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You’re Not Just Any Body (Pt.1): Functional Lab Tests and Your Health

What is functional medicine?

I love to tell my clients “I teach you how to live in your body” because it’s true – every BODY is different; each one works, feels and looks differently. People are so individual that we need specific information to be able to understand the root cause of their symptoms. Functional medicine is an approach to reversing the root causes of disease based on your biology and the root causes of your symptoms.

What are specialized functional lab tests?

Functional medicine lab tests are like a map to finding the best path to optimal health. These tests measure various systems in your body such as your metabolism, gastrointestinal and hormonal systems, as well as your immune response and cellular nutrition levels. They show how well your systems are functioning and nutrients are being absorbed. They also dive deep to look at what toxins might be stuck in your body. Most importantly, they show a functional medicine health coach like myself how to get you from surviving to thriving.

What tests do functional medicine health coaches do?

The Big Three I regularly use in my practice are

  • food sensitivity testing

  • stool testing

  • cortisol or comprehensive hormone testing

(But there are others like heavy metals, mold, cellular nutrient, organic acids, and mycotoxin tests. These tests are more esoteric and often occur after we optimize your core body functions.)

Food sensitivity tests are exactly like what they sound like – a finger prick test that helps determine if what you are eating may be causing adverse reactions in your body.

While food allergies or IgE antibodies can cause severe, immediate allergic reactions, food intolerances or IgG antibodies can cause inflammation and eventually “leaky gut” or the inflammatory cascade which can be the root cause of other symptoms.

For example, sometimes joint pain, like a swollen ankle or knee, can actually be a victim of inflammation that started in the gut. Food sensitivities symptoms are many and varied. A few are:

  • anxiety/depression

  • inability to lose weight

  • fatigue/insomnia

  • constipation/diarrhea

  • bloating/stomach pain

  • joint pain

  • craving sugar

  • impotence/low libido

Food sensitivities are digestive. But keep in mind that 70 - 80% of your immune system is located in your digestive tract. Having a food sensitivity means your body can have an ‘quiet’ immune-mediated reaction days or even weeks after consuming the food. So in these cases, discovering what might be causing it and removing the offending food can improve symptoms dramatically.

But keep in mind that no one food sensitivity test is 100% comprehensive. Sometimes my clients use an elimination and reintroduction challenge instead of a lab test, especially if they have an idea of what foods might be the culprit. There are advantages (time, and data for comparison) and disadvantages (cost, compliance, social effort) to each and this is what we discuss prior to testing.

Stool tests show us what may be up in your gut. Are the cramping, bloating, or IBS symptoms you’ve been having the result of a parasite? Bacterial overgrowth? Dysbiosis? Yeast overgrowth? Lack of digestive enzymes? With this test, We can do a deeper dive to tell how well you are digesting your food, how well you are absorbing nutrients, and whether your digestive tract is inflamed.

Many health problems actually originate in the gut and a little bit of poop can often tell us a lot about what’s going on in there! But keep in mind, sometimes the gut is like Las Vegas, and what happens in the stomach can stay there instead of coming all the way through to the small and/or large intestines. So we will talk about your unique body.

Lastly, cortisol or hormone testing tells us about the state of your hormonal health and cortisol levels. Why is this important? Cortisol runs on

a diurnal or daily rhythm and is affected by stress. And then stress affects sleep. If you are struggling with insomnia or chronic fatigue, we can tell how well your body is able to handle stress and, if that capacity is low, work at improving it. We can also look at how this affects your thyroid and nutrient absorption levels, sex and adrenal hormones, and their metabolites.

We can use this test to get a baseline before or after menopause, assess weight gain, fatigue, low libido, premenstrual symptoms (PMS), mood swings, or depression. Our goal is to prevent these symptoms from leading to more serious problems.

Can you function and feel better? The answer is resoundingly yes. As a functional medicine health coach, I use these tests to help educate you about how you can improve your diet and lifestyle and what can we do to move the needle to a healthier you.

You may not need any of these tests or you may only need one. Part of the process is assessing your individual needs. I am here to be your partner in setting and achieving your healthy eating and lifestyle goals.

Now is the time to start taking care of you. And lab tests can help show us the way.

Stay tuned next week for part 2 of lab tests - regular testing from a functional lens!

This communication may contain general nutrition and lifestyle advice. I am not a licensed physician. My advice is not intended, and you should not use it to attempt to diagnose, prevent or treat diseases, ailments, pain or other medical conditions. Please consult your personal licensed physician to seek advice about diagnosing, preventing or treating specific ailments.

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