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Frequently asked questions

Here are a few common questions – and the answers to them. If you have a question that’s not listed, please get in touch and ask us. (Don’t forget to check out our glossary as well).

How does my gut microbiome affect my health?

New effects are being discovered all the time, but a few things we know about are:

  • Your microbes are able to digest parts of your food – like some types of fibre – that your digestive system cannot do on its own.
  • Digestive upsets are often caused by a disruption to the community of microbes living in your gut.
  • As well as helping to digest your food, some microbes can also make vitamins that your body can’t make.
  • Your gut microbes can interact with your immune system – for example, they can influence allergies.
  • Metabolic disease – such as diabetes – also involves your microbes.
  • There are links between your microbiome and your body-mass index (BMI) – it may even affect how easy it is to lose weight.
  • Intensive exercise can affect your microbiome, which in turn can affect athletic performance.
  • Finally, there is increasing evidence that your gut microbiome can affect your brain and mental health. This link is often referred to as the “Gut-brain axis” and has been suggested to play a role in disorders including; Multiple Sclerosis, Alzheimer’s , Parkinson’s, depression, and autism. In most cases your microbiome probably doesn’t cause these diseases, but it can affect your symptoms.

How does exercise affect my gut microbes?

This is an exciting new area of research, but the latest results suggest that regular exercise can lead to a number of changes in the make-up of your gut microbiome. These changes are beneficial to your health and may also help to protect your gut against the adverse effects of endurance exercise (e.g. running a marathon).

There is evidence that regular exercise can increase:

  • Bacteria that help to nourish your gut
  • Bacteria that help to maintain your gut’s protective barrier
  • The diversity of types of bacteria in your gut. A higher diversity is generally seen as beneficial, making your gut more resistant to invasion by harmful bacteria.

Intense or endurance exercise can have negative effects in your gut, however, including the diarrhoea and cramps that endurance athletes sometimes experience. It may be that the changes to your gut that regular exercise and a healthy diet encourage can help to protect against these negative effects.

What are Short Chain Fatty Acids (SCFAs) and why are they important?

Short chain fatty acids are molecules produced by bacteria in your gut that can have a number of health benefits. The bacteria produce them from fibre that your body can’t digest itself. The most important SCFA is butyrate; other common ones include acetate and propionate.

These molecules have a wide range of beneficial effects, both in your gut and throughout your body:

  • They provide energy to the cells that make up your gut (especially butyrate)
  • They can provide energy throughout your body (especially propionate)
  • They can affect your brain (through the so-called gut-brain axis)
  • They can improve your gut’s barrier function
  • They can regulate your immune system and reduce inflammation

What is butyrate?

Butyrate is a molecule produced by bacteria in your gut. Made by breaking down fibre that your body can’t digest, it’s the main energy source for cells in your colon, so it’s important that they get enough. It also helps to reduce inflammation. The most important short chain fatty acid in the human gut.

Which bacteria produce butyrate?

A number of different types of bacteria can produce butyrate. The most important ones are:

  • The genus Roseburia
  • The species Faecalibacterium prausnitzii 
  • The species Anaerotruncus colihominis 
  • And others – including some that are so new to science, they don’t have names yet!

What does Akkermansia do in my gut?

Akkermansia muciniphila is believed to be a beneficial species, reducing inflammation, and associated with lower levels of obesity and inflammatory bowel disease. It is believed to increase the thickness of the protective mucus layer in your gut, improving your gut’s barrier function.

What is a “leaky gut”?

Your gut wall acts as a barrier between the contents of your gut and your bloodstream and tissues. Your gut should keep out bad things (like harmful bacteria and toxins) while letting in beneficial nutrients. If this barrier starts to break down, it can cause inflammation and other responses from your body’s immune system.

How can my gut microbes protect against a “leaky gut”?

Your microbes can:

  • Nourish your gut cells by producing a molecule called butyrate
  • Increase the thickness of the mucus barrier that protects your gut wall
  • Strengthen the links between your gut cells

Gut microbiome kit (“Poo test”)

How difficult is it to take the samples?

The kit includes full instructions. It’s very quick and easy. Just take a piece of used toilet paper and take a small amount of material onto the tip of the swab we give you. Then pop the swab into the tube, do up the lid, and post the tube back to us in the postage paid box included in the kit.

What is included in the kit?

The price of the kit includes everything needed to do the test: the sampling kit, a postage paid box to return the sample, laboratory analysis, data processing, and the final report. The sampling kit itself includes a swab and tube of preservative, together with full instructions and a consent form.

Why poo/feces/stool? Isn’t it a bit gross?

Yes, perhaps! But your gut microbes weigh about the same as your brain – it’s like a whole organ of your body that affects all kinds of things to do with your health. The great thing is that you can find out what is living in your gut really easily by sampling your stool. Our tests only need a tiny sample and it’s really quick and easy to do.

What information will the test give me?

Everyone’s report is different, but packed with information about your microbiome and gut health. Every report includes information on:

  1. How many different types of bacteria we found, and which were most common
  2. How diverse your microbiome is (more diverse is usually better)
  3. The balance between key groups of bacteria
  4. Personal suggestions – based on your results – for things that might help to improve your gut health.
  5. Profiles of the key bacteria that have been linked to health

Here’s an example report, but remember, everyone’s microbiome is different!

Contact Information

Call us today: +44 (0) 191 543 9386

Email: info@holistx.co.uk

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