This article was made possible due to an unrestricted educational grant from Diasorin, the Diagnostic Specialist.
Your stool has a story to tell – good or bad – about what’s happening in your body.
When a person has inflammation of the bowel, neutrophils and other inflammatory cells release a cytosolic protein called calprotectin. The fecal calprotectin test is a non-invasive stool test that involves the collection and analysis of your stool to measure the amount of the calprotectin in it.
IBS and IBD are two conditions with common symptoms such as diarrhea, abdominal bloating, and cramping, but are in fact quite different and have very different treatment options.
Not only is the fecal calprotectin used to distinguish between IBD and non-inflammatory disorders such as IBS, but if you have already been diagnosed with IBD, it can be used to monitor your IBD. This includes:
After your stool is analyzed, your doctor will look at your test results and determine whether your levels of calprotectin are normal (low), borderline(moderate), or abnormal (high). A high level can indicate IBD, whereas a lower level can indicate a functional bowel disease such as IBS.
Let’s take a closer look at the levels:
Diagnosing IBD is normally confirmed by performing an endoscopy (colonoscopy or sigmoidoscopy) to examine the intestines and by obtaining a small tissue sample (biopsy) to evaluate for inflammation and changes in tissue structures. This kind of testing can be invasive, and is less likely to be necessary if inflammation is not present – so the fecal calprotectin test is a great, less-invasive option to confirm. (1)
There are blood tests used to detect inflammation, but they do not provide the same information about inflammation as the fecal calprotectin test, or the location of the inflammation. It’s important to note that calprotectin is a reflection of intestinal inflammation and is not affected by lifestyle changes. If its due to an infection, then it will most likely return to normal when the infection goes away. If it is fact due to IBD, then it will rise and fall when you are in remission or in a flare.
You can develop IBS or IBD at any age. If you are experiencing persistent symptoms such as bloody or watery diarrhea, abdominal cramps, with or without fever, or are looking to proactively monitor your condition, CDHF recommends talking to your doctor to decide if the fecal calprotectin test is an option for you.
Watch our CDHF Talk with Dr. Karen Kroeker from the University of Alberta who explains the important role stool tests play in diagnosis and treatment of digestive disorders.
(1) Journal of Clinical Gastroenterology: March 2021 – Volume 55 – Issue 3 – p 239-243 doi: 10.1097/MCG.0000000000001359