The composition of your gut microbiome has been linked to many aspects of health. But, can you test the health of the bugs in your gut?
We live in an era when testing is done for multiple parts of your body. Blood, breath, genome, saliva, urine and stools, are commonly tested to assess different aspects of your health. More recently, a new generation of tests are targeting the gut microbiome, with the promise of improving your health by tweaking and optimising the composition of the bugs in your gut.
Gut microbiome and health
The gastrointestinal tract (GIT) is laced with billions of microorganisms, collectively known as the gut microbiota (GM). The gut microbiota is composed of multiple species of bacteria, viruses and other microorganisms, but bacteria represent the most abundant group. The gut microbiota can be found all along the GIT, but most of them live in the small intestine, where they influence various aspects of our health. The gut microbiota help with food digestion, make vitamins that our body needs (and can’t make on its own), and work together with the immune system to keep pathogens out of our body1-4.
Is there an ideal gut microbiota composition?
The question of what constitutes an optimal gut microbiota has been both intriguing and difficult to answer. When scientists started to analyse the gut microbiome of healthy people, like with the Human Microbiome Project5, they found a lot of variation in gut microbial composition. Different, seemingly healthy, people had different gut microbiota, making it difficult to establish an ideal gut microbiome.
However, a lot of studies have identified a strong connection between gut microbial composition and health, where healthy people have a significantly different set of gut microbes, compared to people with a disease. Even when you look at a single person, the composition of their gut microbiota while healthy is different from when they are sick6.
These differences in gut microbiome composition between healthy and diseased states has led to the establishment of the term gut dysbiosis, broadly used to define a state of imbalance in the diversity of gut bacteria. Gut dysbiosis implies that there is an ideal composition of your Gut Microbiota, which has been altered. Multiple studies in recent years have linked gut dysbiosis with health problems, including hypertension7, Crohn’s disease8, metabolic diseases9, infections10, among other conditions11-13.
With this idea in mind, new gut microbiome tests have been elucidated that give you an idea of the composition of your gut microbiota and tell you whether it is in a state of dysbiosis.
Testing your gut microbiome
Today, different gut microbiome tests have become available, with the promise of revealing the composition of your gut microbiota and giving you insights about how to improve your health. These tests are usually easy to use, requiring stool samples that are sent to a laboratory to be analysed for microbial content, either through genomic analyses or by growing the microbes on a dish.
Results of a gut microbiome test consist of a list of microbes identified, as well as interpretations by the laboratory’s team about what it all means. Before making any major changes to your diet or lifestyle based on these results, you need to consult with a functional medicine clinician, who can guide you on the interpretation of the results, and what they really mean for your health.
At our centre, we guide you through the process of getting tested, explaining why these tests are helpful and how to interpret the results you obtain. We employ a complete microbiome mapping approach, the most advanced DNA-based stool test available in Australia. This is a comprehensive test that will reveal the types of microorganisms living in your gut, including:
- Presence and abundance of pathogens
- Presence and abundance of normal / healthy bacteria
- Presence and abundance of opportunistic bacteria
- Presence and abundance of fungi, yeast, viruses and parasites
This test will also measure health markers, such as specific enzymes, fat and blood content in stool, and confirm the presence of genes involved with antibiotic resistance. The results from this test will help us identify pathogenic organisms, like:
- Cytomegalovirus, which can cause flu-like symptoms
- Different species of Candida, a type a fungi that cause vaginal and fungal infections
- Helicobacter pylori, a common bacterium that in some people may influence the development of ulcers, chronic gastritis, or even stomach cancer
- Clostridium difficile, a bacterium associated with abdominal pain, cramping, fever, and diarrhea and
- Several other known pathogenic bacteria, viruses and parasites
How microbiome mapping helps patients
Gut microbiome tests are still a topic of controversy, with some scientists arguing that these tests cannot be used to provide medical advice, as we don’t know enough about the function of the gut microbiome in health and disease. However, at our centre we have been able to help many patients by using our complete microbiome mapping approach, alongside traditional blood, breathe and urine tests. Together, the data generated by these tests provide a comprehensive picture of the health status of our patients.
Imagine you have been suffering from a range of worrisome symptoms, including loose stools, constipated or even bloody stools, occasional respiratory infections, abdominal pain, chronic fatigue and cognitive decline. Symptoms come and go and you never seem to get over them. You have been to several doctors, had multiple tests done, including a colonoscopy and an endoscopy, all without conclusive results.
You come to our centre and go through comprehensive testing, including breath testing, advanced stool analysis, urine analysis and Australia’s most comprehensive full blood panel.
Results showed strong evidence of Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO), parasite infection, gut dysbiosis and micronutrient deficiencies. Based on these results, you received a personalised botanical or pharmaceutical treatment, which included various species of plants with a strong evidence-backed record of improving gut microbial composition, fighting parasites infections and addressing SIBO. You also receive a customised nutrition plan with micronutrient supplements to balance your body requirements.
After 60 days your symptoms have resolved and your health is back on track.
ORDER YOUR GUT MICROBIOME TESTING TODAY
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- Clemente JC, Ursell LK, Parfrey LW, Knight R. The impact of the gut microbiota on human health: an integrative view. Cell. 2012 Mar 16;148(6):1258-70. Read it!
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- Turnbaugh PJ, Ley RE, Hamady M, Fraser-Liggett CM, Knight R, Gordon JI. The human microbiome project. Nature. 2007 Oct;449(7164):804-10. Read it!
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- Yang T, Santisteban MM, Rodriguez V, Li E, Ahmari N, Carvajal JM, Zadeh M, Gong M, Qi Y, Zubcevic J, Sahay B. Gut dysbiosis is linked to hypertension. Hypertension. 2015 Jun;65(6):1331-40. Read it!
- Ni J, Shen TC, Chen EZ, Bittinger K, Bailey A, Roggiani M, Sirota-Madi A, Friedman ES, Chau L, Lin A, Nissim I. A role for bacterial urease in gut dysbiosis and Crohn’s disease. Science translational medicine. 2017 Nov 15;9(416):eaah6888. Read it!
- Martinez KB, Leone V, Chang EB. Western diets, gut dysbiosis, and metabolic diseases: Are they linked?. Gut microbes. 2017 Mar 4;8(2):130-42. Read it!
- Inoue T, Nakayama J, Moriya K, Kawaratani H, Momoda R, Ito K, Iio E, Nojiri S, Fujiwara K, Yoneda M, Yoshiji H. Gut dysbiosis associated with hepatitis C virus infection. Clinical Infectious Diseases. 2018 Aug 31;67(6):869-77. Read it!
- Almeida C, Oliveira R, Soares R, Barata P. Influence of gut microbiota dysbiosis on brain function: a systematic review. Porto Biomedical Journal. 2020 Mar 1;5(2):1. Read it!
- Wang L, Alammar N, Singh R, Nanavati J, Song Y, Chaudhary R, Mullin GE. Gut microbial dysbiosis in the irritable bowel syndrome: A systematic review and meta-analysis of case-control studies. Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. 2020 Apr 1;120(4):565-86. Read it!
- Toor D, Wsson MK, Kumar P, Karthikeyan G, Kaushik NK, Goel C, Singh S, Kumar A, Prakash H. Dysbiosis disrupts gut immune homeostasis and promotes gastric diseases. International journal of molecular sciences. 2019 Jan;20(10):2432. Read it!