Foodstuffs (South Island) Community Trust has entered into a three-year sponsorship with The Gut Foundation, a charity dedicated to helping New Zealanders improve gut health by promoting research and education of gut diseases and disorders.

With the aim of improving gut health in South Island and wider New Zealand, The Gut Foundation was chosen by the Trust from over thirty applicants for the three-year grant. The charity will use the funds for educational campaigns, research projects and to establish community ‘Gut Health Hubs’ in South Island – designed to connect medical professionals and gut health specialists with resources and knowledge in their community, to help achieve better gut health and education for people in their local community.

While gut disease is increasing worldwide and in New Zealand, it’s particularly prevalent across the South Island. “The Foodstuffs (South Island) Community Trust is committed to supporting our communities and people by helping them to thrive, so it made sense for the Trust to help fund research and community awareness for a cause which affects so many people,” says Justin Smith, Chairperson Foodstuffs (South Island) Community Trust.

One of the keys to providing the best care for South Islanders is to encourage local researchers to study the causes and treatment of gut diseases. Christchurch gut researchers have led the world in developing a cure for hepatitis C and other liver diseases, and the Trust has supported new diagnostic equipment to manage common conditions such as gastro-oesophageal reflux and gallstone disease.

The situation isn’t just a South Island problem, however, with nine New Zealanders diagnosed with bowel cancer every day. Of these, three will die, making bowel cancer our second-highest cause of death. Research undertaken in the South Island has shown there is a significant increase in inflammatory bowel diseases, such as Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis in young people. 

Christchurch Hospital gastroenterologist and University of Otago Professor Richard Gearry is a leading figure in this space. “We’re seeing increasing rates of gut disease in New Zealand at all ages, with more inflammatory bowel diseases being diagnosed in our young people. Our work, supported by the Trust, will help us understand better why these rates are increasing, and to create public awareness around potential diagnoses and treatments,” he says.

Smith agrees. “Our partnership with the Gut Foundation will help provide South Island communities with the knowledge and tools to take greater responsibility for their families’ gut health. It’s our hope this will be a significant step in the reduction of gut disease in the South Island and beyond.”

Diets can affect our gut health

Foodstuffs (South Island) Community Trust is leading the way with the significant three-year sponsorship and the Gut Foundation is keen for more FMCG industry players to join in, as diets have a direct impact on our gut health.

Christchurch Hospital gastroenterologist and University of Otago Professor Richard Gearry

“The FMCG industry plays a huge role in providing New Zealanders with the sustenance and choices to achieve good gut health, and we’re incredibly grateful Foodstuffs (South Island) Community Trust has come on board to support our cause. We look forward to more FMCG partners joining us as we work towards better gut health for all New Zealanders,” says Margaret Fitzgerald, General Manager of The Gut Foundation.

One way the FMCG industry can contribute is to sign up to be a Gut Foundation ‘Bowel Buddy’ where a contribution of $250 for a 20-month duration will help to fund a critical piece of research led by Dr Richard Gearry, Professor of Medicine at the University of Otago, Christchurch and Consultant Gastroenterologist which will study  why gut disease symptoms can go undiagnosed, leading to 3 out of 9 New Zealanders who are diagnosed with bowel cancer dying from this curable disease.

To sign up to be a Bowel Buddy, or for more information mailto:margaret@thegut.org.nz or phone 021 0241 3305.

Gut health South Island: the facts

  • One in 84 Cantabrians has coeliac disease
  • Research undertaken in Canterbury and Nelson show we have one of the highest rates of inflammatory bowel disease in the world – a number that’s still increasing
  • South Island communities have the highest rates of bowel cancer in the world.

Gut health in New Zealand: the facts

  • More than 20,000 New Zealanders are living with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) – Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. The number of new diagnoses has doubled in the past decade.
  • Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) currently affects one in six women, and one in nine men. While IBS can usually be managed with diet, some symptoms can be an indicator of something more serious, requiring medical intervention.

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