Stool Testing for IBS - what can a stool test detect and is it worth the money?
Why is comprehensive stool testing so important when it comes to gut health and IBS?
Stool testing is so important as provides us with the answers as to why you might be suffering with:
Pain and cramping
Blood or mucus in the stool
Not only can a stool test help us pinpoint the triggers for the above symptoms, but we can also look at the general health of your gut. We can see:
'Good' and 'Bad' bacteria levels
Inflammation markers and immune response triggers (which may help us identify more serious issues)
Your ability to digest and absorb food based on metabolites
Infections such as parasites, worms, fungus (candida)
Presence of occult blood in the stool (blood which cant be seen with the naked eye which could mean ulcers, cancer, Crohn's or colitis
The type of stool testing we do at The Natural Balance is very advanced. This means it's not just a culture test - which is what your GP might do for you (putting stool in a petri dish to see what grows), but rather an in depth analysis using PCR technology. You may be familiar with the word PCR now in a post-covid world, but this just means we can look at a DNA level what is present in the stool, not just what would happen to grow in a lab. Some bacteria are anaerobic, which means they don't like oxygen, so if they are exposed to it, they wont grow in the lab.
What PCR based stool testing technology offers is a thorough report of the present state of the gut. It does means nothing is going to be missed - pathogens, parasites or bugs - as we're looking at such a tiny molecular level. It results in an incredibly accurate understanding of what is present internally.
Are you Digesting & Absorbing Nutrients?
Firstly, we look at maldigestion - essentially are you digesting and absorbing fats, carbohydrates or proteins well.
Often people who have IBS notice that they react poorly to fatty foods, so we need to look at the levels of enzymes present, bile and other digestive markers in the stool to see if the gut is able to digest and absorb fats and fatty foods. If not, we can work on a nutrition protocol to support this.
How do I know if my gut is inflamed?
Next we look for inflammation. Is it that the gut is inflamed to such a level where it's actually IBD (Irritable Bowel Disease), in which case we will refer you back to your GP. With gut inflammation, we're looking for certain markers such as calprotectin (usually raised in Crohn's or ulcerative colitis) , but also non-specific immune markers in the gut such as secretory IgA, which shows us whether there is an immune reaction in the gut. Often this is an indicator of a food intolerance, allergy or a symptom of leaky gut.
See how a stool test diagnosed Rebecca with a parasite and how we improved her IBS and acne as a result.
'Good' 'and 'Bad Bacteria' In the Gut
Understanding the state of the commensal bacteria, aka the 'good bacteria' in the gut is absolutely essential and often dysbiosis, which is a negative imbalance of gut bacteria is the main cause for IBS symptoms.
The stool test that we recommend looks at at least 20 different good bacteria, which if they're overgrown to certain levels can cause us pain, discomfort, bloating, gas or loose stools. In addition we measure levels of bad bacteria, so we're assessing both good AND bad bacteria in the gut, to see whether we need to work on building up the good bacteria or reducing some of the overgrowth (we often do this with herbal antimicrobials).
Pre and Probiotic Support in the Gut
We also look at whether there is a need for pre or probiotic support in the gut. The bacteria levels can inform us whether there is a good gut mucous membrane present and gut membrane integrity. Meaning its not leaky causing food, toxins or bacteria to pass into the blood stream, which may cause acne, rosacea, allergies, auto immune conditions, brain fog or joint aches, to name a few symptoms!
How do I know if I have a parasite or infection in my stool?
Lastly, a stool test can identify infection from parasites and other pathogens such as worms. These foreign invaders can cause you to have loose bowels, bloating or blood and mucous present in the stool. The test will also reveal if there is an infection due to any fungal overgrowth such as candida. Sometimes fungal overgrowth appears in other areas of the body, such as thrush, which is also a good indicator of a gut imbalance.
The stool test provides us a deep dive into your gut health and helps us really understand what's going on. It is an extensive report (multiple pages of information!) that once we have this understanding we can then formulate a nutrition protocol and supplement plan specifically based on your stool test, that will support and work on the root cause of your symptoms to then improve the gut health.
I find that these tests are worth their weight in gold, as they uncover the root cause of why someone may be experiencing IBS symptoms. By having the results from the stool test we're able to get into the granular detail of what's going on in the gut and help get to a an improved state of health more effectively and quicker.
Experiencing Bloating, Gas, Reflux, Cramps, Diarrhoea? It could be SIBO!
Check out our IBS and Gut Health Page on the website for even more information
We sometimes also look at using a SIBO breath test alongside a stool test, especially if their symptoms including extreme bloating, smelly gas, potentially diarrhoea and painful cramps. These are indicators of Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO). The simple breath test measures the level of gasses present in the gut over a 2 to 3 hour period, and based on those gasses that are produced, whether it's hydrogen or methane, will then dictate what treatment protocol is advised.
If any of these IBS or SIBO symptoms sound like something you're experiencing why not get in touch with me today. A stool test may be the best course of action, but we can discuss all your options in a free 20 minute discovery call.
Registered Nutritional Therapist
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.