Do At-Home Gut Health Tests Live Up To The Hype?

The gastrointestinal tract or GI tract is part of the digestive system (per the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases). Digestion helps to break down nutrients so that your body can absorb them for use in a variety of functions, like growth and energy. The GI tract consists of what is called the enteric nervous system, which contains over 100 million neurons, says Johns Hopkins Medicine). Also in the gut are some 4.4 pounds of microbes that are often known as the gut microbiome (via Medical News Today). A large part of everyone's gut microbiome is unique to the individual. In fact, the more diverse the gut microbiome is, the healthier.

As a result, there has been a rise in interest in gut health, leading to more coverage in social media coverage, especially throughout TikTok (per The New York Times). One way to better understand your microbiome, in order to potentially improve it, is to do an at-home test. Here's everything you need to know about at-home gut health tests.

At-home gut health tests: hype or hope?

At-home gut health tests are available from a variety of brands, and they work by providing a form of analysis of your gut microbiome — typically from a stool sample (per Healthline). The information you get from the test reportedly gives you knowledge of the different qualities and quantities of bacteria in your gut. Some companies may provide a comparison of your gut microbiome to a given sample. With an analysis of your gut microbiome, the company issuing the at-home test may recommend ways to tweak your diet in order to optimize your gut health (via The Conversation). However, some experts caution that since microbiome science is still in its infancy. Therefore, these at-home tests should serve purely for informational purposes.

Keep in mind, the test can be expensive with an average of $200 dollars per test, says Healthline. At-home gut health tests are also not FDA approved. Since these tests are not FDA-approved, they can be less reliable. In turn, it is not advisable to use an at-home gut health test to self-diagnose a condition. In fact, some experts don't recommend at-home gut health tests at all because they do not provide any dependable actionable data that can alter the gut microbiome (per EverydayHealth).