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Microbiome Testing: Finding the Best Test

Our experts tell you everything you need to know to get the best gut biome testing in 2023, including current discount codes.

Last Updated: Mar 28, 2023
microbiome testing

According to the National Institutes of Health, hundreds of trillions of microorganisms live on the inside and outside the average human body — including bacteria, fungi, and archaea.¹ Collectively, these microorganisms comprise our microbiome.² Though these organisms live throughout the body, this guide focuses on testing the microbiome explicitly located in your gut or gastrointestinal tract.

Microbiome testing (also referred to as “gut flora testing”) is a relatively recent phenomenon that has advanced considerably over several years. From the convenience of your own home, you can purchase testing kits that will assess the makeup of your gut microbiome. Some companies even use the data they garner from your sample to offer you probiotic blends tailored to your results.

Our research team has tested, analyzed, and compared all of the major tests on the market. This guide will explain our findings and recommendations about which microbiome tests are best for you in 2023.

If you’re in a hurry and want to know our recommendations, here is a quick summary.

What is the best gut microbiome test?

Summary of our recommendations for best microbiome test

  • Best overall: Viome [2023 Editors’ Choice]
  • Best probiotic options: Viome
  • Best budget option: Ombre [formerly Thryve]
  • Best whole-health insight: Viome
  • Best for pregnant people and their babies: Tiny Health
  • Best for privacy: Viome
2023 Editors' Choice

Viome Gut Intelligence Test

Viome’s Gut Intelligence Test can tell you more about your gut microbiome than the competitors.

With Viome, you can learn about your gut bacteria, fungi, bacteriophages, archaea, viruses, and parasites. This provides a more comprehensive set of results, which you can use to improve your health.

Current Deals: Save $110 on your test with code INNERBODY

Why you should trust us

At Innerbody Research, we extensively test each health service we review, including all of these at-home microbiome tests. All told, our team has spent over 300 hours testing and researching their services and digesting hundreds of scientific papers regarding the microbiome and metagenomic sequencing. We’ve even visited company labs and spoken with scientists on staff to help evaluate their sequencing methods. Where companies offer post-testing supplements based on test results, our team has tested these supplement services for several months.

Additionally, like all health-related content on this website, this review was thoroughly vetted by one or more members of our Medical Review Board for accuracy. We’ll continue to monitor the microbiome testing landscape to discover new companies and keep this guide up-to-date.

Over the past two decades, Innerbody Research has helped tens of millions of readers make more informed decisions to live healthier lifestyles.

How we evaluate microbiome testing options

We can’t always get the full experience a testing company offers when those tests have simple positive or negative results. If members of our team don’t test positive for an illness or deficiency, we can’t avail ourselves of these companies’ solutions. But with microbiome testing, we had the opportunity to evaluate the testing process and what comes afterward.

Investigating genomic sequencing methods allowed us to focus first on accuracy, which is a critical requirement for taking the right course of action after testing. As such, it most heavily affects how we regard each company’s products. Since this kind of testing isn’t particularly cheap — and since retesting is often required over the course of treatment — cost became our second most important criterion.

We also took close looks at how these companies present your results, as well as privacy policies to ensure personally identifying DNA material would be safe. These are extremely important points that are on nearly equal footing with cost and accuracy.

Typically, the last part of the process is some kind of treatment, which either comes in the form of recommendations in your results package or as probiotics and other supplements you can get from a testing company directly. In other words, given that the test results are hopefully actionable, how well does the company help you take meaningful next steps?

Let’s look at each criterion to see which companies fared the best.

Accuracy

Winner: Viome

Viome’s sequencing methods are both fast and accurate, and the company is constantly working to improve the machinery it uses for sample handling and sequencing. That not only helps control costs and save money for the consumer, but it delivers increases in speed and accuracy with each new development.

What has set Viome apart for the past several years and continues to do so is the company’s advanced AI, which utilizes a massive database of microbiome data from thousands of scientific papers and the entire collection of reports generated for customers. That system allows Viome to be accurate not just in terms of species identification but also in the functional health of various microbes and vital pathways in the gut and elsewhere.

Despite being newer to the game than many others, Tiny Health should be considered a runner-up in this category. The company utilizes DNA sequencing rather than the RNA that Viome does; using DNA can identify present but inactive strains, which isn’t as useful for you. Tiny Health’s specific methodology (shotgun metagenomics, which we’ll discuss later) also has a few more shortcomings than Viome’s metatranscriptomics and isn’t bolstered by Viome’s advanced AI.³

Cost

Winner: Ombre

Comparing costs among microbiome tests gets a little complicated once subscriptions and tailored probiotics enter the equation. For example, Viome’s model is essentially a subscription for probiotic and supplement shipments to occur every month. The program comes with your first test free, and the company retests you for free every six months. Tiny Health also has a membership program, but since the company doesn’t have its own probiotics, you’re just paying to get discounts on its tests.

If budget is your primary concern, no other company than Ombre offers a microbiome test for $100. And if you plan on retesting, a subscription can get you the tests for as low as $85. The value is there, as well, with comprehensive dietary recommendations and a complete comparison of your microbiome health to that of the larger population. However, one thing that keeps costs down is that the company’s sequencing method is only able to detect microorganisms at the genus level, without crucial information like species or strain that can vary dramatically within a single genus.²

Ombre’s operational side is a little slower than its competitors, with mid-range processing times and long shipping times, and it doesn’t offer things like custom-tailored probiotics (it still sells probiotics, but they’re pre-formulated). These sacrifices save you money, so if you can’t afford Viome but are looking for a test that can give you dietary guidance or a starting point for a microbiome-related conversation with your doctor, this is the least expensive place to start.

Here’s a quick look at base test prices for our top-rated companies:

  Base price Probiotics available? Subscription available?
Viome Gut Intelligence $139 Custom
Yes
BIOHM $129 Pre-formulated  
Ombre $100 Pre-formulated
Yes
Tiny Health $199 None
Yes
Floré $169 Pre-formulated
Yes

There are additional factors to consider even at the base price level, like what a given test can detect and whether you have to pay extra to speak with a staff doctor at these companies. But this should give you an idea of the pricing you can expect from each in comparison to one another.

Results

Winner: Viome

Viome and BIOHM offer extremely comprehensive results, but Viome edges them out for its ability to sequence more than just bacteria and fungi. And when you add Viome’s Health Intelligence Test or Full Body Intelligence Test to the picture, your results go even further. Of course, it’s one thing to provide a customer with comprehensive information, and it’s another thing to give it to them in a format that they can understand. Some testing companies bombard you with information that can be difficult to digest, but we found that Viome provides context and comparison points that make potentially complex data easy to interpret.

The degree to which your results offer actionable insights is critical. Obviously, having tailored probiotics, prebiotics, and nutritional supplements available give you a great way to take charge of your microbial health, but there are other complementary treatments you might want to explore. These can include certain dietary adjustments or even treatment for disorders you didn’t know you had. The degrees of actionability vary from company to company, but Viome’s reports contain the most in-depth advice and information about your health and ways to improve it.

Privacy

Winner: Viome

Nowadays, it would be unusual for a company not to offer things like SSL encryption for sensitive personal information. Each of these companies does a trustworthy job protecting basic personal information like credit card numbers and addresses.

So, ultimately, privacy in the microbiome space comes down to what happens to your sample during and after use. Because Viome relies on mRNA for its sequencing, it removes personally identifiable (DNA) information from the equation. It also allows you to opt out of additional studies that might include your sample or your results to improve its technology and techniques. Some companies destroy your sample after testing, but Viome stores it using de-identified alphanumeric coding for future potential use in research. However, the company explicitly must obtain your permission to use sample data and other information gleaned from your test for its research and AI improvement purposes.

All of these companies are currently obligated to turn over certain information to law enforcement in the course of an investigation, especially if they receive a subpoena.

Ultimately, Viome takes this category for its transparency. We were able to get most of the information we needed to understand our top companies’ policies and practices with a fair amount of digging, but Viome lays out these measures in its privacy policy with a high level of clarity.

Customer support

Winner: Viome

Several things go into our consideration for customer support, and Viome comes out ahead in nearly every aspect:

  • An intuitive website
  • Fast and friendly email communication
  • Transparent testing process
  • A valuable and comprehensive blog
  • Quick, reliable service
  • An outstanding mobile app

Many other companies have some of these features but not all, and certainly not to the level of detail and care we see from Viome.

One of the most important aspects of customer support occurs after you get your results, and that’s guidance about what to do next. Most companies offer some kind of consultation, though some, like BIOHM and Tiny Health, charge extra for it. We also love seeing subscription services offered in the microbiome testing space, as any attempt to improve your microbiome will need retesting for verification. When a company like Viome or Floré can provide you with custom-made probiotics, retesting is that much more important to make any necessary adjustments to your formula.

Given its massive well of potential ingredients for use in probiotics, prebiotics, and nutritional supplements, Viome’s personalized products are our preferred option, and the company will retest you for free twice each year to adjust your formula as needed.

Who should take a microbiome test?

In our opinion, the short answer is everyone who can afford to do so. Advancements in microbiome testing and the scientific understanding of our gut microbiome have reached the point at which everyone can benefit from taking a test and discussing the results and ensuing actions with trusted healthcare professionals. (If you want to know more about why we believe this, you can skim the surface with our 10 microbiome facts below.)

Microbiome tests attempt to detect the presence of different species of microorganisms in a fecal sample.² From the best test results, you can then gain a wealth of information about:

  • The richness of the gut microbiome and the diversity of its microorganisms
  • How your gut microbiome compares to that of others
  • What this might say about your overall health, metabolism, and aging process
  • What those microorganisms are doing for you
  • How you can improve your health through specific dietary modifications

Imbalances in your gut microbiome could make you more susceptible to opportunistic or harmful bacteria and viruses, leading to a multitude of possible symptoms such as:

  • Weakened immune response
  • Constipation, diarrhea, or irritable bowel syndrome
  • Gas and bloating
  • Poor absorption of nutrients
  • Brain fog and reduced cognitive function
  • Unhealthy skin
  • Faster aging
  • Stress management issues
  • Mood disorders
  • Chronic inflammation⁴

To be clear: there is no “correct” microbiome makeup. You can’t ace a microbiome test. Studies show that one very healthy person’s microbiome can be wildly different from another very healthy person’s. And yet another very healthy person’s microbiome might be nearly identical to that of a person on their deathbed at 22. This is likely because the gene-level activity of these microorganisms is going to perform differently for the varying genetic makeup of individuals.²

Just as a genealogy test uses a massive database of sequenced genomes and their associated regions to determine the likeliest origins of your ancestors, microbiome tests compare your specific microbial balance with enormous databases of other test results to learn what your most probable health conditions may be. Ultimately, the results depend heavily on the quality of those databases, which is why Viome’s AI-driven system continues to be our preferred resource.

It is important to remember that these tests shouldn’t replace the advice of a physician or other healthcare professional. If you have symptoms that concern you, you should talk to your doctor to determine if any medical interventions are required or further investigations needed.

There are many at-home microbiome tests on the market, with new ones coming out frequently. Our research team has tested, evaluated, and compared the most well-known tests — including Viome, Wellnicity, BIOHM, Psomagen, Ombre (formerly Thryve), Sun Genomics (Floré), and more — to arrive at our recommended favorites.

If you have the budget for it, Viome’s most comprehensive test (Full Body Intelligence Test — $289) is the test we believe can provide you with the most valuable, actionable insights. (More about this test in the “Viome” section later in this guide.) For great value at a lower initial price, our top 3 entry-level picks include:

Here is a quick chart with details of the three tests:

  Viome Tiny Health Ombre
Current price $149 $199 $99
Sequencing method AI-driven metatranscriptomics Deep shotgun metagenomics 16s rRNA
Approx wait time after shipping back 2-3 weeks 4-6 weeks 3-4 weeks
Tests for bacteria
Yes
Yes
Yes
Tests for fungi
Yes
Yes
 
Tests for archaea
Yes
Yes
 
Tests for parasites
Yes
Yes
 
Tests for phages
Yes
Yes
 
Tests for viruses
Yes
Yes
 
Custom supplement option
Yes
   

It’s a testament to Viome’s in-house hardware and software development that it can produce such a fast turnaround while using a sequencing method that’s too costly and time-consuming for other companies to utilize.

Ten fast facts about your gut microbiome

If you are still wondering whether you should test your gut microbiome, here are 10 interesting facts about it. Read on past the list for a deeper dive into microbiomes.⁵

  1. Your gut microbiome alone includes roughly 100 trillion microorganisms. The microbiome that exists throughout the entire human body contains trillions more.

  2. Many scientists consider your gut microbiome to be an additional organ. Together, all of the microorganisms in your gut generally weigh about four pounds (2 kilograms). We test other organs in order to safeguard our health – why would we not test our microbiome?

  3. Microbiome testing wasn’t even possible 20 years ago. Thanks to next-generation sequencing and the rise of metagenomics, it is now possible and highly accurate.

  4. Evidence suggests that our microbiome begins developing before we are even born.⁶

  5. Evidence suggests that how we come into the world (vaginal birth vs. C-section) affects our microbiome.

  6. The average gut microbiome includes some pathogenic bacteria, such as E. coli.

  7. Diet and distancing from natural bacterial exposure in our environment (through dirt, animals, etc.) can rob the gut of beneficial diversity in our microbiomes.

  8. You may have heard something about fecal transplantation — the process of putting a small, microbe-healthy fecal sample from a healthy person into the gut of an unhealthy person to help recolonize the gut.⁷ While this sounds like an extreme or unusual idea to many people, the treatment is over 1,000 years old.

  9. While still in its early stages, gut microbiome studies indicate profound health impacts from these microorganisms. For instance, studies indicate that patients with atherosclerosis or type 2 diabetes show particular patterns in their gut microbiomes.⁸ For type 2 diabetics, the pattern is more predictive of the disease than body mass index values.

  10. Our gut microbiome helps us metabolize and extract vitamins from the food we eat, but did you know these microorganisms also help us produce serotonin? Serotonin plays a significant role in our sense of happiness. Insufficient serotonin can make people more susceptible to depression and anxiety.⁹

What is your microbiome?

The importance of the human microbiome is becoming increasingly evident.⁴ While the contributions of individual microbes in human health are still far from fully understood, the microbiome appears to play a key role in many vital functions, including:

  • Synthesizing vitamins and amino acids
  • Generating important metabolites
  • Protecting against pathogens
  • Utilizing non-human biochemical pathways
  • Contributing to the immune system

Microbiome vs. microbiota

Technically, the everyday use of the term microbiome to mean the microorganisms in your body isn’t quite accurate. That’s because your microbiome is the collection of genomes from microorganisms and not the microorganisms themselves. The term for the physical entities that make up what we often mistakenly call the microbiome is microbiota.

The tests on our list all use genetic sequencing to identify the genomes present in your microbiota, and thus they catalog your microbiome.

But we have every reason to believe that the continued growth of this testing sector and the introduction of microbiome-specific cosmetics into the marketplace will have a specific effect on the definition of “microbiome.” So, we choose to join the evolution of these terms midway through and use microbiome in the current layman’s sense — as a word describing a collection of microorganisms.

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How does the gut microbiome affect your health?

Your gut microbiome has profound effects on your health, some of which may be more obvious than others. For example, microorganisms in your intestines play a crucial role in breaking down the foods you eat and allowing your body to absorb nutrients more efficiently, which can have a lifelong impact on your health.¹⁰ That process makes sense, given that these microorganisms live within your digestive tract. What might be less apparent is how these microorganisms function as part of your immune system and overall mental health.

Your gut is home to both beneficial and harmful microorganisms. Suppose the balance between these sways too far in the wrong direction. In that case, you can easily find your immune system weakened or experience a bout of inflammation in the form of a migraine, arthritis, or other painful condition. And these are just some examples of the problems that can arise from a gut out of balance.

When we get sick, we often reach for antibiotics hoping to kill off whatever bacterial infection plagues us. But antibiotics are like carpet bombings; they destroy nearly everything in their path — good and bad. That’s why you should use antibiotics only when your doctor believes them to be the necessary course of action. Don’t go into an office demanding them because it’s the easy way to get better. And if your doctor does prescribe you an antibiotic, ask them what the most appropriate probiotic would be to take alongside it.¹¹

Probiotics, prebiotics, and supplements

A healthy microbiome has an ideal balance of microorganisms working alongside one another to maintain homeostasis so you can maximize nutrient absorption, fight off illness, and sustain a hormonal balance. However, these microbiome tests almost always reveal a picture of a gut that isn’t quite balanced. There are plentiful ways to address these imbalances by increasing your intake of certain foods and decreasing that of others, but sometimes that’s not enough. That’s where probiotics and their supporting players come in.

Probiotics

Probiotics are like living supplements that enter your gut and slowly begin colonizing. There are far more probiotic strains out there than we could reasonably list, but you don’t need to take all of them. That’s because most of us have enough of certain strains inside us that only need to be there in small quantities. Imbalances can make the most significant difference among the more critical and abundant strains.

Most probiotic supplements contain one strain, while others offer a handful of strains. You’ll rarely see a probiotic supplement with more than five or six strains, mainly because these strains compete for food in your gut. When you take a probiotic supplement, you essentially overwhelm the numbers of the harmful bacteria, allowing them access to less food and rebalancing your system as they die off. Introduce too many strains at once, and they’ll end up competing with each other and less effectively outnumbering the bad guys.

Most off-the-shelf probiotic supplements perform an inexact science. You might reach for something incredibly common like lactobacillus acidophilus or Bifidobacterium longum, but without knowing the current makeup of your microbiome, you’d merely be hoping for a positive result.

Some of the companies in this guide will provide you with a detailed recommendation of specific probiotics that you can buy from them or elsewhere. Some will formulate a custom probiotic for you designed to balance your unique microbiome.

They’ll also make dietary suggestions that can help influence your microbiome, but even before taking a test, you can access a litany of fermented foods that contain helpful probiotics. Here’s a quick list of some common options::

  • Yogurt
  • Kimchi
  • Tempeh
  • Sauerkraut
  • Kefir
  • Kombucha
  • Pickled foods like cucumber, beets, etc.
  • Certain kinds of vinegar
  • Miso

Any fermented food or drink has the potential to provide the body with probiotics. And fermentation can bring about delicious flavors in some foods that wouldn’t be there otherwise. It’s not especially difficult to ferment foods at home, but it does take some patience.

Insider Tip: Just because a fermented food contains probiotics doesn’t mean it’ll be good for you individually. Viome’s testing revealed the likely reason why one of our testers has trouble digesting meals with fermented foods like sauerkraut and kefir: these also contain histamine, which the test indicated would likely cause an inflammatory response in his gut.

Prebiotics

Prebiotics can confuse people who aren’t familiar with probiotic science, but they might be the easiest part of the equation to understand. Prebiotics are food for probiotics. They tend to contain one or more types of fiber that most users would tolerate incredibly well, even those with digestive issues.

That said, certain prebiotic fibers contain FODMAPs (fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides, and polyols). Those on low-FODMAP diets for specific gastrointestinal issues should speak with their gastroenterologist before selecting a probiotic or prebiotic.

Manufacturers select these fiber sources to act as pure fuel for probiotic colonization, providing those bacteria with all they need to multiply and thrive. Because companies often design prebiotic formulas specifically with their probiotics in mind, it’s usually a good idea to get your prebiotics and probiotics from the same maker. This way, you’ll know that the food you send to your gut is exactly what those probiotics will best utilize.

As you can with probiotics, you can find a good amount of prebiotic fiber in foods. Not everyone is going to go out and buy chicory root or dandelion greens for their pantries, but the following are more common items you can keep eating or eat more of to increase your prebiotic fiber intake:

  • Apples
  • Oats
  • Asparagus
  • Barley
  • Mushrooms
  • Watermelon
  • Bananas
  • Chickpeas
  • Cabbage
  • Garlic
  • Onions
  • Leeks
  • Seaweed
  • Flaxseeds
  • Cocoa

This list is far from exhaustive, and the results of your microbiome test should include foods that offer prebiotic fiber to your specific microbiome as one way to improve your gut health.

Supplements

Gut health is interwoven with so many other bodily systems that treating the gut alone might only provide partial relief, especially if your microbiome imbalance results — at least in part — from another disorder or deficiency. Supplements like vitamins, minerals, and amino acids can help correct those deficiencies where they exist and provide additional benefits. This is why Viome offers its Full Body Intelligence Test with an option for tailored supplements designed to address any issues it finds in those results.

When you select probiotics, you want to find a supplement based on knowledge of your body. Picking a particular vitamin almost at random because it’s supposed to be good for you may provide some benefit, but it’s nothing compared to a tailored approach to your health.

Viome

Best overall, best for privacy, best whole-health insights, and best probiotics option

Pros

  • Uses the most advanced sequencing currently available
  • Results bolstered by the only advanced AI system in the field
  • Tests for bacteria, viruses, fungi, and more (unlike many others who only test for bacteria)
  • Fast turnaround time for results
  • Develops hardware, software, and lab supplies in-house to reduce costs and improve accuracy
  • Offers probiotics, prebiotics, and nutritional supplements custom-formulated to your results
  • Subscription plans retest every six months for free
  • Results reporting is among the most through and useful in the industry while still being easy to comprehend
  • Take $110 off the Gut Intelligence Test with code INNERBODY

Cons

  • Highest level subscription plan is expensive
  • Subscriptions have a cancellation fee
  • No tests for children or vaginal health at this time
  • Some users complain that the smartphone app is slow and can be difficult to use

Viome offers three sophisticated microbiome tests and several reasons why it’s our 2023 Editors’ Choice for the best overall testing company for your gut microbiome, as well as the best for whole-health insights.

The testing process is about the same on the user end as it is with most other tests, but what happens to your sample when it reaches the lab is very different. That’s because Viome utilizes AI-driven metatranscriptomics to evaluate its samples. Up until the late 2010s, metatranscriptomics was considered to have some of the greatest potential among sequencing methods, but it required a degree of sample stabilization that wouldn’t suit a test-by-mail system.

Viome has been on the cutting edge of this technology, developing tools, machinery, software, and even its own reagents to maximize the readability of days-old specimens. And since one of the shortcomings of metatranscriptomics is the need to compare its results to an unfathomably large amount of data, Viome developed its own AI system for this specific purpose.

Between the broad scope and granular specificity of the metatranscriptomic approach and the inference capabilities offered by its AI, Viome’s results pages are incredibly thorough. They offer deep and valuable insights that you can address on your own or — more preferably — with your doctor. This is especially true of the Full Body Intelligence Test, which may reveal syndromes or disorders you never knew you had and provide you with guidance on how you can address them.

Among the ways to address microbial imbalances are custom probiotics, prebiotics, and nutritional supplements. Viome is one of the few companies in the space to tailor these products to fit its users’ results, and it’s the only one to do so with results that boast such a high level of accuracy and comprehensiveness. There are more than 200 potential ingredients Viome uses in formulating these to your specific results.

Viome also recently added a screening test for oral and throat cancers that received Breakthrough Device approval from the FDA. It offers incredible accuracy from nothing more than a saliva sample, and it makes Viome the only company in the microbiome space that offers cancer screening.¹²

Here’s a quick look at what Viome’s gut microbiome products and services cost:

  Gut Intelligence Test Health Intelligence Test Full Body Intelligence Test Precision Probiotics + Prebiotics Precision Supplements & Probiotics + Prebiotics
Cost $139 $219 $289 $70/month $179/month
Pro/prebiotics included?
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
Supplements included?        
Yes
Free retest every six months?      
Yes
Yes
Gut health
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
Biological age  
Yes
Yes
 
Yes
Cellular & energy efficiency  
Yes
Yes
 
Yes
Immune system health  
Yes
Yes
 
Yes
Inflammation response  
Yes
Yes
 
Yes
Oral health    
Yes
 
Yes
Heart & metabolic health    
Yes
 
Yes
Brain & cognitive health    
Yes
 
Yes

It’s important to note that the two subscription plans listed in this chart have cancellation fees attached to them if you wish to cancel before the yearly anniversary of your purchase. The fee is the cost of one extra month of whatever the monthly cost is for the plan you’re on. So, if you’re on the Precision Probiotics + Prebiotics plan, you’re paying $79/month, and your cancellation fee will be $79.

Let’s look at each test with a little more depth.

Gut Intelligence Test

Viome’s Gut Intelligence test, the most affordable of the company’s tests at $139, analyzes the trillions of microorganisms in your gut more thoroughly than any other test in our guide. Included here are:

  • Bacteria
  • Fungi
  • Bacteriophages (also simply called phages)
  • Viruses
  • Parasites
  • Archaea

Viome sequences the RNA of these microorganisms to tell you what is present in your gut, including specifics for quantities and metabolic activity.

Viome Microbiome Test

Other companies like Ombre and BIOHM offer valuable insights focused on bacteria or fungi, but these results provide a less specific picture than what you get from Viome. Tiny Health is the only other company in our guide that also extends to phages, viruses, parasites, and archaea, but it does so with a slightly inferior sequencing method that doesn’t offer the activity-level information Viome achieves.

Studies indicate that focusing on RNA rather than DNA allows Viome to focus on the active microorganisms and what they’re doing.¹³ In this way, the whole picture of your gut microbiome becomes clearer. This makes sense if you recall that your microbiome is the genomic makeup of the microorganisms in your gut, and dead microorganisms leave DNA behind that can muddy the picture. It also set Viome apart from companies like Floré and BIOHM, both of which focus on DNA.

You can subscribe to Viome’s Precision Prebiotics and Probiotics plan ($70/month) — which delivers tailored prebiotics and probiotics to your door — as part of your Gut Intelligence Test purchase. With this subscription, you’ll also receive a free test kit every six months to retest, allowing Viome to make changes to your personal formula as needed.

Note: You can take $110 off the normal price by using our code INNERBODY upon purchase.

Health Intelligence Test

If you want to go beyond your gut microbiome (though that isn’t the primary focus of this guide), Viome offers a pricier Health Intelligence Test. This test combines gut microbiome data with an examination of your blood to give you insight into your cell metabolism, biological aging process, and more. It does so by looking for biomarkers of stress and inflammation at the cellular level and examining pathways for cellular activities like oxalate metabolism.

Viome Biological Age

The Health Intelligence Test costs $229. There is no prefabricated subscription plan built around the Health Intelligence Test, but you can sign up for Precision Prebiotics + Probiotics within six months of taking any microbiome test from Viome as part of the company’s flexible subscription plans. The only downside here is that there are no extra savings on that initial test. You’ll still have paid full price for it before changing over to the subscription model. For that reason, if you have the budget and desire to put microbiome testing in a broader context and gain even more actionable insight, we recommend you invest the extra $60 for the Full Body Intelligence Test.

Full Body Intelligence Test

Viome’s most comprehensive test is its Full Body Intelligence Test, which takes all the insights you’d gain from its other tests and adds oral, cognitive, and cardiometabolic health to the picture. It does this with a simple saliva sample added to the stool and blood you’d give with its other kits. If you can budget for this test, we highly recommend it.

At first glance, it might seem odd that your spit could tell you that much about your brain or your heart, but studies back this up. One study, for instance, looks closely at a specific pathway known as the oral microbiome brain axis (OMBA).¹⁴ The OMBA modulates things like cranial inflammation and other physical aspects of your brain that can positively or negatively affect cognition. Another study defines a link between the balance of microbes in your mouth and your likelihood of cardiovascular disease.¹⁵

These insights help Viome tailor supplements to go along with your prebiotics and probiotics if you subscribe to them.

Like the Gut Intelligence Test, the Full Body Intelligence Test is available as part of a subscription plan. Viome’s Precision Supplements & Probiotics + Prebiotics plan includes twice-yearly testing with the Full Body Intelligence Test, custom-tailored prebiotics and probiotics, and custom supplements for $179 per month.

That may sound like a lot of money, but if a high-quality, off-the-shelf probiotic costs $50 for a one-month supply and a prebiotic costs about the same, then you’re already more than halfway to the cost of Viome’s plan. And that’s before accounting for the supplements, the free retesting, or the fact that the products shipped to you will be formulated for your individual needs rather than pre-formulated for everybody.

These two upper-level tests are rare in the industry, as most microbiome testing companies focus on the gut and occasionally span out into other microbial areas of interest. One such area where Viome is currently lacking is vaginal health, for which both Tiny Health and Ombre offer tests (and for which Ombre offers specific probiotic formulations).

Fortunately, Viome is constantly funding microbiome-related research studies through its research wing, Viome Life Sciences. At the time of this writing, Viome is actively recruiting for a longitudinal study of the vaginal microbiome, which will likely lead to the development of a test and the integration of vaginal health into Viomes probiotic design.

To read more about our top pick, check out our full Viome review.

Ombre

Best budget option

Pros

  • Lowest-priced test among our recommended options
  • Results are well laid out on the site’s user portal
  • Easy-to-understand food recommendations
  • Eight probiotic blends to choose from
  • Vaginal health test also available

Cons

  • Only tests for bacteria (ignoring fungi, viruses, and archaea)
  • Shipping times can be lengthy
  • Advanced results cost extra to unlock
  • Gut Health Program only offers marginal savings

Another solid choice in our top three gut microbiome tests is the Ombre Gut Health Test. Formerly known as Thryve, Ombre adopted its new name in the latter half of 2021. Right now, its test isn’t the most comprehensive test available (that distinction goes to Viome). Ombre’s test focuses on gut bacteria — a narrower scope than BIOHM and significantly more limited than Viome or Tiny Health.

Ombre intends to offer more comprehensive gut microbiome testing in the future. For now, if budget is your primary concern, Innerbody Research readers can also save 10% on their order with the code INNERBODY.

Ombre’s test assesses your gut microbiome’s wellness and diversity by analyzing the presence of bacteria in your gut. Its sequencing provides you with information at the genus level, but Viome and others can get at the species and even the strain of most microorganisms in its sequencing. And when you account for the sometimes significant differences in health benefits among different species and strains of the same genus, this information can be critical. At the genus level, you’ll still be able to make strong inferences about your microbiome and what probiotics might help balance it out, but the generalized nature of it is what ultimately makes this a less expensive test.

You can purchase a single Gut Health Test from Ombre or set up a subscription for regular testing. There’s also a Gut Health Program that offers savings to those who know they intend to use one of Ombre’s pre-formulated probiotics.

Here’s a quick look at how Ombre’s Gut Health Test pricing works out:

  Gut Health Test (one-time purchase) Gut Health Test (subscription) Gut Health Program
Up-front cost $99.99/test $84.99/test $119
Freebies None Nonet One bottle each of Rise prebiotics and Ultimate Immunity Probiotic
Cost for prebiotics $39.99 $39.99 $35.99
Cost of additional tests $99.99 $84.99 $99.99

Ombre recently added its Vaginal Health Test, which requires a simple vaginal swab, making it one of just two companies in our guide to do so. It assesses the vaginal microbiome using the same sequencing method the company employs for its gut testing, and Ombre offers a pair of probiotics that target vaginal health, which we’ll discuss below. The price structure is identical to Ombre’s gut testing, with a single test costing $99.99 and discounted tests available with a subscription. However, there is no Vaginal Health Program at this time.

To know whether or not you’d like to try any of Ombre’s recommended probiotics, it might help to familiarize yourself with their species and what they’re intended to do.

Ombre probiotics

Omber’s probiotic formulas have evolved over the years. The company has introduced several new formulas recently, expanding the catalog from three varieties to eight. Previous formulas also used to contain small quantities of vitamins and minerals, but those have since been removed, and the specific strains utilized in some formulas have been replaced with similar strains from within the same genus and species.

Healthy Gut (100 billion CFU)

This probiotic is for individuals experiencing digestive symptoms such as bloating, abdominal pain, and diarrhea. Healthy Gut offers eight probiotic strains, including Lactobacillus rhamnosus (Rosell 11), Lactobacillus paracasei (HA-196), and Bifidobacterium lactis (UABla-12). Rosell 11 is a fascinating strain for its ability to survive in the presence of antibiotics that might kill others. It boasts anti-diarrheal effects and can be a great resource for antibiotic-associated diarrhea.¹⁶

Endless Energy (5 billion CFU)

Endless Energy includes a strain of Lactobacillus acidophilus that was recently reclassified as Lactobacillus helveticus but kept its strain ID (Rosell-52). Rosell-52 has been shown to decrease the symptoms of metabolic syndrome in rats fed diets high in fat and sugar, but this formula doesn’t seem to have as many credible links to energy as its title implies.¹⁷ Its tagline, however —Boost focus, crush goals — is supported by studies into one of its components, Lactobacillus rhamnosus (LR-32), which reduces stress and anxiety in adult participants of one clinical trial.¹⁸

Metabolic Booster (10 billion CFU)

Ombre’s Metabolic Booster employs species that studies suggest play a role in nutrient absorption, particularly lactose absorption.¹⁹ It may also help with inflammation that could lead to discomfort and even weight gain, making this the best choice for anyone who follows a strict diet and wants to get the most out of it. It contains eight bacterial species, including Bifidobacteria longum and lactis, Lactobacillus rhamnosus, and Enterococcus faecium.

Ultimate Immunity (10 billion CFU)

Ultimate Immunity employs five total strains, four of which are from the species Lactobacillus plantarum. Studies show that plantarum strains can enhance immunity and prevent a reduction in T regulatory cells that can result from the use of NSAIDS like ibuprofen.²⁰ The fifth strain, Pediococcus acidilactici (KABP-021) was combined with three of Ultimate Immunity’s four plantarum strains as part of a probiotic formula that increased the clearance rate of COVID-19 in this clinical trial.²¹

Mood Enhancer (10 billion CFU)

A study of Japanese volunteers showed that a combination of three of the six strains employed in Ombre’s Mood Enhancer improved their mental health when encountering stressful situations.²² Other strains like Lactobacillus rhamnosus (GG) have shown the ability to combat ADHD.²³

Heart Health (10 billion CFU)

While some generalized studies have looked at various probiotics’ potential to treat or prevent heart disease, more strain-specific research is needed.²⁴ That said, several plantarum strains — the dominant species in Ombre’s Heart Health, have been shown to lower cholesterol.²⁵

Harmony (10 billion CFU)

Harmony is a specialized probiotic that targets vaginal health. It contains just two strains — Lactobacillus rhamnosus (HN001) and L. acidophilus (La-14), but both have been shown to have a positive effect on the vaginal microbiome with oral consumption.²⁶ That said, given the simplicity of the combination, you might find a better deal elsewhere.

Restore (10 billion CFU)

Restore is also geared toward women but with more of an emphasis on the urinary tract than Harmony. It also has just two ingredients: Lactobacillus rhamnosus (GR-1) and L. reuteri (RC-14). Each of these has been shown to prevent recurrent UTIs and help manage other vaginal infections, such as thrush.²⁷ ²⁸

Rise

Restore is also geared toward women but with more of an emphasis on the urinary tract than Harmony. It also has just two ingredients: Lactobacillus rhamnosus (GR-1) and L. reuteri (RC-14). Each of these has been shown to prevent recurrent UTIs and help manage other vaginal infections, such as thrush.²⁷ ²⁸

Ombre’s probiotic and prebiotic pricing is pretty straightforward, but there are two tiers to its subscription savings. Here’s how it works:

  Single purchase Subscription billed monthly Subscription billed quarterly
Any Ombre Probiotic, cost per bottle $39.99 $35.99 $29.99
Rise Prebiotic, cost per bottle $49.99 $44.99 $38.18

Unlike Viome, Ombre lets you purchase its probiotics and prebiotic, without taking its Gut Health Test. If you’ve already tested elsewhere or know enough about probiotics to know what you want, and you like what you see from any of Ombre’s offerings, you can buy it on its own.

We like that Ombre’s marketing and reports are transparent and honest about the company’s science to interpret your microbiome and make personalized recommendations. However, there is a paywall behind which more comprehensive results are available for an added $10. Fortunately, you can upgrade to this premium tier at any time, so unless you’re specifically concerned with something like food intolerance or cardiovascular health, its essential platform is a great place to start.

Ombre Gut test results

Shipping from Ombre is free, but when we tested the service it took an unreasonably long amount of time for us to receive our kit. The company was up-front about this, sending an email that notified us of the delay. Whether this delay has since been resolved is unclear. To learn more, visit our full Ombre review.

Tiny Health

Best for pregnant people and their babies

Pros

  • Tests designed for adults, children, babies, pregnant people, and vaginal health
  • Shotgun metagenomic sequencing is highly accurate
  • Identifies bacteria, yeast, parasites, archaea, and viruses
  • FSA/HSA eligible
  • First time customers get $20 off their first test kit with code INNERBODY20

Cons

  • Free consultations available for members only ($100 otherwise)
  • Tests are more expensive than most competitors
  • No custom or pre-formulated probiotics available

While Tiny Health offers a gut microbiome test for adults, the company’s true purpose is addressing the microbiome of babies and carrying a microbial wellness effort throughout childhood and into adulthood. Other companies may offer probiotics for young children, but Tiny Health is the only one we recommend for testing a baby’s microbiome. All of the company’s tests employ shotgun metagenomics, which we regard as second only to Viome’s AI-driven metatranscriptomics in accuracy and detail provided.

Ideally, you would start with the company’s Pregnancy Gut Health Test before giving birth. It provides useful information from the time you’re trying to become pregnant to the weeks and months after delivery. During that period, the company’s Vaginal Health Test can make sure that the microbial environment through which your child will be delivered is healthy. This is a child’s first significant building block in their microbiome.

The tests for babies and children would follow through the years to help you design a diet and probiotic regimen that can optimize their microbiome and decrease the odds of certain diseases or developmental issues early on.

Given the roadmap that Tiny Health lays out for parents, the costs can add up quickly. Any of its gut health tests cost $199, and the vaginal health test costs $149. Shipping is always free. You can subscribe to individual tests and save $30 on each one, but that’s still pricer than most alternatives. And consultations with Tiny Health’s in-house doctors and microbiologists cost $100 each.

The best thing you can do to save money on Tiny Health’s products — if you’re serious about either your child’s microbiome health from a prenatal phase or your whole family’s continued microbiome health — would be to investigate the company’s membership plan. It costs $200/year, but it knocks $60 off the price of any and all tests and unlocks two free consultations per year.

Here’s how members compare to non-members in a basic scenario:

  Member Non-member
Cost of membership $199 N/A
Initial test for pregnancy $139 $199
Vaginal Health Test $89 $149
Four test for baby’s first year of life $559 $676
Four tests for mom’s first year $559 $676
Two consultations Free $200
First-year total $1,545 $1,900

*We used subscription-based pricing for the non-member’s four-test purchases.

At the end of this sample year, a member would save just over $350 compared to a non-member, and that includes the cost of membership. Other companies offer subscription plans, but this kind of membership with continuing discounts and added consultations is atypical for the space, and it’s why Tiny Health gets our vote for the best option for expecting mothers and their babies.

BIOHM Gut Test

Pros

  • Test closely examines bacterial and fungal microbial activity
  • Probiotic products tailored for women and kids available
  • Can be found in multiple brick-and-mortar stores
  • FSA/HSA payment options

Cons

  • Doesn’t test for viruses, phages, or other microbes that some others detect
  • Consultations cost extra
  • No subscription options for testing

BIOHM’s test has historically had a strong focus on the role of fungi in the gut microbiome. The founder, Dr. Mahmoud Ghannoum, is a world-leading expert on microbiome fungi.

Biohm Microbiome Test

While BIOHM’s Gut Test is not as comprehensive as Viome’s, it does test for both fungi and bacteria and does so at a slightly lower cost. It just doesn’t offer insights into other microbial life forms in your gut, like viruses. It also relies on DNA analysis, which could end up producing some results based on microorganisms that were not alive and active within your gut.

For the information its results offer, the company does provide reports that are comprehensive and easy to understand. BIOHM presents your results divided into four sections:

  • Overall Gut Score: you receive a microbiome diversity grade on a scale of 1-10.
  • Comparison: comparing the levels of major bacterial and fungal groups in your microbiome to average or normal levels in the broader population.
  • Strain-Level Analysis: diving into the nitty-gritty, analyzing your bacterial and fungal microbiome composition at the strain level.
  • Actionable Recommendations: based on your results, you will receive recommendations about your diet and lifestyle, along with suggestions for supplements to improve your gut health.
three sections of Biohm test results

BIOHM’s Gut Test costs $129.99, and there are no opportunities for subscription discounts or bundles that can bring down the price. Fortunately, shipping is free and you can pay with an FSA or HSA card.

Like many microbiome testing companies, BIOHM also has a line of probiotics you can use to address any issues discovered in your gut. BIOHM’s goal following your testing is the same as yours — to get your gut microbiome composition into a healthy, “normal” range of diversity with beneficial microbiota.

BIOHM’s catalog contains a wide variety of probiotics and other nutritional supplements, as well as a handful of bundles you can select to save money if you’re interested in multiple products. We’ll use the company’s term “superfoods” below, despite its relative meaninglessness.

The probiotics include:

  • Total Gut Probiotic, $44.99: A combination of well-researched bacterial strains, a helpful fungus, and a digestive enzyme.
  • Immunity Probiotic, $36.99: A smaller dose of the same probiotic mix found in Total Gut with high doses of vitamin C, vitamin D3, and zinc.
  • Women’s Probiotic, $44.99: BIOHM’s most complex probiotic mixture accompanied by a prebiotic blend and pomegranate extract.
  • Kid’s Probiotic, $29.99: A one-sixth dose of the blend used in Total Gut.
  • Microbiome Multi, $29.99: A comprehensive multivitamin mixed with a one-third dose of the Total Gut formula.
  • Super Greens, $44.99: A combination of one-half the dose of the Total Gut probiotic formula combined with blends of superfoods, greens, and fiber.
  • Super Greens Clean Energy, $44.99: Identical to regular Super Greens, but with the smallest Total Gut Blend in the lineup and the additions of green coffee extract, yerba mate, and a blend of digestive enzymes.
  • Super Reds, $44.99: A blend of red-colored antioxidant superfoods and the same small probiotic dose found in Super Greens Clean Energy.
  • Super Kids, $39.99: A small dose of the Total Gut blend combined with flaxseed oil powder, digestive enzymes, and an antioxidant blend similar to the one in Super Reds.

You can bring the cost of any probiotic or bundle down by 20% if you subscribe to automatic billing and shipping.

For an additional $50, you can also include an in-person consultation with a BIOHM nutritionist to discuss your test results and what the recommendations mean. We found its written report to be clear, thorough, and understandable, but it is a nice, customer-friendly feature to schedule an in-person consultation if desired.

Floré (Sun Genomics)

Pros

  • Probiotic subscriptions come with free retesting every four months
  • Custom probiotics available for adults, children, toddlers, and babies
  • Separate tests available for gut inflammation, pathogens, and more
  • Floré Clinical makes more tests available through your provider

Cons

  • DNA-based sequencing is less accurate than some others
  • Results leave a lot to be desired, especially in food recommendations
  • Tests other than the Gut Health Test can be hard to find on the site

Floré assembles its test kits thoughtfully and thoroughly and offers a custom-tailored probiotic blend based on your results for just $79/month. Unlike many other testing companies whose prices have gone up in recent years, this is actually a reduction from Floré’s previous $99 monthly cost for custom probiotics. However, that’s still $10 more than Viome’s custom probiotic prescription, and Floré’s testing is DNA-based and less accurate than Viome’s. Perhaps the difference in cost is partly due to the fact that Floré offers retesting every four months as opposed to every six, giving you one more yearly test for free than you get from Viome.

Flore Microbiome Test

That $79 price point is the same whether you get probiotics for an adult, a child, a toddler, or a baby. That makes it easy to consider, but probiotics for children are going to contain far fewer colony-forming units than those designed for adults, meaning those products have a much higher profit margin for Floré. Some of that cost difference could have been passed on to the customer as savings, but it was not.

When we tested Floré, we found the results themselves to be somewhat underwhelming. They do a good job painting a picture of the various bacteria in your gut and give you a simple sense of how you compare to the rest of the population. But they’re missing some critical information.

The other companies on our list provide comprehensive insights about food and lifestyle changes you can make to improve the health of your microbiome. These often include specific lists of foods to avoid and foods to increase in your diet. Floré’s dietary recommendations are seriously limited by comparison.

The dietary portion of our results was so short that it could fit entirely right here:

“…your diet appears to contain high protein and high saturated fat with average fibrous vegetables. Provided there is no known allergy, we recommend maintaining Faecalibacterium through the consumption of cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, and Brussels sprout. We also recommend increasing the abundance of beneficial Bacteroides through the consumption of unsaturated fat-containing food such as avocados, walnuts, olive oil, and omega 3, 6, 9 containing food.”

So, the extent of its recommendations is to eat more healthy fats, broccoli, cauliflower, and Brussels sprouts.

At $169, Floré’s Gut Health Test (without a probiotic subscription) is more expensive than its top three competitors, and it offers inferior value in its results. If Floré can do more to make those results useful for its customers beyond pushing them toward the company’s probiotics, it would undoubtedly rise in our estimation.

How do microbiome tests work?

Microbiome testing is extraordinarily complicated, and there are multiple ways that companies attempt to identify the microbes in your sample. Here, we’ll provide a little background and a basic sense of what these companies do to glean critical health information from what we typically consider waste.

The technology

When we first mapped the human genome, sequencing was a long, arduous process that required massive and expensive machinery. And while that project celebrated its completion in 2003, the reality of its completion paints an astoundingly clear picture of technology continuing to evolve.

The truth is that the Human Genome Project only accounted for a little over 92% of the genome. If you read the fine print, this was the project’s intended goal, so it was a success a full two years before its target date. But we didn’t reach 100% until May of 2021, and there are still unverifiable aspects in about 0.3% of the data.

That said, the computing power scientists have to work with today is vastly superior to what was available at the project’s outset in 1990. Much of the process is automated — from nucleic acid extraction to analysis — and the technology continues to get smaller and more accurate.

Because the technology is so young, some of the companies we’ve reviewed have decided to develop their own technologies for sequencing, as well as AI algorithms to compare your sample results to massive amounts of data from the American Microbiome Project and beyond.

For example, Ombre utilizes a well-established sequencing method that uses 16S rRNA expressions in two of nine potential hypervariable regions to focus on bacterial presence.²⁹ One of the two regions sequenced is the same one that the Earth Microbiome Project prefers (region V4), which gives Ombre access to a wealth of data against which it can compare your results. But 16S rRNA sequencing stops at the genus of a bacterium. Better forms of testing can tell you the species and sometimes the strain of the bacteria present.

Viome is on the cutting edge of development for sequencing technologies and techniques. It relies on polymerase chain reaction preparations and metatranscriptomics to calculate mRNA expression.³⁰ It also creates its own reagents specifically for its analysis method. What’s more, it’s begun to design and build smaller, more accurate machines for processing and sequencing, so it can keep everything in-house and not rely on anyone else for its needs.

What the process is like for you

The whole microbiome test-taking process is reasonably straightforward. Individual tests vary, but here are the basic steps that most of the tests commonly share.

Step 1: Purchasing a test

Hopefully, this guide provides you with the information you need to determine which microbiome test, if any, would be best for you. After choosing, you simply go to the test company’s website and place your order. You should receive your test kit within 5-10 business days.

Step 2: Collecting your sample

Microbiome testing requires extraction of nucleic acids (either DNA or RNA, depending on the test) from fecal material. So yes, you will need to collect a stool sample by following the directions inside the kit. For most tests, you’ll use a paper collection sheet and a tiny scoop. Don’t worry — the entire collection process is not as bad as it may sound. You can fit the paper onto your toilet and will only need to collect a very small amount of stool.

Step 3: Shipping

With these testing companies, you’ll send your sample in a pre-paid postage box.

Step 4: Sample analysis

Your sample goes directly to a lab facility. You do not have to do anything at this step. Technicians extract nucleic acids from your submitted sample to sequence them and compare them to references. The sequencing and analysis method used for testing depends on the company. The entire process can take up to a month but is often shorter.

Step 5: Getting your results

Usually within 2-4 weeks, you will receive your test results. Although the results reports from each testing company vary and focus on different areas, they all essentially offer some detailed information about various classes or species of microorganisms in your gut, along with how this relates to health, diet, lifestyle, or disease. This information usually includes recommendations for lifestyle adaptations, such as dietary changes, supplements to take, and probiotics to add to your regimen.

Insider Tip: If you’re having trouble producing a sample, we recommend hydrating well and eating foods with high fiber content, such as a green salad. Also, a recent regimen of antibiotics could significantly disrupt your microbiome. We recommended refraining from antibiotics for at least three months before taking microbiome tests.

Microbiome testing FAQ

What kind of sample does a microbiome test require?

Microbiome testing requires a stool sample that you collect at home. This process sounds a lot more daunting than it is. Some companies provide you with a catch pad that straps to your toilet and flushes easily after use. Others allow you to capture a sample of stool from your toilet paper. Ultimately, the potential to be grossed out is a small price to pay for the knowledge these tests provide.

How long does it take to get results?

Microbiome test results can take up to a month to process, though some companies are a bit faster than others. Variables like test volume, shipping delays, and testing methodology play a role here. Most companies will notify you when your sample has arrived at the lab, and some even give you constant updates as it moves through processing.

What will microbiome test results tell me?

Microbiome test results will usually show you the concentration of dozens of different bacteria present in your gut. Some tests go further, showing you viruses and fungi present. Often, these quantities appear as percentages, and the balance among all your microorganisms can give you a picture of your overall gut health. It can also explore how that balance may affect your general well-being.

Companies make inferences about how your microbiome balance may affect your health by comparing your results with vast microbiome databases. These often come from the American Microbiome Project or the World Microbiome Project. The best of these companies — namely Viome — uses artificial intelligence to synthesize that data with information from the entire catalog of published papers on microbiome health. By comparing your results to the health and wellness of those with similarly constituted microbiomes (as well as a healthy average), companies can confidently make conclusions about your health.

Microbiome tests are not FDA-approved, and you should not use them as a diagnostic tool. Instead, they are another measure of your body, providing insights that you have never before been able to access. These insights could prove helpful for you if you are ready to make some health or lifestyle overhauls and want a new way to look at your gut health.

Should I change my diet if the results say so?

Some microbiome test results go into great detail about how your diet may contribute to an overgrowth of unfavorable bacteria or an abundance of good bacteria. They may include particular recommendations on which foods you should eat more often or avoid. As long as you don’t take advice that would lead you to consume foods to which you have known allergies, following a diet with your microbiome in mind can be a powerful boost to your well-being. Still, some dietary changes can result in nutrient deficiencies, so it’s best to speak with your physician first.

It is impossible to link certain microbiome features directly with symptoms. High-quality microbiome tests analyze your microbiome and then rely on identifiable patterns between microbiome composition and symptoms. They use that information to offer suggestions for how you could improve your gut health and overall wellness.

Are custom-made probiotics worth it?

Custom probiotics are very much worth it. When you buy off-the-shelf probiotics without testing knowledge, you’re throwing spaghetti at the wall to see what sticks. With testing, you can at least find off-the-shelf probiotics that contain strains your results recommend. But nothing compares to the tailored approach, which gives you the strains you need in ideal quantities. And since custom probiotic subscriptions usually come with free retesting, you can have the company make necessary changes to your formula as your health evolves and improves.

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