Gut health may very well be the latest and greatest wellness trend. Improved scientific understanding and a new focus on holistic health have made the once-taboo subject a hot topic of conversation amongst consumers. Digestive health brands are seeing rapid growth as a result, increasing by double digits year over year in the recent past.
Gut health, which refers to the health of the microbiome in the gastrointestinal tract, is increasingly linked to physical diseases and mental health issues. No wonder gut health is gaining popularity among consumers who pursue a holistic approach to healthy living.
And, as with most things, consumers are going online to learn more. Over the past five years, the number of google searches for “gut health” has grown by 669 per cent. Searches for ’gut-brain axis’ also increased by 204 per cent over the same period. So where do these searches take consumers? The end results are often forums – particularly Reddit.
Reddit is massively underused for insights. So we’ve researched the topic of gut health on the platform to show you how it can help us understand consumer interest and awareness around different health areas. What motivates consumers to take action to improve their health, and what can stand in their way. To identify the key benefits and ingredients to feed into product innovation and marketing. Use Reddit, in other words, to gain insights into unmet customer demand and you’ll be awarded handsomely.
Many people come to Reddit for advice on how to improve their digestive health. Overall, we conclude that:
- There is strong consumer interest in this space: our month-long study saw nearly 5,000 conversations in the month of February 2022 alone.
- There is a lack of brand leadership in this space. Specific brands of food or supplements are rarely mentioned, indicating that no company has so far monopolised the wellness market or created particularly loyal consumer followings.
- There is, however, a lot of confusion around gut health so marketing strategies should start with educating consumers. Although the interest is there, understanding of gut health is relatively poor.
Let’s dive into the details:
Why Reddit users think gut health is important
It’s rare that improving gut health will be the goal in itself – interest in the topic is often sparked by some other mental or physical health issue that they’re trying to improve. There are primarily three areas of interest that come across in the comments.
1) Improving mental health
Because gut health is viewed holistically, it is, firstly, perceived as something that can contribute to mental health, mood, stress and energy levels:
“I think that diet and gut biome are very important for healing pmdd. have been looking into turn gut-brain relationship and there is a lot of research being done on the subject of how our gut communicates with our brains.”
“Our gut health impacts our moods significantly. Your gut releases hormones to communicate information to the brain, causing changes in mood.”
“Fixing your gut health!!! Poor gut health has been linked to many mental health problems. Scientists are only just beginning to understand the gut, but it is believed to be the second brain. Do not underestimate the effects of your diet on your mental health.”
2) Resolving physiological health issues
Since most users associate the gut with a healthy digestive system, they first and foremost consider gut health a remedy for digestion problems. The most commonly mentioned include indigestion, bloating, Irritable Bowel Syndrome and congestion.
“Kombucha! One thing people overlook with digestion problems is gut health. You need to nurture a happy gut biome to digest things well.”
But because of the gut’s association with holistic health, poor gut health is also often linked to a wide variety of broader health issues. Immune health was often mentioned:
“I have been taking probiotics daily for years, mostly for maintaining gut health and immunity. I don’t know if they’re the reason, but I rarely get sick. I started taking prebiotics to help with weight loss this year, and I believe those have made a difference.”
Many comments also associate poor gut health with issues ranging from hair loss, libido problems, PCOS and skin conditions such as psoriasis, eczema and ache. Improving digestive health is therefore inversely often seen as a sort of magic bullet – the catch-all remedy to address a whole host of health issues.
3) Helping weight loss
Gut health is seen as an important consideration when trying to lose weight. Many users cite research that suggests that digestive health is the secret to weight loss. Healthy bacteria, they argue, can help you manage your metabolism and digest food better. The comment below is a good example:
“I’m 50/50 trying to work towards a full vegan diet. It’s helped me lose weight and has improved my gut health/psoriasis.”
The discourse is largely one of acceptance, sympathy and sharing advice around personal stories and struggles around weight loss. Gut health is often a strategy that people try after others have failed or disappointed them. It can thereby be rebranded as a more ‘positive’ weight loss remedy rather than a last-ditch solution.
How users try and improve their gut health
Diet is seen as the number one way to improve gut health. However, there is no consensus on the types of diets that are best. There are conflicting views about whether some diets – such as veganism, Keto diet and low food map diet – will improve or worsen gut health.
“Cut out meat and dairy. They’re the 2 biggest culprits, unfortunately. Also probiotics for quite a while to fix my gut bacteria composition (microbiome).”
People are a bit more aligned in the view that gluten, sugar, sweeteners, processed and oily foods are bad for gut health.
“I’m trying to steer my folks away from processed foods – but it’s hard. They’re both in their 80s, and they like stuff that is both easy to cook (that’s for mum) and easy to chew (that’s for dad).”
There is also general acceptance around the importance of fibre and probiotics, but noticeably lower awareness around prebiotics among Reddit users.
However, there is a feeling that what works for one person’s gut might not work for another. Perhaps, for this reason, a really really broad range of food types are mentioned in relation to improving gut health. These include:
- Mint tea
- Fruit and vegetables – in general, or specific staples such as mushrooms, spinach, aubergine
- Nuts + legumes
” I took the gut health problem and started drinking Kiefer for prebiotic. For fiber I take oats and almonds before I eat anything else.”
- Whole grains
- Fermented food in general and specific staples like Kimchi
“Pickled/fermented foods are great for improving gut health, and I try to include stuff with probiotics in my meals.”
- Fish and seafood
Supplements are also mentioned, but once again, there is no firm consensus as to which ones are useful or harmful. These include:
- Chinese herbs
- Slippery elm
- Medical cannabis
It’s interesting to note that specific brands of food or supplements are rarely mentioned. This seems to indicate that no company has so far monopolised the wellness market or created particularly loyal consumer followings. This means that there are a lot of customer needs that aren’t currently being met and that retail brands can respond to.
So, as we have seen, there is a trend towards whole body and mind wellness that food, drinks and supplement manufacturers can tap into. There is strong consumer interest in this space. However, conflicting information about how to improve gut health points to a lack of awareness. Consumers need education on how their diet links to their gut health, and how to figure out what works for them.
There is also little evidence of brands ‘owning’ this space. This presents an opportunity for brands who can position themselves and tailor their message to the expressed needs of their customers. Brands should consider adverting on Reddit or engaging more directly with consumers through AMAs. Most crucially, brands should focus on linking their gut health-related products to other physical or mental health benefits to appeal to their audiences. As we’ve seen, gut health in itself isn’t a driver for consumers to buy a product.
So go forth and use these findings to better connect with your customers. And above all, start turning to Reddit for better business insights. You’ll have front row seats to how the market is moving.
You won’t regret it.