The Fastest Test for Digestive Function: The Indican Test

August 07, 2018

Did you know there is a simple, in office test that can tell you about several key factors impacting your gut, including:

  • stomach acid production
  • production of digestive enzymes
  • malabsorption
  • bacterial overgrowth

I bet you didn’t! Too few doctors are using this simple test to diagnose digestive concerns (and it can also be used to monitor improvement over time).

How the Test Works

The Indican test (sometimes called the Obermeyer test) is a very simple test. Indican is a compound (technically an indole) produced by bacteria in the gut when they eat a specific amino acid, tryptophan. Most of this indican is excreted in our bowel movements, but some is absorbed, processed by the liver and then excreted in our urine.

In a healthy individual only trace amounts of indican are found in a urine sample. However, if there are dysfunctions in the gut we can find large amounts of indican in the urine.

Causes of a Positive Indican Test

A positive Indican test can point to some likely causes of digestive dysfunction. It won’t tell us which one the problem is, but gives us guidance as to how to best put together a plan to understand it.

Possible causes of a positive indican test include:

  1. Low stomach acid, causing poor digestion of proteins
  2. Insufficient production of digestive enzymes, especially proteases and peptidases that break down proteins
  3. Malabsorption of protein
  4. Leaky gut, or disruption of the gut lining
  5. Overgrowth of bacteria in the small or large intestines
  6. Excessive intake of protein in the diet
  7. Celiac disease

Why Should I Do an Indican Test

The best reason to do an Indican test is to help you and your Naturopathic Doctor determine next steps in developing a plan to resolve digestive issues. If you experience gas, bloating, cramping, diarrhea or constipation, it can be difficult to determine the underlying cause. The Indican test can help to point towards some possible causes, and possible treatments.

Other conditions that can be the result of digestive imbalances or imbalanced bacteria (dysbiosis) include:

  • Constipation
  • Diarrhea
  • Bloating or gas
  • Fatigue
  • Acne, eczema and psoriasis
  • Headaches
  • Autoimmune disease
  • Mood swings, depression and anxiety
  • Brain fog and difficulty concentrating
  • Muscle weakness or soreness
  • Joint pain
  • Frequent colds or poor immune function
  • Weight gain

The Indican test can also help you to monitor the effectiveness of the treatments used. If you support your stomach acid production and your Indican test normalizes, then you’ve got the right treatment in place!

How To Do an Indican Test 

The Indican test is a simple urine test done in your Naturopathic Doctor’s office. All that is needed is a urine sample and the Indican preparation. To prepare for your test you will need to:

  1. Avoid alcohol for 24 hours prior to the test
  2. Take no supplements that contain iodine (such as a multivitamin, prenatal or thyroid support supplement) for 3 days prior to testing
  3. Eat a meal that contains protein the night before the test

Your results are compared to a colour chart to determine the amount of Indican present in the sample.

What if My Results are Positive?

A positive Indican test is a starting off point for further investigation into your gut health. Whether you have digestive symptoms or not, a positive Indican tells us you need to look at how well this system is functioning.

Your Naturopathic Doctor will guide you to the next steps for you. This may include optimizing stomach acid, replenishing digestive enzymes, probiotic supplementation or supports to heal the gut. It may also mean further testing for SIBO, or a comprehensive digestive stool analysis (CDSA).

Now Available at the Integrative Health Institute

Indican testing is now available through our Naturopathic Doctors at the Integrative Health Institute. Book a meet and greet appointment to discuss if this is the test you’ve been looking for to assess your gut health.

Dr. Lisa Watson delivers health care that supports balanced and attainable health at all ages and stages of life. Of primary importance is health care that nurtures the body, mind, spirit, family and community. As a Naturopathic Doctor and mother, Lisa believes that health care and a healthy lifestyle are intrinsically linked and that each serves to support the other. Dr. Watson practices at the Integrative Health Institute in Downtown Toronto.

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