The GI-MAP is our absolute favorite functional stool test. If you’re curious about what you can learn from a poop sample, this post is for you. We discuss who should order this test and what it can tell you about your health. We also tell you about our unique approach, which is doing a 28-DAY GUT RESET before taking the GI-MAP test.
Who should order the GI-MAP test?
There are many populations that could benefit from the “MAP.” We always consider it for these four groups:
1. Anyone who doesn’t have a type 4 poop at least twice a day
Your poop tells you a lot about your gut health. You should poop at least twice a day (you wouldn’t take your dog out less than this, right?), and your stool should be a type 4 on the Bristol chart. This means it looks like a smooth snake, with no undigested food, and it slides out easily. If you don’t poop like this, then it’s time to find out why. The MAP can shed light on why your stool is too hard, dry, loose, sticky, or runny. If it’s painful or has mucus or blood, then go to a GI specialist in addition to ordering the GI-MAP.
2. Annually for anyone with an autoimmune disease
We always “start with the gut” in our work with autoimmune remission. This is so crucial that we devoted an entire blog to explain why, which you can read here. We want a “clean” microbiome when there are autoimmune conditions. This means adequate amounts of beneficial “good” bacteria and no problematic “bad” microbes that rile up your immune system. With autoimmunity, we need to be really careful about infections that can overdrive the immune response. If you have an autoimmune condition, we recommend a GI-MAP test once a year. If it’s not clean, then treat the findings and retest.
3. Any and all kinds of systemic inflammation
If you have brain or body inflammation, and you don’t know where it’s coming from, always start with the gut. Food reactions and problematic microbes can both be the culprits. The GI-MAP won’t map your food sensitivities, however, it’s the best way to check your gut microbes. You may have dybiosis, an overgrowth of problematic microbes, including inflammatory bacteria, viruses, candida, or parasites. The toxins produced by these microbes can pass through the intestinal lining and cause pain and inflammation in other parts of the body. This is called lipopolysaccharide (LPS) endotoxemia and it’s no joke! You can have dysbiosis and LPS endotoxemia without obvious gut symptoms. Suspect it if you have these types of inflammation:
- Brain fog, dementia, anxiety, and cognitive decline
- High cholesterol and cardiovascular disease
- Arthritis, osteoporosis, and myofascial pain
- Acne, eczema, and rashes
- Allergies, swelling, puffiness, histamine reactions
All types of systemic inflammation can come from the gut, even if you have zero belly complaints and your stool looks perfect. When you’re cleaning up sources of inflammation, always investigate the gut first.
4. People with weight loss resistance or hormone imbalance
Your gut microbiome is a big player in regulating weight, metabolism, and hormones. For example, there are key beneficial bacterial (probiotic) strains that help your metabolism and support lean body weight. So if you’ve done all the right things yet you still can’t lose weight, you may find the answer in the gut. Your gut microbes can also make or break how you metabolize your hormones. If you suffer from painful breasts, bloating, PMS, or heavy periods, you may be pleasantly surprised to find out you can correct these symptoms by improving your gut health.
What does the GI-MAP tell you?
1. All about your gut microbiome
This test maps out your gut microbes with genetic technology called polymerase chain reaction (PCR). This is the most sophisticated method to test the microbiome, and it requires just a small sample. You won’t get this kind of test from a conventional lab or gastroenterologist. If you’re here, you probably know how important the gut microbiome is to all aspects of health. But did you know it’s not just about the “bad” bugs that wreak havoc? Yes, a healthy microbiome is free from infections, but equally important, it has robust amounts and diverse types of “good” bugs. It’s these beneficial microbes that do all kinds of important things for you. The good bugs matter, and they are easily knocked down by things in our modern lives, such as sugar, alcohol, a lack of fiber, antibiotics, illness, and stress.
2. Insight into your digestive secretions
The GI-MAP measures pancreatic elastase, which is your own natural enzyme production. If your enzymes are low, it’s common to have reflux, GERD, diarrhea, bloating, or indigestion. Low enzyme production is often correlated with the wrong pH in your stomach and an H.pylori bacterial overgrowth. You could go for months, years, or decades with these symptoms and never identify why you’re having them without testing.
The MAP also shows undigested fat in the stool, which indicates lipase insufficiency (an enzyme that breaks down fat), or more commonly, a gallbladder issue. It’s your gallbladder that squirts out the bile that emulsifies and breaks down the fat in your diet.
3. Information about your gut immune activity
The GI-MAP tests these immune markers:
- Calprotectin, a marker of elevated neutrophils that we monitor in inflammatory bowel disease.
- Eosinophil Activation Protein, an inflammatory protein with neurotoxic properties.
- Secretory IgA, a marker of your general gut immune response that shows if you’re fighting something or if your immune response is suppressed.
- Anti-gliadin IgA, an antibody that is elevated when there’s a problem with gluten or gluten cross-reactive foods.
- Zonulin, a protein that controls gut permeability, and when elevated indicates “leaky gut.” Zonulin is not included on the standard GI MAP, it’s an add-on.
4. Clues about weight, metabolism, and hormones
For weight and metabolism, the GI-MAP tells you if you have bacterial strains that support a lean metabolism, or work against it. For hormone metabolism, the MAP measures beta-glucuronidase, a bacterial enzyme that can cause the reuptake of medications, estrogen, and environmental toxins from the colon. Estrogen is metabolized through the liver and the gut. If you have signs of high estrogen (swollen painful breasts, emotional PMS, heavy flow, menstrual migraines), it’s unclear whether the liver or the gut is responsible for not getting estrogen out of your body efficiently. We love to do the Dutch hormone test to check how estrogen metabolizes through the liver, but it’s the GI-MAP that shows how it metabolizes in the gut.
Doing gut work prior to the GI MAP
When your GI-MAP is a literal shit show (pun intended) and you do some gut healing work, then retake the test and get a clean rockstar MAP, it’s very rewarding. Especially if you get results like clearer skin, better digestion, healthier poop, and a lifting of pain and inflammation. The beauty of this test is that it allows you to address your specific results, instead of randomly guessing which probiotic to take. You may not even need a probiotic!
However, another reasonable strategy is to do some gut healing work first before doing a GI-MAP test. Your chances of getting a clean test result are higher if you do some gut work first. This means cleaning up your diet and doing a microbial reset. We offer a 28-day GUT RESET program that is well-tolerated, affordable, and effective. Our post next week will describe this program.
Learn more about the GI-MAP from the lab that makes it: Diagnostic Solutions. Order the test yourself here:
I welcome your questions and comments below,