Parkview Health Logo

What your stool says about you

Last Modified: April 16, 2024

Diseases & Disorders, Family Medicine

lab technician using microscope

The adage goes, “You are what you eat.” When searching for answers regarding our health then, it’s no wonder why we may look to the other end for answers. In this post, we will explore the significance of a stool analysis, what can be determined from it and how they are performed.

An overview

A stool analysis is a diagnostic procedure that involves examining a fecal sample to assess various aspects of an individual's digestive health. The information obtained from a stool analysis can aid in detecting issues such as digestive disorders, poor nutrient absorption, infections or cancer.

When a stool sample is sent to the laboratory for analysis a technician will perform a series of tests to evaluate various aspects such as:

Physical - The sample will be checked for color, consistency, amount, shape, odor and the presence of mucus.

Chemical - It may be examined for hidden(occult) blood, fat, meat fibers, bile, white blood cells and sugars called reducing substances.

Microbiological - The pH of the stool also may be measured. A stool culture is done to find out if bacteria may be causing an infection.

What does a stool test look for?

Depending on a patient's symptoms, a stool analysis may be recommended to:

  • Identify diseases of the digestive tract, liver and pancreas.
  • Screen for colon cancer by checking for hidden blood.
  • Look for parasites such as pinworms or Giardia.
  • Determine the cause of an infection such as bacteria, a fungus, or a virus.
  • Check for poor absorption of nutrients by the digestive tract.
  • Find the cause of symptoms affecting the digestive tract, such as prolonged diarrhea, nausea, bloating, belly pain and fever.


How is a stool analysis conducted?

Individuals will be supplied with sterile collection kits to use each day accompanied by a set of instructions. For the most accurate results, carefully read and follow the instructions included in the kit.

  1. It is recommended to urinate before collecting the stool.
  2. Place the sample collection container on the toilet.
  3. Evacuate bowels directly into the collection container.
  4. Use the stick to take a sample of the stool and place it in the bottle.
  5. Seal and label the bottle with your name and the date that the sample was collected.

Once the sample is obtained flush the remaining stool down the toilet and dispose of the collection container. Any stool sample may contain germs that can spread disease. Make sure to thoroughly wash your hands and use careful handling techniques to avoid spreading infection. Your provider will advise when to return the sample to the lab.

What happens after a stool analysis?

If the sample was not taken at home, you should be able to go home after collection is completed. Most patients can return to their usual activities right away but may be advised to avoid certain foods or medications. Your doctor will let you know when to restart your medicines and resume your normal diet after the test. After the test results have been obtained from the lab, your provider will follow up with you regarding their findings and next steps for treatment.

Closing remarks

While a stool analysis certainly isn’t the most glamorous of procedures, examining what remains after digestion can provide valuable insights into your health. If you are experiencing ongoing digestive issues or irregular bowel movements, reach out to your primary care provider to determine if a stool sample analysis is right for you. Visit our website here to schedule your appointment or call our 24/7 access line at 877-PPG-TODAY.









Copyrighted material adapted with permission from Healthwise, Incorporated. This information does not replace the advice of a doctor.

Related Blog Posts

View all posts