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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 2022 + current discount codes.

Last Updated: Jan 31, 2022
microbiome testing

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

The importance of the human microbiome is becoming increasingly evident. 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 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 2022.

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 [2022 Editors’ Choice]
  • Best for bacterial support: Viome
  • Best for fungal support: BIOHM
  • Best budget option: Ombre [formerly Thryve]
  • Best for privacy: Viome
  • Best whole-health insight: Viome
  • Best probiotic options: Viome
2022 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 $20 using purchase code INNERBODY20

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 163 hours testing and researching their services and those of their chief competitors to provide an accurate, unbiased analysis of how they compare, free of marketing jargon and gimmicks. When companies offer post-testing supplements based on test results, our team has tested these supplement services for months.

Over the past two decades, Innerbody Research has helped tens of millions of readers make more informed decisions to live healthier lifestyles. We evaluate the service based on adherence to quality, the latest medical evidence and health standards, and a simple question: would we buy the product or service ourselves if it weren’t part of our job, and would we recommend it to family and friends?

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.

How we evaluate microbiome testing options

Accuracy

Winner: Viome

Viome’s sequencing methods are both fast and accurate, and the company is constantly working to improve the machinery they use 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.

Cost

Winner: Ombre

Quite basically, no other company offers a microbiome test for $99. The value is there, as well, with comprehensive dietary recommendations and a complete comparison of your microbiome health to that of the larger population. Ombre’s operational side is a little slower than their competitors, and they don’t offer things like custom-tailored probiotics. 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 best place to go.

Results

Winner: Viome

Viome and BIOHM offer extremely comprehensive results, but Viome edges them out for their ability to sequence more than just bacteria and fungi. And when you add Viome’s Health Intelligence Test to the picture, your results go even further. While some testing companies bombard you with information that can be difficult to digest, Viome goes the distance to provide context and comparison points that make potentially complex data easy to interpret and understand.

Privacy

Winner: Viome

Nowadays, it would be unusual for a company not to offer things like SSL encryption for sensitive personal information. 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 their sequencing, they remove personally identifiable information from the equation. They also allow you to opt-out of additional studies that might include your sample or your results to improve their technology and techniques.

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 you see from Viome.

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, 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. 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 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 inflammation

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 are 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 all well-known tests — including Viome, Wellnicity, BIOHM, Psomagen, Ombre (formerly Thryve), Sun Genomics (Floré), and more — to arrive at our recommended favorites. Our top 3 picks include:

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

  Viome BIOHM Ombre
Current price $149 $129 $99
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
   
Tests for parasites
Yes
   
Tests for phages
Yes
   
Tests for viruses
Yes
   
Custom supplement option
Yes
Yes
 

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.

  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 15 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.

  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. 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. 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.

What is your microbiome?

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.

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. 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.

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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 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.

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.

The companies on this list will provide you with a detailed recommendation of specific probiotic strains that you can buy from them or elsewhere, or they’ll formulate a custom probiotic for you designed to balance your unique microbiome.

Here’s a quick list of some common foods that contain potentially helpful probiotics:

  • 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 tester’s 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. And 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.

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. This is why Viome offers their Health Intelligence Test and supplements designed to address any issues they find 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

Viome is our 2022 editor's choice for microbiome testing

Viome offers two sophisticated tests and several reasons why they are our 2022 Editors’ Choice for the best overall testing company for your gut microbiome, as well as the best for whole-health insights.

Gut Intelligence Test

Viome’s Gut Intelligence test, the more affordable of the company’s two tests at $149, 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 — and in what quantities.

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.

Studies indicate that focusing on RNA rather than DNA can allow Viome to focus on the active microorganisms and what they’re doing. 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.

Note: You can get an additional $20 off the price by using our code INNERBODY20 upon purchase.

Health Intelligence Test for whole-health insights

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.

Viome Biological Age

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

Actionable insights

Viomes 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 Health Intelligence Test, which may reveal syndromes or disorders you never knew you had and provide you with guidance on how you can address them.

Viome’s most comprehensive testing plan is their Precision Supplements Complete plan, which includes the Health Intelligence and Gut Intelligence tests and a monthly supply of probiotics, prebiotics, and supplements for a subscription cost of $200/month. That may sound like a fair amount 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 halfway to the cost of Viome’s plan. And that’s before accounting for either the supplements or the fact that the products they ship to you will match your needs exactly.

Viome will even include periodic re-testing so they can tweak the formula of your monthly supplies of prebiotics and probiotics to remain as helpful as possible.

Privacy

Viome’s Gut Intelligence Test does not examine your DNA. Instead, it analyzes the RNA of the microorganisms living inside of your gut. While valuable to you, this data is not sensitive or identifiable information in the same way as your DNA. There isn’t something intrinsically “yours” about it or anything personally identifying. It’s also worth noting that Viome protects your data rigorously with SSL encryption, segmentation, and other safeguards.

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

BIOHM Gut Test

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

At this time in 2022, we conclude that BIOHM is a high-quality runner-up choice for microbiome testing. 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 to you. But unlike Viome, BIOHM only reports about fungi and bacteria (which is more limited in scope) and relies on DNA analysis, which could end up producing some results based on microorganisms that were not alive and active within your gut.

Best Budget Choice

BIOHM Gut Test

BIOHM’s Gut Test is among the best tests at recognizing not just bacteria but fungi as well. But we believe it's not the best. The test’s probiotic recommendations are also quite good.

BIOHM was founded by Dr. Mahmoud Ghannoum, one of the world’s leading microbiome researchers. He has published over 400 papers and his research has been cited over 20,000 times by other scientists.

Your savings with BIOHM are $20, compared to Viome’s most affordable test option. Based on the limitations described above, this isn’t sufficient savings to recommend BIOHM as more than a runner-up to Viome. Plus, when you consider the $10 discount that we can help you get at Viome, your savings will reduce to just $10.

As with our other two top recommendations, the BIOHM Gut Test aims to give you results and recommendations. They also provide the option to purchase recommended supplements directly from BIOHM based on your gut microbiome test results.

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 supplements make the company a convenient, one-stop shop for people whose gut fungi and bacteria lack balance and need help. 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.

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

Ombre Gut Health Test

Another solid choice in our top three 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, their test isn’t the most comprehensive test available (that distinction goes to Viome). This test focuses on gut bacteria — a narrower scope than BIOHM and significantly more limited than Viome’s test. Ombre intends to offer more comprehensive gut microbiome testing in the future.

Best Bacterial Support

Ombre Gut Health Program

Ombre’s Gut Health Program focuses on improving the bacteria in your gut microbiome by including personalized probiotics recommendations to repair your gut.

Ombre focuses exclusively on promoting gut bacterial health and the company is good at it. Ombre also prides itself on providing transparency as to what the tests can tell you and what they cannot.

Current Deals: Save 10% using code INNERBODY

Best budget option

Ombre’s focus may be what allows the company to sell their gut microbiome test at a lower price than the other two companies that comprise our top three testing options. 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. After testing, you get dietary suggestions and the opportunity to subscribe to whichever of Ombre’s three probiotic blends best suits your needs.

Ombre Gut test results

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, their essential platform is a great place to start.

To learn more, visit our full Ombre review.

Floré (Sun Genomics)

Flore has the tools to be a serious competitor in the microbiome testing space. They assemble their test kits thoughtfully and thoroughly, and they offer a custom-tailored probiotic blend based on your results for just $99/month. That’s half the price of Viome’s custom probiotic prescription. Floré also offers re-testing every four months, which translates to one extra test per year compared to Viome.

Flore Microbiome Test

However, 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 their recommendations is 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. If Floré can do more to make their results useful for their customers beyond pushing them toward the company’s probiotics, they would undoubtedly rise in our estimation.

How do microbiome tests work?

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. One of the two regions they sequence is the same one that the Earth Microbiome Project prefers (region V4), which gives Ombre access to a wealth of data against which they can compare your results.

Viome is on the cutting edge of development for sequencing technologies and techniques. They rely on polymerase chain reaction preparations to calculate mRNA expression. They also create their own reagents specifically for their analysis method. What’s more, they’ve begun to design and build smaller, more accurate machines for processing and sequencing, so they can keep everything in-house and not rely on anyone else for their 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.

Get a Test

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 minimal amount of stool.

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.

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.

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 imply 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 — use 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 of 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 re-testing, you can have the company make necessary changes to your formula as your health evolves and improves.

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