What is GI-MAP Testing + Why I Use it With All My Clients
The GI-MAP at-home stool test, is a functional testing option that gives us a comprehensive picture of what the inner workings of our digestive function looks like at a given time.
This is the stool test that I use with all of my clients in my 1:1 program the Gut Rehab Intensive. All my clients poop for science!
I love this test because it provides insights into multipole aspects of gut health from viral pathogens, to bacteria (both beneficial and opportunistic flora), parasites/fungus, digestive function, immune function, and more. It can give us quantitative data about what is happening in the gut so we don't have to guess about why a certain symptom like gas, bloating or heartburn might be occurring.
These markers give us insight into whether our digestive secretions are working for us optimally, whether there is inflammation in the gut, and more. Once we have this information, I work with clients to create a protocol uses natural methods of rebalancing the gut:
Nutrition and food choices
Herbs and supplements
Lifestyle and habits
Let’s take a deeper look into the information we get access to using the GI-MAP.
The first page of the GI MAP stool test measures for various pathogens: bacterial, parasitic, and viral. These are pathogens that would generally make someone very sick if they were infected. Things you might’ve heard of, like salmonella, E. coli, C. difficile. Generally, if you’re infected with one of these bugs, you would usually be headed to the hospital or your doctor. Often if these pathogens do come up, we will bring their doctor in for collaborative care.
While these pathogens generally come back negative, individuals can be asymptomatic carriers of certain bacteria like C. difficile, so while there may not be an active infection, it could be feeding on undigested amino acids.
This client was not sick with an acute C. diff infection, but was not digesting proteins well which allowed the bacteria to survive. This is a risk for future antibiotic use, which could allow the C. diff to cause an infection.
H. pylori is a bacteria that can colonize the stomach. This particular bug has a corkscrew-shaped “tail,” which is used to actually burrow itself into the cells of our stomach lining. As you can imagine, this can wreak havoc on the cells of our stomach lining and ability to secrete stomach acid.
H. pylori has been known to contribute to conditions like acid reflux/GERD, gastritis, stomach cancer, and even thyroid disease. While it’s important to eradicate H. pylori for those reasons, when it’s present, it’s also important as H. pylori infections can impact stomach acid levels.
When our stomach acid levels are too low (which can happen in the case of H. pylori), we aren’t neutralizing pathogens (which can cause imbalances in our microbiome further down the digestive tract), we aren’t digesting proteins adequately, and we may not be absorbing vitamin B12 effectively.
This client had a history of heartburn and upper-left ribcage discomfort (stomach area). Less sensitive H. pylori tests had come back negative but the highly sensitive GI-MAP was able to identify the quantity of bacteria was become problematic.
Normal Bacteria Flora
The GI-MAP tests for a variety of beneficial microbes (like Akkermansia) so we can see what they are up to. These are the good bugs that provide us with a ton of health benefits. They play roles in our metabolism, immunity, the health of our intestinal lining, producing short-chain fatty acids, manufacturing and modulating neurotransmitters, impacting our mood, in producing vitamins, and so much more!
Too few good guys can cause gas, bloating and even contribute to intestinal permeability, aka. "Leaky Gut"
When we see imbalances in these normal beneficial flora on the GI-MAP, whether it be a deficiency in these good bugs or an overgrowth of them, we can better direct recommendations moving forward to rebalance their numbers, so they can continue to support us and our health.
This client was not eating a wide variety of veggies and fruit and had taken antibiotics in the last year, which created a less than ideal environment for beneficial flora.
Think of the opportunistic bacteria here like the “weeds” in our garden. It’s fine to have some of them hanging around in manageable numbers (in our gut, these bugs help to keep our immune system on top of its game!), but when things start to get out of hand, and they overgrow, it can become problematic.
Overgrowths in these bugs, especially specific inflammatory species, can contribute to many digestive symptoms. They can cause things like diarrhea, bloating, gas, distention, inflammation.
Certain bacteria overgrow because of low stomach acid and will rebalance themselves once we address imbalances like H. pylori. Other bugs, though, can trigger inflammation and autoimmune diseases unless eradicated. Using the GI-MAP, we can see which specific species are overgrown in the microbiome, and are then able to better target them specifically to rebalance numbers.
This client had been experiencing intense abdominal pain and was diagnosed with an autoimmune thyroid disease, this is a great example of gut inflammation triggering autoimmunity.
Fungi and Yeast
I have found that a large number of people believe they have Candida overgrowth. Testing for for populations of fungus, such as Candida albicans, can help us understand if this is an issue that should be addressed.
Fungal overgrowths can contribute to skin issues, yeast infections, and digestive symptoms like bloating and altered bowel movements.
This client was experiencing a lot of bloating, rashes and sugar cravings, which are common symptoms of Candida overgrowth.
GI-MAP testing looks for two types of parasites: protozoa and worms. Protozoa are kind of like highly evolved bacteria, while worms are... well...
Parasites by nature survive at our expense, depleting us of nutrients and energy, and creating stress on the body. They can contribute to altered bowel movements, fatigue, skin concerns, nausea, weight loss, and more.
Whenever we see parasites on a GI-MAP, this is something we want to eradicate.
This client was taking oral medication for Crohn's disease and was able to come off the medication and experience full remission once this parasite was eradicated.
Intestinal Health Markers
My favourite panel on the GI-MAP is the Intestinal Health Panel. Here, we get a peek into overall digestion, whether gut imbalances could be contributing to hormonal issues, and overall intestinal health.
By testing the markers Elastase-1 and Steatocrit, we can get a better idea of what our digestive secretion output is and how well we are breaking down our food. Secretory IgA is marker for overall gut immune function, and Anti-gliadin IgA can let you know if your immune system is reacting to gluten specifically. Did you know that upwards of 70% of our immune system is located in the gut?! This is a very important marker for gut health.
This client was experiencing very significant gut inflammation and gluten sensitivity.
Ready to dive in? I'm currently accepting new clients into my Gut Rehab Intensive where we use GI-MAP testing to put together a gut-focused protocol to get you feeling your best.