5 Gut Health Trend Predictions
from Dietitian Jo Travers for Love Your Gut Week 2023
Jo Travers, Dietitian for Love Your Gut looks into the future to share her top 5 gut health trend predictions.
From personalised nutrition being used to improve gut health, to faecal transplants playing a role in treating diseases, and a greater understanding of the role of postbiotics – learn all about the digestive health trends to watch out for in the years to come.
A focus on fibre as a beneficial part of the diet
The fibre that we eat keeps the bacteria in our gut alive. Different fibres from a range of food support a range of bacteria, and the more diverse our gut, the healthier it seems to be[i]. Despite the guidelines to consume 30g of fibre per day, most adults in the UK only manage around 15g [ii]. And almost 60% of energy eaten in the UK comes from ultra-processed foods[iii], making it important to improve nutrition within the population.
Getting people to eat more fibre is proving to be a challenge however. One suggested reason for this is that people are reluctant to switch away from refined grain foods like white bread, white rice and white pasta because they like its taste[iv].
Because of this, there has previously been a trend in food manufacturing to remove the fibre from foods, but now – with a greater awareness of the need for fibre for health, this is starting to change – with many cereals already reformulating to contain wholegrains. I believe we will see even more of this as time goes on.
Personalised nutrition to target gut health
Everyone’s dietary pattern impacts their gut health, so we will eventually shift from generic dietary advice to a personalised approach, or precision nutrition. As each person’s microbiome is unique, this is likely to be more effective for maintaining health and potentially for the treatment of disease[v].
Because every person digests and metabolises foods so differently, testing an individual’s DNA and microbiomes could give us more insight into individual responses to food and how this can be used to improve health, instead of just knowing how much of a particular nutrient is in food [vi].
We also have an idea about which bacteria are involved in the different parts of digestion and different cell processes, so encouraging these useful bacteria, by eating the right food to support them, could improve health.
For example, certain prebiotic foods feed the bacteria involved in reducing inflammation by making short-chain fatty acids, which are molecules that help reduce the production of inflammatory compounds made by cells. Examples of these include foods that contain inulin such as bananas, garlic and onions[vii].
Using faecal transplants to treat diseases
Intestinal microbial transplants, otherwise known as faecal transplants (FT), involve taking faeces from a healthy gut and transplanting it to another person, in order to treat numerous conditions. So far, this has been shown to be successful in the treatment of IBS[viii] but scientists are now looking to use it to treat other conditions linked to the gut.
For example, allergies are linked to the gut microbiome because of the relationship between intestinal bacteria and the immune system. A recent trial of a faecal transplant from a healthy individual to someone with a severe peanut allergy enabled the adult to consume a significant number of peanuts[ix].
FT is also being researched as a way to improve immunotherapeutic cancer treatment[x] and improve symptoms in Parkinson’s disease[xi]. In the future we can expect to see many more diseases being treated in this way. In fact, there are already clinical trials underway to see if FT can improve conditions such as obesity and type 2 diabetes.
Biomarkers in gut bacteria will be used to predict, diagnose and potentially treat diseases
Every human has a unique microbiome[xii] which is sensitive to their environment, the food they eat and the health of their body. Changes in the gut microbiome have also been observed in diseases such as cardiovascular disease, inflammatory bowel disease and cancer.
We have 10 times the number of microbial cells in the gut, compared to human cells. This provides huge potential for using the makeup of the microbiome to diagnose diseases.
However, the changes seen in the microbiome due to disease may also be possible causes of these conditions – meaning there is a potential for prevention of disease by targeting the microbiome and keeping it healthy. This is currently being researched in the prevention of some cancers, and in treating the microbiome alongside chemotherapy to improve cancer outcomes[xiii]. Although this is in its early stages, microbial biomarkers have already been shown to predict type 1 diabetes risk in babies as young as 12 months – years before the condition’s usual onset[xiv].
Although this method of diagnosis and treatment is in the early stages, I believe we will discover more conditions and diseases showing up in the microbiome as research continues over the years to come.
A greater understanding of the role of postbiotics
Postbiotics are different from probiotics and prebiotics. The term probiotic refers to the micro-organism itself; a prebiotic is the food the micro-organism (or probiotic) eats and postbiotic refers to the substances (such as vitamins, fatty acids or enzymes) which are produced by the micro-organism (or probiotic) – either while alive or once the microbial cell has been broken down.
Postbiotics are important because the by-products they produce, could be more beneficial to us than the bacteria themselves.
Postbiotics are involved in numerous processes involved with gut health, such as the strengthening of the gut wall[xv] and killing harmful bacteria[xvi]. Probiotics are one of the hottest topics in nutrition and gut health today so we will definitely see a greater understanding and application of them – and postbiotics – soon.
[i] Lozupone, C., Stombaugh, J., Gordon, J. et al. Diversity, stability and resilience of the human gut microbiota. Nature 489, 220–230 (2012). https://doi.org/10.1038/nature11550
[ii] Gressier, M., Frost, G. Minor changes in fibre intake in the UK population between 2008/2009 and 2016/2017. Eur J Clin Nutr 76, 322–327 (2022). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41430-021-00933-2
[iii] Rauber F, Louzada MLDC, Martinez Steele E, et al
Ultra-processed foods and excessive free sugar intake in the UK: a nationally representative cross-sectional study BMJ Open 2019;9:e027546. doi: 10.1136/bmjopen-2018-027546
[iv] Li M, Ho KKHY, Hayes M, Ferruzzi MG. The roles of food processing in translation of dietary guidance for whole grains, fruits, and vegetables. Annu Rev Food Sci Technol. 2019;10:569–96.
[v] Mitchelson KAJ, Ní Chathail MB, Roche HM. Systems biology approaches to inform precision nutrition. Proc Nutr Soc. 2023 May;82(2):208-218. doi: 10.1017/S0029665123002732. Epub 2023 Apr 3. PMID: 37264892.
[vii] Akhtar M, Chen Y, Ma Z, Zhang X, Shi D, Khan JA, Liu H. Gut microbiota-derived short chain fatty acids are potential mediators in gut inflammation. Anim Nutr. 2021 Dec 29;8:350-360. doi: 10.1016/j.aninu.2021.11.005. PMID: 35510031; PMCID: PMC9040132.
[viii] Slomski A. Durable IBS Response From Fecal Microbiota Transplant. JAMA. 2022;328(4):322. doi:10.1001/jama.2022.12179
[ix] Abdel-Gadir A, et al. Nat Med. 2019;doi:10.1038/s41591-019-0461-z. Good early results with fecal microbiota therapy for peanut-allergic patients. https://www.eurekalert.org/news-releases/944014. Published Feb. 26, 2022. Accessed Feb. 26, 2022.
[x] Front. Immunol., 16 May 2023
Sec. Cancer Immunity and Immunotherapy
Volume 14 – 2023 | https://doi.org/10.3389/fimmu.2023.1114499
Benefiting from Microbes: Challenges in Getting the ‘Pros’ and Avoiding the ‘Cons’
[xi] Vuuren, M.J.v.; Nell, T.A.; Carr, J.A.; Kell, D.B.; Pretorius, E. Iron Dysregulation and Inflammagens Related to Oral and Gut Health Are Central to the Development of Parkinson’s Disease. Biomolecules2021,11,30. https:// doi.org/10.3390/biom11010030
[xii] Hajjo R, Sabbah DA, Al Bawab AQ. Unlocking the Potential of the Human Microbiome for Identifying Disease Diagnostic Biomarkers. Diagnostics (Basel). 2022 Jul 19;12(7):1742. doi: 10.3390/diagnostics12071742. PMID: 35885645; PMCID: PMC9315466.
[xiii] Wong CC, Yu J. Gut microbiota in colorectal cancer development and therapy. Nat Rev Clin Oncol. 2023 May 11. doi: 10.1038/s41571-023-00766-x. Epub ahead of print. PMID: 37169888.
[xiv] Bélteky, M., Milletich, P.L., Ahrens, A.P. et al. Infant gut microbiome composition correlated with type 1 diabetes acquisition in the general population: the ABIS study. Diabetologia 66, 1116–1128 (2023). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00125-023-05895-7
[xv] Sun M, Wu W, Liu Z, Cong Y. Microbiota metabolite short chain fatty acids, GPCR, and inflammatory bowel diseases. J Gastroenterol. 2017 Jan;52(1):1-8. doi: 10.1007/s00535-016-1242-9. Epub 2016 Jul 23. PMID: 27448578; PMCID: PMC5215992.
[xvi] Cotter, P., Hill, C. & Ross, R. Bacteriocins: developing innate immunity for food. Nat Rev Microbiol 3, 777–788 (2005). https://doi.org/10.1038/nrmicro1273