Any time new research emerges to clue us in on the latest in the wealth of health, we have questions. Gut health has been familiar with the scene for the last ten years, recently taking center stage.
With research supporting the countless ways gut affects our overall health, people are concerned about their gut health more than ever before.
Where there is a concern, there is a tech initiative born to address it. Hence, the rise of at-home gut health tests. They’re comprehensive, make all kinds of promises to assist with weight loss and other physical challenges. They’re mysterious, new age science-y, and provoke all the best-personalized medicine vibes.
So, the question is, should we, or shouldn’t we?
Tests on the Table
Okay, so, what kind of at-home gut health tests even exist? I mean, some of us just found out that our gut runs the show, like, yesterday. We don’t know how these tests work, much less what they’re like.
Right now, on the market, you can find a few tests marketing themselves as “gut health exams,” but many of them only test one aspect of gut health like the colon, intestines, or metabolism.
While this is fantastic information to have, they don’t exactly test for overall gut health as they claim. Gut health is tested by acquiring a sample of one’s microbial content.
Tests explicitly designed to examine overall gut health are intended to do a lot more than just that. The general idea is a three-step process. It usually begins with ordering a kit that will arrive with some questionnaire or prompt to collect information, along with equipment for collecting samples. The customer then sends the sample out to a lab for evaluation and waits for results.
Companies like Viome are selling the dream. They claim to offer insights on how to lose weight, gain mental clarity, optimal diet strategies, and more. Viome specifically, includes an interactive digital element where consumers are connected to and able to track their results over time.
There has been some controversy about these sorts of tests not being FDA approved, and Viome was temporarily suspended in 2018 to be closer inspected for their claims pertaining to an individual’s health.
More to Consider
Measures are being taken to ensure that at-home microbiome tests disclaim that they are not a means to diagnose disease and should not be substituted in place of seeing a physician.
In an article concerning lukewarm feelings about microbiome testing among scientists, Rob Knight, a leading microbiome researcher at the University of California, expresses the apprehensions associated with relying on such tests:
“The enthusiasm of their manufacturers simply goes well beyond where the science is right now,” he advises.
He suggests that the most accurate way to test for the possible presence of underlying disease through gut assessment would require study over an extended period time, where an individual is assessed at a baseline before getting sick.
This is not to say that there aren’t other benefits to pulling out the big lens over the health of your gut. Whether or not you choose to invest in a microbiome testing service is up to you. In any case, we simply advise that you are cautious in selecting a company, their procedures, right to advise, and the credibility of their results.