What I Learned From Thorne’s Gut Health Test

youhey they say knowledge is power. But when it comes to understanding the ins and outs of the gut, much remains to be learned. One company hoping to change that is Thorne HealthTech, makers of the innovative at-home gut health test with the market’s first, easy-to-use microbiome wipe (yes, we’re talking number two) that helps people get more in touch with what’s inside…literally.

To better understand how the Gut Health Test works and ways it can help you learn more about the state (and health) of your gut microbiome, I sat down with Nathan Price, PhD, Thorne’s chief scientific officer. After taking the microbiome test, I had the opportunity to review my results with Dr. Price, who helped me understand the findings and ways to meaningfully apply them to help support my gut health in the future. Needless to say, the test was eye-opening for me, and applying the changes to improve my instinct has been easier than I had anticipated; below, I share the nitty-gritty details of why.

What is involved in taking a Thorne Gut Health Test at home?

Let’s address the elephant in the room: collecting a sample (feces) to assess the state of the microbiome. Most traditional home gut health tests involve stool collection in very practical ways that most would consider less than ideal; I think it’s safe to say that we’d rather download he away instead of driving it (literally).

Fortunately, the creators of Throne heard the people loud and clear. “I apologize if this gets, oh, a bit graphic, but I’m a scientist,” says Dr. Price. “Normally, if people want to do a microbiome test, they have to poop in a bucket or on a piece of paper or something. Then take a small shovel and collect some of the feces in a container.” In addition, he points out that some tests require freezing the sample. Yes, next to the food you eat. Fortunately, Thorne’s gut health test doesn’t include any of that.

Instead, Dr. Price set out to develop a product that was as easy to use and hassle-free as possible. Thus was born the revolutionary microbiome wipe. “We sat down and thought, well, what would be the easiest way to get a sample from someone without changing their everyday behavior,” he says. The answer was simple: a “special” type of toilet paper that collected a sample for analysis with a simple wipe. To that end, the brilliantly designed wipe is made from a polymer that, after cleaning, is stored in a vial filled with a saline solution that preserves the high-quality DNA sample, without the need for refrigeration. Phew.

My Experience with the Thorne Gut Microbiome Home Test

As many of you can feel, I was also very Worried about getting a gut microbiome test at home. The thought of having to drive my you-know-what was enough to send me running for the hills. However, once I heard about a new microbiome wipe designed for people like me, there was no going back. A few emails later, I had a kit on my way home and was able to connect directly with Thorne’s team to learn all I could about new developments in the world of gut health.

I’m going to start with the unboxing. The entire gut health test kit arrives in a neat little box containing five simple items: a resealable plastic bag, a pair of gloves, he wipe, a wipe container filled with solution, and a pre-labeled return envelope. (Plus a little booklet with four easy steps on what to do with it all.) After activating the test online and answering a short questionnaire, it was time to collect the sample, which, honestly, was even easier than I could have imagined.

Using the items in the box, I was able to (TMI) collect a mess-free sample without feeling totally grossed out. In fact, it was no different than wiping yourself with a piece of toilet paper. The only difference was that instead of throwing it away, I simply placed the dissolving wipe in the solution, sealed the container, and shook until completely dissolved (about 30 seconds).

Once the wipe was completely untraceable, I pressed the button on the cap to release the salt into the vial, which stabilized and preserved the DNA sample. Finally, all that was left to do was place the container in the resealable, leak-proof bag and return envelope it was sent in for testing. The whole process took no more than a few minutes. Easy lemon squeeze pea.

checking my results

After a few weeks of waiting, I finally received my results which I accessed directly through Thorne’s online portal. I was very surprised to find that there were over 20(!) pages of a comprehensive analysis of my gut microbiome. Although navigating through all the scientific jargon was a bit intimidating at first, Thorne’s user-friendly design helps make things easy by providing detailed information and definitions regarding each data point.

For context, the results were divided into several categories, including “gut pillars” such as digestion, inflammation, gut dysbiosis (an imbalance in the composition of the gut microbiota that can lead to various health problems and symptoms), gut permeability, and the nervous system. In addition, there was a general health section with an immune readiness and diversity score and a review of more than 10 potential pathogens. Finally, and possibly the most exciting part of this trial, there were personalized recommendations for what type of diet to follow and ways to improve my gut health on a day-to-day basis based on my results.

But why does all this talk about the microbiome matter in the first place? Dr. Price explained it to me in Layman’s terms. “Our entire body is essentially covered in an envelope of microbes, many of which help perform essential functions that we need to live, and especially to live healthy,” says Dr. Price. According to him, this means that everything we put into our bodies, whether it’s food, a supplement or a drug, passes through the microbiome before it can “enter” us.

Although the Thorne At-Home Gut Health Test is not intended to be diagnostic—that is, to diagnose a specific disease—it can help people better understand the state of their microbiome and find ways to support overall health. Dr. Price explains that this is done through metagenomic sequencing, which means evaluating the genetic information in the DNA of the microbes tested. This data allows you to track, for example, how probiotic supplements or a new diet are affecting your microbiome. What’s even more reassuring is that the scientists analyzing the data at the Thorne facility will also flag any significant test findings by personally contacting a person if anything out of the ordinary arises.

Why you should test frequently

To fully reap the benefits of microbiome testing, Dr. Price suggests retesting every few months (three to six months or so) to track changes over time. “For example, if you’re going through a really significant dietary change, you may want to test more frequently; in the meantime, if you’re just living your life normally, every six months is probably fine,” he says.

And while the tests aren’t the cheapest (Thorne’s kit retails for $198), Dr. Price says it’s worth having a catalog to monitor the status of your gut as you implement any lifestyle or dietary changes. The good news? The company offers discounts if you subscribe or buy multiple products at once.

How you can translate the findings to fit your personal lifestyle

My favorite part of this test is that there are key takeaways to help people make a material difference in their wellness journey that are easy and digestible (pun intended). “We did a clinical trial on people with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) a couple of years ago. During the trial, we took people through a program where we gave them personalized recommendations based on their reports. We found that, over a period of one month, there was a very significant improvement in their gut health score,” says Dr. Price. The more you know, right?

How I applied the findings in my test

Fortunately, my results showed that my gut health was, for the most part, in good shape. Based on examination, my current dietary preferences were largely fine. Although I was encouraged to eat more fresh, whole fruits, consume more nuts and seeds, and avoid eating habits that could interfere with my sleep. And in addition to dietary recommendations, Thorne also provides product recommendations from her own line of supplements to help balance the gut.

Although my intuition was generally in good shape, Dr. Price flagged some red flags when looking at the “additional insights” in my results. He pointed out that I should work to increase my Akkermansia muciniphila, a type of good bacteria, and reduced calprotectin, an indicator of inflammation. He recommended that I make changes to my diet and potential supplements.

Since getting tested three months ago, I have focused on eating more fruits and vegetables in hopes of balancing out some of the deficiencies found in my microbiome. In turn, I have become more regular than ever and experience fewer episodes of stomach trouble. But the real test will be retesting to see if the changes have translated into actual progress, which remains to be determined.

Home health tests have become a convenient and affordable option for people looking to take a proactive approach to their wellness. These tests offer numerous benefits, including convenience, privacy, and the ability to monitor specific health markers. By providing valuable information and enabling early detection, home health tests allow people to make informed decisions about their health, leading to better overall well-being and a greater sense of control over their own bodies.

So while I wait to reassess my gut microbiome, I have my eye on some of the other at-home kits Thorne offers, like a sleep test that assesses the hormonal rhythms that regulate the sleep-wake cycle, as well as a stress test that measures hormone levels and provides a personal plan for instilling calm based on the findings. That said, next in my queue is your Biological Age Health Panel, which looks at the impact lifestyle, nutrition, disease, and genetics have had on your body and vital organs like your liver and kidneys. Maybe I find out I’m 30 and 13?

Discover an RD’s guide to gut health:

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