In functional medicine we are working under the fundamental concept that all illness, and chronic disease ultimately stem from imbalances in the body. These imbalances are also what we refer to as “root causes” and specialized diagnostic tests help us to identify the root cause of poor function and disease in your body. It would not be possible to effectively restore function if we don’t know exactly where the problem is originating from. 

We typically begin with a comprehensive blood test. This test provides much more information than typical blood tests that are run in most doctor’s offices. In addition to the usual tests that we run, we dig much deeper into some of the key areas that are often overlooked. For example, we dig deeper into areas such as inflammation, immune system, thyroid, blood sugar regulation, energy production, liver and digestion, cardiovascular risk factors, etc. We use this test to help us identify areas of reduced function in the body narrow our scope of focus, so we know exactly where to go and discover the root cause of your health issue. 

My doctor keeps telling me my labs are normal…but I don’t feel normal. 

We also analyze the information on this test differently than most doctors do. You have probably had blood tests performed by your doctor and was told that everything was “normal” or “ok.” We rarely find a blood test that is “normal or ok.” This is because we don’t only look for the tests that were marked as “high” or “low” by the lab that performed the test. Yes, we look at the highs and lows but we also look at the in between; this means we are looking for imbalances and problems that are in progress but have not yet reached the “alarm” stage. When your blood tests have reached a high or low, you have long passed by caution stage and have arrived at state of significant dysfunction or disease. 

What are functional medicine tests? 

We use the type of blood testing described above to help us determine where we need to take a closer and more detailed look at your health. We call them “specialized” because this type of testing is not typically offered in traditional medicine. These tests help provide the exact information we need to create a treatment plan that will address root causes of illness and restore your health. 

Examples of such tests might include: 

  • Food sensitivity and allergy testing: Most food testing offered only looks at food allergies and not allergies and sensitivities. Most food-related problems are in fact due to sensitivities and not allergies. Traditional medicine and allergists do not recognize sensitivities, only allergies. Most health professionals don’t understand how to maximize the information provided on such testing and will usually just tell the patient to avoid or rotate the foods that came up as an allergy or sensitivity. This is not how such data should be interpreted or applied to a diet plan. 

  • Nutrition Testing: there are 2 major ways to assess nutrient status. One is to measure the level of the nutrient, such as a blood test for vitamin B12 or vitamin D. Another approach is to measure the chemical processes in the body that depend on key vitamins, minerals, amino acids, etc. We use a combination of both. Some nutrients have set ranges we like to be within, but many nutrients do not have a set range to fall into. This is when it is important to measure the biological processes in the body and see if they are working properly and balanced. For example, you can measure the level of vitamin B12 or you measure a chemical called methylmalonic acid (MMA). The level of MMA will elevate as your need for B12 increases. An MMA is more accurate assessment of your need for vitamin B12 than testing the level of B12. “Normal or high serum vitamin B-12 levels can sometimes be seen in a B-12 deficient state and can therefore be misleading. High levels of methylmalonic acid (MMA) have been identified as better indicators of B-12 deficiency than the actual serum B-12 level itself.”

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4725715/

This is just one of many specialized testing methods we use to identify nutrient deficiencies. When we assess nutrient status, we will sometimes test the level of the nutrient or the chemical and biological processes that depend on that nutrient, whichever is more sensitive and accurate.

  • Functional Stool Testing: you may have had a stool test before, and it was probably ordered to rule out a parasite or look for the presence of blood in your stool. This is a limited use of a stool test. Vast amounts of information can be obtained from a stool test. We use functional stool testing to assess how well your digestive system is working. We can determine if you are breaking down food well (digestion); if you are absorbing nutrients from your food, or not (malabsorption); if you have inflammation or a leaky gut. We can measure the good and harmful chemicals that the organisms in your gut are producing and see if you have healthy levels of good bacteria or if you have harmful bacteria, parasites, or an overgrowth of yeast. 
  • Adrenal Gland Testing: your adrenal glands are your stress glands; meaning they help your body deal with stressors and inflammation. If you have ever had your adrenal glands tested you probably had a blood test that measured your cortisol levels. This kind of testing would only rule out significant diseases like Cushing’s or Addison’s disease. This will not determine how well your adrenal glands are working from a functional perspective. Your adrenal glands do more than just make cortisol. They also make a hormone called aldosterone that regulates your electrolyte levels. Your adrenal glands also produce large amounts of catecholamines; they include chemicals like dopamine, norepinephrine and epinephrine (adrenaline). If you have dysfunction of the adrenal glands it can cause fatigue, insomnia, mood changes, weight gain, inflammation, altered thyroid hormone function, etc. Healthy adrenal gland function is essential for women who are passing from perimenopause to menopause. AS the ovaries begin to shut down, most hormones normally produced by the ovaries now must be produced by the adrenal glands. If your stress glands are in a state of dysfunction or what we would call “adrenal fatigue” then you will not be able to make the hormones your body needs to function properly. We assess all of the key components of adrenal gland function, not just a single cortisol blood test. 

Below are more tests without the explanations of how they are different or how we use them. 

Additional tests: 

  • Hormone testing
  • Neurological testing that assesses autoimmunity, inflammation, and chronic viral infections. 
  • Comprehensive Lyme disease and co-infection panels for chronic infections. 
  • Environmental mold toxicity 
  • Neurotransmitter testing 
  • Detoxification capacity 
  • Metabolism and cellular energy production 
  • Advanced cardiovascular blood lipid panels to asses relative risk 
  • Etc. 

Summary

In traditional medicine, most testing is used to identify diseases. We take testing a step further; we used testing to determine the following: 

  • Disease identification
  • Early detection to prevent disease. 
  • Identify root causes that cause health problems. 
  • Monitor objective and measurable progress in body function.

As your working partner in functional medicine, our Naturopathic doctors strive for nothing less than your optimal health and wellness. We want to help you live to your body and mind’s potential drug-free, pain-free and disease-free. Schedule your comprehensive consultation now by calling us at 630-210-8391.**