5 things we learned from Channel 4’s Know Your Sh!t, Part 1

Our very own Sophie Medlin stars in the hit Channel 4 show—this is what we’ve learned so far.

We’ve been loving Channel 4’s hit new show, Know Your Sh!t . Not just because it stars Heights Head of Nutritional Research & Insights Sophie Medlin giving advice to members of the public on their gut health issues, but also for some of the fascinating things we’re learning.

Here are just some of the things we learned from the first three episodes (currently available in the UK on All4).

You don’t fart your gut bacteria do

Well, for the most part. At least 75% of gas is produced by the microbes present in your gut. We learned this during Episode 2, when we met Craig, a 51-year-old firefighter. He was struggling with bloating, and excess wind, and was known to his grandson as “stinky grandad”. Not really what you want.

Heights Head of Nutritional Research & Insights, Sophie Medlin, explained that the majority of gas is produced by the bacteria in your gut fermenting the food you eat. And some foods are smellier than others—onions, garlic, and other alliums all contain high levels of hydrogen sulphide, an indigestible sugar that contributes to worse-smelling farts.

Sophie suggested that the cause might be low microbial diversity, and suggested a diet with more varied vegetables, alongside a high-quality probiotic supplement to increase this microbial diversity. The vegetables provide more food for the good bacteria, which can then overtake and suppress the populations of problematic bacteria. And after six weeks of following her advice, Craig was no longer “stinky grandad”.

Animals matter

Gut health isn’t just about the types of food we eat—it’s also about the environment we live in, and that includes furry, feathery, or scaly friends. That’s right, the animals that we coexist with can have an impact on our microbial ecosystem. Some animals that we haven’t spent tens of thousands of years domesticating (for example, many birds) can contribute unusual bacterial species to our gut microbiomes.

And even animals that we are used to, like dogs, can have that effect. Studies showed that owning a dog can raise the levels of up to 56 different bacterial species in our guts. And while it’s true that some of these bacteria won’t be particularly beneficial, others will be, and it’s generally believed that the benefits outweigh any risks involved.

The perfect poo doesn’t exi-

It turns out that some people really do have perfect poo. And cutting-edge medical research is investigating the impact of feeding that to others. Sounds pretty gross, right.

It’s all about faecal microbiota transplantation. At St Thomas’s Hospital in London they’re conducting clinical trials to help alleviate gut problems with capsules that contain the microbes from a healthy person’s microbiome. Fresh faeces is filtered, centrifuged, and then freeze-dried, before being put into a little capsule, at which point it’s practically indistinguishable from any other supplement.

But only 2% of the population are possible donors—the scientists are looking for the presence of certain metabolites, and the absence of any potentially harmful or adverse bacteria or chemicals to ensure that only the best make it into their “crapsules”.

There are two types of burps

We’re constantly swallowing air, when we’re talking, eating, or even just breathing. That air gets held in the stomach, and when it’s too full, the trapped air is released as a burp. This is called a gastric burp—the classic, if you will.

But there’s a second type of burp, a recently recognised phenomenon known as a supragastric burp. This occurs when the diaphragm contracts spontaneously, decreasing the air pressure in your chest and drawing air into your oesophagus. This air doesn’t always reach the gut, and is usually expelled with higher frequency than a gastric burp. As a learned behaviour, one often associated with mental health, it can also be unlearned through breathing exercises.

Jersey has a lot of toilets

We met Jane from Jersey in episode 2, who was experiencing cramps when eating and stomach pain that extended down her sides, followed by the need to go to the toilet. She’d been living with these problems for 18 years.

The experts discovered that Jane’s gut health issues were the result of scar tissue from a previous surgical procedure, and required a specialist diet—the type that you should only follow with the explicit advice of a medical professional. Less insightful for your everyday gut health, but we did still learn that, in her experience, there is no shortage of toilets in Jersey.

3 simple takeaways

So what did we learn from the first half of the series?

  1. Talk about your gut . Whether it’s serious or not, no one wins when we don’t talk about our health. There’s still a bit of a taboo about gut health—it’s “gross”, it’s “rude”, it’s “embarrassing”—but if we don’t challenge that, we’re only hurting ourselves.

  2. Mental health and gut health go together . If our brain’s feeling the strain, that’s going to have an impact on your gut, and vice versa. So look after your mind, look after your gut, and feel the compound effects on both.

  3. Eat a wide variety of plants . We need fibre, both as roughage for our gut, and as food for our microbiome. So eat more plants, any way you can. That’s almost always the first step.

Want to learn more about Sophie, and the other experts who help make Heights what it is? Meet them here.


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