How to Test Gut Health: The 5 Best Ways, Says Dietitian

These are the best ways I’ve found in how to test your gut health so you can get to the bottom of it already.

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Many Americans are dealing with health issues, whether they be related to chronic illness, heart disease, autoimmune issues or mental health challenges. Our gut is connected to our entire body, and how we feel directly relates to how healthy our gut is. There are all kinds of things we can do to improve our gut health and microbiome, but how do you know where to even start?

Testing your gut health is a great stepping stone towards improving your overall health and restoring healthy gut flora. Knowing what is going on in your gut can help you understand why you might be experiencing issues like bloating, gas, frequent diarrhea, illness and much more. Luckily, there are a number of tests and products that you can take advantage of to find out more about your body.

But First, Why Test Your Gut Health?

why test gut health

You might be wondering what the advantage is when you test your gut health. After all, can’t you just guess and start taking probiotics to improve your microbiome?

It’s not quite that simple. There are about 100 trillion bacteria that live in your gut. The only way of determining what your specific gut profile looks like is by completing a test. Your results will point you in the right direction when it comes to dietary changes you should make, supplements you should utilize and the kind of lifestyle you should be following.

When we make changes not really knowing if they’re right for us, this can end up doing more damage. There’s room for error in some of these gut health tests, but you still have the ability to gather some pretty great information.

5 Best Ways to Test Your Gut Health and Gut Bacteria

There are many ways to test your gut health for those who think they have a leaky gut or just want peace of mind knowing what's going on in there. Below, I'll give you my best ways to do it, some of these options you can do from home, others you'll need to go out and take some action.

#1. Take an At-Home Gut Health Test

how to test gut health at-home test

A microbiome gut health test is similar to a DNA test in that it maps out the various microorganisms that are in our gut microbiome. The results you receive typically come with a recommendation for prebiotic / probiotic supplements that will help you rebuild what you’re missing. You may also learn about different foods that you should consume as well as avoid. The goal is to help balance your gut again so that your entire body functions at a more optimal level.

Our Recommendations

With so many at-home testing kit brands emerging, it can be difficult to select the best at-home gut microbiome test, especially if you are just hearing about it for the first time. It's great that these brands exist because it's now convenient to learn your gut health relatively fast without leaving the house. What's even better, is they are affordable for the every day person, and sometimes cheaper than doing it at your doctor's office.

I listed the top gut health tests for those looking for the best ones out there. In short, I can highly recommend the Viome gut health test, the Floré gut health test, BIOHM, and the Ombre gut health test.

#2. Visual Inspection

visual stool inspection how to test gut health

While it may sound gross, you can gain a lot of information about your gut by inspecting your stools. The way that your waste material looks can actually tell you a lot about what’s going on inside of your GI tract. You can determine how well your digestive system is working, what foods you’re not absorbing well and what changes you can make.

Color of Your Stool

Some of the colors that you should watch out for in your stools include:

Green / Yellow Stools

These colors can indicate that you have an issue with your bile ducts. You could also be experiencing an improper absorption of fat, which indicates that your gut isn’t functioning optimally. You can make some dietary changes that will help your body absorb fats better.

Green stools can also indicate that you’re consuming a lot of green vegetables that may not be broken down all the way before you expel them as waste material. You can try cooking your greens to make them easier to digest.

Yellow stools can also be a sign of an infection. Check with your doctor if you are concerned with yellow stools.

Black / Red Stools

Black or red stools indicate that you may have internal bleeding going on that should be checked out by a doctor as soon as possible. Though, you should also take into account anything bright red that you may have eaten lately (beets may be to blame!).

Physical and Visual Indicators

Bristol Stool Chart Analysis

You can use the Bristol Stool Chart to spot any gut issues that you have going on. If you have a reading that’s near one, then you are experiencing constipation. Higher up on the scale at a seven will indicate diarrhea or very loose stools. Both of these issues are concerning and require some changes and further investigative work.

Floating or Sinking

If your stools are floating in the toilet after you’re done going to the bathroom, this means that you have fat in your stools. Anything that immediately sinks down indicates that you have too many remaining nutrients in your stool that wasn’t properly absorbed by the body.

Physical Strain

The process of using the bathroom should be simple and easy. If you have a little bit of trouble one day this is perfectly normal. It may be related to something you ate (or didn’t eat). However, experiencing frequent constipation is something to talk to your doctor about.

Other Indicators

Frequency

The number of times that you have to use the bathroom to go number two can provide some insight into your gut health. Your microbiome can become imbalanced if you’re experiencing chronic bowel movements or constipation. You also shouldn’t be running for the toilet throughout the day. It’s important to learn what’s normal for you. Not everybody goes at the same frequency, so don’t base your own personal health off what someone else is doing in the bathroom.

#3. Conduct The Beet Test

beet test - how to test gut health

You’ve probably never heard of the beet test before, but this is a good way to determine how much time it takes for your food to be expelled as waste material. If you think you’re heading to the bathroom too quickly after a meal or it’s taking you days, try the beet test.

How to Do the Beet Test

At one of your meals, incorporate beets into your plate. Raw beets work really well, but not everybody enjoys them raw. Once you’ve consumed them, determine how long it takes for you to see a red color in your stools. Ideally, you should be noticing the color change after about 24 to 48 hours. You can complete the beet test a couple of times to see if your results change.

#4. Functional Stool Examination with a Doctor

doctor stool test gut health

A functional stool examination done by a medical professional can provide you with very detailed information regarding your gut health. These tests can vary, sometimes requiring you to collect a few different samples over the course of a few days.

What Does It Test For?

A stool test can be done to determine a number of different results, including the presence of certain microflora, fungus and bacteria. It can also diagnose malabsorption of nutrients, imbalanced enzyme levels and even a parasite infection.

How Do You Get One?

You’ll need to contact a functional medicine doctor in order to secure a stool test.

How Much Do They Cost?

Unfortunately, this is an expensive option for determining your gut health. A functional stool examination can cost anywhere from $300 to $600. This is an option that’s available for people who are dealing with some sort of health issue and haven’t been able to determine what the problem is. You may want to take a less expensive route to start out with.

#5. Lactose Breath Test

lactose breath test how to test gut health

A lactose breath test requires you to follow a specific diet for 24 hours, followed by the consumption of a sugar drink. You will then take breath samples over the course of so many hours in order to determine if you have bacterial overgrowth present in your gut.

Next Steps to Improve Your Gut Health

testing gut health next steps

If you’ve been experiencing bloating, loose stools, constipation, indigestion or any other gut issue, now is the time to look into your microbiome health. You may feel fine when it comes to your gut, but other health issues could be associated as well. This can include migraines, dizziness, nausea, frequent illness, etc. Look into a gut health test, think about inspecting your stools like we talked about, and talk to a doctor that can provide you with additional assistance if you feel it is necessary. There is plenty of help available to you.

Get a Gut Health Test

There are a lot of gut health tests on the market right now. You don’t have to invest in a full stool evaluation done by a medical professional if you don’t have that kind of money to spend. You can check out some of the popular gut health tests on the internet. Most of them are very affordable, and you’ll receive a great deal of information with your results. Many of these companies also sell supplements that can help get you back on track.

Work On Improving Your Digestion

There are so many different ways that you can improve your digestion. Sometimes it just takes a few tweaks to your diet to feel a lot better. Other times, you may benefit from a probiotic supplement. The first step is finding out what kind of state your gut is in.

Eat a Healthier Diet

A healthy diet can go a long way towards regulating your gut and ensuring that your body is absorbing the right nutrients each day. There are gut health diets that you can try, or you can simply attempt to work more superfoods designed to improve gut health, such as fruits, veggies and fermented foods into your daily meals. Stick to lean protein, whole grains and avoid refined sugars and processed foods. It's always a good idea to stay away from high-fat, fast food. All of that grease and cholesterol can be very damaging to your gut.

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Courtney D'Angelo

Courtney D'Angelo, MS, RD, earned her masters degree in Nutrition and Foods from the University of Georgia. She's a Registered Dietitian at Morrison Healthcare and has a strong passion in helping people improve their wellness!

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