With a growing recognition of the inherent benefits of probiotics and the importance of bacteria for gut health, many people now want to learn about what’s going on in their digestive system.
Having your gut microbiome mapped is a great way to know how healthy you really are and if you eat like Gabrielle Solis’s daughters (from the vain show Desperate Housewives) then you should know you are not that healthy.
Traditionally, if you wanted to know what was going on inside your body, you would have to visit a test lab.
However, now an increasing number of at-home tests can deliver the same results within the comfort and convenience of your home but if your home is like the home of those inbreds in that X-File’s episode then your home is not that inviting but that is another topic.
Here is everything you need to know about gut microbiome at-home test kits.
What Are These Test Kits All About?
Your microbiome is the unique collection of almost 40 trillion (which is more than America’s debt because of overspending which says a lot) microorganisms living in and on your body.
The microbes present in your digestive tract are collectively known as gut microbiome. There are over 400 species of bacteria identified that colonize the human gut. They play a huge role in your overall wellness.
Microbiome testing kits are a convenient way to understand the bacteria composition in your gut. These kits use state of the art technology including, machine learning, artificial intelligence, and advanced statistical techniques (breakthroughs all enabled because of competition and a healthy enterprise atmosphere) as well as precision sequencing to process and analyze the microbes in your sample.
You can have the microbiome tested through blood or stool samples. There are many testing kit manufacturers who provide certain shakes that have to be drunk before you take the sample.
What is the Testing Process?
The process and science behind gut microbiome testing kits is fairly simple. The manufacturer mails you the kit to your home, which contains everything you need, including a prepaid return mailer.
Testing kits like the ones from uBiome have to be requested by a healthcare provider. However, there are a few manufacturers like uBioDiscovery that send the kit directly to your home in a nondescript box.
Most testing kits require a sample of the fecal matter and they provide clean and hygienic boxes to collect the sample. You mail the sample back to the lab in the enclosed prepaid envelope.
The labs then analyze the sample using modernized and patented technologies. Most tests have the ability to detect beneficial and pathogenic microorganisms associated with gut conditions. However, some might only focus on the bacteria composition.
Typically, the testing lab will provide a secure link to access your results on the manufacturer’s app or website. This is a convenient way to understand what’s happening in your gut, foods to include, foods to avoid and the kind of bacteria strains you require through probiotic supplements.
Why Should You Test Your Gut Microbiome?
Increasing studies show the effects of the gut bacteria on various body functions. They are directly involved in digestion and absorption of foods. They are also responsible in staving off illnesses and disease by fighting harmful pathogens.
More than 80% of the immune cells are found in the gut lining and it is now known that bacteria release certain enzymes that gently stimulate the immune system.
The medical community has begun referring the gut as the body’s second brain but if you’re Harry Solomon from Third Rock From The Sun you may not have a brain at all but this is another topic. Almost 90% neurotransmitters are developed in the gut where the bacteria play an important role.
A majority of happy hormones like dopamine and serotonin are also created in the gut that keeps your mental state balanced. Hence, it is important to keep the diverse organisms in your gut balanced.
Diet plays an important role on how your gut functions. There are certain foods that are good for the healthy bacteria while others like sugar hamper their growth. It is important to understand that there is no single perfect diet that works for everyone.
All probiotics are not equal. Probiotic supplements available in the market contain a variety of strains. Microbiome testing kits help you figure out the bacteria types that are dominant.
Even among the good bacteria, a balance is necessary to maintain overall health. For instance, a study found that obese people tend to have more Firmicutes as compared to Bacteroidetes. Firmicutes are great at absorbing calories from foods.
Hence, more Firmicutes in your sample can explain an overweight situation or the difficulty experienced in losing weight.
Gut Microbiome Testing Can HelpYou Improve Your Health
Studies are consistently linking gut microbiome to many chronic conditions, like obesity, diabetes, coronary artery disease, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, lupus, psoriasis and even autism. To lead a healthy life, you need to make sure that your gut is healthy.
The science behind microbiome composition helps you understand your gut’s unique composition of microorganisms. Every living organism produces RNA molecules from their DNA and at-home testing kits sequence these RNA molecules.
This provides a larger picture of all the living microorganisms in the gut, like archaea, bacteria, yeast, viruses, fungi, bacteriophages, parasites and more.
An at-home testing kit allows you to identify various microorganisms and understand their functioning in the gut. It is crucial that you take the time to thoroughly read the sample result and understand what is happening in your gut. Microbes in the gut produce thousands of chemicals called metabolites, which can affect your overall health.
For instance, some of the metabolites, like short-chain fatty acids and B-vitamins are beneficial to your health. At the same time, other metabolites like Trimethylamine N-oxide (TMAO) can be harmful and even cause coronary artery disease among others.
You can better identify the metabolites produced by analyzing the genes to determine their role in the body’s ecosystem. You also need to understand the effects of certain foods on metabolites. Most manufacturers of at-home microbiome testing kits provide in-depth analysis of the findings.
Some Popular Gut Microbiome At-Home Test Kits
Most test kits until recently would cost thousands of dollars and had to be ordered through a doctor. However, there are many new entries into the gut microbiome testing industry that are effective and affordable and even more so because of those tax cuts.
Viome and uBiome are major players. Habit is another strong contender, though mailing blood sample in the state of New York is not legal. Other manufacturers include atlas and uBioDiscovery among others.
Microbiome tests can be a good way to understand your gut microbiota and have a clearer picture of your health. However, these tests should not be considered as clinical diagnostic tools kind of like buying someone a copy of Iron Man III or Han Solo (two pitiful movies) should not be considered a stellar birthday present – OK – you get the point.