We’ve been talking in class about the bacteria that live in your intestinal tract – how they get there, their role in various diseases, and how to shift the microbial population to promote better health. Of course, before trying to change your gut bacteria, it might help to know what’s actually there. Doing so is not as difficult as you might think. In fact, if you have $99, you can have your gut analyzed and get a profile of your very own microbiota.
So far, more than 6,000 people have joined the “American Gut Project”. It’s very easy to participate – they send you a sample kit, you collect the sample, mail it back, and wait for the results. One has to be careful, however, about interpreting the data. For example, how would you react if you learned you were harboring bacteria associated with particular diseases? Bioethicists are also concerned about privacy issues. Nonetheless, collecting data from thousands of people is great for scientists who are studying the gut.