Do you personally suffer, or know someone that suffers, from chronic gastrointestinal discomfort, fibromyalgia, fatigue, chronic pain, chronic illness of unexplained origin, or even weight loss difficulties? If so then a functional stool test should be strongly considered. Functional stool tests differ dramatically from a stool test performed in your local clinic or at your local hospital. Functional stool tests should be collected and sent to labs specializing in the evaluation and interpretation of the stool sample. Many patients with chronic illness (they’ve been to everyone and still no answers), autoimmune disease or gastrointestinal complaints receive a stool profile as part of their initial evaluation in our office. The following are some things that we look for in a digestive stool analysis when ordered on our patients.
* Presence of eubacteria: This simply means assessing the presence and quantity of the good bacteria in your gut. The gut contains up to 80% of your immune system and this is kept in order by the presence of the good bacteria in your body. The good bacteria help with more than just immune function, however. They help to digest your foods and make nutrients available to you. The maintain the proper acidity of your gut to maximize nutrient absorption. The are anti-inflammatory in nature and help to prevent hyperpermeable gut membrane (or “leaky gut”). Not having adequate levels of good bacteria in your gut can be just as detrimental as having a pathogenic, or disease-causing, bacteria in your gastrointestinal system.
* Presence of pathogenic bacteria: This is also important to note. Everyone contains some degree of pathogenic bacteria, however, when these bugs overpopulate your bowel you are in for real trouble. For example, Helicobacter pylori, is a bacterial infection linked to higher incidences of gastric cancer and Alzheimer’s disease. Yersinia sp has been linked as the causative factor in autoimmune thyroid disease. So the consequences of not removing these foreign invaders can be dramatic.
A great summary of good versus bad bacteria was taught to me by Dr. Robert Rakowski. He simply instructed that good bacteria eat waste and eliminate nutrients, and bad bacteria eat nutrients and eliminate waste. You want to have adequate levels of good bacteria!
* Other pathogenic microorganisms: Bacteria aren’t the only invaders that threaten your gastrointestinal system. There are also fungal infections. There are many, but one example of a commonly observed infection is Candida. Parasites can also invade your GI tract and produce significant damage to your mucosal lining and ability to absorb nutrients.
* Inflammatory Markers: A gut that is inflamed cannot absorb nutrients and leads to chronic disease. It allows for suppressed immune function and can precipitate such common conditions as migraines, joint pain, arthritis, constipation/diarrhea, and/or depression.
* Absorption Markers: Many digestive stool tests are able to determine pancreatic sufficiency, fat digestion markers, assessment for putrefaction (basically where the food you eat is not assimilated properly and literally rots inside of you) and other markers to ensure that you are absorbing your nutrients properly.
* Adipose Index: One stool test, in particular, notes the presence of two genus of bacteria that if imbalanced have been shown to increase risk of obesity. The reason for this is because of the bacteria’s ability to extract higher levels of calories from the food consumed. For example, fiber is an important part of our daily diet. However, if you have an alteration in these bacteria then you will actually consume more calories from fiber than a person without the imbalance would. This increased caloric extraction can cause weight gain despite no increase in food, or even in someone eating healthy and trying to diet. That leads to a huge frustration for the person struggling with this, and a simple solution is to re-establish a healthy gut flora.
Functional stool tests are very useful and can provide a wealth of information. If you have struggled with a condition for a long time, or have an autoimmune disease, it would be in your best interest to find a practitioner that will order a digestive stool analysis for you. If you have further questions or would like more information on a good lab, please e-mail us.