meat linked to increased heart disease risk, while fish gets the all clear, research shows, Viewed 16th October 2021.