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Gut Health Tests: Pros/Cons & At-Home vs. At the Doctor

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Getting the right gut health tests helps you identify existing problems and plan the best treatments to optimize your gut.

How can I test my gut health? You can test your gut health in 2 ways: See a provider who offers gut health testing, or purchase a home gut health test. 

Home microbiome tests are a popular means of analyzing gut microbiota.

Here’s how it works:

  1. Select a gut health test.
  2. Order a test kit.
  3. Collect the specimen (typically fecal, but may also include blood screening).
  4. Mail the kit back.
  5. Wait for your test results.
  6. Review the results with your healthcare provider.

At-home gut microbiome tests will provide some information about the state of your gastrointestinal tract. 

At Sano Health Club, we help you understand your results and consider your entire medical profile when making recommendations to improve your health and symptoms. Become a member today to make a lasting change to your digestive health.

How the Gut Impacts Health

The gut houses the majority of our immune system and is a huge part of maintaining overall health. An unhealthy gut can contribute to many chronic health conditions, including:

  • Depression
  • Diabetes
  • Colorectal cancer
  • Inflammatory Bowel Disease
  • Obesity
  • Autoimmune disorders
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)

The digestive system populated by gut flora is a complex ecosystem. Gut flora consists of trillions of microorganisms, including bacteria, yeast, archaea, and fungi. Bacteria is the most prevalent microbe, comprising 90% of gut flora. 

Imbalances in the pathogenic (bad) and commensal (good) gut bacteria are what cause most intestinal problems. This imbalance is known as dysbiosis.

How do you know you need a gut health test?

Gut health testing is ideal for people with digestive issues or symptoms closely related to gut health. These symptoms may include:

  • Acid reflux
  • Bloating 
  • Constipation
  • Diarrhea
  • Fatigue
  • Food intolerances
  • Gas
  • Inflammation
  • Nausea
  • Skin conditions, such as eczema 
  • Upset stomach
  • Weight changes

While they’re helpful, home tests are not intended for self-diagnosis of GI issues. If you believe you have a chronic gut condition, contact your physician. A full assessment by a physician is far more accurate than a single test result.

What does a gut health test detect?

Individual gut health tests are designed to examine different factors. Generally speaking, a gut health test may detect:

  • levels of healthy bacteria
  • pathogenic bacteria
  • parasites, yeast, viruses
  • bacterial overgrowth
  • inflammation
  • immune function
  • digestion and absorption

There are 2 general types of gut health tests. One analyzes biomarkers to identify conditions, while the other type uses sequencing technology to extract DNA to determine what bacteria are in the gut.

While gut health tests can be helpful, they are still somewhat limited in what they can detect. Gut health tests have not reached a point where they can identify all of the species of bacteria in the gut.

The goal for gut tests is that they evolve to offer more information about the state of the gut microbiome. Ultimately, the hope is that primary care providers will incorporate them in standard care.

What Common Gut Health Biomarkers Mean 

According to the FDA, biological markers, or biomarkers, are measurable characteristics of the body. Biomarkers are used in gut health tests to suggest certain conditions or potential symptoms to address.

Here are some of the common biomarkers you might measure for gut health:

  • Dietary and lifestyle factors: The way your diet and lifestyle impact your gut may be measured by multiple factors, such as insulin, omega-3 fatty acids, CRP, alanine transaminase (ALT), LDL cholesterol, and more.
  • Zonulin: This marker is often used to measure gut permeability that occurs in leaky gut syndrome.
  • Bacteroidetes-to-Firmicutes axis: A high percentage of Firmicutes bacteria compared to a low percentage of Bacteriodetes suggests microbial imbalance. This may be related to poor caloric extraction from food, increased fat deposits, decreased insulin sensitivity, and increased inflammation.
  • Bifidobacterium species, Lactobacillus species, Bacteroides fragilis, Akkermansia muciniphila, and Faecalibacterium prausnitzii: Abundance of these bacteria are generally associated with good mucosal health and lower levels of inflammation, while lower levels might signal reduced mucosal health and poor immunity. A patient with lower levels may also suffer from chronic inflammation and autoimmune disorders.
  • Methanobacteriaceae, Citrobacter species, Klebsiella species, Pseudomonas, Staphylococcus species, and Morganella species: High amounts of these opportunistic bacteria are typically associated with reduced digestive function, small intestinal bacterial overgrowth, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), constipation, diarrhea, abdominal pain, bloating, and intestinal inflammation.

Interpreting your microbiome test kit can be somewhat confusing, which is why we recommend talking to a qualified provider about your results.

Gut Health Test Cost

The cost of gut health tests can range anywhere from $100 to $1000. 

The cost of a gut health test varies depending on how extensive it is. Some tests require blood samples with your stool samples. The test may include additional features, such as:

Some membership-based healthcare providers include gut health testing in their membership cost. Your insurance may cover the cost if you’re testing through your gastroenterologist.

Popular At-Home Gut Health Tests: Worth it?

The following are some of the leading brands in gut health test kits:

  • GI-MAP: GI-MAP is the only gut health test kit that uses quantitative polymerase chain reaction (qPCR) technology. That’s why it’s the only one I use in my practice. qPCR is far more sensitive than traditional PCR, and it offers more quantitative results (such as the amount of certain DNA strands in a patient’s stool, rather than just the presence of that DNA). The GI-MAP test results offer patients and practitioners the most helpful data for creating an individualized healthcare plan for gut health.
  • Ombre: The Ombre gut health test analyzes thousands of bacteria in your sample. It specifically looks for the diversity and balance of bacteria. Your results are compared to those of The American Gut Project, the largest microbiome research database. Ombre also offers probiotics subscription services.
  • Viome: Viome’s gut intelligence test analyzes mRNA instead of DNA, as they believe it reveals more about how the gut functions. They also offer customized nutrition and supplement plans. Their test looks for inflammatory activity, digestive efficiency, and gut lining health. Viome is conducting cutting-edge research to determine how the gut can affect the whole body.
  • ZOE: ZOE’s gut test analyzes the gut, blood sugar, and blood fat. This test checks your sample for 30 different bacteria strains.

These tests can be insightful for gaining a general overview of your gut health and an excellent first step to learning more about gut health. For severe, ongoing symptoms, contact your healthcare provider. 

How to Heal Your Microbiome

A healthy gut equates to a robust immune system, improved mental health, and heart health. 

  • Collect data. Keep a food diary to track reactions or monitor your stool consistency and color. Recording this data can allow you to identify patterns and help your doctor assess your health.
  • Consider taking prebiotic and probiotic supplements. Probiotics and prebiotic supplements and foods help to replenish your microflora.
  • Cultivate a healthy diet. Eat plenty of plants and legumes to improve your fiber consumption. Remove heavily processed foods and beverages. Be mindful of your sugar intake, as it disrupts microbiota and can lead to a number of health conditions.
  • Exercise. Incorporate at least 30 minutes of intentional movement into your daily routine. 
  • Manage stress. Reduce stress as much as possible, as it disrupts digestion, sleep, and mental health.
  • Sleep. Aim for 7 to 8 hours of sleep per night. Having a nighttime routine in place will help you wind down and get to sleep more efficiently.

Work With a Functional Provider to Repair Your Gut

Sano Health can help you determine the best testing and treatment approaches for your unique health goals. Book a discovery session with us so we can assist you in repairing your gut safely and effectively.


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