Technology improves our lives and fecal calprotectin is an important marker of inflammation in the gut.
This non-invasive test and can help monitor gut inflammation. In the past, blood tests were used to monitor gut inflammation, such as C-Reactive Protein and/or Erythrocyte Sedimentation Rate (ESR).
However, as a clinician, I found that they were not terribly accurate and certainly not helpful in predicting a flareup.
This simple test requires a small collection of stool and can predict increasing inflammation levels up to 3 months before a flareup. That gives the doctor and the patient time to tighten up the diet, add medications and/or supplements to bring the inflammation down before it gets out of control.
Fecal Calprotectin is a chemical marker of gastrointestinal inflammation that is produced by white blood cells (specifically the neutrophils) in the gastrointestinal tract. It may be used to measure the degree of inflammation present.
It is also used as a way to differentiate between IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome) and IBD (Inflammatory Bowel Disease) without having to send the patient for a colonoscopy. (FDA approved)
IBS is a generalized diagnosis that is made by elimination of other conditions.
If your symptoms fit into one of the boxes that describe IBS then that is what you are told you have. Usually a colonoscopy is preformed to rule out other, structural causes. This is an invasive procedure and is negative in over 90% of cases.
Having this information in a non-invasive way is extraordinarily helpful and may reduce unnecessary endoscopic procedures, medications and office visits.
IBD is a more serious gastrointestinal disorder that is autoimmune in nature. It is very important to get the proper diagnosis as soon as possible. That is done by endoscopy/colonoscopy.
However, monitoring IBD is more difficult.
Elevation of Fecal Calprotectin levels may be associated with infections, inflammation or malignant disease. Fecal Calprotectin is also described in peer-reviewed literature as a useful tool to monitor the effectiveness of treatments and assess for relapse in patients with IBD.
Need for clinical intervention based on Calprotectin levels have been described in the peer-reviewed literature as follows:
Most labs now perform (or send to the appropriate lab) this test and results are usually available within a week.
The patient merely has to bring the stool sample to the lab with a doctors prescription. For patients with IBD this test can accurately show the amount of active inflammation and can predict a flare. This is an excellent tool for management of a difficult condition.
This technology has been developed in Europe for a Fecal Calprotectin home kit (IBdoc) that is associated with an App on a smart phone. This is very exciting news because patients can do the test themselves in the privacy of their own home and even better – get the result within 15 minutes! Wow! This will be great for those who need this information!
If you have IBD ask your doctor about using this test!