You don’t have to look far to see the importance of gut health these days. The gut health movement is the new buzz, and it’s here to stay. I’m absolutely thrilled! With about 40 trillion microorganisms living in your gut, we’ve just begun to unravel just how important they are to our digestion, nutrient absorption, immune system, and even our mental health. Microbiome testing is the key to understanding just how critical the gut is to good health.
That’s right – your gut microbes play a significant role in how you feel on a day-to-day basis, even emotionally. Anxiety, depression, and other neuropsychological disorders such as autism spectrum disorder and schizophrenia are associated not only to digestive health but to specific strains of bacteria living in the gut.1
WHICH GUT MICROBES AFFECT WHAT?
Research is beginning to identify which species of bacteria have control and influence over hundreds of conditions. We are only at the beginning of these revolutionary discoveries.
All of this is incredibly important for you because it means what you consume directly feeds particular microbes while starving others. The implications are that your diet is the cornerstone of your health.
While many of us know the importance of our diets, the degree to which your gut microbiome impacts every aspect of your health is information that everyone needs to hear.
Did you realize scientists can look at a stool sample gut profile, and with 90% accuracy know whether the individual is obese or lean? In fact, your gut microbe makeup is so indicative of your overall health it’s earned the nicknames, “second brain” and “second genome.” 2
You have a lot of control over your gut microbiome, which is why if you’re having chronic digestive issues (or any health problems for that matter) I always recommend you clean up your diet first and foremost. However, if you’ve tried a bunch of healing protocols and you’re still sick, the next step is to get a stool test.
Having stool testing done can give you a better understanding of what’s exactly happening. For many of my clients, it ends up being the most important step we take in gaining back their health.
SHOULD YOU GO FOR MICROBIOME TESTING?
While you may decide to get stool testing ordered without having any serious condition or symptoms, there are some cases where I absolutely recommend this test. You should test if you have any of the following symptoms:
- Abdominal pain
- Gas and bloating
- Weak immune system
- Extreme fatigue
- Nutritional deficiencies
- Brain fog
- Sugar cravings
- Joint pain
- Food intolerances – especially developing new sensitivities
- Skin conditions – such as psoriasis, rosacea, and eczema
For the most part, if these symptoms are short-lived you might be able to skip a stool test and focus on your diet. However, if these are persistent, lasting a few months or more, you should get tested. These tests tell us so much about what’s happening in your gut that they can be a shortcut to better health.
MY TOP RECOMMENDED MICROBIOME TESTS
Each of these tests have their own pros and cons, and no test is perfect. Take a moment to familiarize yourself with these so you can decide which is best for your microbiome testing needs.
1. Genova GI Effects 3
This is one of my favorite tests because it is easy to interpret. It’s designed to explain the analysis of your microbes and how they relate to your health. There are clinical association charts that tell you if you have biomarker patterns for certain diseases such as type 2 diabetes, inflammatory bowel disease, and more.
Plus, it includes a three-day collection as well as parasitology.
Genova Diagnostics also has a great guide to interpreting your results.4 This is a great option if you decide to do this testing with or without a doctor. The test provides your doctor with diagnostics and the interpretation guide offers you additional information so you can take research into your own hands.
2. Dr.'s Data Comprehensive Stool Analysis/Parasitology x3 5
I like this test because it’s an easy test to read and understand for most people. This test evaluates aerobic and anaerobic bacteria, parasites, and yeast. The fact that it has yeast analysis is a bonus because candida overgrowth is surprisingly common.
3. Diagnostic Solutions Laboratory GI-Map Test 6
This test reports on opportunistic organisms, normal flora, parasites, viruses, and fungi.7 Additionally, you’ll get a report on any antibiotic resistant genes present and virulence factors, which are molecules created by microbes that tell us how effective they are within the gut.
4. The Viome Test 8
Unlike the others, this is not a diagnostic test but rather a user-friendly at home test. This means you won’t need a doctor to order it and you’ll receive helpful tips about what you should eat and how to take better care of your health. Your doctor can’t use this test to make a diagnosis.
That being said, this is considered the most comprehensive gut test on the market. Viome has access to proprietary species sequencing they got exclusive permission to utilize from the U.S. government.
Viome’s test is different from the rest because most labs only identify gut microbes on the genus level, which limits interpretable results. Additionally, Viome can test for microbial metabolites, revealing information about how your microbes live and reproduce.
Viome testing is incredibly accurate and advanced. You’ll get data on species, metabolites, viruses, and other pathogens that aren’t available with any other lab test. One downside is they don’t release all the information of their test to you, most likely for proprietary reasons. Instead, you get a personalized report of recommendations.
As a bonus, you don’t need to order this test through a lab or a doctor.
HOW OFTEN SHOULD YOU GET A STOOL TEST?
When you are trying to get your health in tip-top shape, whether you’re ill or not, I recommend getting a stool test every 12-24 months. However, if you’re dealing with a chronic illness, you should get tested every six months, if possible.
Also, if you are trying a new protocol or are working hard to manipulate your microbiome for your best health, you can test upon completion of your regimen or after sufficient time has passed. This may mean you get a stool test as a baseline and then again three to six months later to see if your microorganisms have shifted as you intended.
MOLD TESTING AND QUESTIONNAIRE
These types of testing comes up for some of my clients because mold exposure can wreak havoc on the composition of the gut, which is where most of your immune system exists. Mold exposure can slow and prevent healing but can also cause its own damage.
For clients that simply aren’t responding to our protocols, in addition to the microbiome testing, I recommend a mold test kit.
Testing for mycotoxins through Real Time Labs 9 can sometimes be the missing piece of the puzzle. If you’ve looked into other options and you are still at a loss for what’s impacting your health, consider mycotoxin testing. Also, there's a great, free fungal questionnaire you can use to help with diagnostics. It’s short and simple. 10
WHEN YOUR HEALTH REMAINS A MYSTERY CONSIDER MICROBIOME TESTING
The gut is the “heart” of your immune system and your overall health. If you are struggling to get on track or to identify underlying causes of any health conditions at all, I always recommend checking the gut.
Unfortunately, our food system supplies us with gut damaging foods that are wreaking havoc nationwide. Collectively we’re frustrated, which was clear to me after witnessing the resounding reaction to my post Food in America is Poison.
I hope you’ll consider taking some of these gut and stool tests to help you find the answers you are seeking. In my opinion, these tests can all be a step in the right direction when it comes to recapturing your best health through microbiome testing.
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