Hack Your Health, Video Review

Netflix’s “Hack Your Health, the secrets of your gut” is a docu/info/tainment that explores how your gut biome and digestive system will affect your weight, body health and propensity to various diseases. This is bringing to the attention of the mainstream public some of the discoveries about gut health that has been discovered over the last 10 to 20 years. It is more accurate than not, highly misleading in parts, and necessarily, although frustratingly, simplistic – considering that it is trying to educate and entertain you in only 80 minutes.

The Good

Here are some of the aspects about gut health that this program covered relatively well.

Our gut biome is a complex system of helpful microbes that break down and digest the foods we consume, which then help us to absorb various nutrients more efficiently. In western countries, full of restricted foods, junk foods, elevated daily stress, over use of antibacterials and poor exercise, our gut biome is relatively small compared to people who live in non-industrial worlds. This is linked to increased health problems, such as obesity, allergies, heart conditions, increased risk of cancer and other various health problems.

It is well recognised that a healthy gut is a diverse microbe gut. The best way to get a diverse gut biome is to eat a big spread of foods with lots of variety. We don’t know enough about the specific microbes to have a hit list of “must haves” and “should avoid”. So diverse is best.

Mental health can be adversely affected by bad gut health. The gut microbes can prompt cravings or avoidances. There is active signalling between the gut biome and the brain.

The information, such as it is, is given in a moderately entertaining medium with some very cute animations.

The Bad

Here are some of the problems that I had with the program.

Many of the factoids were quite misleading.

  • They indicate that 99% of the dna in your body is from bacteria. This is, technically, correct, but highly misleading. 90% of your mass is from cells that have your DNA, while 10% of your mass is from your gut biome. Roughly speaking, half the cells in your body are yours, and the other half, but much smaller in scale, are the biome.
  • They imply that psychiatric conditions are potentially caused by gut biome. We know that some changes in the gut biome can exacerbate symptoms, but rarely cause them per se.
    • Some conditions, like Autism, are hereditary, that is it is from your DNA, inherited from your parents, not due to a gut biome disorder. Autistic people are at higher than average co-occurring gut issues, but there are also many Autistic people who have no gut issues.
    • Another example of a hereditary condition is ADHD. Read all of the above for Autism and it affects ADHD. Concerning behaviours can be exacerbated by biome problems, but fixing the gut biome won’t necessarily “cure” ADHD, unless your ADHD was not so much inherited, but acquired by a deficit in your gut biome.

The program does not give you anything concrete to work with. It says “get a healthy gut biome” without really explaining how, and “try a fecal transplant”, but again without really saying how. At least it does warn about the risk of problematic donors.

A great deal of the program is making promises about how good gut biome science will become far before we actually have the good science to actually give good therapies.

There are some statements from the experts go against the consensus of gut biome science. An example of this is where Jack Gilbert, Microbial Ecologist, states that the probiotics aren’t worth taking as that would be like dropping a houseplant into the amazon [jungle] and hoping it will be okay. This is wrong. If you are missing the specific microbes that are within the probiotic, this is a great way to repopulate your gut biome with these known good microbes. That is kind of the whole point of those medicines. The main problem with those probiotics is that often those aren’t the microbes you are missing – worth a try, just in case, but on average not helpful unless you have depleted your gut biome recently via antibiotics.

While I have mention Gilbert by name and given a specific example of where he was very wrong (according to medical science), all of the experts stated factual errors, which should have been fact checked and corrected before the video went out.


This is an interesting look at some of the research about the gut biome. It is not all correct and some of the claims are sensationally overstated. Unfortunately, it doesn’t tell you what to do to fix much of anything other than “eat a diversity of food”.

While this isn’t quite pseudoscience (fake medicine), it is very much premature science, which media like is overstated beyond what we know to be possible, and there are some specific errors that can misinform.

I’m glad that a program like this exists to try to give people an idea of how the gut microbiome is powerful and an important consideration, but expect it to be pitched to a year 6 primary school class.

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