30 Jan Ask Jenny: Which Tests Should I Have For Gut Health?
In my weekly Ask Jenny column, I answer all of your health and nutrition questions. Have a well-being concern or question you’d like advice on? Submit your question by emailing email@example.com and have it answered by a Board Certified Holistic Nutritionist and Celebrity Health Coach!
Hi Jenny, I've been struggling with gut health for years on and off now, and I want to ask my doctor for some tests but I don't know where to start. Can you give me any advice?
This is one of my most oft-asked questions, and I love to help my clients work with their medical practitioners to get to the root of their digestive issues. Even now it can be hard to get your doctor to agree to testing, so knowing which tests to ask for and providing supporting evidence can be key.
When working with my Private Coaching clients I can narrow down which tests to ask for relative to their symptoms, but as many GI pathologies present in the same way I recommend a full suite of tests in most cases. Keeping a food and symptoms diary is always helpful, as is knowing your family medical history.
Ideally all of your testing would be covered by insurance, but this is not always the case so check (and double check) with your medical practitioner office’s to ascertain what is covered and what is not.
Start With Blood Work
One of the simplest ways to start to piece together the puzzle of GI issues is via your lab work, and even the most basic of blood tests can start to reveal a pathway to the root cause.
Via basic blood work (the type tested in an annual physical) I’m looking at:
• Inflammation and immune markers such as CRP (C-Reactive Protein), IL-6 (Interleukin-6) and Atypical P-ANCA. When higher levels of inflammation and immune activation are high this may stem from leaky gut syndrome.
• Nutrient markers such as Vitamin D, B12, iron and magnesium. If these markers are low compared to my reference ranges this may indicate that the body is not absorbing nutrients from food or supplements.
Additionally food sensitivities can be ascertained via a blood test, and this is the only type of food sensitivity testing I recommend. Whilst it can be useful to know which foods you are reacting to, the number of sensitivities can also be a marker for level of intestinal permeability (leaky gut) and gut inflammation.
Check the Hardware
One of the simplest tests, but one that is often dismissed is an ultrasound to check if there are any blockages in your digestive system, or any malformations such as twists or kinks in the tubes that make up your digestive system. This is a simple test and non invasive test, and especially useful when suffering with gas, bloating and constipation.
A colonoscopy may be performed to detect changes in the colon and rectum, and to investigate the possibility of Crohn’s Disease and Ulcerative Colitis. This is an invasive test, but is typically done as an outpatient, under sedative and is typically pain free and takes less than a day to recover.
Whilst you will be given specific instructions on how to prepare for your colonoscopy I recommend taking L-Glutamine (a healing amino acid) and Proflora S.B. afterwards to help heal the digestive tract and balance and replace beneficial bacteria that may have been lost during the preparation period. Both of these supplements can be found at The Poliquin Group (use code H92OON2F9YLZ for a 10% discount).
Stool testing is a non-invasive assessment of:
• Food digestion and absorption (specific enzymes, fat digestion, and fibers from vegetables, meats and carbohydrates will be tested)
• Inflammation and immunity (specific proteins and enzymes will be tested)
• Gastrointestinal microbiome (prevalence of short chain fatty acids, bacteria, yeasts and parasites will be tested)
Stool testing can only be ordered by a medical professional. However you can test for the balance of bacteria within your microbiome at home (with the option of purchasing personalized probiotics) with an at home testing kit. I use Thryve for myself and my clients, and you can use code ‘HANWAY’ for a 10% discount.
SIBO (Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth) occurs when there is an overgrowth of commensal microbes in the small intestine (where they would not normally be found). A hydrogen and methane breath test is the only way to diagnose SIBO, and whilst this is a non-invasive test it can take between 3-4 hours and a you will need to follow a specific prep diet prior to testing.
Gut health and healing is one of my areas of expertise, and there are a number of ways we can work together on this:
• Private Coaching – for advice on specific testing, working with a medical team, reviewing of results and creating personalized diet, supplement and lifestyle programs. Click here for more information (I currently have limited availability for new clients).
• 28 Day Guided Gut Healing Program – an all new gut healing online course with a 4 week healthy gut diet plan, supplement recommendations and lifestyle strategies to optimize and heal your gut. Launches April 2021, join the waitlist here.
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