Posted on 05 May 2021
You may have heard about calprotectin when your GP spoke to you about testing for inflammation in your bowels. We have put together a quick guide that answers the most commonly asked questions about calprotectin and its role in testing for and diagnosing Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD).
What is calprotectin and how does it relate to IBD?
Calprotectin is a protein biomarker that can be found in faeces when there is the presence of intestinal inflammation. Finding calprotectin in faeces helps to diagnose conditions such as IBD, and it also helps to distinguish IBD from Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), as recommended by NICE in 2013. (Learn more about the difference between IBS and IBD here.)
Testing faeces for calprotectin helps reduce the need for invasive procedures, such as endoscopies and colonoscopies, which benefits both the patient and their healthcare provider.
What level of calprotectin indicates IBD?
If your calprotectin level is below 50 µg/g, then you have a negative result, indicating that you do not have IBD. If you have received this result, be assured this doesn’t mean that your concerns are not valid. It simply means that your symptoms are most likely not related to IBD. Your GP is likely to continue to work with you to find the cause of your symptoms.
If your calprotectin level is above 200 µg/g, then you have a positive result. This means that there is inflammation occurring and your GP will help you with the next steps to take.
How will my doctor test for calprotectin?
Your healthcare provider will test for calprotectin levels in your faeces by requesting a stool sample from you. Most likely, they will request that your sample be collected first thing in the morning, as your stool will have the most amount of calprotectin at this time. It’s important that you empty your bladder before collecting your sample and that you do not let your sample touch your toilet water, as this would impact the lab results of your sample.
Can I provide a sample for calprotectin if my stool is liquid?
Yes, you can still provide a stool sample even if your stool isn’t solid. If this is the case for you, ask your healthcare provider for details on how to collect the sample properly.
What happens if I test positive for calprotectin?
Following a positive result from a calprotectin test, your GP will complete further testing to establish what condition you may be experiencing. Although having a positive test for calprotectin means that there is inflammation present, it is possible that the inflammation is due to another factor, for example a medication you are taking or a bacterial infection that you may have.
We understand that being diagnosed with IBD can be difficult to come to terms with, however individuals are often relieved to know “what is wrong”. Having this information allows you to take the first step in a life-long journey of learning how to manage IBD.
The good news is that through treatment and lifestyle changes, it is possible to reduce your symptoms and go into remission. Find out about how our My IBD Care app can support you in your health and wellbeing journey with IBD.