Updated: Mar 9
Gut health is a hot topic right now, and for good reason, because it truly is so important for your overall health and wellbeing.
But whenever a health topic is trending, along with it comes many opportunities for clever marketing and new products created to monetise from the trend. We saw this with fat-free products in the 80's and 90's, and then sugar-free products followed not long after. The problem with both of these preceding health trends were the massive influx of food items that were marketed as 'sugar-free' or 'fat-free', but neither were necessarily healthier because of the added artificial ingredients to make the food taste appealing without fat or sugar. Essentially both trends lead to more processed food options which are no better for your health than high sugar or high fat options.
Now, supermarkets and healthstores are full of products that claim to be good for your gut health, along with thousands of gut health supplements and advertisements for cleanses/detoxes that claim to heal your gut and reduce chronic symptoms like bloating, constipation and gas.
But do these things actually help, or just another clever marketing tactic?
Here’s the truth:
When it comes to food that is actually beneficial for your gut health, there is no need to reinvent the wheel. Poor gut health has become more prevalent because of industrialisation of food (along with non-food related factors like changes in lifestyle, increased stress and overuse of antibiotics). It doesn’t make sense that we now need to buy food products “designed” for gut health when the foods that are best for gut health have existed way before food was industrialised. When we look at the research and what foods really are the best for a healthy gut, it’s simple; plant foods and fermented foods. Fermented foods have been around since 6000 B.C. and prebiotic fibers have always existed from fruits and vegetables.
Supplements are another issue, because they are not regulated in most countries so it is very common to see supplements make claims that are simply not true. Moreover, supplements can be helpful, but are very unlikely to fix chronic gut issues alone. If only it was that easy!
Similarly, cleanses and detoxes marketed for improving gut health might help someone to feel better in the short-term because they eliminate a lot of common dietary triggers, but you’re not going to stay on a cleanse forever, and when it ends symptoms usually return very quickly.
If you suffer from chronic digestive issues, there is no one-size-fits-all approach. Sometimes food isn’t even the issue. There’s so many different triggers and underlying causes for chronic digestive symptoms and we need to be approaching this on an individual basis. Underlying causes like altered gut motility, stress, digestive and microbiome imbalances or even hypothyroidism are common underlying causes that need to be addressed to truly return your gut function and eliminate symptoms.
The bottom line - gut health is a complex topic that is currently a big health trend, and unfortunately this means an easy opportunity to make money off those desperately looking for answers and relief from their symptoms. Whenever you see any product marketed towards a health trend, question the validity and if it seems too good to be true, it probably is.
Don’t get sucked into the next clever marketing tactic that claims to fix your problems, and avoid developing a ‘supplement graveyard’ in your pantry. This only leads to more frustration and wasted money.