July 19, 2024

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Gut health: Is microbiome testing reliable?

Gut health: Is microbiome testing reliable?

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Gut health: Is microbiome testing reliable?


A balanced gut microbiome plays an important role when it comes to your physical and mental health. In fact, the abnormal composition of intestinal bacteria is associated with a whole host of diseases and conditions. Some companies have responded to this and developed test kits for your gut microbiome. But are they reliable?

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Gut Health: How does microbiome testing work?

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Microbiome tests measure the amount and types of microbes, such as bacteria and viruses, in your gut through a stool sample. Ideally, a doctor will perform such a test, but it’s also possible to map your gut microbiome via a self-test you can do at home.

To do this, you can send a stool sample by mail. After a few days or weeks, you will have online access to your file containing comprehensive information about your intestinal bacteria. Some companies also offer nutritional advice specifically designed to improve intestinal bacteria. A microbiome test usually costs between 100 and 200 euros.

Read also: Gut-brain axis (gut-brain axis): determines mood and behavior

Reliability of intestinal flora for self-testing

Scientists want to warn the population about these types of tests. They offer advice that has little scientific value. Some companies also use their customers’ data for research purposes, for example to develop new medicines.

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“The technology for searching for bacteria is booming,” explains gastroenterologist Bas Oldenburg from UMC Utrecht. “We can now unravel the entire DNA of a person’s microbiome very quickly and relatively inexpensively. Billions of bacteria are identified at any given time. The disadvantage is that so much information is disseminated that it is difficult to interpret it correctly. Billions of bacteria release substances that affect each other and us.” .

Furthermore, there is no scientifically accepted definition of a “healthy” microbiome: the microbiome is dynamic and changes frequently. “There is no clinical evidence that these products are effective,” adds nutritionist Arnaud Cocol. “In addition to the high cost, these tests can also cause harm by persuading someone to delay medical care and replace prescription medications with nutritional supplements.”

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US researchers from the University of Maryland believe that consumers are being deliberately misled by these types of tests. “For example, if a customer’s microbiome shares certain characteristics with those of patients with so-called ‘poor health’ — and this depends on each company’s algorithms — the company could suggest that the patient sign up for nutritional support services and request additional tests. Even They can monitor their condition,” the researchers note. Furthermore, tests give the false impression of being structured.

If you decide to do it yourself at home, make sure the company you order the kit from discloses important information, such as whether or not their methods are backed by scientific research. Also check what exactly is being searched for and be sure to check customer reviews. Be sure to discuss the results with your doctor before making any changes to your usual diet.

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Last updated: May 2024

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