You Need To Get Tested for Hidden Blood in Stools: Here's Why

Get tested annually for hidden blood in stool to detect colon cancer early. This simple test finds issues like polyps or inflammatory bowel disease before symptoms arise to keep you in your best health.

As a working adult, you know that preventative health measures are key to maintaining high performance and longevity.

While you may get annual physicals, monitor things like blood pressure and cholesterol, and make efforts to exercise and eat right, there is one critical screening that often gets overlooked: testing for hidden blood in the stools. Often asymptomatic, blood in the stool can be an early indicator of gastrointestinal issues like ulcers, colorectal polyps or even cancer.

Getting a fecal occult blood test, also known as a stool blood test, is a quick and inexpensive way to determine if there are microscopic amounts of blood in your stool that you can’t see with the naked eye.

TLDR: Get tested for hidden blood in stool annually as part of your wellness regimen

  • Blood in stool may indicate gastrointestinal issues like ulcers, polyps or colon cancer
  • Early detection can help prevent life-threatening issues and improve your health

What Is a Fecal Occult Blood Test?

A fecal occult blood test checks for hidden blood in your stool that you can't see with the naked eye. This simple, non-invasive screening test can detect gastrointestinal bleeding before symptoms appear.

This Test Can Help Indicate Colon Cancer.

Occult blood in the stool can be an early indicator of colon cancer or precancerous polyps. Detecting colon cancer early is critical, as the 5-year survival rate can be as high as 90% when found at an early stage, compared to just 10% at a late stage. Colorectal cancer is the most common cancer in Singapore. Male Chinese Singaporeans are, particularly at risk.

A fecal occult blood test may also uncover other gastrointestinal issues like ulcers, hemorrhoids, or inflammatory bowel disease.

While a positive fecal occult blood test does not necessarily mean you have colon cancer, it does mean further testing should be done. A colonoscopy can determine the exact cause of the bleeding and allow for removal of precancerous polyps.

Risk Factors for Colon Cancer

While a positive fecal occult blood test does not necessarily mean you have colon cancer, it does mean further testing should be done. Some of the main risk factors for colon cancer include:

  • Age: Colon cancer risk increases after the age of 50.
  • Family history: If a close relative has had colon cancer or colon polyps, you have a higher risk.
  • Diet: A diet high in red and processed meats and low in fiber increases risk.
  • Weight: Being overweight or obese is linked to greater colon cancer risk.
  • Lifestyle: Smoking cigarettes and low physical activity increase colon cancer risk.
  • Medical conditions: Inflammatory bowel disease can raise your risk of colon cancer.

Ideal Frequency for Fecal Occult Blood Testing

The ideal frequency for FOBT will depend on your personal risk factors and medical history.

Generally: 1-2 Years

For average-risk individuals with no symptoms and a normal colonoscopy within the last 10 years, a FOBT every 1 to 2 years after age 50 is considered the standard of care.

If You Have Family History

If you have a family history of colon cancer or polyps, your doctor may recommend more frequent testing, such as every 6 to 12 months. The same is true if a previous FOBT or colonoscopy detected precancerous polyps. In these higher-risk cases, more regular screening is prudent to detect any recurrence or new polyp formation.

Some people may need to start screening earlier or get tested more often if they experience symptoms such as changes in bowel movements, abdominal pain, rectal bleeding, or unexplained weight loss. These can potentially indicate an issue that requires further medical evaluation and diagnostic procedures like a colonoscopy. Always discuss your symptoms and risk factors openly with your doctor to determine an appropriate FOBT schedule.

Mito Health's flagship package, priced at $499, offers FOBT testing as well as 66 other carefully curated biomarkers that provide insight into various aspects of your health - this comprehensive suite of tests allows for early detection of cancer, heart disease, neurodegenerative disorders, diabetes and more. 

In addition to testing, you will receive a personalized health optimization plan from our doctors incorporating supplements, nutrition, exercise and sleep strategies, and access to exclusive health and longevity events.

Even better - as a member, you get exclusive pricing (50% off market price) for an additional Tumour Marker Screen Panel, which detects over 20 different types of cancer at an early, more treatable stage - helping you live healthier, for longer.

Lifestyle Changes to Reduce Bloody Stools

To reduce the occurrence of bloody stools, several lifestyle changes and management techniques should be adopted. These steps can help improve gastrointestinal health and reduce inflammation in the colon or rectum.

Exercise Regularly

Engage in at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise most days of the week. Exercise reduces stress, stimulates bowel movements, and speeds up digestion. Walking, swimming or yoga are excellent options. Be sure to stay active, even if experiencing flare-ups. However, avoid heavy lifting or intense workouts during active bleeding episodes.

Manage Stress Levels

Chronic stress can negatively impact digestion and gut health. Practice self-care techniques like meditation, deep breathing, journaling or massage therapy. Getting enough sleep every night is also vital for the body and colon to function properly. Aim for 7 to 9 hours of sleep per night to feel rested and allow your colon to heal.

Limit Alcohol and Smoking

Both alcohol and smoking damage the lining of the colon and rectum, increasing the risk of bleeding. Eliminate smoking completely and limit alcohol consumption to 1 drink per day for women, and 2 per day for men. Quitting these habits will significantly improve colon health and decrease bloody stools.

Staying Hydrated

Drinking plenty of water is essential for digestive health and proper bowel movements. Aim for 6 to 8 glasses of water per day to keep your stools soft and promote regularity. Staying hydrated keeps your colon lubricated, allowing waste to pass through easily. Dehydration is a common cause of constipation and hard stools.

Making the necessary lifestyle adjustments to support colon health may require effort and time. However, reducing bloody stools and improving quality of life make these life changes worthwhile. With diligence and patience, you can strengthen your colon health and potentially eliminate unwanted bleeding.

Best Diets to Follow for Healthy Bowel Movements

To promote healthy bowel movements and reduce the risk of colorectal cancer, the ideal diet for most working adults should emphasize high-fiber, minimally processed plant foods. Several diets fit this recommendation:

High-Fiber Diet

A high-fiber diet focuses on unrefined plant foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes. Aim for 25 to 30 grams of fiber per day from sources such as:

  • 2 cups of beans or lentils per week
  • 2 whole pieces of fruit per day
  • 3 cups of vegetables per day
  • 2 whole grain bread with 3 grams of fiber per slice

Increasing fiber slowly helps prevent gas and bloating. Drink plenty of water to aid digestion of additional fiber.

Mediterranean Diet

The Mediterranean diet highlights plant-based foods, healthy fats like olive oil, and lean proteins. Key components include:

  • 2 servings of fish or seafood per week
  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil per day
  • 1 glass of red wine per day (optional)
  • Fresh or dried fruits and vegetables
  • Legumes 2-3 times per week
  • Nuts and seeds in moderation
  • Yogurt or cheese in moderation

This balanced diet is associated with a lower risk of colorectal cancer and other diseases.

Flexitarian Diet

The flexitarian diet is a flexible vegetarian diet that emphasizes plant foods with moderate consumption of meat, fish, dairy, and eggs. Aim for a diet that is 2/3 plant-based:

  • 2-3 meatless meals per day
  • Replace meat in some meals with legumes, nuts or eggs
  • Choose sustainable, organic animal products
  • Fill half your plate with fruits and vegetables
  • Choose whole grains over refined grains

The flexitarian diet supports digestive health, reduces disease risk, and is sustainable for most working adults. Making gradual changes to adopt a high-fiber, plant-rich diet will yield significant benefits for bowel health and longevity.

Top Supplements to Support Gastrointestinal Function

To support gastrointestinal health and function, certain supplements may be beneficial for working adults. As you age, digestive enzymes and stomach acid naturally decrease, making it more difficult to properly break down and absorb nutrients from food. Supplements can help ensure you get the most from your diet.

Probiotics

Probiotics are beneficial bacteria that can improve digestion and gut health. Look for a probiotic with multiple strains, including Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium, and at least 10 to 15 billion CFUs. Popular, well-studied brands include Culturelle and BlueBiotics. Probiotics may reduce symptoms like bloating, gas, and constipation.

Digestive Enzymes

Digestive enzymes help break down proteins, fats, and carbohydrates in the gut. Common enzymes include bromelain (from pineapples), papain (from papaya), and betaine HCL to boost stomach acid. Enzyme supplements, such as Zenwise Health Digestive Enzymes or NOW Super Enzymes, may reduce indigestion and improve nutrient absorption.

Glutamine

Glutamine is an amino acid that serves as fuel for the cells of the small intestine and colon. Supplementing with L-glutamine powder or capsules may help repair damage to the gut lining, reduce inflammation, and improve gut barrier integrity. Most studies have used doses of 2 to 30 grams per day, depending on individual needs. Glutamine is generally recognized as safe for most adults but may cause nausea or diarrhea in large amounts.

Other Options

Other supplements that may support gut health include aloe vera, marshmallow root, slippery elm, and peppermint or ginger tea. Turmeric or curcumin supplements have anti-inflammatory effects and may help reduce irritation in the gut. Be sure to talk to your doctor before taking any new supplements to avoid interactions or side effects. Lifestyle approaches like reducing stress, quitting smoking, limiting alcohol, and exercising regularly will also benefit both your gut and overall health in the long run.

Treatments for Underlying Causes of Bloody Stools

If blood is detected in your stool, your doctor may prescribe medication to treat any underlying conditions. The course of treatment will depend on the source and severity of the bleeding.

Cancer Treatment

Treatment options depend on the stage of the cancer and include surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, targeted drug therapy, and immunotherapy.

For early-stage colon cancer, surgery to remove the cancerous tissue is often the primary treatment.

For later stage colon cancer that has spread, a combination of treatments may be recommended including chemotherapy before and after surgery to shrink or kill cancer cells. Radiation therapy may also be used in combination with chemotherapy and surgery for rectal cancer. Targeted drugs that inhibit specific molecules involved in cancer cell growth have shown promise in treating colon cancer.

The goal of treatment is to remove all cancerous tissue while preserving healthy tissue and organ function, to relieve symptoms and improve quality of life, and to prevent the cancer from spreading further.

Blood thinners

For bleeding related to blood clots or thrombosis, anticoagulants or blood thinners may be prescribed. Medications like warfarin, heparin, aspirin, or clopidogrel work by preventing blood clots from forming and existing clots from getting bigger. Dosages and duration will depend on the clot location and severity. Blood thinners require close monitoring with frequent blood tests and checkups.

Proton pump inhibitors

If excess stomach acid is irritating ulcers or the gastrointestinal lining, proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) may be recommended to reduce acid levels and allow tissues to heal. Common PPIs include omeprazole, lansoprazole, and esomeprazole. These are usually taken daily for 4 to 8 weeks. Reducing stress and avoiding foods that trigger reflux can also help in combination with medication.

Iron supplements

For bleeding related to iron or other nutritional deficiencies, your physician may recommend dietary changes, supplements or both. Oral iron tablets or liquids are commonly used to build up iron levels in the body. Vitamin C, folate, and B12 may also be prescribed depending on your deficiency. Replenishing depleted nutrients through diet and supplements can help prevent or reduce bleeding over the long term.

Continued monitoring, follow-up testing, and possible dosage adjustments may be needed to ensure bleeding has stopped and does not recur. Medications are often used in combination with lifestyle and diet changes for the most effective treatment.

Conclusion

In conclusion, as a working adult focused on career and family, it's easy to neglect preventative health measures that could add years of healthy life. However, a simple at-home fecal occult blood test is an easy and inexpensive way to screen for hidden blood in the stool, which is often an early indicator of colon cancer or other gastrointestinal issues. By catching these issues early through regular testing, you gain the opportunity to work with your doctor on a treatment plan to manage health concerns before they become life-threatening.

At Mito Health, we specialize in advanced health diagnostics to conduct as Fecal Occult Blood Test (along with 66 other biomarkers) - to form a science-based, personalized health plan to help you optimize your health. Sign up for our flagship package to take control of your health and your future.

Written By
J. Hsu
January 1, 2024
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