Gut health was something that landed on my radar a few years ago when I bought Jessica Sepel’s first book, The Healthy Life. I was amazed that her protocol started with a gut reboot and restoring balance within the gut before any other dietary changes would be suggested. Her approach seemed different to me. As someone who’s intrigued with bio-hacking and trying to optimise incrementally, I went out and bought an arsenal of things from my local health-store to kick-start my journey to wellness via my gut. I was pretty religious about my morning repertoire for a while and only stopped when I fell pregnant because I didn’t want to take any supplements other than my probiotic and PregOmega Plus. I’m almost a year postpartum now and I decided recently to re-prioritise my gut health, but on a whole new level this time. Enter Viome.
Viome is a global microbiome sequencing technology from the US and it launched in South Africa on 1 April 2020. Viome is one of only a few of its kind across the globe, and what the science does is it allows us to essentially take stock of the state of our unique microbiome and how it’s trillions of microbes are performing. An unbalanced microbiome essentially results in the production of toxins and prevents the body from absorbing nutrients; the result of this is inflammation which is the root of almost every chronic disease. This inflammation is worsened when we ingest the wrong food, and because our microbiomes are completely unique, one man’s fuel can be another man’s poison. Our gut microbiome is fueled by the food we eat and the Viome analysis provides a completely tailored dietary guideline to help you restore balance in your micobiome and optimise your health and wellbeing.
The Benefits of a Balanced Gut
A balanced gut microbiome shows improvements and benefits across a range of areas pertaining to our wellness, including:
- Digestive issues
- Anxiety and depression
- Immunity & auto-immune diseases
The Science Behind Viome
Viome’s metatranscriptomic sequencing technology allows every microorganism in your gut microbiome to be seen and the activity of these microorganisms can be analysed. I know, mind-blowing. Every living organism produces RNA molecules from their DNA. By sequencing all of the RNA in the samples Viome receives, they can identify and quantify all of the living microorganisms in the gut (bacteria, viruses, bacteriophages, archaea, fungi, yeast and more) at the species and strain level. The end result? A higher resolution view of your gut microbiome than has ever been available before.
“While identifying the microorganisms in the gut is important, we gain the most insight when we can also understand their function. To maintain health, our bodies require many biochemicals produced by the gut microbiome. Some well-known examples are vitamin K, B vitamins, and short-chain fatty acids (for example butyrate). The microbes can also produce harmful biochemicals, such as LPS. Many microbes are capable of making both good and bad biochemicals. The biochemical output depends on the food we eat and the interactions among the hundreds of species of microorganisms. By analyzing the genes that microbes express, we can identify which metabolites they produce – in other words, we can determine their role in your body’s ecosystem. By following Viome’s diet and lifestyle recommendations, a person can fine-tune the function of their gut microbiome to minimize production of harmful metabolites and maximize the production of beneficial ones.”
Your Viome Scores
As well as providing you with the full list of the foods that are both beneficial and harmful to YOU and your individual microbiome, your analysis will also provide you with scores in the following categories to illustrate exactly how your gut is performing:
- Protein fermentation
- Intestinal barrier health
- Salt stress pathways
- Protein fermentation
- Intestinal barrier health
- Digestive efficiency
- Inflammatory activity
- Overall gas production
- Butyrate production pathways
- LPS biosynthesis pathways
- Methane gas production pathways
- Sulfide gas production pathways
- Flagellar assembly pathways
- Ammonia production pathways
- Putrescine production pathways
- Oxalate metabolism pathways
- Uric acid production pathways
- Metabolic fitness
- Biofilm, chemotaxis and virulence pathways
- Bile acid metabolism pathways
- TMA pathways
Crazy, right?! Never has such a thorough analysis been available to us in such a short period of time.
While your scores give you a performance snap-shot of your microbiome’s state and what needs attention, the exciting part is the food list that will enable to you to fortify your gut with all of your own unique super-foods. Equally as important is an extremely thorough list of avoid and minimise foods that will aid in restoring microbiome balance through minimising toxins and inflammation. It takes around 90 days to start seeing the real benefits of the adjustment to one’s diet. As I write this I’m about half-way there and I will update you in a couple of months when I can feed back from a solid implementation stand-point.
Supposed Superfoods May Not be Super for You
I think this is the part I was most intrigued by, and I waited eagerly for my results so I could for once and for all know what ‘healthy’ foods are doing me and my system damage. I had a suspicion that there were a lot of supposed healthy foods that I was indulging on that were in fact leading to bloating and other digestive issues: I was right.
My avoid list wasn’t a long one (I was crossing fingers and toes that coffee and milk would be okay for me and I breathed a huge sigh of relief when I didn’t see those names in the dreaded red zone), but there were 3 culprits that I was indulging on almost daily because of their societal PR and punting within the healthy-eating crowd:
I know, right?! And this is the problem I have with many diets and eating plans; they’re blanket approaches to eating well but don’t take your individual biology into account whatsoever. There I was indulging on superfood bowls of quinoa and broccoli, both of which are really bad for me. The other foods on my avoid list included oranges, mustard greens, brussel sprouts and cabbage. My minimise list is pretty long, but so are my enjoy and superfood lists so I haven’t found adapting my diet tough at all; the food I’ve had to make a point of reminding people to leave out is bananas because I’m a smoothie and açai bowl lover and these bad-boys are laced with babana. I know what you’re thinking, how am I surviving lock-down without banana bread?!
How to Take the Viome Test
This is the exciting part! Getting your paws on your kit is easy, all you need to do is to click here to register and order. Upon ordering your kit will be couriered to you (note in light of Covid-19 and South Africa’s lock-down laws there may be a slight delay in receiving your kit, however it will be despatched as fast as possible upon the thumbs-up from the Prez). Once you’ve received your kit you’ll need to do two things:
- Create a profile online (this helps the scientists match your data with your profile so you can be alerted when your analysis is ready)
- Retrieve your specimen and notify Viome that it’s ready for collection. A small fecal sample is required for the microbiome analysis and all tools and instructions are provided for you to make collection easy and hassle-free.
That’s it! Your specimen will then be sent to the U.S. for analysis and your data will be available to you via your profile in roughly 3 weeks. Now for a little more about your nifty Viome profile…
Your Viome Profile
When your data is ready to be viewed you’ll receive an e-mail from Viome with a link to download the Viome app to your smartphone and view your analysis. You can also access your profile via desktop if you prefer. Login with your username and password and a whole new world of wellness awaits.
I’ve found that I use my Viome app frequently, particularly to guide me when grocery shopping. I tap the superfoods category and try and incorporate as many of these into my diet as possible. I’ve got my avoid foods memorised so I make sure I’m not eating those at home or when we eat out (remember when we used to do that?), but I need to remind myself of minimise foods every now and then just to make sure my protocol is on track.
The data you’ll find within the app includes:
- Your food and supplement recommendations
- Your results (scores)
- An advanced microbiome view
- Useful videos and other resources
How Much Does Viome South Africa Cost?
The analysis costs R3990, this includes the kit, courier to your home, couriering of the specimen to the U.S. and the analysis of the data in the U.S. You can click here to order yours today. Viome also allow you to give the gift of a healthy gut which makes this a great group gift for a loved one or family member; simply select ‘gift’ when ordering.
I’ve loved this journey thus far and I’ll share more with you as I complete my 90 days of implementation. Ideally I’d like to do a retest in 6 months so that I have real evidence and data of how the dietary changes are working. Feel free to shout if you have any questions, and let me know your results if you decide to take the test.