Where Can I Get My Gut Microbiome Tested?

April 19, 2023 6 min read

Where Can I Get My Gut Microbiome Tested?

Excitement around the gut microbiome and its capabilities is growing, but how do you know what yours ‘looks’ like? The simple way to find out is to do a gut microbiome test at home. You may display symptoms such as bloating, gas or discomfort which may point towards an imbalance in your gut, but you can’t really pinpoint the exact cause. That’s where gut microbiome testing could help.

Microbiome testing measures the abundance of bacteria and other microbes within your gut via a stool sample. This may be something your doctor offers you if you present to their surgery with symptoms, but there has been an increase in at home gut microbiome test kits, meaning you can conveniently get a test from the comfort of your own home.

In this article, we’ll explore the different gut microbiome test kits available, what they can tell you, and if they are really effective.

What is the gut microbiome?

But first, let’s quickly recap what the gut microbiome is. The gut microbiome is a tiny ecosystem residing in your gastrointestinal tract but predominantly in your colon. It consists of trillions of microorganisms – archaea, bacteria, fungi, protozoa, viruses and others that together make up the microbiome[i].

The gut microbiota – all of the organisms in the gut – is essential for the digestion of certain foods and has a major impact on our overall health and disease status. These microbes protect you from pathogens, build your immune system, breakdown specific foods into useable metabolites, and can affect many physiological functions[ii].

When in balance, your gut microbiome can do wonderful things for you, but an imbalance, called dysbiosis, can cause various negative health effects.

What is a gut microbiome test?

A gut microbiome test can give you an insight into the composition of your gut microbiome; what microbes are residing there and the effect they have on your health. Gut microbiome testing uses a small sample of your poo (you might have heard it called a stool if you’ve ever been asked to provide a sample by a medical professional).

The test comes with all the instructions and kit you need to conduct the test at home. Often you’ll receive a special container to pop your sample in to before sending to the laboratory for testing. It’s all pretty quick and simple.

Once in the lab, the DNA within your sample is extracted and sequenced using specialist equipment. Doing this enables scientists to determine the composition of your gut microbiome.

What methods do gut microbiome tests use?

Although there are others such as qPCR and metagenomics, there are two main methods uses to sequence DNA in gut microbiome tests; deep shotgun sequencing and 16S rRNA tests.

Deep shotgun sequencing  works by breaking down or chopping DNA into small pieces, sequencing (or reading) them all and then stitching them all back together again to give a clearer picture of your microbiome. It’s like putting a puzzle back together again.

It means that scientists can identify or ‘see’ thousands of different microbes within the gut including bacteria, viruses, fungi and more. The deep shotgun method can identify many different microbes and their genetic material, so it can also identify some of the potential functions of specific genes and even new species[iii].

16S rRNA sequencing  methods are also used in gut microbiome tests but are unable to tell which individual species of bacteria are residing in your gut. Neither can they show you all the individual genes and their functions. It had been the ‘gold standard’ for sequencing and analysing bacteria for decades[iv].

The main difference between the two is shotgun sequencing can analyse all metagenomic DNA in a sample while 16S only analyses 16S rRNA genes. For this reason, deep shotgun sequencing based tests are often more expensive because they typically require more ‘reads’ per sample[v]. So, it is important that you purchase a test from a reputable company.

Despite the turnaround time being slightly longer, deep shotgun sequencing is highly accurate, sequences an extensive proportion of the microbial world, and at a much higher resolution.

Here is a comparison of deep shotgun sequencing and 16S rRNA sequencing, image provided by TinyHealth: 

16 s rna vs metagenomics gut microbiome test

Why should I test my gut microbiome?

In short, gut microbiome testing enables you to closely monitor the impact of your lifestyle on the composition and health of your colonic ecosystem. Receiving a report about your microbiome allows you to make informed decisions to help you promote the good bacteria in your gut and lessen the impact of pathogens and bad gut bugs.

Knowing what micro-organisms make up your gut microbiome can be a good step to understanding your overall health. A test may also help you to identify the cause of symptoms or problems you may be experiencing, such as bloating, gas or food intolerances. But you’ll need to follow up with a doctor to determine the exact cause.

Regular gut microbiome testing can also show you how your body is reacting to supplements. For example, it can give you a before and after view of your gut microbiome when you start using Layer Origin’s PureHMOs®. Take a look at how PureHMOs® impacted bacteria strains using a gut microbiome test.

Where can I get my gut microbiome tested?

Before rushing off and buying an at-home gut microbiome test, it’s important that you do some research first. At present, home microbiome tests are not approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

If you’re looking to by a stool test, check the company who supplies the kit discloses important information like what methods they use to analyse your poop, if the methods are backed by science, what you can expect to find out and when as well as checking out their customer reviews.

Here are a few companies who currently offer gut microbiome testing.

Ombre ($99.99)  - Good Value

The Ombre Gut Microbiome Health Test Kit uses 16S rRNA to sequence the genes in your gut microbiome. They claim that the test can “determine the total abundance and distribution of bacteria in your stool sample.”[vi] The test only analyses the bacteria present in your gut and test for over 10,000 species, showing you only the ones that are statistically significant.

Ombre Gut Microbiome Test with HMO

Tinyhealth ($199.00) - Great Accuracy 

Tinyhealth is slightly different because they provide the first at-home gut health test designed for mums and babies aged 0-3 months. Tinyhealth offer a range of tests for babies, toddlers and children as well as adults. The company use shotgun metagenomics sequencing methods to provide a clearer picture of the gut microbiome.

Tiny Health Gut Test

Biomesight ($214.00) - Great Insight For Your Results 

The Biomesight microbiome test gives you a snapshot view of your gut microbiome through the use of 16S rRNA sequencing technology. Like other tests, the Biomesight test measures the relative abundance of bacteria species in your stool sample.

Viome ($149)

Viome’s Gut Intelligence test is the company’s primary gut health test which analyses the microbiome and your digestive health. It uses metatranscriptomics to sequence the RNA in your microbial ecosystem to give you an overall ‘Integrative Functional Health score’ and over 20 other scores for health markers including inflammation, digestive efficiency, and gas production.

Floré ($249.00) 

The Floré Gut Microbiome Test uses whole genome sequencing to analyse the composition of your microbiome. Like other tests, it sequences the 16S or 18S rRNA genes; 16S for bacteria and 18S for viruses and eukaryotes. Floré states that the whole test takes approximately five minutes to complete and you should receive your result within one to three weeks.

Summary

The interest in and around the gut microbiome is growing, stratospherically some might say. As a result, more private companies are starting to offer at-home gut microbiome tests, some which are more affordable than others and some with increased accuracy.

Gut microbiome testing shouldn’t be considered as the be all and end all when it comes to your intestinal health. Instead, it should be viewed as a stepping stone to understanding your microbial ecosystem rather than an exact diagnostic tool.

At-home test kits are a good way to sneak-peek into your gut and see what secrets it can reveal. This should then help you make informed decisions about your lifestyle and overall health.

You can help to restore the balance in your gut with a little help from Layer Origin’s PureHMOs®.

Written By: 

Leanne Edermaniger

A science writer who specialises in human health and enjoys writing about all things related to the gut microbiome.

Sources

[i] Brody H. The gut microbiome. Nature. 2020;577(7792).

[ii] Shreiner AB, Kao JY, Young VB. The gut microbiome in health and in disease. Curr Opin Gastroenterol. 2015 Jan;31(1):69-75. doi: 10.1097/MOG.0000000000000139. PMID: 25394236; PMCID: PMC4290017.

[iii] Ruairi Robertson PD. Shotgun metagenomic sequencing: Determining depth [Internet]. Shotgun Metagenomic Sequencing: Determining Depth. Microbiome Insights Inc; 2022 [cited 2023Mar29]. Available from: https://blog.microbiomeinsights.com/shotgun-metagenomic-sequencing-determining-depth

[iv] Johnson JS, Spakowicz DJ, Hong B-Y, Petersen LM, Demkowicz P, Chen L, et al. Evaluation of 16S rrna gene sequencing for species and strain-level microbiome analysis. Nature Communications. 2019;10(1).

[v] Peterson D, Bonham KS, Rowland S, Pattanayak CW; RESONANCE Consortium; Klepac-Ceraj V. Comparative Analysis of 16S rRNA Gene and Metagenome Sequencing in Pediatric Gut Microbiomes. Front Microbiol. 2021 Jul 15;12:670336. doi: 10.3389/fmicb.2021.670336. PMID: 34335499; PMCID: PMC8320171.

[vi] Gut Microbiome Health Test [Internet]. Ombre. [cited 2023Mar30]. Available from: https://www.ombrelab.com/products/ombre-gut-health-test

 


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