These are the good, the bad, and the adaptogenic.

By Rebecca Firkser
December 11, 2018
Photo by @vitalproteins via Instagram

The very real struggle to stay healthy is, it turns out, big business. The Wall Street Journal, citing a figure from a Global Wellness Institute report, calls "wellness" a $4.2 trillion business. That's from a feature on Gwyneth Paltrow, who got in on the ground floor of monetizing wellness via the first Goop newsletter a decade ago.

Now, wellness is so mainstream that a friend might ask which type of yoga you practice, and whether you prefer your flaxseed ground or whole. In many ways 2018 was the year wellness snuck in—and it very likely happened during breakfast. Maybe it was a bone broth smoothie. A mushroom coffee. Or even a CBD latte. Let’s take a look at which wellness trends really stood out this year.

The Most Important

Practicing Gut Health

It seems like every bottle of kombucha and container of yogurt—whether purchased at a gas station or your local farmers market—aims to address gut health. While choosing the right product for your body can be overwhelming, the act of caring for your gut is most certainly a good thing. Learn the difference between prebiotics and probiotics, and listen to your gut.

RELATED: Reboot Your Microbiome With Our 3-Day Gut Health Makeover

Going Plant-Based

“Going plant-based" isn't new, but it felt like 2018 was the year no one blinked after hearing their friend was trying it out. Not as divisive as Keto, nor as flashy as gluten-free, plant-based diets of course mean consuming very few (or even zero) animal products. Sure, you could call yourself a vegetarian or vegan, but that’s not exactly the same: Plant-based meals involve more whole foods (instead of packaged goods). Those who go plant-based might, like anyone else who follows a specific diet, talk about it all the time, but you can’t deny that consuming fewer animal products is healthier and better for the environment.

Cannabidiol—or CBD

Designer cannabis certainly made the rounds in the wellness industry this year, from weed gummies to CBD face oil. While 2018’s millennial pink-packaged cannabis culture certainly diminishes some of the stigma behind weed used for both leisure and medicine, it spotlights the problem that using cannabis comfortably is often an exercise in white privilege. CBD oil, on the other hand, is completely legal in most states in the US. For some, it has proven to help soothe ailments from anxiety and insomnia to endometriosis pain and nausea. While we have a long way to go when it comes to fixing the way cannabis is viewed sociopolitically, CBD’s trendiness could hopefully help address these concerns.

RELATED: No, CBD Isn't Pot—But Should It Be a Part of Your Wellness Routine?

The Least Important

Adding a Scoop of Collagen

Though the structural component of connective tissues occurs naturally in humans, taking collagen (derived from animals, particularly cows and fish) was wildly popular this year. I saw it on grocery store shelves, as an add-in at smoothie shops, even in nut butter. While it’s true that collagen is rich in protein, it may not be improving your body—fixing everything from inflammation to weak nails—as significantly you think. We need to wait a little longer for more conclusive studies. In the meantime, if you want to spend $40 on a tub of cow granules, be my guest.

Sprinkling on the Adaptogens

“Can eating herbs with breakfast help ease stress?” wondered one of our writers in 2017. We still don’t know the answer—because not everyone needs to take the same supplements to achieve homeostasis. What we do know is that the popularity of adaptogens (the catchall name for certain herbs and mushrooms like Ashwagandha, Cordyceps, and Reishi) certainly increased this year. The search term “what are adaptogens” is up 250 percent in Google trends. The term “moon juice,” which refers to the “resource for plant-sourced alchemy” company Moon Juice that specializes in drinks and blends of adaptogenic herbs, is up 130 percent. It’s not that I’m skeptical of the potency of adaptogens. It’s that these powerful blends—which have been used for centuries in Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine—are sold at Urban Outfitters for anyone to buy and dump willy-nilly into their morning smoothie.