Metabolism + Microbiome Testing From Your Couch
It’s been more than three years since I was first diagnosed with PCOS, Leaky Gut and Hypothyroidism. And I’m proud to say that I’ve truly never felt better.
But that doesn’t mean I can stop caring.
I still watch what I eat and incorporate as many fruits and vegetables as I can onto my plate. I still make exercise a priority, going to yoga at least three times a week and taking a walk outside most days.
I still take a few key supplements and medications when necessary. I still make time for self-care through meditation, gratitude journaling and Epsom salt baths. I still meticulously read the labels on every product I consume, put on my body or use in my house, taking care to only use those that contain safe, natural, pure and mostly organic ingredients.
And I still get my blood levels checked (everything from thyroid to hormones to nutrient levels) several times a year. And while I wouldn’t have my life any other way (remember, I also still indulge regularly, eat cheeseburgers and french fries, drink wine and follow the 80-20 rule to maintain my sanity, and thus my health), I’ll be honest–having to go to the doctor’s office for routine labs can be kind of a drag.
It’s expensive, it takes a lot of time (between the driving and the waiting and the actually seeing the doctor) and they can’t always easily test the things I care about (some doctors even refuse to run any labs that aren’t life or death).
Like testing my microbiome and my metabolism, two integral parts of my body that control, well pretty much everything (think mood, energy, performance, mental capacity, weight, digestion and more)! I want to know what’s happening here and how I can have both be operating at their optimal function.
So when I heard about Viome–an at-home health test kit that measures your gut health and metabolic functions and provides you with detailed results and customized recommendations–I was thrilled.
Let me get this straight–without a doctor’s note or prescription, I can order a test from the comfort of my couch, have it delivered to my front door, easily complete the test right in my home and then simply ship the samples back in the mail, wait a few weeks and get a thorough analysis of the state of my health and personal tips on how I can improve it from a qualified professional?
Where do I sign?!
The Future of Health: Personalized Medicine
Not only is Viome extremely convenient, helpful and scientific…it’s also personal, which is perhaps the best part.
Yes, we all need sleep, vegetables, exercise, and love, but that’s about as one-size-fits-all as health can get.
I strongly believe that there is no perfect diet or way of eating that works for everyone on the planet. Nor is there one supplement that will solve everyone’s problems, a single workout that guarantees weight loss and six pack abs for every body, an individual food that heals or harms every person’s health.
You see, health is so individual, it’s so personal–what works for me, won’t always work for you. What makes me feel great might make you feel like lying in the fetal position on your bathroom floor.
That’s why it’s so important to listen to our own unique bodies and, through thoughtful trial and error, figure out what foods, supplements, medications, exercise regimes, and lifestyles work best for us, and us alone.
At Home Microbiome Testing
Alright, yes, I’m just going to come right out and say it. In order to test your microbiome (aka the bacteria in your gut), you’ll have to provide a stool sample.
In real people speak, that translates to pooping on a piece of paper stuck to your toilet seat and using the provided scooper to scoop a small piece into the provided bottle. I promise it’s not nearly as scary or gross as it sounds, though I don’t recommend for a first date 😉
Here’s the cool part: after you’ve shipped your poop sample back to Viome’s labs, they can tell you exactly what is happening with the 40 trillion microorganisms in your gut microbiome (think bacteria, viruses, bacteriophages, archaea, fungi, yeast, parasites, and more), quantifying its biochemical activities and then generating the data into actionable diet, nutrition and lifestyle recommendations that will help you maximize your wellness and potentially prevent disease.
Pretty cool, huh?
Here’s how they do it: the microbes in your gut all serve a specific purpose, each of which affects your overall wellness. Some are beneficial, like vitamin B and short chain fatty acids, while others are detrimental, such as TMAO, which causes coronary artery disease.
By analyzing the genes that your microbes express, Viome can identify their role in your body’s ecosystem, and then help you fine-tune the function of your gut microbiome to minimize production of harmful metabolites and maximize the production of beneficial ones.
How to Test Metabolism
This test is decidedly less icky… to test your metabolism, Viome sends you a powder that you dissolve and water and drink (it tastes just like sugar water). They also send you some finger prickers and a glucose measuring device, and at various points before, during and after drinking the sweet drink, you simply prick your finger, drip some of the blood on a stick, put the stick into the device and note your glucose level.
After recording the results, Viome looks at how quickly you regain your balance, and thus determines how you process macronutrients– fats, protein, and carbs.
When combined with your Gut Intelligence™️ test results, you’ll then receive personalized, ideal macronutrient ratio and dietary recommendations that are unique to you, and you alone.
Or put another way, they’ll tell you which foods that are most compatible with your metabolism, and thus what you should eat (and avoid) to achieve and maintain a healthy weight, increase your energy, focus and well-being, and optimize your digestion and absorption of nutrients.
Let’s see it in action–it’ll all make much more sense.
My Metabolic + Microbiome Test Results
Overall Score: Good!
The Wellness Index is the overall score. I’m pretty pleased to see that I’m already in the green, but curious what actions I can take to get myself to 100%. Below is a more detailed breakdown of how that Wellness Index score came to be.
Microbiome Diversity + Richness: Great!
So this part is a little confusing–I actually set up a call with one of their translators to help me understand this data. In short: the diversity of the bacteria in my gut it better than 63% of the population with a score of 96% diversity.
The second score is about RNA. Here, lower is better–in my case, only 9% of the population have less RNA in their sample, which you don’t want. This is our own human RNA, and indicates inflammation of the GI tract, causing digestive upset like constipation. I bet if I took this test 4 years ago, it would’ve looked MUCH different.
Then they give you all of the information about the specific bacteria you have in your microbiome, which if you’re anything like me (and/or not a scientist) probably means nothing to you. But this is the data they’re using to come up with your customized recommendations, which is the whole point of doing this kind of testing.
Takeaway: After going through some of this with someone at Viome, I learned that I have parasites (specifically Blastocystis hominis). My specialist told me these types of parasites can cause anxiety (remember, neurotransmitters are located in the gut). That hit a nerve with me. To reduce the parasites and get my gut health to 100%, Viome recommended a probiotic and prebiotic supplement (more on that below).
I also learned that one of the microbes I was high in was akkermansia muciniphila, which is a ‘Good Guy’ bacteria that helps to keep the lining of my intestine healthy and can even assist the reversal of obesity and type 2 diabetes. I can I keep this bacteria active by eating the foods on my recommended list, such as garlic, asparagus, cauliflower and bone broth (more on that below).
Now we’re getting to the fun part: Food! What does it all mean? What should I eat?
This is really cool because after taking tons of different probiotics for years, I can finally see which ones are actually working and which ones weren’t. And I’ll now know what strains to look for when I buy my next bottle.
Takeaway: I have a very fast metabolism, which is good news for my waistline. But not so good news for hormones, energy levels, and overall wellness. According to Viome, my body metabolizes carbs too fast, which leads to free radical damage. So my recommendations are all about how to slow down this process–one easy way: always have healthy fats with my carbs. Oh darn, twist my arm!
I told y’all how I cut out caffeine last Spring after realizing it really makes me anxious, so this was really cool to see that there was actually some science behind that theory of mine. My fast metabolism makes me sensitive to caffeine. Aha!
Now, onto the specific food recommendations!
And here are the very specific food recommendations I received:
And there you have it. As you can see from these screenshots, Viome provides you with a plethora of data and recommendations to help you live your healthiest life yet.
In the spirit of honesty, the company isn’t perfect. It’s a start-up, after all, but they take customer feedback very seriously and are always tweaking and testing different ways of delivering results and recommendations to make their service better.
My feedback? I’m somebody that wants to know why–it’s not enough to just tell me that I shouldn’t eat Couscous. I want to know why couscous specifically is bad for me–what part of my microbiome or metabolism doesn’t process it well? Cane Sugar I get…but what about wheat-free whole grains?
In Viome’s defense, they’re trying not to overwhelm their customers with data and hope that we can simply trust that their recommendations are based on the hard facts of our test results that their scientists and nutritionists have painstakingly analyzed.
Too much data can be overwhelming, I agree, but in order for me to be convinced that I need to minimize foods like kale, white meat chicken, and cherries, I’m going to need to know the why behind it.
My hunch: they’re high glycemic foods that don’t contain enough fat, protein and/or fiber, and thus I process them too quickly, sending my blood sugar out of whack. Or they feed specific bacteria in my gut that isn’t good, or that I have too much of, or they’re difficult for me to digest.
I was also worried when I saw I should minimize hot peppers, one of my favorite foods. But I have a feeling this was because the Pepper mild mottle virus was detected in my gut–though after doing some research, the effects of this plant-virus are unknown on humans.
The good news: You can email Viome’s customer service at firstname.lastname@example.org and ask specific questions, which did prove to be extremely helpful. Ultimately, it’s a personal preference, and the control freak, questioner in me hates the unknown. Others may be happy to just have someone who knows what they’re talking about tell them what to do, without question.
Try Viome’s Metabolism + Microbiome Test For Yourself
If you order Viome’s test kit between now and January 22, 2018, you’ll receive $50 off your order using my link (no need to enter a code, the link will automatically apply the discount to your order).
After the 22nd, the discount goes away, and the test will be $399. If you’re struggling with chronic health conditions, food intolerances or symptoms you can’t seem to shake no matter how “healthy” you think you are eating and living, taking Viome’s test will be worth every last penny.
I’d love to hear about your results if you take Viome’s test. Please share in the comments below!
Thank you to Viome for providing me with a complimentary test kit to review for this story. All thoughts and opinions are my own. Thank you for supporting the brands that make it possible for Root + Revel to provide free content and healthy living inspiration.
Disclaimer: This post includes affiliate links, and I will earn a commission if you purchase through these links. Please note that I’ve linked to these products purely because I recommend them and they are from companies I trust. There is no additional cost to you.
Photo Credit: Heidi Geldhauser
Disclaimer: This post includes affiliate links, and I will earn a commission if you purchase through these links. Please note that I've linked to these products purely because I recommend them and they are from companies I trust. There is no additional cost to you.