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Trust Your Gut: An Interview with JERMS

Did you know the average person has around 39 trillion bacteria in their body, and a lot of it is found in the gut? Many of us may struggle to wrap our head around the fact that our body is basically full of germs - but it's not necessarily such a bad thing.

Gut microbiota refers to the microorganisms that live in our digestive tracts, including bacteria, viruses and fungi. Yes, you read that right. There are loads of little critters living in our gut, some helpful and some harmful.

These microorganisms can influence our immunity and nutrition, as well as mental health. Our gut microbiome influences how we digest the food we eat, whether we feel full or not, and help in building up our defense mechanisms against disease. It can also affect our mood, which is why it is often referred to as the "second brain."

We got in touch with Louise Macnab, founder of JERMS, to chat all things gut-related. Louise a former corporate lawyer turned gut health fanatic who loves matcha, her 16-year-old American Staffy, Tara, and old school hip hop.

What is JERMS?

JERMS is a gut health brand on a mission to restore bacteria’s bad rep and make optimal gut health accessible to everyone. I’m super passionate about normalising the discussion around our bodily functions and created JERMS as a platform for an empowered community to come together, challenge stigmas and share knowledge.

What inspired you to start this brand?

When I was working as a lawyer, the lack of a work/life balance led me to burn out, suffering from chronic stress-induced gut issues (SIBO, leaky gut, acne, chronic fatigue, anxiety...). My research into finding appropriate treatments and the practitioners I met along the way led me to discover the vital role that gut health plays in all aspects of our overall health, including mental wellbeing.

Of course, directly experiencing the impact that healing my own gut had meant that I became so passionate about spreading awareness. I wouldn't shut up about it - my friends joked I should start a company, and for me, that actually seemed like the best way to reach as many people as possible: if people knew it all starts in the gut - from dementia to immune health to our energy levels - then we would all pay more attention to it. And so that’s what I did!

What were some challenges you faced when starting out?

As a solo founder, you have to wear so many different hats and there’s a very steep learning curve. My background was strictly legal, I didn’t necessarily know how to build a business. So I had to teach myself about branding, marketing, sales, taxation, even a bit of coding…the list goes on.

Once you begin to grow, of course you can start to employ professionals to assist you. But in the bootstrapping stages it’s definitely a challenge trying to navigate alone all the different aspects involved in creating and launching a new business.

What are some of your favourite moments relating to JERMS in the last year?

I don’t think I’ll ever tire of genuine customer feedback. When I hear that our products are actually helping people with issues they’ve been struggling with, and are having a positive impact on their daily routine, and improving their quality of life, I’m just so happy - it makes everything worthwhile.

What do you hope to achieve in the next few years with JERMS?

We are currently focusing on new product development and are working on an exciting launch planned for the end of the year.

What does a day-in-the-life look like at JERMS?

One of the things I really enjoy about having my own business is that no two days are the same. Some days I’m at our café, making sure everything’s running smoothly, doing orders and rotas etc. Other days I’ll be doing invoices, packing orders, working on content for social media...

Chronic stress-induced health issues led you to learning about the important role gut health plays in both physical and mental health. In your experience, how has having a healthy/unhealthy gut impacted your mental wellbeing?

Learning how to heal and take care of my gut health was a game changer in managing my mental health.

The two are inextricably linked: 90% of serotonin (the feel good hormone) is produced in our gut, and our gut and brain are in constant communication with each other via the gut/brain axis. Research shows that stress changes the balance of bacteria in our guts and those with depression and anxiety have a lower diversity of gut bacteria. How crazy is that?!

What beginner steps can people take to start building up a healthy gut?

So the first thing to know is that optimal gut health comes from having a diverse community of gut microbes and maintaining a good balance between your good and bad bacteria.

How do you achieve that? Well, a good start is to:

  • Try incorporating at least 30 different plant foods a week (yes, this sounds like a lot but includes herbs, spices, nuts and grains)

  • Practice stress mitigation techniques like daily meditation

  • Choose natural, non-toxic cleaning products and toiletries

  • Exercise regularly

  • Get your daily dose of fibre (swap white bread and pasta for wholemeal options; go for potatoes with their skin on, add pulses like beans, lentils or chickpeas to meals)

  • Get outside in nature, do some gardening, spend time with animals

Looking back on your younger, corporate lawyer self, what words of advice and encouragement would you have loved to give younger you?

When I first started working after graduating university, I didn’t really know anything about ‘wellness’. For example, I had no idea that what we eat has a direct impact on our brain function and ultimately our mood. I was surviving on coffee and takeaways - I definitely wish I’d known more about nutrition then!

Other than that, I think good advice - which I’m thankful I actually took - is to work hard and follow your gut (no pun intended!). Also, try and find a mentor - they’ve been in your shoes and have so much more experience to draw on, so their advice and support is invaluable.

How do you like to unwind/de-stress?

I love spending time in nature. I live in London so it’s not always easy, but even if it’s just a walk in the local park I always feel more centered and less stressed afterwards.

JERMS offers a range of products made up of all natural ingredients to assist in maintaining good gut health, including digestion aid and protection against environmental toxins.

To learn more about JERMS, visit their website here, shop their incredible range here, and show some love and support on their Instagram here.