What Is A Microbiome Test?

A microbiome test reveals the types and levels of bacteria and other microbes in your large intestine.

Strictly speaking, you have many microbiomes: for example your skin, mouth and nasal passages all have their own separate, yet connected microbiomes. There are even microbiomes around your eyes and in your lungs. But usually, when people talk about your microbiome, they mean the one in your large intestine.

Over the last decade, an explosion of research into our microbial friends has shown us what a massive role they play in keeping us healthy. You only need to look at all the microbiome testing startups on the scene to see that exploring your microbiome is now quite the thing.

Read on to find how microbiome testing could help you and what to look for when buying a test.

What can you learn from a microbiome test?

What you can learn from a microbiome test totally depends on which test it is. While we think microbiome tests are useful, ideally you need to know more about what’s going on in your gut than just the types and levels of microbes that live there. These more comprehensive tests are usually called ‘gut health tests’.

Even among the basic microbiome tests, there’s a big difference between providers. While some microbiome tests will only give you very basic information, like your levels of the most common species of bacteria, others will provide a much more detailed analysis. 

At Healthpath, we have a range of gut health tests that all include microbiome analysis. There are many other companies that offer microbiome testing in the UK: uBiome and Atlas Biomed are a couple of examples.

Microbial families

Bacteria and other microbes exist in a kind of family tree, like animals. A Siberian tiger is a kind of tiger. A tiger is a kind of cat, which is a kind of mammal.

In the same way, Lactobacillus acidophilus is a kind of lactobacillus bacteria. Lactobacillus bacteria are a kind of Lactobacillaceae, which belongs to the larger family of Lactobacillales. That’s oversimplifying it, but you get the idea.

The point is that some tests give a very broad overview, looking at the proportion of ‘mammals’ in your microbiome, while others are able to tell how many of those are ‘Siberian tigers’.

This matters, because closely related types of bacteria can do very different jobs within our bodies. E. coli Nissle, for example, is a very beneficial bacteria used to help people with Crohn’s disease, while E. coli 0157 can cause bloody diarrhoea.

Looking for answers? Try our advanced gut test.

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Are gut microbiome tests legitimate?

Not all gut microbiome tests on the market are legitimate. Just like most products, there are good ones and bad ones.  They’re all different.

The only thing they all have in common is that you have to send off your poo to a lab to get the results. There are hundreds on the market now, so it’s worth doing some research to find the best one for you. Many have reviews on Amazon, for instance.

Scientists have used gut microbiome testing in some of the most valuable medical discoveries of the 21st century. There’s a mountain of research that proves gut microbiome testing (when done properly) is a legitimate way to find out about the types and levels of specific types of microbes in someone’s gut [Source: PubMed].

Do gut health tests work?

Gut health tests (as opposed to microbiome tests or gut bacteria tests) give you a lot more information than microbiome tests. They’re designed to give you insight into the health and goings-on of your gut, and the good ones certainly do that.

Gut health tests are about a lot more than just bacteria. They give you information on inflammation, immunity, digestive function and a lot more besides. A microbiome test is just that: a test of your microbiome.

Gut health tests (and microbiome tests) are all different. Have a thorough look at what a gut health test offers before you buy it.

What is the best microbiome test?

The best microbiome test should be accurate and effective: that means it should reveal a true picture of the types and levels of microbes in your gut. Once you’ve sifted all the good microbiome tests out of all the options on the market, how do you decide between them?

For a deep dive into your gut health you need more than a microbiome test. Choose a comprehensive gut health test.

What to look for on a gut health test:

  • Different types of technology: 6s, qPCR, and culture 
  • Bacteria analysis
  • Archaea analysis
  • Dysbiosis index
  • Pathogenic bacteria detection
  • Yeast, parasite and worm detection
  • Digestion biomarkers
  • Inflammation and immunity markers
  • Leaky gut biomarker
  • Feedback on your test results by a qualified practitioner
  • Diet suggestions
  • Suggested supplements
  • Lifestyle advice
  • Online dashboard for results 
  • A qualified customer care team for any questions
  • A professional assessment of your symptoms

We created a comparison chart that includes the UK’s most popular gut health and microbiome tests, so you can see what each one includes at a glance.

Choose a test that's right for you. Talk to a gut expert.

Book a free consultation

How do I know if my microbiome is healthy?

In general, if you’re healthy, your microbiome is healthy. People with health conditions and diseases are much more likely to have an unhealthy microbiome than healthy people [Source: PubMed].

Diversity: what we all want

Healthy microbiomes are all different, but they all have one thing in common: diversity. While there’s no one formula to create a healthy microbiome, your gut should contain many different types, families and species of microbes. A lack of diversity is linked to an endless number of diseases [Source: PubMed].

The latest research is also revealing links between levels of specific types of microbes and specific diseases. Many of these are included on our Gut Health Tests. Get some insider knowledge and download a sample report to see which bacteria we test for. 

How do I fix my microbiome?

Because everyone’s microbiome is different, we can’t tell you exactly how to fix your microbiome.

However, there are some general rules that almost everybody benefits from following. Find out the basics of how to get a healthy gut in our blog 9 ways to get a healthy gut.

How do I get rid of bad bacteria in the gut?

There are actually relatively few bacteria that you should ‘get rid of.’ While some—like salmonella or campylobacter—are very bad news, bacteria are mostly neither good nor bad: at normal levels, they’re neutral. In an unbalanced microbiome though, some microbes can multiply to abnormal levels. 

A good gut health test will show you which microbes have multiplied beyond healthy levels. Again, it’s all about diversity and balance. Read more about how getting rid of overgrown bacteria is not always a good plan in our blog How to get rid of bad bacteria in the gut.

How much does microbiome testing cost?

You can get a very cheap microbiome test for just over £100, but it may not provide you with enough information to make targeted changes to your health. 

Check out our comparison chart to see which microbiome and gut health tests provide what.

Is microbiome testing covered by insurance?

Your policy may provide cover for microbiome and gut health testing, but most basic plans don’t. We recommend that you contact your provider and ask.

Key takeaways

  • A microbiome test analyses the types and levels of microbes in your gut
  • No two tests are the same: some are basic, others are much deeper
  • A gut health test is different: analysing microbes is just a tiny part of what they do
  • A good gut health test gives you information on your digestive function, inflammation levels, the presence of pathogenic microbes, worms or parasites and much more
  • Healthpath Gut Health Tests are the only ones on the UK market that come with bespoke diet, supplement and lifestyle advice from qualified practitioners as part of the price

Author

Alexandra Falconer MA (Dist) DipCNM mBANT is a Registered Nutritional Therapist specialising in IBS and related conditions. A graduate of Brighton’s College of Naturopathic Medicine, she is committed to fighting the root causes of chronic illness and bringing functional medicine to everyone who needs it.

Before her natural health career, Alex was a journalist and copywriter. She continues to write for magazines and media agencies, and now combines her two great passions—writing and health—by creating content that empowers people to claim their right to a healthy body and mind.

 

 

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