You’ve probably heard that you can get your gut’s microbiome tested through tests like the BIOHM Gut Test. But you may still be wondering…
How does it actually work, and what results and actionable advice do you receive?
We sat down with BIOHM’s CEO, Afif Ghannoum, to get some answers.
Hi Afif! So let’s get right to it, what is the BIOHM Gut Test?
Hi There! The BIOHM Gut Test does a few things.
At the most basic level, it’s an at-home microbiome test that will show you what’s going on with the bacteria and fungi in your gut.
So why would you want to take a microbiome test?
What the science has shown is that a balanced gut is tied to better health, and that a number of digestive issues are tied to not only an unbalanced gut, but specific types of bacteria and fungi growing at unusually high or low levels in your gut.
What happens is that when that balance is disturbed, some of the bad guys in our gut can spiral out of control, which can lead to some of the digestive issues people experience.
Right now, most people are flying blind when they’re dealing with digestive issues, because a number of things could be contributing to what’s going on. It could be they are sensitive to dairy or gluten, but it may very well be that their gut is out of balance. So really their only option is to try elimination diets, or randomly try a variety of supplements and dietary choices to see if something works.
With a microbiome test like the BIOHM Gut Test, you get to see what’s actually going on in your gut, what organisms may be contributing to the issue, and what steps you can take to optimize your gut.
On the other side of the coin, it can also help you rule out your gut’s balance as contributing to the issues you’re experiencing.
That makes sense, I know we’ll get into the specifics, but how does the process of actually getting tested work?
Yes! First things first! So once you order the BIOHM Gut Test off our site, we send you a kit directly to your home.
The test has absolutely everything you need to simply and quickly take the test.
- Step by step instructions that are super simple to follow
- The sampling swab and return container
- A pre-paid envelope to send your sample back.
And the test is easy to take?
It literally takes two minutes and is really straight forward.
First, you take the swab, and collect a fecal sample. It sounds intimidating, but all you do is take lightly soiled toilet paper, rub the swab against the toilet paper until it’s slightly brown, and put the swab back in the container and that’s it!
Once you’ve completed the sample process, you put the sample container into the included envelope, and drop it in the mail. The address and postage have already been taken care of, so you just seal the envelope and drop it in the mail.
How long does it take to get your results?
It takes about 4 to 6 weeks from the time the sample arrives at the lab.
Where is the testing actually done?
That’s one of the things that sets us apart. Essentially every other test is analyzed at a private lab. Every single BIOHM Gut Test is analyzed at Case Western School of Medicine, one of the top 25 medical research institutions in the United States.
So once the analysis is done, what happens next?
Once the results are in, we send your BIOHM Gut Test report directly through our testing kit portal.
What information does the report include?
Well very simply, your BIOHM Gut report includes a few things.
First, you get a read out of the strains of bacteria and fungi that are actually present in your gut. You can see whether good ones missing or are really bad ones present. As a first step, it’s important to get a lay of the land of what we’re actually finding in your gut.
We also show you the levels of each organism. That’s really important, because it’s quite normal to have some of the bad guys in there. It really only becomes concerning if we find them at very high levels. That’s when we need to try and do something.
Once your test is complete, you are given a gut score to see how your gut diversity compares to normal levels. Kind of like a credit score, but for your gut! So what you get is a complete picture of the bacteria and fungi strains in your gut, and the levels of each strain.
Makes sense, but how do you know if you have unusual germs or very high/low levels?
Great question. We actually show you how the strains found in your gut, and the levels of those strains, compare to strains and levels that are normally found in the gut.
And how do you know what normal levels are?
To make a comparison you obviously need baseline data. So we get that data from a couple of sources.
For bacteria, we use data from the National Institutes of Health Human Microbiome Project.
That’s the largest bacterial microbiome analysis ever done, and as part of that analysis, they measured the types of organisms, and the levels, that are found in people with normal gut health. So for bacteria we use that data as the baseline of what’s normal.
For fungi, that’s one of the things that really sets us apart. It’s funny because while fungi is a significant player in our gut, there has been very little analysis done around the levels of fungi in the gut. In fact, another thing that really sets us apart, is not only that we test for both bacteria and fungi (most tests only look at bacteria), but that we have baseline normal data for fungi from our partnership with Case Western Reserve University.
Also, keep in mind that our founder, Dr Ghannoum, is literally the scientist that named the mycobiome, the fungal community in our body. He’s been funded by the National Institutes of Health to study both bacteria and fungi since the early 1990’s. His work has been cited over 19,000 times. So the level of expertise involved in the analysis is unparalleled in the industry.
Dr Ghannoum’s lab at Case Western Reserve University has been running some of the most sophisticated clinical trials on bacteria and fungi in the gut, and how they impact a number of health conditions like Crohn’s Disease and even our oral health. As a result, they have a substantial database of normal fungi levels.
So what do the results actually look like?
The report shows you the data in two different ways. First, we look at the Phylum level. Think of the Phylum as the overall bacterial and fungal kingdoms. So let’s look at the below picture. On the right, you see the fungal phylum levels that are normally found in the gut.
The various strains of fungi fall into various phylum categories like Ascomycota. Others fall into Zygomycota for example. What we’re looking for is an overall idea of how your phylum compares to the normal fungal phylum. With a quick glance you can see in this example that there are some differences between normal and the results in this report.
How about at the strain level?
Once we’ve looked at the phylum levels, we now want to look at the individual strain levels. So let’s take the example below.
On the left you see the name of species (Here it’s just a sample name), and then next to it you see the percentage that’s been found in your gut. So here that level is 28%. All the way to the right, you see the range that is typically found. In the middle, the diamond is you, and the colored line is a visual range of the normal range that’s found.
What we want to see is where you line up versus the normal range. Here, what we can quickly see is that you’re right in the thick of the normal range, so that’s pretty good.
So the report will show your results for dozens of different strains.
Why does the report only show you dozens of strains, and not thousands? Doesn’t our gut have thousands of different strains of organisms?
You’re exactly right, our gut has thousands of different organisms. Our test picks up every single one of them, but we only report the organisms that have been associated with health and wellness in the medical literature, and we exclude any organisms that are considered transient, for example organisms that are commonly found in foods. That way we’re not showing you organisms that have no medical relevance, and organisms that are only there because you ate jalapenos last night.
Put simply, we really limit the test to showing you the organisms that are relevant to optimizing your gut, that’s it.
Got it! So how do you know how to actually optimize your gut based on the results?
This is a really important question. One of the things we pride ourselves on is that we not only give you results, but we give you specific advice on how to optimize your gut.
This is the way I put it. If you do a genetic test to understand your heritage, and it comes back and says that your DNA indicates your ancestors are from Ireland, you come away from that and think “awesome I’m Irish!” But if I tell you that you have an overgrowth of bacteroides, you’ll probably say “Ok…..so what does that mean?”
The reality is that people don’t really care what organisms are in their gut. They care about what they need to do to optimize their gut.
So to that point, our team of microbiome-trained nutritionists review your report, and provide specific recommendations on how to optimize your gut, based on your report’s results.
What kind of recommendations do your nutritionists share?
Our nutritionists will give you three types of recommendations in order to improve your gut:
First you get specific dietary advice in order to improve your gut’s microbiome.
Second, they give you specific recommendations on lifestyle adjustments for you to implement, such as sleeping adjustments, and exercise recommendations.
Third, they will recommend specific supplements to consider adding to your routine.
What if you have further questions?
You can actually schedule a time to speak with one of our nutritionists through our BIOHM Wellness Consultation. You can walk through the report, as well as ask any specific questions you may have about the recommendations.
So at the end of the process, you not only get your results, but specific actions to take in order to optimize your gut?
Exactly. At the end of the day, people take the BIOHM Gut Test for two reasons:
1) To know what’s going on in their gut, and
2) To understand what they can do to improve it.
That’s exactly what we’ve designed the BIOHM Gut Test to do.
This has been really helpful! Last question. How is the BIOHM Gut Test different compared to other tests?
My favorite question! We differ in four simple ways:
- We analyze both bacteria and fungi in the gut. Most tests analyze just bacteria.
- We give you results and actionable insights to optimize your gut. Most tests just give you the results.
- Our testing is done at Case Western School of Medicine, one of the top 25 medical research institutions in the United States. Most tests are done at private labs.
- Our founder, Dr. Ghannoum, is considered the leading expert in the world when it comes to how bacteria and fungi impact our gut.