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5 Tests to Determine Digestive Function


March 16, 2017 | Published by

There are many tests used to diagnose digestive issues. How do you know which is best for your condition, or where to start? Here are the five tests I commonly use in my clinical practice with my patients.

1 – The Urinary Indican Test

This test is used to determine the presence of indican in the urine, a determination of fermentation. Elevated levels are considered to reflect a state of intestinal toxemia caused by protein maldigestion, or an intestinal overgrowth of anaerobic bacteria (candida) – primarily due to maldigestion and/or intestinal mucosal damage.

2 – The Intestinal Permeability Test 

A simple, reliable test providing valuable information in assessing intestinal health, this is performed by having a patient drink a small solution of two sugars. Information is obtained regarding the integrity and function of the lining of the small intestine by assessing the permeation of water-soluble molecules, lactulose and mannitol, through the intestinal mucosa after testing a urine sample collected after the drink.

3 – The CDSA (Comprehensive Digestive Stool Analysis)

A CDSA provides an accurate and sensitive determination of candida overgrowth, and also helps in assessing a wide range of intestinal conditions. The CDSA provides information on the person’s ability to digest, metabolize, and absorb nutrients, as well as a full report on all bacterial flora (beneficial, imbalanced and pathogenic), all yeast, and all intestinal parasites (worms, eggs, larva, and protozoa).

We have been able to solve many cases of chronic digestive problems with a CDSA, cases which were “unremarkable” to the doctor and even bowel specialist. If you are sick and tired of hearing “we can’t find anything wrong with you” and you know something is NOT right with your digestive system, then I can highly recommend that you request a CDSA from your practitioner. But first, make sure that your healthcare professional knows and understands how to interpret this test!

4 – The Food Allergy Test (blood test)

A food allergy test may prove critical in some cases, and has helped solve many difficult cases of gastrointestinal distress. This test requires a blood draw and can quickly determine a person’s immune reactivity to 98 foods in 7 different categories, such as fruits, grains, vegetables, and animal protein foods. The test determines IgE (Immunoglobulin E) as well as IgG (Immunoglobulin G) antibody levels.

5 – Hair Elemental Analysis Test

The essential nutrient profile on the hair analysis report can easily point to a pattern of an under-active stomach (hypochlorhydria), and is a valuable, low-cost option for the patient to establish the integrity of the digestive and absorptive processes.

Important things to note:

  • The treatment of digestive disorders using natural medicine is not difficult, but does take time. Nature requires time to repair and heal a tube almost 30 feet in length!
  • Functional testing may be required to facilitate diagnosis and improve treatment outcomes.
  • Remember that the digestive system is under the control of the involuntary (autonomic) nervous system. This means that under stress the hormones adrenaline, nor-adrenaline and cortisol are secreted to respond to the stress(es). This reaction impairs the movement of food along the intestines, decreases blood flow to the intestines, impairs digestion and absorption by suppressing the production of stomach acid, and decreases the production of insulin by the pancreas.
  • It is important to be rested and relax during and right after eating. Ideally, this means sitting down in a quiet environment and focusing on your meal with no distractions. You may be surprised at how much stress, habits and emotions can negatively affect digestion.
  • Diet is perhaps most important; the digestive system simply will not heal with continued dietary stress.
  • Vigorous and regular exercise is most stimulating to the digestion. The form of exercise is not in itself important. I have found that those who walk regularly tend to have less trouble with bowel congestion.
  • There are some herbs which can provide support and comfort to the digestive system, including aloe vera, slippery elm bark, licorice, gentian, and milk thistle (St. Mary’s thistle). My recommendations are to try things out for yourself for minor self-limiting complaints, and to consult first with a healthcare practitioner for more serious or longstanding digestive complaints.
  • For best results, always work with a qualified and registered healthcare practitioner. In chronic cases of gastrointestinal distress it is difficult to self-diagnose and treat and expect satisfactory results. You may have an underlying digestive disorder which needs urgent medical attention, so it’s advisable to consult with a healthcare professional for assessment and treatment or referral to an appropriate provider where required.

dr-eric-bakker-150x150About the Author: Eric Bakker B.H.Sc. (Comp.Med), N.D, R.Hom. is a highly experienced naturopathic physician who has been in clinical practice for 27 years. Eric is passionate about improving people’s lives through proven wellness and lifestyle principles, natural medicine practice as well as public and professional practitioner education. Eric specializes in candida, psoriasis, as well as adrenal fatigue, thyroid and digestive disorders. Dr. Bakker has written one of the most comprehensive books on yeast infections called Candida Crusher. He has also written what may well be the most comprehensive Natural Psoriasis Treatment Program available. You can find more articles by Dr. Bakker on his blog at

The Four Pillars of Healing, Dr. Leo Galland 1997 Random House New York.
The Yeast Connection Handbook, William Crook, MD, 1989, Wellness Health, Jackson, Tennessee.
Microbiology and Infection Control, Lee & Bishop, 2002 Prentice Hall Victoria Australia.
Pathophysiology, Concepts of Altered Health States, Porth, C. 2002, 6th. ed., Lippincott Philadelphia.

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