With traditional medicine, someone is often considered “healthy” by reference ranges and generalizations based on a growing population of unhealthy individuals. Traditional medicine often relies on testing results that are too broad to truly find answers for patients. Patients are sent home with no specific plan, no real answers and very little hope.
Functional Medicine lab testing is an effective resource to identify issues before they become problems. Small imbalances or dysfunctions can often build up and have a multiplier effect on your body. They can surface as various symptoms or interact with one another and begin to cause unwanted symptoms.
This commonly shows up as a general feeling of fatigue or poor health or as an illness or symptom that will not go away with the typical, protocol treatments.
The specific information provided by functional testing allows your functional medicine provider to see the big picture of your body’s ecosystem, as well as prompt further questions to be asked about other factors that influence your wellness.
This question trail is key as the answers to our health problems are often found after a combination of functional lab testing factored in with you life history, events and exposures.
Common Functional Lab Testing and Panels
- 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.
- Chemical and metal 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 response.
- 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, such as the MTHFR variance.
Functional lab testing provides information and answers about your body which needs to be interpreted by an experienced functional medicine provider. How your provider interprets this information can make all the difference in your health journey.
Diagnostic testing is not the only way to diagnose acute health conditions or chronic diseases. Understanding your symptoms, health history, family history, diet, lifestyle, and environmental factors are also critical.
“Normal” Vs. Optimized
We frequently see patients who have had lab testing completed through their primary care provider and have been told “your lab tests show you are in the normal range” on a variety of tests. But many of these patients report that they don’t feel normal.
Traditional medicine usually trends towards a prescription, band-aid like approach, or a referral to someone else. The biggest problem with this approach is that it completely disregards the individual patient and assumes everyone fits together into the same reference range.
Most lab tests are designed to include 95% of the population into their normal values. So if your medical doctor tells you that your labs look fine, that just means that you fit into that 95% category.
This idea that 95% of the population is considered “healthy” (by conventional standards) is absurd. Traditional medicine makes the assumption that the absence of disease is the same thing as health. This could not be further from the truth.
As the general population gets sicker and sicker, these reference ranges become wider and wider, making it even more difficult for traditional medicine to address issues when even drastic changes to lab results still fall within their standard reference range.
The functional medicine approach to lab testing interpretation looks beyond the statistical averages. We look at more specific reference ranges to help us identify subclinical problems and the risk of disease before they become serious health issues.
In traditional medicine, doctors use labs to screen for disease. Once a condition has become a disease, such as diabetes or an autoimmune disease, the damage is significant, and typically irreversible.
This begins a long journey of prescription medications that tend to lead to other symptoms or health issues. For many of our patients, this feels like an endless cycle.
Functional medicine uses diagnostic lab testing to identify result trends that are on the way to disease but that can still be slowed, halted, or reversed.
For example, lab markers that show elevated blood sugar, inflammation, and poor liver function allow you to reverse the progression towards diabetes before it becomes a full blown problem.
Another example is autoimmunity. A significant amount of tissue must be destroyed before conventional medicine can diagnose autoimmune disease. By testing for antibodies against tissue, the autoimmune progression can be slowed or stopped in its early stages. These tests are rarely assessed in a yearly screening or covered by insurance companies.
There is Hope
If you’ve been told that your current state is “normal”, but you don’t feel normal, it’s time to dig deeper. Many of our patients come to us thinking they will always have to feel this way. We are dedicated to changing the narrative to one of hope.
By working with our team, patients are able to detect issues earlier, find real answers and truly improve their lives. Diagnostic lab testing is one of the most effective tools we have in functional medicine.
If you’re ready to take a deeper look into your health, connect with our team.