Across the world there is an increasingly heavy burden of noncommunicable diseases related to obesity, mental health, and atopic disease. In a previous publication, we followed the developing idea that that these conditions arise as our microbiome loses diversity, but there seems to be no generally applicable way to assess the significance of this loss. Our work revisited the findings of the African studies by Denis Burkitt who reported that the frequency of what he called Western diseases were inversely proportional to the average faecal volumes of affected populations. Although he ascribed this to fibre in the diet, it now seems more likely that the drop in faecal volume with the onset of disease is due to the loss of a fully functioning microbiome. We suggested that the microbiome could be considered to be a single mutualistic microbial community interacting with our body by two complementary sets of semiochemicals, i.e., allomones to feed the microbiota by facilitating the efficient transfer of nutrition through the gut and kairomones to calibrate our immune system by an as yet unknown mechanism. The bioactive compounds, dopamine and serotonin, are known to be present in the gut lumen under the influence of intestinal microbiota and we suggest that these are part of this allomone-like system. In light of this possibility, it is of critical importance to develop a method of quantifying the microbiome effectiveness. Ingestible sensors consist of a miniaturized detector and transmitter packed into a capsule that is swallowed and tracked through the intestine. The aim of this article is to explore the possible development of such ingestible detectors for these or other compounds that can act as a surrogate marker for microbiome effectiveness. We consider that the ability to provide real-time quantitative information on the interaction of the microbiome with different nutrients promises to be a valuable new tool to unravel the mystery of these noncommunicable illnesses, i.e., microbiome-function deficiency diseases.
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