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Skillful Lab Selection for Complex Gut-Brain Axis Issues

Diagnostic tests are a vital part of any practitioner’s protocol. A carefully curated set of labs can provide valuable information, pinpoint specific areas of dysfunction or imbalance, direct intervention and guide practitioners in personalized therapeutic approaches. That’s especially important for intricate gut-brain issues that can’t be effectively addressed from a one-size-fits-all perspective.

“It’s not just a matter of eliminating gluten or taking probiotics,” says James Greenblatt, MD, founder of Psychiatry Redefined. “The gut-brain connection is complex, and patients’ challenges come in complex forms. With labs, you’re not guessing. Lab tests direct practitioners toward personalized treatment options, and the potential for success is just much higher.”

While some lab tests offer meaningful and useful data points and suggest a course of action, those tests don’t necessarily stand alone. Instead, practitioners should consider individual tests part of a comprehensive package that starts with genetic testing.

“Genetic testing is our blueprint, our most pertinent baseline that yields insight into how we respond to the world around us,” says Yael Joffe, PhD, RD, FACN, founder and Chief Science Officer of 3X4 Genetics. “A genetic test give us a sense of how optimally our cells are functioning and how effective we are at managing core-level processes. It helps us understand at a cellular level where the root cause of dysfunction might originate and allows for an upstream, rather than downstream, approach for understanding dysfunction and treating patients.”

Used properly, a genetic test isn’t an absolute answer. It’s a starting point, a screening tool that can streamline the diagnostic process, suggest other tests and guide therapeutic protocol in an efficient, productive way.

“We want to reduce trial and error, to minimize not only the financial cost but also the emotional consequences,” Joffe says. “We use an 80-20 perspective, in which 20 percent of the  intervention has 80 percent of the impact. Genetic testing helps us determine how we can get closer to that most effective 20 percent impact.”

Creating a comprehensive picture of a patients’ GBA without ordering a battery of tests requires a skillful, targeted approach. Here’s an overview of some of the most vital tests, and how results inform personalized treatment plans.


Genetic Testing, 3X4 Genetics

  • What it is, and why to use it. Genetic testing is an important part of any patient’s complete health picture, providing a unique blueprint to inform comprehensive treatment approaches. Unlike other genetic tests that consider individual gene variants (SNPs) in isolation, the 3X4 test uses a systems biology framework to more realistically analyze how genes work together to impact overall health. The results offer insight into how genes are impacting cognitive health, mood and gut function, and can provide a highly individualized starting point for GBA intervention.
  • What to look for. 3X4 Genetics tests 157 individual SNPs, identifying 36 metabolic and biochemical pathways across six key areas of health. Each pathway is made up of several genetic variants that together influence that pathway’s optimal function. Rather than considering isolated markers or reference points, the 3X4 test calculates an impact level for each pathway, identifying the three most likely to have the greatest impact on a patient’s overall health and guiding GBA interventions and next steps.
  • How results inform personalized treatment options. Using the three pathways identified, the 3X4 test helps practitioners craft a highly personalized protocol, focusing on the most vital areas for a patient’s health and GBA function, and directing targeted intervention efforts. The 3X4 test also suggests additional, individualized testing and identifies supplements most important for an individual patient’s gut-brain function.
  • Support you’ll get from the lab. As a comprehensive genetics solution company, rather than a lab, 3X4 Genetics offers access to a range of support and educational materials, including intensively researched nutrigenomics courses appropriate for all levels. A mentorship team provides clinical translation to help practitioners apply knowledge to their clinical practices. An active online community platform that includes live learning sessions, regular Q&As with 3X4 mentors, round-table meetings and discussions, and other tools and resources are also available.


GI-MAP—GI Microbial Assay Plus (Comprehensive Stool Test), Diagnostic Solutions Laboratory

  • What it is, and why to use it. The GI-MAP uses quantitative polymerase chain reaction (qPCR) technology to detect parasites, bacteria, fungi, viruses and more by targeting the specific DNA of the organisms tested. The test’s qPCR technology accurately assesses how much of an organism’s DNA is present in a patient’s stool sample to help practitioners to determine the clinical significance of organisms present. The GI-MAP can help practitioners find the root cause of underlying gastrointestinal and extraintestinal symptoms. It is an essential tool for helping patients suffering from chronic conditions including mood disorders, IBS/IBD, parasites, H. pylori, autoimmune disease dysbiosis, and more.
  • What to look for. The GI-MAP detects microbes that may be disrupting microbial balance or contributing to illness. The GI-MAP also reports on key indicators of gut health, including digestion, absorption, inflammation and immune function. If the GBA is not functioning properly, neurotransmitters, hormones, and central nervous system signals crucial for optimal mental health may be affected. Gut health testing with GI-MAP may help uncover underlying causes of mood disorders, including anxiety, depression, brain fog and others.
  • How results inform personalized treatment options. Practitioners can use the GI-MAP test to assess microbial balance and gastrointestinal health to find the root causes of chronic conditions. Results can guide personalized gut-healing protocols.
  • Support you’ll get from the lab. Diagnostic Solutions Laboratory offers account holders free consultations with their Clinical Team to interpret GI-MAP results and their Resource Library offers additional educational materials.

Learn more at the GI-MAP Learning Center


Watch the video below with Dr. Dan Kalish as he explains how the GI-MAP® and the OMX® Organic Metabolomics tests provide insight into neuroinflammation and the gut-brain connection.


Micronutrient Panel, Vibrant Wellness

  • What it is, and why to use it. Micronutrient tests assess the status of nutrients involved in brain health, neurotransmitter production and cognitive function, and can also point to gut and absorption issues. The Micronutrient Panel provides a complete and accurate picture of a patient’s micronutrient status by testing not just the extracellular compartment, but also the intracellular compartment.
  • What to look for. Patterns or trends in deficiencies and/or excess levels of nutrient groups—such as fatty acids, amino acids and B vitamins—that have been linked with brain health and functioning. Additionally, micronutrient deficiencies may suggest digestion and absorption issues and can indicate gut problems.
  • How results inform personalized treatment options. Depending on the compartment affected (extracellular vs. intracellular), nutrient deficiencies or toxicities may need to be approached differently. The test helps guide practitioners on intervention options and can suggest whether a deeper dive is warranted for nutrient status discrepancies.
  • Support you’ll get from the lab. Consults with a member of Vibrant Wellness Clinical Education Team are available for licensed health practitioners, as well as educational material, handouts, sample reports and webinars.


Genetic Gut Test, Vitract

  • What it is, and why to use it. The Vitract Gut Test is a stool-based test that uses DNA sequencing technology to take a snapshot of the gut microbiome, offering insights into the microbiome-derived biomarkers of digestive health, metabolic health and brain health. The test reports the abundance of different bacterial groups, from phylum to species, found in the gut, their proportions, and the consequences of their ranges to human health.
  • What to look for. The test includes three key areas for assessment. The microbial biomarker section, classified into probiotics bacteria, commensals, and pathobionts, highlights bacterial groups outside optimal ranges that may be driving a patient’s symptoms. Gut diversity, which factors in the richness and the evenness of the gut microbiota, is represented with a diversity score. The metabolite section reports different metabolite genes found in these gut bacteria and their associated benefits to digestive health, metabolism, immunity, and brain health.
  • How results inform personalized treatment options. Because each patient’s microbiota is unique, the Vitract Gut Test helps guide practitioners toward the root cause of symptoms, allowing for personalized treatment and better outcomes. The test also generates personalized nutritional suggestions, built on up-to-date clinical research and outcomes. These interventions include food, prebiotics, probiotics, and lifestyle changes.
  • Support you’ll get from the lab. Vitract offers training and educational materials to help practitioners better understand the root cause of patients’ symptoms.


Neurotransmitters Test, Vibrant Wellness

  • What it is, and why to use it. The Neurotransmitters Test is a urine-based test that measures individual neurotransmitter levels, key neurotransmitter ratios, diurnal epinephrine and norepinephrine ratios, as well as precursor amino acids and neurotransmitter pathway intermediates and metabolites. Since the GBA is bidirectional, neurotransmitter abnormalities may worsen gastrointestinal pathologies and gastrointestinal pathologies may worsen neurotransmitter abnormalities and pathologies.
  • What to look for. Abnormalities in neurotransmitter pathway metabolites can profoundly affect mood, memory and cognition, as well as gut function. Practitioners should assess neurotransmitter pathways for abnormalities in inhibitory neurotransmitters that act as the brakes or off -switch by decreasing/inhibiting action potentials (GABA, serotonin, glycine, taurine) and excitatory neurotransmitters (glutamate, epinephrine, norepinephrine, dopamine, acetylcholine) that act as the accelerator or on-switch by firing off action potentials.
  • How results inform personalized treatment options. Interventions for neurotransmitter-related dysfunction are often guided by a general diagnosis and treated empirically in a trial-and-error approach. The neurotransmitters test can provide clinically useful data to direct treatment of neurological and behavioral health conditions, and to monitor and evaluate efficacy of interventions.
  • Support you’ll get from the lab. Clinical Lab Education consults are available for licensed health practitioners with a Vibrant Wellness account and print and digital educational resources are available to guide practitioners in test interpretation.


IgG™ Food Explorer Food Sensitivity Test, Diagnostic Solutions Laboratory

  • What it is, and why to use it. The IgG Food Explorer is an ELISA-based multiplex food sensitivity test measuring total IgG antibodies to a wide variety of foods. This comprehensive guide to food immune responses enables practitioners to pinpoint which foods may drive a patient’s gut dysfunction and contribute to behavioral symptoms such as anxiety, mood swings, and other conditions.
  • What to look for. Food-based immune activation can trigger gut and systemic inflammation and can lead to degradation of the gut lining (“leaky gut”). Brain fog, anxiety and other mood disorders are associated with inflammation and leaky gut. IgG Food Explorer evaluates more than 250 food antigens, and test results include a reference range of antibody responses, from highly elevated, to intermediate, to low IgG levels. An elimination diet can be designed based on the level of antibodies produced by foods.
  • How results inform personalized treatment options. IgG Food Explorer helps practitioners pinpoint which foods are driving symptoms so they can tailor individualized diet and lifestyle plans for their patients.
  • Support you’ll get from the lab. Diagnostic Solutions Laboratory offers all account holders free consultations with their Clinical Team.

Learn more at the IgG Food Explorer Learning Center


Homocysteine Test, Vibrant Wellness

  • What it is, and why to use it. The Homocysteine Test measures levels of homocysteine, commonly used to assess risk for cardiovascular disease and stroke. High homocysteine levels are also linked with a range of health issues and may play a role in the GBA. Elevated homocysteine levels are associated with declining cognitive function and dementia, Alzheimer’s disease and age-related memory impairment. High levels of homocysteine may also promote intestinal inflammation and impact digestive function, and some research links elevated homocysteine with an increased risk of digestive tract cancer.
  • What to look for. The Vibrant Wellness homocysteine test uses a reference range to indicate low-, borderline- and high-risk homocysteine levels. Elevated homocysteine levels are known to promote oxidative stress and vascular endothelial damage, and these effects are associated with wide-ranging systemic conditions, including neurological harm and gut issues. Very low results are not entirely desirable; homocysteine plays a role in various physiological processes decreased levels are associated with peripheral neuropathy and other health conditions.
  • How results inform personalized treatment options. In many cases, elevated homocysteine levels are a call to action to identify nutrient deficiencies such as B6, B12 and folate, to inform personalized supplementation approaches. Further evaluation of relevant genetic SNPs known to affect homocysteine metabolism may be useful. Patients with elevated homocysteine levels may be evaluated for oxidative stress and vascular lifestyle support as well.
  • Support you’ll get from the lab. A free consultation with a licensed provider on our clinical lab education team is available to all practitioners who order the test. Further online education is also available on the Vibrant Wellness website.


OMX™ Organic Metabolomics Test (Organic Acid and Amino Acid Testing), Diagnostic Solutions Laboratory

  • What it is, and why to use it. The OMX Organic Metabolomics test evaluates urine and plasma metabolites—including organic acids, amino acids and other key compounds—to assist practitioners in unraveling their patient’s metabolic pathways, revealing their unique Metabolic Signature. OMX can be run as a blood/urine combination or by urine only. The urine sample should be a first-morning void. Results help practitioners identify dysfunctional metabolic pathways that may negatively impact mood and metabolic perturbations related to stress and mood, blood sugar dysregulation, nutrition, aging and others. Practitioners can use OMX Organic Metabolomics to establish a patient’s baseline metabolic signature and tailor treatment for patients with metabolic dysfunction.
  • What to look for. The analytes on the OMX Organic Metabolomics test are listed together by pathway with associated enzymes and nutrient cofactors. The test measures the neurotransmitter GABA, catecholamine turnover, serotonin turnover, cortisol, cortisone and aldosterone to provide insights into stress and mood disorders. OMX also helps identify neuroinflammation and includes metabolites such as Quinolinic acid.
  • How results inform personalized treatment options. Results from the OMX Organic Metabolomics test highlight areas of metabolic dysfunction that can be addressed through supplementation, diet and lifestyle. A graphical interpretation allows practitioners to easily review results with patients. The test report also includes personalized treatment recommendations.
  • Support you’ll get from the lab. Diagnostic Solutions Laboratory offers all account holders free consultations with their Clinical Team. Additional educational materials can be found in their Resource Library.

Learn more at the OMX Organic Metabolomics  Learning Center


Fatty Acids: Omega-3 & 6, Vibrant Wellness

  • What it is, and why to use it. The Fatty Acids: Omega-3 & 6 test measures fatty acid levels in the blood and calculates a ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acids. Because brain cells and their insulation are composed of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, an imbalance may impact brain health and could indicate gut dysbiosis.
  • What to look for. Low omega-3 and high omega-6 status is associated with decreased brain performance, neurological conditions, inflammation, mood disorders and cognitive impairment. Additionally, a lower ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 beneficially alters gut microbiota, lessening the production of harmful bacteria while increasing beneficial bacteria. Practitioners should look for fatty acids out of the reference range, especially high levels of omega-6 or low omega-3 levels.
  • How results inform personalized treatment options. A relative measure of omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acids helps providers focus on which fatty acid(s) need to be altered by diet and/or supplementation.
  • Support you’ll get from the lab. Consults with a member of Vibrant Wellness Clinical Education Team are available, as well as educational material.




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