Gut health: Jonny Wilkinson tackles kombucha

After exploring all things prebiotic in last week’s focus on gut health, today we’re talking to former England rugby star and founder of No.1 Living kombucha drinks company Jonny Wilkinson.


Jonny Wilkinson CBE is considered one of the greatest English rugby players of all time, yet throughout his career, he faced battles with depression and anxiety. Since retiring from the sport, he has been on a personal journey of discovery, exploring the connections between mental health and diet. His interest in fermented food and drink to help tackle physical and mental health issues led him to launch kombucha drinks company No.1 Living.


Kombucha has been drunk for centuries in China where it is prized for its detoxifying and energising properties. It has gained huge popularity in the UK due to claims that it can optimise gut health, reduce inflammation, and boost mood. Kombucha is the product of tea fermentation and a number of probiotic bacteria are produced which at specific concentrations, can help balance the gut microbiome and improve digestion, boost your body’s immunity, and support your mental health. While claims remain anecdotal, Jonny is in no doubt of the benefits of kombucha to his health and wellbeing.


Here he tells us of his journey to making kombucha, his new perspective on health, and why we should focus on our food choices.


How have you been looking after yourself during lockdown?

I have been enjoying the challenge to my creativity that the imposed physical limits have presented. Through gratitude for being alive and well and with respect to those who have been personally affected – and who have been putting their health on the line for us – I have seen how I can make more and more of every moment.


What does health mean to you?

Health is the unlimited potential of our being. It is the incredible intelligence of the body and its seamless and constantly interactive relationship with the planet around it. Exploring this is a never-ending opportunity and it what I see as nutrition and diet.


How has your diet changed since you left the rugby pitch?

My lifestyle has changed and so have the demands upon my body. I have different passions and requirements and as a result, I am eating to help tune myself to being able to do what I need and want to do – today as this version of me – as effortlessly and joyfully as possible. This means eating less, eating fresher, investing more of myself in meal preparation, becoming more aware of compassion to animals and quality of farming, and finally becoming far more conscious of how I eat and enjoy the experience – which is very different from how things used to be.


What made you start a beverage company?

I have always been fascinated if a little obsessed with my potential and what I am capable of. Towards the end of my rugby career, I started to realise that this potential lies in mental and physical health and wellbeing and not where I was looking for it in fitness, achievements, respect and recognition. It was this realisation that led me to a living diet and as my wife and I were making kombucha at home, this revealed itself as the perfect entry opportunity.


When did you discover kombucha?

I had been exploring all kinds of other more natural and harmonious product opportunities within the diet and nutrition space beginning around 2011 but my journey into mental health and my wife’s journey towards becoming a nutritionist came together over the discovery of kombucha around 2014.


What is your favourite food?

It constantly changes but our No.1 Living kombucha is always right up there and I drink it every day. I also love fresh vegetables, fruit and salad and even more so since we have begun growing our own at home. Picking it and eating it straight from the source is a fabulous experience.If you could give one piece of advice about food, what would it be?

My view is that our bodies are essentially made up of the food we have consumed. We don’t just fuel the body; we constantly build and rebuild it too. Our vehicle for experiencing life is determined by our food choices and the quality of our digestion too. Therefore, what we eat and how we eat matters more than we can imagine. The body comes from the soil so eating closer to the planet, eating respectfully and eating joyfully all make a difference to the way life happens for us mentally, physically, emotionally, and in every other way possible.


These are all sentiments that we at Balance Box can agree with and it is why it is so important to us to carefully source and prepare the ingredients that go in your meal plans.


Find out more about Jonny’s story as the founder of No.1 Living.

No.1 Living are offering Balance Box customers 20% off your first order with the code BALANCE20. Valid until 31 August.


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