How to Determine Your Baseline for Health
If you’re going to devote the effort into challenging your mind, body, and soul for a healthier tomorrow - you’re going to want proof that what you’re doing is actually working.
Imagine the alternative: you spend a couple of months on stringent changes to your diet and lifestyle and after all that dedication, you’re just a little unsure if anything is different. And perhaps that hits a little too close to home for some. Most likely, that’s why you’ve found your way to Viome. After attempting different changes, maybe your results looked significantly different (like a lack of one) from your neighbor. This is common - there is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all approach to health.
Then again, that’s why Viome’s recommendations start with a test. Without determining where your body is right now, it would be next to impossible to measure how it has changed. And even then, sometimes that change might be negative.
Knowing where you start is just as important to your journey as knowing where you want to go.
Understanding what your baseline is may be the greatest asset to your health journey you’ve completely overlooked.
What Information Makes Up My Baseline?
The more information you have to work with, the better. The last thing you want is to wish you had been tracking something all along!
Like any journey, it’s best to be prepared for anything.
Taking stock of where you are right now is an important first step toward establishing your true baseline.
Starting with Your Physical Baseline
Just like a good tailor will make thorough measurements - if you’re looking for physical changes in your body, keeping track of where you’re starting is key. Although you can take your body’s measurements at home alone, you might find a little help from a friend or family member could yield more accurate results. Make sure you measure both sides of your body (like your left leg versus your right) because no person is completely symmetrical. It’s entirely normal to have slight variations, especially as we all tend to favor one side over another for most activities.
Document all your measurements in the same location, like its own notebook (digital or paper) so you can keep track of all your changes more easily.
Some measurements you may want to include are:
Thigh circumference (each thigh)
Arm circumference (each arm)
Bust or Chest circumference
You may also want to include added information that might benefit you - like what your current dress or pant size is.
Don't forget, a physical assessment of you includes so much more than just your height, width or size. There are often a number of other physical factors that can tell you a lot about your health. Things like, how regular is your digestion (as in, how often do you poop?), how clear is your skin? Are bumps or irritations common? Are you occasionally bloated? Do you have occasional aches or pains? Does your hair grow slowly or quickly? How often to you experience gas? How well do you sleep?
Many of the questions we ask in our beginning questionnaire make for great data points to help you establish your baseline. After you’ve submitted your test, pick up your "Baseline Notebook" and follow along, marking any additional information that might help you gauge your gut or physical health in its current state.
Along with taking note of your digestion, or regularity, you may also even want to keep track of how you feel after meals, especially if you are removing those Avoid foods, and adding in more and more of your personal Superfoods with every meal.
Within your Baseline Notebook, where you keep your measurements and other physical factors, try to keep track of not only what you eat, but also how you feel after eating. Tune in to your body after finishing up, even while you’re cleaning up or doing dishes. How did that meal sit with you? Did you feel great, energetic, and calm? Or did things seem not quite right with your tummy, or even other areas, such as a headache? These are great things to note down, and can even help you as you decide when you want to retest with a new Intelligence Test.
Taking Note of Your Mental Baseline
As important as establishing your physical baseline may be - no matter your health goals - it's important to determine your mental baseline as well.
This is an often overlooked component in establishing your starting point. Just as your body may see physical changes - you may very well experience changes in your mental state. The more we learn about our diet and how it impacts our gut microbiome, we’re also finding new ways our gut microbes interact with the rest of our body.
If you’re new here, you might not realize how much science has uncovered about the Gut-Brain connection. The microbes that thrive inside our gut have a lot to say about how we feel, the foods we crave, and the health of our brain. Determining trends in how you regularly feel might work as a new way to touch base with your gut and neurological health.
If you're unsure what type of signals might be contributing to your mental states, check out our article on the Gut-Brain Axis and learn more about how gut health impacts mental health, contributing to feelings of anxiousness, sadness, and others.
Things you want to note could include:
How often do you feel low, or anxious?
When was the last time you had a good day?
How would you rank your ability to face stress or challenges?
How often do you feel tired?
Do you struggle with staying on task?
Is it common for you to lose focus on your work?
Do you have difficulty remembering important events? What about unimportant events?
A number of biological issues inside our body can cause symptoms of brain fog, mood disorders, fatigue, and even bouts of more physical ailments. The funny thing is, we don’t often think of these issues as signs of an imbalanced gut. But these factors, and many others, may indicate just that.
Many of our Viome community have contacted us saying that when they cut out foods that wound up on their ‘avoid’ list and started switching to their Viome recommendations, they started to feel like they had more ‘better’ days. Others have also mentioned that they could concentrate better and get through workdays more easily. Scientists studying the gut have also found these connections. A number of studies have found that diet can play a significant role in mental health1. We’ve even published a study that found following Viome recommendations showed an improvement with experiencing feelings of anxiousness and sadness2.
But How Do I Document Something I’ve Never Felt?
Despite how in tune we are with our environment (here’s looking at you, Weather App), it’s not always easy to determine how WE feel. Some people are gifted and can easily recognize when their body is out of balance. These individuals are adept at noting digestive discomfort immediately when they eat certain foods, or can determine with ease when they need probiotics, immune support, or maybe just a long nap.
But for the rest of us, identifying how we - our bodies - feel is a lot more like fumbling in a dark room for a light switch. You might get lucky, or you might just be sitting in the dark.
The important thing to remember is that we can become more in touch with our bodies if we just try. And the more we try, and the more we listen, the more likely we are to learn. Just like any new skill, practice is key.
If you take a moment every day for a month to sit and write down exactly how you feel in as many words as possible, you might be surprised by what you find. Set a timer for 2 minutes and write down every adjective you can think of describing your mood, how you feel, and how your day went. Then, after 30 days, you might start to notice patterns!
It’s like exercising a muscle. The more you use it, the easier it gets. The more you start to think and gauge how you feel, the easier the words will come. Just remember to take note of it and keep track. When it’s time for you to take your next Viome test and see if your scores change, you can refer back to your baseline to see what emotional or mental changes you FEEL.
At the end of the day, Viome scores are meant to help create a snapshot assessment of your biology. We hope to show you ways to help you on your health journey backed by science. But the one thing science can’t tell us - yet - is how you feel. And that matters too.
For you to reap the most benefits of your journey with Viome, or your health journey in general, the best Pro Tip of all is to check in with your baseline. Start building self-awareness with your body so you can fine-tune all the personal variances that make you so unique. In truth, they may be the best secret to building the long-term health habits that sustain you on your life-long health journey.
1 Adan, R. A. H., et al. (2019). [Information on nutritional psychiatry]. Journal of the European College of Neuropsychopharmacology. PubMed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov.
2 Connell, J. Toma, R. et al. (2021). [Precision nutrition and clinical outcomes with analyzing microbial data with AI]. Research Square, Biorxiv.org.