Tag Archives: lab tests

Why lab testing is important in functional medicine/nutrition

Taken by Tom Mallinson

Lab testing is foundational to functional medicine and functional nutrition for good reason. It can show you what is causing your symptoms, if you are headed toward a disease (even if you don’t have symptoms), track the progress of your protocol, and motivate you to stick with your protocol.

Lab testing includes many different tests. Some examples of testing used in functional medicine include:

Food sensitivity testing. If a food you eat regularly causes inflammation, this contributes to chronic health disorders.

Gut testing. Gut problems contribute to chronic health issues. Tests can screen for leaky gut, gut function, parasites, bacterial overgrowth, and autoimmune reactions.

Blood chemistry panel. This is an excellent starting point in functional medicine testing and includes the use of functional medicine ranges (versus lab ranges). Blood testing screens for some diseases and can catch a trend toward a disease while there’s still time to reverse it.

Chemical and metal sensitivity testing. As with foods, an immune reaction to chemicals or metals can trigger chronic inflammatory health disorders.

Adrenal testing. Adrenal testing reveals the relationship between your health and stress handling. The most important test is the second one because it shows if your protocol is working. If not, you need to dig deeper.

Hormone testing. Hormone imbalances profoundly affect health. Testing screens for excesses, deficiencies, feedback loops, and how well you metabolize hormones.

DNA genetic testing. Genetic testing delivers insight into disease risk and genetic metabolic variations that affect health. An example is the MTHFR variance.

These are just a few examples of the types of testing used in functional medicine. What type of testing you need depends on your symptoms and health history.

Why lab testing is important in functional medicine

Functional medicine is based on peer-reviewed science and finds the root cause of your symptoms. There are a variety of factors that can lead to depression, fatigue, chronic pain, poor function, and other chronic health disorders.

Functional lab testing shows a trend toward disease

In conventional medicine, doctors use labs to screen for disease. Once a condition has become a disease, such as diabetes or autoimmune disease, the damage is significant.

Functional medicine uses lab testing to catch a health trend that is on the way to disease but that can still be slowed, halted, or reversed. For instance, lab markers that show elevated blood sugar, inflammation, and poor liver function allow you to easily reverse the march towards diabetes.

Another example is autoimmunity. A significant amount of tissue must be destroyed before conventional medicine can diagnose autoimmune disease. However, by testing for antibodies against tissue, the autoimmune progression can be slowed or stopped in its early stages.

Functional lab testing tracks progress

Although the first test is important for identifying health problems, subsequent testing is also crucial to let you know whether your protocol is working. If there is no improvement, it means you have not hit on the right protocol or discovered all the underlying causes.

Lab testing improves compliance and social support

Seeing the results of a lab test makes it easier to stick with a protocol. It also can encourage a disbelieving spouse, family member, or friend to support you. Many people think gluten sensitivity is just a fad, or that your symptoms aren’t real and you simply complain too much. Your lab results validate your symptoms and can help others be more supportive.

As a functional nutritionist, I do not diagnose or prescribe, but I do use functional laboratory tests to help find the right ways to support my clients’ health. Ask me about functional lab testing to help you get to the bottom of your chronic health condition.

Mystery symptoms? Lab testing can reveal whether it’s autoimmune

cyrex 5 panel autoimmunity copy

Do you have chronic, mysterious symptoms that drag your life down but your lab tests come back normal? You may have an autoimmune reaction, a disorder in which your immune system attacks and destroys a part of your body.

Autoimmunity can strike any tissue or compound in the body and symptoms will vary based on the part of the body attacked. However, people with autoimmunity often have many symptoms in common:

  • Extreme fatigue
  • Muscle weakness
  • Swollen Glands
  • Inflammation
  • Allergies
  • Digestive problems
  • Memory problems
  • Headaches
  • Low-grade fevers

Conventional medicine has yet to fully recognize autoimmunity

Identifying autoimmunity can bring considerable relief. It validates you are not lazy, crazy, and that it’s not all in your head, as many people struggling with autoimmunity are made to feel.

Autoimmunity has exploded in incidence in recent years and neither medicine nor society fully accepts it unless it is at its most severe, end stages. Autoimmunity can slowly undermine your health and quality of life for years or decades before it is medically recognized.

This leaves those with autoimmunity alone in their struggle, wondering what’s wrong and why no one will acknowledge their suffering. Identifying an autoimmune process with proper testing provides solid proof for the fatigue that keeps you pinned to the couch, chronic pain, unexplainable weight gain or loss, depression, poor brain function, and other symptoms.

Testing for autoimmunity

You can identify autoimmunity by screening for antibodies against a particular tissue with a blood test. Antibodies are proteins made by the immune system that attach to the affected tissue to tag it for destruction. You can screen for antibodies to thyroid tissue, joint tissue, brain tissue, the pancreas, and other tissues in the body.

For instance, the book Why Do I Still Have Thyroid Symptoms? talks about screening for Hashimoto’s, an autoimmune thyroid disease, by running antibodies against thyroid peroxidase (TPO), the enzyme that is a catalyst for thyroid hormone production, and thyroglobulin (TGB), a protein involved in thyroid hormone production. If those values come back positive then you know autoimmunity is responsible for low thyroid symptoms causing weight gain, depression, fatigue, constipation, cold hands and feet, and more.

Screening for individual autoimmune reactions is difficult and costly and conventional medicine does not offer treatments to manage autoimmunity until it is in more severe stages. This is why doctors don’t screen for it more routinely. Also, many types of autoimmunity are still considered obscure. The average doctor will not think to test for autoimmunity in the brain, the adrenal glands, the ovaries, or bladder muscle, even though these autoimmune disorders are more common than people realize.

Modern, comprehensive testing for autoimmunity

Fortunately, we now have a lab test called the Array 5 Multiple Autoimmune Reactivity Screen  through Cyrex Labs, that screens for antibodies to 24 different tissues at once much more affordably than running them individually. It can help both the patient and practitioner understand what is causing symptoms.

A positive (or equivocal) response indicates the immune system is tagging that particular tissue for destruction. However, it’s important to know that a positive result does not necessarily mean you have autoimmune disease. It could indicate your body is in the early stage of autoimmunity, which may be silent or causing less severe symptoms. By following autoimmune management protocols you may be able to keep it in a silent or less severe stage indefinitely.

The Cyrex Array 5 panel screens for the following antibodies to indicate specific autoimmune reactions:

  • Parietal cell and ATPase instrinsic factor: stomach autoimmunity
  • ASCA, ANCA, and tropomyosin: intestinal autoimmunity
  • Thyroglobulin and thyroid peroxidase: thyroid autoimmunity
  • 21 hydroxylase (adrenal cortex): adrenal autoimmunity
  • Myocardial peptide, alpha-myosin: cardiac autoimmunity
  • Phospholipid platelet glycoprotein: phospholipid autoimmunity
  • Ovary/Testes: reproductive organ autoimmunity
  • Fibulin, collagen complex, arthritic peptide: joint autoimmunity
  • Osteocyte: bone autoimmunity
  • Cytochrome P450 (hepatocyte): liver autoimmunity
  • Insulin, islet cell, glutamic acid decarboxylase (GAD): pancreatic autoimmunity
  • GAD, myelin basic protein, asialoganglioside, alpha and beta tubulin, cerebellar, synapsin: neurological autoimmunity

To learn more about how to find the cause of your chronic symptoms or how to manage your autoimmunity, contact me.