Curious about your Gut Microbiome? There’s a Test for That!
What is Gut Microbiome Testing and Why is it Important?
Gut microbiome testing is utilized by functional medicine clinicians to get a glimpse at what is going on in your gastrointestinal tract. This type of testing is essential because the health of the gut impacts virtually every other system in the body and has profound effects on overall health. You don’t have to have gastrointestinal symptoms to benefit from stool testing. There are numerous health conditions that are linked to an imbalanced gut microbiome (dysbiosis) including allergies, diabetes, obesity, arthritis, inflammatory bowel diseases, asthma, behavioral disorders, autoimmunity, and cardiovascular disease1.
A comprehensive stool analysis assesses key areas of gut health including digestion, absorption, and inflammation, as well as provides an in-depth look at a person’s microbiome/microbial balance. Typically, the test is carried out at home, with the patient sending in a single stool sample to the laboratory using a kit provided by their clinician or mailed directly to the patient’s home. The results guide the clinician in making a personalized treatment plan that targets the individual’s specific areas of dysfunction and/or imbalance.
What Does a Comprehensive Stool Test Look at?
A multitude of biomarkers are assessed to help understand the terrain of your gastrointestinal tract. Aside from assessing normal gut flora, parasites, fungi, viruses, and opportunistic bacteria, many tests will look at markers of GI inflammation, immune function, digestion and absorption. This information is invaluable when working to restore health.
There are also some additional markers that may be included in the test or that can be added on depending on the lab company. Zonulin, a protein that opens intracellular tight junctions in the cell lining, is used as a biomarker for intestinal permeability. An elevated anti-gliadin SIgA can indicate an immune reaction to gluten from the diet, as gliadin is a component of gluten. Beta-glucuronidase is an enzyme that breaks the bond between glucuronic acid and toxins in the intestines allowing those toxins to be recirculated in the body instead of excreted. Higher levels of this enzyme can be associated with an imbalanced gut microbiome and detoxification problems.
GI Effects Comprehensive Stool Profile by Genova
The GI Effects Comprehensive Stool Profile is a stool sample test that uses polymerase chain reactions (PCR), culture, and microscopic methods. The first page of the results consists of a “Results Overview” and provides functional imbalance scores for five key areas relating to GI function: maldigestion, inflammation, dysbiosis, metabolite imbalance, and infection.
Gut Zoomer 3.0 Complete by Vibrant
The Gut Zoomer 3.0 Complete is run on a proprietary microarray hybridization technology platform, using whole genome data to test over 300 unique taxa of commensal microorganisms. Based off the stool analysis, recommendations are provided for 35 probiotic products that may be appropriate for that individual.
GI-MAP by Diagnostic Solutions
Gastrointestinal Microbial Assay Plus (GI-MAP) uses quantitative polymerase chain reaction (qPCR) technology, which measures how much of an organism’s DNA is present in the stool sample. They are the only laboratory in the United States to exclusively use qPCR stool testing. GI-MAP is also available to the younger population, including infants and children.
GI360™ Profile by Doctor’s Data
The GI360™ analyzes the gut microbiome using PCR, culture, and microscopy methods. It also includes a Dysbiosis Index (DI), a score of 1 to 5 based on the overall bacterial abundance and profile within the patient’s sample compared to a reference population. Values above 2 indicate dysbiosis.
Are all these tests the same?
All the tests are very similar and provide a lot of the same information though there are a few differences with each. The data from all these tests is valuable. The specific test your clinician recommends usually depends on which test he/she is most familiar with and comfortable interpreting.
Stool testing is an easy way to gain an insight into your gut microbiome and the health of your digestive system. Because gut health is critical to overall health, evaluating and restoring the gut is typically started at the beginning of any functional medicine therapeutic plan. Our team of pharmacists at PharmToTable have the ability to order all three of these tests. If you are having gut symptoms or have a chronic condition, you may benefit from a comprehensive stool analysis. Book an appointment or schedule a free 15-minute discovery call today!
Written by Megan Morrison, PharmD, and Leah Stitsky, PharmD Candidate, Class of 2022
- Durack J, Lynch SV. The gut microbiome: Relationships with disease and opportunities for therapy. J Exp Med. 2019;216(1):20-40. doi:10.1084/jem.20180448
- Stool Test. Genova Diagnostics. Accessed March 31, 2022. https://www.gdx.net/product/gi-effects-comprehensive-stool-test
- Gut Zoomer. Vibrant Wellness. Accessed March 31, 2022. https://www.vibrant-wellness.com/tests/gut-zoomer/#1527504422745-6625ac95-ec67
- GI-MAP: GI Microbial Assay Plus. Diagnostic Solutions Laboratory. January 17, 2022. Accessed March 31, 2022. https://www.diagnosticsolutionslab.com/tests/gi-map
- GI360™ Profile. Doctor’s Data, Inc. Accessed June 29, 2022. https://www.gi360.com/about