What is Functional Testing?
The Functional approach in Healing means that we are trying to figure out the root causes behind your health conditions instead of just managing and addressing your symptoms, which latter is how conventional health care (a.k.a. most of the conventional doctors) work.
In the realm of Functional Healing, we use a “well-care model”, which is a sub-clinical one. It includes a deep investigation (a thorough health-history conversation, and filling out detailed intake forms) with clients and non-invasive laboratory tests to uncover healing opportunities. We are NOT diagnosing, though. We are on the path of discovering certain patterns and detecting hidden health stressors so that we can proactively focus on taking action before certain imbalances become a real disease. We are proactively focusing on optimizing the body’s core physiological systems such as the hormonal, immune, digestive, detoxification systems.
Do Not Guess, Test!
1. Functional Blood Testing – Functional vs. Normal Lab Ranges
A comprehensive blood test is a very good place to start in the search of root causes behind chronic conditions.
You have to keep in mind though, that conventional normal lab ranges are sometimes pretty far away from real optimal ranges, which we are aiming for. The functional approach works here too: proactively focusing on optimizing bodily functions by balancing the underlying causes of health conditions. This means, that we are not aiming to fit into the “normal” median range of all the chronically sick people who are visiting the labs and thus making the current statistics for normal lab ranges, but we are aiming to meet the criteria of an optimal range for normal function which is the real criteria for good health. Functional lab testing include more markers than conventional lab screens, in the interpretation we are using functional optimal ranges rather than normal ranges, and in functional blood testing we are looking for patterns instead of just looking at individual markers. When you are trying to interpret your lab results from a functional point of view, you have to make sure to use a help of a knowledgeable functional medicine or functional nutrition practitioner to reveal those patterns for you. A proper interpretation will also help you decide whether more extended functional testing (see my points below) is needed in your case.
A comprehensive functional lab work would include (but not necessary be limited to) these following markers:
CBC / Differential with Platelet Count /GGT / LDH / Iron & IBC / Lipid Panel / Blood Chemistry Panel, Comprehensive / Magnesium / Phosphorus, Serum / Metabolic Panel, Comprehensive / MMA, Homocysteine / Vitamin B12/ Folic Acid / Uric Acid / hsCRP / Ferritin / HbA1c / 25-OH Vitamin D / Complete Thyroid Panel with antibodies / Fasting Glucose / Fasting Insulin
It may seem like an overwhelming list but the good news is that you can proceed very easily with lab testing these days, there are many private labs you can use for running these labs relatively inexpensively, on your own. You may ask a functional nutrition practitioner to help you placing a requisition form to a lab or you may proceed through your doc and try to get the lab fees covered by insurance. If you choose to proceed via your general practitioner, you may not be able to reap the benefits of the functional interpretation though, and thus you may end up with an additional visit to someone who is trained in interpreting your results from functional point of view.
2. Comprehensive Stool Testing
Stool testing can be a very important next step in the health-detective work, if clues from the health history and possible markers on the blood chemistry are pointing towards this direction.
Conventional stool testings are very unreliable, though. The screening techniques used in regular stool tests most of the time are not able to reveal any valuable findings. We call these test results false-negatives.
Functional stool testing methodologies are using cutting-edge technologies including staining and antigen techniques, sensitive biochemical assays and microscopy. These tests thoroughly evaluate the status of beneficial and pathogenic microorganisms including aerobic and anaerobic bacteria, yeast and parasites in the stool, ensuring proper and highly individualized therapies based on the findings of the tests.
Comprehensive stool tests can be pricey but if you are someone whose diet has been perfectly dialed in, you are working on all aspects of lifestyle issues and still not moving forward in your health journey, there might be much to reveal only by running this one comprehensive test. I am not telling that everyone should do this, but if clues from your health history and additional clues from regular blood work are pointing to this direction, stool testing might be a great investment towards moving forward.
Labs I like to use are BioHealth in the US and Genova Diagnostics in the UK and Europe. Both companies are available from all over the world. I personally used both labs from living in Kiev, Ukraine. In today’s world of developed logistics services, distance is not an issue.
3. Functional Adrenal Stress Profile
The third test in a good comprehensive functional basic array would be an assessment of your adrenal hormones via a 4 point salivary measure, assessing bio-active free fractions of hormones. Like I mentioned above, I primarily use BioHealth Lab and Genova Diagnostics to run these functional tests in my practice.
Hormonal imbalances are at the root of many chronic health issues. This is why it is important to evaluate the adrenal glands and hormone balance in your body. Cortisol is the hormone that is produced by the adrenal glands in stressful situations. When you are under chronic stress, over time it can lead to cortisol dysregulation and HPA axis dysfunction (hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis dysfunction). When you have an imbalance in that axis, then you’re going to have a problem with sex hormone production or adrenal hormone production or thyroid hormone production. Problems with the HPA axis and cortisol can also lead to intestinal permeability or leaky gut, which can lead to all of those underlying causes in gut issues that we were talking about to test for in the previous point.
Put These All Together
You can see how different functions in the body are all inter-related and when you are trying to get closer to your own root causes, these are some of the great functional assessments you can do to uncover healing opportunities and step further in your healing journey.
Since these functional tests (especially the ones in point 2. and 3., but there are many more valuable tests to talk about too) are not too cheap to run, you have to be clever about them. You should really be cautious to choose reliable tests to run, because you should not waste your money on wrong and unreliable medical tests. It is always better to work with a knowledgeable practitioner who is trained to interpret the findings of the tests results and who is using these tests on a reasonable matter. You should seek for a practitioner who is able to see the big picture about you and able to decide what kind of test is going to make a difference for you in your specific case, with your specific condition. The results of a functional test, and of any test in general should be able to change the treatment protocol, otherwise it is just a waste of your money and efforts. So it all comes back to the practitioner you are working with, who has to be able to put all of these into context.
What is your experience with functional testing? Have you been using functional tests to uncover your own root causes?
If you are ready to jump into figuring out your own root causes behind your health condition and need a map and guidance on how to do that exactly, go ahead and schedule a free consult with me.