Does your gut feel off? Perhaps you’ve been noticing more gas, bloating, or inconsistent bowel movements. While there are a number of reasons this could be the case (and working with a functional medicine provider can help you get to the root of your digestive concerns), one common area we explore when it comes to digestion is the microbiome, specifically the lower intestinal microbiome. This colony of microbes can give us a glimpse into what exactly is going on in your digestive tract and why you may be experiencing some of these rather, uh, unpleasant symptoms.
What Exactly Is the Microbiome?
Within our digestive system, we have a community of microorganisms including bacteria, viruses, yeasts, protozoans, and fungi, that we collectively refer to as the “gut microbiota.” Along with maintaining our intestinal mucosa and facilitating digestion, the gut microbiota plays a role in mood regulation, hormone metabolism, vitamin production, skin health, immune function, weight management, and blood sugar regulation.
That’s a lot of different features for such a small area of the human body!
Each of these different functions relies on the proper balance of microbes within the small and large intestine. So how do we determine what that balance is for optimal health and wellbeing? This is where a microbiome test can be helpful.
When it comes to testing the composition of the gut microbiome, our stool is our best resource. In fact, we can gain quite a bit of information by collecting a stool sample. A comprehensive stool test will give you insight into a variety of different digestive functions. It may provide information on your body’s digestion and absorption pathways and how effectively your body is utilizing the food it consumes. It can also help you identify any inflammation that may be underlying your digestive concerns.
But the biggest benefit? A stool test gives us a glimpse into the wonderful world of our gut microbiome.
Because so many different functions attributed to the microbiome arise from specific strains of microbes in our individual “community,” diversity is key. Having a wide array of different microbial strains is essential. A gut microbiome test can give us a glimpse into which strains are dominant in your intestinal tract, and what these microbes are producing. This can give us useful information on the different functions our own microbiota are conducting.
On top of diversity in the gut, it’s also important to explore the balance between what are known as “commensal” and “pathological” organisms. Commensal bacteria are ones that work in harmony with our system, contributing to healthy and smooth digestive function. Pathological organisms are what you might have heard referred to as “bad” bacteria. An abundance of these pathological organisms, or an imbalance between commensal and pathological organisms, may be one of the reasons you’re experiencing unpleasant digestive symptoms! So, what can you do to start to feel better?
Your Personalized Health Assessment
If you count lower abdominal bloating, diarrhea or constipation, gas intense sugar cravings, anxiety, skin issues like acne, psoriasis, or eczema, or frequent headaches, then a microbiome test may give you a glimpse into what’s going on beneath the surface. For the month of January, we’re offering personalized health assessments to help you do the detective work and get to the bottom of your symptoms.
Want to learn more? Head on over to our website for detailed information about the Microbiome Assessment. Gut health not your issue? We’re offering packages to explore and address concerns related to hormones and energy, so you can make 2020 the year you prioritize your health.