In April 2017, I posted the results of my very first gut sequencing test. The company i used was uBiome and I did their $89 standard test. The results were abysmal. In brief, i had little to none of the most common protective bacteria (see below).
The standard gut test from uBiome:
Interestingly, in the chart below, you'll also see that despite having low numbers of the best-known beneficial bacteria, my diversity was pretty high (which is good). I later learned that low bifido levels / high diversity is often commonly found in non-secretors (me!). What is a non-secretor, you ask? It's someone who does not secrete blood antigens into their mucus membranes and other bodily fluids (including the lining of the gut). Bifidobacteria love feasting on those blood antigens, so we poor suckers who don't secrete have no effortless food source for those particular gut buddies. Boooo! I determined my non-secretor status via DNA testing from 23andme.com. It's a simple and inexpensive way to find out which genetic SNPs could be f*ucking up your carefree life. But not to worry! There are hacks - very simple ones - like eating mango and blueberries and consuming particular prebiotic supplements that can help feed your bifido buddies and get them happier about sticking around in your gut.
So, what did i do to improve the state of my gut? A few things: I did a green juice detox, which helped clean out some gunk that may've been taking up good real estate in my gut and allowing pathogens to party while making my good gut buddies very unhappy. An overly alkaline gut can cause that unfavorable-to-the-good-guys environment, so I acidified and balanced my gut pH with - ironically - an alkaline juice cleanse. Right? So confusing. A lot of people think an alkaline diet alkalizes the body. Nope. It balances the pH, including lowering it - acidifying - the parts that need to be more on the acid side. Lactic acid bacteria (those lovely lovely lactobacillus and bifidobacteria) adore a nice low pH (which i observe on a daily basis while cooing over my fermented food creations). Taking a Betaine HCl supplement can also be very helpful.
Another thing i worked on (but still struggle with) is lowering my stress levels. Stress. Destroys. The. Gut. I can't emphasize that enough! Having a sedentary job, worrying about kids, finances, etc., driving in traffic, having too much on your plate, etc. can all negatively impact the gut. Stress plucks the good gut buddies from our bowels. Booo!
In the way of supplements, etc., i did a little weeding of pathogens (including a mold in the zygomycota division which shouldn't have been there; see results from BIOHM below) and as you'll see from more recent test results, i completely annihilated the mold with a protocol i learned in my health coaching course, combined with another trick or two i picked up in my seemingly endless studies.
Before cleansing my gut; too much zygomycota, May 2017 from BIOHM Health:
After cleaning my gut; no zygomycota, December 2017:
Incidentally, i also obliterated all candida in my gut (although i'm sure there's likely a cell or two floating around; there should be. They're good in small numbers.
Small amount of candida, May 2017 (my results on left; general population range on the right):
No candida, December 2017:
In between all of that, I decided to try out uBiome's SmartGut test. It was being offered at the time for free, so why not? SmartGut showed that I had successfully reestablished my lactobacillus levels, but that my bifido levels were still low (not suprising, again - we non-secretors have to take extra steps to bring those up).
September 2017 from uBiome's SmartGut test:
Let's fast-forward to my most recent gut sequencing results and what other steps i took to show further improvement, and more importantly, let's discuss how I feel after the changes i've made.
My most recent test was with Naveen Jain's company, Viome. Naveen is such an impressive guy and if you haven't listened to a podcast with him, i highly recommend it. Here's one he did with Dave Asprey of Bulletproof. It's a good one.
As a health coach, before I'm comfortable recommending something to a client, i prefer to have experienced it firsthand myself. That can't always be the case, but in many circumstances, it can, and I do everything possible to ensure that. So, before being comfortable recommending the Viome experience to my clients, I wanted to use it and form an opinion of it.
One item that makes Viome different from other "gut companies" is that they include detailed food recommendations with your test results. Their test kit also includes a glucose monitor and a packet of "challenge powder" which you mix with water and drink after and before intermittently checking your blood glucose levels. Based on these two sets of results and some questionnaires that you answer in their app, your recommendations will be pretty personalized. Mine were surprising. I was told to avoid dates and minimize my banana consumption. That was a hard one to swallow, given that i start my day - every single day - with a smoothie concocted of 3 bananas, 2-3 dates, berries and water kefir. (So long, bananas and dates; i'll miss you with all my heart). I'm still awaiting certain other recommendations to come in. Once i have all my personalized data and recommendations, i'll stay the course they provide and report back. [Update June 2018: Viome no longer includes a glucose monitor or challenge powder; they now determine metabolic status via microbial activity.]
Here are some highlights from my Viome test:
You'll notice my fungal phylum is consistent with my more recent BIOHM results, showing 100% Ascomycota (zero zygomycota, or it would've shown up in the list shown here).
Below you'll see my "good guys" list; these are some protective bacteria with known positive health benefits. My akkermansia is a bit high, but i'm not concerned. My bificobacterium longum is impressive! The work i've done to reestablish my bifidos (which, remember, is challenging for us non-secretors) is paying off! NOTE: i was not taking probiotic supplements for months prior to this test (because in the past, despite taking hundreds of dollars worth of pricey, high-end probiotics, none of them showed up on any tests!).
And, for fun, some beneficial bacteria from consuming my own fermented foods showed up on my Viome test: Lactobacillus kefiranofaciens. My level: .27% compared to 0% for populations "everyone" and "healthy."
[Update] After following Viome's recommendations for a few months, my gut and health started to fall off. After a phone call with a doctor on Viome's staff, I was retested and my recommendations were changed. One change in particular was that of beets going from a "superfood" for me to an "avoid" food because I have a beet virus in my gut. It's thought that plant viruses in the gut can cause an inflammatory response when that particular food is eaten. I went back on my own protocol to bring my gut back up to par. I did experience after eating a huge beet salad (after many months of not consuming beets), waking the next morning with inflammation - I could barely make a fist. I think they may be onto something and hope to see more studies about the effects of plant viruses on the human microbiome in the near future.
So, what does all of this mean? We can see that my gut was severely dysbiotic after experiencing severe trauma. My health was poor, my digestion awful. I had anxiety and bouts of depression. Having corrected some fungal and bacterial imbalances, I no longer have any anxiety or depression, my skin is clear, my eyes are bright and sparkly, my digestion is on point, I no longer have peri-menopausal night sweats, I have tons of energy and my memory has improved. I no longer walk into a room and forget what iI came to do!
Do i still have work to do? Yes. I think if i really wanted to, i could stop here and call it good. But I don't want to do that. I enjoy the process of tweaking my gut and my health. And there are still a couple of issues that need to be addressed: pain issues (which have been retreating as I've begun supplementing with collagen peptides) and stress (which is 100% on me. Note to self: Slow. Down.). UPDATE: All pain issues have been resolved since Fall 2018 with an additional protocol I implemented which seemed to give a final, tight seal to my gut lining.
If you'd like to work with me to get started on the journey to optimizing your health through improving your microbiome, email me to schedule a coaching appointment. You may also reach me through my Facebook page. Read more about my coaching program on my Health Coaching page.
Want to try Viome for $39 off? ($360US instead of $399): Click here to order.
Much gut love,