Updated: Jun 12, 2019
Many patients with chronic illness have spent years looking for a diagnosis.
Often, symptoms have not been taken seriously or they have been covered up with 'band aid' solutions like painkillers. When testing comes back negative for obvious conditions, the patient is often left in a 'no mans land' with no treatment and no information on how to move forward.
My wife developed Raynaud's syndrome at 9 years old (an autoimmune reaction that causes vascular constriction). A doctor told her and her mother that her circulation was 'bad' and that they could probably perform a surgery to 'open up' the veins in her hands.
Her doctor did not recognize her condition. He failed to realize that the problem was not her veins and a surgery would have been pointless and destructive.
Stories like hers are common, especially in those who have unusual symptoms or have conditions that are rare or do not fit into diagnostic guidelines.
Functional Medicine Is Different
I practice functional medicine, my objective is to find out the root cause of your symptoms and conditions.
Rather than handing out medications that simply cover up symptoms, I employ natural methods to permanently resolve symptoms.
A diagnosis is just the starting point of my clinical inquiry - my goal is to heal your tissues and organs so that you can enjoy your life - not just 'manage' symptoms.
The 'Big Three' Of Diagnostic Testing
The three functional medicine tests below can give you powerful insights into what is keeping you sick and what needs to be treated for you to heal.
You may be thinking if these tests were so important, why wouldn't my doctor already order these tests? Most practitioners of conventional medicine are looking for a diagnosis, and for that they only need a limited range of confirmatory tests.
Here are a few tests that are particularly helpful in cases of idiopathic (without known cause), mysterious symptoms or chronic illness.
1. Comprehensive Stool Analysis
Few tests are as illuminating as a comprehensive stool analysis. All the trendy phrases you have been hearing lately - like "90% of your immune system is in your gut" and "your gut is your second brain" - are true, your gut is a near-miraculous collection of neurons and microbial environments that form the basis for your health.
With expert interpretation, a comprehensive stool analysis can test assess digestive function, gastrointestinal inflammation and nutrient absorption.
It can also assess the composition and health of your microbiome.
The common condition of excessive bacteria in the small intestine (called SIBO) can be investigated with this test.
Viral, bacterial, and parasitic infections are also detectable in a stool analysis.
Autoimmune Symptoms / Disease
'Migrating' or Non-Specific Pain
Food Allergies / Sensitivities
Viral, Bacterial or Fungal Infections
Nutrient Deficiencies, including Chronic Deficiencies
Skin Conditions (Eczema, Psoriasis, Rashes, Hives)
Functional Medicine Application
If we find in your stool analysis that you have a bacterial infection and high inflammation - the solution will not be as simple as popping a probiotic or cutting out grains once in a while.
Based on the kind of bacteria present or condition found we will choose a multifaceted treatment that is intended to fix your problem once and for all - not just keep it at bay.
You will likely be given specific foods to include in your diet. Herbal supplementations are also frequently used to kill off unwanted bacterial overgrowth while protecting other beneficial bacteria.
This breaks the cycle of partial die-off/regrowth of bacteria that can come with other treatments.
The goal is for you to be completely symptom free and not reliant on a pile of supplements or a specialized diet long term.
2. Organic Acids Testing
An organic acid test can determine if you have malabsorption issues, underlying bacterial infections and systemic microbiome imbalances.
Many patients with chronic conditions report situations like eating high amounts of food with iron but still being anemic - a malabsorption problem could be why.
Other conditions that may be hard to diagnose can be evaluated with this test (like some gastrointestinal fungal infections and chronic malabsorption problems.)
An organic acids test can also assess neurotransmitter levels, and analyze your vitamin and mineral levels.
Unexplained Weight Gain
Vitamin and Mineral Deficiencies
Functional Medicine Application
Problems with neurotransmitter function can be behind many cases of persistent low mood, anxiety, depression and mood swings.
Unfortunately, in these cases patients are often given an anti-depressant or anti-anxiety medication as the first course of action before any other possibilities are explored.
The affordability of genetic testing has increased awareness of the connection between certain genes and their chance of disease.
I offer genetic consultation at my clinic, but here, using an organic acids test we can determine how your body is functioning in real time.
If you have X, Y and Z gene that indicate you may have problems absorbing iron - you still may have normal iron levels. This is because your body can find other pathways to compensate for the reduced capacity of those genes. It is also very possible that you have a severe deficiency - thats why you have to check!
As I stress to my patients, your genes are the roadmap - they do not dictate your health. By assessing real time function in this test we can more accurately coordinate genetic data with your actual biochemical needs.
3. Heavy Metal Testing
Heavy metal toxicity is surprisingly common. Although considering the number of carcinogenic compounds we are exposed to on a daily basis, maybe its not surprising.
Tap water, nonstick cooking pans, high mercury fish, and even cosmetics are common sources of heavy metals.
Those with chronic symptoms struggling to find a diagnosis usually find that there is a heavy metal component to their illness.
The presence of heavy metals in the body can affect your immune system, can raise inflammation levels and can cause pain, temperature swings, blood sugar issues and much more.
Many conditions have been linked to low doses of heavy metals including bursitis, rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia, ulcerative colitis, Crohn's disease and lupus.
If you are suffering from an unexplained illness, heavy metal toxicity must be ruled out.
Read more about Toxicity
Chronic Pain / Fibromialgia
Autoimmune Symptoms and Disease
Any condition that does not respond to treatment
Functional Medicine Application
If it is found that you have toxic buildup of heavy metals in your bloodstream we then begin a safe and effective process of chelation.
This is not something you should do on your own - while natural substances like seaweed and various herbs can assist in 'pulling out' heavy metals from your body, it is very easy for them to become recirculated and redistributed in other organs instead of being escorted out of your body.
A systemic evaluation of your overall health is vital to ensure that your body can handle chelation and to determine what kind of chelation you would do best with.
A deficiency or dysfunction in a single crucial component of detoxification, like glutathione, can make chelation dangerous.
A Roadmap, Not A Goalpost
Remember that getting a test is the beginning, not the end of your search for answers. Your next step is to get a practitioner that can properly interpret the test findings and carefully personalize a treatment plan.
Some doctors only focus on a handful of general tests, don't do testing at all, or are not familiar with new kinds of specialized testing. Other doctors may say they practice functional or integrative medicine but only focus on one or two aspects like food allergies or metabolic health.
Trust your gut and never be put off by practitioners who say that your symptoms 'are not possible' or are 'all in your head.'
When in doubt, get a second (or third!) opinion. The functional medicine practitioner you choose should consider testing as a component of diagnosis, and one that should be combined with a physical examination, any relevant genetic data and a thorough patient history.
If you would like to speak to me to ask questions about functional medicine, chronic illness or how I can help you, please schedule a Free 15 Minute Consultation or call or text my office at 913-728-5291.
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