What is the role of the gut microbiome in personalized medicine?
By Melody Khorrami, PharmD, RPh
Our understanding of best practices for health and wellness is constantly evolving due to emerging research. As science continues to advance concerning chronic health management, it has become clear that a more bio-individual approach to health management is needed and wanted by most people.
Personalized medicine has received considerable attention in the last couple of years. Personalized medicine is rooted in the belief that every person is unique in their physical, mental, emotional, behavioral, and environmental exposures. Consequently, this approach asserts a need to consider bio-individualization when constructing health plans. Emerging technologies such as DNA sequencing, imaging, and wireless health monitoring devices have suggested that some individual variations may contribute to diseases.
Some examples of personalized medicine include identifying certain genetic variants through labs and functional biomarkers, which can help providers create patient-specific health plans for diet, lifestyle, exercise, stress management, and therapy decisions. Personalized approaches can offer innovative solutions by using the emerging science related to genomics, epigenetics, pharmacogenomics, life and behavioral sciences, diagnostics, clinical medicine, and gut health research. Since the emergence of microbiome research, it has become a significant area of interest in connection to human health. The microbiome is a complex assembly of microorganisms internally and on the surface of our bodies that have their own collective functions. The imbalance of bacteria, also known as dysbiosis, has been linked to irritable bowel disease, metabolic disease (diabetes and obesity), and others.
The presence of certain bacterial strains in a person's microbiome or a lack of diversity may suggest a link to the development of certain health conditions. Their presence could also signal the impact of certain therapies when treating health conditions. The microbiome of a healthy individual tends to be more diverse in microorganisms. The gut microbiome is impacted by various factors, including the host genetics, diet, lifestyle, stress, immune system, use of probiotics, and use of unnecessary antibiotics.
Medical advances have shown the importance of personalized nutrition and understanding that there is no one-size-fits-all diet. Each person's unique response to certain foods and nutrients and the specific features of the individual microbiome can make a difference. Working with a nutritionist or registered dietician can help create a sustainable diet plan that works for you and your lifestyle. Diet significantly contributes to the microbiome's diversity as it is the primary food source for microbes. As research continues, we will better understand the diet-microbiota interactions and its connection to personalized nutrition.
The Human Microbiome Project was launched in 2007 by the National Institutes of Health with a mission to provide resources and expertise for studying the microbiome and its relationship to different health conditions. This project established guidance for studying and understanding microorganisms' role in human health, diseases, nutrition, and immunity.
Research supports the importance of incorporating the microbiome as a key part of personalized medicine, impacting the risk of disease and treatment options. The impact of the microbiome on metabolism could play a role in the development of personalized drug therapies. It will be exciting to see the evolution of this space in personalized medicine!
Please note: This article is for informational purposes only. Please consult your doctor before making any changes to your diet or health plan.