How to get to the bottom of your digestive problems


I’ve tried a lot of things in the name of work, from a miserable 5 week macrobiotic diet to contacting my inner wild spirit animal and speaking its language. I’ll give anything a go. But even I squirmed at the idea of a stool test. Why did I go through this? Two words: Desperation and determination.  I was desperate to know the precise reason for feeling unwell and determined to find a solution. I love food far too much to endure not being able to enjoy the process of eating.

The NHS option given to me was come back in three months, and if I felt worse I could be referred to a gastroenterologist. Since that would take another two months, I calculated suffering for 5 months. With increasing evidence on the link between the gut and the mind could a diagnostic stool test achieve a double whammy of identifying what was playing havoc with my digestion and my mind?

Here’s my survival guide to help you decide if a stool test can help you, and how to deal with it:Start with a DIY assessment

It’s a subject we don’t talk about but the state of our body’s natural waste can reveal a lot about how our digestive engine is working and the state of our internal affairs. You don’t need to go for a full blown expensive test. To start with have you noticed changes? If you notice even tiny specks of blood consult your GP as you will be sent for some standard tests. This online guide is a good starting point.

Consider the link between the gut and the mind

The link between the gut and the mind is a relatively new area of research.  Imperial College London for example is currently investigating the link between the gut and addiction to smoking and alcohol. Stool tests reveal what’s going on in your gut and (with the help of a skilled practitioner) can help identify how this relates to your moods. If you are frustrated that you’re doing all the right things to manage stress including eating healthily then a stool test is likely to solve the mystery.

Find a practitioner you trust to help you decide

This is unpleasant enough when your GP asks for a sample, but a full blown diagnostic stool test over three days with a kit that includes several phials, cardboard trays and complex instructions at a cost of £300? It’s fiddly, messy, unpleasant, embarrassing and can be stressful. There might be other tests that are more appropriate. This could take time but in the meantime, keep returning to your GP. The NHS will provide more tests — but not if you suffer silently,

Sometimes you need to use credit card for your health

If you suspect your doctor is fobbing you off with IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome) then continue investigating. Unless a specialist confirms you have IBS you may embark on following advice that weakens your digestive system further and wears you down physically,  leading to frustration and depression.  If you are self-employed you don’t receive paid sick leave, so that’s another issue to think about: you need to be healthy to work.  Forget the material things and take a risk to get better (provided you go through a trusted and recommended practitioner).

Take time to master the instructionspexels-photo-88808

The instructions for stool tests are not user friendly so take your time to plan the right week to carry these out and check that extra kits are available at no additional cost. Expect to : freak out over putting the cardboard tray together (this goes into the toilet basin to collect to poos) ; be so nervous you knock over a phial (which makes the test void as the chemical liquid level must be intact) ; forget that you can’t pee at the point when you pee (the test sample is then void); become utterly confused by the instructions on the third day and wonder if this is what your life has come to; feel acutely embarrassed with loved ones sharing your home; not want to go to the toilet whilst wishing the whole process to be over.

Set up a system 

Set yourself up a system for proceeding every day (positioning the kit, lining up what you need, having waste bags to hand). And buy a lovely aromatherapy spray for the bathroom before you proceed. Try Aveda Chakra 1 Balancing Body Mist . Yes, that’s extravagant for a bathroom spray, but you’ll be regretting the £300 you’ve spent for the yukky test, and be beyond caring about wasting the £30 body mist. The patchouli and vetiver essential oils are overpowering enough to get you through the smelly process and the location of the root chakra seems appropriate.


A lot

Keep telling yourself: the result is worth it

Remember what goes out will help you determine what needs to go into your body. This could be anything from medication for infection, supplements to boost your digestive system, a temporary diet to rectify a problem, or some tweaking so that you can enjoy your food.

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