Doctor’s guide to testing for gut and nutrition health

You know that nutrition is the predominate factor leading to good health. And the most effective way to ruin your good health begins with disease-causing inflammation in your intestines. Food allergies are notorious for promoting inflammation in the gut that also robs you of vital nutrients.

These tips can help you avoid the pitfalls of poor gut health and guide you to some testing to zero in on the source of your problem.

Measure important nutrients

Testing your blood for key nutrients can guide you with your nutritional goals, which translates into healing from chronic illness and preventing further illness from developing. Below are some measurements you should consider.

Omega oils: You can have your omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids measured in your blood. Optimal and most anti-inflammatory is to consume these essential fatty acids from your food (or supplementation) close to a ratio of 1:1 (omega-3: omega-6). The same company can usually also measure EPA, DHA, and Arachidonic Acid. Quest lab performs this test.

Vitamins, minerals, iron: serum Folate (Vitamin B9), cobalamin (Vitamin B12), red blood cell Magnesium, Ferritin (iron storage), and Total Iron can be tested from your blood. Quest lab performs this test.

More comprehensive analyses of vitamins, minerals and key antioxidants are available through Spectracell Laboratories.

Organic Amino Acids

Testing your urine for metabolites of key amino acids will tell you more about your nutritional status and your gut health. These can give important clues to causes of illness such as chronic fatigue, mood disorders, headaches, arthritis, muscle aches, digestive problems, and more. For example, Genova Diagnostics tests 46 key organic acids that have specific relationship to:

  • GI function: malabsorption and unbalanced gut bacteria
  • Cell and mitochondria energy: metabolism of glucose, fats, cholesterol, and Coenzyme Q10 production (the key anti-oxidant generator of energy in cells)
  • Neurotransmitters: metabolites of epinephrine, dopamine, and serotonin
  • Vitamin and mineral cofactor levels: uncover deficiencies of Vitamin B6, B12, C, magnesium, copper, iron, and some key amino acids.

Another resource is Great Plains Laboratory.

Food sensitivity

So you think you know what a food “allergy” is, right? You’re probably thinking of the immediate hypersensitivity IgE (immunoglobulin E) type reaction of histamine release, causing itching, runny/stuffy nose, or sneezing. The skin-scratch test looks for these.

In contrast, there is a more prevalent yet subtle condition: the IgG delayed-type reaction, measured by sensitive Enzyme-Linked-Immnosorbent Assay (ELISA) technology. [1] [2] When IgG antibodies are formed to specific food proteins you get symptoms starting hours to days after eating the offending food. Approximately six months ago I wrote how bread (gluten protein) is the cause of my long-standing face rash, dandruff, and back pain, an example of an IgG reaction.

The most common offending foods are milk, corn, wheat, egg, and certain foods processed with molds (fruit juices, black tea, breads).

What kinds of symptoms could be from delayed-type food allergy?

  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Asthma
  • Eczema, hives
  • Migraines
  • Sinusitis
  • Neurological disorders, autism, AD(H)D, movement disorders, epilepsy
  • Gastrointestinal disorders: Colitis, irritable bowel syndrome, cystic fibrosis

IgG food sensitivity testing helps uncover food reactions that are contributing to symptoms or any chronic illness, whether they are physical or mental. If you can remove highly reactive foods from your diet you can heal your symptoms. I did…by eliminating bread from my diet.

Candida albicans

Taking antibiotics, oral contraceptives, anti-inflammatory corticosteroids, chemotherapy or other immune-depressant medications greatly increase your susceptibility to Candida overgrowth in your gut. We know that Candida-specific immunoglobulins are found in all individuals tested.  When Candida albicans mutates from its yeast form to its fungal form it can grow out of balance, producing toxins that damage your gut lining, known as “leaky gut syndrome,” and causing an inflammatory immune system response. Illnesses known to be linked to Candida overgrowth are depression, chronic fatigue, multiple sclerosis, and autism. Therefore, if you test for IgG Candida antibodies [3] at more than the 97.5th percentile then you have Candida yeast overgrowth.

Asian Food Allergy

If you frequently consume Asian foods common to China, Japan, and Korea you can look into IgG testing [4] for miso, Shiitake mushroom, those common spices and seafood. This could uncover causes of symptoms such as headaches, IBS, fatigue, abdominal pain, skin rash, hair loss, arthritis, acne, thyroid disorders, or vitamin deficiency.

Digestive enzyme function

Pancreatic Elastase 1 (PE-1) can be measured [5] from your blood or stool which will evaluate your digestive enzyme function of the organ that produces these: your pancreas. Low levels of PE-1 indicate pancreatic enzyme insufficiency, which is associated with several gut-related illnesses. Consider this test if you have Irritable Bowel Syndrome (especially diarrhea-predominant IBS), unexplained weight loss, mal-digestion, abdominal pain, or low bone density.

Gut inflammation

Fecal Calprotectin [6] is a marker of gut inflammation. It is produced by white blood cells (a.k.a. neutrophils) in your gut and can quantify the amount of inflammation present. It is used to differentiate between irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), also known as Ulcerative Colitis and Crohn’s Disease.

Gut bacteria health

I previously wrote about SIBO, the all-too-common Small Bowel Intestinal Overgrowth, so you may already the importance of healthy gut bacteria. For that we test for hydrogen or methane gas produced after consumption of glucose or lactulose. [7] [8] [9]

Now you should know that intestinal bacterial diversity (many different strains of bacteria) and bacterial abundance have been shown to be other ways to determine your gut health. The more diverse and abundant your gut bacteria are, the easier you can handle infections and dietary changes. This is implicated in irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), Ulcerative Colitis and Crohn’s disease, obesity, mental disorders, and allergies. Genova Diagnostics performs a “Microbial Ecology Profile.” [10]

Treatment to improve gut health

In addition to consuming nutrient-rich food, building health gut lining with probiotics, and intestinal cleansing from time to time, you may still need a prescription antibiotic to clean out unhealthy gut bacteria overgrowth. These specific antibiotics are Rifaximin or Metronidazole. [11]

To feeling good with optimal health,

Michael Cutler, M.D.
Easy Health Options

[11] Pimental M. Review of rifaximin as treatment for SIBO and IBS. Expert Opin Investig Drugs. 2009 Mar;18(3):349-58.

Dr. Michael Cutler

By Dr. Michael Cutler

Dr. Michael Cutler is a graduate of Tulane University School of Medicine and is a board-certified family physician with more than 20 years of experience. He serves as a medical liaison to alternative and traditional practicing physicians. His practice focuses on an integrative solution to health problems. Dr. Cutler is a sought-after speaker and lecturer on experiencing optimum health through natural medicines and founder of the original Easy Health Options™ newsletter — an advisory on natural healing therapies and nutrients. His current practice is San Diego Integrative Medicine, near San Diego, California.