Interview with Flora Montgomery - Raising the Bacteria Bar

We are all, by definition, an ecosystem. Our microbiome reveals a more connected biology, radically transforming our approach to our diets, medicine, hygiene and living than ever before. Championing this work is Flora Montgomery, Founder of in-demand gut site for the best of the best advice from leading experts around the world, Gutsy. Read on as we chat to Flora about the importance of this subject, how she is helping to raise the bar when it comes to bacteria and how we can all implement practises to keep our gut health in check, in simple ways.

What is your background and how did it lead you to launching your gut health website?

I first discovered gut health two years ago, and was immediately hooked. Having worked as a chef for 10 years, I became increasingly concerned with people’s relationships with food and truly felt that health and wellness had gone mad. Thankfully, Gut Health is evidence-based and I firmly believe that if we collectively focus on the health of our microbiome (the bacteria living in our gut), we will open up a completely new way to look at diet and lifestyle.

So much of gut health is about the individual - what works for you specifically. People are becoming obsessed about finding out more about their Microbiome with gut-testing kits but the science is not there yet, but what we do know is A) The importance of tuning into your gut (get to know the Bristol Stool Chart), B) Adding more variety to your plate (fibre is key!) and C) Introducing quality ferments - it really is that simple. Regarding most other gut health foods and theories, I am afraid we just have to wait for the science to catch-up.

I love to educate people about gut health and fermenting. I also support private clients in working out how best to bring lifestyle and dietary changes into their homes. This is essentially why I created Gutsy, to make my job working with clients much easier! I kept sending endless emails saying try this recipe, listen to that podcast, buy this piece of equipment, or read this article about the gut-brain axis. Now clients and readers have a one-stop-shop which is growing daily and helping people all over the world.

As a consultant I support people with programmes, specifically suited to their requirements and lifestyles and the site supports that work whilst also making gut health information not only accessible but also achievable.

If you had a great tip that everyone could easily implement into their daily lives to help improve their gut health, what would it be?

Like with all new habits, start small. Introducing homemade or quality ferments into your diet on a daily basis is actually very easy to do.  First find a few ferments that suit your tastes. For instance, fermenting 1kg of cabbage is quite a big leap; but if you like yoghurt in the mornings, try just switching this for Milk Kefir. Every few months, exchange one of your ferments with a friend to create variety.

Secondly, trying to eat 30 different plant sources per week is a great target to include a variety of fibres into your system.  Fibre found in plant sources (especially prebiotic fibre) is the feed for our Gut Microbes. I have lots of tips about how to do this on the site. It’s much easier than it sounds!

Finally, I have also taught myself to eat at half the speed that I used to and for me, this has had one of the greatest impacts on my digestive system.

Do you have any special recipes or rituals around looking after your own gut health that you swear by?

I do not stress about food or stick to any rituals.  I have spent some time getting to know my gut, what it likes, and when I feel bloated or tired, I then look back to what I have recently consumed, or if I haven’t slept well, and then make a conscious effort to tune in to what the cause might be, and what I could to try and balance things out. It’s worth keeping a journal to keep track. It’s a constant fascination for me.

Small food and lifestyle choices when tackled together can be very powerful, and getting to know what works for you could change your life forever. I am tired of people feeling that they need to spend thousands of pounds on retreats in Bali to “reset” or “detox”.  It’s all accessible to you today, in your own home.

What’s the first thing you do when getting started with a new client and their kitchen cupboards?

Remove everything from your cupboards and start a fresh arrangement.  The effect of having what feels like a brand new kitchen is amazing! This isn’t a kitchen cleanse – I don’t judge or throw out all gluten, and sugar products for example.  Instead, I just talk you through new kitchen ingredients and then match up recipes that will transform your kitchen into one that inspires you to enjoy cooking at home again.  I find this approach eradicates that paralysing feeling of not knowing what to cook, or being bored of your old routines. So much about gut health habits is adding in variety – so I truly believe that helping people to be inspired to try new foods in their own homes can have the greatest impact.

What’s the favourite part of your role?

I love hearing when someone has come to an event and gone home with Water Kefir Grains to ferment into effervescent drinks full of life. Weeks later they’re talking about all the amazing flavours they have experimented with, and how they have given grains to all their friends who are now loving Kefir too. It fills me with so much joy knowing a powerful healthy product is spreading around the world, fizzing and popping with flavour in kitchens. I also love the sense of community it creates.

Finally, is there anything you are looking forward to doing this year with your brilliant work in particular?

Yes, very much so!  I have just started collaborating with an incredibly knowledgeable and inspiring dietician, Laura Tilt.  We will be launching an online Gut Health Course later this year. Laura will be explaining the ‘why’ and I will be giving you the ‘how to’.   Expect the very latest, most up-to-date gut health information, seasonal recipes, menu plans and fermenting guides, including video and audio content, downloadable forms, and a community to support you.  

With the topic of Gut Health evolving at such a fast rate, an online course will ensure we deliver the very best evidence-based information. This course is for everyone; whether you think you have genuine digestive issues or you just want help implementing some small changes.  Laura and I are both obsessed with helping people change their habits from the inside out – we are designing everything in a way that will ensure every step is achievable and will have a lasting effect on your life.

For more information on Flora’s work, events and programmes visit:

https://www.gutsy-uk.com/

https://www.gutsyflora.com/