Gut issues can cause bloating, gas, burping, and limited diets, impacting not only food enjoyment but also social life, family life, work life, dating life, body confidence, and energy. If you have experienced gut issues that have not resolved even after trying the basics that are usually recommended before testing, you are in the right place.
Testing is often used when there is something acute, such as after food poisoning or brand new symptoms that suddenly appear and are severe. It can also be used if symptoms will not resolve despite changes in diet, such as low FODMAP diets, Mediterranean diets, elimination diets, or removing food sensitivities.
If you have tried adding fibre to your diet and it hasn’t helped or has made things worse, testing may be necessary. You may have also tried implementing slow eating, mindful eating, and chewing, but it has not made a significant difference. Reducing stress, improving breathing, and sleep can also be helpful in reducing symptoms, particularly in IBS.
In this blog post, we will discuss gut health testing and when it may be necessary, appropriate tests to use based on your symptoms, and what to expect from gut health testing. We will also discuss ways to move forward with testing and what to do after the test results come back.
While gut health testing can tell you what’s wrong, it’s also important to resolve the issue to return to normal. I work to find the root cause of health issues through health history, symptoms, and testing. Then, I translate that information into everyday actions that align with your lifestyle, food preferences, and supplementation needs to support your path to feeling good inside and out.
When it comes to bacteria, there are the good, the bad, and the misplaced.
Good bacteria help us break down food and maintain healthy digestion, but we can lose them due to factors like stress, antibiotics, and medication. This can lead to a deficiency of essential bacteria like lactobacillus and bifido bacteria, which play a crucial role in nutrient absorption, waste elimination, and easy digestion.
Bad bacteria, on the other hand, cause infections like diarrhoea, constipation, abdominal pain, gastritis, stomach bugs, food poisoning, and other acute illnesses. Misplaced bacteria refer to small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO), which is the presence of excessive bacteria in the small intestine, often causing symptoms similar to IBS.
SIBO is estimated to affect up to 80% of people with IBS, but it is a treatable condition that can improve quickly. The common causes of SIBO include poor motility, constipation, food allergies and intolerances, low stomach acid and digestive enzymes, and the long-term use of medications like oral contraceptives, Nexium, Rennies, Gaviscon, and other acid-reducing drugs.
Stress and infections can also contribute to SIBO. The symptoms of SIBO include diarrhea, constipation, bloating, brain fog, fatigue, anxiety, skin rashes, intestinal pain, right-sided pain, pain under the ribs, mid-back pain, shoulder pain, and tight muscles around the jaw. These symptoms are due to the constant signal to the brain that the gut is under attack, leading to a fight-or-flight response, fatigue, anxiety, and muscle tension.
If you suspect that you have SIBO, testing may be necessary. The most common SIBO test is the breath test, which measures the levels of hydrogen and methane in the intestines.
The symptoms of SIBO include diarrhoea, constipation, bloating, brain fog, fatigue, anxiety, skin rashes, intestinal pain, right-sided pain, pain under the ribs, mid-back pain, shoulder pain, and tight muscles around the jaw. These symptoms are due to the constant signal to the brain that the gut is under attack, leading to a fight-or-flight response, fatigue, anxiety, and muscle tension.
The most common type of SIBO is hydrogen-based and presents with symptoms such as bloating, distension, and diarrhea or mixed constipation and diarrhea. A breath test is used to diagnose SIBO, which measures the reaction to hydrogen and methane in the breath after consuming a lactulose or glucose formula. Treatment options for SIBO include antibiotics, diet modifications, and supplements such as herbs. However, the real problem with SIBO is that it can come back if the underlying cause is not resolved.
Microbiome (Stool) Testing
Stool testing can look at bacteria, candida (yeast/thrush), parasites and other microbes. It can also look for issues like malabsorption, immunity, inflammation and gut lining health.
Maldigestion occurs when there is a lack of digestive enzymes to break down food properly. This can lead to issues such as too much fat in the stool or difficulty breaking down proteins. It could also result from a lack of probiotics or low stomach acid.
Another important factor that stool tests evaluate is inflammation markers. The presence of inflammation in the gut can be an indicator of various immune-associated diseases, such as diverticulitis, Crohn’s, or coeliac disease.
Dysbiosis, or an imbalance of good and bad bacteria in the gut, is also examined in stool tests. This can include the presence of candida, thrush, methane, or SIBO. The test can also evaluate metabolic imbalances, such as the body’s ability to create vitamin D, butyrate, and short-chain fatty acids.
Lastly, stool tests examine the presence of infection, including parasites and worms, protozoa, and bacteria e.g. blastocysts and campylobacter. These harmful substances can steal your energy and vitamins and make you feel tired.
Stool tests also evaluate how healthy your gut is compared to others who have taken the test. The test can examine cholesterol, triglycerides, digestive enzymes, inflammation markers, and healthy bacteria. It is essential to maintain the balance of healthy bacteria in the gut, as the loss of healthy bacteria can lead to a range of health issues.
If you suspect an imbalance in your gut, a stool test is a useful tool to evaluate your gut health. Stool tests can identify the presence of harmful substances such as harmful bacteria, inflammation, dysbiosis, and infections, among others. This information can be used to create a plan to restore your gut health, including adjustments to your diet, probiotics, or medical treatment, if necessary.
How to get started
I offer various services related to testing and consultation for digestive health issues. To find out more about testing options and what’s write for you, book a discovery call or watch the free gut health testing webinar.