Consumers are storing samples of their personal bacterial ecosystems for future treatment.
Every human body is home to a unique mixture of bacteria that help maintain health, a fact that has received increasing media coverage in the past year. Recent books like The Microbiome Diet claim that cultivating the right mixture of gut bacteria can promote weight loss, while Missing Microbes contends that “the overuse of antibiotics is fueling our modern plagues.”
It’s true that antibiotics can disrupt people’s personal microbial ecosystems, and even lead to serious illness in some cases. “If you take antibiotics, take probiotics,” the comedian Tig Notaro advised in a popular comedy set about her experiences battling cancer and the microbial infection C. diff.
C. diff, short for Clostridium difficile, causes severe gastrointestinal problems and often resists conventional medicines. However, it responds well to “fecal transplantation,” a procedure that involves inserting “healthy” feces into the digestive tract of an afflicted person, on the theory that normal bacteria will crowd out harmful strains. In addition to C. diff, fecal transplantation is currently being studied as a potential treatment for Crohn’s disease, colitis, irritable bowel syndrome, and even autism.
“Should We Bank Our Own Stool?” wondered a New York Times article in October 2015, offering some compelling arguments in favor of the procedure. OpenBiome offers personalized “microbial restoration services” that include screening, profiling, processing, encapsulation and cryopreservation.
“In talking to just friends and people I know, I’ve never gotten anyone who was like, ‘Oh God, that’s disgusting,’” OpenBiome founder Carolyn Edelstein told Inverse. “People are usually pretty intrigued.”
When it comes to health, it seems, consumers are increasingly looking for natural solutions rather than techno-fixes, and disregarding cultural taboos as they search for the best fit.
For more 2016 trends, download our latest trend report, The Future 100.