Our intrepid reviewer had his gut microbiome sequenced, with the hope that this information can help him Thryve!
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Having never really experienced gut issues, discomfort or any associated symptoms, I had never had a particular interest in my gut microbiome, or how it might be affecting me.
Given the opportunity to review the Thryve service I was intrigued to see whether I was quite as healthy as I thought I was and if I was truly Thryving inside!
The Thryve service comes in a nicely-designed box sized appropriately to slot into a standard mailbox. Within the box are two coloured boxes, one for collecting the sample (with instructions inside) and a pre-paid shipping box in order to return the sample to the lab.
Now for the fun part… taking a sample! Inside the red (sample) box is a cotton swab and a collection tube. Simply run the cotton swab over toilet paper following a bowel movement and insert into the tube and shake vigorously for 20 seconds. Thryve use a proprietary liquid buffer that keeps bacterial cells in stasis prior to extraction. They believe this provides 28% more accuracy in sequencing by providing more depth and species categorisation. How does Thryve compare with other diagnostics (uBiome, Viome, DayTwo, Genova, Drs Data) | Thryve – Frequently Asked Questions (thryveinside.com)
After that, I sealed the tube in the pre-paid shipping box and registered the sample code on the Thryve website, and simply waited. Once samples have been processed and sequenced, customers receive an email asking them to sign in to the website for their results.
So, while I played the waiting game, I completed the online assessment forms (questionnaire), answering questions about general health, habits and ailments.
The Thryve website is well designed, intuitive and pleasant to the eye. You are given a gut score out of 100, a microbiome report, a number of gut microbiome species, personalised food plan and symptom likeness. Each of these leads to a more detailed report/information when clicked.
There is an option to buy probiotics designed to benefit the areas you are lacking in diversity or volume in your microbiome and an option to go premium. Premium services include comprehensive health reports, personalised insights and discounts on further tests.
To determine the content of your gut microbiome, Thryve uses 16s RNA sequencing . Bacteria and archaea carry the 16s rRNA gene, so sequencing allows Thryve to detect viable and non-viable bacteria, as well as species differentiation. This is important, as some companies only provide the Genus of the bacteria and not the individual strains.
For example, if my report just showed I had large amounts of the genus “E.coli” you could postulate I had irritable bowel syndrome, severe abdominal pain or vomiting. However, symptoms are not dependent on genus but strain; some E.coli strains can be harmless and at least one of them, E.coli Nissile1917, is in fact a remarkable probiotic bacterium .
It is clear that the strain of bacteria is important, and differentiation of strain is something Thryve provides in their reports. 16s rRNA sequencing cannot quantify the bacteria, so Thryve presents the data in percentage. Although the company tests for more than 10,000 strains of bacterial species, only the ones that are statistically significant feature in your profile. The microbiota is not only bacterial species, but also includes viruses, yeast and other microscopic organisms which currently Thryve do not report on .
It is therefore more of a snapshot of your bacterial species than a full “microbiome” picture. Thryve suggested to me that they are looking to include other profiles, such as fungal and viral profiles, as technology advances.
Thryve aligns the bacterial sequences of your gut microbiome against the American gut project, which has analysed 10,000 samples of gut bacteria from 6,000 people around the world and is the largest open-source science project for the gut microbiome .
The Thryve “wellness score” is determined by comparing the balance of probiotic, beneficial, commensal, and pathogenic bacteria in your gut with those of ‘healthy individuals’ from the American gut project. Thryve then suggest dietary and supplement changes to improve your bacterial diversity .
The proprietary software they use for this is based on 50,000+ microbiome research articles, which includes over 4,000 microbes descriptions including health benefits/side effects, associated disease, foods digested and functions. These microbes are mapped to associate them with 1000+ food ingredients and 500+ supplements. From this information, the software generates foods to include and foods to avoid to increase your wellness score and gut diversity .
In adults, commensal microbial communities are generally stable, but the relative abundance of bacteria and the microbial diversity can undergo dynamic changes because of interaction with diet, genotype/epigenetic composition and the physiological state of the individual .
This suggests that implementing the changes suggested by Thryve, and the extensive research behind their proprietary software, does have the potential to change your bacterial diversity. Thryve has reported that in 99 individuals, several genera of beneficial bacteria were enhanced over a three month period of using Thryve’s dietary and probiotic recommendations .
However, as these microbiome changes are dynamic, any modifications to diet will probably need to be consistent to have any persistent and effective change. It also suggests that if you only get one stool sample analysed by Thryve it will only give a snapshot of how your bacterial species was that day, dependent on what you ate, drank, and any illness and/or medication taken recently. Multiple Thryve tests over a longer period may be necessary for an individual to get a clear picture of their bacterial diversity and assess whether they are ‘improving’ beneficial bacterial diversity with the changes that Thryve have suggested.
There has not yet been one single combination of organisms that qualifies as a ‘normal microbiome’ and from the literature so far, it is likely the standard of ‘normal’ can vary dependent on age, geographical location, ethnicity and even time of day .
Many of the studies on microbiomes that are linked to disease are currently association studies, where causation is not determined. It is therefore unclear whether abnormal microbiomes in individuals with disease is the cause of disease or if various disease conditions lead to an abnormal microbiome – is dysbiosis of gut bacteria a cause or symptom? It will be interesting to see if dysbiosis happens at disease onset and if it continues to progress as disease severity increases. Can you prevent disease progression by intervening with the gut microbiota at an early stage?
The gut microbiota does look to become an emerging player in aging and longevity thanks to revolutionary advancements of high-throughput sequencing and metagenomic tools that have provided new insights to microbiome function, including a suggested bidirectional relationship between the microbiome and host aging .
Abnormal shifts in the gut microbiota have been implicated in the pathogenesis of age-related chronic diseases, including obesity, cardiovascular diseases and neurodegenerative diseases. The theory stands that dysbiosis of the gut microbiome is associated with defects in gut bacteria integrity and enhances pro-inflammatory cytokines – which could potentially contribute to inflammaging.
For example, results from several studies indicate the relevant contribution of microbial changes and activity in the gut to the repertoire of inflammatory molecules involved in the milieu characterising muscle aging .
Thryve’s software works from one of the most extensive databases to date on microbiome health. It will be able to flag up if you have an overgrowth of pathogenic bacterial and how this could associate with health risk.
They also have extensive research that back their suggestions for how to change your bacterial biome. However, I believe there is still a lot of research to be done in relation to gut diversity, health state and aging association. This will be a very interesting space to keep an eye on and I look forward to seeing what Thryve does next.
Your intrepid Thryve tester says
Having never really given much thought to my gut microbiome, beyond eating a little sauerkraut and drinking kombucha, I was pleasantly surprised by the Thryve test results.
The service was incredible, the advice excellent and they have gone to great lengths in order to ensure their claims/analysis is scientifically backed. All round an excellent product that I would recommend to any Longevity enthusiast.
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