Friday, March 13, 2015

A mistake in my fourth uBiome sample?

[Update: uBiome recomputed my results, which are now much closer to what I expected.  I'll update with a more detailed post soon.]

After all that analysis and discussion with experts about my uBiome results, I had high expectations for the brand new set of answers that arrived today.

Here’s a comparison chart showing all four of my uBiome submissions:
In a word: argh!

If the January 19th sample had been my first and only uBiome test, I’d be tempted to read a lot into this. After all, it appears that my levels of proteobacteria are way outside the norm. That’s not all: look at some other oddities about this one:
  • That bifido bloom I saw after sleep-hacking with potato starch: it’s all gone. Not a single bifidobacterium was found in this sample. Hmmm.
  • Lots of prevotella (almost 3% of the sample), a species that didn’t appear in any of my previous samples, and a bit worrisome for a meat-eater like me.
  • No more Clostridum, either. Commonly thought of as a pathogen, it may be good to get rid of this, but why did it disappear?
All of these massive changes in the span of only three months? Not impossible – the human gut can change pretty quickly under the right circumstances. But you’d expect something different about my environment, eating habits, and certainly my health.

But here’s the thing: I don’t notice a single difference in my health or well-being over this time period. Same sleep, same weight, same general mood. Diet, bowel movements, skin – like everyone, I see minor day-to-day variations, but absolutely nothing about me is different enough to be noteworthy.

On the other hand, there are a few oddities in the sample itself. First, uBiome warned that their first run had too low levels of bacteria; the ones you see above came after they ran the sample again under more amplified settings. Second, I used an older kit, one that had been lying around the house for about a year. Finally, I also ran into trouble with the mail, so it sat around at the post office for several more weeks than normal. Shouldn’t really matter, but still…

Soooo, my bottom line is that I’m just not going to read much into this sample. I’m waiting on my next submission, one that was sent a few weeks after this one, and hopefully that will give me a much better picture.

The takeaway for you? Don’t read much into a single uBiome test. The science is too new, and there are so many other factors that go into the results. My advice: send in multiple kits, spread over several weeks or months, before jumping to conclusions.