Gut Microbiome Screening In Singapore
Not limited to just determining digestive health – linked to nutrient absorption and metabolism, cell immune function, and protection against pathogens, your gut microbiome profile is an indicator of multiple facets of your overall health.
Gut Microbiome Screening
What is the point of screening my gut?
Screening your gut microbiome and knowing its composition can help you:
- Identify deficiencies in your diet to personalise your nutrition.
- Adopt better lifestyle choices.
- Identify a possible cause of certain disorders you may suffer from.
- Potentially prevent the development of certain disorders associated with gut flora imbalance if the imbalance is caught early.
Due to the influence microorganisms in the gut have on the signalling pathways that affect the rest of the body, a healthy gut microbiome is integral for good overall health and longevity.
What can you expect from a gut microbiome screening at Clifford Clinic?
- Asia-centric data analysis that compares your gut profile against local/Asian populations to ensure insights and recommendations given are tailored towards the characteristics of Singaporeans.
- A comprehensive profile of your gut health and microbiota composition/proportion.
- Personalised nutritional counselling and dietary recommendations from our doctors.
- Health insights from our doctors based on your microbiome profile (How your profile compares to a typical healthy profile and disease microbiome profiles).
Our doctors will help you identify imbalances in your gut composition and advise you on how to improve your gut health. For example, our doctors might recommend what type of probiotic supplement is best for your gut microbiome.
Your gut microbiota, and its influence on health and longevity
Knowing your gut’s health and composition can help you gauge your overall health and discover possible underlying causes of certain ailments you may be suffering from.
While most are aware of the gut microbiota’s role in the facilitation of healthy bowel movement and the digestion and conversion of food into beneficial compound used by the body, the gut microbiome’s influence on immune-system development and gut–brain axis communication is less well known.
What is the gut microbiome? Also known as gut flora or gut microbiota, the gut microbiome is the community of microorganisms that inhabit your digestive tract; Archaea (single-celled organisms), bacteria, fungi, and viruses are all members of the gut flora community.
The gut microbiota plays an important role in the synthesis of various vitamins and hormones that affect metabolism and mood, the production of antimicrobial compounds, as well as enabling effective gut–brain communication for gastrointestinal functions.
Metabolic health and regulation
The gut microbiota is responsible for the production of a variety of enzymes, essential and nonessential amino acids, and vitamins that human cells lack in addition to carrying out a range of metabolic functions that human cells are unable to perform/have a limited capacity to perform.
For example, Methanobrevibacter smithii (the most prolific archaea in the gut) aids in the efficient digestion of complex sugars via bacterial fermentation. Without a healthy gut microbiome, certain carbohydrates that are regularly consumed would be rendered nondigestible:
- Cellulose – found in plant foods.
- Resistant starches – starch found in foods like whole-grain bread, quinoa, and brown rice.
- Pectins – soluble fibre from fruits.
- Gums – water soluble complex carbohydrates often used for food thickening, emulsification, and stabilization.
Proper metabolic regulation in the host is also dependent on gut flora composition due to the gut microbes’ role in driving nutrient acquisition, energy generation and utilisation, and exometabolites (needed for the host’s metabolic processes) production; Imbalances in gut microbiome composition being one of the causes of the development of metabolic diseases.
The presence of intestinal bacteria is crucial for normal gut development and health as the intestinal epithelium on which gut flora reside on serves as the main interface between the external environment and the host’s immune system.
Development of the host’s immune system is dependent dynamic interactions between the gut microbiota and the metabolites it produces, with bacteria contributing to the development, physical structure, function, and operation of the gut-mucosal immune system (largest immune component in humans).
Not all microbes that inhabit the gut are beneficial for the host. Pathogenic (disease causing) bacteria are prevented from colonising the intestinal lining via competitive-exclusion effect brought about by beneficial non-pathogenic bacteria in the gut flora: beneficial gut bacteria produce antimicrobial compounds (bacteriocins) as well as compete with pathogenic bacteria for attachment sites and nutrients, preventing them from flourishing in the gut.
In a healthy gut, beneficial bacteria are usually able to outcompete pathogenic bacteria for resources and space, protecting the host from infection.
Gut–brain axis communication
The gut–brain axis is a bidirectional communication system between the gut and the brain that uses the gut microbiota and its associated metabolites as a channel for communication, allowing the gut-brain network to influence anatomical, metabolic, immune, endocrine, and humoral routes of communication.
The Gut–brain axis is vital for allowing the brain to effectively control and carry out gastrointestinal functions like gut muscle contractions (peristalsis), secretion, gut immune response, and mucin production. Imbalances in the gut microbiome affect neural, hormonal, and immunological signalling between the brain and the gut, which may influence or compromise the gut’s ability to function and the body’s immune response.
An extension of the gut–brain axis that encompasses bidirectional communication between the brain, gut microbiome, and skin; the gut microbiota’s regulatory effect on systemic immunity (humoral and cell-mediated immunity) results in skin homeostasis being possibly influenced by changes in gut microbiome composition.
Gut microbiota imbalance and disease
Imbalances in the gut microbiome are often associated with causing or worsening gastrointestinal disorders (such as inflammatory bowel disease) and/or other medical conditions that affect the entire body (such as acne, diabetes, and obesity).
Inflammatory bowel disease
Individuals suffering from chronic inflammatory gut disorders like Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis typically exhibit significantly reduced/weakened gut flora; Diminished gut flora is linked to impaired goblet cell function, increased production of production of pro-inflammatory factors, and affects the ability of macrophages and dendritic cells to function normally.
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
IBS can be caused by infections and/or gut-brain interaction disorders. Individuals with IBS often have altered bacterial composition in the gut that negatively impact their immune response or gut–brain communication.
Systemic metabolic diseases
Gut microbiota is indicated to be involved in the development of metabolic diseases, such as type 2 diabetes and obesity, due to their role in metabolic regulation.
- Type 2 diabetes – Butyrate is a short-chain fatty acid produced by certain gut microbes that is associated with decreasing insulin resistance. Gut flora compositions that are low in butyrate-producing microbes may thus increase the acquisition risk of Type 2 diabetes.
- Obesity – Gut microbiome composition affects the amount of energy extracted from food, regulate energy absorption, fat storage, and central appetite. As microbiota facilitate the fermentation of indigestible carbohydrates, reduced diversity in microbiota composition leads to reduced metabolic energy consumption and thus, increased risk of obesity.
Studies have shown that gut flora plays a role in the immune-modulation and development of asthma; immune signalling linked to the prevention of triggering asthma is tied to certain metabolites that are fermented by bacteria in the gut.
Gut microbiota, skin inflammation, and emotion
In addition to being associated with a variety of diseases/disorders that do not directly originate from the gut, gut microbiota health similarly holds influence over brain function, mood, and skin inflammation due to the wide-reaching influence of the gut-brain-skin axis
- Mood – The bidirectional nature of communication between the gut and brain (gut–brain axis) results in changes to the gut microbiota diversity influencing emotion and neuropsychiatric conditions such as anxiety or depression.
- Acne vulgaris – Acne is a chronic inflammatory skin condition associated with the sebaceous glands in the skin, and studies show that patients who suffer from acne have gut microbiota compositions that differ from normal/healthy microbiota composition profiles; abnormal neurotransmitter release triggered by gut microbes leads to the release of cytokines and causes systemic inflammation, which initiates acene formation.
What are the signs of an imbalanced gut microbiome?
You may want to consider getting a gut microbiome test done if you persistently suffer from one or more of these common symptoms:
- Bloating/excessive gas production after meals
- Chronic abdominal pain
How is the gut test done?
A gut microbiome screen is a non-invasive stool test that can be done by patients of all ages and is not restricted to just those with digestive or bowel conditions, anyone who is keen on determining their gut flora composition can opt to take this test.
Additionally, the gut microbiome of each individual is constantly changing and adapting to their lifestyle and environment, thus, a gut microbiome screen is not a one-off test, multiple tests can be conducted throughout a person’s lifetime to observe the evolution of their gut microbiome composition as they age/make lifestyle changes.
To initiate the test/screen, patients will be provided with:
- A specimen container with an attached spatula (DNA/RNA transport and storage medium is included inside the container).
- A stool catcher
- An envelope for the specimen container
A small stool sample (around 1g) is required for the test. Once the sample is collected, the patient may choose to either drop off the sample at our clinic or mail the sample directly to the laboratory on their own (using the envelope provided).
The patient may collect the stool sample at home or in the clinic using the stool catcher. Our clinic’s staff/healthcare professionals will guide the patient on how to appropriately collect sample and store it for transport to the laboratory.
The sample would then be sequenced using Next-Generation Sequencing (NGS) technology to determine the types, composition, and proportion of microbes present in the gut microbiome.
Once the sequencing is complete, our staff/healthcare professionals will run through the results with the patient to explain the significance of their gut composition/profile and how it can impact their health. Nutritional counselling will also be provided to help guide patients make the most of their results to personalise their nutrition.