If you have been following Synergised for some time, you will know that I am a huge advocate of functional lab testing. It is the quickest and most accurate way to identify the underlying root cause of your symptoms and, therefore, turbocharges your road to overcoming them.
What Is Functional Lab Testing?
These non-invasive and convenient at-home tests are the basis of functional medicine. The tests allow us to study the lab work, in order to help people find the underlying root causes of their symptoms, illness, or disease in the body.
Not in a diseased state yet? Even if you’re not experiencing regular symptoms, lab tests can help uncover imbalances in the body, which can be rebalanced as a preventative measure to avoid symptoms escalating or your body being in a diseased state.
Functional lab testing offers a more comprehensive overview of your health. This is because, unfortunately, most medical doctors are trained in bloodwork alone. Even then, ‘normal’ levels in conventional medicine are much broader than functional medicine, as we look for optimum levels, not just ‘not diseased yet.’
Blood work is brilliant and medical doctors are brilliant at running your bloods to check you’re not in a diseased state, but more needs to be done before this stage, and blood work can only get you so far.
Blood work will highlight deficiencies or high cholesterol or infection markers, but it’s not telling you WHY your results are out of range. It may be put down to lifestyle, stress or diet changes, but not much more investigation is done. The results are counterbalanced with medication to ‘correct’ the imbalance in the blood work, without any attempt to uncover the root cause for the imbalance or to adapt your lifestyle or nutrition to counteract the out-of-range result. Medicating when you don’t know the WHY, is only going to mask imbalances and create further issues in the long run.
Blood work can show the surface-level issue: the ‘WHAT.’ Functional lab tests help you dive deeper, to uncover the root cause: the ‘WHY.’
Health issues are so quick to be accepted due to the phrase ‘it’s genetic.’ This if often paired with a shoulder shrug, as to say ‘what can I do about it? It’s just the hand that I’ve been dealt.’ Of course, it’s genetic, your genes give you a predisposition to developing certain health problems and diseases, but this doesn’t mean they are inevitable.
Genes load the gun but your environment, nutrition and lifestyle pull the trigger.
What we do in functional medicine is work out what underlying factor caused your genetic predisposition to be switched on. There is always a reason, which means there is always a possible solution – we just need to find out the reason(s) via functional lab testing!
"It Comes With Age"
Another phrase that often follows ‘it’s genetic’, is ‘it comes with age.’ Again, this goes without saying. As you age, your health does decline, but the majority of time this isn’t actually down to the general ageing process. As you age, you have accumulated more toxic build-up, more damage to your gut, more hormonal imbalances, more blood sugar dysregulation. Unfortunately, we live in an environment where exposure to toxins is inevitable, and eating processed food, even if it’s ‘healthy’ is normalised.
So, yes, as you get older, more and more symptoms will start to arise, but we can still find out WHY they have reared their head at this point. Do you have heavy metal toxicity? Are you experiencing nutrient deficiencies due to leaky gut? Do you have low thyroid function? Are your cortisol levels all over the place due to stress? You are not going to uncover all of this via blood tests, especially since blood work is often not carried out at the optimum time (before 10am), with the optimum preparation (fasting) AND only shows you a snapshot of how you were at that specific time. Functional lab tests will help you identify underlying root causes.
Analysing Your Results with the Hair Tissue Test
The Hair Tissue Test is one of the first tests I would reach for when I’m working with a client who has multiple ‘unexplained’ symptoms. Let’s use sodium levels as an example for displaying the benefits of functional lab tests. So, if you have high sodium levels, your doctor might put you on a diuretic.
If you found this out via a Hair Tissue Test, you would know that you also have low magnesium. What does this mean? Well, this data suggests that your sodium levels have risen due to low potassium levels. Or, you might be able to determine that the elevated sodium levels are down to high thyroid, high aldosterone or high cortisol. This is because when you are under stress the body produces more norepinephrine, cortisol and aldosterone, which gets rid of potassium, but spare sodium. This is often referred to as ‘sodium sparing’ in the body.
This keeps more sodium in the body, which keeps you in “fight and flight” by raising blood pressure and increasing your heart rate. So, a diuretic will reduce the sodium levels, but won’t rebalance the body at a root cause level. The result? You feel pretty terrible over an extended period of time. I’m not encouraging you to come of medication – that is a decision to make with your medical doctor – but I just want you to know that symptoms can be alleviated by overcoming the root cause, rather than just suppressed by treating at surface level!
All this can be achieved by simply running a small hair sample and working with an integrative health practitioner to analyse the results.
Hair Tissue Test
The first lab test that I ran when I started my journey back to good health with functional medicine was the Hair Tissue Test. It gives you a comprehensive look at your mineral levels, which is more significant than you might think!Mineral levels really are unsung heroes when it comes to your health: electrolytes, mineral balance and stress levels can make or break your health.
Your body needs to be in homeostasis to work optimally, and mineral levels work in ratios of each other to try and keep the balance. So, if one mineral is elevated, another may be reduced. This is extremely telling as this information, combined with insights into your lifestyle and nutrition, tells a powerful story about HOW you got to where you are today.
Identify the Reason, Implement the Solution
If you stick with the ‘sticky plaster’ approach of managing symptoms with pharmaceuticals, you will continue to push your body farther away from homeostasis, which will cause you more, greater issues later.
The answers are out there, it’s just a bit more effort in the short term than taking drugs to suppress symptoms. In the long run it will save you a whole lot of pain!
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