Diet change: How balancing your gut bacteria could make you healthier and happier

POOR mental health is closely linked to a bad diet, according to a therapist who is on a mission to improve the health of the nation’s guts. Catherine Rogers says in a new book that many ills of the modern age such as obesity, anxiety, depression and even chronic diseases can be improved if people make changes to their microbiome and their gut bacteria. Catherine, 57, says: “The food you eat has a major impact on both your mood and anxiety. But supporting your gut microbiome, an ecosystem of bacteria living inside you, can reset your guts to reduce inflammation. We believe that the solution to better physical and mental health begins with your gut.”

In her book, Gut Well Soon, Catherine argues that people should “reset” their microbiomes to improve their physical and mental wellbeing.

“When it comes to your gut bacteria, diversity is everything,” she says. “Various studies have found that a broader range of bacteria in the gut is better for human health.”

As some 70 per cent of the body’s immune system is located in the gut, keeping it balanced and healthy is the key to better living, she argues.

Western diets, which are low in fibre and high in sugars and fats, have gradually reduced the amount of gut bacteria in our bodies.

Taking antibiotics reduces the bacteria content still further.

Catherine’s approach – dietary changes coupled with talking therapy – has, she argues, produced startling results in patients she has worked with.

“I had a student who was massively depressed, suicidal, and I was doing ‘talking’ cognitive behavioural therapy with him,” she says. “He was clearly overweight so I told him I was going to go off-piste.”

Catherine got the young man to walk for half an hour shortly after he got up, changed his diet, told him to socialise at college and scale down his screen time.

“Within three weeks he stopped being suicidal and within eight weeks he was very much better,” she says. “I had someone else who was pre-diabetic. After following a four-week course that person was no longer pre-diabetic.”

An imbalance of gut bacteria has even been linked to schizophrenia and depression, she says, although she is not advocating that sufferers come off their medication.

“People who are really sick are going to need something so they can function in everyday life,” she says. “If I had one dream it would be to combine talking therapy with diet and exercise, but we are not there yet.”

Catherine never intended to write a book, preferring to live quietly with her husband Chris and children Jack,Anna and Mia, while working as a therapist near Oxford.

However, when she started writing a blog to one of her persistently questioning children, explaining why she ought to drink more water, she enjoyed the experience of organising her thoughts and wanted to expand her audience.

She herself takes conventional medicine for migraines but says the attacks are much less frequent now because she follows the lifestyle she advocates.

“People who are depressed are mainly deficient in things such as magnesium, zinc and vitamin B 12,” she says. “On a private basis I won’t see anyone now unless they are prepared to look at their nutrition and lifestyle.

“I am 57 and I don’t want to waste time. I get much better results when people engage with this approach but it is still hard work getting people to change their habits.”

Catherine is amazed that psychiatrists are taught very little about nutrition and cites some research on mice which substantiates her views on the causes of obesity.

Gut bacteria was taken from an obese person and put into a mouse which was then fed the same food as the other mice. “The mouse with gut bacteria from the obese person put on weight from the food,” she says.

Cancer patients with balanced gut bacteria respond better to treatments than other patients, says Catherine, who runs a website called Reset Your Gut, which echoes the theories in her book with recipes and a four-week course to follow. “I’ve spoken with many doctors who are excited about the website,” she says. “Every chapter in my book has 60 to 70 references to research done around the world, so people can see there is a basis for my views.”

One chapter in her book is called Keep Your Marbles and in it she discloses that her father, who was a doctor, died from Alzheimer’s in 2010.

She points to recent research which shows that 10 patients with early Alzheimer’s disease showed improvement after being put on a low carb, gluten-free diet, rich in fruit, vegetables, wild fish, probiotics, mineral supplements and coconut oil. She reports: “After six months, nine out of 10 participants experienced a substantial improvement in cognitive function, to the extent that six of the volunteers were able to return to their jobs, having given up work when their symptoms began.

“This is remarkable stuff and with no drug taken! Drug companies are trialling vaccines they hope will reverse dementia, but I would suggest that the lifestyle changes and protocol followed by those in the study are a more sustainable option.”

Those following her website course are not allowed to drink alcohol but after it has finished there can be a more relaxed “80 per cent” approach.

In her book she has two lists, the Dirty Dozen and the Clean 15. Strawberries, spinach, apples, pears and grapes are among the Dirty Dozen, but only because they have been shown to have higher levels of pesticide residue, due to farming methods. She urges people to buy organic to reduce the risk.

Avocados, pineapples, cabbage, asparagus and mangos are among the foods on the Clean 15 list as they are less prone to contamination by pollutants. Catherine is working with dieticians, nutritionists, doctors, scientists and a recipe writer – plus keen interns from Oxford University – to continue developing her Reset Your Gut online programme.

“Research is showing you can help yourself with IBS, low energy, low mood, depression, difficulty sleeping, excess belly fat, weight gain, type 2 diabetes and more,” she says. “Reset Your Gut is not a fad diet. It’s a lifestyle change.We are in the midst of a paradigm shift and one that, in my eyes, could revolutionise what it means to live a healthy, balanced life.”


SERVES 2. Per Serving: calories 641, protein 19g, fat 45g (saturates 7g), carbs 39g (sugar)


1. Place the sliced red onion in a small shallow bowl and add the vinegar and set aside, mixing occasionally.

2. Heat 1 tbsp of the oil in a large non-stick frying pan over a medium-low heat and add the diced onion, garlic, cumin, coriander, red chilli and season well with salt and black pepper, cook for 5 minutes or until soft, remove the mixture from the pan and set aside.

3. Keep the frying pan over the lowest heat and add another tbsp of oil. Season the stalk side of the mushrooms and add to the pan seasoned side down, cover the pan with a lid and cook for 6 minutes on each side or until soft, remove and set aside.

4. Meanwhile place the chickpeas, avocado and psyllium husk powder – if using it – into a high-speed blender and blitz to form a rough paste.

5. Mix in the onion mixture and with wet hands form 4 burger shapes.

6. Add 1 tbsp oil to the pan and turn the heat to medium; cook the burgers for 4-5 minutes, add the remaining oil and turn over cook for another 4-5 minutes.

7. Serve each burger on a mushroom like an open sandwich with the salad leaves and garnish with the red onions.

  • GutWell Soon by Catherine Rogers is published by Panoma Press and costs £14.99. Those interested in the ResetYour Gut recipes and programme should go to

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