The twins spill their guts and share the things they love most

Alana and Lisa MacFarlane never expected to become gut health experts. Having grown up on a pendulum swing between diets of deep-fried pizza and chips to cabbage soup and then back again, they claim that they could only identify kale as the leaves they fed to their guinea pig. Such was the nocturnal life of two successful DJs.

But that all changed when they volunteered themselves to be the guinea pigs as part of King’s College’s TwinsUK research, which looks at the relationship between our genes, the environment and common diseases. It just so happened that, as part of this, Alana and Lisa became involved in the British Gut Project. The findings? That, ‘despite us having 100 per cent of the same DNA, our guts shared only 30–40 per cent of the same microbiota, which could explain why our bodies behave so differently.’

The information was so seismic to them, that they developed a new passion for communicating the power the gut to transform our health. And, at the core of their mission, was to dismantle the idea that ‘wellness’ has to be expensive or exclusionary, all the while promoting the message that health should be about more than just not being ill. With that in mind, the sisters founded The Gut Stuff, via which they’ve brought together a whole team of experts, from scientists to nutritionists to doctors to sift through fact from fiction.

They set up a supper club to get people talking about gut health, which Time Out soon named one of the top things to do in London. They went on the road with pop up ‘ask a nutritionist’ clinics. They began to take their message all over the world, as businesses such as Facebook began asking them to address their teams. And then in 2020, they launched their first product range, including at-home health kits.

Here they tell us about their abiding ambition to build a global gut health festival (you heard it here first) and share their top three gut health tips.

Follow The Gut Stuff on Instagram here.

Favourite place in all the world?

We just absolutely love New York – we feel so energised there, everything about it is like being in a film.

Dream holiday?

We’ve love beach holidays with our best pals, chatting away about everything and nothing and drinking margaritas.

Most coveted item right now?

Alana’s just had a baby, so she’d probably say her white noise teddy bear to put the baby to sleep!

Proudest professional moment to date?

That’s a really tough one – being able to build a team that inspires us at the Gut Stuff.

Your dream future project?

To create a massive global gut health festival.

Who has been your most inspiring mentor, professionally or personally?

Our mum! She’s ‘gut’ us through many ups and downs.

Where would you live if you could live anywhere?

It took us such a long time to buy our houses, so we’d say were more than happy where we are!

What book is on your nightstand/ kindle right now (and why)?

Lots of black and white baby book. One of our best mates, Kris Hallenga, wrote the most incredible boo, Glittering A Turd.

Best binge-watched TV show?

Grey’s Anatomy, mainly because you have no anxiety of it finishing anytime soon!

Top podcast of the moment?

We love How I Built This by Guy Raz. It is inspiring and comforting to hear how all founder stories are just as much of a rollercoaster as ours!’

Your hero?

Again, definitely our mum. Since our dad died, she’s been a mother, father, friend, teacher and everything in between, and has stepped in, up and around in all the ways possible. We owe her everything really.

If you were an animal, what would you be?

I think we’d be Siamese cats for obvious reasons!

What did you want to be when you grew up?

We used to always love playing teachers – everything from tap to maths.

Worst job you’ve ever done?

All the jobs we’ve done have taught us something. One of the first was in a chip shop selling lots of deep-fried mars bars and chips – not the best for gut health!

Favourite dish to cook?

A roast, as it reminds us of lazy Sundays, red wine and cosy winter nights in.

Favourite café/ restaurant?

Anywhere that does lovely long brunches with Bloody Marys and a great atmosphere.

What tune always makes you want to dance?

This is a VERY TOUGH one… we were DJs in our past lives, so not sure we can ever name one track.

Favourite website or app?

Flo period app – it’s just brilliant, so user friendly. We’ve been logging for years.

Most useful thing on your desk?

A 2.2 litre water tankard!

Which five people, dead or alive, would you find most interesting to be stuck in a lift with?

Stephen Fry. David Attenborough. Nancy Mitford. Billy Connolly. Robert Burns. A great mixture of laughter and fantastic minds!
Weston Library Opening by John Cairns 20.3.15-139 David Attenborough
John Cairns, CC BY 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Favourite building?

The Sacre Coeur – Montmartre is just beautiful

Favourite Instagrammer or tweeter?

@loveofhuns brings the laugh out loud moments in the day. Many a screenshot in friends’ WhatsApp groups are their posts!

Your screensaver?


What would your biography be called?

‘Opposite minds.’

What would be your epitaph?

Together they laughed, together they cried, together they conquered, together they loved.

The Gut Stuff’s Top Three Gut Health Tips

Variety Is Key

You have trillions of bacteria in your gut and they all thrive on different foods, so variety really is key to making sure you keep them all happy. Current research shows that we need closer to 30 different types of plant based foods a week, this includes vegetables, fruits, wholegrains, pulses, legumes, nuts and seeds. So make sure you mix it up in the kitchen, and experiment with a wide range of foods every week – your gut will thank you for it.

Get Enough Fibre

Fibre truly is the unsung hero of nutrition! Not only does it bulk out and soften your stool by retaining water, but certain types of fibre can be fermented by your gut microbes, which produce short chain fatty acids (SCFA). SCFA provide energy for your gut and play a crucial role in other areas of health! It also slows down the absorption of sugars found in carbs which is great for your energy levels, and promotes an environment favourable to beneficial gut bacteria! Aim for 30g of fibre a day – and to put that in context, a medium apple only has about 2.1g!

Minimise Your Stress

The relationship between the gut and the brain is really important! Your gut and brain chat to each other like pals and just like us, use different ways of communicating. Stress, anxiety and depression can have a direct effect on your microbiome and how well your gut works and vice versa! What works for you will be different from someone else so focus on what helps you relax, whether a yoga class, a walk or even some mindfulness. Do something that helps you get away from the stress of daily life.

By Nancy Alsop
March 2022

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Nancy Alsop


Nancy is a magpie for the best in design and culture.