Functional Lab Testing: Uncovering the “Why”
Functional laboratory testing and evaluation is a critical component in gaining a more comprehensive understanding of how your body is functioning. Having the ability to test for instead of just guess what biochemical, nutrient, microbial, hormonal etc imbalances are present is invaluable to creating the most targeted, individualized, effective therapeutic strategy. Knowledge is power, and having the knowledge of why a particular disease state is present might be the most important factor in achieving optimal wellness. When we understand the “why”, we can employ a variety of approaches at correcting the underlying imbalances. If we can correct the cause, whether by an herb, a diet, a medication, the end result is restored balance, and optimal health. Additionally, baseline testing allows us to monitor progress, and change treatment parameters as needed.
We utilize both conventional and “functional” laboratory testing to provide the most comprehensive assessment of your health. Even when conventional blood testing is ordered, we often interpret the results with a functional or holistic perspective. In addition to standard blood testing, functional laboratory testing through specialty labs may be recommended to provide further understanding of why dysfunction is occurring, and elucidate effective strategies to restore balance and improve symptoms and disease. Functional laboratory testing may include blood, stool, urine, saliva or hair samples to provide information about a variety of systems including metabolic, nutritional, endocrine, gastrointestinal, hormonal, immune, genetic, detoxification, and others.
With so many testing options available and it is possible to not only identify what disease is present, but to obtain reliable and reproducible information to explain “why” and “what” led to the present state of dis-ease. Understanding what factors contribute to a given condition allow for individualized and targeted treatment recommendations, including education on how to prevent recurrence and exacerbations in the future.
There are many functional tests that may be beneficial. Some functional testing we routinely do include:
Functional Blood Chemistry Analysis:
Looking at conventional blood markers and assessing based on optimal levels. Too often people fall into “normal” ranges on their blood work performed by their doctors, and although they feel sick, they are told everything is normal. By taking a deeper look, and combining regular blood work with additional functional markers, a more comprehensive assessment can be made regarding one’s health now and in the future.
Micronutrient testing measures how micronutrients (vitamins, amino acids, minerals, anti-oxidants) are actually functioning within your white blood cells (primary immune cells). These tests allow nutritional assessment for a broad variety of clinical conditions, general wellness and the prevention of chronic diseases including arthritis, cancer, cardiovascular risk, diabetes, various immunological disorders and metabolic disorders.
Hormone Level Assessment:
Most often blood samples are used for testing, though urine or saliva testing may be indicated. Comprehensive hormone testing is indicated for patients experiencing any hormonal imbalances including conditions benefitting from bio-identical hormone replacement therapy.
Adrenal Stress Index Test
This saliva test evaluates the health of the adrenal glands by measuring the levels of the stress hormone cortisol, at 4 different points during a given day. This information helps determine normal or abnormal cortisol rhythm, and can differentiate between overactive or underactive adrenal function which often have similar presentation. This test is very helpful in patients with excessive fatigue, inflammatory conditions, hormone imbalance, weight issues, chronic illness, and chronic stress.
Digestive and Gut Function Analysis
This stool test provides extensive information related to digestive tract function and health. The panel includes information about the following:
- Digestion – enzyme level markers, stool pH, detection of undigested food particles.
- Intestinal Absorption
- Intestinal Metabolism
- Microbiology – detection of pathogenic bacteria, levels of normal/beneficial bacteria.
- Mycology – levels of yeast.
- Macroscopic Observations – observation of fecal colour, detection of pus, mucus and occult blood.
- Gut Immune Function – sIgA levels
From this information you will know whether, for example, you need to improve digestive function by supplementing digestive enzymes, whether you have a dysbiosis situation needing treatment with antimicrobials and/or probiotics and if your immune system is functioning effectively to control pathogenic organisms in the intestines. The CDSA can also help diagnose a specific disease when symptoms could point to many alternatives. For instance, a patient suspected of having irritable bowel syndrome may in fact have an inflammatory bowel disease which could be very serious left untreated; the CDSA can determine if this is the case.
Intestinal Permeability Analysis
This test helps identify presence of leaky gut syndrome and malabsorption. The test entails drinking a solution with 2 different types of carbohydrates. After a specified amount of time, a urine sample is collected. Measuring the amount of each of the carbohydrates in the urine determines if your gut is overly permeable (presence of the larger molecule in the urine indicates leaky gut that allows passage of this molecule) or if malabsorption is present (absence of smaller molecule means that the molecule was unable to pass through the gut wall when it should be able to.) Having an overly permeable gut barrier may contribute to disease progression, as it activates the immune system, triggers allergies, and may indicate intoxication by increased absorption of microorganism waste products. Malabsorption may suggest nutrient deficiencies are present and contribute to compromised state of health. When results are positive for either leaky gut or malabsorption, follow up test recommendations may include allergy, liver function, micronutrient, or stool testing.
Estrogen Metabolism Test
Food and Allergen Sensitivity Testing
Heavy Metal Toxicity
SIBO – Small Intestinal Bowel Overgrowth
Cardiovascular function and risk assessment
Chronic Fatigue Profile
Lyme Disease Screening
Comprehensive Thyroid Function Profile