The right tests for IBS

The right tests for IBS

In my last blog post I wrote about how adrenal fatigue can wreak havoc on the gut, leading to infections, inflammation, and IBS. I also wrote about my personal experience with adrenal fatigue.

This week I want to elaborate on how I discovered I had adrenal fatigue.

Because the Internet is such an amazing source of health information, it’s tempting to diagnose yourself based on symptoms alone. But this is the worst possible way to do so because it’s pure guessing. Symptoms are there to get your attention, not as clues for a diagnosis. A symptom-based approach will likely lead you on a wild goose chase for the root cause of your health issues.

The symptoms of adrenal fatigue, such as trouble sleeping, fatigue, anxiety, depression, cravings for sweets or salt, and dizziness upon standing could be caused by so many other things. Some possible causes could be blood sugar disregulation, B12 or iron deficiency, bacterial overgrowth, a parasite…. honestly the options are too numerous to list. So diagnosing yourself because you match the symptom list can delay your road to recovery.

If you want to take an organized, scientific approach I highly suggest taking the right tests. Testing is the only way you can know if you have adrenal issues and at what stage.

A cortisol saliva test (checked at 4 times during the day) is the gold standard for adrenal testing. You can also check the status of other hormones like melatonin, testosterone, progesterone and estrogen.

I took this test in the comfort of my home and sent the results back to the lab in a two day UPS mailer. A week and a half later I had my cortisol and dhea levels in black in white. No guess work needed. No room for denial either. I was in stage 2 adrenal fatigue.

I was surprised because I had been treating myself for adrenal fatigue and felt better, but I think I just managed to pull myself out of stage 3, where there were tons of symptoms, up to stage 2 where my symptoms were very mild.

The test showed me that I was not yet in a stable place with my adrenals. Another bout of prolonged stress and/or a slip up in my diet could easily slide back into a higher stage of adrenal fatigue. My goal was to get out of adrenal fatigue completely so I was resilient to the stressful surprises of life.

My test results also gave me a clue that something was not right with my gut. While all my cortisol values were low, my morning reading was unusually high, not matching the rest of the test. This is often an indication of a gut infection.

Based on that, I took a stool test to see what was going on.

My stool test showed that I had an h pylori infection. H pylori is a bacteria that infects the stomach lining and typically reduces stomach acid production.

I was even more surprised about these results because I had no symptoms at all. Apparently, this is not uncommon. Some people present terrible symptoms with h pylori like reflux, GERD, gastritis, belching, ulcers, a burning sensation in the belly, loss of appetite, nausea, bloating, etc. Other people have nothing at all.

I can only guess why, but I think it has to do with the state of the rest of your digestive system. Despite my adrenal struggles I have been working diligently on my gut for a long time.

Unfortunately though, no matter how healthy I ate or how much I meditated or exercised or enjoyed my life, it would not heal the bacterial infection in my stomach.

I will write a post on h pylori soon because I’ve learned a ton about it.

H pylori is the most common bacterial infection in the world. Because of this, just about everyone is exposed to h pylori and the strength of your immune system (which is primarily located in your gut) determines if the infection takes hold in your body or is destroyed.

I don’t know how long I’ve had h pylori because I was never tested for it! Not even when I complained to doctors about reflux and heart burn symptoms.

There is a symbiotic relationship between the adrenals and infection in your body. I mentioned in last week’s post that strong adrenals work in concert with your immune system to protect you from infections. However, other factors like stomach acid protect the body from infection and if stomach acid is low, it increases susceptibility to infections.   When an infection takes root it will automatically weaken adrenal function as they work overtime to calm the inflammation caused by the infection. As this takes a toll on the adrenals the body is left wide open to new infections. That’s the vicious cycle. So you have to treat the infection before you can heal the adrenals! 

This was the missing piece in my personal health puzzle and I owe it to functional lab work for discovering it.

From that personal experience, I decided to add functional lab testing to my health coaching practice a year ago. It has made a huge difference my client’s success rates and speed of recovery.

Healing h pylori was not as straight forward as I thought. I didn’t take antibiotics because the success rate was low. I tried a herbal treatment and had a bad reaction. My next try was a success. I’m happy to report I’m now h pylori free! My adrenals have a good chance of recovering. If you know you have h pylori and can’t wait for my next post, feel free to contact me for advice.

The three lab tests I recommend to all my clients are the adrenal panel, the comprehensive stool test that checks for parasites, candida, c dificil, dysbiosis, h pylori and occult blood. This is a 3 day stool test that will catch things that a 1 day stool test will often miss. The most important test is a breath test for SIBO (small intestinal bacterial overgrowth) which is a one of the most common causes for IBS, characterized by bloating and intolerance to certain carbohydrates.

SIBO is tricky to heal and can be made worse, for some people, by taking probiotics and eating fermented foods. The SIBO diet and treatment protocol is very specific and requires herbal antibiotics. SIBO will not go away on it’s own or with diet only. It needs to be treated by a practitioner that is familiar with its complexities and protocols.

I’ve been working with SIBO since I started seeing clients. About 50 percent of my clients have it. Treating SIBO with regular antibiotics and nothing else may be effective in the short term but the infection has a high chance of coming back.

People tend to shy away from lab work because of the expense, (insurance often won’t cover it). I can relate to that feeling very well. But the tests, which total about $600 can save you years of pain, suffering and searching. So in my opinion it’s a worthwhile investment.

If the tests come out completely clear of infection, we know that a straight forward focus on rebuilding bacterial balance and healing and sealing the gut lining will be effective without hidden surprises.

My blog readers e-mailing me often asking for the best free advice I can give.

So here it is….take these 3 tests to get a concrete total picture of what is going on inside your body.

I know that the tests taken at the doctors office came out negative, showing nothing wrong and sticking us with the IBS diagnosis. These are not those tests. Functional tests target the gut specifically in ways that regular physicians do not.

So get the right tests that dig for the right answers.

There’s a last test you can take that can give you a snapshot of your bacterial diversity and how it compares to the diversity of the general population. It’s the least expensive one, a snap to take and can be ordered and interpreted by you.  It will tell you what your bacterial diversity is and what species populate your gut. You can order the time lapse kit that includes 3 sample kits that you can use when you want to see if those expensive probiotics are actually making a difference in shifting your gut flora. I also work with my clients to help them use this data to their benefit. And how to make shifts in the biome (bacterial ecosystem).

The test is offered by the Ubiome website.  To get 10 percent off your purchase use this link:

Lastly, I want to say that most of these tests for IBS are not available through your doctors office. Regular physicians don’t test for adrenal fatigue and don’t believe it exists.

SIBO tests are starting to become more common but are still relatively rare. If you find a doctor to give you a SIBO test, make sure it’s the test with the lactulose substrate, which is far more accurate than the test that uses glucose. The glucose test will only check for overgrowth in the top part of the small intestine and produce a false negative if the infection is thriving in the lower parts of the small intestine. I use the gold standard lactulose test in my health coaching practice.

As far stool tests, the ones offered by your doctor are a single sample collection. Single samples can miss an infection that a 3 or 6 day sample will catch. The stool sample tests I use are  a 3 or 6 day collection and will give you the most accurate results possible. For example, parasites, due to their life cycle, are very easy to miss from a single sample test, while a 6 sample test can catch them. If you are going to take a stool test, accuracy is key.

So that’s my best advice to you. Get the right tests for IBS.

It’s not intuitive, but now you know, so the power is in your hands. If you are serious about finding the root cause of your symptoms there’s no better way than these 3 functional lab tests.



angelafavheadshotAngela Privin is proof that IBS is NOT an incurable disease or a disease at all. IBS is a body out of balance. It’s an invitation for change. After solving her own IBS mystery more than a decade ago Angela trained as a health coach to help others.

Angela uses both science and intuition to help people figure out what’s out of balance in their body. She works with lab tests, dietary changes, supplementation and nervous system rebalancing. Get help rebalancing your digestive system and solving your IBS mystery here.

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