No Guts, No Glory

Can personalized supplements from new local company Ixcela give you a strong stomach—and a healthier life?

Illustration by Chris Gash

What if you could take a pill and it would fix your body? Or, if not fix it, at least tune it up—aligning, oiling, and recalibrating everything from your sleep to your mood to your energy level. Sounds like the culmination of that space-age promise of a Jetsons-esque pill for everything, doesn’t it? Well, it’s possible this future is here.

Among the latest revelations in the wellness world is the idea that our gut microbiome—the collection of symbiotic microbial hitchhikers that live inside our gastrointestinal tract—affects systems all over the body. And if said passengers are thrown off-balance (as a result of, say, hoovering too many Doritos or too much Cup Noodles), it could have serious health consequences, both physically and emotionally. Enter Ixcela, a new Bedford-based company from Erika Ebbel Angle, an MIT graduate and former Miss Massachusetts who earned a PhD in biochemistry at BU’s School of Medicine. For a couple hundred bucks, Ixcela will analyze your “internal fitness”—extrapolating and quantifying insights about your energy levels, emotional balance, immune system, cognitive acuity, and general GI health—and create a personalized regimen of supplements that it claims can help get things back on track. As someone who has yet to meet a fitness fad I didn’t want to try, I had to give this a whirl.

A mail-in finger-prick blood test measuring a dozen key metabolites revealed that I had an Overall Internal Fitness Score of 69, which is considered on the lower end of the “good” range. “You’re probably above average, with some room for improvement,” Angle told me over the phone (peering into my soul, apparently). So, in the hope of becoming my best self, I choked down a fistful of six vitamins, supplements, and probiotics every day for a month. Then, I waited for my metamorphosis to begin.

I intentionally made no other lifestyle changes, sticking to my thrice-weekly gym routine and mostly healthy (if sometimes carb-heavy) diet. I felt more alert and energetic almost immediately, though we can maybe chalk that up to enthusiastic optimism. About a week in, the results were more mixed. The melatonin I was taking sank me into long nights of potent sleep but left me feeling so spacy while awake that I ultimately had to cut it out. Once I did, though, I found myself waking up alert enough that I rarely needed my usual morning coffee.

The true test came at the end of the 30-day regimen, when Ixcela sent me another testing kit in the mail. The result? My score increased slightly, up to 75. Angle says that while most people can expect improvements after a month, advances are more dramatic over time, with major changes after about six months.

Was I transformed? Not quite. Did it seem promising? Definitely. Is it worth it? To answer that, you’ll have to trust your gut.

Starting at $99 per month,