How the bacteria business could change medicine forever

I was writing about the human microbiome way before it was trendy—you might recall that I have a whole book on the subject, titled Boost Your Health with Bacteria.

Yes, it was ahead of its time. And in the years since that book was published, a whole lot has happened in this field. Most notably, researchers have discovered that gut bacteria plays a key role in a whole host of conditions. Autism, cancer, Alzheimer’s… the list is practically endless.

In fact, we’ve learned so much more about gut bacteria and its connections to health that an entire industry has been built around it in recent years. And it could change the way we approach disease management forever.

Believe it or not, there are a number of companies right now that are offering testing kits you can use at home, which will offer you an overview of your specific microbiome. And I have to say, the idea itself is brilliant.

The trouble, however, is that the information they provide just isn’t all that meaningful. At least, not yet…

There’s one company, for example, that looks for common bacterial targets like Salmonella enterica and Clostridium difficile. We’ve known about these bad bugs for years, and we know exactly how to address them—so, although boring, this type of test is at least actionable.

Is it going to give you all the cutting-edge information you want, though? No. Though other companies are starting down this path.

For example, there’s also a subscription-based service that allows you to send out fecal samples and get a full summary of your bacterial population. This enables you to both track key changes over time and compare your results to averages. (Or at least, averages based on what limited amount data we have available.)

It may sound bizarre (and a bit gross) on the surface—but once the technology really takes off, this type of service could be a real game-changer for a lot of patients. And I can see why people would turn to it for answers.

The American medical establishment has little to nothing to offer someone with chronic gut issues—let alone more systemic issues with likely origins in the gut. And it’s a travesty, really.

I work to heal every patient’s gut either before or during treatment for just about any condition. Every part of your health is so closely related to your gut that it would be foolish to try to accomplish one goal without addressing the other.

Of course, ask the naysayers, and they’ll tell you that it’s still premature to make recommendations regarding gut health. And while I agree with that to some extent—obviously, there’s still a lot left to learn—I have achieved incredible results even doing the most “primitive” work with patients. (Like prescribing simple dietary changes, or probiotic supplements.)

It’s enough to make a believer out of me—with or without clear “evidence.”  Because to me, the only thing that matters is whether my patient feels better.

As much as I would like to know why an approach works the way it does, we obviously aren’t quite there yet, at least where this particular topic is concerned. And you know what? I don’t need to know why in order to get results.

In almost 25 years of clinical practice, I have seen the power of dietary interventions and probiotics for many illnesses. All with minimal adverse effects. And last I checked, that was still medicine’s prime directive—first do no harm.

In short, I’ll be keeping an eye on microbiome profiling—and reporting on any new developments in this field the second I hear about them.

Because if it means that we may reach a point in the near future where Big Pharma no longer has a monopoly on disease management, I’m all in.



Watson, John. (2017 June 26). “Microbiome profiling: big business but what about the data?” Medscape. Retrieved from: