Is Your Gut Ok? How To Order (and Understand) Microbiome Testing Results

3D illustration of microbiome in the small intestine

How's your poop?

Yes, really, we want to know. Your poop can tell you a lot about your health, and there's even a scale based on stool size, shape, and consistency to help you assess digestive health. 

The idea stool is smooth, long, and easy to pass. The bumpier or harder it is, the worse off your microbiome system is, and the more changes you need to make to your diet. 

That microbiome system doesn't just control how easy it is to go to the bathroom, though. It has an impact on mood, energy, and even vaginal health. 

Intrigued? Learn about your microbiome, how microbiome testing gives you insight into your own body, and where to get it, below. 

What Is Your Microbiome? 

Your gut has two main parts. There's the small intestine, which is actually the longer of the two, and your large intestine. Both organs wind up and rest on top of each other from the bottom of your stomach to below your belly button. 

Inside the digestive tract are tiny anemone-like structure that divides the pieces of your food up into different usable pieces and help the body absorb the nutrients to keep you healthy and give you energy. 

That absorption process happens through enzyme secretion, different digestive fluids, but also through the presence of healthy bacteria, which live in your gut and make up your microbiome. 

These bacteria are partially responsible for breaking down your food particles and feed off of the energy your body doesn't need. 

The more healthy bacteria you have, the better your body can digest and harvest nutrients from your food. 

The microbiome even helps your body expel your food by making waste particles smaller, smoother, and easier to pass. 

While we all have bacteria in our guts, not everyone has the same types. Just like each person has a unique fingerprint, they have a unique "bacterial footprint" made up of the kinds of healthy organisms in their gut. 

How Do The Bacteria Get There?

If the idea of having bacteria in your body freaks you out, it shouldn't. You were born with bacteria, and your mother's breastmilk fed you more. 

All food has some level of bacteria, but it's not harmful unless the food has gone bad. 

Your specific bacterial footprint is partially decided by what you eat, but also through genetic factors that you have no control over. 

Illnesses and medications can kill healthy bacteria in the gut, which is one reason doctors recommend taking a probiotic when you're prescribed antibiotics. 

Non-Digestive Gut Functions 

Have you ever heard the saying "trust your gut" or "having a gut feeling"? We used to think that those were just expressions and that all emotions/cognitions happened in the brain. 

However, as science gets more advanced, the medical community has found that feeling something in your gut has more medical viability than they'd previously thought. 

The connection of the gut to the brain is called the "gut-brain axis," and there's fascinating research around it. 

On a basic level, a healthy gut encourages a healthy brain and vice versa. 

If you've ever had unexplained gut issues when you were mentally distressed, that gut-brain axis connection is likely the cause. 

Explaining the axis connection is another article in itself, and more research is available online if you're interested. 

Dysbiosis 

We've talked about what your microbiome is, what it does for your health, and how it impacts your day to day life when it's healthy, but what about when it's not? 

An imbalanced microbiome is called "dysbiosis." There's a long laundry list of things that cause this imbalance, most of them lifestyle-based, but some are harder to control. 

Your microbiome balance is influenced by: 

  • Stress 
  • Diet
  • Weight
  • Illness
  • Medication
  • Exercise 
  • Sleep patterns 
  • Hydration levels
  • Food quality 
  • Artificial sweeteners

And more. If you're experiencing unexplained gut symptoms like cramps, watery stools, constipation, gas, and indigestion, one of the factors above is likely the cause. 

Testing Your Microbiome

Before we had the easily accessible technology of microbiome tests, doctors would look for major digestive issues when patients complained of gut health problems.

They'd test for Chrons, Celiac disease, IBS symptoms, and more. These tests cost hundreds of dollars through the healthcare system and are only as detailed as your doctor orders them to be. 

To even get those tests ordered in the first place, you need to have a discernible symptom to talk to your doctor about. Then there's the waiting to make an appointment and the costs involved in going into the healthcare system. 

It's a pain in the butt (not literally), and now there are easier ways to get checked. You can order a stool testing kit on the internet for likely less than it would cost you to see the doctor. 

After taking your sample, you send it back to the library and get your results delivered straight to your inbox. It is, by far, the easiest and most comprehensive way to learn about your microbiome and your bacterial footprint. 

Microbiome Testing: Is it Worth It? 

If you're not having any gut issues and all is moving along fine, then no - you don't need a microbiome test unless you're just curious and want to learn about what's going on behind your belly button. 

But if you are having gut issues and the doctors haven't been able to find a route cause (or you can't afford care), microbiome testing is an accessible and affordable option. It's easy to do and only gross for a second. 

The results are eyeopening and could lead to you going from a type one on the poop scale to a healthy type four - which is quite the accomplishment. 

Done talking and thinking about poop for the day? There are thousands of other health-related articles on our site for you to refresh your palette with. 

 

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