Today we have a special guest author, Primal Kitchen® cofounder Morgan Zanotti. She’s sharing her experience trying a personalized microbiome program, which includes eating scientific muffins, pricking herself with needles, and tracking her lifestyle, all for the goal of an optimized gut. Take it away, Morgan!
A few weeks ago, I had the chance to interview microbiome expert Dr. Tim Spector for the Primal Kitchen® Podcast. Dr. Tim founded Zoe, a microbiome program that personalizes an optimal eating pattern just for you using at-home testing, paired with information about your lifestyle and how you experience your day-to-day. The plan and app bring it all together to determine how your body responds to foods, and makes recommendations to help you live your best life.
When I do these interviews, my intention is to learn more about the person sitting across from me. But the truth is, I learned more than I ever wanted to know about myself after talking to Dr. Tim and going through the Zoe process!
As soon as Dr. Tim gave me the rundown of Zoe and what it does, I knew I had to give it a go. Here’s how it works.
The Zoe Process
First, I took a quiz, which covered the usual age range and gender questions, but also digs into details on how many plants I eat in a typical day, where my energy levels were, things like that. That information generates a rough idea of your inflammation profile, but that’s not enough to put you on a plan.
From there, you get into testing your actual biology. With at-home kits, you do a gut microbiome test, a blood fat test, and you wear a blood sugar sensor to see blood sugar response to certain foods. No lab visits— you do it all yourself and it’s pretty goof-proof.
I’ll admit, I was a little scared to apply the continuous blood sugar monitor on my arm, but it was easy to place, I barely felt it (seriously) and more importantly, it was easy to forget about once it was secured with medical tape.
Meanwhile, you’re eating “standardized test meals,” which are essentially gluten-free fancy science muffins. These contain specific macronutrients that you eat at specific times so that you can test how your body responds to certain foods and eating patterns over time.
The blood sugar data was especially interesting, because I could read it on my phone in real-time. And unlike pricking your finger, the continuous glucose monitor shows the full curve of your blood sugar response. If you rely on a finger prick you’re getting one piece of data at a specific time, but you really don’t get the full picture. Sometimes, my blood sugar responded before I was done eating!
I’ve done a lot of self-experiments historically where I’ve gone full keto (total 20g carbs/day), I’ve gone pescetarian for a few months while I was getting my yoga teaching certification, but this felt way more precise, informative and awesomely geeky.
How Did It Go?
After playing mad scientist for a few days, I found out some super useful information.
My blood sugar was better if I didn’t eat breakfast, so I seem to be much more insulin resistant in the morning. This is unusual, according to Dr. Tim, but he experiences the same thing.
Mark recommended I try intermittent fasting years ago and I’ve been more or less eating in a shortened time frame for a while now, so it’s nice to have confirmation that my metabolism likes it that way!
I also found that if I have steak, I can have ice cream for dessert and my blood sugar doesn’t budge. Sometimes I feel like I have to be strict, so it’s great to know that as long as I have a decent amount of protein and fat, an occasional sweet treat won’t shake things up too much especially if the treat is post-meal.
I’d also like to learn more about the effects of fat in the blood on health. My results say it’s not a concern for me, but the concept sparked my curiosity. Tim feels like the blood fat response is just as important (if not more important) than blood sugar, but that concept hasn’t really taken off in a meaningful way. We’re behind the science.
You Have Your Data. Then What?
Now that I have my data, I have a personalized plan, complete with an app and coaches for support. If you really want to make strides with your gut health, Zoe is a comprehensive ecosystem of information and education, and it’s just the right balance of guidelines with flexibility.
Mark Sisson is the founder of Mark’s Daily Apple, godfather to the Primal food and lifestyle movement, and the New York Times bestselling author of The Keto Reset Diet. His latest book is Keto for Life, where he discusses how he combines the keto diet with a Primal lifestyle for optimal health and longevity. Mark is the author of numerous other books as well, including The Primal Blueprint, which was credited with turbocharging the growth of the primal/paleo movement back in 2009. After spending three decades researching and educating folks on why food is the key component to achieving and maintaining optimal wellness, Mark launched Primal Kitchen, a real-food company that creates Primal/paleo, keto, and Whole30-friendly kitchen staples.