GI MAP: The Best New Test for Gut Health
I have been using this test for number of months now, so it is not technically “new”, but I’ve held off on a blog post until I could be confident in the results. Needless to say, this test far surpasses the traditional stool testing available today. I have seen markers show up in patients that I would have never expected, as they didn’t necessarily correlate to any of their symptoms, however, the early detection of these issues allowed us to address them before they became a problem. On the other hand, for anyone that has had chronic GI complaints, this is the best test available to diagnose the most probable underlying cause.
Using the latest in DNA technology, the Gastrointestinal Microbial Assay Plus (GI-MAP) provides the most comprehensive window into gastrointestinal health to date. Previous tests have relied on cultures to determine the presence of certain bacteria in the stool. However, a large number of microbial species can’t survive in the presence of excess oxygen, leading to minimal growth on the culture plates. This would lead to skewed representations of the make up of the microbiome. Instead, GI MAP strips down the sample to the genetic level, isolating microbe-specific genes to identify the types and concentrations of a host of organisms.
The GI MAP was designed to assess the microbiome from a single stool sample, with particular attention to microbes that may be disturbing normal microbial balance and may contribute to perturbations of the gut flora or illness. The panel is a comprehensive collection of microbial targets as well as immune and digestive markers. It screens for pathogenic bacteria, commensal or beneficial bacteria, opportunistic pathogens, fungi, viruses, parasites and certain bacteria linked to specific autoimmune conditions.
Not only will it tell us if there are potentially problematic microbes, but is goes so far as to measure the toxins they produce. For example, we all have some degree of H. pylori in our gut. This is normal. It becomes a problem when it is allowed to flourish and begins producing Virulence Factors. GI MAP can determine how much H. pylori is in the gut, as well as measure the presence of cagA and vacA, the virulence factors it may produce. This gives us a clear idea of what intervention is best suited. No other comprehensive stool test I know of includes these markers.
What is also great about this test is it gives a detailed composition of the many beneficial microbes, not just the problematic ones. Because our bacteria are responsible for so many important functions, from vitamin and enzyme production to defense, immunity and metabolism, maintaining adequate populations of the wide range of beneficial species is important. One example of this is the ratio between Bacteroidetes and Firmicutes, two commensal bacteria. It has been found that when the ratio is tipped to heavily favor Firmicutes, a fat-storing state is triggered, leading to obesity. On the other hand, a high Bacteroidetes to Firmicutes ratio promotes a healthy body composition.
In addition to microbes, the GI MAP measures markers for immune function, digestion, inflammation and gliadin sensitivity. These markers were selected for their clinical utility. Lactoferrin and elastase have a strong foundation of clinical evidence to support their use in clinical care. Lactoferrin helps us measure the level of immune activation in the gut, often associated with infection. Pancreatic elastase is an excellent marker of pancreatic enzyme function and can be an indicator of poor digestive capacity or pancreatitis when extremely low. Secretary IgA is the body’s first line of defense in the gut. A portion of this immunoglobulin might be directed toward gliadin, indicating an immune reaction to the common protein in wheat and other field grass grains.
As you can see, there is a wealth of knowledge that can be gained by analyzing the contents of our GI tract. While the microbiome is sensitive to external influences and may fluctuate regularly, the brief window provided through the GI MAP offers clinically relevant information. Of course, a detailed patient history and symptoms must be taken into consideration when interpreting this and any other lab work. If you are interested in ordering this test, or know someone with chronic health challenges that might be related to poor gut health, please send me an email.
If you would like to see a sample report, click here.