Microbiome testing: parasites, viruses and infections that cause IBS and leaky gut symptoms?

There are trillions of bacterial cells on your gut, but what about all the other little beasties? Let’s discuss what our test can and can’t do.

DNA sequencing of the microbial cells in your stool is a reliable indicator of the composition of your gut microbiome, the diversity of microbial families, genera and species living there, as well as functions performed based on the scientific literature so far. But it’s not a Swiss army knife (or a Spork).

Luckily, the loveliest person at Atlas Biomed - Tatiana - is right there on the battlefield of excellence in customer service, giving you the answers you can’t find in our FAQ. And some that you can. But we get it, FAQs can be boring. That’s why we added adorable illustrations of happy bacteria beasties: to fan the flame of your interest.

But back to the task at hand, turning the spotlight to Tatiana, who probably deserves a standing ovation for doing a great job. Did we mention that, for National Ugly Christmas Sweater Day, she brought in a collection of the aforementioned sweater and forced us to into them in the spirit of holiday cheer?

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Wash your hands after collecting a stool sample, you don't want to dirty the box

This delightful lady is a mine of knowledge when it comes to the possibilities and limitations of our testing devices. So we interrogated her about your top queries to see if we can get ahead of the curve, and pack your brain full of knowledge.

And this week, we’re discussing parasites, infections, viruses, and fungi that might or might not be in your gut, and what it’s got to do with IBS and leaky gut.

QUESTION: Does your test analyse for parasites and/or harmful bacteria (like stomach infections) in the gut that could cause be causing IBS/leaky gut symptoms?

Phew. That’s actually a lot questions, answers, and factors in one - so hold on to your pants because we’re about to get into the weeds on why genetic differences between microorganisms, pathogenic bacteria diagnostics, and digestive symptoms.

The scope of microbiome sequencing

Our 16s rRNA DNA sequencing is performed on machines produced by Illumina, a world-leader in sequencing hardware (that’s used by researchers and the health industry at large). This technology produces gigabytes of DNA data (nucleotides A-T-G-C) and then our interpretation system uses this code to identify DNA sequences belonging to bacteria and archaea.

Fungi, viruses, and parasites belong to a separate branch of the taxonomic tree of life. This means that they have evolved differently, and therefore have different genetic traits that are currently not within the scope of this testing technology (be it our test or similar products by competitors).

Identifying patterns for health and illness

Our microbiome tests study the composition of your microbiome as a whole to identify patterns associated with health and, by consequence, dysbiosis. Dysbiosis is identified by negative changes in the composition of your gut microbes that indicate an abnormal abundance of bacteria (or lack thereof) that provide important functions, lack of diversity, patterns associated with inflammation and illness, etc.

These results are particularly useful for people who people looking to enhance their wellbeing and performance of the gut microbes by identifying areas for improvement in their diet.

Our tests are also used by healthcare professionals like nutritional therapists, functional medicine practitioners, doctors, and clinics specialised in chronic issues like unresolved digestive symptoms, inflammation, poor tolerance of foods, etc.

However, Atlas Biomed Tests are not diagnostic tools and therefore, they are not the right option for identifying serious infections caused by bacteria and viruses. You can read more about this below, in the section When to consult an expert.

Irritable bowel syndrome and leaky gut

Chronic digestive distress is an unfortunately common issue nowadays. Irritable bowel syndrome is a recognised syndrome, defined by a collection of symptoms with no identifiable abnormalities in the digestive.

Bloating, gas Diarrhoea, constipation
Cramps Food sensitivities
Aches and pains Fatigue, headache, brain fog

It’s considered a “functional” condition, meaning that diagnostics like inserting probes into your various orifices or running blood and other lab tests, won’t reveal lesions or metabolic abnormalities in your physiology. Simply put, there’s no obvious damage or problems in your digestive tract, and so, no viable surgical or pharmaceutical treatment options exist.

Leaky gut, however, is not recognised by clinical diagnostic handbooks, meaning that the medical community does not recognise the existence of leaky gut.

That isn’t to say that there’s nothing interesting about leaky gut, and we’ve explored them in this article. And did you notice the symptoms overlap with those of IBS?

If you don’t have time to read the article, here’s the highlights: everyone has a leaky gut. It’s how the nutrients get in, and it happens after eating mostly. In fact, even a hardcore two-hour workout can cause the gut lining to become more porous. It’s how the nutrients get in. #knowledgebomb

Hot Dog
Photo by Charles 🇵🇭 / Unsplash

Your colon is a bit more complex than this sausage, it's a bit longer too

When you chow down, the passage of foodstuffs through the digestive tract also causes a little inflammation: that’s the immune system working to make sure other stuff, like bacteria, viruses, toxins, and large food molecules don’t enter the body too. But eating frequently, and at the wrong time, can cause the gut lining to stay open for longer than it should.

At the same time, eating a diet rich in fats, sugar, and animal products can deprive your gut microbes of the necessary sustenance to fulfill their health potential. This includes supplying the gut lining with the right nutrients to preserve the integrity of the gut lining and stay strong.

When to consult an expert

Issues like irritable bowel syndrome and symptoms attributed to leaky gut syndrome often benefit from the holistic approach offered by a unique class of healthcare professionals that specialise in the lifestyle, nutritional, and environmental impacts on our health.

Nutritional therapists, functional medicine practitioners, and doctors specialised in lifestyle medicine are trained to identify how lifestyle, stress, environment, and dietary patterns interact with our body’s very unique and individual features (like the microbiome and DNA). Here, microbiome testing is only as part of their toolbox to help people find an effective, personalised solution.

We don’t test for infections caused by pathogenic bacteria (like Salmonella, Listeria and others). These are potentially very serious illnesses that require the intervention of your GP (a healthcare professional) for targeted diagnostics and treatment.

If you are experiencing diarrhoea, vomiting, fever, chills, joint aches and/or dehydration, these are signs of something that could be serious, you must consult a doctor.

Next question: gluten intolerance

In the follow-up article in this series of questions to our customer service, we’ll talk about gluten: intolerance and genetic predisposition markers for it that feature in our tests.

Atlas Biomed Team Makers of microbiome, DNA tests and bad puns

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