Functional Gut Test
When should I collect a sample?
We recommend that you collect your stool sample anytime Monday to Sunday, when following your typical diet and lifestyle.
You can make temporary short-term negative or positive changes to your gut, so try to avoid an unusually healthy or unhealthy run of a few days before collecting your sample, this way your score will be representative of your ‘normal’ gut health.
Avoid collecting a sample if you have taken antibiotics in the last 4 weeks or are having a bout of illness or digestive issues such as diarrhoea. You may continue taking any supplements that you are currently taking.
What are probiotics?
Probiotics are live cultures of beneficial bacteria.
They are usual components of fermented food such as kefir, yoghurt, kombucha, kimchi etc. Commercial supplements containing probiotics is also another way to supply your gut with friendly bacteria.
Remember: Probiotics are beneficial bacteria, and prebiotics are food for these bacteria.
What are prebiotics?
Prebiotics are food for the growth of beneficial bacteria in the gut.
Prebiotics mainly consist of fibre, which is naturally in fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts and seeds. Prebiotic supplements, can contain one or more types of fibre, usually extracted from plant-based resources and in higher concentrations than foods naturally.
It is estimated that 9/10 people in the UK do not eat enough fibre or prebiotics.
Remember: Probiotics are beneficial bacteria, and prebiotics are food for these bacteria.
What are synbiotics?
Synbiotics are a combination of prebiotics and probiotics i.e adding both beneficial bacteria and food for these bacteria.
What is a Mediterranean diet?
A Mediterranean diet blends the basics of healthy eating habits. It incorporates the principles of the healthy diet of countries such as Greece, Italy, France and Spain which border the Mediterranean Sea. It consists of a wide variety of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, healthy fats and some meat.
The general guidelines of the Mediterranean diet include:
- Plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts and seeds
- Healthy fats such as olive oil
- Moderate amounts of dairy and fish/seafood
- Little white and red meat
- Few eggs
- Red wine in moderation
What is inflammation?
Inflammation is the natural response of our body to harmful events such as the invasion of pathogenic bacteria, viruses and injuries. Inflammation is the part of healing processes often characterised by redness, swelling, heat and pain. In general, illnesses are associated with inflammation.
There are two types of inflammation: acute and chronic. Acute inflammation is short-lived and disappears as our body recovers after an infection or an injury. In contrast, chronic inflammation can persist for months and years. It either has or may have links to various diseases, such as: diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular disease, allergies etc.
Why is gut health important?
The gut is a central hub which is interconnected to the other organs of the body. Our gut plays a vital role in overall health with some vital functions.
The gut accommodates a large number of microorganisms with bacteria being the main and very diverse inhabitants. Collectively gut microbes are known as microbiota. Microbiota is the integral part of the gut providing some vital functions suppling nutrients and vitamins, digesting fibre, strengthening our immune system, improving the gut barrier function and regulating inflammation.
Imbalances in gut microbiota (for instance loss of bacterial diversity, increase in the number of pathogenic bacteria) known as dysbiosis is associated with many diseases such as inflammation including irritable bowel syndrome, Crohn’s disease, allergies and asthma, mental health such as stress, anxiety, depression and other risks including weak immune system, obesity, type II diabetes and colon cancer.
On the contrary, balanced microbiota is linked to health benefits.
Can eating better really help my anxiety?
Plant-rich diets, such as a Mediterranean diet, can be effective in the management of mental health and have been shown to improve anxiety and depression. This type of diet is also associated with increased Short-Chain Fatty Acid levels.
Certain bacteria are associated with better mental health. This was well demonstrated in a Belgian study, which showed a strong link between butyrate-producing bacteria in the gut with better mental and physical health. These bacteria were absent in the group of participants who were characterised by depression
Butyrate is one of the SCFAs produced by gut bacteria as a by-product of fibre breakdown, a compound with anti-inflammatory properties. Calorie-dense diets high in saturated fats and simple carbohydrates appear to increase inflammation. On the other hand, diets rich in plant-based and high in fiber reduce inflammation.
Chronic inflammation has been suggested as the possible trigger of mental illnesses. The positive effect of butyrate on mood was demonstrated in the Belgium study, strengthening its role in shaping mental health.
How do you measure gut health?
Gut bacteria produce numerous chemical compounds affecting the functions of our body. Among them the most abundant are Short-Chain Fatty Acids (SCFAs) – acetate, propionate and butyrate. Numerous scientific studies point out to the beneficial properties of SCFAs for our health. High levels of SCFAs have been associated with a Mediterranean-style diet which is considered as a nutritionally balanced reducing some health risks and increasing life expectancy.
We analyse the individual concentrations of three SCFAs (acetate, propionate and butyrate) in your sample using a technique called mass spectrometry (more about this technique in the FAQ titled – What are the advantages of your method?). Depending on the concentration detected, a high, borderline or low score is assigned to each of SCFAs. High gut score means that gut bacteria are very effective at SCFAs production, this is typical of a healthy diet. Borderline and low scores demonstrate diminished rates of SCFAs production and can be improved by diet modifications, pre- or probiotics and your lifestyle.
What are the advantages of your method to measure gut health?
Our test is a functional test so measuring the performance of your gut. Other tests look at the composition of your gut.
We use a highly accurate method of analytical chemistry – called mass spectrometry. Each fecal sample has a very diverse mix of different compounds, around 7000. In spite of this sample complexity, mass spectrometry can tell one chemical from another with very high confidence and also provides quantitative data (how much of a compound is present).
With our method it is possible to detect the bacterial products (SCFAs) directly and measure their concentrations (how much is produced) we can assess the functional state of microbiota (high SCFAs – healthy, borderline or low requires improvement). DNA-based methods of microbiome analysis lack this ability and only look at the bacterial species in the gut. Knowing your bacterial species is helpful to some extent, however this does not tell you what products bacteria make and their amounts.
Important advantages of our service are it’s cost effectiveness and fast turnaround time. Receiving your result back quickly means that you can keep an eye on your gut health regularly and be informed about any changes. This is very helpful when you are monitoring your reaction to pre- /probiotics or a change to your your diet plan, for instance.
How quickly can I improve my gut score?
Microbiota response to change in diet or introduction of pre/probiotics is individual. Individual variability is expected also in the capacities of gut bacteria to produce SCFAs. Prebiotics such as inulin or resistant starch have been shown to increase SCFAs within a course of two weeks in some individuals, showing fast response. To make improvements with the help of a diet intervention alone may take longer. It is recommended to have a habitual adherence to a Mediterranean style diet in order to improve SCFAs levels.
My gut score is low/borderline and I have gut related symptoms, what does this mean?
You have likely found the root cause of your issue- your gut health.
This indicates that your microbiome does not effectively produce, some, or all three SCFAs (acetate, propionate and butyrate). By following your personal recommendations in your report on how to improve your gut score, you will increase your SCFAs and gut health in general, this will fight the underlying issue and in time remove or lessen your symptoms.
Tackling the underlying reason behind the problem is the key to improving gut health, as opposed to simply masking the symptoms.
We recommend following as many of the recommendations as possible in the report and retest in 3 months.
My gut score is low/borderline and I am fit and healthy, what does this mean?
You may find the results quite surprising at first glance, but even someone who is fit and healthy could have a low gut score. There are not always obvious signs or symptoms associated with a poor gut score.
In the womb, a foetus has a sterile gut, i.e. it has no microbes. Your gut health is the sum of your genetics, how you were born (vaginal vs. caesarean), if you were breast fed or not, the abundance and diversity of bacteria in your gut and your diet and lifestyle each day since you were born.
A low gut score will put you at a higher risk of currently having or developing inflammation. Chronic inflammation (i.e. inflammation over a long time) can contribute to illnesses such as mental health issues like stress, anxiety, depression, lacking motivation, inflammatory digestive issues such as IBS, Crohn’s, allergies, asthma or other risks such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease or colon cancer.
With a low gut score, your immune system will be more susceptible to attack (i.e. you are more likely to get ill) and you will be less likely to be able to handle a significant trauma or stressful event (i.e. losing a loved one could trigger a gut related disease like IBS).
We recommend following as many of the recommendations as possible in your provided Functional Gut Test report and retest in 3 months.
My gut score is good and I have gut related symptoms, what does this mean?
Diet interventions/supplements can improve your gut score quite quickly, fast responders for example can improve their gut score after only two weeks, for others it can take several months. To lessen symptoms, you may need to maintain a good gut score for some time for the effects to take place or the damage to be undone. We recommend you maintain your diet and lifestyle and follow the recommendations in your Functional Gut Test report to make further improvements where possible. We recommend retesting yourself in 6 months to check that you are still on track.
If after several months of having a good gut score, you still have symptoms, which have not lessened, there could be another issue as to why you have symptoms such as pathogenic bacteria or bowel polyps.
My gut score is good and I am fit and healthy, what does this mean?
An ideal score, well done.
You are at low risk of having or developing inflammation or gut related health issues. It is important that you maintain your diet and lifestyle and follow the recommendations in your provided Functional Gut Test report where possible to make further improvements.
Age and my gut score
As we age, changes occur in all of our organ systems. Changes to the microbiota is not an exception. A reduction in the diversity of the microbiota and the levels of SCFAs have been attributed to the elderly. As such, a 70-year-old will have a significant reduction in gut microbiota, compared to when they were 40 years old.
Obesity and my gut score
People with a BMI index over 30, categorised as obese or morbidly obese, typically demonstrate increased levels of SCFAs. The relationship between obesity and SCFAs is not yet fully understood. Gut dysbiosis (unbalanced microbiota) and/or low uptake of SCFAs by the body has been suggested as possible reasons. Although high levels of SCFAs may appear to indicate a healthy gut score, for those with a BMI over 30, results should be interpreted with caution.