Food supplements: a better way to utilise the body’s microbiome? Stuart J. Ashman, CEO, and Dr Catherine O’Neill, CSO, SkinBioTherapeutics, investigate
The last few decades have seen both a rise in microbiome research and a remarkable expansion of our understanding of how our gut health affects the whole body. The gut-brain and gut-skin axes are now well-known concepts and we are aware that gut dysbiosis — and more generally, the gut microbiome — have strong links to a range of conditions, such as autoimmune diseases, cancer or even COVID-19.
Our microbiome is made up of tens of trillions of micro-organisms; and, with the increased awareness of their importance, leveraging them, especially bacteria, could be a promising way to address diseases. Probiotics have already proven to be beneficial, but we should think about more targeted approaches.
Current food supplements generally contain a large and diverse blend of bacteria to support our gut microbiota and improve our health in general; but, by building on medical knowledge and gaining an understanding of how the microbiome varies from person to person, we could develop more focused products for specific conditions and even specific individuals or patient groups.
This approach could address a wide range of ailments, even including autoimmune conditions. Almost 4% of the global population is affected by immune-mediated diseases; that is, conditions characterised by an abnormal immune response.
These are often systemic, impacting the entire body, and mostly chronic, such as type 1 diabetes, multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus or psoriasis.
For most of these, there is no cure, with only symptoms being addressed and, in most cases, a more comprehensive approach is required.
As an example, although psoriasis manifests primarily as a skin ailment, it is accompanied by high levels of the circulating inflammatory agent interleukin-17 (IL-17). This chronic inflammation is thought to be responsible for most of the accompanying symptoms and for the possible exacerbation of the condition.
With the understanding of the role that the microbiome might play in our overall health, a logical approach in this case would be to lower levels of IL-17, which could be achieved through the gut. Current “treatments” include steroid-containing topical creams, which can’t be used long-term because of side-effects, as well as systemic medications, which are mostly administered as injections — a nuisance for some, and something that could deter others.
Targeted food supplements, ideally backed by scientific research, such as AxisBiotix-Ps, could be a way forward. These can easily be integrated into a daily routine and, without the need for prescriptions, they would be more accessible to wider populations.
Further benefits could include the use of natural ingredients (bacteria), which wouldn’t limit usage for longer periods and could also overcome some of the difficulties associated with injections or the topical application of creams.
Although there is still more to discover about what interactions the microbiome drives within our bodies, the recognition of this function has been one of the most important research areas in recent years. It would be unwise not to build on the extensive knowledge we have gathered so far … and how we all can benefit from such insights.