Gut Testing: What you can discover about your Digestive Health
Good gut health is the foundation for overall health. For a system that’s so crucial to the survival of humans, the digestive system can feel a little cryptic at times. That’s where gut health testing comes into its own.
What is gut health testing?
Gut health tests are advanced biomarker tests that can provide actionable information about the health of the digestive tract. The tests investigate potential infection, inflammatory markers, the microbiome’s health, and biomarkers that indicate how well the digestive system functions.
This test requires a stool sample taken across three consecutive days. While it may not sound like the most pleasant way to spend a few days in your life, at least this is one test sample you can complete in the privacy of your home. Thankfully these are not tests that you’ll need to retake regularly.
Who should consider gut microbiome testing?
If you’ve been experiencing gastrointestinal symptoms, such as bloating, diarrhoea, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) or constipation, these gut tests can be beneficial in identifying the underlying cause of these issues. Gut health tests are also invaluable for individuals with a health history indicating an intestinal infection or an imbalance in their gut microbiota.
Gut health testing is surprisingly helpful for individuals who don’t have gut-related symptoms. Due to the close relationship between the gut and the immune system, it may be advisable for individuals with immune-related conditions such as autoimmunity and skin conditions to investigate their gut health.
What will the results tell me?
Gut health testing is comprehensive, and these tests contain several biomarkers that can illuminate how well the digestive system is working. The results cover three critical functions of the gastrointestinal tract (GI); digestion and absorption, immune response and inflammation and the gut microbiome.
- Pancreatic elastase – this is a marker of pancreatic function. The pancreas releases enzymes that help to digest food consumed. If your pancreas isn’t functioning correctly, this will affect how effectively your body can break down your food.
- Fat and Protein breakdown – products of protein breakdown and faecal fat in stool are markers of how well your digestive system is digesting and absorbing nutrients.
- Inflammation markers – like Calprotectin, Eosinophil Protein X and Fecal Secretory IgA are helpful ways to understand interactions between the immune system and the gut. Around 70% of the immune cells reside in your GI tract, a single-cell thick layer is all that prevents the immune system from being regularly stimulated by external sources. Gut health testing allows your health practitioner to determine any inflammation in the gut. Specifically, whether this inflammation is related to an allergic response, integrity problems with the single-cell thick intestinal wall or whether you might be dealing with Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).
- Parasites – comprehensive testing for all parasites and their ova (eggs) is included in these tests. Unfortunately, parasitic infections are more common than you might like to think, and infections of Blastocystis spp., Giardia, and Dientamoeba fragilis can lead to GI symptoms of pain and nausea. A three-day stool sample provides a significantly increased opportunity to spot these pathogens.
- Potentially pathogenic bacteria – culturing stool samples can determine whether bacteria are pathogenic (disease-causing) or potentially pathogenic and the best natural agents to remove these microbes if there are associated symptoms.
- Beneficial bacteria – testing assesses 24 different bacterial species across seven prominent bacterial families for their relative abundance in the GI tract. One key contributor to gut wall integrity is Akkermansia muciniphila; this beneficial bacterium has been found at lower levels in humans with obesity, diabetes, metabolic disorders and inflammation.
- Short Chain Fatty Acids – the test will also look at the relative health of the microbiota through the metabolic substances the microbial populations produce. When beneficial bacteria ferment the fibre in our diets, they produce short-chain fatty acids (SCFA). These SCFA provide an energy supply to the colon cells, regulate T cells of the immune system and positively influence the brain. Some researchers have even proposed the use of SCFAs as a treatment for several neurological conditions.
- Yeast – these microbes are a natural part of humans living both on and in us. In the right proportions, yeast do not pose a problem. However, overgrowth of yeast can occur, which in turn can cause symptoms in the gut and far beyond, including acne and weight gain.
How we use gut health test results with our clients
As you can see, the gut microbiome tests provide an incredible amount of insight that, when combined with our client’s history, can help us work up a personalised holistic health programme that incorporates remedies that resolve a range of gut-related issues.
Gut health testing should always be completed with the support of a health professional who can interpret your results and provide appropriate personalised recommendations that support gut health and healing.
Learn more about how we use gut health testing in our holistic personalised programmes here.