At-Home Kits Put to the Test
AFM staff members review three different at-home test kits.
This Austin-based company started over 12 years ago, long before personal health care became so nuanced. Formerly known as Blue Spot Health, it evolved into a one-stop-shop for accessible lab work and supplement solutions. It now operates under the name ūnomi (pronounced ‘you-know-me’) and offers a number of at-home test kits focused on foundational, heart, brain, metabolic, and hormone health.
Although I was intrigued by all of the tests available, I (along with a few others in the AFM office) chose to do the brain health kit that tested neurotransmitter levels associated with mood and sleep. We filled out a questionnaire about our health habits, medications, and general information. It was suggested that we not consume caffeine prior to giving the urine sample, but I was the only one who heeded that advice.
We received an e-mail about two weeks after, notifying us to log into their personal portal system to view results. The lab results were printed on the first page of the five-page document. It listed the nine neurotransmitters that were tested, our tested values, and the normal value ranges for each neurotransmitter. If the number didn’t fall into the normal range, it was highlighted red. The following page recommended a specific supplement program to stabilize anything that was off. The rest of the report described what each neurotransmitter was responsible for, and also went into detail about each prescribed supplement in the personalized plan.
Despite filling out a questionnaire and receiving a customized supplement plan, the test results didn’t feel very personal. One participant was eight months pregnant and at no point did the report make any reference to that factor’s effect on her results. I brought these results to a doctor and she said that many of those levels are changing constantly. Dopamine, for example, can insite positive feedback when you look at someone you love or even try a new workout. If you suspect something is affecting your mood or sleep, I’d suggest getting this panel done and then getting confirmation from a doctor about it.
Advanced Genomic Solutions (AGS)
I’m someone who subscribes to the belief that you get what you pay for. (Or maybe that’s just my way of excusing my expensive taste.) When I saw that this test was on the pricier side, I expected to have an informative, personal, and detailed experience—and I did. The main corporate headquarters for AGS is in Hong Kong, and it’s Asia’s largest and most preferred genomic testing lab, which also upped the credibility of this company for me.
I opted for their Health & Wellness test because it offers insight into risk of obesity, food choices, exercise and activity, behavior and motivation, and nutrients. By examining an individual’s 58 SNPs (genetic variations within DNA) and 52 genes, there’s so much to learn about how to optimize your personal health. Much of it is an overview of how you made out in the genetic lottery, but knowing what you’re predisposed to can serve as a guide in making lifestyle choices.
The test requires only two mouth swab samples accompanied by a short form. Results can take anywhere between a few days up to two weeks to generate. When they were ready, I received an email that included my password protected 30-page document. To describe the findings as comprehensive would be an understatement. There’s a page that explains how to read the report, gives you a “Genetics 101” lesson, and explains the terms you should know.
My favorite part was the food and exercise section. Not only did I learn that I’m a fast metabolizer of alcohol and caffeine (as I sip my third cup of coffee), I also found out that based on my genetic makeup, I’m more likely to succeed in endurance sports (distance running) and power activities (weightlifting), but less likely to reap the benefits of resistance training. Additionally, I was able to set up a consultation with an AGS nutritionist, who answered all questions and cleared up any confusion within the report, and even made supplement recommendations.
The recent emergence of at-home health test kits is best described as ingenious and simple. Austin, in its usual fashion, is home to one such company, EverlyWell, that produces at-home tests for food sensitivity, sexual health, testosterone, thyroid, cholesterol and lipids, sleep and stress, and more.
I was in dire need of some food-focused testing, hoping to understand the culprits behind the frustrating symptoms of gas, bloating, and inflammation. I received a test kit with all the content necessary to conveniently and painlessly submit a blood sample. This particular test looked at sensitivity (not to be confused with an allergy) to 96 foods commonly found in modern Western diets, including gluten, dairy, wheat, and yeast. Mailing the blood sample back to the lab for results was a breeze. And within a day or two the results were e-mailed back to me—with verification by a physician—and made accessible through EverlyWell’s secure online portal.
Now, compare this process to what we used to do. Schedule an appointment with a doctor. Go see the doctor. Await the phone call from the doctor with the results. Possibly go back in to the doctor to understand the results. This can take weeks, and cost a heck of a lot more.
Ultimately, I have to say I enjoyed this way of understanding my health, and what I need to focus on, in relation to my diet. The results found a few of my favorite foods (almonds, eggs) to be higher-sensitivity foods for me. While cutting them out was a sad day, feeling better was not. And in the end, I wouldn't rely on this test alone to be the solution to a larger problem, but it's certainly a good place to start.