Elisabeth is a 13-time Emmy-winner, a critically acclaimed personal finance author, and a 20-year consumer advocate for programs such as Good Morning America and The Dr. Oz Show.
Connect with her via Twitter @ElisabethLeamy and on her website, Leamy.com.
The producer called me with a strange pitch: “We’re doing a segment about at-home poop-testing kits and we think you’d be the perfect reporter for it.” Not entirely sure this was flattering, I asked her to tell me what they had in mind. “Well, um.…” She hesitated and then rushed on, “We want you to try three different poop-testing kits yourself and then discuss the results on the air with Dr. Oz.” I cringed. Then laughed. Then said, “Sure, I can do that.”
After all, I’m a big believer in reporter involvement as a way of getting at the truth. I once locked myself in a car on a 98°F day to show how alarmingly the body reacts – all as a way of warning people not to forget about their kids and pets. Another time, I drizzled E. coli bacteria on my hands and then experimented with different types of hand washing to see what it took to get it off. Compared to that, what was a little poop? At least it was my own.
So what’s the scoop on at-home poop testing? Maybe because all kinds of at-home testing are pretty cutting edge, the results were edgy, too. The tests gave partial or preliminary information that may prove to be promising, but it’s not enough alone to act on just yet. (Watch the show to see what my results were!)
I did want to take this opportunity to say that just because the tests I took were somewhat experimental, that doesn’t mean all stool testing is novel. I can remember snickering as I submitted a stool sample in college, so poop analysis has been around for at least that long. Here are some of the things a poop sample can help diagnose:
- Poor absorption of nutrients
- Digestive tract problems
- Abdominal pain, cramping
- Diarrhea causes
- Gas pains, bloating
- Reasons for nausea, vomiting
- Loss of appetite
- Parasites (giardia, pinworms, etc.)
- Infections from bacteria, viruses, or funguses
- Colon cancer
- Liver problems
- Pancreatic function
Whether you’re considering a new at-home stool test or a tried-and-true, doctor-ordered one, ask yourself and your doc this question: Will knowing the results of this test change my treatment plan? If not, maybe you can skip the collection horrors and co-pay costs. But if your poop holds information that could help your health, then collecting it, shipping it off, and blushing as you hear the results won’t be a waste of time.