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This startup wants to help the body’s most ‘underrated organ’

From kimchi and kombucha to probiotics and supplements, gut health is the new wellness trend. 

By Freya Pratty

From kimchi and kombucha to probiotics and supplements, gut health is the new wellness trend. 

The global probiotic supplement market was worth $1.1bn last year, and is expected to double in size by 2027.

One of the latest companies to secure funding is Her1, a German startup focused on improving female gut health, which has today announced a Series A raise of €5.5m, led by Paris-based Five Seasons Ventures. 

“The gut is linked to everything in our body,” says Chanyu Xu, the founder of German company Her1. “If you have a healthy gut, you’re more likely to feel amazing.”

Other European gut health companies to raise recently include Irish digestive health startup FoodMarble and US-UK-based Zoe. 

Supplements for women, designed by women

Xu wanted to start Her1, she said, after seeing that most health supplements products we use on a daily basis are designed by men — and that most of them focus on goals like weight loss or muscle gain, rather than all-round health. 

She says Her1 aims to offer women a holistic approach to health, selling products but also offering guidance and education. 

Gut health products work, then, by trying to improve the diversity of the microbiome. “We need to keep a healthy balance of good and bad,” says Xu, “and there are a lot of foods that you can eat on a daily basis that support a healthy gut flora.”

Her1’s products offer supplements that can do the same. They’re focused on women, and offer products that fit for specific times in a woman’s life — there’s a pregnancy product, for example, and a supplement that aims to help busy working women to maintain good gut health.

“What we try to do is accompany women through all life stages,” she says. 

The body’s most underrated organ

Xu was inspired by a book, released in 2014 by German writer Guilia Enders, called Gut, which aimed to raise awareness of the importance of our microbiome (the bacteria and microorganisms in our stomach and intestines, known informally as the gut). 

Enders called it ‘the most underrated organ in the body’; but the book went on to become a bestseller in Germany and around the world. 

The central idea is that if the gut is healthy and contains a good, diverse range of bacteria, then this can have wide ranging impacts on the rest of the body. 

Rita Ugwu, the medical officer of Her1, says research into the microbiome is in its infancy, but researchers say it can play a part in ensuring a healthy immune system, improving mental wellbeing and skin health.

Investors responded well to the product, Xu says, and she’s been encouraged to see more and more female-focused funds emerge, as well as more VC partners, suggesting female-focused products will see increasing interest.

Her1’s focus is now on growing the team, as well as bringing the products to more geographies (so far they’ve been available in Germany, Austria and Switzerland). The company’s also working on new products, to address things like hormone balance, mood and sleep. 

Freya Pratty is Sifted’s news reporter. She tweets from @FPratty

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