Runners love to talk about poop! I’ve got a uBiome Review — reviewing a company that also likes to talk about poop!
On your skin, in your gut, in your mouth, etc are communities of microbes that live on you and off of you called microbiomes. And research shows that they can play big roles in your life, even effecting weight and mood management. uBiome is a company that gives you the tools and information to explore your own microbiomes.
SmartGut vs. Explorer
uBiome recently launched a new clinical test called SmartGut that requires a doctor’s order which screens for infections and disorders. The SmartGut test is not available in all states. Some health insurances will cover the cost.
Before the clinical test, uBiome began with a consumer and science-driven product called the Microbiome Explorer kit.
As a regular joe, you can buy and receive a kit, swab your desired sample sites (ie mouth, skin, stool, or genitalia), and send it back. 4-6 weeks later, they present the information to you on your secure online account.
uBiome didn’t ask me to write this review, but they give all their users referral codes. You can find the 15% discount here.
Since they are pushing their clinical SmartGut test, you will have to click “Citizen Scientist” or “Explorer” to see their consumer products.
While there is research that correlates microbiome diversity to better health, it is all relatively new science. The company purposefully makes you acknowledge that within the “Explorer” section, none of their statements have been evaluated by the FDA and their product isn’t intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent disease. You should consult a doctor before making lifestyle changes.
I love that having this new tool available to me allows me to explore my gut microbes, experiment with my diet, lifestyle, exercise, and find new ways to possibly measure my health. And you can also contribute your data to experiments, so that everyone can learn more.
I bought their Gut Time-Lapse kit. Your gut microbiome has the most diversity and the one I find most interesting. The Time-Lapse kit sends you three test kits that you can send in at different time-points to follow a lifestyle or diet change. Each kit has directions, sterile sampling swab and vial, a back-up swab and vial, and a First Class Mail envelope.
My timing ending up being skewed on trying this product. My goal was to sample before marathon training start and see if there were changes during marathon training season. However, I decided to get my wisdom teeth taken out which of course meant, antibiotics.
I tried to sample before my wisdom teeth removal, but didn’t consider that the First Class envelope can’t be dropped in your mailbox for pick-up. After it sat in 90F+ heat for a few days, I decided not to bother sending it in. I sampled again (with the back-up swab and vial) 2 weeks after I stopped antibiotics, but I knew that would not be enough time to “re-grow” my microbiome. I was still interested in what the data looked like though.
Firmicutes vs Bacteriodetes
After a general “wellness match”, uBiome presents this piece of data first. It explains that Firmicutes and Bacteriodetes are the largest phyla in the human microbiome and cites 2 studies showing correlation between relevant abundance of Bacteriodetes and weight loss/lean body types.
The studies were interesting, but only done in mice and twins. I understand the commercial-aspect of this, but wish they had led with more verified analysis.
Diversity and Rarity
uBiome placed my microbiome on a scale comparing diversity to the largest microbiome database in the world. With the antibiotics, I was in a lower percentile of uBiome’s gut samples, but well within the Bell curve.
uBiome lists the 10 bacteria found least often in Gut samples, and I had 8 of them. It will be interesting to see if they became undetectable after my gut re-balanced.
Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus are two genera of bacteria often found in probiotics supplements and naturally occur in your gut. Looks like antibiotics wiped out my meager supply of lactobacillus. Too bad sour beer doesn’t come with live cultures.
uBiome aggregates data based on self-identified lifestyles, like vegan, omnivore, dairy free, heavy drinker, paleo. With a mouse click you can compare your data.
If you’re scientifically-inclined, you can learn about your personal metabolism of carbs, lipids, vitamins, etc, derived from the KEGG Pathway database. Also, you can download your raw data for your personal use and for submission to other studies outside of uBiome.
The only other personal health service I have used is 23andme (a health and ancestry service). The FDA eventually took down some of their health reports. But, I appreciated how 23andme presented the research and scored the reliability of the research behind each health report.
I think that is what uBiome is missing here. They present some research to back why the numbers are interesting but did not present opposing findings. And they were not clear for each section which stage the research is in (in vitro, mice, clinical, etc).
I appreciated the discounted 3-pack, because the data inspired me to make some changes. Although I know that improvements to my well-being and changes in the data is just a correlation, I love any information I can get.
If you are curious about microbiomes, I’d recommend trying out uBiome. It’s a great jumping point for current research on topics like gastro-biolological psychiatry.
As an alternative, American Gut has crowd-funded microbiome studies. You can donate money to receive a kit for personal sampling. I haven’t used their services, but I like that their focus is even more-so on research, while still allowing the volunteer to benefit directly.
*Disclosure: the above link gives me a referral award. uBiome did not ask me to review or talk about my gut.
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- American Gut.org: 2 minute video on the gut microbiomes and how you can help research through personal sampling
- The Atlantic: When Gut Bacteria Changes Brain Function
- uBiome’s ongoing studies with opportunity to volunteer for discounted kits