Until recent years, most of us didn’t really know what a microbiome was, and we gave little more than a passing thought to our “gut flora”. But scientific understanding of the trillions of microorganisms that comprise our gut microbiome has advanced and led to a much deeper appreciation of just how important the microbiome is to our broader health – so much so that the microbiome is often considered a supportive organ.
When you think of your microbiome as a supportive organ in your body – and one that until recently most of us knew very little about – suddenly there’s a deep desire and a sense of urgency to find out whether yours is healthy, right? This is where Viome enters the picture.
Viome is one of the first and most respected microbiome testing companies to sell tests directly to consumers. And it is also one of the few whose business model does not rely on selling you supplements after the test. The focus of the company is strictly on testing that provides the most comprehensive understanding of your microbiome and how it affects your health.
So we wanted to know, do Viome’s tests live up to the hype? More importantly, should you invest in taking one of their tests? In this review you can explore our findings, recommendations and all pertinent details to help you decide.
- Viome’s tests can identify most, if not all, microorganisms that exist in your gut (other similar tests only focus on bacteria).
- Tests use RNA data as opposed to DNA data, reflecting the functional output of the microorganisms in your gut, which could be more relevant to health.
- Tests avoid privacy concerns associated with DNA tests since RNA data contain no personally identifiable information.
- Viome is not trying to sell you supplements, so we feel that their test is less subject to potential bias than other microbiome tests.
- Your results are updated for free as Viome’s science and machine learning algorithms improve.
- Viome generously offers our readers $10 off all tests when using discount code INNERBODY upon checkout.
- More comprehensive results require a slightly more involved sample collection process.
- Viome’s tests are not available to residents of New York state.
- Return shipping from outside the United States is an added expense.
- The link between the gut microbiome and overall health is still not fully understood. (Keep this in mind when making any changes to your diet and manage your expectations accordingly.)
We recommend Viome’s impressive microbiome tests. Viome’s approach to testing your microbiome is innovative and comprehensive. They are the only commercial company that offers metatranscriptomic testing of the gut microbiome (more on the significance of that below). We appreciate Viome’s unique approach, which provides more actionable data and corresponding insights and recommendations. Instead of simply learning which species of microbes are present, you will discover how they are interacting with your body and how, in turn, this may impact your health.
Viome’s convenient and sophisticated gut microbiome testing is superior to competitors because it tests much more comprehensively.
Viome tests for more than just bacteria, giving you a fuller picture of your gut microbiome. Whether you choose the Gut Intelligence or the Health Intelligence service, Viome’s test will impress you and can produce valuable and actionable insights.
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This review, like all medical-related content on this website, is thoroughly vetted by one or more members of our Medical Review Board for accuracy. Additionally, we extensively analyze each health-related service we review. We evaluate the entire customer experience from signing up use of the product or service, and then offer unbiased, marketing-jargon-free analysis based on the latest scientific evidence and medical standards.
Founded in 2016, Viome is a nutritional genomics company that aims to empower people with health and wellness advice based on the composition of their microbiome. They offer convenient and sophisticated at-home tests and a secure interface for reviewing the results and recommendations.
What exactly is my microbiome?
Your gut microbiome specifically describes the entire population of trillions of microorganisms that live in your digestive tract. More broadly, your microbiome extends throughout your entire body to comprise various ecosystems of microorganisms.
And it’s not just bacteria in your microbiome, but rather all of the microorganisms, which include fungi, viruses and nonpathogenic, parasitic protozoa. Healthy guts, for instance, have thousands of species of microorganisms coexisting in relative harmony, like a sprawling metropolis.
This metropolis of microorganisms in your gut is important to your health. The presence and abundance of different species in the gut microbiome has been the subject of much scientific and clinical research and interest in recent years, due to its potential effects on a whole host of health outcomes. For example, inflammation is a contributing factor to many chronic diseases, including irritable bowel disease, inflammatory bowel disease, autoimmune disorders, allergies, arthritis, and more.
Two at-home tests and a three-stage experience
Viome aptly describes three stages of your experience with the company:
The purpose of testing your gut microbiome – stage one – is so that Viome can analyze the results and provide you with recommendations– stage two – which you’ll use in stage three to improve your health.
Unlike some competitors, Viome doesn’t look strictly at bacteria, but instead tests your microbiome much more comprehensively using two different tests:
- Gut Intelligence – a test focusing on your gut microbiome
- Health Intelligence – a more comprehensive service, which Viome recently launched, analyzing the health of your cells in addition to your gut microbiome
Using your results, Viome designs a tailor-made action plan to help you improve the ecosystem of microbes present in your gut. This plan includes steps to help you improve the overall diversity of microorganisms, reduce the presence of pathogenic microorganisms, and increase the presence of ‘good’ bacteria.
To achieve those goals, Viome provides you with a custom report, including the foods (and potentially supplements) you should include in your dietary regimen as well as those you should avoid. These personalized diet and supplement recommendations could help you improve:
- Immune function
- Skin health
- Mental focus
- Energy levels
- Weight management
Viome recommends frequent retesting to monitor how your gut health is developing with the changes you’ve made.
The Gut Intelligence test is Viome’s main product. From a stool sample collected via your at-home test kit, Viome can tell you about the health of your microbiome and how you can improve it. Your data is used to generate a report, which shows you the activities of the microorganisms living in your gut. This includes many various factors such as the following, to name a few:
- Digestive efficiency
- Gas production
- Metabolic fitness
Viome’s Gut Intelligence service is $149 at the time of writing (on sale from $299). If you want to retest after a few months, as Viome recommends, your price will be further reduced.
The newest of Viome’s products is their Health Intelligence service. In addition to all of the services offered in the Gut Intelligence test, the Health Intelligence service also tests the activity of your own genes.
RNA is extracted from your blood to determine the expression of some key genes. They provide various scores that give you a picture of your health, including analysis of your gut microbiome, your cellular health, biological age, metabolism, immune response and more.
Viome’s Health Intelligence service currently costs $399 at the time of writing (down from $599). As with their other test, if you follow Viome’s advice and retest to check your progress and improvements, the company will reduce your price for additional retesting.
When you test with Viome, the information you’ll receive in your report includes:
- The organisms present in your sample
- Personalized scores about your gut microbiome
- Dietary recommendations to balance your microbiome
Viome’s tests provide insights into how you could make small adaptations to your diet to improve your overall health. To carry out their analyses and make these recommendations, Viome uses two types of advanced science and technology applications:
- Metatranscriptomic sequencing
- Machine learning (artificial intelligence)
Metatranscriptomic sequencing involves looking at the entire ‘transcriptome’ of all the organisms in your gut. In short, they do not analyze the DNA of the microbes to determine what species are present. Instead, they test the RNA.
RNA, like DNA, is a nucleic acid. While DNA is all the genetic information in an organism, the RNA is the functional output of this information. Without getting too much into the nitty gritty, our DNA is organized into functional units called genes. These genes are activated or ‘expressed’ through a process called transcription.
Therefore, metatranscriptomic sequencing involves sequencing the RNA of all the organisms present. This type of sequencing gives insights into the genes that are actually ‘on’ and active in the microbiome. Viome’s approach here provides a better reflection of the activities of all the organisms and how these activities could be impacting your health.
Viome’s technology allows them to detect the presence of many types of microorganisms – including bacteria, fungi, and viruses – with a high resolution. This means they can be very precise about the species that exist in your gut.
Viome’s artificial intelligence (which they call ‘Vie’) is how they analyze and interpret these findings in the context of the wealth of scientific data that exists about the microbiome. This machine learning allows them to gain an understanding of:
- What the presence and activity of different species in your gut are likely to mean for your health
- How these can be modified to improve your health
The more people who use the service, the more data Vie can analyze, thereby developing the pipeline, identifying new trends, and making it smarter all of the time.
Step 1: Order your kit
You can go to Viome and order either the Gut Intelligence test or the Health Intelligence test. Viome’s ordering process is very straightforward.
Step 2: Register your kit and provide some information
Once you receive your kit, you should register it online. During registration, Viome collects your answers to a questionnaire covering important details about hip and waist measurements, lifestyle and some health information about nutrition, wellness and symptoms you might be experiencing.
Your answers to these questions help Vie make patterns and connections in order to ensure that your actionable insights are as personalized and helpful as possible.
Step 3: Collect your test samples
After registering your kit, you can collect your stool sample. Viome provides you with a stool collection paper, which you attach to the toilet. Following the instructions, deposit your stool on to the paper and then use the scoop to transfer one pea-sized amount of your stool to the tube. You then seal it and shake it. The paper can be flushed down the toilet.
If you ordered the Health Intelligence test, then you’ll take a blood finger prick test. You must fast for 8 hours before taking this test. And don’t worry – the finger prick is quick and painless.
Step 4: Mail your sample back to the lab
Next, you ship your kit to Viome and register it online. Gut Intelligence test results should be available within 2-3 weeks of Viome receiving your sample, while Health Intelligence test results will be available within 3-4 weeks.
Viome recommends that you retest after three months of making the suggested lifestyle changes in your personalized report.
Viome separates any identifiable information from your health data. All data is protected with multiple layers of encryption to ensure it is secure.
Viome also commits never to sell your data, and won’t provide your information to employers, health insurance companies or law enforcement (unless they are legally required to do so).
We customize our evaluation criteria depending on the type and nature of the health service or product. For most products and services, we have five areas that we use for our evaluations, including:
Quality: How well does the company deliver its core service(s) to the customer? Is the quality of the product or service high enough that we would recommend it to loved ones without hesitation? Does the company have a high quality medical review board with oversight? Do the testing companies use the latest and most accurate testing technologies available? How accurate are the tests compared to alternatives?
Value: Are you getting your money’s worth? Are there any hidden costs or charges? Does the provider offer discounts or free services to our readers?
Customer Support: How well does the company provide information about its product or service? How clearly are options presented? How clearly are test results presented? How well does the testing company help you understand results and get treatment if necessary?
Privacy: Are all products sent in discreet packaging? Will your data be stored securely? Could your data ever be shared without your permission?
Speed: How fast will you receive your product or test results, from the moment you click “buy?” Are the waiting times stated by the company accurate and consistent?