Did you know that your gut health impacts your overall health? Your gut microbiome consists of trillions of bacteria and microorganisms that play a critical role in your digestive, immune, neuroendocrine, and metabolic health. Stool testing is a key tool to help determine what is going on inside your gut microbiome. In today’s post, we discuss everything from what stool testing is, what it shows us, who should get it, and how we use it to create a comprehensive health plan.
What is stool testing?
Stool testing utilizes stool cultures to help identify pathogens (bacteria, virus, microorganisms) present in your gastrointestinal (GI) tract that may be causing GI distress and other systemic symptoms.
The goal of stool testing in both conventional and functional medicine is to get an inside look at what is going on in your GI tract. However, while both methods of medicine analyze your stool, there are differences between the two.
In conventional medicine, the primary goal of stool testing is to look for pathogens that may be causing GI distress. While this is a good start, they tend to only test for the most common problematic pathogens (think: giardia, salmonella, h.pylori) but fails to address less common ones and the rest of your microbiome.
Functional medicine stool tests give you a much bigger picture. Here they test for:
- Levels of bacteria in your gut (looking for overgrowths and imbalances),
- Pathogens, fungi/yeast, parasites,
- Intestinal health markets (relating to digestion, immune response, and inflammation)
- Antibiotic resistance genes
In my practice, we utilize functional medicine stool testing to get a more thorough look at what is going on.
What stool testing helps show us
Gut bacteria plays a role in digestion (keeping the lining of the intestine healthy and breaking down the food that we eat), sending messages between the gut and the brain, immune health, and more. Research also suggests that our bacteria plays a role in the process of healthy weight management and weight loss. In short, keeping your bacteria healthy is vital for overall health.
What it shows us:
- How well someone is digesting their food (aka the digestive enzymes one’s body is releasing)
- Types of bacteria in the gut (different bacteria causes different symptoms: bloating, constipation, diarrhea, inflammation, histamine sensitivity, brain fog)
- Presence of dysbiosis (an imbalance of bacteria in the gut)
- Presence of parasites/worms (hint: this is more common than you might think! An example is H.pylori which may be present in up to 50% of the world’s population)
- Strength of immune system
- Gluten intolerance/reactions
Clients and conditions we recommend do stool testing
In my practice, stool testing is quite common as it often helps get to the root cause of one’s signs/symptoms. You can now probably tell many conditions start in the gut, which is why a client with an autoimmune condition and a client with food sensitivities will be advised to do a stool test.
Clients and conditions recommended for stool testing:
- Food sensitivities
- GI issues (bloating, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, constipation, acid reflux)
- Brain fog
- Chronic fatigue
- Mood disorders (depression, anxiety)
- Allergies and histamine overload
- Autoimmune conditions
- Clients who have gotten sick or had a stomach bug/food poisoning and have never felt “right” since
- Clients who have worked on their gut extensively and are still feeling “off”
- Clients who are consistently having strong reactions to even the most basic and bland foods
The Next Steps
Stool testing helps to develop and tailor a health care plan specifically for you. While each treatment plan is individualized, the end goal is to rebalance the gut microbiome and eliminate your symptoms.
Areas we focus on addressing based on your stool test results:
- Diet (addressing food sensitivities and focusing on food/nutrients to lower inflammation, and nourish the GI tract)
- Antimicrobials (to kill imbalances of gut bacteria and other pathogens that should not be there)
- Probiotics and prebiotics (to feed and/or replenish the gut with beneficial bacteria)
- Digestive enzymes (to aid in digestion)
- Nutrients to help rebuild the gut lining
We suggest retesting around 4ish months after the first time doing a stool test to see the effectiveness of treatment and look for the gut microbiome shifting in the right direction. Then we continue to address the test results and signs/symptoms you may be experiencing.
An integral part of healing also includes addressessing environmental stressors and incorporating lifestyle changes to address them. It’s essential for us to implement a protocol that connects the mind and body!
The Bottom Line
Stool testing helps create a personalized comprehensive health care plan by providing the inside scoop on what is going on in your gut. If you are suffering from health conditions and cannot get to the bottom of it, a stool test will likely help. If possible, we recommend working closely with a functional/integrative medicine health care professional so that you can receive the most thorough care and an insider look at your gut health.
Not feeling well and think stool testing may be right for you? Click here to work with us!