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Can these gut microbiome tests from Viome help better connect you to your body?

Awareness about optimizing gut health has become more mainstream over the past few years, leading to a rise in at-home test kits for analyzing your gut microbiome. One of the more well-known companies creating these tests is Viome, which offers three tiers of gut-health testing along with other health markers.

While many people are curious about their gut health — particularly as research emerges about the connections between gut health and immune system, mood, mental health, autoimmune diseases and skin conditions — Viome’s test may not be the route to take.

Some of the common health problems in the gut include irritable bowel disease (IBS), small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO), food intolerances, constipation, and diarrhea. Fluctuating weight can also be an indicator of gut health issues. Commonly, these issues are diagnosed by a gastroenterologist who might order a stomach health test or gastro panel. Home tests are a way to bypass working with a doctor to get more information about what’s going on internally.

While Viome is quickly becoming a name known for its gut health testing, it’s not a company we would recommend, for a number of reasons. For starters, the samples it collects from users (blood and stool) don’t contain data that could lead to clinical decision-making for a person’s health and wellness. The health claims Viome makes about its recommended supplements and diets, as well as the link between mitochondrial counts and health, are not supported by any current body of evidence.

Further, Viome doesn’t have a third-party validation for its lab analysis or supplementation to ensure its products are high-quality and safe for its customers to use. The VMS (vitamins, minerals, and supplements) the company offers are quality tested, but Viome doesn’t provide a full list of ingredients that could be in their VMS products. In terms of patient privacy, there is also no explicit information available on data storage per the industry standard.

Throughout this article, we discuss the scope of gut microbiomes and Viome, and why we wouldn’t recommend the brand.

Your gut microbiome includes the bacteria, viruses, fungi, and other microbes that live in your intestines. These microorganisms are essential for moderating digestion, the central nervous system, and the immune system.

A gut microbiome test can look at the composition of the different types of microbes within your gut. These tests are performed by analyzing stool samples.

Typically, a gut microbiome test looks for yeast overgrowth, immune and inflammatory markers, bacterial overgrowth, parasites, and beneficial microbes. They also identify markers for common issues like calprotectin, which is associated with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).

There are a number of different types of gut microbiome test kits available to help people understand their gut flora. Some tests look at bacteria, fungi, parasites, and other organisms, while others focus on just fungi and bacteria or just bacteria. These tests require an at-home fecal sample that you mail back to the test provider. Some tests also offer a companion blood or saliva test to provide further insight.

Viome is a company that offers at-home microbiome testing kits for people who want to learn more about their gut health. Gut microbiome refers to the microorganisms living in your intestines — some of which are harmful to our health, some of which are are beneficial.

Using a platform powered by artificial intelligence (AI), Viome collects users’ blood and stool samples to analyze their microbial (bacteria in your gut) and human gene expressions (proteins that dictate cell function). The company then provides diet and lifestyle recommendations to help improve gut conditions and overall health. In some cases, the company suggests taking its branded blends of supplements.

With the rise of probiotics and eating more whole foods, balancing your gut microbiome has become a health priority. However, there is little science to back up the claims Viome makes about what their tests can do. Additionally, the platform uses AI, not doctors or dietitians, to provide recommendations. The company has also received poor reviews for its customer service.

Here’s what you should know about Viome testing services and why we would not recommend them.

1. Order your kit

To get started with Viome, you can purchase one of its four testing options (Precision Supplements Complete, Precision Probiotics and Prebiotics, Health Intelligence Test with Gut Intelligence, and Gut Intelligence test). Next, you’ll receive your test kit in the mail. Shipping is free.

2. Collect your sample and mail it in

Collect your sample (blood, stool, or both, depending on your testing kit) and send it back using the prepaid mailer provided by Viome.

3. Get your results

Once Viome has received your sample, the lab processes it and gives you your results within 3 to 4 weeks. You can review them through your account on the Viome site and the accompanying app.

Your results will show what microbes were found in your gut microbiome, along with numerical scores in categories like metabolic fitness and digestive efficiency. It will also provide diet and lifestyle recommendations based on your score and your sample analysis.

The test results also outline a personalized list of foods you should avoid and foods you should eat. These conclusions are based on an analysis of the bacteria, fungi, mold, and other microbes found in your gut.

The foods to avoid may be based on whether your microbiome can properly process those foods or if you’re unable to absorb their nutrients. However, it’s important to note that these suggested food restrictions may be incompatible with your overall nutritional needs.

Furthermore, the results provided from Viome’s analysis may not give the complete picture. The results are based primarily on gene and microbiota analysis, and the microbiome is only one part of a very complex digestive system.

If you signed up for the subscription kit with supplements, you’ll receive monthly shipments of Viome supplements based on your results. You can pause and resume your subscription by logging into your account on the site or the app. To cancel, you need to call the company.

Viome offers three types of testing, which range in price from $249-$399. They typically offer promotions for $20-30 off — using coupon codes or signing up for Viome’s mailing list — and often discount their two less intensive tests. The company also offers two supplement subscription plans that range from $60-179 per month.

Types of tests available

Viome currently offers three tests and two subscription plans as follows:

Gut Intelligence Test

  • Test price: $249

The Gut Intelligence Test is Viome’s base gut health test, focusing solely on the gut microbiome and digestive health. It analyzes a stool sample to compute an overall “Integrative Functional Health score” as well as over 20 subscores for things like gas production, inflammatory activity, and digestive efficiency. From these scores, you’ll receive food and supplement recommendations for the next 4 to 6 months to help you optimize digestion, food absorption, and gut flora diversity.

Health Intelligence Test

  • Test price: $300
  • Subscription price: $60/month

This test combines the stool sample testing of the Gut Intelligence Test with DNA blood testing. It delivers an Integrative Functional Health score after analyzing both your gut microbiome and the gene expression of your microbes, your mitochondria, and your human cells. With this test, you receive over 30 subscores, which include mitochondrial health and biological age.

The Health Intelligence Test is also available as a subscription which includes a kit every 12 months plus a 30-day supply of a personalized probiotic and prebiotic formula every month.

Full Body Intelligence Test

  • Test price: $400
  • Subscription price: $179/month

Full Body Intelligence Test combines stool sample testing and blood testing with a saliva test to provide eight Integrative Health scores — including biological age, gut health, immune system health, oral health, and brain and cognitive health — and over 50 subscores to help optimize overall health and show how you’re aging internally.

This is also available as a subscription which includes a kit every 12 months — plus a 30-day supply of a personalized probiotic and prebiotic formula and a 30-day supply of eight custom-formulated supplements every month.

Viome tests analyze your samples to determine various markers of health, including:

  • biological age (based on cell function and DNA damage)
  • energy levels
  • gut microbiome health
  • stress response
  • cellular health
  • immune system health

Viome maintains that its tests can help people achieve better digestion, more energy, weight loss, a more efficient metabolism, and better sleep.

While these claims sound really promising, they may not be grounded in science. As Kubala explains, a 2019 review shows that both healthcare professionals and microbiome experts remain dubious about the usefulness of direct-to-consumer tests, due to a lack of concrete evidence linking particular microbes to various diseases and the lack of regulation of direct-to-consumer microbiome testing.

Probiotics and more

When it comes to Viome specifically, Kubala finds it concerning how it seems like every person who takes a Viome test is then prescribed a probiotic supplement — which the company also sells. “Probiotics have not been determined to be universally safe or effective and may not be appropriate for everyone,” she says.

She also notes that the company doesn’t explicitly list the viable CFU (colony forming unit) amount on its supplements. (Researchers suggest that probiotics must contain at least 106 (1,000,000) viable CFU per gram to be able to survive digestion and have a positive effect.) Viome merely claims that it “tests to ensure that the product meets potency (CFU) label claims, providing you with the precise probiotic dosage recommended for you (when stored in ideal conditions).” This means that the total CFU listed could contain both viable and nonviable colonies, the latter of which is essentially meaningless.

Results

Finally, Viome says that customers will receive testing results in 3-4 weeks (according to negative reviews, however, it can take much longer). This means that the results may be moot by the time they come back.

“Because testing results take so long to get back to the customer, the gut microbiota changes that have taken place over that time period — due to changes in diet, medication, and supplement use, etc. — may prove the results meaningless by the time the customer actually receives them,” Kubala says. “Therefore, the supplements and dietary changes prescribed by Viome may not actually be helpful to the customer.”

While we do not recommend Viome’s tests, at-home testing through another company may help people who have chronic gut issues and aren’t sure why, or who don’t have easy access to a gastroenterologist. However, there is one major caveat to all at-home testing, which is that there is no set universal definition of a “healthy” microbiome, says Kubala.

“Each individual has a unique gut microbiota profile that plays specific functions in host nutrient metabolism, immune function, and more,” she says.

On the Viome website, user reviews are highly positive, with customers describing how they’ve lost weight and have started to sleep better. However, there is no verification or transparency about who these people actually are — the site simply lists text testimonials from presumably satisfied customers.

Viome is also accredited by the Better Business Bureau with an A- rating. However, due to negative customer reviews, it has a score of 1.24 out of 5 stars. The most recent one-start review reports that the recommendations Viome provided post-testing don’t cite the information on which these recommendations are based (from blood test results, for instance). The customer writes: “The recommendations are made solely to sell their supplements without giving any basis of fact upon which they can be trusted.”

Another recent review says that a customer ordered a test kit in April 2022 but still had not received it 3 months later. Other negative reviews focus on poor customer service and delays in receiving tests and test results.

In addition to these overwhelmingly negative reviews, the BB has resolved 52 complaints against Viome over the last 3 years, with 27 of those in just the last 12 months.

Aside from reviews, there is also a lack of transparency regarding third-party testing for its supplements and pre/probiotics, according to Healthline medical expert Jillian Kubala, MS, RD.

While the Viome website states that “every ingredient chosen must meet a strict set of testing from both in-house labs as [well as] third-party labs which include organoleptic review, and identification, purity, and microbiological testing,” Kubala notes that the company doesn’t actually list the third-party labs used.

Instead of Viome, there are other at-home tests that — though scientifically different — can help determine food sensitivities:

cerascreen

This company offers a food intolerance and food allergy test that checks 96 food intolerances and 44 allergies. There’s also a more extensive intolerance and allergy test that looks for 208 food sensitivities and 44 allergies. These tests do not analyze gut microbes, however, like the Viome tests do.

Both tests require you to collect and submit a small blood sample to detect both IgE, an antibody that’s produced in response to a perceived threat, and IgG4, an antibody linked with chronic immune-mediated disorder.

After you receive your results, you can make an appointment to speak with a nutrition consultant to review your recommendations. Supplements are also available for purchase.

Vitagene

This company provides a wide range of tests, including an Ancestry + Health Report, which analyzes saliva samples to determine your sensitivities to foods. The results also provide insight into how your body metabolizes various foods. Unlike the Viome tests, these tests do not analyze gut microbes.

The results include a personalized macronutrient and meal plan, as well as an ancestry report with your ethnic breakdown. Vitagene also offers a blood-based food sensitivity test that tests 96 foods using IgG antibodies.

BIOHE

This company offers a Gut Health Test that looks for the various bacteria and fungi that live in your gut and then uses DNA sequencing to identify those microbes, similar to what the Viome tests do. Once your sample is analyzed, you will receive an overall gut score on a scale of 1 to 10 which compares your results to what the company calls “normal gut levels.”

In addition to your results, you will also receive a final report reviewed by a microbiome-trained registered nutritionist with actionable wellness recommendations.

Is Viome FDA-approved?

The tests listed on the Viome website are not FDA-approved. However, the company received FDA approval for its mRNA technology and AI platform in relation to detecting oral and throat cancers.

What can a microbiome test tell you?

A microbiome test can detect bacteria, mold, fungi, yeast, and other microbes present in your stool.

When should I see a doctor?

You should reach out for medical assistance if you have any pain or inflammation or notice any sudden changes in your body.

Why is good gut health important?

Studies show that a healthy gut may reduce cholesterol, prevent IBS and IBD, lower your risk of heart disease, improve mental health, and help manage blood sugar. A healthy gut microbiome may also be caused by digesting certain foods and preventing disease-causing bacteria from sticking to the intestinal walls.

Do at-home test kits expire?

Viome’s test kits expire 6 months after their purchase date, according to the website. Be sure to check expiration dates and best-use practices.

If you still want to try it out

Before taking any gut health test, talk with your doctor about any health problems you may have. If you do decide to purchase a test through Viome, know that the processing time may be longer than expected.

Additionally, be sure to follow all the instructions for sample collection to avoid having your sample not fit the qualifications. If you opt for a subscription that offers Viome supplements, you should consult your healthcare professional about any new vitamins you’re adding to your diet.

A healthy gut microbiome is an important part of your overall well-being, but Viome’s tests are not an ideal way to analyze your gut or your general health. Talk with your doctor about any concerns you may have about your gut health. Together, you can come up with a plan that’s tailored to you and your body’s specific needs.


Natasha Burton is a freelance writer and editor who has written for Cosmopolitan, Women’s Health, Livestrong, Woman’s Day, and many other lifestyle publications. She’s the author of What’s My Type?: 100+ Quizzes to Help You Find Yourself ― and Your Match!, 101 Quizzes for Couples, 101 Quizzes for BFFs, 101 Quizzes for Brides and Grooms, and the co-author of “The Little Black Book of Big Red Flags.” When she’s not writing, she’s fully immersed in #momlife with her kids.