The 4 Best At-Home Microbiome Tests Of 2023 + Why Gut Health Matters
It’s no secret that your digestive system is intimately intertwined with the rest of your body systems, but how do you know if your gut health is in optimal shape? Newer technology for at-home microbiome testing gives a glance into your gut microbiome, to better understand how it’s impacting the rest of your health.
With nearly 70 million Americans facing some sort of digestive disease, taking charge of your gut health is as imperative as ever. Studies have shown poor gut health does not only affect the digestive system1. It's been linked to skin issues, mood disorders, negative emotions, diabetes, and even cancers2. What we eat and drink, our daily movement, sleep quality, and stress levels all impact our gut microbes and digestion.
Learning about your gut microbiome gives you insight into your overall health and well-being. To help you take your health to the next level, we spoke with experts and analyzed today’s at-home testing options, to find the best microbiome tests available right now.
The best microbiome tests of 2023:
What is the gut microbiome?
The gut microbiome is the collective term used to refer to all the microorganisms including bacteria, fungi, and viruses in the intestines—affectionately known as the “gut.” In healthy digestive systems, all the microbes live in harmony, a pretty impressive feat considering there are over 100 trillion types of bacteria in the gut.
However, any disruption to this delicate balance of good and bad bacteria can cause several harmful conditions, such as inflammatory bowel disease, irritable bowel syndrome, asthma, atherosclerosis, obesity, and metabolic disorders.
Extensive studies show that a healthy microbiome looks different for everyone. Michael Njunge, a health and performance enthusiast and medical doctor in the U.K., compares the gut microbiome to your unique fingerprint.
Each person’s microbiome will have different components to accommodate regional diversity. Further, your unique dynamic gut flora demands will be based on specific environmental forces. What is considered a healthy gut one year may change the next. Njunge encourages consumers to think of the gut microbiome as a pivotal piece of your health, adding that, “If you take care of it, it will take care of you.”
How to test gut microbiome?
Gut microbiomes are tested using fecal matter. Yes, you will need to collect a sample of your poop. However, this non-invasive method allows the best insight into your digestive health. Certain at-home microbiome tests analyze only bacteria, while other, more comprehensive tests include bacteria, fungi, bacteriophages, viruses, parasites, and archaea.
As with all non-diagnostic testing, it's important to discuss results with a healthcare provider, since at-home tests don’t take into account family history, lifestyle, diet, etc to determine the cause of any symptoms.
Who should use an at-home microbiome test?
At-home microbiome tests are a convenient and relatively inexpensive way to monitor your gut health. If you have been experiencing any digestive discomfort, testing your gut microbiome from the comfort of your home can have an enlightening impact on your overall health and wellness.
The following are all potential signs of sub-optimal gut health:
- Abdominal pain or discomfort
- Weight fluctuations
- Skin issues
- Mood disorders
Njunge advises discussing your symptoms with your healthcare provider, explaining that there may be helpful clues in your history and physical examination that could lead to the need for more specialized testing. However, for a general overview of your gut health, or if you are simply looking to make better informed diet choices, an at-home microbiome test is a good starting point.
Keep in mind, if you have recently finished a medication known to impact the gut biome, such as antibiotics, Njunge says it is wise to ask your doctor about those potential effects.
Anyone experiencing severe digestive symptoms should consult with a medical professional. At-home tests are not a source of diagnostic testing and are not a replacement for traditional medical care. If you do opt for an at-home test, it's also important to be able to analyze the results with your doctor, to better understand what's going on and how to treat any abnormalities.
How we picked:
To get a clear picture of your gut health, you need an accurate test. We chose tests with high accuracy rates.
There is a vast range of what at-home tests include, so we made sure to point out these differences.
Stool samples inherently take longer than blood samples, but some brands are much quicker to return results than others. We’ve called this out below.
You get what you pay for. We want to make sure you are spending wisely and getting the most out of your test.
Our picks for the best microbiome tests of 2023:
Best overall: Viome
- Most comprehensive tests for multiple biomarkers
- Quick turnaround
- Clear & concise results with recommendations
- No follow-up with a medical professional offered
Viome offers three options of at-home tests for gut health, including one that evaluates cellular and oral health. The most basic option, Gut Intelligence is the foundational gut health test. Although it requires a stool sample like other at-home options, it uses mRNA, rather than DNA, to test your gut microbiome. This testing format allows for a more detailed report, providing insights on your gut lining health, gas production, digestive processes, and immune response.
Once you've sent in your stool sample, it'll take about 2 to 3 weeks to receive results in a secure app. These results will outline your digestive deficiencies, as well as post-test recommendations for helping your gut. However, there's no medical follow-up, so we recommend touching base with your primary care physician before making any changes to your routine.
Want to know more? Check out our full review of Viome's Gut Intelligence Test, from a Registered Nurse.
Best follow-up care: Biohm
- Tests two biomarkers
- Offers a live consultation to review results
- Uses DNA to test
- Long wait time for results
Biome is a great option for those who want a more comprehensive understanding of their test results. When you send in your stool sample you'll have two options to view your results: a $130 test with written results and recommendations (similar to other brands) and a $180 option with a live consultation for results. The latter allows you to ask clarifying questions and gain further insight into what your biomarker readings actually mean.
With your results, you’ll be given a gut health score of 1 to 10. Although uncomplicated and simple, it may not provide enough detail for some—which makes the live consultation even more valuable.
Like most brands, Biome uses DNA to test for biomarkers. Just know that dead microorganisms can leave behind traces of DNA, which can be picked up by the testing method and can skew the results.
Best subscription: Floré
- A care scientist discusses your results with you
- Monthly subscription includes a test every 4 months
- An individually-formulated probiotic, packaged as one pill a day, can be included
- Some reviews mention a less-than-detailed results page
Floré is a newcomer with great potential in the at-home testing market. It also tests DNA for multiple biomarkers and offers one of the shortest waiting periods for results. Follow-up care is also a given, with an included “care scientist” available to review the results after your test. However, some reviews have mentioned being underwhelmed with the detail of the result report, mentioning that the results seem generic, rather than individually tailored.
However, this brand is still a standout for those who want regular gut testing. With the Floré subscription service, you'll pay a monthly $79 subscription fee and receive a microbiome test every four months.
Best budget: Ombre
- Accessible helpline
- Subscribe & save option
- Only tests for bacteria
- Charges extra $$$ for a comprehensive result
Ombre is the least expensive option on our list, but the smaller price tag comes with less robust testing capabilities. The at-home test only evaluates your stool sample for bacteria, and the final report shared with users will only include the statistically significant results. For an additional $10, you can purchase additional reports for further insights rather than receiving an update on outliers. During normal business hours, you can also access the brand's helpline with any questions or concerns about your test or results. However, this does not include access to medical support.
When is the best time to test for microbiomes?
Gut microbiome tests use a sample of stool. Due to these circumstances, it’s unlikely consumers can schedule their collection time. Fortunately, there is no consensus on the best time of day to test your gut microbiome. However, to get the most accurate results possible, Njunge suggests being mindful of the following:
- Take the test during a week that your diet is as near to normal as possible. You will not want to perform the test while you are outside your regular schedule as your diet may alter your biome and not be a true representation.
- Avoid taking the test when you are also taking medications or supplements that affect your microbiome, such as antibiotics or probiotics, as these will shift your results.
Does insurance cover microbiome testing?
No, microbiome testing is not covered by insurance companies at this time. However, most at-home tests can be purchased with an HSA or FSA account. We recommend checking with your account carrier to confirm that at-home tests are considered a medical expense per their regulations.
Is there a test to check gut health?
Yes, there are convenient at-home tests requiring a small stool sample to give you insight into your gut health. The tests use DNA or mRNA from bacteria and other biomarkers, sharing results about the balance of intestinal flora.
Which microbiome test is best?
Best is subjective, but our recommendation for the best value as well as the most comprehensive at-home test is Viome. It is the only brand that tests bacteria and fungi in addition to other biomarkers. Its turnaround time is comparable to others, and they have technologically advanced testing methods. Viome provides the most thorough testing and result explanations, and that is why we would recommend it as the best.
We are learning more and more that gut health is directly related to your overall well-being. Making sure your gut microbiome is in optimal condition can alleviate digestive problems, improve mental health, and defend your body from disease. An at-home gut microbiome test gives a snapshot of how the delicate balance of biomarkers is affecting the rest of your body. To get a full picture of your gut health, we recommend using a test that includes the most amount of biomarkers. While you’re thinking of optimizing your gut health, take these natural practices into consideration.