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The trillions of bacteria in your gut are hard at work to keep you healthy. These bacteria also affect your immune system and brain function. The quality of your gut bacteria can affect your mood, weight, and even your mental health. But how do you know if your gut is healthy? You can’t see them or feel them. That’s why you need a gut test. In this post, we'll go through some of the tests that show you the most, and what to do with the results.
Your gut’s microbiome plays a vital role in many aspects of your health. It affects your immune system, is instrumental in fighting pathogens, synthesizes vitamins, helps keep you at a healthy weight, and much more. This is why it's incredibly important that you do everything you can to keep your gut flora healthy.
Understanding gut function and testing for problems in your gut help you evaluate your current health status and determine what you can do to improve your situation.
What is the Gut?
You might think of your stomach when you hear the term gut, but this is only a part of your body’s gut. The gut encompasses your entire gastrointestinal tract. It begins at the mouth and ends at the anus. The gut is responsible for processing food. The process begins when you take a bite and ends when the waste that isn’t used is passed out as stool. If the gut handles any part of the process inefficiently, it affects your overall health. This includes mental and emotional health.
Poor gut health also triggers symptoms including:
- Abdominal pain
- Loose stools
- Unexplained weight loss
- Black stool
- Trouble swallowing
- Throat or chest pain
The gut’s microbiome includes everything in the gut’s environment. This includes microorganisms, bacteria, viruses, protozoa, and fungi, and their collective genetic material present in the gut. All of these things play an important role in:
- Nutrient and mineral absorption
- Synthesis of enzymes, vitamins, and amino acids
- Production of short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs)
What is Gut Health?
Gut health is the state of your gut microbiome and how they influence your overall health.
Gut health is a novel concept for most health enthusiasts. Some people feel they don't need to pay attention because they don't have any gastrointestinal issues.
But, this can be misleading. Most diseases that result from gut bacteria imbalance rarely show early signs. Some brain-related conditions such as fatigue, poor concentration and memory, stress, anxiety, and depression can all be symptoms of an unhealthy gut.
A healthy gut contains a healthy amount of the gut microbiome. These gut microbiomes promote lots of healthy body processes, right from infancy and throughout human life.
A lot of factors can affect gut health. They include:
- Nutrition: The type of food you eat. Foods such as Probiotics can help promote gut health.
- Use of Antibiotics: Some antibiotics can kill healthy gut bacteria and lead to an unhealthy gut.
- Genetics: You can acquire either a healthy or unhealthy gut from your parents during conception.
It is necessary to maintain a healthy gut. A healthy gut influences health and well-being in so many ways. Keeping it healthy should be on your to-do list for healthy living.
How do you know there’s a problem with your gut’s microbiome?
If you experience any of the symptoms listed above, it could indicate a problem with gut health. But sometimes symptoms are subtle or you might have so many you aren’t sure exactly what is going on. In these cases, a microbiome test might help.
What a Microbiome test can tell you
A gut microbiome test can reveal a variety of information about the status and health of your gut.
What can a microbiome test tell you?
- The amount of good and bad bacteria or microorganisms present in your gut
- What is causing any stomach symptoms you might experience
- Which probiotics (either customized to you or over-the-counter) could help you
A microbiome test can also possibly improve skin, increase energy, improve sleep, and lose weight. This doesn't happen for everyone, but testing your gut bacteria can help you and give you information about what to improve on.
What to look for in a microbiome testing kit
Health experts have varying opinions concerning the effectiveness of microbiome testing kits. Some recommend using more than one test and comparing the results to provide you with a more complete picture of your gut health. It’s also important to review with your doctor any results you get from a test before making significant changes to improve your gut health.
If you decide to use an at-home microbiome test, look for tests that:
- Search for and identify negative species in the gut that are linked to health problems
- Share the scientific information supporting their testing procedures and conclusions
- Measure the microbiome more than once, including before, during, and after a lifecycle change
4 Steps to Taking a Microbiome Test
Testing your gut microbiome from the comfort of home can be done by following these four simple steps:
How to take a Microbiome Test:
Order one of the best at-home microbiome test kits.
Not all tests check for the same things, so pick one that matches your needs. All the tests we mention in this article can be ordered online and should arrive at your door in around five days.
Collect a sample to be tested.
Make sure to follow your test kit's directions during this step. While most kits ask you to submit a stool sample, some, such as Ixcela’s Internal Fitness Test Kit, analyze your blood.
Submit your sample and wait for it to be tested.
It will generally take around a month for your sample to be analyzed, but this can vary depending on the company and testing methods used.
Wait two to four weeks
And receive your results.
Top Six Microbiome Test Kits
Microbiome test kits differ from each other when it comes to price, use, coverage, and other factors. In this list, we give you the top six microbiome test kits with their corresponding key features to help you make a great choice.
Thryve markets its microbiome test as a ‘program' and for good reason. With their Gut Health Program, you'll not only learn about your microbiome, but you'll also receive personalized probiotics and food recommendations that'll help improve your gut's health.
Your report will include information about the species of bacteria found inside you, how balanced your gut is, and what you can do to improve your gut health. Their probiotics help to increase the number of good bacteria in your microbiome.
- Recommendations are graded based upon the type of scientific study used and whether or not current scientific literature supports them.
- Personalized probiotics that help replenish the good bacteria within your gut.
- Diet recommendations based on your test results.
- Results in two weeks or less sent directly to you through Thryve's app.
If you're having difficulty concentrating, chronic diarrhea, headaches, and nutritional deficiencies, then you may be suffering from a condition known as leaky gut syndrome.
By taking Verisana's leaky gut test at home, you can narrow down if this common ailment is the cause of your discomfort. And luckily, with dietary and lifestyle changes, leaky gut syndrome can usually be healed.
- Measures microorganisms from a stool sample to determine whether or not you have leaky gut syndrome.
- Easy to understand results that show if you have too high, too low, or healthy levels of Enterobacteriaceae, yeast, pH-Value, and more.
- Results you can discuss with your doctor
- Have your mouth swabs examined free of charge with the purchase of a test.
Viome's Gut Intelligence Test analyzes your gut health using a small stool sample. The test offers more information than many of its competitors, things like the number of organisms living in your gut and what they do to affect your health.
With Viome, your analysis includes a 90-day nutrition plan and personalized supplement recommendations to help you take charge of your gut health. This at-home gut test is also less expensive than many of the others on the market.
- Learn the strains and species of viruses, bacteria, eukaryotes, and archaea living in your gut.
- Sequences your RNA to find out the identity and quantity of living microorganisms inside of you.
- See what the organisms in your microbiome are doing and how their actions affect your health.
- Personalized diet and supplement plan based on your results.
- Test results you can access from anywhere using Viome's app for iOS and Android.
With Wellnicity's My Gut - Health test you can identify yeast, bacteria, and other factors that can negatively affect your gut’s microbiome. Their state-of-the-art laboratory can identify thousands of different microorganisms that call your body home, including parasites.
If you're experiencing any digestive symptoms, this test can find gluten antibodies and unique GI inflammation markers to help you narrow down the cause. While it's a bit more expensive than the competition, they offer some things you won't find elsewhere. This includes the ability to speak with a clinical nutritionist.
- Top of the line equipment that can identify more than 4,000 specific microorganisms.
- Advice from a nutritionist that's tailored to you.
- Personalized vitamin and supplement suggestions that can be bought through Wellnicity's suppliers.
- Methods that are backed by science, with more than 12 years of proven results.
- Utilizes two stool samples to find more parasites and ova than other leading tests.
Ixcela's at-home microbiome test can tell you about your gut's health simply by analyzing a drop of blood. Their test measures 11 different metabolites found in your blood so you can better understand your microbiome.
Using your results, Ixcela provides you with loads of actionable insights to help you improve your overall health. This includes things that the competition doesn't offer, such as a workout plan.
- No need to submit a stool sample, the test analyzes 11 key metabolites from a pinprick of blood.
- 90-day macronutrient and workout plan personalized to you.
- A free 30-day trial of Ixcela's library of gut-healthy recipes.
- Easy to read results and health scores.
Using the power of science, and a small stool sample, Biohm’s Gut Test gives you a unique look into your digestive health. This includes actionable insights, such as dietary recommendations, personalized supplements, and the foods you should and shouldn’t be eating.
Biohm’s gut health test will issue you an overall gut score, on a scale from 1 to 10, which will more or less grade your microbiome diversity. Additionally, Biohm’s gut bacteria test will compare your bacterial and fungal communities with the normal levels of a healthy gut.
- Personalized recommendations that cover diet, lifestyle, and supplements.
- Order the supplements your body needs directly through the Biohm website.
- Learn how your gut’s health compares to the average person.
- For an additional cost, you can receive a live consultation with your Biohm stool test.
How to Choose the Best at Home Microbiome Test for You
Even with this list of reliable at-home microbiome tests, you might still struggle to pick the best test for your needs. Tests, despite their similarities, offer a variety of different assessments.
One of the best ways to choose a test is to consider what gut health issues you want to be assessed. For example:
- Viome’s Gut Intelligence Test provides an in-depth test for an affordable price
- Verisana provides information about leaky gut syndrome
- Thryve and Wellnicity provide information to help you customize probiotics, vitamins, and diet plans based on your gut’s current health
How to take care of your gut microbiome
A variety of lifestyle and diet changes can help you improve your gut’s microbiome. For example:
- Get adequate sleep
- Exercise regularly
- Avoid foods that damage gut health, including fried foods, alcohol, caffeine, charred meats, artificial sweeteners, and high-fat foods
- Avoid antibiotic use when possible because it wipes out both good and bad germs in the gut
- Drink plenty of water every day
- Avoid frequent dining out
- Stop eating as soon as you feel full
Additionally, you’ll want to incorporate gut-healthy foods into your diet as often as possible. Some of the best good gut health foods include:
- Whole grains
- Yogurt (be aware of sugar content and consider making yogurt at home)
- Fresh vegetables and fruit
Many people find that adding a daily probiotic supplement helps them manage gut health. Medical experts have varying opinions concerning the effectiveness of probiotics, but if you choose to try one, opt for one that is from a reputable manufacturer that offers science-backed information about the product.
Symptoms of a poor and unhealthy gut
How do you know you have an unhealthy gut? Most people take probiotics without having any known symptoms of an unhealthy gut.
This is not an entirely bad practice, but you could be wasting your money.
The good bacteria in your gut almost present no problems. They control important functions in your body and keep the bad bacteria in check. However, sometimes the bad bacteria can take over and dominate your gut.
This is where things go wrong.
When the bad bacteria take over, your gut sends a distress warning telling your body system that your gut is in bad shape. These signals usually translate to symptoms that are noticeable to most people.
Most symptoms of an unhealthy gut are usually familiar. They include:
- Gas and Bloating
- Unusual cravings
- Poor concentration and memory
- Mood swings
- Weight gain
- Autoimmune diseases
These symptoms are common to poor gut health. If you witness any one of the symptoms, it's necessary to consult your healthcare provider.
What if I find a problem?
How you deal with a gut health problem varies based on the severity of the problem. For instance, if you feel less-than-optimal and experience digestive symptoms like bloating or nausea, a few simple dietary changes can be enough to improve your gut’s microbiome.
If lifestyle and diet changes do not improve your symptoms, you should undergo a medical evaluation. It’s also important to seek medical attention if you have severe symptoms.
Long-term gut health problems put you at an increased risk of serious health issues. This includes colitis, colon polyps, cancer, and more. Many of these issues can be prevented or minimized by maintaining a healthy lifestyle, practicing good bowel habits, and getting screened for cancer.
Benefits of good gut health
When the environment is perfect for them, they give you all the benefits you need.
Since these bacteria influence lots of body processes, you will benefit from keeping them healthy.
- Better food digestion
- Improved mood
- Improved concentration and focus
- Improved immune system and disease prevention
- Better sleep
- Improved energy
These are the rewards of a healthy gut. It's necessary to undergo a gut test to know if your gut is healthy enough. This test will determine whether you need professional help or some lifestyle changes.