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You might have seen my review of the Atlas Biomed DNA test, but I actually did two tests but wanted to write about them separately. When you do both tests with Atlas Biomed, they combine your health profile between the DNA test, Microbiome and a questionnaire that helps them understand your lifestyle beyond your DNA, as just because you are prone to disease doesn’t mean you have one as you could live your life in a way that is perfectly combative to those components. Alternatively, you could naturally be very low risk for certain diseases but if you have a really terrible diet and generally more unhealthy lifestyle choices (drink, drugs, cigarettes, etc) then you can obviously increase your risk. You can also answer some questions about immediate family or anything you’ve been personally diagnosed with in the past which can decrease or increase your risk in future for other ailments – did you know that living with depression can lead to a higher risk of Alzheimers?! I didn’t.
The Microbiome test is a little different from the DNA and not simply a saliva sample as I thought it was…It’s actually a proper ‘sample’. A stool sample…Bit awkward, but I spoke to my GP about these kinds of tests recently and he said that although there had been a UK wide awareness campaign for bowel cancer, urging people to get tested if they are suffering with certain symptoms, many people are too uncomfortable providing and sending off a stool sample and would rather ignore the issue. People that are experiencing the symptoms of bowel cancer and could really benefit from a closer look and diagnosis, are more embarrassed about popping a poo in the post than they are worried their potential cancer symptoms. That’s insane, but pretty typical when you look at the low statistics for people taking up on their offer of smear tests etc – the embarrassment of getting tested or the anxiety about the test themselves is outweighing the want to look after bodily health. Some of these kinds of tests do take some of those elements away – I always feel like there’s a million things I could go to the Doctor with but you have to split them up into different issues and which is most important etc, whereas with these tests they can pin point a few things for you to start with knowing that you have something backing you up. Obviously this is only really applicable if you can afford them, as tests like these are expensive and definitely a luxury.
Completing the test itself is actually hilarious; they provide what is basically a little paper hammock (they call it a ‘toilet accessory’) to go in the toilet which catches the sample, keeping it clean from toilet water, urine, detergent or any fragrance. You then collect a piece of the sample with a teeny tiny spade so that it will fit in the little sample tube – the instructions include diagrams and an ‘actual size’ example to help you with this part and knowing what will fit in the tube without and traumatic dramas. Once it’s in the tube and all locked up, you have to shake it so that the sample gets bashed up by a little ball-bearing and mixed with the stabilising liquid that was already present in the tube. Finally, you seal the tube in the scary-sounding ‘biohazard’ bag, place back in the box it came in, seal and put it in the post box. Even though it’s the tiniest, pea sized amount, there’s something weird about carrying a box with what is essentially a tiny poop in it and then putting that poop into a post box amongst the cities letters and birthday cards, what a journey.
Six weeks later, I received an email to let me know my results were all uploaded so I checked in via the App. I was surprised to learn that my Microbiome lacks diversity (4 out of 10 rating) compared to the average population, as I thought I had a pretty varied diet but I do get into a routine cooking the same things as it makes meal prep easier. A diverse microbiome can perform a broader range of tasks in the gut, making the whole system more stable and, therefore, leading to better gut health. My Microbiome has then been rated on four different scales, starting with disease protection which gets a 7 out of 10; pretty standard across the board and covers obesity, Chrons disease, Ulcerative Colitis, Atherosclerosis (never heard of it…apparently it’s the hardening of arteries, to do with coronary heart disease) and Diabetes type 2. You can then click on each disease and see how they’ve come to this overall rating via the individual scores which are displayed compared to a national average – obesity protection rating is measured by the representation of sixteen different gut bacteria! Twenty seven different bacteria are analysed to come to the conclusion of Ulcerative Colitis protection rating (mine’s a 7 out of 10, slightly higher than the average 5) and thirty six regarding Chrons Disease. When it comes to heart disease, I’m very low risk, scoring a fabulous 9 out of 10. Most of the bacteria it mentions that can increase the risk are from meat, fish and eggs which I don’t really have in my diet so I’m pretty chuffed with that, the average is 5 out of 10. I’ve also scored highly protected from diabetes…Go me!
The results show that my fibre metabolism is high, which is known to positively affect the cardiovascular system and reduce cholesterol levels and blood pressure. This is analysed via sixteen different bacteria and I’ve scored well on every single one – come on you veggies! My butyric acid (a short-chain fatty acid) synthesis however is only average whereas my vitamins are all over the place. Vitamin B2 and K are below average which is surprising as B2 (riboflavin) is found in avocados which even with just those alone I thought I ate enough of, plus green leafy veg, mushrooms and more. However, it’s also found in liver, kidneys, milk, eggs and cheese which aren’t in my diet. A deficiency of this kind can lead to painful cracked lips and cracks in the corner of the mouth (which I definitely get, though I do bite them as well) but can also deteriorate the immune system. The vitamin K deficiency is rare and apparently more likely to be malabsorption, so definitely something I can look into further. B6 and B1 are average (both present in plant-based foods) and I have above average levels of B3, B5, B7 and B9 which are all essential for the immune system and your mood. My microbiome is categorised into ‘grain lover’ – also hilariously described as ‘village peasant’ (rather than urban citizen or indigene) which is apparently common for the rural Russian population and comprises of a diet containing a lot of resistant starches and dietary fibre. My Probiotics and beneficial bacteria have scored a whopping 9 out of 10 (shove that population average of 5) which is pretty impressive considering it’s not something I’ve ever considered. Probiotics are positively correlated with healthy immune system function, metabolism and digestion. Two that I have marked as red (low) are Akkermansia and Christensenella which is interesting as they are the two associated with preventing weight gain and I have put on quite a bit over the past year so maybe some diet changes are in order!
The Atlas Biomed package delivers you new recommended foods weekly. I am given ten foods a week to try and include in my diet which you then tick off, with the idea of improving your gut health. You can then check with repeating the microbiome test at a later date! I’ve been advised to eat blueberries, pine nuts, cashews, walnuts, pearl millet and peas to ward off Chrons disease and Ulcerative Colitis by adjusting my microbiome to be a better environment. More tomatoes should improve this as well as my lowest vitamin levels. They also advise that it’s better to select locally-grown tomatoes that have been produced based on the soil and the season, rather than their ability to resist bruising during transport. Quince and radishes are also on my list, so I’ll have to pay attention to this and try and add a few new recipes to my repertoire. My diet has definitely always been a work in progress and I’m still figuring out what works for me, it’s so easy to consume variety now though that it’s actually hard to figure out where to start so these personalised recommendations are a really good way to do that, you can just pop a few on the shopping list each time and before you know it your gut bacteria will truly be living the life they deserve – and keep us living ours for longer.
Any questions, please feel free to drop them in the comments and I’d love to hear your experiences with tests like this! If you fancy treating yourself to one of these microbiome tests or the DNA kit then make sure you use my code: gemmaedward for 10% off (I don’t get anything for it, but you get money off so it’s all good)