Another day, another eyebrow-raising wellness trend. Back when Peaceful Dumpling began in 2013, wellness itself was a new word and concept for most people. Cruelty-free / clean beauty were hard to find in major retailers; there were no gua sha or jade rollers in the Western hemisphere; no one outside of Scandinavia had heard of hygge; and probiotics were something for people with serious digestive issues. The flourishing of new products, practices, and trends since then have opened up so many ways to explore being a healthy, happy, joyful human, and I’m glad for that. At the same time, you can’t be a thinking human being and not feel cynicism at all the things you’re being sold and told that you need in order to be healthy.
One such new trend is ION Gut Support, a dirt supplement made by Intelligence of Nature. It is an “all-natural and soil-derived” supplement that promises to defend your gut lining from toxins and improve your microbiome diversity. Created by a medical doctor, a two-month supply will set you back $72. And for those of us rolling our eyes, do note that it’s made of premium “ancient soil” and “purified water”! It claims to boost your immune system, reduce inflammation, reduce gluten sensitivity, improve focus and brain function, improve autoimmune function, and even promote hydration. Radiant celebrities like Elle Macpherson are fans.
How does ION Gut Health do all those things? The supplement purports to work by strengthening your gut lining, which is formed by a single layer of cells that blocks the passage of toxins and pathogens (such as harmful bacteria, viruses, mold) while allowing the absorption of nutrients and water. This system works thanks to tight junctions (TJ), which you can think of as your stomach’s lock-and-key system. When TJs are compromised, pathogens can enter your internal organs and cause inflammation, ultimately leading to serious health issues.
ION Gut Health’s main ingredient is Terrahydryte®, which is a bacteria-produced molecule that can support healthy cell function while signaling the death of unhealthy cells. A limited number of studies support Terrahydryte®’s relevance to your gut health, such as reducing the compromise of TJs by gluten and glyphosate, a common herbicide.
All this sounds quite reasonable and reasonably beneficial. But what’s more challenging is the combination of alarmism and consumerism packaging this likely-useful product. On Intelligence of Nature’s website, the founder and CEO Zach Bush MD proclaims that “We are facing the largest disease epidemic in history due to the loss of microbiome diversity. Connection to nature is our saving grace.” Well, first of all, we did just go through the largest disease epidemic in history, and that was called COVID-19. There are many outstanding theories about the origin of the coronavirus, but loss of microbiome diversity isn’t high on the list of culprits. Hyperbolic phrases like these make it hard to embrace what’s probably positive (or at least neutral) for most people who can afford the pricey supplement.
For what it’s worth, Intelligence of Nature states that its bottles are composed of 50% post-consumer-recycled plastic, and its papers are made with FSC-certified and/or recycled pulp. But again, I can’t help but wonder, are $72 soil-based supplements “our saving grace”? I won’t make fun of people who love ION Gut Health or simply want to try it. Thank goodness for the freedom to express and explore who we are! But I guess I’m just too “down to earth” for something this extra. And I say this with “gut feeling”—I would much rather connect with nature in other ways.
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Photo: Elle Macpherson via Instagram