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Did you know that you can have your bowel flora assessed in detail? And that you can do it on your own?

Ubiome is the first direct-to-consumer bowel flora assessment service that uses the same cutting-edge technology as the Human Microbiome Project at the National Institutes of Health.

I’ve used their service and find it invaluable in charting serial changes as you proceed through your program of cultivating the “garden” called bowel flora. An assessment is easy to perform and costs $89, no doctor’s order required. They are also at the forefront of a movement that I find VERY exciting: the crowd-sourcing of answers in health. If you permit, your data will be added to their research database, an enormous undertaking that will, like the Human Microbiome Project, be yielding some fascinating observations.

Here’s an excerpt from a Ubiome email they recently sent:

The Lowdown On Brown
“We love your poop. It’s so wonderfully rich in information about the microbiome, unlocked when we analyze it using DNA sequencing technology to reveal the make up of the three to six pounds of bacteria you carry in and on your body.

“But what exactly is poop? Since so much (excuse the expression) ‘passes’ through our lab, you might not be too surprised that we know a thing or two about its ingredients.

“First and foremost, feces contains a boatload of water. About 75% to be exact.

“Put that aside, however, and things get more interesting.

“About 50 to 80% of the remainder is bacteria, both living and dead. This is the stuff we’re focused on.

“On top of that there’s protein, undigested food residue (more on this in a minute), waste material from food, cell membranes, fats, salts and material released from your intestines and liver (e.g. mucus).

“If you’re anything like the average person you’ll produce around half your own body weight in feces every year.

“That’s a lot.

“Fortunately we require the tiniest proportion of this when you send in a gut microbiome test sample to us. It’s also far less yucky than you might imagine: simply swab your used toilet paper to collect just enough to turn the tip of the cotton swab brown.

“Poop is generally brown, by the way, largely because of a pigment called bilirubin produced when your red blood cells break down.

“And speaking of toilet paper, although it might seem as if you’re forever buying the stuff, this relatively minor inconvenience has to be better than living in Ancient Rome.

“In those days you’d have wiped yourself with a communal sponge rinsed in a bucket of water or vinegar after use. Nice.

“Oh yes, one last thing about that undigested food residue in your poop. (It’s okay, just about everyone has it, as some food is simply indigestible.)

“The outside of corn kernels is a perfect example. While you’ll probably have no trouble processing the insides, the hulls are made of cellulose so they generally pass through your body intact.

“Examine your poop after eating yellow corn, therefore, and you’ll likely spot what looks like intact kernels – actually just the “skins”.

“In fact they can provide a neat way to time how long your body takes to digest food.

“Like we said, your poop can tell you an enormous amount. All you have to do is listen.

“Or at least send a little of it our way.”

Disclaimer: I have no relationship with Ubiome beyond being a customer.