Lucie Hayter, registered nutritional therapist and founder of three-year-young The Gut Feeling, explains how the journey to founding the company followed her own six-year experience with crippling gut symptoms throughout her previous career within technology and innovation consultancy.
“It affected my social life, my relationship, my work life… to the point that I wasn't really eating out in restaurants because I was so worried that I would eat something that would make my symptoms worse.”
Hayter says the symptoms became so disabling that she often couldn’t go to work.
“It was a terrible period of my life, and it was a long journey to get better. I tried so many different things and it took me the best part of six years to really understand what was going on and start to feel physically better. Looking back now, it's very clear that it didn't need to have taken that long. I just didn’t have the right tools.”
She says the experience increased her awareness of the prevalence of such conditions, with 40% of the population suffering from gut issues. She emphasises that once more serious conditions, such as bowel cancer and IBD, are ruled out by doctors, people are often left to fend for themselves.
She stresses: “It’s not an issue with GPs, it’s a whole healthcare problem. And it’s very much a global issue. I realised a lot of people were struggling and I didn’t want anyone else to go through what I went through, so I thought, how can I help more people?”
Starting out as a food subscription box delivering a range of gut-friendly products such as kimchi and kombucha, the brand has now launched an app providing nutritional and lifestyle behavioural change programmes for those suffering from gut issues.
Using her expertise as a qualified nutritional therapist, as well as knowledge from a team of doctors, dietitians, and gastroenterologists, Hayter explains that The Gut Feeling provides evidence-backed solutions to alleviate gut symptoms long-term.
The company’s newly launched app provides convenient 20-minute personalised behavioural change programmes each day to subscribers, offering nutritional and lifestyle advice tailored to specific gut symptoms.
Hayter emphasises the importance of first understanding an individual’s own journey and symptoms before providing advice, noting the significant variation in gut microbiome compositions and the influence of lifestyle factors.
She explains that dietary guidance will vary by symptom, with advice around which foods to increase or decrease. She says that a low-FODMAP diet can be beneficial yet can ironically remove fibrous foods that are beneficial for the gut, so restriction should not be a long-term solution.
“We really encourage diversity and intakes of lots of different plants and also fermented foods where appropriate,” she emphasises.
Regarding supplement recommendations, she adds: “We also provide a lot of education around what probiotics are, the appropriate one to take, and the specific strains to look out for depending on their symptoms. If you’re taking the wrong probiotic, you might be doing more harm than good.”
Further advice on sleep health, stress management, as well as exercises such as yoga practices, are also provided.
“I know that sometimes people raise their eyebrows when I say things like yoga, thinking, isn't that a bit left field? But we know there are clinical trials taking place that show that yoga is effective at reducing symptoms of IBS like bloating, constipation, diarrhoea, reflux, etc. So, we also include these slightly newer but proven tools in our programmes.
“What sets us apart from other solutions out there is we're not just talking about food and we're not just talking about stress, we're talking about that whole picture,” she stresses.
The gut-brain axis
Hayter emphasises the significance of stress in those suffering from gut issues, resulting from the complex interplay between the gut and the brain. She adds that the prevalence of gut-related conditions is increasing due to technology-led lifestyles and western diets exacerbating the body’s fight or flight response resulting in chronic stress.
She stresses that the concept of the gut-brain axis is not widely understood by consumers, and says the company is focussing on educating in this area.
“Sleep is also important because our gut microbes have a circadian rhythm. So, it’s not just important to get enough sleep, but we need to be waking and sleeping at the same time so to not disturb our gut microbes.”
She adds the significant influence of hormones on the gut, with many menopausal women and those experiencing issues at certain points in their menstrual cycle seeking support.
Regarding the strong current performance of the app, she says: “All of our downloads and ratings so far have been completely organic, which is a wonderful thing. I’ve been building this community of 15,000 people over three years and working with these people, alongside our experts, to build a solution that actually works.
“We've got many different launches that we want to do over the next few years, so it’s a very exciting time for us,” she adds.