Best At-Home Gut Tests for a Healthy Microbiome - Amandean

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September 19, 2022 10 min read

In This Article

The Microbiome: What exactly is it?
Is your microbiome healthy?
The Gut-Brain Axis
Signs of an imbalanced gut
Best at-home microbiome tests
Supplements & gut health

Testing your microbiome may sound like one of those celebrity-fad procedures that your checkbook can’t afford. And, if just the thought of having your gut tested triggers a fear of invasive procedures, needles, and doctors, you’re not alone my friend. Luckily, you don’t have to break the bank or force yourself to sit through discomfort in order to learn more about your gut. Today, accurate gut microbiome testing can be done at home, without a medical expert present. 

So, you’re only a Google search away from your first gut health test. But, let’s face it, the overflow of information and brands may quickly become overwhelming. No need to worry. In this article, we’ve reviewed the best gut microbiome test kits on the market. Ready to learn more about your gut microbiome health? Let's get right to it.

Why is a healthy microbiome so important?

Before we dive into the merits of different tests, it is crucial to talk a bit more about a healthy gut. What many people don't know is that a healthy microbiome is so much more than proper digestion and a good feeling in your stomach. Having a healthy gut stretches far beyond food sensitivities, reflux, and digestive discomfort.

What is a microbiome anyway?  Your microbiome is home to numerous species of bacteria, fungi, viruses, and similar microbes. While a mix of bacteria, fungi, and viruses in your stomach may not sound healthy, these microbes are critical to your physical & mental health on a multitude of levels.

There are approximately 40 trillion bacteria cells in the gut microbiome, weighing up to 5 pounds! This organ starts developing early, with a baby encountering its first microbes at birth. Some studies even suggest that this is not the first human encounter with microbes, as a fetus may be in contact with them while developing in the womb. [1]

When it comes to the different species of microbes in the gut, in this case - more is more. The more diversity there is in the gut microbiome species, the healthier the microbiome is considered to be. However, not all bacteria in your gut have the same role. For instance, the first bacteria in a baby's microbiome are responsible for helping to digest the sugar contained in breast milk. As children develop, so does their digestive system and its inhabitants. The gut microbiome diversifies through diet and other lifestyle factors, developing microbes responsible for communicating with immune and brain cells - among many others. [1]

You may have heard about the gut-brain axis, which is a term for one of the most important roles the gut microbiome has in our health. It has been proven that the gut microbiome composition can influence the interactions between the cognitive and emotional brain centers and the gut. The gut-brain axis represents a rather complex communication system between the enteric nervous system and the central nervous system. [2]

The gut-brain axis explains why our microbiome has such an impact on both cognitive and emotional aspects of life, including motivation, focus, and mood. The disruption of healthy bacteria levels in the gut has been linked to mood disorders and cognitive conditions, which shines a light on the greater importance of a healthy gut. [2]

Another role of a healthy gut relates to cardiovascular health. It’s true that diet plays a significant role in heart health, but diversifying the good bacteria in your gut microbiome is also important when it comes to increasing triglycerides and the so-called "good" cholesterol. [1]

What about your immune system? Your microbiome is home to 70% of the body’s immune cells. Taking care of your gut health is essentially boosting your immune system. These lymphoid immune cells are positioned against the intestinal mucosa, and they're responsible for regulating inflammatory responses to harmful pathogens. It is an extremely complex system that stretches through the gut barrier and basically scans every single antigen before letting it pass through. In the case of a harmful antigen, the system alarms the immune cells and triggers a powerful anti-inflammatory response. [3]

Signs of an unhealthy gut?

Lifestyle factors, including stress, sleep deprivation, a diet high in sugars and processed foods, as well as certain medications like antibiotics take a toll on our microbiome. If your lifestyle contains an excess of these things, gut-related issues like poor immunity, imbalanced hormones, weight gain, and other chronic conditions could be some of what you experience.[4]

The most obvious sign of disrupted gut health is certainly an upset stomach. If you struggle with gas, bloating, heartburn, diarrhea, and/or constipation, it is quite clear that the inhabitants of your microbiome are not living in harmony. [4]

There are also signs of an imbalanced gut that you may have trouble deciphering. For instance, your weight could fluctuate due to an imbalanced gut, as microbiome issues can affect the body's ability to not only absorb nutrients, but to store fat and regulate sugar as well. [4]

Not being able to get a good night's sleep may also stem from an inadequate ratio between good and bad bacteria in your gut. Poor sleep quality and chronic fatigue cause inflammation in the body and affect mental health.

What is the best at-home microbiome test?

Now that you know a bit more about the role of the microbiome, we bet you're anxious to learn all about your own. When it comes to at-home gut microbiome testing, you will encounter a variety of methods and results. Today, we’ll focus on the 5 most comprehensive test kitsthat are accessible, affordable, and easy to use in order to get an accurate read on your gut microbiome health. 

Microbiome test results should help you learn more about your microbiome diversity, bacteria levels, as well as microbiome composition, focusing on the different species of bacteria - both good and bad.

1. Viome

Price: $149

Viome's gut intelligence test is an excellent choice if you're curious about your digestive health and you'd like to get as granular as possible with the data it gives you. The Viome test is more sophisticated than many of its competitors. It offers a particularly detailed analysis of the bacteria species in your gut. We recommend investing in the Viome test kit if you have been experiencing poor gut health symptoms we’ve listed and your goal is to detect the core issue.

However, if you're looking for something simpler and extensive data might not be useful to you, Viome may not be the best option. Viome's innovative technology utilizes both RNA sequencing and AI to detect the different bacteria species in your gut. It also gives you supplement and treatment options based on your results. You can download their app to find more food recommendations based on your overall gut score.

Viome's gut intelligence test is CLIA certified, and extremely reliable.

2. Ombre

Price: $100 ($25 + $75 required lab fee)

The Ombre gut health test is an at-home gut test based on a stool sample. Its main objective is to detect the bacteria species in the microbiome, as well as the amounts of the good bacteria and the bad bacteria in your gut.

It’s easy to use, as all you have to do is activate the test by scanning the unique test ID QR code, take a sample using the collection swab and the tube provided in the kit, and send it back for sample analysis.

Their ISO-certified lab will send back the results within 2-4 weeks following the sample submission. The Ombre personalized microbiome report includes all the important information about the state of your gut microbiome and the variety of the species, as well as the targeted probiotics and food suggestions.

Keep in mind that Ombre is a high-quality, extremely accurate gut testing kit, but the results are less detailed than Viome.

3. Thorne

Price: $198

Thorne is another stool sample-based gut health test, otherwise known as the GutBio test.In addition to gut health tests, Thorne offers a line of natural gut health supplements promoting microbiome diversity.

Similarly to other testing companies we've mentioned, Thorne doesn't only offer an analysis of your microbiome composition, but also a personalized gut health optimization plan, including adequate supplementation and food for your individual case.

Thorne’s gut health test identifies many species of harmful viruses, yeast, bacteria, and parasites living in your gut, as well as the quantities of each. You will also learn more about the good bacteria species, and how to diversify your microbiome composition through adequate nutrition.

4. BIOHM

Price: $129.99

The BIOHM Health gut testing kit provides extremely accurate results as it relies not only on the stool sample analysis, but also on the lifestyle survey you are required to complete. The survey provides insight into your everyday habits and nutrition, which play a very important role in your gut health, as mentioned above.

A significant difference between the BIOHM test and its competitors is that you can choose to have a live consult with a BIOHM expert. Their expert will explain your gut health report in detail, answer all of your questions, and provide lifestyle and nutrition recommendations on your journey towards a healthier gut.

There is also a more affordable option that includes a detailed, yet easy-to-read, written report with recommendations from a registered dietitian.

5. Floré

Price: $79/month

Last but not least, the Floré gut health test offers a precise analysis of the gut flora, including both good and bad bacteria found in the gut. It is suitable for everyone, including expecting mothers, children, and even newborns.

In addition to a detailed report, the package will also include personalized Floré probiotics from their own line, as long as you choose the monthly subscription. Their complete gut microflora test can analyze trillions of microbe species in the gut, thanks to their innovative genome sequencing technology.

5 ways to optimize gut health with supplements

When you think about it, optimizing your gut health is essentially optimizing your lifestyle. In addition to stress management and regular physical activity, nutrition plays a key role in promoting your overall health - starting with your gut health. And if we've learned anything from this guide, it's that we can put an equal sign between gut health and general health, as the microbiome impacts every single process and function in the body.

1. Collagen

The structure of the gut lining is essential when it comes to optimal gut health. Without a strong gut lining, the harmful bacteria could end up in the bloodstream, causing an inflammatory response - which is the case with the condition called leaky gut. Collagen is a natural component of the gut lining, promoting its structure and strength by renewing the cells of gastric tissue. [5]

2. Probiotics

Probiotics have become a synonym for optimal gut health for a reason. They have been found to restore the optimal composition of the gut flora and aid in the management of gut inflammation, which has been known to lead to numerous digestive conditions. [6]

3. Prebiotics

While probiotics are the good bacteria strains that help us diversify the gut composition, prebiotics represent a source of food for the beneficial bacteria. The good bacteria in the gut feeds off the prebiotics, converting them into short-chain fatty acids that fortify the gut barrier.

4. L-glutamine

L-glutamine is one of the most important dietary supplements to include if you're looking to improve your digestive health, as it supports the integrity of the gut lining, aids in the management of the inflammatory responses in the gut, and has a vital role in creating a balance between the good and the bad bacteria in the microbiome. [7]

5. Zinc carnosine

Zinc carnosine is yet another extremely effective (yet severely underrated) dietary supplement that promotes the integrity of the mucus membrane, while also aiding in gut inflammation management. [8]

Summary

It often seems that learning more about the state of our health takes far more money, time, and patience than most are willing to invest, so many people choose to "live in blissful ignorance", hoping for the best.

When it comes to digestive health, modern technology has brought us to a point where we're just a few clicks (and a stool sample) away from a detailed report on trillions of microbes inhabiting our gut - both the wanted and the unwanted species included.

At-home gut health tests represent an excellent method of learning more about your gut. More importantly, they may be the much-needed push in the right direction when it comes to improving your daily habits and nutrition to optimize gut health. 

Summary Points:

Your microbiome is home to numerous species of bacteria, fungi, viruses, and similar microbes, which are critical to your physical & mental health on a multitude of levels.

The gut-brain axis explains why our microbiome has such an impact on both cognitive and emotional aspects of life, including motivation, focus, and mood.

Lifestyle factors, including stress, sleep deprivation, a diet high in sugars and processed foods, as well as certain medications like antibiotics take a toll on our microbiome.

Microbiome test results should help you learn more about your microbiome diversity, bacteria levels, as well as microbiome composition, focusing on the different species of bacteria - both good and bad.

Nutrition & supplements play an important lifestyle factor in the maintenance of a healthy gut microbiome, including adequate protein, anti-inflammatory nutrients, pre and probiotics.

References

  1. Robertson, R. (2017). Why the Gut Microbiome Is Crucial for Your Health. Healthline. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/gut-microbiome-and-health

  2. Carabotti, M., Scirocco, A., Maselli, M. A., & Severi, C. (2015). The gut-brain axis: interactions between enteric microbiota, central and enteric nervous systems. Annals of gastroenterology, 28(2), 203–209.

  3. The Link Between Your Gut Microbiome And Immune Health. (2022, March 25). Atlas Biomed Blog | Take Control of Your Health with No-Nonsense News on Lifestyle, Gut Microbes and Genetics. https://atlasbiomed.com/blog/the-microbiota-immune-axis/

  4. Dix, M. (2018, July 2). What’s an Unhealthy Gut? How Gut Health Affects You. Healthline; Healthline Media. https://www.healthline.com/health/gut-health

  5. Mello, M. F. V. de, Pissinatti, A., & Ferreira, A. M. R. (2010). Distribution of collagen types I, III, and IV in gastric tissue of marmosets (Callithrix spp., Callitrichidae: Primates). Pesquisa Veterinária Brasileira, 30(4), 317–320. https://doi.org/10.1590/s0100-736x2010000400006

  6. Hemarajata, P., & Versalovic, J. (2013). Effects of probiotics on gut microbiota: mechanisms of intestinal immunomodulation and neuromodulation. Therapeutic advances in gastroenterology, 6(1), 39–51. https://doi.org/10.1177/1756283X12459294

  7. The role of glutamine in supporting gut health and neuropsychiatric factors. (2021). Food Science and Human Wellness, 10(2), 149–154. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.fshw.2021.02.003

  8. Does Zinc Carnosine Help With GERD? (2022, August 9). Healthline. https://www.healthline.com/health/gerd/zinc-carnosine-gerd



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