How Functional Lab Testing Can Help Improve Your Health
The human body is complex and we continue to learn more about it through advanced science and technology. When we don’t feel well, a trip to the doctor is typically how we get answers.
Most of those doctor visits run a similar course: the doctor asks a series of questions designed to pinpoint the cause of the illness and may also run some tests to verify the diagnosis. The average doctor-patient interface in the U.S. is roughly 14 minutes, during which a patient may be analyzed, diagnosed, and treated using conventional medicine.
This approach to medicine typically treats the symptoms of illness, but that isn’t always enough. That’s where functional medicine comes in.
Functional health care looks past the symptoms of illnesses and seeks to treat the person as a whole being to find the root cause of the issue. Functional lab testing is part of the process, helping evaluate how well a person’s body is working on a health spectrum. Integrative practitioners can provide a deeper understanding of how each body’s systems function and what core issues may be causing problems.
Several basic functional lab tests can be highly beneficial in uncovering the underlying reasons for many chronic conditions, such as diabetes, digestive issues, headaches, cardiovascular issues and dermatitis. This guide will walk you through some of the most helpful functional lab testing, what it can tell you, and why people use it.
Why Functional Lab Testing Is Important
Many factors can lead to anxiety, depression, fatigue, and other chronic illnesses. Some are difficult to identify. Functional lab testing can help in several ways.
Identifying Risk Factors
Doctors use lab tests in conventional medicine to screen for the presence of disease. Functional health care doctors use comprehensive lab tests as well as optimal lab ranges to help identify health trends that develop into disease, allowing time to stop, slow or reverse the disease before it sets in.
Lab markers that show elevated blood sugar and poor liver function, for instance, may point to an increased risk towards developing diabetes.
Tracking Health Status
Initial functional lab testing can uncover underlying contributing factors of illness, and follow-up testing can help track health status.
It’s easier to stick with a treatment protocol when lab tests show results. Tests can also help convince skeptical friends and family of the validity of an illness, such as a gluten sensitivity or food allergy.
There are many benefits to having functional lab tests performed. Many tests complement each other and can be even more helpful when run in combination with others.
5 Insightful Functional Lab Tests
Advanced lab tests can give insights into issues related to a specific body system or provide information on multiple systems. Functional lab tests are best paired with a comprehensive consultation that includes a patient's health history, diet and lifestyle habits, and current symptoms to generate a more accurate picture of one’s health. Here are a few tests that can help identify underlying imbalances or issues.
1. Organic Acids Test (OAT)
Organic acids are present in all animals, plants and microbial sources. They are byproducts of neurotransmitter breakdown, energy production, detoxification and intestinal microbial activity.
This test provides a valuable snapshot into one’s metabolic and cellular health and is useful for people experiencing fatigue, mood swings, anxiety, depression, and other chronic health issues that may be difficult to diagnose.
The organic acids test evaluates more than 70 biomarkers to provide information on one’s:
- Fatty acid metabolism
- Oxalate levels
- Yeast and bacterial overgrowth
- Oxidative stress
- Vitamin and antioxidant levels
- Neurotransmitter levels
- Mitochondrial function
Large amounts of organic acids are usually found in the urine of people with chronic illnesses. Testing can reveal issues with metabolism and nutrient deficiencies, microorganism overgrowth, and detoxification pathways. A skilled practitioner can provide targeted diet and supplement recommendations to address imbalances that show up in test results.
2. Micronutrient Analysis
This thorough nutritional analysis evaluates over 50 micronutrients, such as vitamins, minerals and amino acids, at a cellular level to understand a patient’s longer-term dietary status.
Every metabolic process in the body requires a supply of nutrients. A deficiency of any nutrient can affect health in various ways, such as compromising the immune system and fostering conditions that lead to degenerative diseases such as arthritis, diabetes and cancer. Diet changes and taking key supplements can help to address specific nutrient insufficiencies noted in this analysis.
3. Digestive Health Panel
GI tract problems can cause many chronic health issues. Any problem with digestion, nutrient absorption, elimination or microbiome balance can have far-reaching consequences. Testing a patient’s stool can reveal information about inflammation, bacterial imbalances, yeast overgrowth, immune function and metabolic activity. Results from this panel are very helpful in developing a personalized plan to optimize your gut.
4. Food Sensitivities
A sensitivity to eating a particular food doesn’t always present itself immediately – it can take several hours, or even days after eating before a reaction occurs. Food-sensitivity testing can identify foods that are triggering your immune system. Eliminating problematic foods can reduce stress on the immune system and may help clear up symptoms of chronic health issues such as fatigue, digestive complaints, sinus problems and skin irritations.
In addition, rotating certain foods in your diet (eating them at least 4 days apart) can also help to lower the likelihood of new food sensitivities from developing by reducing the level of immune reaction and inflammation. This functional lab test provides a detailed lab report regarding your level of reactivity to 190 different foods that are common in Western, Asian and Mediterranean diets. Also included are recommendations for elimination or rotation of certain foods.
5. CardioMetabolic Health Profile
Cardiovascular issues are one of America’s leading causes of death in both men and women. Knowing the level of risk can allow patients to take targeted actions to protect themselves. A cardiometabolic health profile provides detailed insight into one’s cardiovascular and metabolic health risk factors. With over 20 biomarkers analyzed, this comprehensive panel provides an in-depth view into cholesterol health, hormone and blood sugar balance, kidney health and inflammation.
Individuals can order functional lab testing directly online. However, we suggest working with a practitioner who can recommend test(s) that are best for you and provide personalized guidance based on your lab results.
Wellness Professionals at Your Service
Village Green is an integrative pharmacy that offers a wide variety of high quality nutritional supplements, as well as personalized wellness plans to help customers feel their best. Our staff includes pharmacists, nutritionists, naturopathic doctors and clinical herbalists available to guide customers in finding the right solutions for their unique health needs. Contact our team to learn more about functional lab testing, as well as learn about other ways we can help you.
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