Hopefully after reading “Functional Medicine and You”, you have considered seeing a functional medicine practitioner. If so then congratulations! I’m so happy for you and the wonderful health journey you are embarking on. If not, no worries. This week’s blog is aiming to describe different laboratory tests your provider may request you complete.
The benefits of functional medicine testing are vast. Many lab profiles will aid your provider in the discovery in the cause of your symptoms. In my opinion, this is one of the most exciting parts of supporting someone’s health. At this moment I get to be a detective and determine what tests would be best for the individual sitting in front of me. Once those results are in I then synthesize all the information to determine the cause or causes to the dysfunction
Some common lab tests you have probably had run by your doctor are also ones that I find important. These include a comprehensive metabolic panel (CMP), a complete blood count with differential (CBC with diff), hemoglobin A1c (HA1c), fasting blood glucose just to name a few. These results give an understanding of the metabolic state of the body. They give information regarding liver and kidney function, blood glucose regulation, and blood cell count. Thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH), iron and ferritin levels, c reactive protein (CRP), lipids and triglycerides, anti-nuclear antibodies to check for autoimmunity, and urinalysis used to gauge disease via the urine are also common labs I utilize that you may had had before.
Other labs that you may not be as familiar with, aim to dig deeper into the cause of dysfunction and where the dysfunction is happening on a biochemical level. Below are some of my favorite labs that I like to utilize in consults.
Organic Acid Test (OAT)
This is probably my favorite comprehensive lab test to run. I get to work with the results of this test daily. I have seen many conditions ranging from Autism and ADHD to Parkinson’s disease, menopause to PMS, and hypothyroidism to chronic pain all be supported with the result of this test. The OAT takes a look at the microbial terrain of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract, measures excretion of certain compounds that tell us how well the cells are making energy, gives insight to neurotransmitter balance, tests nutritional markers, and also measures detoxification capacity. This comprehensive profile helps to guide further testing in a more targeted direction.
A large part of functional testing is rule in or out the presence of a toxic exposure. Oftentimes individuals don’t realize that they had or are currently a toxic exposure. Common toxins that affect health negatively include heavy metals like mercury and lead, mycotoxins or mold toxins, and non-chemical toxins like pesticides or compounds from common items we use daily. These compounds have effects that can impair the immune system, nervous system, and endocrine system.
Speaking of the endocrine system, hormones are crucial in understanding what’s happening in the body. Whether the sex hormones are altered in regard to PMS, fertility, menopause etc understanding why things are imbalance or not is important. Other hormone panels i feel are necessary to health are the thyroid panel, male sex hormone testing, and cortisol (stress hormone). Balancing hormones will allow the system to work harmoniously as all the hormones work together to support body functioning.
During times of stress, especially emotional stress, as seen in depression and anxiety, I find neurotransmitter testing to be helpful. After analyzing the OAT and ruling in neurotransmitter dysfunction i like to do more direct testing to understand exactly why and how best i can support their balance. By knowing what the system is doing prior to intervention, I then add in supportive herbs and nutrients to help the body’s own natural processes work better. I like to work with the system to encourage proper function.
Food and Environmental Sensitivities
Most very knows someone or suffers themselves from allergies or sensitivities. During times when affected individuals are exposed to their allergens this activates the immune response. The response can cause symptoms such as rash, fatigues, mood changes, anxiety, palpitations, bowel changes, cough, mucus production, etc. by removing these from the system less stress is impacting it.
Testing for micronutrients is an important part of whole body care. By assessing if you have enough of the vitamins and minerals necessary to sustain life, I can see what supports need to be added. This also gives insight to what diet and foods would be best for the individual. It can also link certain symptoms to nutrient overload or deficiency.
Do you know the saying: “You can tell a lot about a person by looking at their trash.”? Well this is how i feel about the stool. Your excrement can hold the key to many internal issues you may be suffering from. Complete digestive stool testing gives great insight to possible bacterial, yeast, and/or parasitic overgrowths. An experienced practitioner can also tell how well you are digesting and assimilating the foods you are eating. Stool testing is a great way to determine the reason behind bowel changs, gas and bloating, and possible bowel inflammation. You can learn alot about a person by assessing their stool.
Post testing, your practitioner now has a better understanding of why you’re feeling the way you are. As the naturopathic tenet says: “Doctor as teacher.”, I take pride in educating my clients on the results. It is my philosophy that if one knows why they need to make a change and why it is beneficial for them or their loved one, then they are more likely to make the change consistently and long term. Bottom line, functional testing is beneficial for understanding the underlying causes of disease. With these above and many more tests the underlying cause of your health can be determined and treated. Is it time for you to start digging a little deeper?