In this blog post, we focus on the microbiome and its importance for our overall health and well-being. This is because the microbiome is not only crucial for the health of our gut, no, its influence goes far beyond the boundaries of the gut and extends to our entire body and even our mental health.
To get to the bottom of this phenomenon, our founder Daniel invited Dr. Maren Kemper, who holds a doctorate in chemistry, for an interview. During her studies, she worked intensively on the microbiome. Today she is an expert in intestinal health. With her start-up within® supplements, she has developed a range of food supplements designed to sustainably strengthen intestinal health and the microbiome.
Hello Maren, I'm delighted to welcome you to our series of interviews with entrepreneurs in the field of gut health.
We all share an enthusiasm and passion for the topic of gut health and yet the reasons for devoting ourselves to this topic are as individual for each interviewee as their microbiome. Why don't you briefly introduce yourself to our readers and tell us how you came to work in the field of gut health?
It's wonderful to be able to share my passion for gut health here.
It still happens that some people react with embarrassment and irritation as soon as I start talking enthusiastically about gut health and the gut microbiome in particular. Many people don't want to have anything to do with the numerous processes in our gut; every gurgle or unexpected wind triggers great embarrassment. But behind these everyday phenomena lies a world of wonders. At its core, it's about much more than just embarrassing noises - it's about the fascinating processes that significantly influence various aspects of our physical and mental health.
Briefly about me: My path into science began in the early 90s in Berlin, where I studied biochemistry. At that time, the microbiome was still largely unexplored. During my diploma thesis, I sequenced DNA, which was very time-consuming. Giving a face to the immense variety of microbes in our gut by obtaining their DNA sequence was not yet possible at that time.
Only in the last 15 to 20 years, thanks to significant technological developments, has research into the microbiome reached the level we have today. Despite the huge progress, we are still at the very beginning in this field. There is still so much to discover and understand, the next few years will be very exciting.
My real fascination with the gut and its importance began during my doctoral thesis in the field of dermatology. During this time, it was increasingly recognized how closely linked skin health and gut health are and that many skin problems could originate in the gut.
With every research article I read and every study I immersed myself in, my enthusiasm grew, because these tiny creatures that live in and on us are incredibly important for our well-being. To stay in the area of skin, for example, it has been shown that a balanced microbiome acts like an internal beauty salon for our skin, making even the cosmetics industry pale with envy.
But unfortunately we are not always treating our inhabitants well! For most of us, our microbial community is out of balance. Stress and a diet low in fiber reduce the diversity of our microbes, a key factor for a healthy microbiome. This imbalance can lead to skin problems, immune deficiencies, obesity and even mental illness.
To conclude your question, all this fascinated me so much that I founded within® to support our gut microbiome and thus contribute to better health and well-being.
Wow, that sounds like a very exciting and interesting journey. But I feel the same way: the more I learn about the microbiome, the more I am fascinated by it. Where do you start with your within® products? What exactly are they about?
Within® products are characterized by a carefully balanced mixture of highly concentrated, selected bacterial strains and two different prebiotics to promote the balance of the intestinal microbiome.
Prebiotics serve as food for our microbial allies and provide them with the necessary "provisions" on their way through our intestines.
Depending on the specific health goal to be supported, each capsule also contains targeted additives. The "Skin Glow" product, for example, contains coenzyme Q10 and hyaluronic acid in addition to bacterial cultures and prebiotics.
The philosophy behind it is clear: a balanced gut microbiome is the key to beautiful skin, a slim body, a strong immune system and much more.
How exactly should I imagine the production process? Where do the bacterial strains come from and where do the prebiotics and additives come from? What do you look for in the composition and how long can these cultures survive in the jar? Can you give us a little insight behind the scenes?
Our products are made in Germany, and all ingredients that are available in organic quality are, for example the prebiotic inulin, which in our case comes from chicory, a plant species common in Central Europe. Chicory is a cultivated form of it.
We obtain our vegan probiotics, cultivated in cell cultures, from an innovative company in Italy. Thanks to a special, gentle freeze-drying process, they remain active until they develop their full effect in our bodies - without the need for refrigeration.
As we want to be vegan and sustainable at all costs, our capsules are also sometimes a real challenge to fulfill all wishes, similarly with additives. During the development of our products, it was very clear that fillers and titanium dioxide (which makes capsules so beautifully white) are not used, just to stay in the intestinal language: No bullshit ;-)
On your website, you present yourself and your products in a personal video. I find that very convincing and authentic. In your customer pitch, you yourself point out that your products are dietary supplements and not magic pills. They can only have a supportive effect, but cannot replace a healthy diet and lifestyle.
What do you personally look out for in this context? Do you have any good tips on how people can eat healthily and positively influence their gut and microbiome by adjusting their lifestyle?
Food supplements are, as the name suggests, a supplement to our daily diet and unfortunately not a substitute. That is very important to me! It is a sensational support, but by no means a substitute for a healthy lifestyle.
A balanced diet is individual and varied, but some basic principles of a microbiome-friendly diet apply to us all. Our "roommates" in the gut, which live on prebiotics - special dietary fibers and polyphenols - prefer plant-based foods. Here are five simple guidelines for a microbiome-friendly diet:
- Variety counts: Consume a wide range of plant-based foods each week - fruit, vegetables, herbs, spices, seeds and nuts. Ideally 30 different varieties.
- Eat colorful food: Polyphenols, which are responsible for the bright colors in fruits and vegetables, promote a healthy microbiome.
- Intestinal rest at night: A 12-hour break from food overnight helps the intestines to regenerate. Intermittent fasting is an option, but not essential.
- Minimize processing: Processed foods with their additives and sweeteners can have a negative impact on the microbiome. The more natural, the better.
- Integrate probiotics: Probiotic foods such as yogurt, kefir, kimchi and sauerkraut are a great support for a healthy gut environment as long as they are natural and free of sugar or unnecessary additives. However, they are usually not so highly dosed and we don't know exactly which cultures will survive the stomach acid.
Last but not least, an important tip: if you have been eating a low-fiber diet up to now, you should gradually increase your fiber intake. Changing too quickly can lead to bloating and an unpleasant feeling in the stomach.
And one more thing, which is also very important: eating should be enjoyable! A healthy diet doesn't mean doing without, but variety. Instead of focusing on omission, more healthy options should be added to the diet. Less healthy foods can be gradually replaced with nutrient-rich alternatives. This not only enriches the diet, but every bite can be enjoyed without regret. Because one thing is scientifically proven: Our “roommates” don't like it when we are stressed.
Thank you very much, this is certainly a good starting point for many of our readers to optimize their own eating habits. The eating breaks you mentioned are particularly good for me. I've noticed that the constant snacking really doesn't work for me. The gut needs its breaks and shouldn't be constantly refilled. It's good for the gut if it can concentrate fully on one meal, at least that's my feeling.
One last question. Many people also suffer from constipation and have problems with bowel movements. Pushing and straining often make these problems worse. Our toilet stool can help with this, but do you have any other ideas on how to positively influence this process?
The toilet stool is a great support because it allows us to adopt a natural squatting position that is designed for human digestion. This adaptation reflects how much evolution has lagged behind our way of life in some areas, such as our sitting posture and eating habits. We are not made for modern toilets, nor for constant eating…
A microbiome-friendly diet, rich in variety and fiber, effectively supports our digestion. Another important aspect of healthy digestion is fluid intake. At least 2 liters of water per day is recommended to avoid digestive problems - and of course this does not mean sugary drinks such as cola or juices.
And coffee can also help! From a scientific point of view, coffee is now even considered healthy when consumed in moderation. It is not only known for its polyphenol content, but also promotes the release of certain hormones and stimulates the activity of the colon. Of course, coffee should not be consumed late in the evening so as not to interfere with sleep.
Finally, one thing must not be forgotten: Exercise is essential. There is no need for extreme or intensive training sessions; a daily walk can already have a positive effect on our digestion. Additionally, yoga can be particularly beneficial for our gut health. The specific twisting and stretching movements in yoga stimulate bowel activity and can therefore support regular digestion and relaxation, which our bowels also like.
I completely agree with you. Especially with the image that in our western world we have built ourselves a kind of “golden cage” of more and more technology, processed food and new, unhealthy habits, which may be comfortable and less strenuous, but is actually not good for us because it separates us very much from our own nature.
Thank you very much for your time and your valuable input. I wish you all the best for the future and of course much success with within®!
DR. MAREN KEMPER & WITHIN®