Microbiome Testing Reviews for uBiome

uBiome
Ranked 3rd out of 9 in
Microbiome Testing >
If you buy the Kit
Kit
From £68.14

At a Glance

Editor's Rating:
4 out of 5 stars
Customer Service:
5 out of 5 stars
Clarity of Results:
4 out of 5 stars
References Cited:
4 out of 5 stars
Value for Money:
3.5 out of 5 stars

Summary

The ‘Five Site Explorer’ test provided an interesting way of discovering more about my microbiome. It was fascinating to read about the huge number of different bacteria that call my body their home.

The scientific concepts associated with the results were generally easy to understand, though I felt that explanation of some of the technical phrases would have made some results a bit clearer. I particularly enjoyed my gut results, which went into more detail than the rest. I loved the ‘take action’ sections, which provided practical advice and made the impact my microbiome might have on my gut clear, though felt that this wasn’t so well explained for the other four sites.

Overall, the test was fun and interesting. It provides a great introduction to the microbiome for those unfamiliar with it, but also plenty of information for those that want to dig deeper into the details. Either way, the results provide an excellent starting point from which to research and gain a valuable insight into your microbiome.

Full Review

uBiome is an unusual type of DNA testing company, because it’s not your DNA that they analyse. Their tests look at the DNA of the trillions of microorganisms that live in and on your body, allowing you to learn about and compare them to other uBiome members. The company was founded in 2012 and has gone on to win several awards. It has partnerships with several respected and prestigious institutions, including Harvard and Oxford Universities, as well as the US Centers for Disease Control.

Product Expectations

The uBiome website was split into two halves, one for their ‘SmartGut’ test, which is only available through healthcare providers, and one for the ‘uBiome Explorer’ kits, for consumers like me. Once I was on the right part of the site I read that there were three types of test to choose from, the ‘Gut Explorer’, the ‘Time Lapse Explorer’ and the ‘Five Site Explorer’. There wasn’t a huge amount of information about each test, but I read that the first test would sample my gut once, the second would do so on three separate occasions and the last would sample my gut, mouth, genitals, skin and nose. I chose the Five Site Explorer as this seemed to offer the widest range of information about my microbiome.

I wasn’t entirely sure what the microbiome actually was, so looked for some information about it. Although it wasn’t particularly easy to find, there was a ‘Meet the Microbiome’ page that explained a bit about it. I learnt that there are trillions of microorganisms in our guts which help in digestion, vitamin synthesis and overall gut health. This page only really talked about the gut microbiome, meaning I still didn’t really know about what my nose, mouth, genital or skin results would tell me. However, the information that was provided was explained at just the right level of complexity and answered some of the questions I had, such as ‘Why does the microbiome matter?’. There was also a ‘How it works’ section that showed how the process would work and images of what was included in the kit.

Going through the terms and conditions, I was impressed by the thorough explanation of the risks involved in testing. I was warned that although a lot of the microbiome isn’t currently understood, it would likely be in the future. It advised me to be careful who I shared my information with, as it could eventually be used against me, for example by health or life insurers.

These terms also made clear that the test was for educational and research purposes, and not for clinical use. I’ve seen this in most health-related DNA test terms and conditions, but these went on to explain exactly what this meant, which I appreciated. I was also glad to read that although my samples would contain it, the test wouldn’t analyse any of my human DNA.

Ordering experience

Purchasing the test was straightforward. I was pleased to see that shipping was free both ways for US customers and was able to pay via PayPal or by entering my credit/debit card information directly on the site. I received an email once my order had gone through.

Taking each sample was simple, painless and all-in-all took less than 15 minutes in total. I was asked to fill out a lifestyle questionnaire when I registered my kit, which was easy to complete and also only took about 15 minutes. I received separate emails confirming that each sample had reached the lab and was being processed.

Unfortunately, a few of my initial samples couldn’t be processed, but when I contacted customer services to ask what to do, their response was quick and friendly. I was sent a replacement kit with no fuss.

The Results

I received emails each time one of my results was ready, and when I logged into my account I could see them. The results were split into five reports, for the five sites on my body that I’d tested: ‘Nose’, ‘Genital’, ‘Gut’, ‘Mouth’ and ‘Skin’. Each of these reports was ordered into main sections: ‘Insights’, ‘Timeline’, ‘Compare’, ‘My Bacteria’. My gut result also came with a ‘Probiotics’ section that recommended which to take according to my results, and each report had an ‘Advanced’ section that included tools allowing me look at the more detailed information about the different bacteria and an option to download my raw data.

Results Section: Insights

The Insights sections of each of the reports provided an overview of the main findings and included ‘Microbiome Diversity’ and ‘Unique Bacteria’ features. The gut report included several extra ones and started with a sort of introduction/contents list that wasn’t part of the others. It included a ‘Wellness Match’ which compared my microbiome to the average microbiome of ‘Selected Samples’. I read that Selected Samples were from people that reported ‘no ailments and high levels of wellness’. My Wellness Match was 96.4%, which seemed pretty good!

The contents section of my gut report also acted as a sort of overview of the different findings in the results. It revealed that my body weight bacteria match was moderate, my probiotics match was low, my diversity profile was in the 90th percentile and the most uncommon bacteria found was something called Anaeroplasma. I was intrigued to find out more about what each of these meant, and luckily there were links that took me directly to the relevant part of the report, so it was really easy to do so.

The first Insights feature in all of the reports was a ‘Microbiome Diversity’ graph. The graph for my Mouth result is shown below.

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My Mouth result Microbiome Diversity Graph.

My Mouth result Microbiome Diversity Graph.

An introductory sentence explained that this was a comparison of my microbiome, at that particular site (in this case my mouth), to all samples in uBiome’s database. This had been assessed by using ‘Simpsons Diversity Index’. I had never heard of this, but it was explained and referenced, allowing me to choose either the simple description or a more thorough look into it. I read that the index ranged from 0 (least diverse) to 10 (most diverse). In my Gut result, it was explained that greater diversity was associated with good health, but that lower diversity didn’t necessarily indicate that someone was unhealthy. I wasn’t sure if this was relevant to all of the sites, as this explanation wasn’t included with any of the other results.

This graph was accompanied by a comparison of my score to others. I was pleased to find out that my gut sample was more diverse than 90% of other users.

The other feature included in all of the results was the ‘Elusive Bacteria’. This highlighted 10 of the bacteria in my samples that were found least often at that site (example shown below).

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Some of my Elusive Bacteria

Some of my Elusive Bacteria

It also provided the number of ‘Very Elusive Bacteria’ in my sample, which were ones found in less than 5% of other customers’ samples. It was made clear that the rarity of these bacteria didn’t indicate that they were good or bad for my health. Although there wasn’t much practical use I could get from this result, I thought it was a fun and worthwhile feature and enjoyed looking some of the bacteria up on Google after going through my report.

In addition to the section on recommended probiotics, that I mentioned earlier, there was a feature entitled ‘Body Weight’ that was also only included in my Gut report. The last of these showed the relative proportions of two major types of gut bacteria (Firmicutes and Bacteroidetes) and explained the implications this might have on my body weight. It was displayed as a chart, shown below.

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My Body Weight Chart.

My Body Weight Chart.

It was really interesting to read that the higher proportion of Firmicutes in my gut sample was associated with a higher calorific intake. I’m not overweight but I do eat quite a lot, so this made sense. It also pointed out that this was common in those that ate Western diets.

The other part of the Body Weight section focused on Akkermansia, a type of bacteria associated with reduced inflammation and weight gain. Unfortunately, this showed that I had relatively low levels of it in my gut. This section definitely made me think about my diet and whether I needed to make changes in order to stay a healthy weight as I age. Luckily, there was a ‘Take Action’ box that provided sensible and easily implementable advice. These tips were referenced to scientific studies, supporting the relevance the advice had to the gut microbiome.

Overall, the Insights section provided loads of information, but it was presented in a way that was easy to digest and provided a great starting point from which to research further.

Results Section: Compare

The next part of the report I looked at was the Compare feature, which was similar for each of the reports. It again showed my results as a chart, (my Nose result is shown below).

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My Nose result in comparison to other uBiome customers.

My Nose result in comparison to other uBiome customers.

This section allowed me to compare each of my sample microbiomes to those of other customers. For most of the sites, my results matched quite closely to the average customer, but my Nose one was quite different. I thought that this might be due to having hay fever. Helpfully, there was a selector that allowed me to change the comparison from ‘All Samples’ to ‘Congestion’ and ‘Allergies’. I found that my results were still very different in comparison, but thought this was a useful feature to have.

This said, there were other ways of exploring and understanding my results better. Alongside the graph was a list of the bacteria identified in my sample, with the percentage of it they made up. When I clicked them, I was provided with further information about that type of bacteria and what it was associated with in/on my body. These descriptions tended to focus on the gut which was a bit frustrating when looking at the other samples. However, as the gut seems to be the most likely to have an effect on my health, I can see why this was the case.

Results Section: Timeline

As I had taken two sets of samples due to some of those in my first kit not working, I had two genital results. The Timeline section of the report allowed me to directly compare these samples. I could see the changes as two points joined by a line on a graph and could sort the microbes by phylum, class, order, family and genus. I wasn’t entirely sure what these were, but the arrows going from phylum downwards seemed to indicate that they were some sort of ranking system. When I looked this up on Google, my assumptions were confirmed and I read that it was known as taxonomic ranking, with each rank providing more specificity about the organism.

Results Section: My Bacteria

The last section of the report was my favourite part. It provided information about the different bacteria in my samples. Now I knew that looking at Genus level would give me the most specific information, I used this to read about the range of bacteria in my samples. Similar to the gut Body Weight chart, my full breakdown was displayed in pie charts, which changed as I went from Phylum to Genus, reflecting the increased level of detail. The Genus level chart for my Nose result is shown below.

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The My Bacteria chart for my Nose result.

The My Bacteria chart for my Nose result.

There was lots of information about the different bacteria in my sample, though I was a little disappointed that the top result in my Nose sample didn’t have any information about it. However, when I looked it up I read that it is sometimes associated with disease, which, as the test was clear about not being for diagnostic purposes, may have been why this information wasn’t included.

All in all, this section was really interesting and helped me to properly explore the bacteria present in my samples.

Summary

The ‘Five Site Explorer’ test provided an interesting way of discovering more about my microbiome. It was fascinating to read about the huge number of different bacteria that call my body their home.

The scientific concepts associated with the results were generally easy to understand, though I felt that explanation of some of the technical phrases would have made some results a bit clearer. I particularly enjoyed my gut results, which went into more detail than the rest. I loved the ‘take action’ sections, which provided practical advice and made the impact my microbiome might have on my gut clear, though felt that this wasn’t so well explained for the other four sites.

Overall, the test was fun and interesting. It provides a great introduction to the microbiome for those unfamiliar with it, but also plenty of information for those that want to dig deeper into the details. Either way, the results provide an excellent starting point from which to research and gain a valuable insight into your microbiome.

Please note that we were invited to take this test free of charge.