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Gut tests at home: top or flop?
Above all on the Internet, people often advertise intestinal tests at home, which should offer the opportunity to research personal intestinal health without having to wait long for a doctor's appointment. These tests, which are also available in pharmacies, are often very expensive. Do they really make sense?
Regardless of whether you have abdominal pain, being overweight or permanently tired - various bowel tests for home use, available in pharmacies or on the Internet, have been promising support in diagnosing and treating symptoms for some time. But how useful are these tests?
Impact on overall health
Scientific studies have shown that a healthy and diverse intestinal flora has a significant impact on our overall health. If the intestine gets into a bad position, symptoms such as permanent fatigue, abdominal pain or flatulence often appear.
Gut tests from pharmacies or the Internet are said to help diagnose and treat such complaints. And that from the comfort of your own home.
As the Consumer Service Bavaria writes in a current message, the result should lead to a personalized nutritional recommendation, which strengthens the health-promoting intestinal bacteria and thereby protects against diseases or alleviates existing complaints. The experts explain whether these tests are useful.
Composition of the intestinal flora
Microbiota (intestinal flora) describes the entirety of the intestinal germs. This is about 100 trillion germs that weigh about one to two kilograms.
For some time now, scientists have been researching the composition of the microbiota and trying to analyze connections with diseases.
Although there are currently indications that a large number of diseases are accompanied by a change in the microbial composition, the experts are still divided as to what an optimal microbiota looks like.
Biodiversity of intestinal germs changed
"Studies have meanwhile shown that the variety of our intestinal germs, the so-called microbiota, has changed in various diseases such as inflammatory bowel diseases, irritable bowel syndrome or obesity," explains Gisela Horlemann, ecotrophologist at the Consumer Service Bavaria in the KDFB eV (VSB) in one Message.
"In the case of overweight, the ratio of firmicutes to bacteroidetes is often shifted, so that there are more of the 'bad' firmicutes bacteria that release more calories from food," said the expert.
According to the experts, this can increase the energy intake with the same diet up to 150 calories per day.
Costs are not covered by the health insurance companies
Numerous manufacturers use it to find out what the composition of their own microbiota looks like and how the gut is doing, regardless of doctor visits. Different tests are offered, which either examine the composition of the microbiota, fungi or special markers.
According to the Consumer Service, the latter includes the messenger substance zonulin, which is used to detect leaky gut syndrome (permeability of the intestinal mucosa).
According to the information, microbiome analysis is the most complex and expensive investigation. As experts explain, molecular genetics are used to determine bacterial DNA, so that both the number and the types of bacteria in the stool sample can be precisely determined.
The cost of the intestinal tests, which amount to several hundred euros, is not covered by the health insurance companies.
The companies point out that the self-tests do not replace a medical diagnosis and that the users should always consult a doctor if the result is negative.
Determine variety of intestinal bacteria
As the Consumer Service explains further, the analysis can determine the variety of intestinal bacteria. With a low biodiversity, a fiber-rich food selection may be recommended.
However, the research results are not yet sufficient to make personalized nutritional recommendations, since the optimal composition of the microbiota is not yet sufficiently known.
Another problem with self-tests is the limited shelf life of the sample. Pay attention to the delivery time to the laboratory, because the sample material must not be on the way too long.
In addition to the result, the test companies often also advertise suitable dietary supplements or bacterial strains and provide nutrition plans.
Useful investigation options
Some examination options turn out to be very useful, but they should be carried out by a doctor. The health insurance company then partially or completely covers the costs.
Useful tests include the pH value, the diagnosis of inflammation of the intestinal mucosa such as inflammatory bowel diseases (Crohn's disease or ulcerative colitis).
And as part of colorectal cancer screening, the test for occult, invisible blood in the stool is carried out. If you suspect parasites or gastrointestinal infections, there are also suitable stool examinations.
Professional society advises against the tests
"According to the current state of knowledge, microbiome analysis is currently not necessary to diagnose and treat diseases", Horlemann concluded.
In addition to microbiome analysis, other laboratory values such as cholesterol or blood sugar levels are necessary to diagnose and recommend an individual diet for diseases.
The German Society for Gastroenterology, Digestive and Metabolic Diseases (DGVS) also advises against microbiome analyzes.
According to the experts, these tests currently lack the scientific basis. (ad)
Author and source information
This text corresponds to the requirements of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.