If you have been a Wellness Mama reader for very long then you know my story and how it took me over 7 years and 8 doctors to finally figure out I had Hashimoto’s and start to find answers. I know firsthand how difficult it can be to get testing, even when you think you might know what is wrong.
That’s why I’m excited about emerging research and innovative new companies that are working to bring comprehensive testing to our homes. The best part? No doctor or blood test required!
Personalized Medicine: The Future of Health?
If you heard the recent 100th episode of The Healthy Moms podcast, you know that I strongly feel that there is not a single perfect diet that works for everyone or a supplement that will fix all your problems. We all need sleep and community and sunshine, but the rest is very personalized based upon each individual’s needs.
What works wonderfully for one person may make someone else feel worse. I feel great when I take a lot of magnesium. Some people experience low blood pressure from taking it. I don’t feel good if I eat a lot of carbs. Some people feel amazing on a relatively high carb diet.
At the end of the day, we each have to figure out the foods, supplements, and lifestyle factors that are best for us.
We can do testing like 23 and Me, which shows our genes. This is helpful, but most of us aren’t geneticists and don’t know what the results mean. I know I have MAO-A and an MTHFR mutation, and thanks to research I’m able to make some dietary changes based on this, but the research is still new. They also only show half of the picture.
Gut Metatranscriptome & Microbiome Analysis
I’m super excited about a new kind of testing that allows us to have a deeper picture of what is happening inside the gut. We’ve all heard the studies about the importance of the gut and how it impacts every single aspect of our lives, and now we can actually get a glimpse of what is happening inside the gut and know how to impact our own gut environment.
Microorganisms Rule Our Body
There are trillions of microorganisms in the gut. About 40 trillion to be exact. As humans, have more bacterial cells than human cells and these bacteria drastically affect our lives on a daily basis.
These organisms help us digest food, produce chemicals and substances within the body, control infections by pathogens, regulate the immune system, and even control emotions (ever have a gut feeling?).
Studies consistently link these microorganisms—which make up your gut microbiome—to many chronic conditions, including diabetes, obesity, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, coronary artery disease, psoriasis, lupus, and even autism. Basically, if we want to be healthy and happy … our gut bacteria needs to be healthy and happy too!
The Science of Microbiome Composition
Flashback to freshman biology… Every living organism produces RNA molecules from their DNA.
Tests like this one sequence all of the RNA in the stool (poop) to help quantify all of the living microorganisms in the gut (bacteria, viruses, bacteriophages, archaea, fungi, yeast, parasites, and more) at the species and strain level.
The end result?
A more in-depth view of your gut microbiome than has ever been available before. Instead of just looking at bacteria and parasites, we can now sequence RNA in the gut. The nerd in me is so excited about this technology, but even if you aren’t interested in the science, I think you’ll be excited about how technology like this can improve all of our lives!
The Function of Metabolites in the Gut
Identifying the microorganisms in your gut is important, but understanding their function is what lets us use them to our advantage.
This is because the microbes in your gut produce thousands of chemicals, called metabolites, that affect your overall wellness. Some of these metabolites are beneficial to health, such as B-vitamins and short chain fatty acids. Others can be harmful, such as Trimethylamine N-oxide (TMAO), which is linked to coronary artery disease.
Gut Microbiome Testing to Improve Health
Analyzing the genes that microbes express lets us identify which metabolites they produce. This helps determine their role in your body’s ecosystem. But all of that isn’t helpful if it is just data. When we understand metabolites, we can also understand how to affect them with food, lifestyle, and supplements to change the gut bacteria.
This is the first time we have the ability to fine-tune the function of gut microbiome. This helps minimize production of harmful metabolites and maximize the production of beneficial ones.
The metabolites in our gut give us a shortcut to know what to eat and what to take to improve wellness in the fastest way possible.
How to Test Gut Microbiome at Home
Now for why I’m so excited… about testing poop!
Until recently, most gut testing cost thousands of dollars and had to be ordered through a doctor. Testing also provided an incomplete picture of gut health and used the old 16S method of sequencing.
The 16S method analyzes the bacteria in the gut, but as I showed above, this is an incomplete picture. To fully analyze the bacteria, viruses, bacteriophages, archaea, fungi, yeast, parasites and other organisms, a more complete testing is needed.
Viome: Gut Testing in Your Own Bathroom
That is until a company that recently emerged changed all that. Viome is a new company that uses an advanced form of testing to analyze gut health and provide personalized recommendations of supplements, diet and lifestyle factors.
Viome does a specialized form of testing called metatranscriptome sequencing. It looks at the RNA, metabolites, and the deeper picture of the gut.
Here’s how it differs from the old 16S method (from the Viome website):
What Viome Gut Tests Reveal
Viome looks at the gut in all the ways I just explained. It also does a metabolic intelligence test (that you can do from home). This helps you gauge your blood sugar, insulin levels, stress responses, and more by looking at urine pH, saliva pH, blood sugar, heart rate, and other metrics.
I just completed the Viome test and will share my results when I get them.
Here’s How the Test Works:
- Order the test kit from Viome here.
- Viome sends a test kit to your home.
- You complete the test at home (don’t worry… it’s easy!).
- Then you mail your poop to Viome (yes, really) and record your metabolic results in their app.
- A few weeks later, Viome provides personalized analysis of your gut and recommendations to help you improve chronic conditions, feel better, and keep your gut microorganisms happy.
What the test reveals:
Become a Citizen Scientist …
I’m so excited about this and other emerging technology that helps us all do our own research. With every chronic disease on the rise, these are problems we need to address right away. Companies and tests like Viome help us understand our own personalized needs in a way that helps us improve our lives in a drastic way.
How to Avoid the Waiting List
Viome is a new technology, using advanced testing developed at Los Alamos Lab (that was originally part of national security). It has become so popular so quickly that they have a long waiting list. I met their founder, Naveen Jain, at a recent health event and he agreed to let Wellness Mama readers skip the wait list.
I’ll be sharing my own personal results in a follow-up post soon. I’d love to hear your thoughts … what do you think?
More Research & Why I Care:
Gut health is intricately tied to all aspects of health. If you’re interested in the science and emerging connection between gut health to overall health, here are a few recent studies for further reading:
- The Influence of the Gut Microbiome on Obesity, Metabolic Syndrome and Gastrointestinal Disease
- The link between the Microbiome and Autoimmunity
- Diet rapidly and reproducibly alters the human gut microbiome
- Microbiota associated with type 2 diabetes and its related complications
- From gut dysbiosis to altered brain function and mental illness: mechanisms and pathways
- Gut microbiota are related to Parkinson’s disease and clinical phenotype
- Symptomatic atherosclerosis is associated with an altered gut metagenome
- Reduction of Abeta amyloid pathology in APPPS1 transgenic mice in the absence of gut microbiota
- Microbiota-based model improves the sensitivity of fecal immunochemical test for detecting colonic lesions
- Indoles from commensal bacteria extend healthspan
- No guts no glory: Harvesting the microbiome of athletes
Are you as excited about this new technology as I am? Ever tried any at-home tests like this before? Weigh in below!