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Health Test Spotlight: Stool Testing for Gut Problems

Updated: Jun 13

Yes I know it's not always comfortable to talk about poo, but today we're going to deep dive into stool testing for gut problems and what it can reveal about your health by answering the most commonly asked questions we hear.


woman standing on bathroom tiles

What exactly is a stool test and how does it work?

Simply put - a stool test is where you collect your poo for a certain period of time, and then send it off to a laboratory to be tested.


There are two types of common stool tests offered in the UK. The first is called a Culture Test, and this is normally what your GP performs. This test is when a sample of poo is smeared onto a petri dish and then analysed based on what bacteria grows in the dish. This test can be very useful but is very basic in terms of information gathered. For example, only bacteria that like oxygen will grow, not anaerobic bacteria (bacteria that live in conditions with no oxygen), so these tests won't always tell the full story.


The second type of test uses PCR technology (Polymerase chain reaction - yes like Covid tests), which looks at the DNA level of what is present in the stool sample. This technology means nothing is missed - good bacteria, bad bacteria, parasites, infections, yeasts, worms etc can all be picked up.


Who is the test suited for?

Because the test is so thorough it can identify a whole range of causes based on a wide range of symptoms. Generally though, we use it when clients present with gut symptoms commonly associated with gut dysbiosis, IBS, IBD, parasitic infection or leaky gut.

These symptoms include:

  • Constipation

  • Diarrhoea

  • A sense of urgency that impacts your daily life

  • Experience blood or mucous in your stools

  • Acne or troubled skin

  • Brain fog

  • Recurrent thrush or candida

  • Trouble digesting fatty foods

  • A history of travel bugs or food poisoning

  • Pain and/or cramping

  • IBS or IBD

  • New food sensitivities or allergies


Collecting the sample sounds awkward, is it?

So it's not quite the same as how you would normally go to the toilet, but the test is done in the comfort of your own home and comes with detailed instructions to make it as easy for you as possible. You are usually provided with a little tray to put the sample in and then you are provided with gloves and a mini scoop to put samples into various different test tubes.


What if one of my symptoms is constipation, how can I do this test?

The test is done over a few days, so you take the samples whenever you are able to go to the toilet. The are stored in a fridge in a special biochemical hazard bag. There is only time sensitivity to send the samples back once you have done the last sample as the tests need to be performed for certain parasites within a couple of days. A constipated stool will still provide a wealth of information for a nutritional therapist to work on.


How can the test help a health professional treat me?

The test we usually recommend is the Genova GI Effects (we do sometimes work with others too). It is probably the most comprehensive yet easy to understand stool test that is available. It analyses over 20 types of 'good' & 'bad' bacteria, it measures inflammation levels which may indicate more severe gut disorders, it tests for parasites, worms, yeast or fungal infections, it measures activation of immune markers, which helps us understand if there may be food or other allergens causing GI upset. It also gives us a wealth of information in relation to your digestive enzymes, they way you break down protein and fats, specific enzyme reactions related to hormones and the possibility of leaky gut. It really is worth every penny.

genova stool test sample report

A health professional well versed in these tests can then use the report provided to pinpoint the causes for the gut disorders and then provide a comprehensive treatment plan. For example, if we see there is an overgrowth of a certain bacteria group, we can work on diet related interventions to 'kill off' that bacteria which has been causing the gut disorders. If we see someone is lacking in enzymes and has poor breakdown of fats, we can work to improve bile flow and digestion through foods, supplements and herbs.


I've read that it can be expensive?

Due to its comprehensive nature, this test is not available on the NHS, so it is a private fee. Whilst it is an out of pocket expense, we've found time and time again that the information this test provides is totally invaluable, and will ultimately greatly improve or eradicate your gut symptoms. By completing a comprehensive stool analysis such as this, you can be almost certain you will understand the root cause of your gut disorders and IBS.

On a side note, some private health insurance companies may be able to cover the cost. Please check with your insurer if they recognise practitioners who are covered by the CNHC.


How long does it take to receive the report?

It usually takes around 3 weeks to receive the report back. You can read more on the Geneva website.


How has this test helped your clients before?

We do this test with all of our clients that have IBS or gut disorders because of how useful it is. This test has helped us get to the root of hundreds of our clients health problems. In some instances its helped to find a parasite caused by food poisoning from 10 years prior, others an overgrowth of bad bacteria which has caused persistent gas and loose stools for 5 years, another time a travel bug collected on a childhood holiday which we were able to improve symptoms of! For one woman, she had been on such a restrictive diet with the most painful GI symptoms since 1996 (nearly 30 years!) that once we did this test and after a few months of working together, she was able to eat almost anything! It completely transformed her life.

Most of our clients have all tried other avenues to improve their health or even GP stool tests - followed strict diets, had multiple rounds of antibiotics, blood and allergy tests, and many trips to GPs and who still weren't able to improve their health.

If you are suffering with gut disorders and IBS, doing this stool test, really will change your life.


You can read more in some of the below case studies:


If you have any more questions about stool testing, feel free to get in contact with us today - book a free 20 minute call and we'd love a chat.




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Kelly Mulhall

Registered Nutritional Therapist

Dip CNM, mBANT, mANP, mCNHC

kelly mulhall nutritional therapist london









Kelly is a Registered Nutritional Therapist who focuses on positive physical and mental wellbeing, achieved through diet, lifestyle, sleep and exercise. Having struggled for years with IBS and hormonal imbalance, and increasingly frustrated with the lack of support and helpful advice from her GP, Kelly began her own journey of healing the body from the inside out. After seeing huge improvements she quit her job to study nutrition and focus on harnessing the healing powers of food to help other people in similar situations.


I am not attempting to prevent, treat or cure any physical, mental or emotional issues. Do not disregard medical advice or delay seeking medical advice because of information you have read on this website. Do not start or stop taking any medications without speaking to your primary health care provider.

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