If you've read my book, Love Your Gut, or seen me for a consultation, you'll know when it comes to diagnosing and treating your health, I place A LOT of emphasis on your poo! But before you go getting all grossed out, you may be surprised to learn that when it comes to your poo, it tells an awful lot about you! So why is it that the topic of poo has become so taboo?!
Would you think differently about your number two's if I told you your poo holds the key to your health - both present and future? The reason why is because microscopic microbes living within your stool, collectively influence the state of not just your gut health, but everything from the way you metabolise food and your subsequent weight, through to your skin and mental health! This is precisely why when I see a patient, I literally start at the bottom!
Your poo is full of bacteria - both 'good' and 'bad', along with other potential pathogens like parasites and excess Candida (the naturally occurring fungus that lives within your gut). The microbes living within your gut form an ecosystem known as your 'microbiome' and like any ecosystem, the balance of 'good' vs 'bad' microbes, determines the function of every cell within your body! The ultimate aim is to have a finely tuned balance of 85% 'good' microbes vs 15% 'bad' - in order to have an optimally functioning gut. Should the balance tip in favour of the 'bad' guys, you're likely to feel the negative effects - not only with your digestive health, but across your other body systems - which can present in wide variety of symptoms and eventually lead to disease!
How To Test Your Poo
You may well be wondering how on earth we go about finding out what's living within your stool....? Well, thankfully the process is highly sophisticated and doesn't require you getting your hands dirty! So let me explain the steps involved in the testing of one's poo:
Step 1. involves collecting a sample of your poo via a stool test kit - supplied by your friendly practitioner. ( I recommend choosing a practitioner experienced in stool analysis and gut health). After you've scraped a sample of your poo into a little bottle, you then send your poo away (be sure to pack it well as we don't want the postman finding any nasty surprises!!) for analysis to a specific lab. Your practitioner may have their preferred lab, but personally, I recommend Bioscreen in Australia for a 'Faecal Microbial Analysis' to analyse the levels of 'good' bacteria within your small intestine, and depending if your practitioner orders the next level of testing, the lab can also analyse your poo for the presence of any 'bad' microbes, such as specific parasites, or an overgrowth of Candida Albicans. (Note this second stage of analysis costs a little more if you go through a private lab, but I recommend going the whole hog because there's no point in analysing the good without the bad!). Alternatively you can save a bit of money and ask your GP to refer you under medicare for a 'faecal bacteriology and parasitology stool test', but note this test only screens for some strains of abnormal bacteria and parasites living within your gut, so depending what bacteria or parasite you may be infected with will determine if the medicare test returns a positive sample.
Step 2. Luckily for me, the 'analysis' part of your poo is left up to the clever men and women in white coats at the lab to fossick around in! A good lab will screen for up to 5000 potential organisms that could be living within your gut - both good and bad! This is why I don't always rely on the conventional stool tests covered by medicare for a full diagnosis.
Step 3. Once the lab has analysed the break down of your stool sample (this typically takes around 3 - 4 weeks), your referring practitioner will receive a detailed report on all aspects of your poo and enlighten you with what's living in your stool and what's not. This information will enable a very specific and tailored treatment plan of attack for resurrecting your gut health!
In my clinical experience, most of my patients return a positive result for an overgrowth of some form of pathogen within their gut, most commonly an overgrowth of H.pylori or clostridium difficile, or blastocystis hominis , as well as the unfriendly yeast - Candida Albicans. The presence of these pathogenic microbes often lies at the heart of a patient's presenting health issue and until the offending pathogen/s is eliminated, the 'good' bacteria colonies within your gut will be unable to flourish and hence any health issue may not resolve entirely until balance is restored to your microbiome.
Just as it's possible to have excess levels of 'bad' microbes living within your gut, you can also have an overgrowth of 'good' strains of bacteria - a condition known as SIBO - Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth. This condition can wreak just as much havoc on your health as an overgrowth of the 'bad' guys, so it's it's essential to analyse your stool for the good strains, as much as the 'bad', in order to get a true picture of your gut health.
What About Leaky Gut?
You may have heard of a condition known as 'Leaky Gut'. You can read my previous post about it here. When it comes to mopping up your gut health, it's just as important to repair your gut wall as it is to eliminate any bad microbes and replenish deficiencies in any strains of good bacteria. Leaky Gut is a very common phenomenon in most people nowadays, thanks to the overuse of antibiotics, the oral contraceptive pill, pathogenic infections, chronic stress, food intolerances and poor digestion. The degree of leaky gut someone may present with will vary from person to person - and this typically depends on the period of time a patients gut health may have been compromised. A general rule of thumb is - the longer your have experienced poor gut health, the greater the extent of leaky gut and the more prone you'll be to chronic health problems and diseases.
It's essential to treat leaky gut in combination with eliminating the 'bad' microbes and balancing out an overgrowth of Candida Albicans and any strains of good good bacteria, or you will literally be pushing shit ( pardon the pun) up a hill when it comes to your recovery.
So as you can see from this post, your poo tells a lot about you and by putting it under the microscope, we can acquire a stack of valuable information about the underlying cause of any health problem/s you may be experiencing, as well as implement any preventive health measures to reduce your risk of illness and disease down the track!
The first thing I recommend you do, is observe your poo when you go the toilet each day and note the following:
These factors will tell a lot about your gut health and explain so much your day to function. To learn more about gut health and how to tackle your health problems through repairing your gut - grab a copy of my book, Love Your Gut and experience the life changing difference a healthy functioning gut can make to every aspect of your health, including your mental health.