Digestive Health, Part 3 On Blood Tests
Written by Dr. Claire Arcidiacono, ND
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Digestive Health affects practically everyone who eats and goes to the bathroom. Everyone knows about colonoscopies for digestive health. If you watch television you probably know about the new at home test! But there’s so much more to be done when it comes to testing the digestive tract. The test s are broken down into the following categories: blood tests, breath tests, stool tests and “structural” exams. There are so many different tests for digestive health, I will cover the most commonly run blood tests for digestive health as well as the most commonly done breath tests. †
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Blood Tests Done For Digestive System
Liver function tests which can be done to make sure the liver is healthy. There are some tests that can help to check for gallbladder health as well as liver health. Liver tests include Serum Alkaline Phosphatase Test, Alanine Transaminase (ALT) Test, Aspartate Transaminase (AST) Test, Serum Albumin Test and INR. For both the gallbladder and liver, the Serum Bilirubin Test and Gamma-Glutamyl Transferase (GGT) can be done. † (1)
Celiac disease can be done by testing for gluten antibodies. The thing to note is if you haven’t eaten gluten in a long time, this test can give a false negative. The body will stop making antibodies to process gluten if none has been present for a long period of time. †
Helicobacter Pylori can also be found by testing for the presence of antibodies. There is also a breath test for this!
Food allergies can be determined via IgE antibodies. This is slightly different from food sensitivities, which can be found via IgG antibodies. General food allergies tend to be more severe in reactions than food sensitivities. † (2)
Lactose Tolerance Test is a blood test that looks for the digestive breakdown products of lactose in the blood. The breath test is the preferred method to determine lactose intolerance. †(3)
Anti-Saccharomyces Cerevisiae antibodies can indicate Crohn’s disease, since they’re often seen. †
Other routine blood work that can be helpful include testing for Anemia as well as testing the white blood cells. †(4)
C- reactive protein can be helpful as a maker for inflammation in the digestive system. †(5)
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Breath tests are very interesting; done by measuring gases in the breath. The hydrogen breath test measures hydrogen levels produced after consuming a particular sugar. You go and give a baseline breath and then you consume a sugar – usually lactose, fructose, sucrose, sorbitol, glucose or lactulose. The type of sugar used changes depending on what is being tested. After a certain period of time, you will give several breath samples to measure the hydrogen produced. If the hydrogen is high, it means you aren’t digesting that particular sugar well. Lactose, fructose, and sorbitol all test for an intolerance. While a breath test is the best way to rule out lactose intolerance, a blood test is still an option. Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO) is tested using glucose as the sugar. Additionally, hydrogen breath tests can be done to determine if rapid transit time is occurring. This is where the food goes through the GI tract faster than normal. †
The H pylori Test checks for carbon dioxide to determine the presence of H pylori, a bacteria commonly associated with acid reflux. Blood tests for H pylori antibodies can be done; however, they are not as accurate as the breath test since it can’t differentiate between current and past infections. During this test, rather than consume sugar, you normally consume a solution made up of carbon molecules. In summary, breath tests are done most often to help with determining lactose intolerance, certain sugar intolerance’s, SIBO, H pylori as well as rapid transit time. †(6)
Next week, we’ll be covering stool tests as well as physical exams like colonoscopies. †