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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
- Other Gut Test Reviews
- Tips To Keep Your Gut Healthy (Video)
- Can Probiotics Help?
- What Else Can I Test At Home?
The gut microbiome is a community of microbes, including bacteria, fungi and archaea, that 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 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 the company.
How Long Before I Get Results?
The lab does a human gut microbiome analysis of your sample and sends you results, typically within four to six weeks, but for some companies, results take longer.
We ranked companies based on reputation, the reliability of results, the type of information you get in your results, pricing, customer support and other factors.
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. Viome’s website has detailed result examples to give you an idea of the information you’ll receive. Unlike uBiome and American Gut, Viome doesn’t compare your gut composition with any database, so you won’t know how your gut makeup compares to others.
Thryve launched its testing service in early 2017 and has had a good track record since its inception. Their 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 no longer sell non-personalized probiotic supplements via their website, but we found some available on Amazon (see pricing section below).
- Gut Microbiome Test Kit
- General Health Probiotic
- Immune Support Probiotic
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. Like Thryve, 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). Please note that at the moment their resources have been re-allocated to COVID-19 support, so kits may not be available.
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.
- $179.99 for 1 gut test kit and written personalized plan
- $219.99 for 1 gut test kit and live consult with nutritionist
- $32.99-$89.99 per probiotic supplement
- View all options
uBiome used to be the top contender for gut microbiome testing. But unfortunately, uBiome is no longer in business. They filed bankruptcy in September of 2019 after undergoing an FBI investigation into their business practices and other problems. Shortly thereafter they closed their doors for good, and sold off their IP (intellectual property, i.e. patents) for 1% of the company’s original value (they were once valued at $600 million by Silicon Valley) at auction to Psomagen1.
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. See if there have been scientific studies done on the product and research the company prior to purchasing. Questions to ask – how long have they been in existence, where are they based, have they been covered by major publications, etc.
Two of the companies we review, BIOHM and Thryve, sell their own engineered probiotics. Another probiotic that has received some acclaim is Restore for Gut Health — you can view a report on them at the NIH. It claims to relieve a host of health issues including heartburn, leaky gut and migraines, as well as soothing gluten intolerance. Read our review of Restore for Gut Health 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.
Also, check out our review of Everlywell, a company that offers a wide range of at-home testing kits to check your metabolism, food sensitivities, vitamin and hormone levels and much more.
Do you have any diet, lifestyle, or supplement recommendations to improve digestive problems?
Sources:  STAT
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