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Functional testing for gut issues

Practitioners face a challenging task when dealing with gastrointestinal disorders like Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO), and dysbiosis.

These issues commonly manifest with symptoms such as abdominal pain, bloating, and changes in bowel habits, which can greatly affect a person's quality of life. Functional testing is useful for pinpointing the underlying reasons for a person's symptoms.

Understanding functional testing

Functional testing refers to a variety of tests that assess the working of different body systems. In the context of gut health, these tests are designed to evaluate the gastrointestinal tract's function to identify imbalances or dysfunctions that could be contributing to symptoms, rather than just the presence or absence of disease.

Types of functional testing for gut issues

If you have ongoing gut issues, here are some of the functional tests that a practitioner might recommend:

  1. Breath Testing: Breath tests are non-invasive tests commonly used to diagnose conditions like SIBO. They work by measuring the levels of hydrogen and methane gases produced when bacteria in the intestine ferment specific sugars. An abnormal increase in these gases can indicate bacterial overgrowth.

  2. Stool Analysis: Comprehensive stool analysis can provide insights into the microbial balance in the gut, inflammatory markers, digestive function, and more. This type of testing can help identify dysbiosis, an imbalance of gut bacteria, which is often linked to conditions like IBS.

  3. Organic Acids Test (OAT): The OAT is a urine test that measures the byproducts of microbial metabolism. High levels of certain acids can suggest an overgrowth of certain yeast or bacteria, like candida, in the intestines, contributing to conditions like SIBO and dysbiosis.

  4. Intestinal Permeability Tests: Also known as "leaky gut" tests, these assess the integrity of the gut lining. Increased intestinal permeability can lead to systemic inflammation and is often associated with IBS and other gut issues.

  5. Food Sensitivity Tests: These tests can identify specific foods that may trigger symptoms (also known as sensitivity) in individuals with gut issues. Eliminating or reducing these foods can help alleviate symptoms and restore gut balance.

How testing helps you and your practitioner

Functional testing can assist in determining the most appropriate treatment approach, referrals and nutritional support to assist with easing your symptoms. For instance, research has revealed a notable rise in the prevalence of SIBO among individuals with IBS, indicating that specific SIBO treatment could help alleviate IBS symptoms.

Functional testing offers a window into the complex workings of the gut, and by identifying the root causes of gut issues such as IBS, SIBO and dysbiosis, your practitioner can better tailor interventions to restore balance to your gut.

If you want to gain a deeper understanding of functional testing and gut health, talk to your practitioner to find out which tests might be suitable for you and how functional testing could support you on your wellness journey.


  1. Briden, L. (2021). Hormone repair manual: Every woman’s guide to healthy hormones after 40. Pan Macmillan Australia.

  2. Losurdo, G., Leandro, G., Ierardi, E., Perri, F., Barone, M., Principi, M., & Leo, A. Di. (2020). Breath Tests for the Non-invasive Diagnosis of Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth: A Systematic Review With Meta-analysis. Journal of Neurogastroenterology and Motility, 26(1), 16–28.

  3. Martinez, J., Rodriguez Hovnanian, K. M., & Martinez, E. E. (2023). Biomarkers and Functional Assays of Epithelial Barrier Disruption and Gastrointestinal Dysmotility in Critical Illness—A Narrative Review. Nutrients, 15(18), 4052.

  4. Skrzydło-Radomańska, B., & Cukrowska, B. (2022). How to Recognize and Treat Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth? Journal of Clinical Medicine, 11(20), 6017.

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