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What’s in your gut? Scientific advances in the last decade show that a diverse host of microorganisms living in our digestive systems serve good and bad roles in our overall health. Gut microbiome testing is one way to find out your health status.
If you suffer from chronic stomach problems, are curious about your gut makeup, or want to contribute to ongoing gut-related DNA research, read our microbiome testing reviews to learn more.
- What Is The Gut Microbiome?
- What Does Gut Microbiome Testing Involve?
- Best Gut Microbiome Testing Companies
- How Can I Keep My Gut Healthy?
- Can Probiotics Help?
The gut microbiome is a community of microbes in our gastrointestinal (GI) tract, including bacteria and fungi. These microbes have specific genes unique to their “bodies,” much like each human has a unique set of genes. Scientists call the entire collection of genes of all the microbes in a community a microbiome.
Within each human microbiome, all different microbes interact with each other—and with their environment (like organisms in Earth’s ecosystems).
Scientists know that a normal, balanced microbiome is essential for maintaining human health, and when a significant shift in that balance occurs, it can contribute to health problems and disease.
Gut testing involves sequencing the genes of the microbes that reside in your GI tract. How does this work? To put it plainly, these tests require a sample of your feces.
No, you don’t have to poop in a cup. But these testing kits require you to take a swab from your used toilet paper and place the swab with your fecal sample in a tube. You seal the tube and send it to the lab in their packaging. This process differs slightly based on the company.
How Long Before I Get Results?
The lab does a human gut microbiome analysis of your sample and sends you results, typically within 2 to 4 weeks, but results take longer for some companies.
We ranked companies based on reputation, the reliability of results, the type of information you get in your results, pricing, customer support, and other factors.
Viome’s Gut Intelligence Test uses metatranscriptomic analysis to sequence all the RNA in your stool and identify all living gut microorganisms (bacteria, viruses, bacteriophages, archaea, fungi, yeast, parasites, etc.) at a species and strain level. They also measure the metabolites your microbes produce after you’ve eaten.
Results include a detailed breakdown of the microorganisms in your gut and personalized food, nutrition, and lifestyle recommendations to improve your gut and overall health. Viome’s website has detailed result examples to give you an idea of the information you’ll receive. However, unlike other companies, Viome doesn’t compare your gut composition with a database, so you won’t know how your gut makeup compares to others.
|Analyzes more types of microorganisms than other tests
|The website doesn’t explain how you collect your sample
|Nationally-accredited CLIA lab
|Doesn’t have its own database for comparison (or compare against other databases)
|Get results within 2-3 weeks
|Some users complain that they received generic (common sense) advice that isn’t unique
|No access to your raw data
|Some customers feel they’ve been able to improve their digestion, sleep, and mood as well as lower inflammation
|Re-test at a steep discount whenever you’d like
|Scientific Advisory Board includes leading doctors, scientists, and experts from Harvard, UCLA, and more
Runner-Up: Ombre Review
Ombre (formerly known as Thryve) launched its testing service in early 2017 and has had a good track record since its inception. Its gut bacteria test kit sequences 16S rRNA to discover which bacteria live in your gut down to a species level.
Your results include a report of your bacterial microbiome’s makeup, including which healthy bacteria are low and which known pathogens are high. You also get a wellness score based on your results compared to data from the American Gut Project.
Ombre differs from other companies because you get personalized daily dietary and supplement recommendations.
|Simple, at-home swab with mail-in envelope
|Only tests for bacteria; no other microbes (no archaea, viruses, or fungi)
|Nationally certified lab
|They compare against American Gut’s database of samples, which is relatively small
|Get results in 2-3 weeks via their app
|No pricing for personalized probiotics on their website (you can only see pricing once you’ve done your test)
|Offers NSF third-party certified probiotics that are non-GMO, gluten-free, egg-free, and corn-free
|Scientific Advisory Board includes leading doctors, scientists, and nutrition experts from Stanford, Harvard, UC-Davis, and more
Dr. Mahmoud A. Ghannoum founded BIOHM based on more than 40 years of NIH-backed research into the human microbiome. BIOHM’s gut test sequences the genes of the bacteria and fungi in your gut.
Your results include a profile of your gut makeup compared to standard bacterial strains from the NIH Human Microbiome Project and fungal strains from Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine.
You can also receive diet and lifestyle recommendations from a registered nutritionist for an additional fee. BIOHM also sells its own probiotics, engineered to address bacteria’s critical role in digestive health.
|Simple, at-home swab with mail-in envelope
|Doesn’t have its own database
|You can consult with a registered nutritionist for diet and lifestyle advice
|Results are too scientific and can be confusing for most people
|Lab certified and affiliated with a major U.S. research university
|Up to 6 weeks to get results
|Their probiotics generally get good customer reviews
|Some consumers complain about them pushing their products too much
|Gut Test + Written Recommendations
|Gut Test + Live Consult
Best For Babies & Toddlers: Tiny Health Review
Tiny Health is the first at-home gut health test developed for babies and toddlers 0-3 years old. During birth, a baby moves through the birth canal, swallowing microbes along the way. These first colonizers form the foundations of a baby’s overall health, which is why C-section births are linked to babies having weaker immune systems.
Tiny Health’s Baby Gut Health Test uses shotgun metagenomic sequencing to see what microbes have been transferred to your baby during birth. The test looks for biomarkers signaling eczema, allergies, asthma, and other health issues that may be preventable and reversible if caught in time.
|Tailored to mom and baby biomarkers
|Analyzes more types of microorganisms than other tests (bacteria, yeast, parasites, archaea, and viruses)
|Free consultation available for members only
|100% CLIA compliant lab
|Results in 3-4 weeks
|Developed by researchers from John Hopkins University, Standford University, Mayo Clinic, Harvard Medical School, Washington University in St. Louis, and Cornell University
|One Time Purchase
|Subscription (1 test every 3 months)
What Happened To uBiome?
uBiome used to be the top contender for gut microbiome testing. But unfortunately, uBiome is no longer in business. They filed for bankruptcy in September 2019 after undergoing an FBI investigation into their business practices and other problems. Shortly after, they closed their doors for good and sold off their IP (intellectual property, i.e., patents) for 1% of the company’s original value (once valued at $600 million by Silicon Valley) at auction to Psomagen.
How Can I Keep My Gut Healthy?
According to an expert at UCLA, check out this brief video for five tips on how to keep your gut microbiome healthy.
If you frequently suffer from digestive problems or have a diagnosed condition, the right probiotics can make all the difference. Proceed carefully, however, as plenty of products on the market either don’t work or are downright detrimental to your health. See if scientific studies have been done on the probiotic strains and research the company before purchasing.
Two of the companies we review, BIOHM and Ombre, sell their own engineered probiotics. Another product containing probiotics that has received acclaim is ION Gut Support, which may relieve various health issues, including heartburn, leaky gut, and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Please read our review of ION Gut Support to learn more.
Decide on a gut test? Let us know which one you’re going to try in the comments!Tagged With: Comparison, Gut Health