uBiome Explorer: Meet your gut bacteria

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:

Insights

  • 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).
  • Probiotics
    • 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.

Probiotics

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.

Timeline

This section is available if you have registered more than one sample (N/A in my case).

Compare

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.

My bacteria

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.

Advanced

  • 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.

Pros

  • Simple to use
  • Comprehensive information
  • Excellent interactive functions
  • Affordable one-off option

Cons

  • 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

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