If you have ever been to see a naturopath for a consultation, you were probably surprised by the amount of questions and information extracted from you about your health in the hour or so that you were there! As naturopaths we aim to identify and treat the cause rather than treating your illness; we try to find what is underlying and remove any barriers that are preventing you from being unwell.
Naturopaths use different methods to obtain this, a comprehensive health screening with questionnaires is often the basis and then they may use tools such as functional testing to try and pinpoint exactly what is going on.
What is functional testing?
The western medical establishment is disease-oriented, while the naturopathic model is wellness-oriented. When your traditional physician runs standard blood work, they are looking for an already established disease process e.g: hypothyroidism, high cholesterol, cancers, diabetes etc. The trouble with this is that many people might not have an actual disease, though they are still experiencing chronic symptoms.
Functional medicine lab testing aims to prevent disease before it happens by assessing patterns of imbalance that without intervention will end up yielding chronic disease. It looks between the lines. It assesses patterns of imbalance that can cause troublesome symptoms but has not become a ‘disease state’ yet. Naturopaths, being wellness orientated, aim to address these imbalances before they become a disease, for at that point it can become much more difficult to reverse without lifelong medications, surgeries, treatments etc.
Not everyone needs to do a functional test though to improve their health. Some health problems are easy to understand and treat the cause, while others are not so straight forward.
For example, a person can present with ongoing fatigue, lethargy, low concentration, mood issues, indigestion, nausea, gut issues. They may have already been to their doctor and had some standard blood tests and they have come back ‘normal’. They may have tried taking various natural health supplements for mood, energy and stress etc., but still find themselves in the same situation.
They go to a naturopath who looks at the underlying cause. What could it be?
Yeast overgrowth? Gut bacterial overgrowth? Parasites? Neurotransmitter issues? Low grade infection? Hormonal issues? Inflammation? Chemical toxicity? Mitochondrial dysfunction?
Where do we start? This is where testing can be incredibly useful.
After a comprehensive health assessment, a naturopath may suggest a functional test which evaluates either blood, stool, urine or breath for specific biochemical markers.
These are the top 5 functional tests that we use in the Raglan Herbal Dispensary clinic:
- OAT (organic acid test). This tests for mitochondrial function, it is a metabolic snapshot of the body. It provides accurate evaluation of intestinal yeast and bacteria which can be associated with hyperactivity, fatigue and immune function. It also includes markers for vitamin and mineral levels, oxidative stress, neurotransmitter levels and oxalates, which are highly correlated with many chronic illnesses.
- DUTCH test (Dried urine test for comprehensive hormones). The most advanced and comprehensive testing for an overall hormonal health picture including adrenal, sleep and sex hormones and their metabolites. An excellent health assessment for complex hormonal conditions. It now includes the cortisol awakening response (CAR) and certain neurotransmitter and vitamin markers.
- GI 360. A stool test that tests for parasites, yeasts, viruses, digestive enzymes, inflammation, immunity within the gut plus microbial abundance (the balance of the bacteria that live in our guts).
- Food Antigen testing. A blood draw that tests your antibodies against 88 different foods to determine food allergies, intolerances and inflammation caused by a food.
- SIBO (small intestinal bacterial overgrowth) test. This is a breath test that can determine whether SIBO is present. SIBO is believed to be in 70% of people that suffer from IBS.
At the Raglan Herbal Dispensary we have 3 fully qualified naturopaths that are experienced using the above tests, plus more, in their clinical practice when a client's case calls for further investigation. You will need a naturopathic consultation before a test to ensure that the right test for you is selected and then consequently the right treatment plan; as we treat the person not a test result!
We offer naturopathic consultations both instore and online.
Get in touch to find out more!