Research surrounding the gut microbiome and its impact on the body’s systems has taken off in recent years. And all this time, we've been stealthily collecting the evidence and preparing it for InsideTracker's algorithms, waiting for the day that the evidence base got strong enough to meet the high scientific requirement for the InsideTracker system. Finally, the day is here! Gut health research now meets InsideTracker's rigorous scientific criteria, and we can now give action-backed recommendations proven to improve the multifaceted gut microbiome. To this end, InsideTracker is proud to announce the addition of our newest goal to all users: The Gut Health Goal.
Our scientists have analyzed the literature to identify the blood biomarkers and physiomarkers most indicative of a healthy gut microbiome. Six biomarkers currently describe a healthy gut: hsCRP, cortisol, HDL cholesterol, triglycerides, glucose, and HbA1c. What’s more, if you have an activity tracker connected to your InsideTracker account, your sleep and exercise data can also contribute towards the Gut Health Goal.
You can now select “Gut Health” as your InsideTracker goal to receive ultra-personalized recommendations that focus on maintaining and improving your gut microbiome and associated biomarkers.
What is the gut microbiome?The gut microbiome refers to the community of organisms living in our gastrointestinal (GI) tract, housed in the large intestine, specifically the colon. There are 400-500 different bacteria species that live there, and they play significant roles in our overall health, including digestion, improving nutrient absorption and vitamin production, balancing hormones, your body’s inflammatory response, and modulating the immune system.  A “good” gut microbiome is one that has rich diversity of beneficial gut bacteria. Balancing and enriching the microorganisms that live within the digestive system is critical for physical performance, mental health, immunity, and more.
Who can benefit from optimized gut health?First, people invested in their own general health and wellness and are looking for ways to feel better and more vibrant on a day-to-day basis should spend time focusing and improving on gut health. Things like poor sleep, increased cortisol (the stress hormone), and a weakened immune system are all associated with poor gut health and can lead to feelings of lethargy, mood instability, and the like. Optimized gut health, on the other hand, has been associated with improved mental function and mood (including an increased production of "the happiness hormone" serotonin), and improved sleep and stress.
People looking to advance their own longevity and extend their healthspan should also be honed-in on the health of their microbiome. A rich and diverse microbiome has been frequently associated with reduced inflammation, stable blood glucose levels, improved cognition, and more, all of which are important for maintaining a strong body and mind into old age.
Interestingly, gut health has also proven to be important in those looking to optimize athletic and physical performance. The gut microbiome can contribute to athletic performance by improving energy metabolism (the use of both oxygen and nutrients) during exercise and by controlling inflammation and expediting tissue repair during recovery.
How do biomarkers relate to the microbiome?Multiple studies have found that many biomarkers are indicative of a diverse gut microbiome. One such study investigated the impact of microbiome diversity and richness in both lean and healthy adults and those with elevated fasting blood sugar during caloric restriction. Researchers found that subjects with a highly diverse microbiome, particularly with abundant A. muciniphila (a beneficial, mucous degrading bacteria), exhibited improvements in fasting plasma glucose and triglyceride levels. Lower levels of hsCRP (a marker of inflammation) are also associated with an increased diversity of gut bacteria. Similarly, lower levels of cortisol (the “stress hormone”) are associated with a higher concentration of beneficial gut bacteria.
Of note, the InsideTracker gut health goal does not include a fecal sample microbiome test. Currently, such tests only reflect your gut microbiome at a single time point and can be influenced by a host of factors like foods eaten that day, stress, sleep, and more.
InsideTracker recommendations you may see via the new Gut Health GoalSo, we know that certain blood biomarkers are associated with a healthy microbiome. We also know that there are multiple habits and actions people can follow to both improve gut health as well as the biomarkers associated with it. As such, InsideTracker users can now get recommendations for foods, supplements, exercise, and sleep that play a role in the microorganisms that live and thrive in your gut. Here is some of the science that provides the basis for some of our Gut Health Goal recommendations—ones that can independently improve both gut health and the biomarkers associated with it.
Incorporate prebiotic foods to feed your beneficial gut bacteria
Due to the impact of prebiotic foods on gut health and diversity, InsideTracker users who select the Gut Health Goal can anticipate personalized dietary recommendations for prebiotic foods to improve gut health. Prebiotics are foods that feed the microorganisms in your gut, and are often fiber-rich, as fiber can reach the colon undigested.  As your microorganisms break down fiber, they produce critical byproducts such as short-chain fatty acids (SCFA) that not only energize the cells of the colon, but also strengthen the integrity of your gut lining.
It is essential to eat various fiber-rich foods, containing both soluble and insoluble fiber, to diversify the types of good bacteria found in your microbiome. Fibrous foods include whole grains such as oats, beans, legumes, fruits and vegetables, nuts, and seeds. If you want to up your fiber intake, it's best to drink plenty of water and slowly increase your intake to help you acclimate to increased fiber levels, helping to reduce the gas. InsideTracker can recommend specific prebiotic foods and the frequency at which you should eat them to best support your gut.
Add probiotics (live microorganisms) to support your gut and multiple biomarkers
InsideTracker users who select the Gut Health Goal may get recommendations for probiotic supplements (dosage and frequency) or foods to improve gut health and associated biomarkers like hsCRP, cholesterol, and glucose. Probiotic foods and supplements contain live microorganisms that benefit the host (your gut!). When introduced to the gut, these microorganisms convert nutrients into metabolites that can be used to regulate many processes within the body.  Through modulating the gut, probiotics can elicit beneficial effects on biomarkers associated with a healthy gut: hsCRP, HDL cholesterol, triglycerides, glucose, and HbA1c.    
Probiotic foods are fermented foods like yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, kimchi, kombucha, some pickles, and tempeh. To take a deeper dive into probiotic foods, supplements, and specific strains to look for, check out this blog. InsideTracker can recommend specific probiotic foods and strains that are best suited to support gut health.
Eat fruits with dietary polyphenols to decrease inflammatory markers like hsCRP
Multiple studies of specific foods, nutrients, and supplements have explored the potential for each to improve both inflammation markers and gut integrity. InsideTracker users who select the Gut Health Goal can get personalized recommendations based on all of these relationships.
Much like probiotics, dietary polyphenols can also improve inflammatory markers like hsCRP. Dietary polyphenols are phytochemicals found in plant foods. They can reduce inflammation and oxidative stress by preventing the growth of harmful bacteria's growth while supporting the growth of good strains, resulting in beneficial byproducts that nourish the gut's lining. Foods that are particularly rich in polyphenols include berries, cherries, and pomegranate seeds.   Additionally, herbs and spices and coffee and tea also contain polyphenols associated with promoting healthy gut bacteria. There are a multitude of InsideTracker recommendations regarding polyphenol-rich foods and supplements that support gut health.
Stress can negatively affect your gut microbiome. Monitoring cortisol can help.
Due to their relation to gut health, sleep and stress-related recommendations are common in the InsideTracker Gut Health Goal. Stress can impact many critical functions within the body, so it’s no surprise that stress can be detrimental to the gut microbiome. For example, eating in a stressed state can impact your body’s ability to digest food optimally. During periods of stress, you release the hormone cortisol, which signals the diversion of energy away from digestion and other processes that would be non-essential in a fight-or-flight situation to favor those that could be potentially life-saving. As a result, energy allocated towards digestion takes a back seat, leaving food undigested in your stomach.
If you’re feeling stressed before a meal, try taking a deep breath before you eat. A deep breath can activate your parasympathetic nervous system and bring your body out of “fight or flight” mode and into a relaxed state before eating. 
Focus on getting adequate, quality sleep
Adequate sleep is also very important for a healthy gut microbiome. The microbiome has a circadian rhythm of its own; gut microbes oscillate in abundance and activity during the day and night. Sleep deprivation is associated with unfavorable changes in gut microbiome composition. Getting 7-8 hours of sleep per night is associated with an optimized gut.  InsideTracker physiomarkers can now track your sleep habits and provide personalized recommendations to improve sleep, related biomarkers, and gut health.
- InsideTracker is proud to announce the addition of our newest goal: The Gut Health Goal.
- Six biomarkers currently describe a healthy gut: hsCRP, cortisol, HDL cholesterol, triglycerides, glucose, and HbA1c.
- A “good” gut microbiome is one that has rich diversity of beneficial gut bacteria. Balancing and enriching the microorganisms that live within the digestive system is critical for physical performance, mental health, immunity, and more.
- People looking to improve their health and wellness, those aiming to advance their own longevity and extend their healthspan, and athletes alike can benefit from an optimized gut microbiome.
- InsideTracker may recommend prebiotic foods, probiotic foods and supplements, specific polyphenol-containing foods or supplements, as well as sleep and stress-related actions to take to improve gut health.
Michelle Darian, MS, MPH, RDMichelle is a Nutrition Specialist at InsideTracker. As a Registered Dietitian, you’ll find Michelle analyzing the research behind recent nutrition trends, bringing actionable food and supplement recommendations to the platform. When she's not myth-busting, Michelle can be found exploring new restaurants and getting creative in her kitchen.