Gut Shot - What's the deal?

Written by: Natalie Louise Burrows


Healf Journal

When the yellow branding hit the supermarket shelves we knew it could only mean one thing. Either Cadbury’s mini eggs were making their January come back or Zoe was releasing a food item.

The fact it was the latter didn’t surprise me (actually neither surprised me because as soon as one festivity is done there’s always another round the corner to encourage us to buy low-nutrient dense food).

Written by Natalie Louise Burrows - Registered Nutritional Therapist and Clinic Director of Integral Wellness, specialising in cardiometabolic health.

Zoe has gone from strength to strength with over 130,000 participants signing up to eat a blue muffin, poop in a tube and wear the yellow CGM cover on their arm with pride. The fact people are getting involved and interested in nutritional science is a joy in my opinion. More people are paying attention to how food impacts their health which should equate to fewer people eating foods that contribute to modern-day metabolic conditions - and, from my perspective as a blood sugar and type 2 diabetes nutritionist, that would be fantastic!

But what is this Zoe x M&S gut shot? How do the ingredients stack up to the claims? And why am I feeling a little uncomfortable about the empty shelves that host this gut-friendly drink if I’m so thrilled people care more about their health these days? Let me explain. 

The ingredients

From the front of the bottle you would understandably feel like you’re getting a wholefood food item. ‘Over 5 billion live culture from 14 different strains. Milk kefir with berries.’ Sounds clear, clean and natural to me. But this is why I encourage people to get comfortable with the ingredients list. Does it actually contain berries? I’m imagining those gorgeous British strawberries M&S are known for selling…

Ingredients: Kefir (Milk), Mixed Fruit Purée (21%) (Apple, Strawberry, Banana, Blackcurrant, Blueberry), Baobab Fruit Pulp, Chicory Fibre, Fruit Extracts (Blackcurrant, Pomegranate), Ginger Juice, Lemon Juice, Cultures Including: Bifidobacterium, Lactobacillus Acidophilus, Lactobacillus Bulgaricus, Lactobacillus Paracasei, Lactobacillus Rhamnosus

Ok so no actual berries in sight. Purées are not the same and are a source of free sugar.

Free sugar in this instance identifies a sugar that isn’t bound to its fibrous structure anymore. E.g when an apple is turned into an apple juice you now have a bottle of liquid free sugars and it’s much better to eat the apple. Tim agrees!

Tim Spectors advice is to also avoid the probiotic foods that were ‘packed full of sugar’, well this little gut shot guy contains 8.4g of sugar.

To make one thing clear, milk contains lactose and lactose is a sugar. Therefore you would expect around 4g of sugar (from the milk) within a plain kefir too but the additional 4g+ of sugar - the equivalent to 1 tsp of sugar - is because 21% of the ingredients are coming from fruit purée (apple, strawberry, banana, blackcurrant, blueberry) plus there are fruit extracts.

Berries definitely add flavour but when you can purchase a piece of whole fruit and a bottle of plain kefir to make up as more of a meal then I’m left wondering why this ultra-processed food (UPF) has been added to the market by someone who argues against the consumption of UPFs in your diet - let alone daily. 

The Price

That also leads me onto the price. There are so many ways to support our gut bacteria and if probiotic-foods are on your list then the gut shot may have your interest. One a day sounds simple and achievable right? But at £2 (or £2.20 if you’re grabbing from a convenience store) for a 150ml bottle, this gets expensive fast! £62 a month or £730 a year on top of your food bill. 

While I was in M&S buying a gut shot for the purposes of this review (I honestly wouldn't have bought it otherwise) I picked up a plain 500ml bottle of Kefir for less than £2.50. Which brings me back to the cheaper and equally beneficial ways to support good gut health with the addition of being better for your blood sugars because you don’t have the unnecessary free sugars. 

The Recommendation 

If you’ve got the money to spend and want to give this gut shot a try then by all means go ahead. You may have to be quick because the initial hype is seeing it vanish off most shelves as soon as it’s stocked. To help you navigate, head to the chiller aisle and you’ll find it next to the fizzy drinks, flavoured milks and the less expensive bottle of natural kefir.

If you want to put your money to better use, eat a diverse range of vegetables, whole fruits (not juice or smoothies) and grab a bottle of the natural kefir alongside other fermented foods like kimchi, sauerkraut and kombucha (watch the added sugars on these) while you’re there too so you have an abundance of gut microbe loving foods to feed yourself and your gut. After all, I’m sure Tim Spector said something about diversity and 30 different plant foods a week. 


This article is for informational purposes only, even if and regardless of whether it features the advice of physicians and medical practitioners. This article is not, nor is it intended to be, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment and should never be relied upon for specific medical advice. The views expressed in this article are the views of the expert and do not necessarily represent the views of Healf.