For nearly all of my adult life, I've struggled with constipation; sometimes it's triggered by stress, sometimes it's not. All I know is that if I'm not actively consuming enough fibre, shit literally ain't moving. So, from probiotic gummies to fancy magnesium supplements and Miralax, I've tried just about everything in the name of gastrointestinal health — which, if I could have it all, would look like a regular schedule of Goldilocks poops (not too hard, not too soft).
My last name may or may not look familiar to regular Refinery29 readers as my twin sister, Karina Hoshikawa, is a Beauty & Wellness writer on the Shopping team! Thanks to her super cool job, she's always keeping me in the loop with must-try products — including ones geared towards gut health. So when she first told me about Thryve, a California-based startup that launched in 2016 offering at-home microbiome tests and tailored probiotics, I was all ears. According to the brand, by sending in a stool sample (yep — we're going there), you can get an extremely detailed breakdown of your gut flora, personalized probiotic blend, and access to food recommendations all based on what's going on in your BM. It's like 23AndMe, for poop. After Thryve graciously sent a gratis kit my way, I chronicled the start-to-finish experience in the name of all troubled poopers. Keep on scrolling if you want the 411 on my #2.
The Thryve Kit
The kit came packaged with straightforward instructions clearly detailing each step in a digestible way. The branding was also surprisingly cute (!). The contents included were two swabs (one extra in case you mess up), a small test tube (to place your sample in), a kit ID (which you need to activate your profile), and a pre-paid return box (for packaging and sending back your sample). The whole process was quick & easy.
My Thryve Sample
When it came to actually prepping the sample, here's how that all went down. As I mentioned above, the kit came with a small test tube and swabs. After waiting around for my bowels to, you know, do their thing, I then swabbed the tissue that I used to wipe — which made the whole thing feel a lot less gross because I wasn’t actually in direct contact with the poop (or the source). According to the directions, you only need a very tiny amount, so even that little bit was enough. (It was really, barely anything.) The swab then goes into the tube, which has a clear solution in it. You swirl it around with the swab before closing it and then popping it into a slot in the box.
My Thryve Results
It took around 3-4 weeks to get my results. I was able to see my whole report online in my profile, which included: a gut score, a personalized food plan, and information on the different bacteria in my gut. They also offered personalized probiotics based on my test sample that would help balance my gut bacteria and target constipation and bloating — two things I was struggling with, and the main reason why I wanted to try Thryve in the first place. The results report was honestly a lot of information to take in. I don't know anything about bacteria, so I wasn't really able to comprehend all the different strains in my gut at first glance.
A month later, I received a video explanation of my profile by a functional medicine practitioner and microbiome researcher at Thryve, which was helpful because she walked me through every part of my profile and provided suggestions on what I can do to better balance my gut. I wish I'd received that within my initial Thryve report — but, even seeing this a month in helped me understand what different bacteria do and what I should or shouldn't be eating. Since I've struggled with constipation for a long time, I once saw a gastroenterologist who recommended a high-fibre diet and magnesium. Those both made a big difference at first, but the benefits didn't seem to last; it was almost as if my body adapted to that and it stopped being effective. I already had a high-fibre and primarily plant-based diet, but walking through my Thryve sample with the functional medicine practitioner and microbiome researcher brought to light new sensitivities I hadn't known about prior: namely gluten, meat, and dairy (which can all be inflammatory). Moving forward, I am no longer taking magnesium and aiming to avoid those sensitivities in my diet.
Final Thryve Thoughts
I've been taking my customized probiotics for one month (my custom formula contains 15 probiotic strains, including varieties of primarily Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium strains plus vitamin D3) and have seen an improvement in the softness of my stool as well as my regularity. They say it takes around three months to see a real change but, so far, I've been more regular than I have in a really (really, really) long time — and I'm REALLY excited about that. A month's supply of Thryve's custom probiotics is $30 USD and the initial testing kit is $199 USD (editor's note: it's currently on sale for $99 USD!). While that isn't exactly cheap, I feel like this entire process has worked better for me personally than any other OTC treatments I've tried.
Taking the probiotics alone seems to be working. I never had a gut test done before, and I think that was a huge benefit because I was able to find out exactly what the "good" and "bad" bacteria are in my gut. For example, I never thought I was sensitive to gluten since I couldn't tell by the way my body was behaving; I just thought I had digestion problems in general but I would've never pinpointed it directly to gluten. Now, I'm trying to cut out gluten as much as possible — while still having a bagel every now and then when I'm really craving it (it's all about balance!). Every body is different and there's no one product that will work for everyone. You can certainly do more cost-effective things like eating a high-fibre diet or following various suggestions to improve regularity but, for me, getting personalized support was a poop-changer.
Thryve is available to ship to Canada. Prices in USD.
As told to Karina Hoshikawa. The interview has been edited and condensed for length and clarity.
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