Bringing killer tunes and healthy gut info to the masses is an unlikely combination, but Alana and Lisa McFarlane are passionate about breaking barriers around healthy eating, making the idea of eating well for a healthy gut accessible, and sharing the knock-on overall positive health impact that this has.
We were lucky enough to sit down for a chat with the twins when they were in Dublin for the Thrive Festival in the National Convention Centre and tried to keep up with their fast pace and gorgeous Scottish accents.
How The Gut Stuff Came About
Lisa and Alana volunteered for twin research in King’s College in London, where they got to find out what’s different between them and, as they put it, "giving back to medical research".
About five years ago, through the research, it was discovered that although they have 100% same DNA, they only have about 30-40% of the same microbiome, "which is all the bacteria, pathogens, yeast and things in your stomach". They realised this has a lot to play in terms of overall health and well being with everything from Alzheimer’s, to autoimmune disease to mental health.
This was of real interest to the girls and scientists as they realized there must be more to this area of the gut microbiome, how and why they are so different in us all and the role they play in many areas of health from Alzheimer’s to Parkinson’s.
As research was coming out they "met lots of different scientists from different areas" and they realized, "alright, this thing is more widespread than just diet and even lifestyle. So we did a YouTube series interviewing the top scientists from around the world and six episodes turned into 36 episodes and The Gut Stuff was born".
"We just became super passionate about it. All these scientists were in all these different fields, from Parkinson’s to immunology and none of them were really speaking to each other. And then they weren’t speaking to GPs and dietitians and certainly not the public. And we skipped that process by just getting it straight to the public."
They became really passionate about bringing this new information from the scientists to the public, who actually need it most.
"Most of the time people come across new science in broadsheet papers that are targeted at a certain audience but we were like, no, the people who need this information most aren’t getting it."
They were inspired by the fact the information highlighted how personalised health and wellbeing is, yet it’s seen as "a middle-class luxury, and what works for one person isn’t going to work for millions of people. And it shouldn’t be like that, it’s so personalised." If they, as identical twins, have different requirements it particularly hit home for them that everyone has completely individual requirements.
"It was a perfect storm. Coming from a working-class background, being the actual physical guinea pigs for it. And also the backlash to clean eating and restrictive eating and people wanted to turn to science and we were there with the scientists ready and waiting."
Being DJs at night and "totally normal girls" who enjoy a party and a few drinks, they considered themselves the perfect people to target for health and wellbeing change. They didn’t overhaul their whole lives and become "angels", but they made "easy swaps and took nuggets of knowledge" to improve their health.
They also recognise the responsibility of having a public voice and a large following and so they have a team of advisors, nutritionists, dietitians and scientists who look over everything that they put out.
Working with your sister
We asked the twins about how they find working with each other. The travel that comes with their DJ work can be lonely so it helps to keep each other company, and also enjoy the standout moments together.
The girls also find that working with your sister "wills you to succeed" as they don’t want to let each other down and if one is having a bad day, the other can lift them up.
They try to schedule ‘sister time’ and keep work conversations to email only rather than their personal WhatsApp chat.
Take 5 and Thrive with The Mac Twins
1. What one ritual morning or evening could you not give up and why?
"Coffee! The polyphenols in coffee are actually good for your gut! The caffeine is not so good, but definitely not de-caf as the things that they use to take the caffeine out are actually worse for you."
Alana does yoga in the mornings. Both are trying to be on their phone less just before bed to help improve their sleep.
2. Who inspires you?
"Our Mum! She’s a strong woman. We take inspiration from the people closest to us. We don’t have a health ‘guru’ who we’re inspired by. We’re surrounded by strong women in The Gut Stuff who we’re inspired by every day."
3. What’s your ultimate treat/guilty pleasure?
"A day off!" The twins haven’t had a day off for five months as they find taking time off when they work for themselves brings a lot of guilt. They recognize that this wreaks havoc with their own health so is something to work on!
When it comes to food, they don’t like the idea of good or bad food. And opposed to the idea of restriction, they like to add foods all the time.
4. Do you have a go-to snack or drink that gives you a nice pick-me-up?
"Kombucha. Taking a moment and breathing really deeply helps re-energise you."
5. What do you do to bring more movement into your lives?
Alana does Hot Yoga regularly as it helps with arthritis that she suffers from.
Lisa likes more high-octane exercise like Barre or HIIT classes and likes to mix it up and do different activities.