We’ve talked before about the important connection between the brain and the gut known as the gut-brain axis. We know when the gut is in a state of overgrowth or imbalance (dysbiosis) your brain chemistry is affected. Brain chemistry affects a variety of behaviors.
Disturbances in the gut-brain axis are frequently the underlying cause of many common challenges that autistic children face. For this reason, gastrointestinal (GI) or stool testing is essential in the discovery of the root cause of your child’s behaviors or symptoms.
Symptoms Linked to an Unhealthy Microbiome
An imbalance or overgrowth in the microbiome can show itself in many ways. Here are a few common manifestations of an unhealthy microbiome in children with autism:
- Picky eating
- Poop smearing
- GI issues like diarrhea, gas, bloating, and constipation
- Mood disorders
If your child is experiencing any of these symptoms, a GI test can help you get to the bottom of the problem.
What Can a Stool Test Tell Us?
Stool tests give you specific and detailed information about how your autistic child’s gastrointestinal system is working. These tests can tell us if:
- There’s a balance of good and bad bacteria in the gut
- There are any parasites, yeast, fungi, or other unwanted gut invaders present
- There are high levels of inflammation caused by food sensitivity
- Your child is getting enough fiber (short-chain fatty acids like butyrate)
- There are any digestive enzyme insufficiencies
- There is excess fat in the stool
- There is enough stomach acid present to kill common pathogens and break down food
- There is occult blood (blood you can’t see) in the stool
- There is any damage to the thin layer of cells separating the inside of the intestines from the bloodstream
What is the Stool Testing Process?
Collecting a stool sample may not be the most pleasant experience. However, the stool testing process overall is fairly simple.
- Meet With a Functional Medicine Provider
A functional medicine provider can order a stool test for you. I recommend using Genova Diagnostics’ GI Effects test, or Diagnostic Solutions Laboratory’s GI-MAP test.
- Collect and Submit the Stool Sample
You will need to collect a stool sample at home. Your provider will send you home with the necessary materials, detailed directions for collection, and guidance for how to submit the specimen.
- Submit Your Claim to Insurance
A stool test may be covered by insurance. If the lab you use doesn’t submit the bill to insurance, you can request a superbill (a detailed bill including codes) to submit to your insurance provider yourself.
If you’re submitting the bill yourself, you may be required to pay ahead of time. These tests cost between $150 – $360. Keep in mind that even if your insurance won’t cover the cost of the test, this amount often can be applied toward your deductible.
- Schedule a Follow Up Visit With Your Provider
After you’ve submitted your child’s sample, you should schedule a follow-up appointment with your provider. Test results are usually available in 1-3 weeks. The results of these tests are very complex so it’s important to work with someone who’s been trained to interpret the data.
- Determine the Next Steps
During your follow-up visit, your provider will explain the results to you and, together, you will develop a treatment plan for your child.
Whether your child has overt GI symptoms or symptoms like insomnia or bedwetting, stool testing can help you gain insight into what’s happening in your child’s gut. That information can help you determine the root cause of the problem and develop a plan that will lead to long term results.Tell Me More!
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