Stool Testing On The NHS: All You Need To Know (2021)

Not so long ago, the only reason you’d get a stool test would be because your doctor wanted to rule out serious conditions like cancer or inflammatory bowel disease, or you’d just come back from Borneo with a case of parasite-induced diarrhoea.

Today, stool tests can do a lot more. While they’re still used to detect serious diseases and infections, massive leaps in technology and microbiology have opened up a whole new world: gut health testing. Read on to find out what the different types of stool tests could do for you and your gut.

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How Long Does a Stool Sample Test Take on the NHS?
How Long Does it Take to get NHS Stool Test Results?
How Long does a Healthpath Stool Test Take?
How Long Does it Take to get Healthpath Stool Test Results?
What Does an NHS Stool Sample Show?
What Does a Healthpath Stool Test Show?
Why Should I Take a Healthpath Stool Test?
Do you need a stool test, or a stool analysis?

How long does a stool sample test take on the NHS?

There are two elements to having an NHS stool test: collecting the sample yourself when you have a bowel movement, and testing the sample, which usually takes place at a laboratory.

A healthcare professional will explain to you how to collect the sample. You’ll usually get a clean, dry screw-top container to store your stool and a plastic container to use to ‘catch’ it. You should try not to get any urine in the sample.

This process is obviously pretty quick. You’ll then need to take the sample back to your GP surgery or hospital and then wait for the results.
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How long does it take to get NHS stool test results?

How long an NHS stool test takes completely depends on your individual case, like what your doctor is testing you for or where the sample is tested (on site or sent away to a laboratory). There are so many variables that there’s no standard answer.

If you’d like to know how long it will take to get your NHS stool test results, the best thing to do is ask your doctor or a member of staff at the surgery or hospital where you had the test.
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How long does A Healthpath stool test take?

You prepare a Healthpath stool test in the same way as you would prepare one for the NHS: make your deposit and collect a sample of stool in a small container. The only difference is that instead of taking it to your GP surgery or hospital, you package it up in a sterile container provided with the test kit and send it to our laboratory for them to assess.

Everything you need for this process is included in the kit that we send you.

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How long does it take to get Healthpath stool test results?

Healthpath stool test results take 14 working days. This covers:

  • the transit time in the post for the sample to reach our lab
  • the time the scientists and technicians need to analyse the sample using the latest technology
  • The time our Functional Medicine Practitioners and Registered Nutritional Therapists take to translate the test result data into meaningful information you can use to boost your gut health

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What does an NHS stool sample show?

The NHS use stool tests to detect or assess a huge number of conditions that we can’t fully cover here.

Some of the most common are:

  • colon cancer
  • inflammatory bowel disease (like ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease)
  • an acute infection with pathogenic bacteria

The most common pathogenic bacteria include:

  • Salmonella, often found in raw eggs (even intact disinfected eggs) and raw poultry
  • Shigella, from contaminated food and water
  • Campylobacter, from raw or undercooked poultry: the most common cause of bacterial diarrhoea in the UK
  • Escherichia coli 0157:H7 (other strains of E. coli are considered ‘normal’) found in raw or undercooked beef
  • others include Staphylococcus aureus, Clostridium difficile and strains of Yersinia and Vibrio

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What does a Healthpath stool test show?

A Healthpath stool test is different to an NHS stool test.

Healthpath stool tests are comprehensive stool tests.

Comprehensive stool tests not only look at a broad range of microbes in your gut: bacteria, yeasts, archaea, parasites and even how you digest food, as well as functional markers too, such as:

Get an in-depth insight into your gut.

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Why should I take a Healthpath stool test?

If you want insight into your overall gut health, or to find out why you’re suffering from uncomfortable gut symptoms, taking one of our stool tests could be a good idea. Together, the information on the types and levels of microbes in your gut along with the functional markers can help you to understand what’s going on in your gut.

Your gut does so much more than digest your food.

It has a role in making your neurotransmitters (chemicals that control your mood), it influences your hormones and it contains up to 80% of your immune system, among many other things.

Because so much goes on in your gut that affects the rest of your body, imbalances in your gut can cause problems in almost any area of your health. Some of the most common health conditions have strong links to gut dysbiosis (an imbalance in the trillions of bacteria and other microbes in your gut).

These include:


Gut dysbiosis is associated with anxiety: studies have found that by changing the gut microbiome, we can improve anxiety symptoms (Source: NCBI).


Certain types of bacteria have been linked to depression (Source: PUBMED NCBI).


Gut microbes help regulate the immune system. With eczema, the immune system begins attacking the skin, with high levels of one particular microbe: Staphylococcus aureus, shown to trigger eczema flare ups (Source: PUBMED NCBI).

Infographic NHS faecal stool testing


People with SIBO (an overgrowth of bacteria in the small intestine) often have rosacea. One study even found that treating SIBO cleared up rosacea (Source: PUBMED NCBI)


Many gut conditions are associated with psoriasis (Source: PUBMED NCBI).


Interestingly, removing gluten from your diet could help the symptoms of dermatitis herpetiformis, as this study, and others found (Source: NCBI).

Heart disease

Many studies have suggested that getting your gut healthy could prevent or even treat heart disease (Source: PUBMED NCBI).

Alzheimer’s disease

Gut dysbiosis causes inflammation, which has been linked to Alzheimer’s disease (Source: NCBI).

Parkinson’s disease

A huge amount of research has connected dysbiosis and Parkinson’s disease Right now, scientists are looking at new therapies that work through the gut microbiome (Source: PUBMED NCBI).

Autoimmune diseases

Your gut microbiome and your immune system are so connected that it’s hard to separate one from the other. The vast majority of the cells that make up your immune system are in your gut (Source: PUBMED NCBI).


People with gut dysbiosis are more likely to suffer migraines (Source: PUBMED NCBI).


Allergies are your body’s way of trying to get rid of something it sees as an invader: like pollen, dairy, or almost anything. Levels of dysbiosis in the general population have gone up alongside an increase in allergies (Source: PUBMED NCBI).


Certain bacteria have been found to help or hinder immune system responses in people with asthma (Source: PUBMED NCBI).


Scientists have discovered that tumours ‘communicate’ with the gut microbiome and vice versa (Source: NCBI).

Chronic fatigue syndrome

Chronic fatigue syndrome patients have felt their energy levels increase after changes to their gut microbiome (Source: NCBI).


Restoring microbial balance to obese people has been shown to help them lose weight (Source: PUBMED NCBI).

Type 2 diabetes

Your gut microbiome imbalance plays an important role in the progression of type 2 diabetes (Source: PUBMED NCBI).


Osteoarthritis is an inflammatory condition. Gut microbiome imbalance causes inflammation, which in the case of osteoarthritis, can happen in the joints (Source: NCBI).

Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease

Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease often happens alongside obesity. Scientists are beginning to find answers in our gut microbiomes (Source: NCBI).

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Do you need a stool test, or a stool analysis?

The bottom line (if you’ll excuse the pun) is that there are two main types of stool tests. The kinds of stool tests that you get through the NHS are very different to the stool tests that we offer at Healthpath. The NHS tests look for evidence of infection or disease.

Our stool tests look for and analyse a much wider range of markers. We’re not doctors, so we can’t diagnose any disease. Instead we’re looking for an all-round picture of the health of your gut, to help you understand why you could be suffering from uncomfortable symptoms and get you feeling better.

Get an in-depth insight into your gut

View our gut health tests

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Key takeaways

  • If your doctor has asked you to do a stool test, it’s probably because they’re looking for evidence of infection or disease.
  • If you’re unsure about what to do, you should check with them, or staff at your surgery or hospital.
  • Right now, the NHS doesn’t offer the kind of stool tests that we use at Healthpath
  • We use comprehensive stool testing: an analysis of the health of your gut. We’re not looking for disease or infection: only your doctor can do that.
  • Our stool tests look at a huge range of markers: types and levels of bacteria, yeasts and parasites, as well as evidence of inflammation and poor digestion, to give you a window into the seat of your health: your gut.

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Alexandra Falconer MA (Dist) DipCNM mBANT is a Registered Nutritional Therapist specialising in IBS and related conditions. A graduate of Brighton’s College of Naturopathic Medicine, she is committed to fighting the root causes of chronic illness and bringing functional medicine to everyone who needs it.

Before her natural health career, Alex was a journalist and copywriter. She continues to write for magazines and media agencies, and now combines her two great passions—writing and health—by creating content that empowers people to claim their right to a healthy body and mind.

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