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Do you suffer from chronic intestinal problems or wonder how healthy your digestive tract is? The wonders of science can now shed some light on what’s living inside your gut. You probably know that a host of microorganisms inhibits our digestive tracts. Many of these microbes are beneficial; some aren’t. But genetic sequencing tests like uBiome’s Gut Explorer and SmartGut can give you a breakdown of some of your intestinal microbes — and whether they fall within normal ranges. Read our uBiome review to get all the information you need about “gut testing” and how uBiome’s products work.
What Does Gut Testing Involve?
First, it’s important to know some basic science behind these tests. What are the little buggers living inside our intestines? A community of microbes, including bacteria, fungi and archaea, reside 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 microbiome, all the different types of microbes interact with each other — and to 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. The lab then does microbiome analysis of your sample and sends you results, typically within four to six weeks.
Check out this The Wall Street Journal interview with uBiome CEO Jessica Richman that helps explain what uBiome is all about.
uBiome was founded in 2012, thanks to a $350,000 crowdfunding campaign for its IRB-approved microbiome study. The company’s Scientific Advisory Board includes some of the world’s top microbiologists, geneticists, and computational health scientists. uBiome offers at-home Explorer kits, which give you a DNA fingerprint of your GI microbiome (and other sites).
Key Features of uBiome Explorer Tests
- Get detailed information on each of the identified bacteria found in your sample, including their names, how many there are of each kind and what their functions are in the body.
- Compare your results with aggregate results from 100,000+ people, and to specific groups, i.e. you can compare your microbiome to ones of vegans, smokers, people taking antibiotics, etc.
- uBiome’s clinical lab is accredited by the College of American Pathologists.
- uBiome partners with 45+ top medical research universities and centers around the country.
Gut Explorer – tests one time with one sample
- $89 single kit
- $71.20 per month for monthly test delivery
Time Lapse Explorer – includes three tests so you can test pre, during and post diet-change
- $199 per kit
- 3-time sample kit to test before, during and after a diet or lifestyle change
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
- get 5 sites tested: gut, mouth, nose, genitals and skin
CouponGet 15% off all uBiome Explorer Kits - all you have to do is order via this link!
uBiome’s new SmartGut test is a first-of-its-kind, sequencing-based clinical microbiome screening test. SmartGut builds on uBiome’s previous testing kits by looking for the specific microbes associated with illnesses. SmartGut is currently only available in certain states in the U.S. International availability is on the horizon. The at-home collection kit involves the same swab process as uBiome’s Explorer kits.
What’s the Current State of Human Microbiome Research?
Human microbiome research and testing are still in their infancy. Researchers working with the National Institutes of Health-sponsored Human Microbiome Project have only identified a very small fraction of normal human microbiome genetic strains. And recent research reveals that there is a much greater diversity of the human microbiome from person to person than scientists initially anticipated.
If you’re looking for a test that can tell you everything you want to know about your intestinal microbiome, it doesn’t yet exist. And the ability of human microbiome research and testing to detect and diagnose health problems is still questionable, given the lack of extensive scientific backing.
If your gut health is poor and you are looking for a way to improve your microbiome naturally, you may want to read about Restore4Life.
How Accurate is uBiome’s Testing?
uBiome and American Gut are currently the only at-home human microbiome testing services available for consumers. And the jury is still out regarding the accuracy of these tests — and will be for some time. There are too many unknowns in the scientific field, and different testing labs use varying sample extraction and microbiome analysis methods, which can affect end results even while using the same sample.
For now, uBiome’s Explorer Kits are a fun tool that can give you a cursory glance into your gut and can reveal whether your diet falls within normal ranges compared to others. And you’ll be contributing to a substantial body of scientific research that one day could lead to a better way to diagnose and treat certain diseases.
NOTE: uBiome is not a diagnostic tool and cannot tell you whether you’re at risk for any diseases.
What do you hope to find by getting human microbiome testing?