Today I wanted to talk about different testing options to learn more about the health of your gut or for figuring out the root cause of what is causing your digestive issues.
I love using testing in my practice because it gives us a view into your body that we wouldn’t otherwise get. I see a lot of the same things popping up in practice over and over again and your unique symptoms can definitely give us a lot of information but testing can take some of the guesswork out of treatment plans.
I love to use testing when I first start working with my patients because it gives us unique insight as to what is going on before we start treating. It gives us a baseline. It also can give us a good idea where we should start. For example if you have an infection or overgrowth that is most likely where we would need to start. Even if we fix the gut in other ways there is a good chance you won’t get much symptom resolution unless we get rid of the bad bugs.
There are SO many tests out there and so many versions of similar tests. I’m going to talk about the four types of testing I use most commonly for gut health in my practice.
First - stool testing. There are a lot of different versions of stool tests out there and they are all going to vary in the information that they give you. Generally they are giving you information about your large intestine, especially when it comes to bacteria balance or infection.
The stool test that I specifically use is called a Comprehensive Stool Analysis from Doctor’s Data. It is one of my favourite tests to run because it gives us a TON of information
One of the most important pieces is that it gives information both about bad bacteria and good bacteria. We commonly think that problems just come from having infections or too many bad bacteria. But I actually more commonly see problems arising in my patients when they do not have enough good bacteria.
The test also shows levels of yeast and has the option to test for parasites
It shows whether you’re digesting fats, proteins & carbohydrates properly. And if there is inflammation present.
Along with a few other really cool things.
This is probably the most common test that I use in practice.
The next most common test that I use is the SIBO breath test. This test is looking specifically for SIBO (small intestine bacterial overgrowth). If you want to learn more about SIBO I did a video back in the fall about it so look for that in the group.
So the stool testing is looking mostly at large intestine health whereas SIBO testing is looking at small intestine health
Depending on where the patient is experiencing their symptoms this will usually guide me as to what test is more suitable. I mean in a perfect world we would run both
If the symptoms are more upper GI - so heartburn, stomach pain, nausea it will point me to do SIBO testing. If there is a lot of lower abdominal bloating, cramping & pain it will prompt me to do stool testing. Bloating & bowel changes can be seen with both.
So SIBO will tell us if SIBO is present but it will also tell us if the bacteria that have overgrown are hydrogen producing or methane producing. This extra information allows us to choose the treatment that will work best for your specific type of overgrowth.
The test itself is a breath test so fairly noninvasive. Essentially do a prep diet, then drink a solution, and if there are bacteria they will ferment this solution and produces gases that end up in your breath.
I wanted to talk a bit about food sensitivity testing because it is one of the most common ones I’m asked about. I used it a lot when I first started practicing but recently I’ve switched to mostly doing stool & SIBO testing because I find they give me more usable information.
Food sensitivity testing can be good for stubborn cases and also good for patients that need a little extra motivation to make a change
It can give us some insight into leaky gut. If you’ve ever had it done and a million things came up as sensitivities it doesn’t mean that you are sensitive to all of those things it actually means that your gut lining is weak and this is letting undigested foods cross into your bloodstream, which your body is then reacting to.
And lastly, blood testing. There is not much that you can see with blood testing that directly relates to the gut but there are a few things I like to look at:
Celiac testing - if you have really bad reactions to gluten we can test for celiac disease using a blood test
CRP - is a marker for inflammation that can be elevated if your gut is really unhappy
Nutrients - I like to look at vitamin B12, ferritin or iron, and vitamin D
If you are low in vitamin B12 & ferritin and have a healthy diet it can be a sign that you are not absorbing nutrients properly in your small intestine
And vitamin D, which is SO commonly deficient is really important for intestinal health (especially for controlling inflammation)
As I mentioned at the beginning there are so many tests out there and if you ask another ND or functional medicine doctor there favourite test list may look totally different. So take this all as an opinion. But I hope it was interesting and helpful!
If you’re interested in gut testing book a discovery call so we can chat more about your unique case.