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Stool Analysis

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Many conditions can change the results of a stool analysis. Your doctor will talk with you about any abnormal results that may be related to your symptoms and past health.

Abnormal values

  • High levels of fat in the stool may be caused by diseases such as pancreatitis, sprue (celiac disease), cystic fibrosis, or other disorders that affect the absorption of fats.
  • The presence of undigested meat fibers in the stool may be caused by pancreatitis.
  • A low pH may be caused by poor absorption of carbohydrate or fat. Stool with a high pH may mean inflammation in the intestine (colitis), cancer, or antibiotic use.
  • Blood in the stool may be caused by bleeding in the digestive tract.
  • White blood cells camera.gif in the stool may be caused by inflammation of the intestines, such as ulcerative colitis, or a bacterial infection.
  • Rotaviruses are a common cause of diarrhea in young children. If diarrhea is present, testing may be done to look for rotaviruses in the stool.
  • High levels of reducing factors in the stool may mean a problem digesting some sugars.
  • Low levels of reducing factors may be caused by sprue (celiac disease), cystic fibrosis, or malnutrition. Medicine such as colchicine (for gout) or birth control pills may also cause low levels.

What Affects the Test

Reasons you may not be able to have the test or why the results may not be helpful include:

  • Taking medicines such as antibiotics, antidiarrheal medicines, barium, bismuth, iron, ascorbic acid, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), and magnesium.
  • Contaminating a stool sample with urine, blood from a menstrual period or a bleeding hemorrhoid, or chemicals found in toilet paper and paper towels.
  • Exposing the stool sample to air or room temperature or failing to send the sample to a laboratory within 1 hour of collection.

What To Think About

  • Stool may be checked for hidden (occult) blood. To learn more, see the topic Stool Tests for Colorectal Cancer.
  • A stool culture is done to find the cause of an infection, such as bacteria, a virus, a fungus, or a parasite. To learn more, see the topic Stool Culture.
  • A bowel transit time test is done to help find the cause of abnormal movement of food through the digestive tract. To learn more, see the topic Bowel Transit Time.
  • The D-xylose absorption test is done to help diagnose problems that prevent the small intestine from absorbing nutrients in food. This test may be done when symptoms of malabsorption syndrome (such as chronic diarrhea, weight loss, and weakness) are present. To learn more, see the topic D-Xylose Absorption Test.
  • A stool analysis to measure trypsin or elastase is not as reliable as the sweat test to detect cystic fibrosis. To learn more, see the topic Sweat Test.

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: March 07, 2012
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.

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