Exponential Medicine, 2014. That’s when I heard about microbiome for the 1st time and when I did my 1st gut analysis. I became fascinated by this area of medicine, underexploited but full of potential and hope when it comes to treating certain conditions like Crohn disease. The gut is said to be the 2nd brain, with strong links with the brain in our head and malfunctioning of the gut could actually be the source of certain conditions like depression, hence the importance of taking care of our gut. I strongly believe in this hypothesis, as I have experienced it myself so many times, seeing a clear correlation between my mental health and my gut health.
I did my 1st gut analysis when I was living in the US, as it was still complicated to do those tests outside of the US at the time. Some of those consumer tests were available outside of the US but with limited features only, others were just not available for non-US residents at all. It took several months to get the results of my gut analysis and I remember the results being quite confusing: names of bacteria I never heard before, where I stood compared to the average people and that was about it. Not really something you could make sense of and work on.
6 years later, I renewed the experience and was very happy to see how things have changed positively. I did my gut test with Thryve a few months ago. Being based in Spain, the whole process was surprisingly smooth and easy. I received my kit very quickly after ordering it. The sample collection was easy, you just need to follow the instructions in the box, drop the sample in the bag and post it. Less than 2 weeks later my sample arrived at destination. The analysis is supposed to take 4-5 weeks. Mine got delivered in an Amazon style, after only 2 weeks. So really great customer experience! The website is nice and the results are presented in a visual way, easy to understand.
And now the exciting part: the results!
What can you expect when you do a gut analysis and why should you do it?
Something important: gut analysis is different from DNA analysis (like 23andme). While your DNA is more or less definite (gene mutation may happen), your microbiome can change, so the test that you do will give you an image of your gut in that moment of time, but it could be different 6 months later especially if you change your diet.
Let’s look at those results:
First, It gives you your gut wellness and diversity score and compares them to a healthy average. I got a very high score on those two. A happy gut has a very diverse range of bacteria, hence the importance of having a very varied diet. Bacteria remain in the organism for a few days only that’s why it is important to have a regular diverse diet otherwise it will get unbalanced very quickly.
Then Thryve gives you your bacteria level. More work to do on this one. Although I have a bit of all the bacteria, some are deficient. The interesting part here is that it explains how the deficiency of some of those bacteria can have an impact on your everyday life and how symptoms like tiredness, insomnia, energy level, bad skin could be fixed by improving your gut health. In the Premium version, it goes deeper into areas specific to you and tells you which bacteria you should improve to sleep better, to decrease your anxiety, to regulate your bowl movements, etc.
The part that I was crucially missing when I did my 1st gut analysis was the ‘Now what?’, ‘What shall I do to fix me’?
Thryve provides you with a list of food recommendations based on the bacteria that you need to improve as well as a list of food to avoid. This is very useful. There are even some recipes if you are lacking inspiration, although those recipes are generic and not personalized to you. At 1st I thought that it would be ideal to have a meal program adapted to the state of my gut but talking to Thryve’s doctor and other experts in the field, they were telling me that the key is actually to have the most diverse diet possible, eating a bit of everything to keep that bacteria diversity as high as possible and your gut happy. You can focus on the top 5-6 food in your personalized food recommendation list to maximize your gut health.
I did Thryve to have a diagnosis of my gut and general health and understand which bacteria I needed to work on. I have been on a hyper cholesterol diet for about 3 months and was about 1 month into the diet when I did the gut sample testing. So it was great to have an overview of my health inside out. I decided to improve my gut health through food, not using supplements. I have been juggling with my hyper cholesterol diet recommended by my nutritionist and using the Thryve food recommendation (since Thryve doesn’t have a hyper cholesterol diet yet) to optimize my gut health . It has also been beneficial as it helped me to get meals’ inspiration.
Thryve like other companies offers you the possibility to improve your gut health through cures of probiotic supplements focused on some of the bacteria that are deficient. Something interesting is that some of the bacteria can’t be reproduced scientifically yet and can only be improved through food. That’s where science still has some way to go. Identifying and reproducing more bacteria will be essential to undercover the full potential of the microbiome and cure diseases.
The results have been amazing for me: 3 months in, I can really feel a difference. I have much more energy. I wake up easily in the morning (That’s a big change for me), I have been mentally very well, no anxiety, I’m more focused and productive, my skin is shinnier. I can also eat an icre-cream or have a glass of wine without my body screaming in pain. I found it very useful to understand a bit better how my body works in the inside and how I can have an impact on it by adapting my diet.
Although a lot of progresses have been made, and improved education and awareness around gut health, especially on the consumer side, there is still a long way to go to fully understand the microbiome and the role it’s playing in the body, and some grey areas still remain. Another side of the microbiome my friend Karolina and I have been keeping an eye on those past years is fecal microbiota transplant, that could potentially reverse chronic diseases… more on that topic in another post.