As DNA scanning technology becomes cheaper and faster and growing interest in the microbiome as a primary determinant of human health, a new company has formed to be the 23andMe of your microbiome.
UBIOME, who offers this test, reached out to me to allow a few free samples to be processed and I just got back my first test results. By analyzing a small fecal sample, UBIOME can provide a synopsis of the current organisms residing in your intestinal tract.
As you can see in the screenshot of an actual UBIOME test result, they provide an overall “Diversity Score”, where, like a healthy ecosystem, many types of organisms are present.
The test results quantify the ‘nasties’; pathogenic species like C. Diff., Salmonella and E. Coli. Next, they list the organisms associated with common digestive and bowel disorders such as diarrhea, IBD, IBS, Crohn’s, UC, obesity, diabetes, constipation etc. For each complaint, they list positively associated bacteria that are known to help the problem, as well as pathogenic bacteria that are known to be present in the disease state.
As a naturopathic doctor, I did not receive much actionable information here but imagine that the testing still needs a few years to develop as well as build up a very large sample base prior to being able to go from “nice to know” to having actionable data. Treatments may involve individual cocktails of selective probiotics and symbiotic bacteria as well as special food for them and other current inhabitant’s aka prebiotics.
UBIOME is not the only company looking at gut health and testing fecal samples for parasitic bacteria but are uniquely focused on characterizing the microbiome through DNA analysis. Their collection method, whereby you just wipe a Q-tip across used toilet paper, is very easy and certainly not as cumbersome compared to the Doctor’s Data (DD) stool analysis that I currently use. Easy collection and free (for now) are where the benefits end though. This test provides little in the way of actionable data nor summarizes the determinants of health. In contrast, the DD test provides a broad overview of digestive health.
Doctor’s Data Comprehensive Stool Analysis
- Looks at the microbiota but also yeast and fungus who play a vital role in GI health.
- Option to add on intestinal parasitology to test for worms, giardia, parasitic ova, protozoa and helminth worms.
- Provides actionable data: if a ‘bad bug’ is present, it identifies the herb or drug that will get it under control. Example, a patient tests positive for dysbiotic flora and yeast. Once identified, a list of drugs and herbs like amoxicillin, Grapefruit seed extract, and a tincture of the herb uva ursi and more.
- Quantifies the efficiency of digestion by measuring pancreatic enzyme sufficiency and how effective your GI tract is doing to break down and use fat and carbohydrates.
- Measures biomarkers such as lysozyme, lactoferrin, white and red blood cells and mucus, all of which provide doctor’s a rich understanding of overall health, especially for those with IBS or IBD.
Do You need a stool analysis with parasitology? IBS, IBD, Crohn’s and UC symptoms often mimic the catch all phrase “Leaky Gut Syndrome” which is often caused by
- Low gastric acid production
- Chronic maldigestion
- Food allergen impact on bowel absorptive surfaces
- Bacterial overgrowth or imbalances (dysbiosis)
- The use of NSAIDs and antibiotics
- Pathogenic bacteria, yeast or parasites and related toxic irritants
We are coming into an exciting time where advances in DNA screening technology are enabling a whole new way to evaluate the gut microbiome. However, the gut microbiome often reflects the health, lifestyle and diet of the individual and is determined by factors largely under your control, like diet and use of NAIDs and antibiotics. Tests from other diagnostic labs provide much more actionable data and look at the determinates of health that ultimately impact the diversity of the microbiome.
Copyright 2007 by Dr. COleen Murphy ND, LAc.