According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), there are approximately 60 to 70 million people in the U.S. affected by some type of digestive disease.1 Digestive disease refers to a broad range of gastrointestinal-related health issues, ranging from chronic constipation to gastrointestinal infections to viral hepatitis. With so many affected people and an estimated cost of $141.8 billion in the U.S., the unmet need to help diagnose and care for these patients is clear.1
While diet is thought to be one of the most important, variable determinants of an individual’s health, our overall health is also heavily influenced by the gut microbiome, a population of microorganisms living throughout an individual’s digestive system.2 Unfortunately, much about digestive diseases remains a mystery. For example, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is estimated to impact between 25 and 45 million Americans. Although its exact cause is unknown,3 diet and microbiome are recurring influences.
Understanding the underlying biology of chronic diseases, like IBS, is important in identifying the biomarkers that will help spur early disease detection and, potentially, prevention. Enter Precision Metabolomics™, an essential technology for investigating the role that diet and the microbiome play in health, health maintenance and disease – and it can be even more important in complex diseases where the drivers are numerous and diverse (e.g., genetics, environment and microbiota).
The microbiome performs essential functions that are critical to our health, including immune system development and homeostasis, manufacturing nutrients such as vitamins and hormones, metabolizing drugs and harvesting energy from the diet. Changes to the human microbiome, also known as dysbiosis, or a microbial imbalance on or inside the body have been shown to be key factors in a surprisingly wide variety of diseases such as allergies, arthritis, asthma, autism, colon cancer, C. difficile infections, diabetes, IBS, obesity and many others.
Metabolomics can help answer important questions for digestive health, including:
• What effect does a nutrient have?
• How does diet affect markers of disease?
• How much is needed for the desired effects?
• How safe are nutrients at efficacious levels?
• How do diet and the microbiome interact to influence health?
In support of Digestive Disease Week, we encourage you to explore some of Metabolon’s publications to help understand the role of metabolomics in digestive health and microbiome research. Through this research, the microbiome is becoming more understood, and our definition of what is normal, or even healthy, is constantly evolving. Metabolon’s studies are going far beyond assessments of customary metabolite measurements, such as glucose and cholesterol, to evaluate the influences of genes, diet and lifestyle, microbiome and drug treatment on health.
1. National Institute of Health. Digestive Diseases Statistics for the United States. Available at https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/health-statistics/Pages/digestive-diseases-statistics-for-the-united-states.aspx. Accessed 04-11-2017.
2. Turnbaugh PJ, Ridaura VK, Faith JJ, Rey FE, Knight R, Gordon JI. The effect of diet on the human gut microbiome: a metagenomic analysis in humanized gnotobiotic mice. Sci Transl Med. 2009;1(6):6ra14.
3. International Foundation for Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders. Facts about IBS. Available at http://www.aboutibs.org/what-is-ibs/facts-about-ibs-2.html. Accessed 04-11-2017.