Calprotectin Fecal Test: Everything You Need To Know

Calprotectin fecal test

What Is Calprotectin Fecal Test?

The calprotectin fecal test is a diagnostic tool used to measure the levels of calprotectin in the stool. Calprotectin is a protein found in abundance in white blood cells, particularly in neutrophils. These are the immune cells involved in the body’s response to inflammation.

The test is primarily used to assess the presence and severity of inflammation in the gastrointestinal tract, especially in conditions such as inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).

Is Calprotectin a tumor marker?

Calprotectin isn’t typically considered a tumor marker for cancer diagnosis or screening. Instead, it’s primarily associated with inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract.

Tumor markers are substances that are often produced by cancer cells or released into the bloodstream in response to cancer. They are used in the context of cancer diagnosis, monitoring treatment response, and detecting recurrence.

How Does It Work?

As mentioned earlier, the test works by measuring the levels of calprotectin in the stool. Here’s a step-by-step breakdown of how it’s performed:

Sample collection

The patient is provided with a collection container and instructed on how to collect a small sample of stool. It is important to collect a fresh sample and avoid contamination with urine or water.

Sample preparation

The collected stool sample is then prepared for analysis. This typically involves diluting the sample with a buffer solution to create a homogenous mixture.

Extraction of calprotectin

The diluted stool sample undergoes a process to extract the calprotectin protein. This can be done using various techniques, such as centrifugation or chemical methods. The goal is to separate the protein from other stool components.

Measurement of calprotectin

Once the protein has been extracted, its concentration in the sample is measured using a quantitative method. One common technique used is enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay or ELISA. The technique involves the use of specific antibodies that bind to calprotectin, which then produce a detectable signal, such as a color change or fluorescence. The intensity of the signal is proportional to the amount of calprotectin present in the sample.

Reporting the result

The test results are reported as the concentration of calprotectin in micrograms per gram of stool (mcg/g). Higher concentrations typically indicate greater levels of inflammation in the gastrointestinal tract.

It’s important to note that specific laboratory protocols may vary, but the general principles of calprotectin measurement remain consistent. The test should be performed in a reputable laboratory by trained technicians to ensure accurate and reliable results.

After obtaining the test results, a healthcare professional can interpret them in the context of the patient’s symptoms, medical history, and other diagnostic evaluations to make an informed diagnosis and develop an appropriate treatment plan.

Ranges for Calprotectin:
< or =50.0 mcg/g (Normal)
50.1-120.0 mcg/g (Borderline)
> or =120.1 mcg/g (Abnormal)

Calprotectin fecal test

Who Should Take a Calprotectin Test?

The test is typically recommended for individuals who are experiencing gastrointestinal symptoms that may be associated with inflammation in the gastrointestinal tract. It can help in the diagnosis and monitoring of certain conditions.

Here are some situations where the test may be used:

Inflammatory Bowel Disease

The test is commonly used to assess and differentiate between Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, which are types of inflammatory bowel diseases. It helps determine the presence and severity of inflammation in the GI tract.

Monitoring disease activity

The collected stool sample is then prepared for analysis. This typically involves diluting the sample with a buffer solution to create a homogenous mixture.

Irritable Bowel Syndrome differentiation

Unlike IBD, IBS does not typically involve significant inflammation in the GI tract. A normal or low calprotectin level in an individual with IBS-like symptoms may suggest a non-inflammatory condition.
Parasites or other bacterial infections can cause a temporary rise in calprotectin levels.

In such cases, doing a more comprehensive stool test like the Vibrant Wellness Gut Zoomer test OR the GI Map test can help to understand other causes of high calprotectin as this measures pathogenic bacteria and parasites.

Treatment decision-making

The test can be helpful in guiding treatment decisions, such as determining the need for further diagnostic evaluations or adjusting medications in individuals with suspected or known inflammatory conditions.

When To Take The Test

The best time to take the test may vary depending on the specific situation and recommendations of your healthcare professional. However, here are some general guidelines:

During active symptoms

If you are experiencing active gastrointestinal symptoms such as diarrhea, abdominal pain, or rectal bleeding, it is often recommended to take the test during this period. Active inflammation in the GI tract is more likely to be detected during symptomatic phases.

Calprotectin Fecal Test - stop medications

If you are currently taking medications that can suppress inflammation, such as corticosteroids or immunosuppressants, your healthcare professional may advise you to temporarily discontinue or taper off these medications before taking the test. This is to get a more accurate assessment of your underlying inflammation.

Image showing calprotectin levels and their correlation with inflammation intensity

What Do The Results Mean?

Interpreting the results of a calprotectin fecal test should be done by a healthcare professional who is familiar with your medical history and the context of your symptoms. However, here are some guidelines for interpreting the results:

Normal range

The normal range of calprotectin levels can vary slightly depending on the laboratory and the specific test method used. In general, a calprotectin concentration below 50 mcg/g of stool is considered within the normal range. Normal levels suggest a low likelihood of moderate to significant inflammation in the GI tract.

Elevated levels

What does high calprotectin in stool mean?

Higher calprotectin levels generally indicate the presence of inflammation in the gastrointestinal tract. The severity of inflammation is often correlated with the degree of elevation in calprotectin levels.

The specific cutoff for defining elevated levels may vary depending on the laboratory and the specific condition being assessed. A healthcare professional will consider the factors such as medical history, clinical symptoms, and other diagnostic findings when interpreting the results.

GI Map Calprotectin fecal test

Intestinal Health Section On GI Map Test

Disease activity

A high level of calprotectin suggests ongoing inflammation and may indicate a need for further evaluation or adjustments to the treatment plan. Conversely, lower levels may suggest a reduction in inflammation and improved disease control.

Alternatives to Calprotectin Fecal Test

There are alternative diagnostic tests and evaluations that can be used in conjunction with or as alternatives to the calprotectin fecal test, depending on the specific clinical conditions. Some of these alternatives include:

Endoscopy and colonoscopy

These procedures involve the use of a flexible tube with a camera to visualize the gastrointestinal tract directly They allow for direct examination of the intestinal lining, collection of tissue samples for further analysis, and evaluation of the extent and severity of the inflammation.

A colonoscopy is usually done to diagnose IBD but it is an invasive procedure so it is not something that can be done regularly like a calprotectin test.

Imaging studies

These tests may be used to evaluate the GI tract and identify structural abnormalities, inflammation, or tumors. Examples include computed tomography, magnetic resonance imaging, and ultrasound.

Blood tests

Blood tests can be used to assess inflammatory markers such as erythrocyte sedimentation rate and C-reactive protein. These markers can indicate the presence and severity of inflammation in the body, including the gastrointestinal tract.

Other factors can influence these markers, so they are not as specific as the fecal calprotectin test but are a lot more convenient to do.

Also Read: Essential Blood Tests You Should Every Year

Genetic testing

In some cases, genetic testing may be used to identify specific gene mutations associated with certain gastrointestinal conditions, such as hereditary forms of colorectal cancer or inflammatory bowel disease.

I recommend SelfDecode for this and they also have specific reports relating to IBS and IBD which includes diet and lifestyle recommendations.

Testing Calprotectin with Planet Naturopath

We use the Vibrant Wellness Gut Zoomer test as this also measures pathogenic bacteria and parasites that can be a trigger for inflammation, this test also measures the butyrate producing bacteria like Faecalbacterium prausnitzi which is often low in IBD

The Gut Zoomer test also measures other intestinal health markers for digestive enzymes, intestinal permeability, and gluten intolerance to help understand the underlying cause of gastrointestinal symptoms.

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