The wellness sector is well known for its fads. A wellness practice all of a sudden becomes popular after being taken up by Madonna or Gwyneth Paltrow. And then, as quickly as the practice appeared from obscurity, it disappears again as people move onto something newer, cooler and shinier.
What is important is identifying the real, long-term trends from the fleeting fads. To do this, we spoke to Ingo Schweder, GOCO Hospitality’s Founder and CEO. With his 30 years in the industry, Ingo has seen the fads come and go and watched as the genuine, long-term trends have risen. Ingo tells us what he sees as some of the most important wellness trends that will rise in 2018.
GOCO Hospitality (GH): Food is always such an important area for people’s wellness. What do you see as an important trend in terms of food?
Ingo Schweder (IS): I think an important trend that has already started but will very much grow in prominence this year will be interest in the gut microbiome and how this affects our health. I think it was well put by scientist Neil deGrasse Tyson when he said:
“You could also ask who’s in charge. Lots of people think, well, we’re humans; we’re the most intelligent and accomplished species; we’re in charge. Bacteria may have a different outlook: more bacteria live and work in one linear centimeter of your lower colon than all the humans who have ever lived. That’s what’s going on in your digestive tract right now. Are we in charge, or are we simply hosts for bacteria? It all depends on your outlook.”
This is in reference to the estimated 39 trillion microbes that inhabit each and every person’s gastrointestinal tract. We live in symbiosis with them. There are more microbes living inside of us than there are cells in our body. It is said that there are around 1,000 species of microbes and around 7,000 distinct strains in our body. This makes our gut an incredibly complex place. There is still so much that we don’t yet know about our gut microbiome, but a lot of research is currently being done. And as this research progresses, we will learn more and more about how the microbiome affects our health and wellbeing, as well as how we can positively influence it.
GH: How exactly are these microbes affecting our bodies?
IS: Different microbes perform different functions. They help us digest our food, releasing otherwise inaccessible nutrients, and affect our metabolism and whether we lose or gain weight. They produce vitamins and minerals that are missing from our diet. They break down toxins and other hazardous chemicals, and they protect us from diseases by crowding out more dangerous microbes.
Interestingly, they also affect our mental wellness too. Around 90% of serotonin is produced in the gut and 50% of dopamine. And through the enteric nervous system and the gut-brain axis, this affects our brains. On-going research in this area shows evidence that disruptions to the microbiome and the link between the gut and the brain is connected with anxiety, depression, ADHD, autism and dementia. This is leading to the emerging field of psychobiotics, microbes that can benefit our brains and behaviour.
GH: What can people do to positively affect their microbiome and through that their health?
IS: There are more and more people these days regularly taking probiotics, usually in the form of yoghurt drinks or pills, but increasingly in a more diverse array of food products. The probiotics market was valued at $35 billion in 2015, and is expected to almost double to $66 billion by 2024. The idea behind probiotics is to boost the levels of microbes that positively affect our health. There is definite evidence that this can be beneficial to people with particular health conditions, as well as people taking antibiotics, which have quite a severe negative effect on our microbiome.
However, recent reviews of research are showing that for generally healthy people, taking probiotic supplements don’t seem to provide a significant boost to our gut health. With 39 trillion microbes in our system, adding a few extra appears to not make a major difference. Furthermore, our gut microbiome is said to be like our finger prints, everyone’s is different. This will likely lead to more personalised probiotics, with people testing their guts and working out what the most important probiotics they should take are.
SEE ALSO: HOW TO CLEAN UP YOUR DIET
What I think is more important than taking probiotic supplements is focusing more on the foods that we eat. Prebiotics don’t contain beneficial microbes like probiotics do, but they do provide food for the positive microbes that already exist in our gut, helping them to multiply. I think there will definitely be more interest in the coming year in how people can include prebiotic foods in their diets.
It has also been shown that artificial sweeteners and food preservatives have a negative affect on our microbiome. This will add to the interest in keeping these substances out of our foods.
In addition to this, there has been a fairly surprising recent discovery that exercise actually affects our gut microbiome in a positive way. It has been found that exercise leads to our microbiome producing more short-chain fatty acids, which are useful in reducing inflammation and fighting diabetes.
GH: Are there any other food trends you see being important in 2018?
IS: We have all seen the rise of organic food over the last few years. I believe that the next step in this on-going trend will be to take it to the next level with biodynamic food. Like organic food, biodynamic food is produced without the input of synthetic chemical fertilisers and insecticides, but it then takes it further by seeing the farm as a self-contained ecological system. It emphasises improving the farm’s biodiversity through crop rotation, using livestock to fertilise fields and creating habitats for predators that control insects and other pests. Everything should be in balance.
The idea is that more nutrient dense soil produces food with a greater nutrient density. In fact, one of the areas in which biodynamic farming is growing most rapidly is vineyards. This came about because wine experts noticed that wine from areas with better soil produced better quality wine. There are now a wide range of biodynamic wines available on the market.
In 2016, the total area of biodynamic farms in the US increased by 16%. Wholefoods now stocks a significant number of food products with ingredients from biodynamic farms. I think 2018 will see increased interest in biodynamic food, mainly by people already interested in organic food who learn more about what biodynamic food is and are looking to go to the next step.
GH: There are always new fitness trends developing all the time. What do you see as a key fitness trend for 2018?
IS: Fitness is becoming more social. This will certainly be a big trend in 2018. There is definitely a growing demand for more group exercise sessions. People get to build their fitness, engage with other like-minded people and have fun at the same time. In group exercise sessions there is this shared energy. People support and encourage each other and sometimes even compete against each other. This pushes people to go further with their exercise than they might do individually. In fact, there is even a study published in the Journal of the American Osteopathic Association that shows that working out in groups has benefits over working out alone. Furthermore, it is more cost effective. People get the benefit of expert instructors and this can be shared among a group of people. And there are now so many different types of group classes available, there is something for everybody.
GH: Moving from the physical to the mental, mental wellness is certainly growing in awareness. What do you think we will see in this area?
IS: Yes. Mental wellness will certainly continue as something growing in popularity. There are currently over 1,300 different mindfulness apps in the App Store. This is a big indicator of the interest people have in this topic. With stressful lifestyles, there is a constant need to focus on improving our mental wellness. However, there is one particular mental wellness practice that I feel will grow in prominence in 2018. This is sophrology.
Sophrology was developed back in the 1960s and has been quite common in French and Swiss schools for decades, but it is only now being taken up by a wider group of people, including top CEOs and athletes. Arianna Huffington of the Huffington Post and the French national rugby team have been said to use it. I think 2018 will be the year when sophrology really starts to go mainstream.
Sophrology combines concentration, deep breathing, visualisation and gentle movements. It was developed by a Colombian neuro-psychologist called Alfonso Caycedo. He spent years studying meditation and yoga in India as well as Japanese Zen, and Tibetan Buddhism. He combined these eastern philosophies with his medical knowledge to create sophrology. He learned that when faced with anxiety or fear, the body must be calmed from a state of constant alertness.
The practice teaches people how to relax and focuses on emotional liberation and a more serene state of mind. Sophrology is quite structured, with 12 distinct levels all with a separate focus to help people progress on their mental wellness journey. With continued practice, the benefits of sophrology accumulate.
There has even been a study by Kent Business School that showed that sophrology in the workplace can have positive effects on employees’ physical and mental wellbeing.
While all areas of mental wellness will be prominent in 2018 and beyond, sophrology is certainly something to watch out for.
GH: Finally, what would you say is the secret to spotting genuine trends from short-lived fads?
IS: I would say that the main way to spot a genuine trend is to look at the basic factors behind it. Why is it popular? Is it based on solid principles? Or is it just popular due to it being new and promoted by a celebrity? If there are solid principles behind the wellness practice and it is in line with prevailing social trends, then it is more likely to be a stable and long-term trend.