article icon

What tests can be done on the stool?

Dr Karen Martin
Reviewed by Dr Karen MartinReviewed on 19.10.2023 | 3 minutes read

A stool test is done to assess the health of your bowel and your gut. It analyzes your poop as there are many things it can tell a doctor about your overall health.

What kind of things can a stool test help diagnose?

There are two main groups of stool tests: those that look for illness and diseases and others that look more at the health of the gut and microbiomes.

Diseases like inflammatory bowel disease, such as Crohn’s and ulcerative colitis can be detected by a stool sample, and tests to pick up microscopic blood from the gut – blood you can’t visibly see – can help in early detection of cancer.

Certain infections can be picked up if the stool test is looking at bacteria, ova, cysts, or parasites like worms. There are also stool tests that can diagnose if you have a condition called fat malabsorption or if your pancreas is not producing enough enzymes.

What kind of symptoms should I be worried about?

Certain symptoms may prompt your doctor to arrange a stool sample. Symptoms such as blood or mucus in your stool, persistent change in your bowel habits (constipation or diarrhea), unexplained weight loss, stomach pain or cramping, and even persistent nausea can all indicate different types of illnesses that can be diagnosed with a stool sample.

If you have acute diarrhea, possibly gastroenteritis, your doctor may request a stool test to check for certain serious infections or parasites, especially if you picked it up from somewhere abroad or have been admitted to the hospital.

What can a stool test not diagnose?

Although stool tests can provide a good amount of information, there is still a lot that they cannot diagnose. For example, they can’t diagnose gluten insensitivity or food intolerances and allergies. Some stool tests can diagnose conditions like small intestine bacterial overgrowth, candida overgrowth, or leaky gut. The validity of the results for these conditions is still unknown.

How is a stool sample taken?

You’ll be given a special container with a lid that you can write your details on. You’ll be advised to catch your stool in a clean disposable container or onto tissue if your poop is not leaky and use the spatula provided to scoop some of the stool into the container. Make sure your poop doesn’t touch the inside of the toilet, and avoid mixing your urine and poop together. Seal the container and return it to your doctor’s office as soon as possible.

And don’t worry, the reception staff are very used to handling specimens, just make sure you’ve screwed the top tight and sealed it in the bag provided.

Was this helpful?

Was this helpful?

This article has been written by UK-based doctors and pharmacists, so some advice may not apply to US users and some suggested treatments may not be available. For more information, please see our T&Cs.
Dr Karen Martin
Reviewed by Dr Karen Martin
Reviewed on 19.10.2023
App Store
Google Play
Piff tick
Version 2.28.0
© 2024 Healthwords Ltd. All Rights Reserved