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The Role of Diagnostic Testing In Digestive Health


The Role of Diagnostic Testing In Digestive Health

Finding the Cause
By Dr. Michael Kane

Finding and treating the cause of any ailment or dysfunction is the one of the primary missions for Naturopathic Physicians. 

When this involves the health of the digestive system tests to determine the cause can take on many forms.


Stool testing

The usual testing from stool includes many of the microbiology tests. These tests look for parasites, bacteria or other pathological bugs that might infect the gut.

Fecal fat testing; some people have issues with the digestion and absorption of fats, this stool test will determine if you are one of those people. 

Stool tests for presence of blood; always a good test to check for intestinal bleeding. 

Stool Functional Tests

Some labs will look at various markers in your stool to determine overall function of the gut.

There are markers to determine the following:

How well you break down protein, fat and carbohydrates. 

The extent of inflammation in your digestive tract.

Immune markers to determine if the part of your guts immune system is over or under active.

Genetic testing to map out a population count of your gut bacteria is also something that can be done through stool testing. 


Breath Testing

Some of the markers released through the lungs can be used to test for specific intestinal issues. Hydrogen and methane levels can be tested to determine if you have issue with the following:

Lactose: If you can not break down lactose, the bacteria in your gut will create hydrogen and or methane from it. 

Fructose: A common sugar in many foods, if you lack the ability to digest it you can get intestinal symptoms.  If you do not break it down certain bacteria will creating hydrogen and methane. 

Small Intestinal Bowel Overgrowth (SIBO) testing involves taking the sugar lactulose which we can not digest but certain bacteria can, if there is an abundance of these "bad" bacteria you will have high levels of hydrogen and methane on a breath test. 

Blood testing 

New testing for IBS

Based on extensive human and animal research, the presence of an antibody to a toxin from gastroenteritis called CdtB (cytolethal distending toxin B), as well asvinculin, a human protein commonly found in the nerves and the lining of the gut, are highly predictive of a diagnosis for Irritable Bowel Syndrome.


Gluten/celiac testing- Testing the blood for both genetic celiac markers and anti-bodies to gluten and gliaden (proteins found in gluten grains) can determine the presence of issues with gluten.



Food Sensitivity Testing: Both IgG and IgE anti-body testing can be done to determine if your immune system is reacting to foods that you are eating on a regular basis. 


While this is not a complete list of tests for the root of what is causing a GI issues, the many tests above do cover many possible causes for a dysfunctional digestive system.

If you have the interest in testing yourself ask your doctor what tests might make most sense for you.