Several months ago a good friend let me know uBiome was offering kits for (almost) free.
What is uBiome? Hint: it’s not a personal care brand. uBiome is a company that sequences your stool sample to analyse the composition of your microbiome (ie, gut bacteria). They offer the following producs: SmartGut (doctor-ordered gut health test), SmartJane (doctor-ordered women’s health test) and Explorer (discover your microbiome without the help of a doctor). uBiome Explorer retails for US$89 as a one-off purchase but I only paid US$19.99 to cover shipping.
uBiome’s headquarters are located in the US, so it took a while for my kit to arrive (101 days after purchase). Sampling is the easier step, registering your sample will take a bit of time because it involves answering several questions about your diet and other lifestyle habits. I got a confirmation email when my sample was received (20 days after I mailed it) and another one when my report was ready (19 days after the sample was received).
The results can be viewed via a link in the confirmation email they send you and include the following sections:
- Body weight
- Ratio of Firmicutes:Bacteroidetes (a higher proportion of Bacteroidetes correlates with a leaner body). My ratio was 2.8:1, a bit higher than selected samples suggesting a tendency toward higher body weight.
- Percentage of Akkermansia (bacteria that may act against weight gain and inflammation). My percentage was 7.51, ~4x higher than selected samples.
- Recommendations including trying a low-fat or low-carb diet, avoiding meats with antibiotics, eating foods high in polyphenols. I already do all of those. They also recommend a type of fibre supplement if I choose to do so (I haven’t tried that).
- Bifidobacterium, mine was zero (?!).
- Lactobacillus, mine was zero (?!).
- Recommendations including consuming yoghurt and other fermented dairy products, consuming raw fermented vegetables, taking probiotic supplements containing Lactobacillus acidophilus. I eat fermented dairy and vegetables most days and take probiotics here and there.
- Microbiome diversity
- When it comes to gut bacteria, diversity is generally an indication of good health. I was in the 95th centile, meaning that only 5% of the samples were more diverse than mine.
- Recommendations to increase diversity included eating fibre and exercising, both of which I do and this time seem to correlate with my results.
This section shows the proportion of each category of probiotics in your sample: all species, top species, cheese, kefir, yoghurt, kimchi, pickles, raw cow’s milk, sauerkraut, bee products, commercial probiotics.
This section is available if you have registered more than one sample (N/A in my case).
This is a dynamic comparison of your bacterial composition by phylum, class, order, family or genus against all samples, omnivores, vegans, vegetarians, paleo, raw food, pescetarian, gluten-free, dairy-free, low-carb, heavy drinkers, antibiotics, weight gain and weight loss. You can also compare your own samples against each other.
This is a dynamic doughnut chart showing the composition of your gut biome by phylum, class, order, family or genus. Several of the bacteria names are hyperlinks to more information.
- Predicted functions, an indication of how well your microbiome would perform a variety of biological functions (carbohydrate, lipid, amino acid and vitamin metabolism, secondary metabolite biosynthesis and degradation, and bacterial abilities) based on a molecular pathways database.
- Interactive taxonomy tree
- Bacteria search
- Downloads (taxonomy and sequence data)
Below is a brief summary of the pros and cons of uBiome Explorer.
- Simple to use
- Comprehensive information
- Excellent interactive functions
- Affordable one-off option
- The whole process takes a long time
- Recommendations are generic and do not seem to take into account responses to individual dietary habits
- Our microbiome changes constantly, so one-off sampling is not terribly useful
Want to learn more? Head to uBiome.com