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Check Your Gut

For The Washington Post, Mary Beth Albright describes what she did and did not learn about her health through direct-to-consumer gut microbiome testing, while touching on the rationale for such analyses and their current limitations.

"The question is: Can testing and manipulating our microbiome based on a test actually improve health?" Albright ponders. "Experts say it's too soon to know. Testing needs more development for accuracy and scientists still need to figure out what to do with the information once you have it, they say."

Following her own recent diagnosis with Type 1 diabetes, Albright reportedly set out to see if the answer might be related to the microbial community residing in her gut, settling on a mail-in kit that identified almost 47 percent of the microbial taxa in her gut microbiome.

Along with higher-than-usual levels of inflammation-related bacteria — a result that did not exactly line up with Albright's subsequent colonoscopy results — her report recommended probiotics, vitamin B supplements, and fiber supplements.

"My report also included dietary recommendations that, peer-reviewed evidence shows, supports [the] gut microbiome generally (i.e., no need for testing): consuming whole foods, fiber, and fermented foods," Albright notes. "Great advice, but definitely generic advice I'd heard before handing over $349 for information specifically tailored to me."