What is this?
A gut microbiome test is done on a stool sample collected at home and sent back to the lab. It measures the amount and types of microbes, such as bacteria and viruses, present in your sample and gives you an idea of what your microbiome looks like. A complete test also measures markers of digestion, gut inflammation, gut immunity and gut wall health.
What can it tell you about your gut health?
A functional medicine approach to gut health involves assessing the health of the following five functions:
- Digestion (both stomach acid, pancreatic enzymes and bile acids)
- Gut immunity and the presence of gut wall inflammation
- Gut microbiome, including the presence of parasites and harmful microbes, overgrowth of opportunistic microbes, and levels of beneficial microbes and their metabolites
- Gut wall integrity
- The gut-brain axis
A complete gut microbiome test provides information about all these gut functions.
What are the limitations of this test?
- The test is done on a small sample of stool. It may not accurately reflect what’s happening higher up in the gut.
- There is as yet no criteria for an ‘ideal microbiome’
- A microbiome profile that is problematic for one person may be completely fine for another person
- The result is unlikely to change your treatment plan significantly
What are the benefits?
- The test provide information about a number of keystone microbes in your gut. These microbes are considered foundational as they are essential for healthy microbial balance and diversity. Knowing that you have low numbers of these important microbes can help guide your choice of prebiotics, and can also be strong motivator for making appropriate dietary and lifestyle changes.
- Patterns of microbial imbalances combined with specific markers can confirm dysfunctional digestion or inflammatory dysbiosis with increased gut wall permeability. Both these can be managed appropriately, e.g. with digestive support, gut wall support and stress management in conjunction with other dietary and lifestyle interventions.
- The detection of significantly increased levels of parasites, in conjunction with IBS symptoms may guide a decision to treat. While some parasites are considered endemic and not an issue, research shows that IBS symptoms may significantly improved once they are treated.
Should you get this done?
It is entirely possible for us to develop a comprehensive and effective gut health management plan that should improve your symptoms, without access to a microbiome report. The report provides ‘good to know’ information, but is not essential. It can be quite motivating to stick to the management plan if you know what’s going on in your gut. It is up to you to decide if the cost justifies the potential benefits.
Not sure what to do?
Book an exploratory gut health consultation with Dr Nelda Swart to discuss the pros and cons before you make the investment.