October 14, 2022 8 min read
There is plenty of research available pointing towards the positive influence a healthy gut microbiome can have on your overall health. But how do you know what’s really going on inside you?
While symptoms such as bloating, gas, indigestion, and even some skin disorders may be the result of an imbalanced gut, the only way to properly gauge the diversity of your gut, is through microbiome testing.
So, join us on a journey of discovery as we find out what a gut microbiome test is and how human milk oligosaccharides can help boost the good bacteria in your own gut microbiome.
The gut microbiome is the term given to the bacteria and their genes residing in your gut. You may also have heard the term ‘gut microbiota.’ Although these terms are used interchangeably, there is a slight difference in that the microbiota is the collective term for your gut bacteria but not including their genes.
You may have thought that your body is your own, but you actually share it with trillions of tiny microorganisms, including bacteria, viruses, fungi, and other microscopic life forms[i]. Specifically, the microbes present in your gut have a crucial role in your health – when they’re balanced, they can do great things for you, but if your microbiome becomes imbalanced, it can lead to some irritating and even debilitating symptoms.
An imbalanced gut is called dysbiosis and can be caused by an increase or decrease in some of the bacterial communities or changes in the abundance of microbes in your gut. Either way, dysbiosis is associated with increasing the risk of many chronic diseases[ii]. That’s why it is important to do everything you can to keep your gut microbiota healthy.
One way to literally ‘see’ how your gut microbiome looks is using a gut microbiome test. Microbiome tests use a sample of your feces to analyze the microbes and any potential imbalances within your gastrointestinal system.
It sounds gross, but a simple analysis of your stool can give you some vital information about what’s really going on inside your gut. It can even provide you with clues about some potential inflammatory conditions, such as inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).How does a gut microbiome test work?
When you sign up for a gut microbiome test, you’ll be required to provide a stool sample. Depending on the company you choose, this could be just a small amount or an entire sample.
Traditionally, a stool sample would be sent away for laboratory analysis to look for bacteria that cause infections. However, advancements in testing mean that companies now analyze the composition of your gut microbiome using a stool sample.
The analysis they conduct can help to show how many different bacteria are present through DNA sequencing. Some tests will also measure some of the biomarkers associated with gut health. For example, they may measure the amount of inflammation present.What can gut microbiome tests tell you?
At-home microbiome tests can be considered a first step in understanding more about your gut. However, this should be for your own information rather than for clinical or diagnostic purposes. If you have any gastrointestinal symptoms, you should consult your doctor for advice.
It’s important to note that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not approved at-home gut microbiome tests. However, there is hope that, in time, microbiome tests will become an integral part of clinical care. Currently, though, more research needs to be done[iii].
A gut microbiome test may tell you about the different types of bacteria residing in your gut as well as the overall composition and diversity. So, you may be able to identify certain species that are abundant or those that might need to be boosted.
Your gut microbiota is a valuable army of microbes that, amongst many other things, help to digest the dietary fiber your body is ill-equipped to do. By breaking down the fiber and transforming it into useful metabolites your body can use, the abundance and activity of certain species of bacteria will increase.
Here are some of the ways you can help to boost your gut microbiome.
If you want a healthy microbiome, it needs to be diverse, and the best way to help ensure diversity is to eat a wide range of foods. Research shows that your long-term diet has a major influence over what your gut microbiome ‘looks’ like[iv].
The Western diet, which is typically low in fruit and vegetable intake but high in fat and salt, is known to reduce the diversity of the gut’s ecosystem. That’s because the carbohydrates that your gut microbes love, such as fiber, aren’t readily available[v].
Of course, the easiest way to boost your gut is to make sure fiber is readily available. So, that means incorporating plenty of plant-based foods, such as:
A study by Klinder et al. (2016) found that increasing fruit and vegetable intake, as well as flavonoids, had an inhibitory effect on pathogenic clostridia species[vi]. While other research shows that eating a diet rich in wholegrain foods can promote the growth of health-promoting species such as Bifidobacteria and Lactobacilli[vii].Interestingly, a British study conducted in 2008 found that daily consumption of a whole grain, wheat-based breakfast cereal had a significant prebiotic effect on the composition of the human gut microbiome[viii].
Many people may supplement their diet with pre- and probiotics, but do you really know the difference? Knowing the difference is important because although they sound similar, they do different things in the gut.
Probiotics are live bacteria often found in some foods, like fermented foods, yogurts, and some dairy products. Probiotics can help to restore balance in your gut by boosting some of the beneficial bacteria species that reside there.
Prebiotics, on the other hand, are foods like fiber that provide nourishment to your gut microbes. It’s important to know that even though all prebiotics are fiber, not all types of fiber have a prebiotic effect.
To be considered prebiotic, it must:
PureHMO® human milk oligosaccharide from Layer Origin Nutrition is an example of a powerful prebiotic. By supplementing your diet with PureHMO® you could reap numerous benefits, including:
In breastfed babies, HMOs are a vital food source for the bacteria in the infant gut, helping to shape the developing microbiome. However, emerging science suggests that HMOs are also important for modulating the immune system and are an important factor in preventing the adhesion of pathogens[x]. However, PureHMO® is NOT derived from human breast milk. It is produced by precise fermentation of lactose (cow’s milk).
The PureHMO® range features a mix of high purity HMOs, including 2’-Fucosyllactose (2’-FL) and Lacto-n-Neotetraose (LNnt). Research conducted in mice shows that 2’-FL supplementation can reduce intestinal inflammation and decreases the severity of colitis (a chronic condition where the colon and rectum are inflamed)[xi].
Further studies show that 2’ FL is able to boost Bifidobacteriacounts as well as increase the production of short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs), including butyrate – a potent health promoter[xii].
So, supplementing your diet with HMOs can have some powerful health benefits, including promoting the diversity of your gut microbiome, increasing the activity of butyrate-producers, and relieving gastrointestinal symptoms.
It’s great reading the scientific literature, but what about the benefits of Layer Origin’s PureHMO®? How can we ‘see’ them for ourselves? A gut microbiome test allows us to peek inside our guts and see what’s really going on. That’s exactly what we did with one of our consumers – and the results speak for themselves.
Before taking any HMOs, the consumer had undetectable levels of Bifidobacteriain their gut. However, after supplementing their diet with PureHMO® and completing a further gut microbiome test, the consumer’s Bifidobacteriaabundance increased by a whopping 2582% (yes, you did read that right) in just 23 days.
Bifidobacteriaare a probiotic species that are natural residents of the human gut. They are often among the first colonizers of the gut when you are born and are renowned for their adaptive abilities and beneficial health properties[xiii]. They are also known for their cross-feeding abilities – the metabolites they produce help to nourish bacteria that produce butyrate[xiv].
Figure1 shows the increase of good bacteria before and after taking PureHMO® 2'FL (2 scoops/day) for 23 days
Figure 1. demonstrates the increase in several healthy gut bacteria species, including:
The results of the test also show a 173% increase in Faecalibacterium,specifically F. prausnitzii.The study by Ryan et al. (2021) also noted an increase in the abundance of F. prausnitzii in the stool samples of the study participants. Interestingly, specific strains of Bifidobacterium longumhave been shown to increase their production of the SCFA, acetate, when cultured in 2’-FL. This is interesting because acetate helps to feed butyrate producers like F. prausnitzii,which have been linked to numerous health benefits and could be considered a therapeutic approach to managing both irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and irritable bowel disease (IBD).
Although home gut tests shouldn’t be used for diagnostic purposes, they can offer insights into the composition and diversity of your gut microbiome. They can also demonstrate how well your supplements are working and if they are doing what they say they do. The results from our consumer showed that after just 23 days of using the PureHMO® supplement, the abundance of total good gut bacteria increased from 5.782% to 11.214%.
If you want to ensure your gut microbiome is abundant with good bacteria species, you can learn more about PureHMO® here.
Written By: Leanne Edermaniger, a science writer who enjoys writing about all things related to the gut microbiome.
[i] Brody, H., 2020. The gut microbiome. [online] Nature.com. Available at: <https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-020-00194-2> [Accessed 11 October 2022].
[ii] Carding S, Verbeke K, Vipond DT, Corfe BM, Owen LJ. Dysbiosis of the gut microbiota in disease. Microb Ecol Health Dis. 2015 Feb 2;26:26191. doi: 10.3402/mehd.v26.26191. PMID: 25651997; PMCID: PMC4315779.
[iii] Staley C, Kaiser T, Khoruts A. Clinician Guide to Microbiome Testing. Dig Dis Sci. 2018 Dec;63(12):3167-3177. doi: 10.1007/s10620-018-5299-6. Epub 2018 Sep 28. PMID: 30267172.
[iv] David LA, Maurice CF, Carmody RN, Gootenberg DB, Button JE, Wolfe BE, Ling AV, Devlin AS, Varma Y, Fischbach MA, Biddinger SB, Dutton RJ, Turnbaugh PJ. Diet rapidly and reproducibly alters the human gut microbiome. Nature. 2014 Jan 23;505(7484):559-63. doi: 10.1038/nature12820. Epub 2013 Dec 11. PMID: 24336217; PMCID: PMC3957428.
[v] Sonnenburg ED, Smits SA, Tikhonov M, Higginbottom SK, Wingreen NS, Sonnenburg JL. Diet-induced extinctions in the gut microbiota compound over generations. Nature. 2016 Jan 14;529(7585):212-5. doi: 10.1038/nature16504. PMID: 26762459; PMCID: PMC4850918.
[vi] Klinder A, Shen Q, Heppel S, Lovegrove JA, Rowland I, Tuohy KM. Impact of increasing fruit and vegetables and flavonoid intake on the human gut microbiota. Food Funct. 2016 Apr;7(4):1788-96. doi: 10.1039/c5fo01096a. PMID: 26757793.
[vii] Tangestani, H., Emamat, H., Ghalandari, H. and Shab-Bidar, S., 2020. Whole Grains, Dietary Fibers and the Human Gut Microbiota: A Systematic Review of Existing Literature. Recent Patents on Food, Nutrition & Agriculture, 11(3), pp.235-248.
[viii] Costabile, A., Klinder, A., Fava, F., Napolitano, A., Fogliano, V., Leonard, C., Gibson, G. and Tuohy, K., 2007. Whole-grain wheat breakfast cereal has a prebiotic effect on the human gut microbiota: a double-blind, placebo-controlled, crossover study. British Journal of Nutrition, 99(1), pp.110-120.
[ix] Slavin, J., 2013. Fiber and Prebiotics: Mechanisms and Health Benefits. Nutrients, 5(4), pp.1417-1435.
[x] Bode, L., 2012. Human milk oligosaccharides: Every baby needs a sugar mama. Glycobiology, 22(9), pp.1147-1162.
[xi] Grabinger, T., Glaus Garzon, J., Hausmann, M., Geirnaert, A., Lacroix, C. and Hennet, T., 2019. Alleviation of Intestinal Inflammation by Oral Supplementation With 2-Fucosyllactose in Mice. Frontiers in Microbiology, 10.
[xii] Ryan JJ, Monteagudo-Mera A, Contractor N, Gibson GR. Impact of 2'-Fucosyllactose on Gut Microbiota Composition in Adults with Chronic Gastrointestinal Conditions: Batch Culture Fermentation Model and Pilot Clinical Trial Findings. Nutrients. 2021 Mar 14;13(3):938. doi: 10.3390/nu13030938. PMID: 33799455; PMCID: PMC7998190.
[xiii] O'Callaghan A, van Sinderen D. Bifidobacteria and Their Role as Members of the Human Gut Microbiota. Front Microbiol. 2016 Jun 15;7:925. doi: 10.3389/fmicb.2016.00925. PMID: 27379055; PMCID: PMC4908950.
[xiv] Belenguer A, Duncan SH, Calder AG, Holtrop G, Louis P, Lobley GE, Flint HJ. Two routes of metabolic cross-feeding between Bifidobacterium adolescentis and butyrate-producing anaerobes from the human gut. Appl Environ Microbiol. 2006 May;72(5):3593-9. doi: 10.1128/AEM.72.5.3593-3599.2006. PMID: 16672507; PMCID: PMC1472403.
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