Home Testing?

I recently came across a home test kit, called Viome, in a blog post from the WellnessMama site. You can read her review of the test kit here. This kit is used from your home, without the need for any doctors, hospitals, etc., and it gives you an incredibly detailed analysis of your gut biome.

I greatly appreciate her review; and I think the idea of such home test kits are fantastic. But I had some concerns that I needed to express, while also making this tool known to more people.

Getting this kind of data is a powerful way to unleash yourself from the system. The cost and convenience, plus the breadth and depth of the data, make this an amazing value. It is your data, and you can use that to work with any and all health practitioners. Be warned however that Viome provides their own ‘health’ guidance in the app, and that guidance threatens to undermine everything and simply move the leash into their hands. Read on to see exactly what I am talking about…

I watched a video of the Viome results from Ben Greenfield. He also has a great review, which is here, and the video from Viome is fantastic, as they narrate the result of Ben’s test, and explain a lot of it. Ben is a world class athlete and nutrition/fitness guru, so his results are exceptional.

I cannot see everything in the test, but I could find a lot of advice that I would disagree with strongly. It should be noted that Ben Greenfield would also disagree, which you can confirm by finding contradicting guidance on his site. He does not address these conflicts in his review however, as his article is focused on introducing the product and its benefits.

Regardless of my concerns, the test is still amazing, and the app and service look fantastic. There is a lot of good advice too, but there are some serious problems with their ‘indulge’ and ‘minimize’ recommendations, which I explain below.  Here are my comments about a few key problems that I noticed:

  • General comment: I cannot see how they decide the good and bad food items, so this makes it difficult to evaluate their advice. In addition, there does not seem to be any distinction about food preparation (except for grains) or sourcing, and those two points have a dramatic effect on all food items.
  • Some great advice to push the soaking of grains, so I was happy to see that. But the advice falls short, and the grain list doesn’t make any sense to me. The list of grains is much too short, and Einkorn is not even there. Not sure why they are pushing a very small set of grains. (Actually, I believe it is because the testing is not complete, and they will continue to update your data as they get more information, so this should be kept in mind when evaluating the data. The data is updated continuously.)
  • Quinoa is a trendy favorite in my opinion, and not nearly as good anymore because of the sourcing. (Today’s commercial quinoa is not the same as it was decades ago). This general idea of qualifying sources is something that seems to be missing, and I feel that is critical.
  • Flax seed oil is definitely not good to indulge in. IMO, a huge mistake to list that as ‘indulge.’ Most flax seed oil is rancid, or becomes rancid quickly, and using too much is not healthy. And it should never be used for cooking. I use some ground flaxseed, which I keep frozen, and I only use a little. This feels like another trendy choice that looks like pandering to the public.
  • The list of oils does not make much sense to me at all, so I was terribly disappointed in that. They do recommend VCO and olive oil, but no tallow, lard, ghee, avocado, or butter.
  • They had tofu listed as ‘enjoy,’ which is not good. All soy should be avoided unless it has been fermented for a long time, such as quality natto, miso, and shoyu. Tempeh is ok, but not great.
  • Avoid butter?! With few exceptions, nobody should avoid butter. Same for cream. There are some exceptions of course, but I know that Ben Greenfield is not lactose intolerant, and he is a huge fan of butter and other dairy. No mention of the A1/A2 casein or grass-fed issue, so again this looks like a trendy mainstream recommendation.
  • They actually had butter and cheddar on a special ‘Foods to Avoid’ list, and commented that these are “foods that are harmful to everyone.” Terrible advice. Shocking. Again, sounds like pandering.
  • ‘Avoid’ Broccoli, Cabbage, and Beets seems insane to me, as those are three of the healthiest veggies you can eat. Specifically, fermented (sauerkraut, Beet Kvass). And cabbage juice is probably the best tolerated probiotic food in the world. Not comfortable with the generalization of those ‘avoid’ ratings.
  • Name dropping Michael Pollan and D’Adamo are not a sign of sound science IMO. Both are trendy names in the public, so again this looks like more pandering to me. They both have some good ideas, which I actually like, but ultimately their guidance is seriously flawed.

I don’t trust Viome’s advice; however, it is still an awesome test, with so much detailed data, and I could only see a small amount of it. Their recommendations may still be useful, but should be questioned and researched carefully. Use the data as a tool to empower yourself, but do not let Viome usurp that power to serve their own business agendas.