Ask-the-expert: Why it’s time to take a different approach to gut health innovation

By:  Talking Nutrition Editors



  • Gut health remains a hot topic in the human health and nutrition industry. However, it takes a curious mind and a science-based approach to push boundaries in such an established space and create real transformation.
  • dsm-firmenich is re-imagining the innovation approach to gut health and beyond; combining unmatched scientific capabilities, multi-ingredient solutions and deep consumer insights to unlock the holistic health potential of the gut microbiome.
  • Read on for expert insights into dsm-firmenich’s unique Health from the Gut strategy from PD Dr. Robert E. Steinert, HNC Principal Scientist, and Dr. Mehdi Sadaghian, EMEA Principal Scientist.


The gut is a complex, highly interdependent ecosystem comprised of trillions of microorganisms – and unique to each and every individual, like a fingerprint. Yet the majority of the human health and nutrition industry continues to view gut health innovation through the lens of “good” and “bad” bacteria alone.

dsm-firmenich takes a more holistic approach - we understand the intricacies of the gut and its interconnected components, and more importantly, how to maintain harmony within the gut network to unlock the wider health benefits it’s capable of. In this Ask-the-Expert blog, we explore the key pillars of the gut ecosystem and how our Health from the Gut platform is set to transform the gut health market.

Understanding the key pillars of the gut ecosystem

When the gut functions in perfect harmony, it does so much more than support digestion – actively contributing to immunity, brain health, women’s wellness, metabolic function and more. But when different functions become unbalanced, the gut microbiome is disrupted – known as dysbiosis. As well as impacting digestive health, dysbiosis can give rise to inflammation, compromised immune function, mood disorders and higher risk of chronic diseases.  

Figure 1

Restoring equilibrium under these conditions can be difficult to achieve via a single biotic solution – especially as the gut’s composition changes throughout the lifespan (Figure 1). To help the gut work in symphony and enable holistic health to flourish, it is crucial to understand the fundamental pillars of the gut ecosystem first and how they work together in careful balance:

1. Healthy gut environment – A healthy and well-nourished gut environment is essential for the microbiome to thrive. To foster resilience and enable the microbiome to function at its full potential, the provision of the right nutrients and growth conditions is needed. Notably, pre- pro- and postbiotics also play a critical role in shaping and sustaining a healthy gut microbiome and supporting human health.

2. Keystone species – Certain microorganisms in the gut have evolved to function as a connecting network between bacterial species. The disappearance of these specific microbes, even if they are not present in abundant numbers, can lead to the collapse of the entire gut ecosystem; potentially resulting in health issues. An example of a keystone species in nature is the ochre starfish. It regulates populations of mussels and barnacles to enable healthy populations of seaweed (and the communities dependent on them) to thrive – just like the keystone species in the gut support the balance and function of the microbiome.

3. Gut barrier integrity – A resilient gut barrier serves as a shield to safeguard beneficial bacteria from factors like oxidative stress and immune responses. If compromised, this can disrupt the homeostasis of the gut ecosystem and lead to the elimination of beneficial bacteria and onset of uncontrolled inflammation, the hallmark of disease.

4. Microbiome-independent factors – Just like how the moon shapes ecosystems on earth by influencing the tides, plant growth and animal behavior, so too do a range of microbiome-independent factors impact our wider health and wellbeing. For example, microbiome-independent mechanisms can play a role in receptor signaling along the gut-immune axis. For this reason, it’s important to understand and consider microbiome-independent factors to support holistic wellness.


How is dsm-firmenich helping brands harness the gut microbiome’s true potential?

Our Health from the Gut platform is powered by combinations of proven, gut-supporting ingredients, custom solutions and expert services to unlock the holistic health benefits that come from a balanced gut ecosystem.

PD Dr. Robert E. Steinert, Principal Scientist at dsm-firmenich explains: “Our Health from the Gut solutions include ingredients that directly target and support the interdependent pillars of the gut network – such as biotics, vitamins, natural plant extracts and digestive enzymes - helping the ecosystem to function in harmony. We offer multi-ingredient solutions already in innovative formats, facilitating the fast and successful launch of personalized gut-supporting products to help dietary supplement brands stay one step ahead by supporting benefits including immunity, mental well-being and metabolic health via the microbiome.”


Elevating innovation to target unique health needs

To further unlock the health potential of the gut microbiome - even in individuals with certain health conditions - dsm-firmenich continues to spearhead research in the space, remaining at the forefront of new developments targeting the gut’s natural ecosystem in its entirety. “We’re currently exploring how we might be able to tailor ingredient combinations to address health conditions that are linked to the gut microbiome,” says Dr. Mehdi Sadaghian, EMEA Principal Scientist at dsm-firmenich.

“Our recent research includes trials exploring how to re-establish the balance of the gut ecosystem in various health conditions which can be characterized by factors such as dysbiosis – the instability of the microbial community. As part of this, we’re observing how each pillar in the ecosystem is altered in specific health conditions, enabling us to develop strategies for restoring the equilibrium. An example of how this could work is studying the evolving gut microbiome in senior adults and then using these insights to tailor solutions designed to meet their unique health needs.” 


Want to learn more? Visit our Health from the Gut hub for inspiration, insights and innovative solutions.

Published on

12 February 2024


4 min read

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