Your Microbiome Gut-Health Test Might Be Full of It

Could these direct-to-consumer products provide personalized health solutions?

Simon Spichak
Oct 16, 2020 · 6 min read
Image by Arek Socha from Pixabay

Direct-To-Consumer Gut Health Tests

How do they work?

The bacteria in our microbiome live on a mucus layer on top of our gut cells. Bacteria differ along our gut because they have different preferences for oxygen and acidity. Since these microbes are on the mucus layer, they also slough off and end up in our poop. The majority of these microbes, however, come from our colon. In many of these tests, this is our microbiome sample!

Photo by Adrian Lange on Unsplash

How reliable are predictions from gut testing companies?

Many of these companies should strive to make their consumer’s data easily understandable. They have to toe the line between elegant layperson descriptions and confabulations. Companies must be honest about what they aren’t able to do.

  1. Everything from diet, genetics, time of day, stress, sample collection or bioinformatics analysis could influence your result. If you send the same sample to two different companies, you get two different interpretations.
  2. There is no evidence that supplements sold by these companies change our microbiome, alleviate anxiety or improve bloating.
  3. Companies don’t transparently explain their methods or confidence in their results.
  4. Sequencing the 16S gene might tell you which bacteria are there, but it won’t tell you about their metabolic functions.
  5. The fecal microbiome is still different from the intestinal microbiome! It also does not tell us about other regions of the gut, where the microbiome plays physiological roles. Addressing this, scientists recently published research in ACS Nano in September 2020, describing a capsule that functions as an ingestible laboratory. It collects samples throughout the gastrointestinal tract for scientists to have a more representative idea. Perhaps in the future, these tests could tell us about the geographical organization of our microbiome.
Photo by Ryoji Iwata on Unsplash

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Simon Spichak

Written by

Co-Founder at Resolvve Inc | Neuroscientist & SciComm | 📰 simonspichak.substack.com/| ☕ https://ko-fi.com/simonspichak

Age of Awareness

Stories providing creative, innovative, and sustainable changes to the ways we learn

Simon Spichak

Written by

Co-Founder at Resolvve Inc | Neuroscientist & SciComm | 📰 simonspichak.substack.com/| ☕ https://ko-fi.com/simonspichak

Age of Awareness

Stories providing creative, innovative, and sustainable changes to the ways we learn

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