Not too long ago, only a doctor could order you to the lab. Now, thanks to the popularity of at-home medical testing kits, people can learn all sorts of things about how their bodies operate.
In the field of genetic testing, what began as an incredible tool for discovering ancestry has now become an opportunity to learn individualized genetic risk factors for serious disease.
While many of these kits can provide information for people trying to be proactive about their health, remember nothing on the market can replace the individualized treatment of a personal health care provider. A good primary health doctor can also help you understand what certain results from at-home kits play into your current health regimen.
A brief overview of some of the more popular kits.
This test analyzes your DNA using genotyping, which examines an individual DNA sequence for variants. 23andme offers an ancestry-only test for $99, and a health and ancestry test for $199.
The health reports include information about physical traits, as well as wellness and carrier status for certain genetic mutations. The Food and Drug Administration allows 23andme to provide reports about genetic risk factors for certain diseases, like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. The FDA also recently approved the reporting of genetic risk factors for breast cancer.
23andme stresses that genetics are only one factor regarding health risks, as environment and lifestyle also contribute to your general health profile. The test can detect genetic markers that indicate increased disease risk, but being at an increased risk for a disease does not mean you will necessarily get the disease.
On the ancestry side, 23andme can pinpoint which geographic regions your genes align with, Neanderthal history, and a relatives tool in which you can opt to connect with other relatives in the system.
The test: Saliva collection in a tube. You mail it back in a prepaid package and wait for an email to access your online account and results.
More information: www.23andme.com
Another ancestry genotyping kit that helps you link up your DNA to a self-reported family tree. There are no health and wellness reports; just information on where you family comes from and how that lineage connects with potential ancestors. A DNA story element allows you to map out your ancestors’ migration patterns. $79. Saliva test. www.Ancestry.com
National Geographic, Geno 2.0
An ancestry report that uses next generation DNA sequencing technology instead of genotyping methods. Sequencing is used to determine the exact sequence of a certain length of DNA. This test provides regional ancestry reports, migration patterns, Neanderthal history and possible connections to historically significant people or peoples. $99. Saliva test.
More Ancestry Tests:
MyHeritage, FamilyTree DNA
Viome - Gut Biome
This test analyzes your gut health and metabolism by looking at microorganisms. The body contains trillions (!) of bacterial cells which help to digest food, produce chemicals and substances within the body, control infections by pathogens, regulate the immune system and control emotions.
From the Viome website: “Studies link these microorganisms to many chronic conditions, including diabetes, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, coronary artery disease, lupus, etc.”
The Viome test sequences RNA in the gut to quantify the living microorganisms in the gut (including bacteria, viruses, yeast, parasites and more), and help determine the species and strain level. They then provide information for:
• How to boost beneficial microbial species and minimize problematic ones
• Identify missing beneficial bacteria (probiotics) your gut needs
• Determine which prebiotics you need in your system
• How to craft a diet that focuses on the ideal ratio of proteins, carbs and fats you need in your individualized diet for achieving healthy weight, energy and well-being.
The test: Well… it’s an at home stool sample, but it’s a small sample and the kit includes pretty hygienic tools and even some gloves.
Cost: $399. More information: www.Viome.com
DUTCH Test - Advanced Hormone Test
“DUTCH” stands for Dried Urine Test for Comprehensive Hormones. While this test can be purchased without doctor consultation, results can be sent directly to a practitioner who has recommended the lab work. A doctor I see suggested this test for me - he received the results and we reviewed the material together in office.
DUTCH provides an extensive profile of sex and adrenal hormones to identify symptoms of hormonal imbalances. It analyzes 35 different hormones, including estrogen, progesterone, testosterone, DHEA-S and cortisol, along with their metabolites. It can provide insight into symptoms of chronic stress or fatigue and can point to supplements, vitamins and hormonal treatments that may help maximize your health.
The test: It’s a $399 test, though doctors may offer coupons/discounts. You collect four (or five) dried urine samples over the course of a 24-hour period - it’s easy and hygenic to get the sample, though you need to commit a small space to dry the strips. You mail it in a prepaid package and await your results.
More info: www.DutchTest.com
Featured on the ABC series, “Shark Tank,” EverlyWell boasts an impressive and expanding lineup of at-home tests. The $199 Food Sensitivity Test, for example, measures your body’s response to 96 different foods and can provide guidance on what to avoid in your diet.
Other kits include a cholesterol and lipids test, heavy metals analysis, a sleep and stress test that measure fluctuations of hormones while you sleep, thyroid and metabolism checks, and gender specific tests to measure hormones.
EverlyWell also offers a $199 at-home test to check for seven sexually transmitted infections, including HIV.
Testing process varies by type. Results are reviewed by a board-certified physician and available online in a few days. EverlyWell, like many testing sites of its type, categorize and explain your results on a secure online dashboard.
More information: www.EverlyWell.com