Is it possible to not take note of a unique ecosystem consisting of billions or trillions of microscopic flora seriously – especially when there’s a growing body of research suggesting that those micro-flora may be key players in how our bodies process food, nutrients and dietary supplements? There’s no denying that the human body is a complex thing. In fact, it’s so complex that it seems for every scientific breakthrough made or question answered – a new, previously unrecognized (but no less engaging) question is raised. Mirroring and fueled (at least in part) by the increased interest in probiotics, researchers exploring the intricacies of gut/digestive health have admitted – time and again – that there’s still so much that we don’t yet understand or know when it comes to how our gut functions and how may influence other aspects of our health. Among all the different components of gut health being thrown in the to spotlight as of late, the microbiomes and the human microbiome seem to have earned a center stage spot.
Definition Time: What is a microbiome, exactly?
Before we dive into the growing relationship between microbiomes/microbiome research, probiotics, and the supplement industry – let’s take a moment to make sure that we’re all on the same page when it comes to understanding what a microbiome actually is. Generally, the term microbiome refers to an ecosystem of microorganisms existing in a unique environment. More often than not, the “unique environment” being referred to happens to be the human body. In recent years and months, both scientific and consumer interest in microbiomes and the human microbiome have skyrocketed. But why make a claim when you can demonstrate it, right? Take a gander at how the interest of computer users in the US has changed over the last decade (courtesy of Google Trends):
Since 2011, user generated interest in the term “microbiome” has increased nearly ten fold! Now that we’ve layed out conversatoinal ground work, let’s take a closer look at how microbiomes and probiotics are affecting the dietary supplement industry.
Microbiomes, Probiotics & Dietary Supplements: What You Need to Know
Currently, there are dozens of different conversations in place – each one dealing with a different way in which the gut microbiome may influence our health and how our body works with nutrients and supplements. Of those conversations, here are three that we feel the nutraceutical industry should (as of this current moment) be paying particular attention to:
Links Between Gut Microbiome, Metabolic Issues & Obesity
More specifically, there’s been a good deal of research suggesting that our gut microbiome may play a key role and the onset, course, and treatment of metabolic diseases and obesity issues.1 While there’s still plenty more research that needs to be done – the long-term implications of firmly established links between the gut microbiome and metabolic health/obesity could be tremendous (especially for anyone working within the world of weight-loss supplements and nutrition).
Links Between Gut Microbiome and Probiotics
One of the more interesting topics within the gut microbiome/probitics relationship has been the suggestion that probiotics may be able to help those with a poor or compromised microbiome.2 In the not-too-distant future it may be possible to do a number of different things, including:
- Link specific microbiome profiles/deficiencies with specific symptoms and conditions.
- Mitigate the severity or frequency of these microbiome-induced symptoms or conditions by paring them with a unique and complementary probiotic strain.
If break-throughs like these were to become a reality over the course of the next 5-10 years (realities that are definitely within the current realm of possibility), they would have the potential to fundamentally alter the way that we use, manufacturer, and consume probiotic supplements.
Links Between Gut Microbiome and Cognitive Health
Are you familiar with the “gut-brain axis”? How about the “gut-brain connection” or the “gut-brain link”? Acknowledging that all three terms are different ways of saying the same things, the link between the gut and the brain has been recognized by scientists for decades. In recent years, researchers have found evidence that changes to the microbiome may have a major impact on the biochemical neural highway linking our brain and our gut. In particular, there’s a growing body of evidence suggesting a link between emotional and mental health issues (like depression and anxiety) and a healthy gut microbiome profile.3-4
Why should the nutraceutical industry pay attention to the gut microbiome and microbiome research?
It’s impossible to know what tomorrow may bring – but in this industry, tomorrow’s success is always linked to what happens today. As researchers continue to research the links between the gut microbiome and human health, there’s no denying the the potential long-term implications for the dietary supplement industry are massive.