Tiny Health Gut Health Test vs GI-MAP: Choosing The Right Gut Test for You

Summary

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Your gut microbiome plays a crucial role in your overall health, influencing digestion, immune function, and even mental well-being. Improvements in genetic sequencing have led to innovative ways of exploring the complexities of the gut microbiome through specialized tests. If you're considering delving into the world of gut health testing, it's important to understand the differences between the tests available on the market to make an informed decision.

In this blog post, we'll compare two gut microbiome tests: Tiny Health Gut Health Test and GI-MAP Test. We'll explore how these tests differ in technology, age-specificity, cost, collection method, interpretation of results, and more. By the end, you'll have a clearer understanding of why we believe the Tiny Health Gut Health Test stands out for unlocking the secrets of your gut microbiome and optimizing your health. Let's dive in!

TL;DR? Skip to the summary chart at the bottom.

1) Technology: Shotgun Metagenomics vs qPCR

Tiny Health uses shotgun metagenomics, the gold standard in microbiome analysis. This cutting-edge method sequences all the genetic material (DNA) present in stool, unveiling a diverse array of bacteria, archaea, viruses, fungi, and parasites—over 120,000 different microbes in total. This provides a comprehensive look at your gut microbiome's diversity, composition, and functional abilities [1], [2].

In contrast, GI-MAP relies on quantitative polymerase chain reaction (qPCR), a targeted approach that focuses on specific DNA sequences (genes) of interest in a stool sample. While qPCR can pinpoint certain microbes or genetic markers, it doesn't offer the expansive view of metagenomics.

Chart comparing Tiny Health shotgun metagenomics vs qPCR tests
Tiny Health uses shotgun metagenomic sequencing to offer the big-picture view of overall microbiome health.

Put in a different way, metagenomics reveals the entire landscape of your gut microbiome, while qPCR gives just a glimpse. Your practitioner may use a qPCR test for an acute or sudden illness to look for an infection. In these cases, a qPCR test can be insightful. However, while qPCR is handy for focused diagnostics specific to gut health, it doesn't capture the full complexity of your gut ecosystem. Another big problem arises when doing a qPCR test such as GI-MAP on infants and children.

2) Age-specific insights vs adult-only ranges

When it comes to your health, one size doesn't fit all—especially when it comes to age! The Tiny Health test features ranges that are designed for babies, toddlers, children, and adults with over 500 metrics tailored to distinct age groups, ensuring that each age group gets personalized interpretations and recommendations. This is particularly crucial for babies, whose gut microbiome is supposed to be very different from that of adults.

In contrast, the GI-MAP test offers ranges and interpretations exclusively geared towards adults, lacking the specific insights needed for infants and children.

3) Microbial functions: Microbiome-level capacity vs a subset of bacterial toxins

For functional insights, the GI-MAP test includes the detection of some bacterial toxin genes: Toxins A and B from Clostridioides difficile, Shiga-like toxin from Escherichia coli, and 8 different toxins from Helicobacter pylori.

While this may be useful to find a potential  root cause of some digestive symptoms, it does not give you a full picture of your gut microbiome’s functional capacity.

The Tiny Health Gut Test, on the other hand, reveals the overall functional capacity of the gut microbiome. It tells you which microbial genes are present and whether their levels are above or below the appropriate range. This gives you an idea of what the microbes in your gut are capable of doing. Specific functional insights include your microbiome’s ability to: 

  • Digest fibers
  • Produce beneficial short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs)
  • Digest mucus from your gut barrier 

Tiny Health continues to release exciting new functional metrics, and our reports will soon include bacterial toxins from C. difficile, E. coli, Staphylococcus, and more.

4) Additional markers: PRO Gut Health Test vs GI-MAP

Besides species and gene abundances, the GI-MAP test includes a set of complementary stool chemistry markers that assess different aspects of gut digestion, inflammation, and aspects of the immune response. This includes levels of calprotectin, lactoferrin, secretory IgA, and digestive enzymes.

The PRO Gut Health Test by Tiny Health comes with an analogous panel of markers that provides insights on gut inflammation, gut barrier integrity, immune function, and digestive function. Most of the markers included in GI-MAP are also part of the PRO Gut Health Test, which also includes 15 additional ones (Table 1). In addition, by ordering through a practitioner, you can get this kit for a lower price than GI-MAP.

Table of stool chemistry markers in Tiny Health PRO Gut Health Test and GI-MAP
Table 1. Stool chemistry markers included in Tiny Health’s PRO Gut Health Test and GI-MAP

5) Microbiome signatures: only in the Tiny Health Gut Test

GI-MAP focuses on unfriendly microbes and some chemical markers to give a glimpse into digestive health. But we all know the gut microbiome can have impacts for other health conditions beyond the gut! 

That's where Tiny Health takes it up a notch. We don't just look at microbial abundance and functionality (and stool chemistry markers in the PRO version)—we dive into microbiome signatures, which are specific combinations of microbes linked to potential health conditions by age group. For example, detecting a microbiome signature associated with eczema in infants aged 3 to 6 months suggests a higher microbiome risk of eczema later in life*, offering a key opportunity for intervention. 

*Although eczema and other health issues are influenced by various factors, supporting a healthy gut microbiome through targeted actions may help mitigate these risks and reduce current symptoms that may stem from microbiome imbalances.

6) Price & ordering: Tiny Health is cost-effective and user-friendly 

GI-MAP testing costs at minimum $400, excluding costs for consultation and interpretation. It can only be ordered through a physician, limiting its accessibility. 

In contrast, Tiny Health tests are more affordable than GI-MAP and can be ordered by yourself or through an affiliated practitioner. If purchasing directly with Tiny Health, your gut test includes a comprehensive and personalized report and a functional health coaching call to discuss your results. Additionally, Tiny Health offers 6-month targeted programs and annual memberships for additional savings on their microbiome tests. Especially when working with a practitioner, these results can inform the overall picture of your health, at a much lower price than less comprehensive tests.

7) Collection method: Easy swab vs poop in a vial

Tiny Health’s gut microbiome tests use a mess-free swab, and collecting your sample takes less than 5 minutes. It’s a simple and comfortable experience—especially also for busy parents who want to sample their little ones. 

This collection method uses a validated desiccant technology, which effectively preserves the microbes on contact [3]. This allows your collected sample to remain stable at room temperature without the concern of unchecked microbial growth or DNA degradation. You can drop your sample in the mail at any time, ideally within 5 days of sampling and rest assured. Your results will remain accurate.

On the other hand, GI-MAP—as well as Tiny Health’s PRO Gut Health Test—involve collecting a piece of stool with a spoon, putting it into a vial with liquid, and mixing it. With these tests, you’ll need to refrigerate your sample until you’re ready to send it.

8) Evidence-based recommendations: Personalized action plan + optional consult calls vs physician interpretation

GI-MAP requires physician interpretation as the report only shows you the results. 

Tiny Health, on the other hand, goes beyond results—it includes your very own personalized action plan designed to level up your gut health. This plan is tailored to your age and specific results, with clear explanations of each recommended action. You'll discover detailed suggestions for supplements, lifestyle adjustments, and dietary tweaks aimed at optimizing your gut microbiome. Plus, you have the option of scheduling a 1-on-1 consult call with a microbiome expert for extra explanation and guidance, or the option to work with your practitioner to fine-tune your action plan.

9) Turnaround time: Faster but less comprehensive results with GI-MAP

GI-MAP delivers results more quickly than Tiny Health, typically within 1 to 2 weeks. Tiny Health delivers your results within 3 to 4 weeks. Why the difference in time? Shotgun metagenomics sequencing technology takes longer at the laboratory, followed by a thorough and detailed analysis by Tiny Health. While the wait may be a bit longer, rest assured that the gut microbiome is generally stable, and it's well worth the wait for the additional wealth of insight provided on your gut microbiome.

10) Future therapeutic insights: Extensive opportunities with metagenomics

With metagenomics, Tiny Health provides a holistic view of your gut microbiome, offering not just current insights, but also paving the way for future therapeutic possibilities. As the newest and most advanced technology, shotgun metagenomics is the gold standard for microbiome research. This means that as new bacterial genes or species are uncovered through ongoing research, we can reanalyze your sample and deliver fresh insights. The microbiome field is dynamic and ever-evolving, with exciting connections between gut health and disease continually emerging.

In contrast, the GI-MAP test has limited potential for future therapeutic applications. By focusing on specific markers, it would require additional processing of your sample (and additional payment, or even a new sample) to unlock further insights.

Which test should you choose?

While both the Tiny Health Gut Health Test and GI-MAP offer some insight into gut health, they diverge in crucial aspects (Table 2). The Tiny Health Gut test uses metagenomics to provide a comprehensive view of the gut microbiome including microbial functions. It also provides age-specific ranges and personalized action plans, all at a lower cost and with a user-friendly collection method. In contrast, GI-MAP employs qPCR technology and slightly faster results, but lacks the breadth of information and future therapeutic insights provided by metagenomics.

Ultimately, the choice between the two tests depends on individual preferences and needs. Tiny Health stands out for its affordability, depth of analysis, age-specific insights, and empowering families to manage their own gut health.

Chart comparing Tiny Health vs GI-MAP
Table 2. Comparison of Tiny Health Gut Test and GI-MAP

References

  1. Hillmann, B., Al-Ghalith, G. A., Shields-Cutler, R. R., Zhu, Q., Gohl, D. M., Beckman, K. B., Knight, R., & Knights, D. (2018). Evaluating the Information Content of Shallow Shotgun Metagenomics. mSystems, 3(6), e00069-18. https://doi.org/10.1128/mSystems.00069-18
  2. Zhang, X., Li, L., Butcher, J., Stintzi, A., & Figeys, D. (2019). Advancing functional and translational microbiome research using meta-omics approaches. Microbiome, 7(1), 154. https://doi.org/10.1186/s40168-019-0767-6
  3. Pribyl, A. L., Parks, D. H., Angel, N. Z., Boyd, J. A., Hasson, A. G., Fang, L., MacDonald, S. L., Wills, B. A., Wood, D. L. A., Krause, L., Tyson, G. W., & Hugenholtz, P. (2021). Critical evaluation of faecal microbiome preservation using metagenomic analysis. ISME communications, 1(1), 14. https://doi.org/10.1038/s43705-021-00014-2