What is a calprotectin test, how to test it & what does it show?   

Faecal calprotectin is a substance secreted by the body when there is inflammation in the intestines. A calprotectin test therefore constitutes a useful way to identify digestive problems such as inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), particularly ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease. According to the Royal College of General Practitioners, at least one in 250 people in the UK have IBD. The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) estimates that at least 260,000 people in the UK have IBD.

The test assesses the levels of faecal calprotectin, and involves taking a small stool sample using a simple home collection kit. It is generally used when doctors want to try to distinguish if symptoms are from IBD or a non-inflammatory bowel condition such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). The test may also help GPs decide if a colonoscopy is needed for further investigation. Faecal calprotectin may also be measured in people who have been diagnosed with IBD when a flare-up is suspected.

What is a calprotectin test?

A faecal calprotectin test is done with a self-collection kit, which you can use from the comfort of your own home. There is minimal preparation needed and the simple, easy-to-follow collection instructions are included with your kit. The whole process is non-invasive and done privately, therefore it constitutes a great alternative to colonoscopies to rule out certain digestive issues in a first instance.

What does a calprotectin test show?

A calprotectin test assesses the levels of faecal calprotectin in your stools. Elevated levels can be an indication of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), including Crohn’s and ulcerative colitis.

This test can therefore be used to distinguish between inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and non-inflammatory disorders such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). It can also be used to monitor the body’s response to treatments for IBD.

What is a normal faecal calprotectin level?

While ‘normal’ results may vary depending on the lab, an example guideline is as follows:

Levels Interpretation
< 100mcg/g Low risk of IBD
100 – 250 mcg/g Intermediate risk of IBD. If there are no symptoms of acute severe colitis, the test is repeated after 4-6 weeks.
> 250mcg/g High risk of IBD

The results of a faecal calprotectin test needs to be interpreted by the doctor who has ordered it and further tests may be required.

Is calprotectin raised with IBS?

It is possible for your calprotectin levels to be slightly above the normal levels if you have IBS. Levels can however vary, and diseases such as Crohn’s can still remain undetected with a faecal calprotectin test. Therefore, it is recommended that you speak to your GP if you are experiencing persistent symptoms with a ‘normal’ calprotectin reading.

How do you collect a stool sample for faecal calprotectin?

A Bluecrest home faecal calprotectin test is non-invasive and will contain full instructions to collection your sample. Briefly, the process involves following a quick step-by-step process:

  • Put disposable gloves on
  • Place an empty plastic food container in the toilet or spread a plastic wrap over the rim to catch the stool
  • Carry out a normal bowel movement, making sure the sample doesn’t touch the inside of the toilet
  • Place the sample in the container provided and shut the lid (make sure the sample is at least 2cm / 1 inch across)
  • Put the gloves and materials used to collect your sample in a plastic bag, tie it up and dispose of it in your bin
  • Thoroughly wash your hands

It is important to ensure that the sample does not get into contact with the toilet bowl; as any water, urine or cleaning product present could affect the results.

How can I reduce inflammation in my colon naturally?

According to Crohns and Colitis UK, IBD often causes people to feel bloated and gassy. Ways that may help reduce these symptoms include:

  • Eating smaller and more frequent meals
  • Avoiding eating very fatty foods and eggs
  • Keeping track of foods worsening your symptoms and avoiding them
  • Avoiding hot spicy foods
  • Avoiding foods with high bran content
  • Avoiding raw vegetables

How can I get my calprotectin levels tested?

You get your faecal calprotectin tested from the comfort of your own home with one of our single calprotectin home test kits. All you need to do is order your kit, take your own sample, send it back in our pre-addressed return envelope, and wait to receive your results online within 8 days.