We are never alone – microbiome is our friend
There is a joke that you’re never lonely just think of the many organisms with whom you share your own body. While the human organism itself is said to contain about 37 trillion human cells, the microbiome – and the bulk of bacteria making it up – means an additional 30-50 trillion cells. That means that every human cell has company – at least another microorganism. Moreover, there is a lively circulation within our bodies as well as in interaction with our environment. For example, according to a study, humans emit 37 million bacteria every hour – that’s the number of microorganisms we add to every room. Just imagine, what a concert of circulation might be in our bellies which are made up mostly of microbial cells.
It is believed that people carry about three pounds of bacteria in their intestines. Everyone’s individual microbiome, which is the collection of genes within these microorganisms, is as unique as their fingerprint and comprised of hundreds of different types of bacteria. In addition, the actual number of the microorganisms is continuously changing: it varies throughout the day or according to what humans eat. Experts are saying that the microbiome acts like an organ itself, and it’s central to the body’s operations. It affects aging, digestion, the immune system, cognitive functions – and even mood. A study from UCLA found that gut bacteria might influence mood and brain function. Moreover, another study published in Nature Communications found a clear link between gut microbiota and the triggering of the behavioral signs of stress.
After the DTC genetic testing comes the microbiome’s revolution
As demonstrated above, the microbiome affects almost every area of our body, our weight, our behavior – even our mood. Thus, it is natural that researchers are diving deeper and deeper into the dissection of the microbiome and gut bacteria, while companies have emerged on the market who want to service people getting more and more interested in the composition of their microbiome.
The free-fall of genome sequencing and the availability of direct to consumer genetic testing (DTC) also opened the gate for the sequencing of the set of genes making up the microbiome. Especially, after regulators gradually enabled the full-scale operation of DTC companies, who are now allowed to provide a range of gene reports. So, the option of getting your microbiome sequenced has become available on the market for a reasonable price, and The Medical Futurist obviously got really interested in what a microbiome test has to offer.
Moreover, the process of microbiome testing is only somewhat different from genetic testing. Currently, you can order a testing kit online from the DTC company, send back your cheek swab, and you will get your results back in a couple of weeks. With microbiome, the procedure is the same; the only difference is that you send back fecal samples instead of the cheek swab. So, it was a no-brainer that at some point The Medical Futurist would review a microbiome test, so when Thryve sent one, it seemed to be the perfect opportunity.
The Thryve microbiome test
Previously, I had a similar test with the very first start-up, Ubiome, which appeared on the market with the aim of allowing you to look at your microbiome more closely. It was a fascinating experiment, and I received a comprehensive overview of the composition of my microbiome, but I didn’t know what else could I do with it besides looking at the results in awe. In The Medical Futurist’s experience, sometimes lifestyle pieces of advice are missing from the solutions of companies offering digital health technologies or services. That was unfortunately also true in the case of the Ubiome.
The California-based Thryve, founded in August 2016, asked The Medical Futurist a couple of weeks ago to try their test. Their team has already sequenced more than 5000 samples and promises straightforward microbiome sequencing with high accuracy compared to their competitors. Moreover, beyond offering the results, they also propose a personalized cure comprising of various probiotics. As Thryve aims to go beyond providing the outcome of your test with actionable insights, we were excited to see our results.
The microbiome testing procedure and accessing the results
After I received the testing kit, I had to collect the sample. The process was as simple as they indicated it and the box contained all the necessary tools to do it as comfortable as possible. I carefully sealed the fecal sample into the plastic bag, put it in the provided shipping box and sent it back to Thryve. After 2-3 weeks, I was notified of the results.
Every user gets a unique ID provided on the Thryve Gut Health Kit, and with your unique username and a password, you can get an easily understandable overview of your results. They show your overall wellness score, and then they only detail the bacteria that need improvement in your digestive system. Actually, the company tests for more than 10,000 bacterial species but only shows the ones that are statistically significant in your profile, which is a very user-friendly solution.
My microbiome results
In my case, it turned out that I belong to the healthy western population as my overall wellness score is 78 out of 100, and the standard score ranges from 50 to 80. Thryve explained that this score determines how well your body is functioning. The higher the score, the closer you are to achieving your health and wellness goals. They also noted that people from western populations generally score lower on this scale.
I received my gut bacteria enlisted in percentages, and the test results also listed the bacteria that I need to increase the amount of in my body to be healthier. However, they provided not only the names of the bacteria, but also some explanation about their benefits, and offered me personalized probiotics. I received a long list of probiotics ranging from various types of lactobacilli to bifidobacterium lactis as well as Vitamin C and inulin.
I already started to take the probiotics, and after a couple of months, I will measure whether anything has changed regarding my gut bacteria and microbiome. Naturally, we will publish the results here. I believe that compared to my previous experiences, this is what a microbiome test is supposed to look like and the recommendations seem to fit the overall view of my health. However, I can only tell you about my final verdict when I will see the results of the probiotics regimen. Of course, I will keep you posted.
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