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Oral microbiome Credit: Wikipedia

People have questions about the direct to consumer (DTC) gut microbiome tests that are now available from at least 31 companies. What do the results mean and can we believe them?  Well... according to a recent article in the medical site Medscape, the tests may be appealing to the consumer, but right now they don't mean anything at all.

This is because the tests are both unreliable and unregulated. Results of microbes found in the stool will vary from day to day, and from test to test. The same stool samples sent to different companies or even to the same company come back with different results. Generally the tests are offered by companies that want to sell you something - their supplements or other products in order to "improve your gut health."

However, there is no evidence backing up their claims. The tests are also not consistent - some do genetic sequencing, but others are just culture or a microscopic analysis (which find only a few of the microbes in the microbiome). Researchers stress that standardization of these tests is needed.

Yes, the gut microbiome has a tremendous effect on health and disease, and microbiome therapies definitely have potential. But right now it's buyer beware!

Excerpts from Medscape: Are Direct-to-Consumer Microbiome Tests Clinically Useful?

Companies selling gut microbiome tests directly to consumers offer up a variety of claims to promote their products.

"We analyze the trillions of microbes in your gut microflora and craft a unique formula for your unique gut needs," one says. "Get actionable dietary, supplement, and lifestyle recommendations from our microbiome experts based on your results, tailored to mom and baby's biomarkers.…Any family member like dads or siblings are welcome too," says another. ...continue reading "Problems With Gut Microbiome Tests Available to Consumers"