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What’s in your gut? Scientific advances in the last decade show that a diverse host of microorganisms that live in our digestive systems serve both good and bad roles in our overall health.
If you suffer from chronic stomach problems, are curious about your gut makeup or want to contribute to ongoing DNA research to learn more about your gut microbiome, read on!
- What Is The Gut Microbiome?
- What’s Involved With Testing?
- Best Gut Microbiome Testing Companies
- Tips To Keep Your Gut Healthy (Video)
- Can Probiotics Help?
- Other DNA Testing For Health
The gut microbiome is a community of microbes, including bacteria, fungi and archaea, resides in our gastrointestinal (GI) tracts. All of these microbes have specific genes unique to their “bodies,” much like each human has a unique set of genes. Scientists call the full collection of genes of all the microbes in a community a microbiome.
Within each human microbiome, all of the different types of microbes interact with each other — and with their environment (like organisms in Earth’s ecosystems).
Scientists know that a normal, balanced microbiome is essential for maintaining human health, and when a significant shift in that balance occurs, it can contribute to health problems and disease.
Gut testing involves sequencing the genes of the microbes that reside in your GI (Gastroinestinal) tract. How does this work? To put it plainly, these tests require a sample of your poop.
No, you don’t have to poop in a cup. But these testing kits do require you to take a swab from your used toilet paper and place the swab with your fecal sample in a tube. You seal the tube and send it to the lab in the packaging they provide. This process differs slightly by company.
The lab then does human gut microbiome analysis of your sample and sends you results, typically within four to six weeks, but for some companies results take longer.
uBiome is the world’s leading microbiome sequencing service, with more than 50 renowned scientists working on the uBiome team from Stanford, Harvard, Cambridge, Oxford and other prestigious research universities.
This company’s Explorer tests sequence the DNA of your gut microbes and compare them to 250,000 database samples and specific groups, e.g., you can compare your microbiome to ones of vegans, smokers, people taking antibiotics, etc.
Your results also include a breakdown of the pathogens, commensal bacteria and archaea (single-cell microorganisms) in your microbiome and an overview of how well it’s functioning. Their new ExplorerPlus test also analyzes viruses and fungi and gives you a picture of how your microbiome influences your vitamin levels and metabolism.
If you want to identify pathogens associated with conditions like Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) and Crohn’s Disease, you can request uBiome’s SmartGut test from your doctor. Make sure your insurance covers the SmartGut test (not all do); otherwise it will run you $2,000+.
Tests one time with one sample
- $89 single kit
- $71.20 per month for monthly test delivery
More comprehensive than GutExplorer: includes analysis of viruses and fungi, in-depth probiotic bacteria. Explore how your microbiome influences your vitamin levels and metabolism.
- $399 per kit
Time Lapse Explorer
Includes three tests so you can test pre, during and post diet-change
- $199 per kit
Five Site Explorer
Tests from all 5 body information locations (gut, nose, mouth, skin, genitals)
- $399 single kit
- $319.20 per month for monthly test delivery
Use this link to get the best deal we can offer from Ubiome.
Viome’s Gut Intelligence Test uses metatranscriptomic analysis to sequence all the RNA in your stool and identify all living gut microorganisms (bacteria, viruses, bacteriophages, archaea, fungi, yeast, parasites, etc.) at a species and strain level. They also measure the metabolites your microbes produce after you’ve eaten.
Results include a detailed breakdown of the microorganisms in your gut and a personalized food, nutrition and lifestyle recommendation to improve your gut and overall health. Unlike uBiome and American Gut, Viome doesn’t compare your gut composition with any database, so you won’t know how you compare to others.
- $399 per Gut Intelligence Test kit
American Gut is a crowd-funded research project co-founded by Dr. Rob Knight, director of the Center for Microbiome Innovation at the University of California, San Diego. Their test kit sequences 16S rRNA — an RNA subunit that’s believed to be helpful in identifying bacteria and archaea.
Your results include a report on which bacteria and archaea are present and how your microbiome compares to others in the project database. They also give you information on how your diet and lifestyle may contribute to the makeup of your microbiome.
They share results anonymously in open repositories with other scientists to help further microbiome research around the world, but they remove any possible personally identifying information of participants.
- $99 per kit at Fundrazr (click on “Claim this perk” to order your kit)
Other Microbiome Companies
We encourage you to read these additional reviews and compare them to our winners to see what your other options are, as each company’s offering is fairly unique.
Dr. Mahmoud A. Ghannoum founded BIOHM based on more than 40 years of NIH-backed research into the human microbiome. BIOHM’s gut test sequences the genes of the bacteria and fungi in your gut.
Your results include a profile of your gut makeup and a comparison to normal levels of bacterial strains from the NIH Human Microbiome Project and fungal strains from Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine.
You can also receive diet and lifestyle recommendations from a registered nutritionist for an additional fee. BIOHM also sells their own probiotics, which are engineered to address the critical role fungus plays in digestive health.
BIOHM also offers a candida test. Candida is a fungus (a type of yeast) that lives in your mouth and intestines. It aids in digestion at healthy levels, but it often overgrows. Having too much candida in your gut can lead to many health problems ranging from digestive issues to depression.
- $129.99 per Candida test kit and personalized plan
- $139.99 per Gut test kit and personalized plan
- $179.99 for 1 Gut test kit and live consult with nutritionist
- $199.99 for 1 Gut test kit, live consult and 1 probiotic supplement
- $39.99 per probiotic supplement
- View all options
Thryve is a newcomer to this industry, launching its testing service in early 2017. Like American Gut, Thryve’s gut bacteria test kit sequences 16S rRNA to discover which bacteria live in your gut down to a species level.
Your results include a report of the makeup of your bacterial microbiome, including which healthy bacteria are low and which known pathogens are high. You also get a “wellness score” based on how your results compare to data from the American Gut Project.
Thryve differs from other companies we review here in that you get a personalized daily dietary and supplement recommendations. They sell probiotic supplements for general health, gut health, weight management and immune support, with free shipping.
- $105 per gut health test
- $135 for 1 gut health test and personalized probiotic
- $39 per bottle for personalized probiotic
- View all options
Check out this brief video for tips on how to keep your gut microbiome healthy, according to an expert at UCLA.
If you’re frequently suffering from digestive problems or have a diagnosed condition, the right probiotics can make a difference in improving your gut microbiome. Proceed carefully, however, as there are plenty of products on the market that either don’t work, or are downright detrimental to your health.
Two of the companies we review, BIOHM and Thryve, sell their own engineered probiotics. Another excellent choice is Restore for Gut Health, for which we’ve seen many positive reviews from customers. It claims to relieve a host of health issues including heartburn, leaky gut, and migraines, and soothes gluten intolerance. Read our review of Restore to learn more.
Gut microbiome testing is just one of a handful of at-home DNA tests you can take to discover more about your overall health. If you’re interested in what else you can learn, be sure to read our article on the best DNA testing for health reasons. We include reviews of the most popular health-related DNA tests, including 23andMe, TeloYears and more.
Do you have any diet, lifestyle, or supplement recommendations to improve digestive problems?
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