I Took a Microbiome Test to Check My Gut Health and the Results Were Fascinating
You already know that your microbiome (i.e., the trillions of microorganisms that live in your gut) is super important and crucial to your body’s overall health. And while there are obvious clues that something’s out of whack (like constant tummy pains or IBS), did you know that you can actually get a more detailed insight into your gut health? I sent a blood sample (just a simple finger prick) to at-home microbiome test company Ixcela, and three weeks later, I received a detailed, 52-page report and personalized action plan covering five different categories. Here’s what I learned about what’s going on in my gut.
I scored 89 out of 100 in this category, meaning that the levels of biochemicals and gut microbes in my gastrointestinal (GI) tract that are associated with gut health are in pretty good shape (a score above 80 indicates excellent internal health, and the goal should be to maintain this result). Dr. Erika Angle, biochemist and CEO of Ixcela, tells me that people who report having issues likes IBS, food sensitivity and bloating often have a low gastrointestinal fitness score. To boost my numbers, I’m advised to meditate for ten minutes each day, do interval and resistance training two to three times per week, and eat turmeric and fermented foods every day. (Bring on the turmeric lattes.)
How my immune system responds to various physiological agitations (aka my “immuno fitness”) was by far my worst score—a low 63 out of 100. (A score between 60 and 80 is considered good, but with potential to improve.) “Normal levels of antibodies and immune cells, stable gut wall integrity, and lack of food allergies are some characteristics of a healthy immune system,” my report tells me. And as someone who suffers from a lot of allergies (from pets and dust to nuts and soy), it kind of makes sense that this was where my metabolite levels were the most off-balance. I’m told that if I take a probiotic supplement, eat more fermented foods and follow a consistent weekly exercise plan, then I could increase my score in about eight weeks. (And I’ll still need to keep the Benadryl on hand for those seasonal sniffles.)
This score has to do with how your body responds to stress, whether that’s physical, physiological or psychological. My score of 92 wasn’t too shabby, although I definitely think I can take some of the report’s suggestions on board like keeping electronic devices out of the bedroom and doing low-stress, low-intensity activities like long walks and yoga twice a week.
The gut microbiome influences neurological chemistry and function, thereby enhancing cognitive function (i.e., mental processes like thinking, reasoning and remembering). And while my gut mediated neurological health was strong (95 out of 100), again, the report’s suggestions make a lot of sense—minimize alcohol to two or three times per week, eat more fiber and seafood, and follow a consistent exercise routine. Honestly, I’m mostly relieved wine is still on the menu.
According to Ixcela, having the right microbes in your gut will improve your daily energy levels. And with a score of 81, I definitely have room for improvement (which to be honest, doesn’t exactly come as a surprise). To boost my score, I’m advised to limit caffeinated products after noon, aim for 15 minutes of direct sunlight every day during summer months and minimize my consumption of standard cut red meats (although I’m told to focus on ends or organs if I want red meat, which I’m not sure how I feel about).
While none of the recommendations were particularly groundbreaking (although those with different scores might find the suggestions more useful), the at-home gut microbiome test definitely provided sound advice. And while it’s no substitute for seeing a doctor (and you should check with yours before starting a dietary or supplement program), as someone who likes to geek out on health stuff, it was pretty interesting to get a better idea of what’s going on in there.